“Reasonable” Handgun Purchases

When “WANT” Trumps NEED

By Massad Ayoob

I am Uncle Mas, and I am one of you, so don’t try to fool me. You know there’s at least one handgun you’ve bought, or maybe just really, really wanted to buy, even though you knew there was no particular use on God’s Green Earth to which you could actually put it.

I’m not judging you. Been there. Done that. Let me tell you about my latest. I’ll bet you’ll be able to relate.

The gun in question had been slicked up with a sweet trigger, which complemented its solid-on-target
forward balance point.

The short-barreled New Vaquero in .45 Colt strikes a fine balance in both looks and feel.
Bat Masterson would have loved this .45!

Cute Little Revolver

So, there I was in one of my favorite gun shops, Outpost Armory owned by the Barrett family in Murfreesboro, Tn. (Yes, those pro-2A “Barrett Light Fifty” Barretts.) It’s one of my favorite stops on my lifelong gun shop tour. (Some might say “necessary business travel.” If you stop at every firearms emporium you pass while doing that, time permitting, trust me—it’s a lifelong gun shop tour.)

Being a collector who gathers more sidearms than rifles or scatterguns, I made my way first to the used handgun display. A very compact single-action revolver you don’t see very often caught my eye, the Ruger New Vaquero in .45 Colt with extra-short barrel complete with birdshead grip and conventional SAA-style ejector rod. It had different sights, though. I couldn’t resist saying, “Can I see that one, please?”

New Vaquero serial number 510-55696 looked like one of those special runs Ruger did for TALO distributors. It was a gun the men of the Old West would have loved if the configuration had existed then.

Picture the Colt Single-Action Army variant known variously as the “Sheriff’s Model” and “Storekeeper’s Model,” with short barrel but no ejector rod nor housing, so you’d need a wooden dowel or a pencil or something to punch the spent casings out of the loading gate one-by-one if you ever had to reload the thing. And the bird’s-head grip, which never actually existed on an original “Peacemaker” but instead helped to popularize Colt’s first double actions in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Lightning and Omnipotent. This Ruger sixgun had ejector rod and roundbutt.

I confirmed it empty, checked the action, and … OMG. Someone—the counter folks couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me who—had slicked up the action like the proverbial greased lightning, and given it a clean trigger pull I would measure later, at home, at 2 pounds 10 ounces at the toe of the trigger, and just over 3 at the center. That same anonymous craftsman had installed XS Express sights.

Have you ever been in an animal shelter, and one little kitten came up and looked pleadingly into your eyes? Well, it was kinda like that. Only, more of a puppy than a kitten, and a pit bull puppy at that: not only powerful, but solid! About the same weight as an all steel Government Model .45, with the weight out in front of your hand hanging steady on target.

You know I bought it. The credit card and the FFL hit the counter, and it was waiting at my favorite dealer’s place when I got home. Its hammer spur configuration, sort of a cross between Bisley and Super Blackhawk, combined with its rounded backstrap so it rolled up comfortably in the hand upon recoil, and the thumb could catch the spur and have it cocked again as soon as I snapped the muzzle back down on target. A “lollipop” sight picture with the Big Dot Express sights put the big slugs where I wanted them to go. It fit my hand perfectly. It was like one of those little rescue critters that wanted to please the person who had adopted it.

The short barrel with ejector rod, and added XS Express sights makes for a dynamite
fast-shooting fun gun.

Express sights such as these from XS can be a Godsend for those with imperfect vision.
They allow for very fast shooting, too.

We’ll Use It For, Uh…

Even as I was reaching for the credit card, I was desperately trying to think of what the heck to do with this revolver. I had been considering getting into Cowboy Fast Draw, having recently discovered a CFD club in my town, (see October 2017 column) and tried to tell myself if the XS sights disqualified the gun for that, I could just pull ’em off. Turned out, no such luck: CFD requires 4.75-inch barrel length minimum, and birdshead single actions ain’t period correct. I knew the XS sights would disqualify it from SASS, too. Concealed carry? A gate-loading single action? Seriously, in the year 2017? Um, maybe a sidearm for dangerous game country? No thanks, I’ve always preferred a 4-inch double-action .44 Magnum.

But I found a good use for it.

There’s a friend of mine who has done some favors for me, and he won’t let me repay in coin of the realm. But I knew he liked guns of classic 19th Century design rendered with modern metallurgy, and I knew some recent eye surgery he’d undergone had not turned out well for him in terms of ability to see handgun sights. Hmm… Super sweet Ruger Single Action… Big, easy-to-see express sights…

It was the best possible purpose. Brother Bill, I hope you enjoy the sweet Ruger .45 as much as I did!

RUGER
411 Sunapee Street
Newport, NH 03773
(336) 949-5200
www.ruger.com

XS Sights
2401 Ludelle
Fort Worth, TX 76105
(888) 744-4880
www.xssights.com

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One thought on ““Reasonable” Handgun Purchases

  1. David Biggers

    David Clay did the welding and Bo Wallace helped fit the Birds head frame. This was the gun I took to the first ever Single Action Self Defense class at Gunsite. Ruger hosted the event and a number of writers as well as Ruger execs were in attendance. The lead instructor was Lawrence (Dr. Death) Mudgett, formerly of LAPD SWAT. I still have the second one with the standard grip.

    Reply

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