December 29, 2008
Ruger Vaquero 357 Magnum Stainless Hi Polish
Being a child who grew up in the 1950’s I was like every other little boy. I loved Cowboys and Cowboy movies. Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger on TV then all the old greats at the movies. That love affair with all things Cowboy stayed with me into adulthood in the form of rifles and single action revolvers.
When I was about 7 years old my dad taught me how to shoot a revolver with a second generation Colt single action army revolver in 45 Colt. That was the first handgun I ever shot. That’s a memory I’ll always keep close. My dad had several single action army revolvers he kept at my uncles house for a couple of years. My uncles home burned down and the old Colts were gone. Only years later I realized what a loss that was.
No it’s not pushed all the way into the holster:-)
The first revolver to cover is the Ruger Vaquero. This gun is safe to carry six rounds in the cylinder since it uses a transfer bar instead of the old type with the firing pin in the hammer. Mine is the 5 1/2 inch barrel version which is a good barrel length for just having a fun afternoon of shooting or with your local SASS group dressing up and playing the part with all the other old guys from the baby boom generation:-) This Ruger is the hi gloss stainless which is about the most durable finish you can buy and very easy to clean. These old guns point naturally no matter who makes them. They just feel right in your hand. They are also surprisingly accurate considering all they have is the notch in the rear and a thin blade front sight. The Ruger is also a very durable revolver and can handle about any reasonable handload you can come up with and keep going through a lifetime of shooting.
The trigger as it comes from the factory isn’t bad at all but can be improved with a little judicious buffing. One handed shooting from a holster draw will give you groups of about 4 inches at 10 to 12 yards shooting like you would in competition. If you slow down and use a handload 38 special with just the right amount of Bullseye powder you can squeeze a group of about an inch at 10 yards. One note here I don’t advise anyone get carried away and fan the hammer like in the old movies. One thing is unless someone who knows how teaches you it can be dangerous and the other consideration is it’s hard on the internals even the rugged Ruger.
The holster rig pictured above my wife bought me on a trip we made to San Antonio Texas back in the early 90’s. An old Mexican gentleman made it by hand and had a bunch of rigs to choose from at crazy low prices like $30 for this rig. I dyed it black and added the conchos to dress it up a bit. The loops fit 38/357 rounds. It was a heck of a deal and has served well for all these years.
The next revolver is the Uberti Italian made single action that is pretty faithful to the old Colt in design with the firing pin in the hammer. Again this requires you carry only 5 rounds in the cylinder with an empty under the firing pin. If you drop it and a round is under the firing pin it will fire! This one has a fairly matte blue finish. I ordered a set of the faux Ivory grips from Uberti which they didn’t even charge me for. I did have to fit them but it didn’t take very long and only required a minor bit of material be removed to fit well. This one is chambered in 45 Colt. Not as sturdy as the Ruger I use mainly Magtech “Cowboy” loads which are very mild and run about 700 fps. The trigger on this one is a little better than the Ruger which I would guess is just the difference in the old action and the Ruger transfer bar action. It’s not as accurate as the Ruger but it’s no slouch either. For those that may not be aware of it Beretta purchased Uberti after years of the company making the Stampede for Beretta. I undertsand that eventually the Uberti name will be gone and they will all be Berettas. All of the machinery is being or has been moved to Berettas facility. The action on this revolver is smoother than the Ruger with less effort to cock it and has less trigger pull distance. The trigger is also lighter by just a hair. It also handles well and points just as good as the Ruger. The Uberti is also a bit lighter than the Ruger which makes for a bit faster handling. The price of the Uberti is also about $100 less than the Ruger.
Marlin 1894 “Cowboy” Competition 38 Special Rifle
I saved the best for last:-) This is the Marlin 1894 “Cowboy” competition model rifle which came in 38 special only and had a 20 inch barrel. It has a deep blue octagon barrel and a color case hardened reciever and an American Walnut high grade stock. It has the traditional Buckhorn sights with a gold bead Marble front sight. You’ll also note the holster rig I mentioned earlier. At least you can see it all in this picture. I do love this rifle and in my opinion it’s in the top two of the best looking rifles ever made!
Marlin made this rifle for a few years for those who compete in the Single Action Shooting Society matches (SASS). Marlin put a lot of hand fitting into this rifle by hand smoothing and fitting the action. The cost was higher than the other Cowboy rifles in Marlins line. It ran close to $650 to $700 at most shops. Marlin discontinued this rifle much to the consternation of many a Marlin rifle enthusiast. Apparently Marlin listened to the customers since it has been re-released
chambered in 38 special and 45 Colt.
One Of The New Models. Note the bolt is not case hardened as they were on the old ones and mine.
Barrel Markings and the beautiful deep blueing
The action on this rifle is as smooth as butter. In fact the first time you work the action you have to just pause and wonder at how they got it this smooth all the way through the stroke. Normally when the round is about to go into the chamber there is a little feeling of the round hanging a bit but not with this rifle. The balance and feel with this straight stock is fantastic. It handles like a dream and has such little recoil it’s back on target in an instant. From a distance of about 15 yards you prettty much put all your rounds into one hole of about an inch and a half. There are few if any rifles that are more pleasurable to shoot than a quality lever action like this one and the other Marlin lever actions made in the Cowboy configuration.
I once owned a Winchester model 1892 that had been converted to 38/357 in the 1950’s when that was a popular thing to do with the old rifle. The size of the “92” and the Marlin are pretty close and light in weight. One of the first things I thought of was the old model “92” when I picked up the Marlin.
The Marlin and Uberti before I added the Ivory grips
I don’t know why Marlin did away with the case hardened finish on the bolt. I much prefer the entire reciever,lever and bolt color case hardened since Marlin did such a beautiful job of creating this finish. Marlin has always made quality rifles. In fact my next favorite rifle is the Golden 39A in 22LR. One interesting tidbit of information on this 100 plus year old rifle is that back in the late 1950’s when the Rifleman TV series was so popular Marlin added a feature to the 39A that would have lawyers today licking their chops. Just behind the trigger attached to the lever was a flat piece of metal that could be swiveled forward so that when you worked the lever the metal piece engaged the trigger firing a round each time you worked the lever. This type was my first 39A and man was it fun! It’s the first and last one I’ve ever seen and command a big price these days if you can find one.
If you have any interest in the old west or getting into the Cowboy action shooting scene you would do well to seriously consider the marlin 1894 “Cowboy” for your long gun and the Ruger Vaquero for your sidearm. Check the Ruger website at LINK
Marlins lever action webpage can be found at LINK