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Discussion Starter · #1 ·


OK, long story short, I just recently got a .45 ACP Vaquero Birdshead and a 9mm Blackhawk flat-top. The Vaquero came with a Super Blackhawk hammer in it, and the Blackhawk with the thin "standard" hammer........

I got to thinking, "man that SBH hammer would be great for shooting in the 9mm Blackhawk, and that high spur BH hammer would look awesome in the small little Birdshead".....The CAS guys say that "while you're in there" you might as well put Wolff springs in, but since I plan to use both of these with cheaper bulk ammo, I need to keep a hard hammer hit.

I have spent countless hours tinkering with Sixes and GP100's, I could probably strip down and reassemble a GP100 blindfolded at this point but the Ruger SIngle Actions are like starting all over again for me........so, I researched online and the Cowboy Action shooter blogs say that all of them drop new hammers in their Ruger SA's, they say "no big deal 15-20 minutes easy peasy just need a good screwdriver"........so, at 11pm I took both guns apart, which was not "easy peasy", and by 3am I had finally got the BH hammer into the Birdshead with no damage to the gun, myself, any walls, or putting my fist through anything:) I gave up at this point, the 9mm Blackhawk is still totally broken down on my workbench, I MAY get to it tonight since now I'm somewhat familiar with getting it all together.

The good news...........the BH hammer looks and handles better than I even thought in the Birdshead, it works, it cocks, and the hammer drops with no "drag" or roughness.

My one question is........now, when I cock the hammer on the Birdshead......it has to go 100% all the way back, to complete the last "click" of the cocking cycle, and there is 0 "play" in the hammer once cocked. I'm sure you guys who are familiar with Ruger SA's can envision this.....I pulled out my older 1980's model Blackhawk .357, cocked the hammer, and once cocked, there is some "wiggle room" where it still goes back a little bit.

Also, when fully cocked, the Birdshead cylinder is locked up 100% tight, like a Colt. 0 movement, once the trigger is pulled, and the hammer eased forward a little, I assume the hand drops out of the way, and the cylinder has the normal amount of sideplay. It seems the hand is forced against the ratchet of the cylinder at full cock. Not wanting to wear or break anything, after I cocked it a few times, I stopped until I could figure out what was going on.

On my Blackhawk .357, yes, when I pull the hammer ALL the way to the back of the frame, it also locks up "Colt like" but then it moves forward a hair and the cylinder then goes back to normal, if you can get what I'm trying to describe.

I had thought of trying the hand(pawl) from the other gun in the Birdshead, maybe there's a very slight difference in the tolerances, and I don't know how much "fitting" Ruger actually does with the hand and the ratchets of the cylinder or if they pretty much just drop stuff in. The hand may have been "fitted" to work with the other hammer, and that may be the better option, so simply swap the hands too.

Or, am I overthinking it, and there's nothing wrong with how the Birdshead works, and as long as it functions and shoots safely, I'm fine.........

Of course, after I do all this work, I read another article about how only about 50% of the time do the hammers "drop in" to the Ruger SA"s.........

I think this will be my last experiment with hammer swapping in Ruger SA's, from here on out they stay as they come:) Both of these guns will be heavy high volume shooters for me, so I'm not concerned with keeping them original or not taking them apart for fear of putting a small ding in them, these guns will be used, and used a lot.

Worst case scenario I'll just put the hammers back where they were and live with it.
 

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You have described the issue precisely and assessed the situation exactly right! You are dealing with the slight parts tolerance differences between the two guns.

You now have perfect lock up on the Vaquero. A little play is not a bad thing and allows the forcing cone in the end of the barrel to do it's job of centering the chamber with the barrel. Swapping the pawls is a perfectly good option depending on how the SBH hammer works in the Blackhawk and I would do that first before modifying parts if needed. Another option is take a file stroke or two on the lower tooth of the pawl if it feels like the cyl is locked up too tight.

Hammers drop in with no issues in way more then 50% of the time. Here's my hammer swapping tutorial that my be of help.

