Ruger Vaquero Bisley vs plow handle


November 15, 2012, 06:23 PM
I have a "standard" Vaquero and I am thinking of adding a Bisley model to the stable. I am honestly not too famliar with it and have never shot one. Can someone share their expeirence with both. What advantages do each have over the other. Also side by side pics would be nice!:)

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November 15, 2012, 09:42 PM
I have several Vaqueros and Bisleys. Some are standard , while others are Custom guns made up especially for me in different calibers. I do not have a Camera that I can use to show them to you , but the Bisley allows me to shoot the very hot loads in the larger calibers much more easily than the Vaquero, because of the grip frame. If you can get the wonderful book by John Taffin, The Single Action Sixgun, you will have a wealth of knowledge and experience at your fingertips. I like the SA revolvers the best and there are some fantastic custom guns in this book .

November 15, 2012, 09:50 PM
I also take them hunting with me and when out and about riding my favorite mule. I also carry a custom short barrel 2.5" 45 Colt Vaquero around the farm when working.I keep it in a custom leather holster and sometimes go into town shopping with my wife with it. This one has a birdshead grip and gives me comfort just looking at those large bullets. From the leather the first shot can be much faster than a double action gun. Get both and enjoy. Snoop

November 15, 2012, 11:02 PM
I had a Blackhawk in .45 Colt for years (7 1/2" blued) but changed to a Bisley for a couple of reasons. First, the grip shape (as has been mentioned) is far more comfortable with the high powered "Ruger Only" loads that I load and shoot a lot.

Second, I really like the looks of the unfluted cylinder and hammer shape. I dressed mine up with a pair of Altamont grips:


November 15, 2012, 11:30 PM
For most shooters, the Bisley is the most comfortable and controllable configuration for heavy loads. Worthy of note that 99% of custom .475's and .500's are built on the Bisley.

November 16, 2012, 12:59 AM
I have a Bisley Vaquero in .45 Colt and it's my favorite SA revolver. The Ruger Bisley grip frame is not as turned down as the Colt Bisley. It looks about half of what the Colt is and I like it much better than the Colt Bisley Grip frame.

The Bisley grip frame was originally created as a target revolver. The angle was supposed to aid in aiming from what I read. It also aids in recoil control because the shape aids in the revolver "rocking back" when fired taking up some of the felt recoil. That also makes it easier to cock the hammer with the shooting hand because the hammer is now closer to your thumb.

November 16, 2012, 09:08 AM
As previously stated, the Ruger Bisley grip frame allows a better, correctly angled, hold of the gun. The gun will not roll like the standard grip. The Ruger version is straighter on the front strap then the Colt.

I have a rare, (3000 manufactured) fluted cylinder .44 mag Bisley from 1986.

I have an adjustable sight .22 Bisley.

I also have the standard grip-frame version of the above models. The Bisleys, IMHO are superior

Driftwood Johnson
November 16, 2012, 11:51 PM

As was stated, the original Colt Bisley model was introduced as a target pistol. Colt introduced it in 1894 at the international target matches at the Bisley range outside of London England. The Bisley model was only produced from 1894 until 1915.

Here is a comparison of an actual Bisley Colt and a standard Colt Single Action Army. You can see the original Colt Bisley shape is considerably different than Ruger's version of it. The grip of the Colt Bisley sweeps much further forward than the Ruger version, it is not as vertical as the Ruger version of the Bisley grip.

My Bisley was made in 1908. It is chambered for 44 Special, but I usually shoot it with Black Powder 44 Russian loads.

The Ruger version of the Bisley grip is partially based on Elmer Kieth's famous 'Number 5' custom Colt.

The unique shape of the original Bisley Colt was designed to take advantage of the typical late 19th Century pistol target shooter's stance. Most pistol shooters back then held their pistols with the arm slightly bent at the elbow, not the straight arm that modern Bulls eye shooters use. When held with a straight arm, the Bisley Colt tends to point down slightly. When held with a slightly bent elbow, the Bisley Colt points straight ahead.

The Bisley Colt does not roll in the hand with recoil, I can tell you that from direct experience. The standard plowhandle grip is much more likely to roll in the hand than the Colt Bisley grip. The hammer of the Bisley Colt is no closer to the thumb in recoil, because the gun does not tend to roll.

Regarding the Ruger version of the Bisley grip, this is one shooter who does not care for it; I prefer the standard plow handle grip. When I changed over to Black Powder from Smokeless for Cowboy Action Shooting a number of years ago, everything I had read stated that the Bisley grip would be needed to tame the considerable recoil of a fully loaded 45 Colt Black Powder round. So I bought a Stainless Bisley Vaquero with a 5 1/2" barrel. I shot it in exactly one match. I quickly discovered I much preferred the standard plow handle grips ability to roll in the hand, thus reducing felt recoil, to the straight back thrust of the Bisley Vaquero. The Bisley Vaquero sat unfired in my safe for about a year. Then I sold it, using the cash to help pay for the SAA pictured above.

