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Old January 14, 2013, 08:32 AM   #1
dayman
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Blackhawk vs. Vaquero vs. SBH

So, I'm pretty new to the world of revolvers, and almost entirely new to the world of single action revolvers.
However, I shot a Blackhawk in .45lc over the summer and decided that it's far too fun not to have.
So, before I buy something, I have a few questions.

#1) My preference would be .45lc, so what's the difference between the Blackhawk and the Vaquero - is it just the sights and a slightly different hammer, or is there more to it?
The SASS version of the Vaquero - based mostly on looks - is my current favorite, but I"m wondering if the only thing they've changed there is the hammer.

#2) I do plan on reloading for it, so would there be any reason to go with .44mag (SBH) over .45lc? My understanding is that in a Ruger you can dial the .45 up to the point that the differences in performance are marginal at best. I don't spend a lot of time in bear country, but in addition to range fun this would serve the roll of "bear gun" should my hiking ever take me there.
Does running hot .45lc wear out a gun faster than .44mag?


As always thanks. Before I go shopping I do like to get some advise from people who aren't trying to sell me something.
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Last edited by dayman; January 14, 2013 at 02:01 PM. Reason: er... SASS, not CASS
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Old January 14, 2013, 09:31 AM   #2
jmr40
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The Blackhawk, SBH, and older Vaquero's are built on a larger frame with a larger cylinder. They are the better choice if you want to load up heavy hunting loads. I never really liked them because they never really "felt right" to me.

The new model Vaquero is built on a smaller frame that much more closely feels like the original Colt SAA and is my preference. If you want to load 45 Colt up to near 44 mag specs you really need either the 44 mag or an older model Vaquero.
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Old January 14, 2013, 09:34 AM   #3
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#1) There is the original Vaquero and the New Vaquero... Pretty sure you are talking about the New Vaquero. The New Vaquero is built on the medium frame and of course fixed sights. It will not handle Ruger Only Loads (which is just fine for most uses) . Rather than repeat info read up here:

http://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-NewVaquero.htm
http://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-NewVaquero2.htm

The New Vaquero will handle Tier 1 (14,000psi SAAMI) & Tier 2 loads (20,000psi)

The BH and SBH is on the same 'Large' frame. It will take Tier 3 loads (30,000psi Ruger Only Loads) if necessary.

#2 If you reload... the .45 Colt is the way to go as you just leveled the field. As much choices reloading for .45 Colt as there is for .44Mag.

http://www.riflemagazine.com/magazin...246partial.pdf

No, running hot loads will not 'wear out' in a .45 Colt revolver any faster than a .44Mag.

Hope that helps!
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Last edited by rclark; January 14, 2013 at 01:44 PM.
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Old January 14, 2013, 10:22 AM   #4
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Unless you are talkin big game hunting ( and I mean BIG game) or for bear defence hot rodding the .45c is unnecessary. Just a good stiff load will do anything most of us ever need doing. IMO, that takes the differences of the Ruger frame sizes out of the equation and makes it a decision based completely on personal preference and feel.

But I would caution you against any SA (or revolver in general) without adjustable sights. 10 to 1 I prefer the looks of the fixed sight Vaquero, 10 to 1 I prefer shooting good adjustable sight guns. I'll sacrifice a little in looks for better shootability any day.

I run a wide range of loads in my guns, from mouse fart to full bore hunting loads and anything in between. You want to pick one or two loads and stick with them you may very well get by with traditional SA fixed sights but if you want to use that gun to it's full potential something better is not only needed but pretty much required.
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Old January 14, 2013, 12:10 PM   #5
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L_Kilkenny makes good points. I'll take the opposite view on preference however...and also say that it all depends on what you're going to do with the gun. Like L_K I prefer the look of the traditional smooth lines of the Vaquero series, old and New,...but also prefer these functionally. I'm not a rangemeister or hunter (with pistol) but use mine for plinkin'/campin'/trompin'/woodsin' and back-up sidearm and camp gun when rifle hunting, so the "minute of two-four-or-no legged critter" provided by the Vaqueros is fine with me. I don't CAS, but I do like the snag-free-for-leather clearing smoother top strap and lower profile front blade sight. Back to agreeing with L_K on looks, I also like the "admiring" factor for the 98% of the time when the guns are not being fired. Different strokes...

