After performing some upgrades on my Ruger original .45 Colt Vaquero and compiling a list of Interesting Gun Modifications, I decided to write a post strictly on modifications that can be done to Ruger's original cowboy revolver. Some of these I have performed myself, others I plan to perform. Of course most of these will also apply to the Ruger Blackhawk and the New Vaquero as well.
We'll start with the easy ones.
Grip panels (or stocks if you will)
Besides the plethora available from the factory and Shop Ruger.com.
There are options from real ivory to fake ivory, Elk Stag to Pewter, Giraffe Bone to Micarta, Mother of Pearl (real & fake), Buffalo horn, Corian counter top material, laminated wood and every type of wood known to man from Rosewood to Ebony, Bloodwood to Purpleheart......Something to keep in mind, the original Vaquero shares the same grip frame as the New Model Blackhawk and New Model Single Six (as well as SOME of the old model Blackhawks and Single Sixes) which makes finding grips very easy. See my blog post about Ruger Grip Frames.
If your Vaquero came blued or color cased, you can age the finish to make it appear to be a 100 year old antique, see my post here
Nitre Bluing the trigger and hammer pins. This looks great on the Color Case frames and even better on the stainless ones.
You might choose to make your Vaquero look more like a Colt by swapping out the trigger and hammer pins for these ones from The Smith Shop that look like screws. Of course it is even better if you nitre blue them. The kit could also include a pawl spring & plunger with a second plunger to prevent the spring from being pinched during assembly.
A popular modification is swapping out the stock hammer for a different style.
From left to right:
- Stock Blackhawk & original Vaquero hammer
- Montado hammer from New Vaquero Montado model (basically a Super Blackhawk hammer with checkering). If you can find one it is a direct replacement
- Super Blackhawk, this is also a direct replacement and are available direct from Ruger or retailers like Midway USA
- Bisley, these are designed to fit a Bisley style grip frame, but will work on a standard grip frame with some modifications. these are also available from Ruger and other retailers.
Although not legal for Cowboy Action Shooting, you might be interested in this modification. This Colt Single Action Army was modified for the CMH Awardee turned-Actor Audie Murphy. The hammer was heated then turned to the left for easier thumb access
You could also install a birds head grip frame (like the Montado above) or.....
find a brass one
or a Colt Lightning style available from North Carolina Ordnance
or Power Custom makes these Colt style two piece frames in stainless and brass that mimic the original Colt Single Action Army grip profile
Or a Keith N0. 5 style (a mix of the Bisley & Colt)
Another Option is to round off the corners of the standard "Plow" style grip frame and file/sand the grips to fit
A little more challenging project, adapt a Colt brass grip frame to your Vaquero....see it done here
How about adding a lanyard to your revolver, prior to and during WWI this was standard practice (when the Calvary were still mounted troops)
The one below is made from 304 Stainless and is available from Sims Tactical Solutions
Another option might be to add a ball-milled recess and pin to the back of the grip frame like this Single Six:
Here is a similar design of the same concept, the grip frame was machined down and the grips custom made to fit
Nitre blue the factory cylinder base pin & latch
or swap them for ones made to mimic the original Colt style (also available from the Smith Shop)
Belt Mountain makes a variety of heavy duty cylinder base pins (and latches), some are over-sized to take up any "slop" in the fit.
You could also have a machinist modify the stock base pin to give it a different look
Ruger installed a much longer ERH on the 357 Maximum Blackhawk (in the pic below).
I have seen two types of aftermarket ones. One that is longer but maintains the same screw location and one that goes the full length barrel like the the 5.5" barreled Maximum Blackhawk in this picture.
Bowen Classic Arms makes a longer housing called a "Target Length", not sure how long it is, but here is a Bowen ERH on an old model Blackhawk with a S&W barrel.
How about swapping the ejector rod housing for one from a Colt or Colt copy, the cam over notch allows for slightly deeper penetration of the ejector rod (by side stepping the base pin latch) on short barreled gun. It also allows removal of the base pin without removing the ejector rod housing.
You could also add a notch for the ejector hear so it can be moved out of the way for removing the base pin
With the ejector rod, there are lots of options:
You could Install a crescent shaped ejector like the ones below.
From left to right: stock ejector rod, Ruger factory New Vaquero crescent, MK Technologies crescent
Story makes this Colt 1st Gen "Bullseye" style
as an alternative you could maintain the stock ejector, but add checkering to the face
Another option is to add a concave dimple to the ejector rod button, some of the early Flat top Blackhawks came like this
You could add the Free Spin Pawl (allowing the cylinder to move either direction when the loading gate is open). This unit is available from Power Custom (via Midway USA)
You could also modify your pawl to free spin, I'm not sure I would recommend this to everyone though
A quick and easy upgrade is a new spring kit from Wolff, the main (hammer) spring and trigger spring are usually lighter weight, the cylinder base pin latch spring is heavier to help keep the base pin in place during recoil.
Michigan Center Outdoors offers trigger and hammer shim kits as well as the spring kits above
Rugers do not come from the factory with polished internals, a good way to slick up the action is to polish the parts. I plan on doing this on my next Vaquero project.
Read more here: DIY Slick up a Ruger Single Action
How about chamfering the outside edge of the cylinder? This is done to aid in holstering.
The one on the left has what is called a "Black Powder Chamfer".
Many Cowboy Action shooters have a "Short Stroke" modification performed on their Vaqueros. This shortens the hammer stroke by about 25%
There are also 1/2 cock hammer kits that align the empty chamber with the loading gate. The kit, made by Power Custom, comes with new hammer (with 1/2 cock notch), redesigned trigger and springs. As always it is available at Midway USA
You might have your front sight covered in gold leaf for better visibility
You could have the end of your barrel ported, definitely not a traditional look....
This option may help you get a better purchase on the loading gate: note the material removed from the inside curve of the loading gate
You could "scallop" the recoil shields on your gun, an elegant, albeit permanent modification
If your Vaquero came with a blued frame or the color case finish isn't looking so good (the factory finish was not a true color case hardening). You can send your gun to Doug Turnbull for his beautiful (and real) Color Case Hardening:
Turnbull also offers this finish called "Carbona Bronze"
You might want to add some "bling" by jeweling the sides of your hammer and trigger, or perhaps polishing some parts of your stainless Vaquero and bead blasting other parts for a two tone look.
You could pony up some big dollars and have your Vaquero engraved.... (Ruger is now offering a factory engraved New Vaquero, called the Vaquero Deluxe)
As with any gun modification, do your homework, consult some experts and proceed with caution. Good Luck and Good Shooting!
Sims Tactical Solutions
Bowen Classic Arms
The Smith Shop
Cylinder & Slide
Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing Co.
Sharps40 on Firearms Talk
National Firearms Museum
Some of the pictures above were found freely on the world wide web and are used for educational purposes under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Where possible the source has been credited. If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.