July 12, 2008, 06:11 PM
Ok wheelgunners. Help me out.

I'm gettin' a little bored with 1911s. :eek:

I know. Sounds strange, but I take spells. Revolvers were always my first love anyway...and lately, I've had a jones for a single-action.

I like the new model Vaquero a lot. Well...A little bit more than a lot...but the issue is that it's not offered in either caliber that I want. .41 Magnum or .44 Special, with a slight preference for the former...but very slight.

I know Ruger's reputation for producing good, solid single-action revolvers...but I don't know a lot about any of the other numerous offerings out there. Since the upsurge of CAS, they seem to be everywhere.

I know that the Blackhawk is offered in .41 Magnum...but I just don't much care for the looks of the Blackhawks...mainly due to the huge, adjustable sights.

So...Is there a decent quality SA revolver that fits the Vaquero/1873 Colt size and aesthetics criteria...fixed sights, and something as close to the original 1873 grip geometry as possible.

I don't intend to shoot hot-rod ammo, but I would like for the gun to handle a very limited diet of it just in case I decide to press the gun into hiking or trail service. I also don't plan on hard more than maybe a thousand rounds a year through the gun, maximum...and likely much less. Being a home caster, I intend to make my own bullets, so it's paramount that the gun be compatible with lead bullets in standard weights for the caliber. 210-220 grains for the .41, and 240-250 for the .44 Special.

My third choice would be .44-40 caliber, and...unfortunately...Ruger doesn's offer that one in the Vaquero line.

If anyone knows whether or not Ruger will custom chamber a Vaquero in a reasonable caliber...that information would also be helpful. I don't imagine that they'd be willing to do one in .41 Magnum...but .44 Special shouldn't be out of reach.

I'm inclined to prefer barrel lengths of 4 and 5/8ths-4 and 3/4ths.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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Jim Watson
July 12, 2008, 06:50 PM
I strongly doubt Ruger would custom chamber a revolver for you.
Call 'em up anyhow. What can they say? "No" is the worst.

There are several custom gunsmiths who will do a caliber conversion. A .41 Magnum or .44 Special New Vaquero would cost $550+ from Bowen or Clements, probably about the same from Gallagher or one of the other Rugersmiths that Taffin has been plugging in the gunzines the last several months.

I have seen Blackhawks with the frame machined into a hog wallow rear sight and a plain blade front; these are still being built for people who don't want transfer bar actions. Probably not cheap.

A USFA can be had in .44 Special or .44-40 but no magnums; it is a close copy of a Colt.

Cimarron Firearms will sell you a Uberti made reproduction in .44 Spl, .44 WCF, or .45 Colt - .45 ACP for that matter. Not as strong as a Ruger, not as nicely made as a USFA, but serviceable. Usually.

Probably not what you want to hear, but the easy way out would be a New Vaquero .45 Colt (or a second hand original big Vaquero for heavy loads.) That with bullet mould and dies would cost less than any other choice.

July 12, 2008, 07:16 PM
Thanks, Jim. Cost isn't a deal breaker. I'll have a look at the USFA and the Cimarron/Uberti in .44 Special. It won't have to be as strong as a Ruger, since I don't plan on pickin' up where Elmer Keith left off.

Frank Ettin
July 12, 2008, 08:09 PM
USAF makes a pretty nice revolver from what I hear. Of course, it's a clone of the SAA, so it won't be any stronger (except of course that being made of modern steel, it'll be stronger than the old SAAs). And in .44 Sp it'll be a little stronger than the same gun in .45 with a little more steel in the cylinder around the cartridge.

So you definitely don't want to play Elmer.

I'll be interested in hearing what you finally choose and how it works for you.

Jim Watson
July 12, 2008, 08:30 PM
My CAS guns are a Colt 3rd gen .44 Special with a .44-40 cylinder fitted for common ammo with my Winchester; and a Cimarron (an older one made by ASM, not Uberti) .44-40 with grips changed to hard rubber and sight notch cut square to match the Colt as much as possible. I have not pushed them beyond factory load levels, just not necessary to ding a plate.