Back to which frames, regardless of sight configuration you choose: +1 on -
- "Discrete" (specific) hunting - large frame .44 or .45 Vaquero or Blackhawk/Super Blackhawk, OR limted production 50th Anniversry .44 Mag Flattop which marries the smaller XR3 gripframe of the mid-frames with the large BH/SBH cylinder frame.
- all other uses/common calibers - the "mid-frame" New Vaquero or the .357/.44 Sp/.45 Flattops.

I'd say if you are drawn mostly to the Colt-like "cowboy" looks, feel/vibe and you're looking to that "bear gun use" only as an after or secondary thought of "want it to be able to definitely handle, but I'm not focusing on hunting," look for an original/large frame Vaquero and you'll hve both covered. OTOH a reasonably stout .44 Sp or .45 Colt load in a mid-frame will likely do the trick (for black bear protection) anyway.
If you want it 'generally western looking" but don't care about those "smooth lines" details and/or look to hunting or range work as the primary focusn get the Blackhawk .45 or Super Blackhawk (.44 Mag).

Last edited by gak; January 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM.
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Old January 14, 2013, 12:40 PM   #6
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Dyman said:
"The CASS version of the Vaquero - based mostly on looks - is my current favorite, but I"m wondering if the only thing they've changed there is the hammer."

The SASS is a "New Vaquero," not Vaquero, the latter being the now discontinued larger frame gun. My recollection is that the only difference on the SASS is swapping in the Super Blackhawk/Montado profile hammer instead of the high backswept hammer standard on all non-Montado or .45 Birdshead New Vaqueros.
.
Adding to the nomenclature confusion, Ruger (and distribtors/vendors in turn) have taken to calling all the New Vaqueros just "Vaquero" in its ads and literature. Another oddity, Ruger mislabeled the .44 Special New Vaqueros as just "Vaquero" actually on the frame. All other NV calibers are properly labeled "New Vaquero" on the frame - to date.
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Old January 14, 2013, 01:18 PM   #7
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These guys covered this pretty darn well. I would just input the New Vaquero in 45 Colt is one fine revolver and shoots anything I could ever want in this caliber, namely ~255 grain bullet at 800 to 1100 fps.
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Old January 14, 2013, 01:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
I would just input the New Vaquero in 45 Colt is one fine revolver and shoots anything I could ever want in this caliber, namely ~255 grain bullet at 800 to 1100 fps.
+1 . I got my Green Dot load for around 900fps (puff range load) and an HS-6 load for 1100fps (woods load) .
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Old January 14, 2013, 01:56 PM   #9
dayman
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As always, I feel far more knowledgeable now than I did before asking.

Ruger does knock the "new" off the Vaquero on their website. Which is actually kind of strange as all the other SA revolvers are "new" something or others.

One other question, and I don't want to start a caliber fight, but - presuming I'm reloading - is there a sizable advantage to .45 colt over .44 mag? Keeping in mind that most of the shooting I do with either one will be with fairly low powered practice loads.
The only bears we have locally are black bears, so it's not as if I need to carry a hand cannon on a daily basis (yelling and waving a stick has proved 100% effective to date), but my feeling is that if I'm going to get a large framed revolver I'd like to at least have the option of shooting impressively hot out of it.

