Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ruger Vaquero upgrades

A few years back I purchased this stock Ruger "old model" Vaquero at the gun show for $400, it was in like new condition and came with the original box. This was the start of my addiction to cowboy guns......

This Vaquero is chambered in .45 Colt and has a 4.62" (4 5/8") barrel. Blued barrel, cylinder and grip frame with the color case style finish on the frame.

 As with most handguns the easiest and quickest upgrade is a set of stocks or grip panels. Here are three options from Ajax that I have collected over the years. Since this is an old model Vaquero, it uses the same grip frame that the New Model Blackhawks & New Model Single Sixes use. From left to right: Checkered rosewood with Fluer de lis & diamonds, Faux Ivory, and Faux Mother of Pearl. The flash really makes these grips look cheesy, they look much nicer in person.
Another great upgrade for these cowboy guns is the ejector rod. My gun came with the original button head style ejector, like the Blackhawks.

The new Vaqueros come with a "Colt-esque" crescent head ejector. The ad below shows some of the changes from the "old" Vaquero to the New Vaquero.
Swapping out the ejector rod is also an easy upgrade. I sourced an aftermarket one from MK Technologies (via Brownells) and a factory New Vaquero one from Ruger, here they are for comparison:
I chose to use the larger MK Technologies one on my full size Vaquero and the more diminutive new Vaquero one on my Vaquerito Single Six.

In addition I ordered an extra set of trigger/hammer pins and the cylinder release pin. I will Nitre Blue these and save the originals "just in case".

I wasn't going to nitre blue the cylinder base pin, but I won an auction on ebay for 14 base pins, and thought why not?
Here are the parts prepped for nitre bluing
In the pot they go, 590 degrees is the target temp.
Here are the old parts, next to the replacement nitre blued ones. The Nitre Bluing is extremely difficult to photograph
While performing the re-assembly and doing function checks I ran into a snag. The gun did not want to lock up or advance the cylinder.

I discovered that the spring and plunger that puts pressure on the cylinder lock was damaged.

A quick call to Ruger and a replacement spring and plunger were on their way.

Just a side note, Ruger has the best customer service a customer could wish for (although I would like to order the parts online instead of calling on the phone). Ruger would never let a few dollars in parts separate a Ruger owner from satisfaction.

Anyway, here is the old plunger next to the new replacement one:
The issue was not just with the plunger being cracked/broken, the hole was too tight for the new one to fit in as well.
  A little work with a drill bit and some 220 grit paper wrapped around a punch and it fits like a glove.

Remember to put some oil down the hole and on the plunger.
The issue with the advancing of the cylinder was caused by incorrect installation. There is a small lip on the inside of the frame, if you do not seat the plunger all the way past the lip the plunger will not put pressure on the pawl.
 So to wrap it up here is what we did:
  • installed a new crescent shaped ejector
  • Installed new Ajax Rosewood "Fleur de Lis" grip panels
  • Corrected a factory defect with the cylinder lock mechanism
  • Nitre blued:
    • Cylinder base pin
    • Trigger pin
    • Hammer pin
    • Cylinder base pin latch
 The fit of the Ajax grips is not perfect, about what you should expect from mass produced panels.

Ruger Vaquero parts
MK Technologies Ejector from Brownells

1 comment:

  1. You've made many comments about photography previous to this, and lament the effects of flash on the M.O.P. grips above. All professional photographic light is rendered in a non directional fashion, like real daylight, whether using flash or not. Light that is reflected off surfaces other than your object (like screens or shrouds) is as close as you can get to natural totally non-directional daylight. A whole different skill set, to be sure, but it's the only way to highlight the true depth of what you are creating in metal. Just saying.... (THUMBSUP!)