New (to me) Birdshead Vaquero


September 16, 2007, 03:08 PM
Howdy! I'm new to SA, so be gentle.

I recently bought a used Ruger Vaquero birdshead, .357 mag. It is the blued with the "case hardened" frame. I've been searching the net for all info I can on this gun, and have seen a few things about that "case hardening" coming off. Guess I should be careful while cleaning?
Another thing I noticed when I bought the gun is the ring on the cylinder. Is there any way to get rid of that problem, or is it just a Ruger "quirk"?
Last, I think the cylinder is slightly over indexed (is that the correct term?) When I open the gate to re-load, the cylinder clicks and the hole is just south of loadable. Is there a way to correct that?

Other than that, I love this gun. It is beautiful. Shoots great too.

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September 16, 2007, 04:37 PM
You have an original, older Vaquero. The case Hardening, is not true case hardening. It is a finish that " resembles" case hardening. And yes it will wear. There is nothing wrong with the indexing. That is the way the older Vaqueros are. The New Vaqueros, have this problem addressed, and the cylinder aligns with the loading gate.
I'm not sure what you mean by "ring on the cylinder". If your talking about the ring around every cylinder, that is from gas escape between the cylinder, and the barrel. You can clean this by using a rag, and or a PLASTIC bristle brush. I use a tooth brush. Don't use any kind of metal brush. You want to be careful and not round over the chambers.
Great pistols. I have two old Vaqueros, both in.45. One with the Bird Head grip.
The Bird Head grip is my favorite.

September 16, 2007, 06:02 PM
If the cylinder rotation bothers you enough you can put in a free spin pawl. Also, you might want to try the Poor Boy's Trigger Job ( on this, and any other, Ruger SA.

September 16, 2007, 09:53 PM
The ring I'm talking about is on the outside of the cylinder, a sort of continuous scratch. I've heard it's fairly common (on rugers), kind of a bummer.

I read about the free spin pawl, how hard is that to replace?

Thanks for the answers so far.

Jim March
September 16, 2007, 10:20 PM
I've heard it's fairly common (on rugers), kind of a bummer.

Ruger sets up their guns to drag the cylinder lock around, rather than delicately dropping it in to the right place at just the right time. The Ruger design is more "brute force crude" but it STRONGLY resists going out of time.

Let's talk about the finish. At some point Ruger changed the chemistry with the "fake case" process. The "mark 2" formula came online before the New Vaquero first shipped in 2005. Yours is a fairly late version of the large-frame (44Magnum-class) original Vaquero so I'm thinking it's likely you have the late formula fake-case. That's good - I've tested that finish on my New Vaq and it's very rust-resistant. It CAN wear some, yeah, and on my gun has done so only on the right lower area just above and behind the trigger where my finger rests when I'm holding it but not firing. But the "wear" isn't that bad. My finish is a mottled gray all over, but in that one spot it's gone basically solid gray. It's very hard to notice.

If you see any sign of rust, you've likely got the original finish. In which case...well...either have Ruger do it with the new formula, OR I've heard Ruger is willing to do all-blue for customers who detest the fake case - esp. when they've had problems with same.

Or there's a LOT of cleaning agents that will strip it - esp. the "lime-away" stuff you use on stubborn rust stains in a bathtub. Used briefly and then washed FULLY away, you'll render a gun all-white for a home blue kit in no time.

September 17, 2007, 05:41 AM
There is also a 'poor man's free-spin mod'. If you remove the cylinder - close the gate - and look at the hand/pawl as you cock the hammer, you'll note that the upper tooth quickly exits the circmference of the teeth on the cylinder. Grinding away the inside corner of that upper tooth permits the teeth on the cylinder to miss the ratcheting effect of the hand/pawl when the gate is opened and the cylinder stop drops, thus permitting free rotation of the cylinder in both directions, easing loading/unloading. See the Ruger forum for more/better instructions. While I have installed many free-spin pawls, they do usually require some fitting - and resultant reassembly - testing - dissection, etc. The last two I did were all afternoon jobs, while the only OEM pawl/hand grinding, a 4.6" SS BHG .32M SSM, I've done took two attempts - two TV commercials (I was watching 'NCIS'.) - maybe 8-10 minutes total - to complete (I had to run up & down the stairs, too!). I am most tickled with this latest 'mod'. I did have enough sense to have two replacement pawls on hand to fit should I have taken too much off - be careful!

BTW, my most miserable Powers Custom free-spin pawl installation just happened to be in my then brand new 4.6" SS BHG .357M Vaquero. The roughness of the pawl channel casting kept catching the upper tooth - many dissection/fine filing/re-assemblies of that revolver... when 'fixed' - I sold it! I have .32M, .44M (A converted SBH!), & .45, all 4.6" SS BHG. Love that BHG! Enjoy yours... I wish I still had my .357M - the fellow bought it for 'art'... he has never shot it! Boy, could I have saved myself some heartache on that one.

Yeah, a cylinder turn line is a 'fact of life' in most revolvers. Think of it as character...


PS Interesting side note re the .357M & .45 Colt BHG Vaquero's. They look identical, except for the bores... and the weight - the .357M is heavier (smaller holes, less stock removal!).

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