When you check out USFA, I recall that the dull finish Rodeo has been made in .44; although they catalog only .38 and .45. Worth asking for. The gun is less expensive because it is matte blue instead of blue + color case, but it is the same mechanically as the prettier ones. They had an intermediate model called the Cowboy in polished blue, no case colors, that I liked but it is not now on their www.

July 12, 2008, 08:32 PM
I'm leanin' hard toward the USFA revolver...and I may even consider one in .44-40 caliber. A hundred pounds of lead will make more 205-grain bullets than 250, and the .44-40 will outperform the Special a bit, if that becomes a consideration...which it likely won't. The drawback is brass availability in this area. It'll probably have to be ordered, since none of the CAS bangers around here use it...and the local gun shops don't have a reason to stock it. Of course, 200 rounds would probably last me for the rest ofmy days, so that's not gonna put a stop on it.

Decisions, decisions... *sigh*

Jim Watson
July 12, 2008, 08:37 PM
I load .44-40 for CAS because it gives me tradition and convenience of the same cattiges for sixgun and carbine. But for general purposes, give me the Special. A strong straight case with no lubing in carbide dies and no crunched case mouths against the bottom of the die. And no reason not to load 200 grain Specials, although I prefer 240s. I even had a source of 240 gr .44-40 bullets for a while.

Old Fuff
July 12, 2008, 08:55 PM
Ruger made both old and new model Blackhawks in .41 Magnum, but both were on the .44 Magnum size frame.

If you buy a .357 Magnum N.M. Vaquero it can be rebarreled using a .44 barrel (Ruger or otherwise) and the cylinder rechambered to .44 Special, or you can do the same using a new .41 barrel, and chambering it to either .41 Magnum or the wildcat .41 Special (shortened .41 Magnum). If you go to any .41 cartridge, Magnum or Special you'll end up reloading anyway.

.44-40 is a dog in my opinion. The ammunition is hard to find and expensive, and if you reload the case necks tend to split.

Should you get a revolver in .45 Colt you can often get an extra cylinder chambered to use a well known but absolutely obsolete and useless round called the .45 ACP... :neener: :D

The Ruger has two things going for it: It is safe to carry fully loaded, and it keeps ticking when others give up. On the other hand those with the older Colt action have a certain charm.

I don't give a hoot about what you get. There will be a first one, and then another, and then yet another, and then... trust me, there is no end... :D

July 13, 2008, 01:08 AM
Hey, Tuner, I get to return the favor....owning Ruger, Colt and USFA, I'll pass along my experiences....the Rugers are good guns, better tolerances with bore/chamber-throat relationships than big/old Vaqueros, seems initial problems with timing/"half-cock" plunger are resolved....but still a cast steel Ruger.....big Ruger plus being nearly immortal lockwork.

Since Colt is maybe more than you're looking to spend (circa $1200 currently), I'll confine comments to the my opinion, it's the nicest US-made revolver since WWII.....very close tolerances, the insides as precisely machined as the outsides....some slight differences between them and a Colt....slightly larger cylinder OD coupled with tighter cylinder holes puts them in the same 22-24kpsi max pressure (in .45 Colt) as the Vaquero due to thicker cylinder walls....the bolt cam on the hammer is integral with the hammer, the entire thing machined out of barstock (as are all parts, and even the screws are perfect)....I took a Colt hammer and installed it in a Rodeo, and the gun functioned, including bolt/hand timing....that should tell you something about USFA specs right there.....the bolt is shaped more like an Uberti bolt, FYI.....on my guns, the hammer is stopped at the top rather than on the inside curve like older Colts.....the Rodeo looks pretty cool after a 5min bath in white vinegar to remove the blacking....comes out a Ruger Target Grey then ages gracefully and soon looks 100yrs old....but since all parts are machined from barstock, it ages evenly instead of blotching/pitting like cast steel.....I second the notion you look for a used/discontinued Rodeo in .44Spl, or look through their lines such as the Cowboy to see if it's offered there....if you get up to Colt prices, you may as well get a Colt, unless resale isn't an option....otherwise, the USFA is a precision piece of work.....if something small like bolt timing is off, after getting a gander of the innards, you won't mind fitting a new bolt at all....

