Two Ruger Vaqueroes in Stainless Steel
|Place of origin||United States|
|Designer||Bill Ruger Sr.|
|Variants||Convertible, Montado, Bisley|
|Weight||36–48 oz (1,000–1,400 g) |
|Length||9.5–13 in (240–330 mm)|
|Barrel length||3.75 in (95 mm),
4.62 in (117 mm),
5.5 in (140 mm),
7.5 in (190 mm) 
|Feed system||6-round cylinder|
The Ruger Vaquero is a six-shot single-action revolver manufactured by Sturm, Ruger based on the .357 Magnum New Model Ruger Blackhawk frame that was introduced in 1973. It comes in blued steel, case colored, and a gloss stainless finish (the latter gloss stainless finish is intended to resemble closely a 19th Century nickel-plated finish), all of which are available with wood, hard rubber, simulated ivory or black micarta grips and fixed sights. It arose with the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting from which came demand for a single action revolver that was more traditional in appearance.
The Ruger Vaquero is a New Model Blackhawk with fixed sights consisting of a front blade and a notch milled into the frame at the rear. The first version was a 7 1⁄2 in (190 mm) barrelled revolver chambered in .45 Colt with a simulated color case-hardened frame and a blue barrel, grip frame, and cylinder. This was followed by models with a 5 1⁄2 in (140 mm) barrel and a 4 5⁄8 in (120 mm) barrel based on the other common barrel lengths of the Colt SAA. The three versions were offered in stainless steel and other calibers including .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, and .44-40 Winchester. Originally all Ruger Vaqueros were shipped with walnut grips incorporating a Ruger logo in a medallion. In 1998 some models began shipping with a faux-ivory grip and limited runs with gold inlay and engraving were offered.
Like the New Model Blackhawk the Vaquero does not require the hammer to be half-cocked for loading and unloading, and uses a transfer bar mechanism which prevents the cartridge under the hammer from being fired without the trigger being pulled.
The "New Model Vaquero" comes with checkered black plastic grips, which look similar to the checkered black rubber grips Colt used in the late 19th Century. Ruger placed the safety warning which used to appear on the left-side of the barrel beneath the barrel on these models to make the gun more aesthetically pleasing.
Two major variants of Vaqueros exist. The original Vaquero was marketed from 1993 until 2005, and was slightly larger than the Colt Single Action Army. The New Vaquero, produced from 2005 to the present is closer to the dimensions of the Colt Single Action Army. Unlike original Single Action Army revolvers, both versions are safe to load all six cylinders, having a transfer bar design; additionally, both variants permit reloading by simply opening the loading gate, thereby freeing the cylinder to rotate freely, without pulling the hammer into the half-cock notch. These initial Vaqueros have only two hammer positions: fully down, and fully cocked.
The original Vaquero was built to safely fire higher pressure 45 Colt ammunition than the Black powder chamberings, having significantly thicker cylinder walls than other revolvers. Many reloading manuals contain Ruger-only recommended handloads that are considered unsafe for use in other than Ruger Blackhawk, Redhawk, Thompson/Center and Ruger Vaquero model revolvers. Ruger New Vaquero model revolvers, having thinner cylinder walls, are not considered safe for use with the Ruger-only loads taken from the older editions of these manuals. Ruger states that the "New Model Vaquero" will handle +P and +P+ ammunition without any issues, but warn users not to shoot reloads in any of their guns as it will void the warranty.
Three grip variants exist for Vaqueros. The standard grip is very similar to the grip on the original Single Action Army revolver. The Bisley variant incorporates the target grip that was incorporated on the Bisley variant of the Single Action Army revolver that was intended for target shooting. The Bisley grip is also better suited for users with larger hands, having a longer frame that better fits larger hands. Users with smaller hands may not find the trigger to be comfortable to shoot on Bisley variants, by reason of not being able to place their trigger finger properly on the trigger, the trigger being located further from the grip. The third variant is the Birdshead grip, similar to the pattern found on the Colt M1877 and M1878 models.
In 1999 a limited run of 500 guns in stainless steel and 500 guns in blue with color case hardened frames were offered by Davidson's with a 3 3⁄4 in (95 mm) barrel and a shortened ejector rod and housing. These were called the "Sheriff's Model". In 2005, this barrel was added as a standard option to the catalog.
In 2005, Ruger introduced the "New Vaquero" which incorporated a smaller frame, based on Ruger's XR-3 grip frame, making the pistol closer to the size of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver of 1873. The New Vaquero will accept two-piece stocks made for the Colt Single Action Army.
The Firearms Distributor known as Davidson's offered two exclusive chamberings of the Vaquero with convertible cylinders:
An additional special Commemorative Edition chambered in .40 S&W was ordered by the San Diego Sheriff's Association in 2000 to celebrate the agency's 150th anniversary. The association wanted the Vaqueros to use the same caliber as their normal service weapons. The original order was placed for 500 but later was increased to 800 due to overwhelming response from the association members and alumni. Sources conflict on the reasoning but either to ensure plenty were available for members, or, due to a minimum 500 production run size limitation Ruger went on to produce an overrun of about 200 for a total of 1000 models. Some of these overrun models were taken by the SDSA members. All of the models sold to the SDSA members were embossed with the SDSA logo on the right side of the barrel and came in a special display case along with an acrylic encased badge. Approximately 125 of the extras were eventually released through select Ruger distributors in standard black plastic cases and with no SDSA logo. Most had the safety warnings on the left side of the barrel like normal Vaqueros and the original SDSA guns. However, Ruger ran out of the .40 S&W barrels before the frames and cylinders and later produced extra barrels to finish the remaining few guns, some of these were released through select distributors as late as 2009. These are referred to as "cleanup" models, something all manufacturers do as the production run of a model is winding down. On these approximately 25-30 cleanup models the warnings normally stamped into the left side of the barrel were moved to the underside of the newer barrels leaving the side clean and completely smooth. While all of these models are desirable for their unique caliber, the few that escaped without any markings on the left side of the barrel are now sought after collectables, not only for the unique caliber but for the smooth barrel that many collectors feel adds to the overall beauty of the guns.
- Peterson, Philip. Gun Digest Book of Modern Gun Values: The Shooter's Guide to Guns 1900 to Present (16th ed.). p. 243.
- Taffin, John (2005). Single Action Sixguns. Krause Publications. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-87349-953-8.
- Taffin, John (1997). Big Bore Sixguns. Krause Publications. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-87341-502-6.
- Taffin, John (2005). "Ruger's New Vaqueros: Slim, Trim and Spirited". American Handgunner (3).
- Taffin, John (2005). The Gun Digest Book of Cowboy Action Shooting: Guns · Gear · Tactics. Gun Digest Books. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-89689-140-1.