1. MY SHORTCUT FOR REMOVING JUST HAMMER and/or PAWL:
Recognize, you do not need to hassle with the PESKY LOADING GATE SPRING, pull the trigger pin, OR trigger/transfer bar JUST to remove the hammer and pawl. Once you remove the grip frame, the hammer pin is the only other part you need to remove. After that, just pull the hammer back and all the way down, then depress the hammer plunger in the base of the hammer with a small tipped screwdriver to clear the trigger extension where the transfer bar connects to it. Let the hammer & pawl fall out. Reinstall the hammer and pawl back in the same way they came out. Push the plunger in by pushing it against the trigger extension just like you did with the tip of the small screwdriver, and the hammer will slip by the trigger extension. Piece o’ cake.

2. TIPS FOR INSTALLING GRIP FRAMES:
NOTE: While you have the grip frame off, it's always good to examine the upper end of all the grip frame blind screw holes for thread shavings that weren't cleaned out from the factory and get crammed in there by the screws.

Also check the two trigger guard screw holes where they are exposed by the milling cut if your grip frame has the two projections that go into the main frame (the New Vaquero and New FT BH guns no longer have these projections and milling cuts). Almost always there will be a huge flat 'roll-over’ burr in each hole from the milling cuts that expose the holes. If they are present they generally cause the 1st 1/8" of removing those two screws to take extra effort to unscrew. You'll need to break off the burrs and pick them out with a dental pick or equivalent tool.

Install all five screws but do not cinch them tight. Align the grip frame edges flush with the cyl frame by tapping with the butt of a plastic handled screw driver. Tighten one trigger guard screw, then front screw and then one ear screw. Then tighten them all. Check for ease of hammer movement to be sure it's not rubbing on grip frame ears.

#3. AFTER CHANGING HAMMERS IN NEW MODELS:
The first thing to check is the transfer bar clearance with hammer for reliable firing pin function.

TO TEST HAMMER/TRANSFER BAR FOR MISS-FIRES:
With hammer fully cocked, press on the transfer bar to extend the firing pin and observe how far thru the recoil shield it protrudes. Now keep the trigger pulled back, drop the hammer and observe the firing pin again. If firing pin protrudes the same amount, you’re good to go. If it doesn't protrude the same amount, you need to remove just enough metal from the top face of the hammer nose so the transfer bar is pushed tight against the firing pin and the frame. If you remove too much, the transfer bar will not perform its safety function and will be pinched. Also make sure hammer has no friction or contact with grip frame ears around its base to slow its fall and you may have miss-fires; another potential issue when making hammer changes.

IF TRIGGER DOESN”T RETURN, SAFETY IS NOT WORKING:
If the transfer bar is hanging up under the hammer face, since it's connected to the trigger, it prevents the trigger from returning. The transfer bar is slightly too thick. If both ends of the trigger return spring are connected (under the grips), or even if you have only one leg of the spring connected it should pull down the transfer bar if it's the correct thickness. When this happens, the transfer bar safety function will not work. If the gun were dropped, a live round in the chamber under the hammer will fire.

This is not uncommon however, and it's a very simple fix. File the second step of the hammer face, counting from the top, just a bit until the bar no longer hangs up. Don't take too much off or you'll have miss-fires. If that happens file a little more off the top step of the hammer.

IF YOU HAD TO MODIFY HAMMER NOSE:
At the range, double check the safety function by loading a live round in the next chamber to cycle under the hammer, point down range, cock the hammer, hold with thumb, release the trigger to uncock the hammer, take finger off trigger and release your thumb to let the hammer fall. The round will not fire if safety transfer bar is functioning correctly.

4. NM HAMMER BASE SIZES:
To simplify production in about 1997, Ruger increased the height of the standard cylinder frame mating surfaces on both sides of the hammer ~1/16” to match the Bisley model frame ears so any style grip frame could be assembled to any main frame. Therefore the ears on all other standard grip frames after 1997 had to be made ~ 1/16” taller as well. But Ruger has only enlarged the hammer base to match the taller grip frame ears on the newly designed hammers introduced since 2005 such as the New Vaq standard ‘long horn’ and Montado hammers, and the NM Flat Top Blackhawk hammers, and the .327 Single Seven hammers.
All other hammers designed prior to 2005 used on current model guns are small base and do not match the post 1997 tall eared grip frames. Some people don’t mind. If I install a small base hammer in a post 1997 gun, I fit the grip frame ears to the hammer. I also have to do this every time I install post 1997 grip frame such as the N Vaq and Flat Top XR3 size steel grip frames or XRE-RED size steel grip frames on pre 1997 New Models or on Old Model Rugers.