The reason I ask is that it seems like a fairly large percentage of the SA revolvers I see used locally are .44. So it it's 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other looking at both would definitely give me more options. Also, despite the .45 having far more nostalgic appeal, the .44 can be had with an unfluted cylinder.
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Old January 14, 2013, 03:56 PM   #10
Cousin Pat
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and Colt

you might want to check out Colt's New Frontier which is back in production (with modern steels) after being introduced in 1890. It has adjustable sights. This is a Vaquero-type - not for big loads. Conversely, if you think you are into big loads, e.g. 44mag and 45LC+P, by all means get a Blackhawk -- you will really appreciate the recoil absorbing benfits of 50+ oz of gun weight (vs. 40oz for Vaquero).
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Old January 14, 2013, 06:01 PM   #11
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The 4.62" Blackhawk weighs around 37 ounces.
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Old January 14, 2013, 06:54 PM   #12
Cousin Pat
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blackhawk weight

good point - it is really the SuperBlackhawk where the weight is found, a gun designed for 44Mag and also chambered in 45Colt where it can handle the 45LC+P stuff. Personally I find that the pain-vs-fun ratio for repetitive target-type shooting is too high for full-power 357mag, 44mag and 45LC+P with guns weighing much less than 50oz.
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Old January 14, 2013, 07:47 PM   #13
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My next gun will be a 4.62" Blackhawk in .45 Colt with my "hot" load being around 10 grains of Unique and a 270 to 280 grain bullet depending on what mold I buy. I for sure avoid well above average recoil. I just checked, and it comes in at 39 ounces, still a handy weight and size for such a beast.
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Old January 14, 2013, 09:14 PM   #14
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Jmortimer

I had a 4.62" Blackhawk, using the Unique 10gr, 275LFN load. I changed the barrel to 7.5" before giving it to my son. Recoil was ok, but muzzle flip with the short barrel reminded me of my 44SBH. Got a 45 Bisley in 5.5" and what a dream. I can keep that load on a pie plate at 100 yards. 42 ounces is a little heavy, but sure made the difference for me.
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Old January 14, 2013, 09:25 PM   #15
Bob Wright
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I just couldn't make up my mind, either. These are all .45s............



Though I did try to make some look like Super Blackhawks, sort of trying to correct Ruger's oversight.

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Old January 14, 2013, 10:40 PM   #16
rclark
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Your right . You don't even have a proper 5 1/2" barrelled .45 Colt ... No wonder you can't make up your mind .

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Old January 15, 2013, 11:53 PM   #17
TX Wheelgunner
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new vaq

I like my the 45 because I can load a 300 gn bullet at or below super sonic speed and still get the results I want. 45 colt is one of the most versatile calibers available.
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Old January 16, 2013, 01:14 AM   #18
Jim March
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OK. I'll try and cover what hasn't been discussed.

ALL of the mid-frame Ruger SAs (New Vaquero, 50th Anniversary 357 Blackhawk Flattop, the Montado, the SASS Vaqs, all of the 44Spls and anything in .45LC/ACP with a "flattop" frame) have a revised cylinder process that aided accuracy over the previous types. The cylinder bores with the new process are done one at a time with the same bit/reamer set as opposed to all-six-at-once.

Again: all of the mid-frames are improved like that.

In 2007 those changes migrated to the large-frames. You can tell if a large-frame Ruger SA is late enough to have those changes by the "lawyer's warning label" on the barrel: side-barrel means older, under-barrel means it has the cylinder revision.

I personally would want to own a specimen with the revised cylinder.

Now. The mid-frame "Blackhawks" are very different from their large-frame cousins, esp. if the large-frame specimen is blued. In stainless all the large-frame Blackhawks have steel grip frames and steel ejector rods (stainless steel that is). In the large-frame blue Blackhawks the grip frame and ejector rod housing are aluminum, black-anodized to match the gun.

That is actually a very good way to go. Not the greatest cosmetically but...two things, the gun ends up being lighter overall and the ejector housing in aluminum is tougher when you are doing heavy recoil, such as the 44Magnum-class 45LC+P ammo in a 45LC Blackhawk. The aluminum ejector housing, being lighter, puts less stress on the screw holding it to the barrel so you get less cases of that screw breaking or pulling free.

These blue aluminum-parts Blackhawks are also cheaper than most of the other variants.