PS...after rereading your 44-40 reply, thought I'd add the words "Starline Brass".....I'm having a new barrel made from scratch and cut-rifled/hand-lapped for an 1876 Swedish rolling block, and the caliber will be 38-40.....brass should not bother you....concentrate more on bullet'd be suprised what not neck-expanding, instead just using the Lee Universal Flaring Tool along with the Lee Factory Crimp collet dies will do for brass life and zero favorite rifle is a .32-20 which gives zero problems.....

PPS..... superb soft plain-base 20:1 alloy bullets

July 13, 2008, 06:02 AM
Freedom Arms produces a fixed sight 4.5" (?) available in .44. It's on the mod. 97 frame, which is a "P" mod. Colt size frame.

July 13, 2008, 06:38 AM
I have two old Vaqueros in 44 Mag. and two Cimarrons in 44 Spl. The Vaqueros are great with any loads. In fact my favorite shooters with serious 44 Mag. fodder.
The Cimarrons are great fun with 44 Spls. of all varieties, but the best accuracy has come with 240 gr. SWCs.
I definitely prefer the larger Ruger grip frame with heavier loads (I have a 50th Ann. 44 Mag. with the New Vaquero sized frame, too), but the Colt sized frame is fine with the Specials.

July 13, 2008, 07:37 AM
More and more , I'm leanin' toward the USFA. I hit the website, and the base model Rodeo came up to a little less than 900 bucks. I don't mind the matte finish, since I'm not really into "pretty" anyway...although a color case-hardened frame would be nice. Good tip on the white vinegar, mtngunr.

As far as the strength goes...It's nice to know that it'll stand more than the SAAMI standard for the caliber, but probably not necessary. I'm just as happy with a 240 at 800 fps as a 240 at 1200 fps.

Huntershooter...I'll check on that Freedom Arms model, too. Who knows. I may wind up with 2 or 5 single-actions before it's over. I have a tendency to do that.

I had a Virginian Dragoon in .45 Colt for a while. Nice revolver...but the thing was big and heavy, and the sights were calibrated to zero at a hundred yards with a 250-grain bullet and a thousand fps velocity. I thought that was odd for a fixed sight single-action.

July 13, 2008, 07:41 AM
I must say I own more than my share of Single Actions. While I like Rugers, The truth is that USFA is the way for you to go. They make one of the finest out of the box pistols on the market. I own Rugers, USFA's and 5 Colts, yet when it comes down to grabbing a SAA, I reach for my USFA Gunslinger in 44-40.

The USFA is an almost pure copy of the 2nd gen Colt and a real joy to shoot. Yes, they Cost about $50-$100 more than a Ruger but when you feel and shoot one, you'll know it's worth it.

Lots and lots of USFA's out there but not many in the used gun market.

Hummmm, I wonder why? ;)


July 13, 2008, 08:36 AM
Tuner, you should be able to find a Rodeo for much less than $900 with some shopping around....closer to $600, I'd think.....the stripped Rodeo looks very much like my 1906 1st Gen is just case, and only holds up as long as the protective lacquer stays intact....any old case-colored gun will show you that....under the black finish is suprisingly well finished metal.....

July 13, 2008, 08:38 AM
Hold up! The base Rodeo is only 550 bucks...but it's only available in .38 Special and .45 Colt. The base blued/case-hardened model is 875 dollars, and is available in .44 Special.