The result is that the SBH hammer base doesn't fill the slot in a post 1998 grip frame.
Mike Campbell photo.

Right hand hammer is after c. 2005 up to current production with large base 1.122” – 1.130” (Flat Top and New Vaquero only).
Mike Campbell photo.

The top small base hammer 1.071” – 1.076” predates the c. 2005 large base new hammer designs. Measured on the centerline of the two large holes from back of hammer base to over the full cock notch.
The hammer underneath is a new Flat Top Blackhawk with large base 1.122” – 1.130” and narrow shank.
Mike Campbell photo.


Jim
 

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Is a bisley hammer and trigger different on the single seven/six, than a blackhawk bisley hammer and trigger?
Same base size but the Single Six series hammer is shorter due to the smaller frame. Ruger did make a small size Bisley hammer that you might still be able to order.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Excellent info Hondo thank you:)

I wanted to break both of them down anyway to get the shipping oil out and check for shavings, so besides the huge mess of taking them both apart, it wasn't a wasted effort. I was at least able to put a coat of Eezox on the inside of the Vaquero. Man that thing is rough inside, but who cares about the inside......lots of rough file marks inside the grip frame, chunks taken out etc. That's why I love Rugers, they're shooters not museum pieces, and I'm not afraid to take them apart a few times.

I'll definitely try the hammer removal shortcut tonight, if I can find time to tackle this........it's definitely not a "bang it out in front of the TV" type job, I need to go in my little workshop area and focus on it. No harm in trying the other pawl in the Vaquero, and if it works pray the other one works in the BH. Again the best thing is, if none of this works I can go back to the original configuration. The only "damage" I did was put a couple scratches on the end of the trigger pin, no big deal. The gun came out of the box with a patch of rust pitting on the butt, a bent front sight and a ding on the barrel..probably "gun shop wear" .....within a year this gun will probably be 80% finish with 10,000 rounds through it so I'm not sweating slight hardly noticeable cosmetics. The blue on these newer Rugers seems fragile, I already wore a small patch off the butt just from putting it in an IWB holster in my glove box a couple times. I can see myself owning the stainless .45 ACP Birdshead in the future and retiring the blue one to "range shooter" status:)
 

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Id like to put a super hammer on mine someday like u are. Just to try it out if nothing else. I also thought the single seven would be interesting with a bisley grip and hammer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I got the idea because it's pretty much the "standard" for the CAS shooters to drop in a SBH hammer into their Vaqueros, I think the CAS rules recently changed and now they can do this.

The Montado has pretty much a SBH hammer with different checkering, because so many CAS guys want the lower hammer anyway.

It's fun to play around, well.........last night it wasn't all too fun, when the clock says 2:30 am and you're still fiddle (bleepin) with tiny parts that don't seem to want to go in.........but you know you won't be able to sleep until the gun is back together and functional lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Got the hammers swapped, thanks to Hondo's short cut I got the pawl out of the Vaquero quick and that probably saved me a half hour of time since the trigger pin in that one is especially a PITA:)

Sat down early in the night, put on some calming music, and took my time.......it was kind of relaxing, focusing on getting everything together.

The pawl from the BH, along with the Blackhawk hammer, now make the Vaquero work 100% perfectly. The cocking is no longer "tight" at lockup, like it was before. Safety check and dry firing checked out perfectly. The profile of the hammer looks great on this gun, and with the new grips and the Birdshead profile, that high BH hammer is just perfect for one or two handed shooting. I even swapped out the mainspring and strut from the 9mm Blackhawk, maybe in my head but the mainspring from the BH seems a bit lighter. Love this gun even more now, just need to make sure it goes bang as soon as possible.

Now, the 9mm Blackhawk looks and handles great with the low, wide SBH hammer.......however now THIS gun is "cramped" on the final part of the cocking cycle......the hammer is at the complete rear most part of travel, pretty much hitting the frame when the sear catches, just like the Vaquero was doing before. It has to be the pawl, in fact the Vaquero may have been like this out of the box and I just didn't catch on to it, being newer to SA's. There may just be a hair too much meat on the pawl. It's so tight at the end of the cocking that a couple times the hammer "slipped". This will definitely need attention. The "hump" in the slot, like in Hondo's post, is also not filled but that's not a priority for me, maybe down the road when I get this all ironed out, I can have my machinist/gunsmith profile it for me.