If I was buying one single Ruger SA today, and I didn't care about CAS/SASS competition rules, I would buy a blue Blackhawk large-frame in 45LC/45ACP convertible. That would give me a very flexible and powerful combination. This isn't a special off-catalog distributor run, it's the normal catalog gun with either a 4.68" or 5.5" barrel.

One other thing. FrankenRugers . You can swap parts across the entire Ruger SA product line. One of the first things I did to the standard New Vaquero in 357 that I bought in 2005 was graft on a SuperBlackhawk lowered hammer. You can also splice in the even lower Bisley hammer with a bit more work (still within the realm of a non-pro "home gunsmith"), swap grip frames, do all kinds of other stuff.

Once you get to the point where you've modified the frame, the gun can never go back to Ruger as they'll declare it too mutant to live . At this point I have the most severely genetically altered FrankenRuger beast of all time, now that I have magazine feeding and gas-powered auto-ejection of empty shells working .

Yeah, really not kidding here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4XtVldNbO4
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Old January 16, 2013, 06:18 PM   #19
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Dang, Mr. March.
That's really something.
Those guys making home made guns over in the middle east ain't got nothing on you.
Plumb amazing.
But wouldn't it really be easier to just get a Glock, like everyone else?
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Old January 16, 2013, 06:42 PM   #20
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The SASS Edition revolvers are only sold in pairs so if you only want one revolver you can get a comparable New Vaquero. The .45 SASS Edition guns are all stainless 5.5 in hers. If you want a shorter tube or a blue finish go with a New Vaq. The SASS Edition adds the Montado hammer, a slightly wider rear sight notch and the grips with stick on SASS emblems. That's about it. There are some distributor exclusive New Vaqs out there in .45 Colt and .45 ACP that have low hammers, birds head grips and 3.5 inch tubes. Very nice if you like that configuration.
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Old January 16, 2013, 09:03 PM   #21
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For whatever its worth, all of my .45s are 1980~1990 vintage, and have all steel grip frames and ejector rod housings. A couple of them have cam-cut ejector rod housings and crescent ejector rod heads. This by my own doing.

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Old January 17, 2013, 06:24 AM   #22
dayman
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In the past week the price on the website for the SASS version has dropped by ~$800, and it no longer says anything about a pair. So I assume there were enough people that wanted one (but not 2) for them to decide to offer to sell them one at a time.

Is the grip frame interchangeable between the bisleys and the standard grips? I very much like the look of an unfluted cylinder, but it seems to be avalable on the SBH or on the bisely .45's.
Would it be possible to buy a bisely gun and then change the grip frame to the standard handle? Or install the cylender from a bisley into a standard BH?
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Old January 17, 2013, 07:48 AM   #23
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They were sold with consecutive serial numbers in a two gun plastic carrying case. Perhaps they decided to split them up; its the first I've heard of it though.

These guns are new Vaqueros built on the "medium" frame so the cylinder is smaller than the one on the large frame Blackhawk. I'm pretty sure the .45 Colt Bisleys are built on the large frame.

There is a medium frame Bisley New Vaquero out there in Stainless and I understand its grip frame will interchange. The cylinder is fluted but it does have the Bisley hammer which is a lowered hammer just not as wide as the Montado hammer on the SASS Edition guns. You might want to take a look at those; here is a link: http://www.ruger.com/products/vaqueroBisley/models.html
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Old January 17, 2013, 07:51 AM   #24
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Blackhawk vs. Vaquero?

You cannot make a bad choice here.

The cool factor on these guns is off the chart.

They can be handed own to the next generation and the next!

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Old January 17, 2013, 09:40 AM   #25
Bob Wright
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This .45 Colt Blackhawk, or Super Blackhawk if you will, was originally a Bisley:




And this Bisley started ut life as a .45 Blackhawk. (Its now a Blackhawk again)



Most parts completely interchange pretty easily, especially hammers and grip frames. The Bisley hammer can be put on a Blackhawk, though some opening up of the hammer slot is required on the grip frame.

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