Originally Posted by Hossbreed44
I'd like some information about changing out the aluminum XR3 grip frame on my newly acquired OM 3-Screw Flattop Blackhawk in .44 Magnum made in 1959.
What steel grip frames are available?
Where to buy?
Difficulty of installation?
Any other useful information?
Thanks in advance...
Here's a section in my Ruger primer from the chapter on grip frame interchageability: A. IN A NUTSHELL, THERE ARE THREE BASIC RUGER 'PLOW HANDLE' GRIP SIZES*:
Original large frame Vaqueros, NM Single Sixes, and NM Blackhawks use the XR3-RED size shown. The New Vaq and Flat Top NM Blackhawks use the XR3 grip frame; note that all the new model XR3 size grip frames are 7/16" thick, the old model XR3 and all other grip frames are 1/2" thick. The SBH Dragoon grip frame shown is for the 7 1/2" and 10" models. All other barrel length SBHs use the XR3-RED size shown.
*There are also XR3-RED ‘short’ plow handle grip frames only supplied on the .32 H&R Mag Single Six Vaquerito which are ¼” vertically shorter than the XR3 and XR3-RED standard grip frames.
Approximate weight differences:
Standard size: Steel 6.5 oz., aluminum 2 oz., 4.5 oz savings.
Steel ejector rod housing 1.5 oz., alum .5 oz.
Lock weight .5 oz. B. INTERCHAGEABILITY OF GRIP FRAMES:
In general: all Ruger SA grip frames including SBH Dragoon, Blackhawk, Single Six, Old Army, Bisley and Birdshead (excluding Bearcats of course) will interchange from the standpoint of the screw pattern from Single Six to Super BH, Old Model to New Model, and even NM to OM. New steel and stainless grip frames are only partially finished and will need fitting, and bluing or polishing if stainless steel. “Take off” grip frames from a finished gun are much less work.
All the screws, springs and pins can be transferred over from existing GF.
BISLEY GRIP FRAME exception is that you need the two hex head capscrews beside the hammer and trigger for installing a Bisley GF. Or two regular screws if removing a Bisley GF.
Depending on model and vintage, be aware of:
1. Matching the grip frame 'ears' to main frame & hammer
2. Birdshead/Bisley grip frames
3. NM grip frame adaption to old models; trigger return spring
1. Grip Frame Ear Changes to be aware of: the ear height around the base of the hammer varies on all grip frame ears slightly due to hand fitting at the factory, but there was one specific big height increase. To simplify production in 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. So there's basically two sizes: as short as .530” pre 1997 and as tall as .590” after 1997 (for example: Original Vaqueros over serial range 56-XXXXX). Measure from the very top edge of the grip panel to the top of the ears. That's why swaps are simplified if any acquired grip frame matches the vintage of your Ruger that you want to put it on. This also affects the hammer base fit to the grip frame ears.
The grip frame ‘ears’:
Raised main frame surface:
Photo by medicdave
2. Bisley grip frames: although one of the easiest swaps with some details to be aware of:
1st) All BH & Bisley grip frames have tall ears to fit post 1997 guns.
2nd) All grip frame pins, screws and hammer spring can be swapped over, except the Bisley GF will need two socket head screws at the hammer. Screws, blue $2.12 (2 required) http://www.brownells.com/handgun-par...prod12143.aspx
3rd)You don’t have to use a Bisley hammer and trigger, but a standard hammer leaves a gap behind the hammer In the larger Bisley grip hammer slot. Although it’s just a cosmetic thing, function is not affected.
Note on using Bisley grip frames on old Models:
Because of the standard plow handle main frame angle on old models and pre 1997 new models shown below, that were made for low eared grip frames, fitting the top of Bisley grip frames to Old model guns and pre 1997 NMs can be a little more challenging as shown below. If you try to maintain the angle of the main frame, you run out of metal on the Bisley grip before you would ever mate the two together. The solution is to carefully decrease the angle of the main frame at the recoil shield. Of course both spots will require a little touch up with cold blue on blue guns, but is in such a protected area, there’s little chance of wearing it off. Plus the original grip frame will still mate up properly.