Taking Hondo's advice, I may just start touching the bottom step of the pawl with a fine file until it works right.......the thought of filing on anything kind of gives me cold sweats but it's only a $3 pawl, and I'm not swapping any more parts around........if I mung it up, I can either try another pawl or just leave it to the professionals. I'm done tinkering for the night, I've had my fill, that's a job for another day.

The transfer bar on the Vaquero has a "hump" that the one on the BH doesn't.......even when it had the SBH hammer in it, when the hammer dropped, the hammer would sit off the frame maybe a 1/32", then when the trigger reset, the hammer face would be flush with the frame. It still does this with the BH hammer.......then again so do some of my Ruger DA's so no big deal. Just wondering what the "hump" is for......the 9mm BH has the same protrusion it had before, just looking by eye, and my .357 BH looks the same for protrusion, so if it pops primers I'm not worried about it. Would love to put a lighter mainspring in the BH but probably not a good idea for a 9mm revolver, given the cheap stuff I'll be shooting in it which usually = hard primers.

I have some other small touches to do with these guns, need to straighten the sight on the Vaquero, get the 9mm BH to hit to POA, maybe at some point put a set of Badger Rosewood panels on the 9mm BH........since the Vaquero is "done" a drop of Red Loctite on all the screws, and just leave it alone.

I just worked a trade for a .45 ACP Redhawk, and plan to convert a GP100 to 9mm, so these SA's will join them both as high volume range guns, I wanted an SA and a DA in each caliber.

Other than that, honestly I'm more glad the .45 ACP Vaquero is 100% now, the 9mm is simply a "range toy", it's not tack driving accurate and I'm honestly more into fixed sights on a single action....a 9mm Vaquero would be way cool IMO.....I have the 9mm BH just because I was able to trade two beat up S&W's even across for it and couldn't resist. I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun with this 9mm BH, when I get it all worked out. The SBH hammer makes it a lot better handling, so I'm willing to work with it to keep it that way. If it's possible to ever wear out a Blackhawk, I sure plan to try:)

In the future, if I acquire any more Ruger SA's, those hammers are staying where they are lol I learned a lot about the internals of the Ruger thumb busters, and I was bound to crack them open and tinker at some point......
 

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Bravo,

Something I added to my tutorial because of your comments:

Occasionally a hammer change that just barely cocks is because it's hitting the back of the slot in the grip frame. I have had to slightly lengthen the slot with a few file strokes.

Also, the gun does not need disassembly to work on the pawl. After removing the cyl and cocking the hammer, a wood pencil can be used to wedge the pawl out of its slot and file the teeth.

About the bump on some of the transfer bars: I believe that was added to make it easier to fit the transfer bar if it's a bit too fat. The entire surface of the bar does not have to be filed, just the bump.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you again:)

Yes, I wasn't about to go swapping transfer bars, when they both work. The .45 Vaquero seems to have more protrusion.

I'm going to just take a little off the lower tooth of the pawl, and see if that works. If I screw it up I'll have my gunsmith fit a Power Custom free spin pawl, because it's a range gun, it will make it easier to load.

I WAS going to have my gunsmith just fit and install all the Power Custom "toys" into the 9mm Blackhawk, like the pawl, hammer-trigger set, Keith base pin, loading gate spring etc etc, but the total cost of all that would be an easy $500 after it was all done with, and no offense to Ruger, but I'm not trying to turn a Ruger 9mm Blackhawk into a Colt:) It would then be a $1,000+ gun that shoots 4" groups at 15 yards with 9mm, but with a super sweet action:) I've learned "when to say when" with guns, and I just want to get this thing working with as little cost as possible.

AND, as if I needed another excuse to stay broke, I saw the Freedom Arms .357/9mm convertible on Freedom Arms website yesterday.........yeah, just under $2,500, for the "Cadillac" of single actions:) But that would be one sweet gun though......
 

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I was afraid to file the pawl too at first but figured they are cheap and i dont depend on my single actions for my life that much so if its down no biggie. I took the pawl out using hondos method and filed a 45 degree angle on the corner of the lower tooth and lowered the top of it a hair and now it is a free spin cylinder turning both ways when the gate is open and locks up perfectly. It worked great on the blackhawk doing that so i did it to 2 other single actions and i love it. Best part was 0 cost
 

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Glad there are folks like Eleven Bravo that try scary stuff, tell about it, get schooled and drive on because then timid souls like moi can learn without the pain. Thank you. And I just know most of those guys talkin' eezy peezy spent a night or two drowning in sweat in desperate panic before they learned. And the "drop in boys"? Don't get me started.
 