I suppose I could be happy with a .45 revolver...especially seein' as how I've got a Winchester trapper in the same caliber.

Decisions, decisions...

Slim...Judgin' by your handle, I take it that you're into the CAS scene. We've got a pretty strong CAS following here in the area, and they've been tryin' to get me involved.

I've also got a Liberty Arms double coach it looks like all I need is a revolver and a hat. :D

July 13, 2008, 02:12 PM
Tuner, the USFA's I own or have handled/fired all have/had very tight BC gap, great alignment, near zero end or side-shake.....a little background history in the USFA started under the US Pat. FA Co. name importing Italian rough parts and finishing them stateside....profits were plowed back into the company, and by increments the guns became 100% American made from barstock....mid-production guns were a polyglot of suppliers, with the import hammers among the last part to go in-house....I THINK the early Rodeos offered only with CC hammers were where the last of the import hammers went, and several years back when Rodeo hammers came stock in-the-white marked the end of import hammer supplies....on the USFA website is a Wiley Clapp article, which although getting some stuff wrong, shows some USFA frames from start to finish millings, and that pic alone is worth the PDF download....and don't forget that Rodeos, late-production 100% US Rodeos, were offered for a year or two in .44 S&W Spl.....CC hammers were optional, but a white hammer would be a sure thing....

July 13, 2008, 03:25 PM
Well, Tuner, I know I'm wearin' this thread out, but things keep coming to me which I think as a smith you'd appreciate knowing...

Firstly, although advising the USFA, the New Vaqueros do give you Colt-sized feel, and they seem to shoot quite well due to Ruger finally stopping the undersized throat thing on of my favorite .45's is a big old stainless Vaquero that shot every bullet into a raggedy one-hole group the first time on paper....lucked out on that one, and had Reeder bob the 7.5"bbl to 3.75" along with ejector assy., roundbutt, cylinder chamfer, high-polished to perfectly dupe nickel, and smartest thing, had him deeply laser-engrave my name on the warning-removed barrel, so I couldn't sell it if I wanted to.

The USFA's of mine weren't perfect...just nearly so....the bolts and pawls both had some issues....the pawls were fit incorrectly, allowing a bit of cylinder backlash when cycled with thumb-drag. The bolts needed a bit of leg-shortening to correct late bolt-drop that never touched the notch-lead/leed....then, noticed the bolt-heads themselves weren't shaped correctly to completely engage the cylinder notch, so blacking was used to find/remove high-spots until full-engagement was reached. None of these problems would have ever been noticed by your average shooter, and took true hand-fitting that I really don't expect any factory to do on sub-$1500 guns. Otherwise, the USFA's were made as good or better than any revolver by any maker of any era that I've ever had the pleasure of owning or shooting, and they shoot like a gun built that way ought to shoot.

July 13, 2008, 06:40 PM
I think there's still a special @ USFA on a convertable.

Also some semi famous rag writer has an article coming out about a USFA rechambered to .44 Maggie!

July 14, 2008, 10:19 AM
If cost is not a "deal breaker" and you are going to use low pressure ammo, get a Colt SAA in .45 Colt...The resale on the Colt is the best and I have a couple and they are the original and shoot as good as any of the clones. I don't think the P frame would hold up to any .41 or .44 mags and might have a catastrophic failure with full power ammo of that type. It was not designed for high pressure loads using smokeless powder. Remember that the SAA was designed to use black powder loaded cartridges!!!..Good Luck

July 14, 2008, 01:03 PM
and the .44-40 will outperform the Special a bit, if that becomes a considerationThat's not exactly the case.

In a SSA or clone, the .44 Special is a stronger gun then the 44-40, because there is more meat in the cylinder walls.

The .44 Special is also a heck of a lot easier to reload, because you can get carbide dies for it, and not for the slightly bottle-neck 44-40.

.44 Special brass is also much more forgiving of die dings when seating bullets then the paper-thin .44-40.


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