Perhaps with monster loads like 454 Casull, a plowhandle grip rolling in the hand would be uncomfortable. But with a 45 Colt round loaded with about 35 grains of FFg and a 250 grain bullet, recoil is still substantial, and I much prefer having a plow handle grip rotate in my hand than have it thrust straight back into my palm.

Driftwood Johnson
November 17, 2012, 12:00 AM
Ooops, sorry, double tap.

November 17, 2012, 01:04 AM
What a beautiful Colt Bisley there Driftwood, stunning!

November 17, 2012, 01:52 AM
I don't know, my Ruger Bisley Vaquero does rock back enough to make the hammer easy to cock. Of course not as much as a "plow handle" but more than the Colt Bisley.

Those are some very good looking Colts there Driftwood, thanks for posting them...

November 17, 2012, 02:24 AM
I prefer the 'rolling' of the plow handle in your hand. Have had biselys and they seem to push recoil straight back.

November 17, 2012, 02:48 AM
I don't like the grip frame on my SBH. I have the 5.5" so it is the same as the 357 Blackhawk. The only grips I could find that fit my big hands were the Hogues, but they are not very attractive.:(

November 17, 2012, 07:25 AM
Nice looking Colts Driftwood, thanks for sharing.

November 17, 2012, 08:57 PM
Thanks for all the help guys. I did handle a Ruger Bisley and to be honest and think the plow handle fits me better, but I love the hammer on the Bisley. Can you purchase an after market Bisley hammer and switch the standard Vaquero hammer ?

November 17, 2012, 09:07 PM
I've had several over the years. I like them for higher-octane loads over the plowshares on the BIG old Vaqueros. For the newer small retro Ruger BH and the SAA frames I prefer the ploughshare design. I curl my little finger under it. So basically if I'm going to shoot amped-up loads I want the big honking older model Vaq or BH with Ruger Bisley grips.

November 29, 2012, 10:47 PM
Take this for what it worth, not much. . . just my experience over roughly 700 heavy loads. [And, it's really not a direct response; more of a general anecdote]

I shoot the 500 S&W Mag. Loads that you learn to tighten all your screws before unleashing (I've learned this the hard way). But strangely have shown to be very accurate.

This is what I have learned:

The grip frame on the JT BFR works great, once you learn to grip it properly. The Goodyear Uncle Mike's and the grips in the image below allow you to extend your grip a bit at the bottom, of course. Looking at the Bisley line in the line drawing layover from, it does not appear that you could grip the frame lower (than mine) relative to the centerline of the bore and thus it cannot have more muzzle flip. Muzzle flip is a "couple" and is about the vertical distance between where you grip the gun and the centerline of the bore. I suppose the BFR and the SBH would be dragoon style plow handles, really uncertain. But, for me, when I really have recoil- I mean REAL recoil- I want it to rise more, thus sorta "bleeding off" some of the "straight back push"' recoil, per se. I do not own a Bisley Grip Framed Ruger or Colt so I cannot say for certain as to grip relative to centerline.

I grip the the gun where the where the web of my hand is low on the backstrap and my fingers are also as low as possible while still having contact with the grip area. I use a crush grip and I lock my strong arm. I have shot, for me, my best groups with these heavy loads. And recoil has been interesting but not an issue. (With both the original Vaquero in .45 Colt and the SBH in .44 Mag, I actually curl my last finger under the grip.)

This I know, if you grip this BFR too high with REAL loads, it can get lose of your hand. I'm talking about 465 grain slugs at 1680-1700 fps (I think of them as BFR only loads). These seemingly have more recoil than the 700 gr. bullets at ~1150 fps., I've loaded.

That load is absolutely deadly on paper plates. I've killed scores :)

BTW: loose screw on the grips below = already split. Replacements inbound.

November 30, 2012, 12:38 PM
The Ruger Bisley nailed it over the original Colt Bisley grip. I find the Ruger Bisley to be very comfortable and easier to cock for my hands,the regular BH/Vaquero ones are good,but I prefer the Ruger Bisley grip and hammer.
You need to hold each style and see what fits your hand the best.

Old judge creek
December 1, 2012, 03:21 PM
I have both... like both... use both - regularly.

As posted above, the Bisley grip is better for the truly stout loads.

But... its also better for me when shooting SASS matches because the hammer is lower an allows for easier cocking without a major repositioning of the hand IF you like to shoot "Duelist" which is one handed (like in the cowboy movies).

If I was forced to choose one between the plow hand grip and the Bisley grip, I do believe I'd choose the Bisley... and I grew up shooting plow handle single action revolvers.

As an earlier poster suggested, you need to try them both and by that I find a friend who has both and take him to the range with you and really try them out. You might be surprised. I know I was.

And for what its worth, I always (still do as a matter of fact) thought the Bisley handle to be about the pug-ugliest grip ever installed on any six-shooter.

December 1, 2012, 04:17 PM
i have a bisley vaquero in 44. love it. i can shoot it well with factory stocks. i have to put oversized pachmayrs on my "plow" grip blackhawks

i have shot a vintage colt bisley in 32-20 and its remarkably easy to shoot. on top of being a soft recoiling caliber. relatively speaking.

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