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I did my own swap on my original heavy (BH) framed Vaquero many moons ago. Was a drop in and I got through it fine. I had a similar tight lockup with the final click as the op ExArmy describes. I liked it as the timing seemed perfect. I've fired it a lot over time since the drop in, no safe queens allowed :), with no problems of any kind. It loosen up a bit as time passed on and now it's just right. It's shot everything (factory) from Winchester Cowboy Loads to Big Buffalo Bores since it's completion. The SBH hammer is a must swap mod imho.

 

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Glad there are folks like Eleven Bravo that try scary stuff, tell about it, get schooled and drive on because then timid souls like moi can learn without the pain. Thank you. And I just know most of those guys talkin' eezy peezy spent a night or two drowning in sweat in desperate panic before they learned. And the "drop in boys"? Don't get me started.
Eezy peezy is relative to just swapping the hammers, not implied to include disassembling a SA Ruger for the 1st time. That's a horse of another color.

Eezy peezy and 'Drop in' presumes the norm, there are always exceptions in life and guns. Therefore it's naïve to imply "always" or "never" about anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
With that short cut the hammer swaps are a lot easier, but at least now I know I "can" take apart a Ruger SA, although I don't plan on going through that again any time soon:)

Easy Peezy is all relative, I know a guy who has been working on muscle cars since the 1960's and to him rebuilding an engine would be "easy peasy" where I pop the hood on a car and I don't even know what I'm looking at.......

I remember a time 10+ years ago when I worked up the courage to pop the sideplate on my first S&W, I felt like I was defusing a bomb. I just wanted to see what it looked like in there:)
 

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Some of the hammers, Bisley especially, are thicker in the shank and require a little thinning there as well as the hump to cock. Here's an idea of the difference while my brother and I were swapping one into a flattop. It also give you a little wiggle room to recontour the shank to match the lines on the rear of the mainframe recoil shields. It's the little details on customs that add up to a big difference.



 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I love those guns:)

So far the coolest hammer I've seen was the "commander" style loop hammer that Bowen does..........I would love to have my .45 ACP Birdshead hard chromed and have a loop hammer in it........but I'm not about to pay Bowen probably more than the gun costs to have it done:)
 

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Clements offers a loop hammer for $185. Could probably find a machine shop that would graft a commander spur onto a factory hammer for a good bit less.

Clements Custom Guns

Hard chrome check out mahovskys. $150 I plan on sending in a Mountie that's seen better days and needed an octagon barrel to them one of these days.

Price Sheet

$335 isn't bad to have exactly what you want. Learning to do your own work isn't too hard for the majority of the small projects, and even some of the big ones and it saves you a ton of money. I had the gentleman from Tennessee tell me some minor work I wanted done (rebore a barrel and fit a factory cylinder and hand) might get done in 2 or 3 years as he didn't find it interesting. I spent the money that would have gone to his ego on tools and haven't looked back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I checked out Mahovsky's, they have a good rep and the best price.......none of the guys that do hard chrome will do the bore and chambers, that I have looked at anyway..........it's kind of a buzzkill but for $150 I still want to get it done.......a chrome lined bore would have been nice though......

I like that hammer, I would have to get it before the chrome job,and make sure it fits, so it can be chromed with the gun. Luckily they can chrome stainless too. The Bowen hammer just looks "perfect" for a short barreled SA in .45 ACP, I don't think Bowen just sells the hammers though but I haven't asked yet.

If my blued Vaquero had better blue I would just leave it, but the weak quality of the finish plus out of the box blemishes make this a good candidate.......plus for a few years now I've been itching to have something matte chromed so it seems like a good time:) If I like the work I may have a GP100 done.

The theory is the hard chrome makes all the "friction" surfaces virtually impervious to wear, the gun should last pretty much forever. For $150 makes me wonder why more guns aren't hard chromed.
 

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Does a bore and chamber have to be sized at creation to allow for the chrome? Hard chrome on everything else for 150 does sound good, but then I don't know enough to compare.
 
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