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Ruger Revolvers and 45 Colt +P Ammunition

In 1957 Ruger introduced their first iteration of what has now evolved into the New Model Super Blackhawk, chambered in 44 Remington Magnum. That first iteration was only made for a few years and has been changed many times since. Since 1970 Ruger has made the same revolver counterpart of their 44 magnum Blackhawk, chambered in 45 Colt. This was a very telling development for folks that wanted the most effective big game cartridge in a revolver. Why? Because the 45 colt utilizes a bullet diameter of .452 inch, but the 44 magnum utilizes a bullet diameter of only .429, so the 45 Colt is basically two and a half calibers bigger in diameter, allowing ammunition to use 25-30 grs. heavier bullets at comparable velocities, but at much lower pressures. For those of you who have killed many dozen head of big game, you know that all things being equal, bigger diameter bullets, for lack of better terminology, kill better—often, a lot better.

Since 1970 folks that knew how to reload started making 45 colt ammo at higher pressures (+P) than SAAMI specs., for use in their large frame (44 mag. sized frame) Blackhawks chambered in 45 Colt. Eventually (1980’s and 1990’s) most of the major loading manuals started to include +P type 45 Colt loads for use in the Large frame Ruger revolvers. Eventually, forward thinking ammo companies such as Cor Bon, Buffalo Bore and Grizzly Cartridge, started to load commercial 45 Colt+P ammo for use in the Large Frame Blackhawks. SAAMI has never recognized the use of 45 Colt+P ammo, even though there are many firearms now made that will easily withstand far more pressure than the old SAAMI black powder standard of 14,000 CUP.

Life was easy/good for us commercial ammo makers of 45 Colt+P ammo till around 2005/2006 when Ruger made their first small (357 mag. size) frame revolver chambered in 45 Colt. While I am certain that Ruger had all sorts of good reasons to make a smaller framed 45 Colt revolver, they still called it the same name as the original large frame versions, i.e. such as New Vaquero. The original Vaquero was made on the 44 mag. sized frame and is suitable for firing +P 45 colt ammo and is simply called “Vaquero”, but the New Vaquero is made on a much smaller 357 magnum sized frame and is not suitable for +P 45 Colt ammo. WHY Ruger kept the name “Vaquero”, (even though they pre-fixed it with “New”) when making that smaller framed 45 colt revolver, is a mystery to me and has been extremely confusing to the gun buying public that thinks they are buying a large frame 45 colt, capable of safely firing +P ammo. So, the name “Vaquero” describes a large frame, but the name “New Vaquero” is a small frame!!??**$#@@#^^!!

So now days, folks can by a small frame New Vaquero chambered in 45 Colt, thinking they have one of the pre 2005 large framed revolvers that was suitable for use with +P ammo. Likewise, around 2010, Ruger started making small frame flat top configuration Blackhawks chambered in 45 colt. Folks that had heard the large framed Vaqueros or Blackhawks were suitable for use with +P ammo, buy these new small framed revolvers named Blackhawks, thinking they have the old standby large frame revolver capable of firing the +P ammo they want to fire. To make matters worse, Ruger still makes one or two iterations of the large frame 45 colt under the same name of “Blackhawk”, greatly confusing the shooting public.

The simplest way to differentiate the smaller (357 mag.) framed Ruger’s from the large (44 Mag.) is to measure the cylinder width. The large frame revolvers will have a cylinder width/diameter of 1.732 (+/- .005) inch and the small framed revolvers will have a cylinder width/diameter of 1.680 (+/-.005) inch. It is the shooters sole responsibility to determine EXACTLY what firearm he has and what its capabilities are. We are offering this write-up only as a help to our confused customers, not as the definitive solution.

Ruger started making these small framed 45 Colt revolvers, utilizing similar names as the older large frame guns and I have never understood why Ruger did not see fit to change the names of Vaquero or Blackhawk for these smaller framed guns chambered in 45 Colt, so as to not confuse the shooting public. To keep from confusing the newer less informed shooters, Ruger should have chosen names that differentiate the small frame 45 Colt revolvers from the Large frame 45 Colt revolvers…………..having said that, it is still the users/shooters responsibility to understand what firearm they are buying for what purpose and while I am not into “blaming”, Ruger did it wrong, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the end user and folks in America seem to have an aversion to accepting responsibility for their choices.

If you want to shoot +P 45 Colt ammo, be certain when buying ANY 45 Colt chambered firearm of any make (Ruger, Colt, S&W, Marlin, etc.) that it is strong enough in design to shoot +P ammo. In the case of Buffalo Bore Ammunition, if you go to our web site for any of our +P 45 Colt ammo/loads and once there, click on the “more info” icon, all sorts of information will come up for you, including which firearms are suitable for use with +P ammunition. Thank you for your interest in our ammunition.  Have fun and be safe!