The 4 5/8″ Ruger Vaquero: Load Update 11/05/14

I swapped into an old heavy-frame Vaquero with the 4 5/8″ barrel. Of course, it is a 45 Colt. Thought I better get a good photo up, before it gets beat to hell like all my other working guns.

The little woman even likes it and is shown here trying to run me out of factory-dup loads.

This is a 1st year of production (1993) gun. Apparently Ruger was was on their best behavior because the grip frame to receiver fit and polishing is near perfect. The cylinder throats were a perfect .452 all the way around, which means either Ruger actually got a cylinder right or it’s already been reamed. The hammer & trigger have been blued (personal reference) the internals cleaned & oiled and the pull set to three pounds with a lot less creep. It was dead on for windage and a tad low at 50 yards with my standard and ‘second gear’ lead bullet loads. All that remained was to zero at 50 yards with a hunting load and she’s good to go. That would be the “Linebaugh Load”; 13 grain HS6 with a Missouri Bullet 255 SWC.

I checked velocity of this load, from the short Vaquero, using my old Chrony BetaMaster II. Once around the cylinder, the numbers look like this: 

Temperature:              81 Degrees

Distance:                       6 feet

Average Velocity:       1055 fps

Extreme Spread:         54.09 fps

Standard Deviation:   19.39 fps

Considering that you are dealing with six different chambers here, the ES and SD numbers ain’t bad at all. This 4 5/8″ Vaquero only gives up 20 fps to the longer gun and it is much nicer to pack.


And while this is no fine measure of accuracy, it at least confirms sight regulation with the six shots sent through the chronograph. I was roughly 10 yards from the paper and holding on the bottom of the staple, right above the group.


I have always favored 4 3/4″ single-actions and this one just fits. It’s a great little sixgun and I really like it.

I get some inquiries on this holster. I built it about 20 years ago as an indestructible hunting holster. It ain’t pretty, but it is my most-used hunting rig. It has offered up a sixgun for 5 Bambis I can recall w/o thinking too hard.

It is loosely based on the Tom Threepersons holster; the crossdraw cant was stolen from a Thad Rykba holster featured in American Handgunner, about that time. I located an Amish saddle-maker who had some extra skirting laying around and the stitching was done by a cobbler in Concordia, MO. It has been wet molded to a 4″ S&W Model 29 DA, 5 1/2″ Ruger SA’s and it carried a 5 1/2″ Redhawk a couple of seasons. Once wet-molded, it gets hard as a rock and despite numerous re-fittings it has never lost that property. It was re-molded to the 4 5/8″ Vaquero and it is the perfect fit to that sixgun.

Final Vaquero Working Loads

 My goal here was the same as it always is, when developing loads for a fixed-sight revolver. One general shooting load, one ‘working’ load suitable for hunting game up to deer, and a heavy deep penetrating load for Big Angry Critters. Easy, right? I forgot to mention that they all need to shoot to the sights. Sometimes it takes trial and error to accomplish that.

I tried an old standby load for modern single action revolvers today, consisting of 8.0 grains of HP38 (or W231) and a 255 grain SWC. This is one of those loads you will see in reviews by reputable gunwriters, but you won’t find it in the powder companies’s manuals. I tried it because I wanted something that still hit with authority, but shot lower than the 13.0 HS6 load mentioned above.

 From the short Vaquero, the HP38 load produced an average of 883 fps, with an extreme spread of 41.13 fps and a standard deviation of 15.71 fps. Excellent numbers all around; except it grouped about a 10″ at 65 yards from this gun and hit about a foot low. Well, shizz… just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted.

 Back to the drawing board… the 13.0/HS6 load shot great but prints higher than I’ll tolerate. I decided to split the difference and try 12.5 grains of HS6 with the Missouri Bullet 255 SWC. I was hoping it would slow the load down enough to move the POI down, without compromising the accuracy of the 13.0 grain load. It worked out real well, too. Six shots at a nut can lid from 65 yards. My right shoulder is gving me trouble so I fired left hand, semi-supported over the range bag.


I believe the two rounds on or near the lid are what the gun is doing. The low/left round was me touching it off early and the one 4″ left was just my screw-up. But the four best shots tell the story as far as accuracy potential. But the gun was consistently grouping left, so I applied a little hammer-magic to the front sight to correct that.

7.2 grains of W231/HP38 with a cast 250 grain RNFP has been my standard 45 Colt load for years. From the 4 5/8″ Vaquero it produced an Average Velocity of 883 fps, and Extreme Spread of 41.13 fps and a Standard Deviation of 15.71 fps. Its POI was close enough to keep most shots on a paper bowl at 65 yards from a rest. Nothing left to do here, but load lots of those.

 I also chronographed 12.5 grain HS6/255 SWC load. Average velocity was 984 fps, but the Extreme Spread shot up to 128.6 fps and the Standard Deviation was 43.18. I was having a What The Hell moment until I ejected the brass and found four Starlines, an ancient R-P case and a WW case. DUMMY, make sure you’re loading the same casings next tme!

 I loaded six of the 12.5 HS6/SWC’s, all in Starline cases, took a good rest over the range bag and let them fly. At 65 yards it herded five them into 4″, exactly at point of aim. This load is ready to hunt. 

 Can’t beat that for a compact, fixed-sight sixgun.









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