The TV Western reigned supreme in the Fifties and Sixties. Unlike the post-war world in which they flourished, you could tell the good guys from the bad, and none of the guns were fully automatic. My favorites were Rifleman, Wanted Dead or Alive, and of course Have Gun Will Travel.
Even if the closest I've been to cowboys in the last few years are the ones that might wander over to the range when I make lasagna, I'm very fond of revolvers. So when I was offered a chance to try out and review Partner in Grime's Ruger Vaquero, stampeding cattle couldn't have kept me from the range (well at least until it quit snowing).
I already have a revolver (or maybe two :-) but adding another one, with a price I can justify, when I already HAVE a couple, in todays economy, is not something I'm adverse to. So here it comes, the Ruger Vaquero, introduced in the early nineties, becoming one of the more popular handguns used in the ever popular sport of Cowboy Action shooting.
It's also popular with others like me, who want a reliable and hardworking firearm for the outdoors or home defense. But it's not just any Vaquero, it's the NEW Vaquero.
These are serious, hardworking guns, ( picture old cowboy action movie with tanks), feeding heavy loads that would have some firearms crying like a 3rd grader. Ruggedness and durability are keystones of Ruger firearms, an American company with a reputation for producing guns that can withstand heavy use without action parts breaking down like a cheap rental car.
The New Vaquero has that small original frame size, making it much lighter and easier to handle than the original Vaquero. I'd compare it, size wise, to the Colt Single Action Army revolver and similar replicas found on the field at Cowboy action shoots. Smaller size in a six gun that will likely last foreve. What's not to like?
What first caught my eye was the grip frame. Not only is it pretty, it's a joy to handle making your Glock grip feel like shooting a cast iron frying pan). This is as close to a return to the grip of the original XR3 grip used in the 1851 Colt Navy revolver as I've seen, though it's made of steel, and much better than the new and improved XR3-RED grip that debuted about the same time my folks debuted me (not yesterday). The grip panels are that familiar checkered pattern, with the iconic Ruger Eagle molded in.
. The action is flat out smooth, the trigger pull crisp as a Western morning, at just a tad less than 3 and a half pounds out of the box. The trigger, being Ruger, is further forward and wider than other revolvers I've shot to compare it with, such as a Colt SAA in .45 and a Cimarron Mod P., BP frame, in .357
The ejector rod button has also had a little tweak, more of a crescent shape than a round shape. It's easy on the hand and the eye, with the ejector rod housing made out of steel, just like the grip frame.
Sights - There's not a difference this untrained eye can see between old and new version, consisting of a squared notch rear and a rounded front sight, unlike the Blackhawk, which has an adjustable sight. I like the fixed sight though, good for intuitive shooting and you learn to shoot well by compensating your aim.
The lock itself is hidden beneath the grip panels with the key having a built in screwdriver to remove said right grip panel. One the panel is off, the key is used, well, like a key. (If you need instructions on using a key you are probably one of the folks the lawyers think own firearms). Insert, rotate to lock. Use it or ignore it, as necessary. The keys that come with it look like handcuff keys, though a handcuff key won't work in it (not that I tried that or anything).
Ammo - You need to look for .357 Magnum .357 Mag and .38 SPL. If you reload, you might wish to avoid those directions that say "Ruger Only" in the handloading manual. The cylinder walls of the New Vaquero are a bit thinner than those on the Original Vaquero's and .45 Blackhawks (though they are tougher than those on the Colt SAA) and a heavy load like the +P .45 Colt loads might be a bit much. (they are fine with loads to SAAMI specs). If in doubt, check with the maker of the ammunition in regarding suitability for the New Vaquero (I'd recommend calling Ruger, but not all manufacturer's have a tech rep available, you're more likely going to get someone that will read the manual to you, and I can do that). If I've got the gun like this with me for self defense (shop, woods, etc) my loads are GDHP .38 spl. +P with 19 158 gr. 357 Hydra-Shok as back up.
I'm not sure if it's part of the overall redesign of the chambers, but they seem to align better with the loading gate for easy loading and unloading of the cylinder (come on, you've all had that six gun that when you rotate it til it clicks it's actually gone too far and have to rotate the thing completely around again to align the chamber with the reloading gate, all while the bad guy targets are snickering at you). With a cylinder index button that's spring loaded and a retracting cylinder hand, the New Vaquero chambers like the old pre '73 Rugers.
Recoil is minimal, even if you don't consider the .357 loads. With varying loads, you are still going to get in a good point of aim grouping at 25 yards all day long unless you are using really lightly loaded bullets, which aren't going to do that well in any revolver anyway. With a good load, your bullets are going to bitch slap one another for the same target hole even if you're not an expert shooter.
I love the Blackhawk, big tough boy that it is and I found the original Vaquero a pleasure to fire. But if you want a slightly smaller, lighter, and easily affordable revolver for fast and accurate cowboy action shooting, or simply taking with you to the garage late one night for a cowboy action Lucas Wiring project, this New Vaquero is for you.