NOTE: But the Bisley grip measures .177" (almost 3/16”) closer to the trigger guard than the standard XR3-RED size (aluminum and steel). Because the Bisley trigger guard is larger, therefore closer to the grip frame, it gives the Bisley the absolute least space of any Ruger grip frame. Even closer than the old 'knuckle busting' XR3 size plow handle grip frame! The SBH/Hunter plow handle large grip frames have the most of any Ruger grip frames, and the round guard Hunter has the least chance of rapping the knuckle under recoil.
3. New Model grip frame adaption to old models:
It's a piece of cake, a fairly easy swap. I put steel Ruger NM steel grip frames on many of my OMs, (and OM grip frames on NMs).
NM XR3 steel grip frame on OM Single Six:
In general: All Ruger SA grip frames including SBH Dragoon, Old Army, Bisley and Birdshead (excluding Bearcats of course) will interchange from the standpoint of the screw pattern from Single Six to Super BH, Old Model to New Model, and even NM to OM.
The hammer and trigger, all the screws, mainspring/spring seat/strut, and pins can be transferred over from your OM Grip Frame.
But if you want a Bisley hammer, you'll need a Clements or Powers Custom Bisley custom OM hammer.
THE ONLY ADAPTATION NEEDED FOR A NEW MODEL GRIP FRAME TO AN OLD MODEL IS THE TRIGGER AND RETURN SPRING, AND THERE ARE 3 OPTIONS:
1. You can use the NM trigger return spring on old model guns with a Clements adapter trigger. This is the easiest way and the trigger is wide to fit the wide trigger slot in all NM grip frames. This is required if you want a Bisley trigger.
You'll also need the NM grip frame trigger return spring and both pins to use a Clements trigger.
___________________________Clements adapter triggers are the center two_________________________
OM trigger__________________standard____&____Bisley w/over travel stop__________________NM Bisley
They are $65 and are a 'drop in'. Clements Custom Guns
2. Another option is to use your OM trigger and return spring/plunger. The OM Super BH/Ruger old army triggers are wide to fill the wide slot in the NM GF, but hard to find and $55 or more if you do. And you’ll need one of the adapter methods below:
3. The very easiest swap is a Ruger Old Army steel or SS old model style grip frame already designed for the old model plunger and return spring. They also have a wide trigger slot. The Clements adapter trigger with the shelf for NM return spring ground off is easier and cheaper than finding an OM wide trigger. C. THE BISLEY GRIP & KNUCKLE SPACE BEHIND TRIGGER GUARD
Note: the Bisley grip measures .177" (almost 3/16”) closer to the trigger guard than the standard XR3-RED size (aluminum and steel). Because the Bisley trigger guard is larger, therefore closer to the grip frame, it gives the Bisley the absolute least space of any Ruger grip frame. Even closer than the old 'knuckle busting' XR3 size plow handle grip frame! The SBH/Hunter plow handle large grip frames have the most of any Ruger grip frames, and the round guard Hunter has the least chance of rapping the knuckle under recoil.
SBH Hunter dragoon style grip frame with round trigger guard in stainless:
See Cary's sketch below for a comparison:
There’s an increased difference (~3/16”) in horizontal finger distance behind the trigger guard on the Hunter (and standard XR3-RED size Gripframe), compared to the Bisley grip with less space. The Hunter and Bisley GFs I’ve measured are actually very close in vertical forestrap length space for fingers to the butt. The Bisley is longer on the backstrap which I think is why some may prefer it, but it also restricts ‘roll up’ to dissipate recoil.
Here’s a good illustration of the difference in knuckle space between the Bisley and Hunter grip frames: Dustin Linebaugh Custom Conversions - Gallery Grip frame installation tips:
Always unhook both legs of the trigger spring for reassembly, it’s easier to get the spring behind the trigger shelf.
Always leave the cyl out so you can confirm the cyl latch spring/plunger is properly aligned on the latch so it has tension on it by seeing it sticking up thru the frame, before putting in any grip frame screws. Put the cyl pin back in the frame to keep the transfer bar from hanging up on the firing pin when moving the hammer up and down.
The cyl hand spring to the left side of the hammer goes plunger first. Also, you can put a small magnet over the spring to hold it in the hole and just let the grip frame push the magnet out of the way as the grip frame ear slips into position over the hole.
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.
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 (especially stainless guns) 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 and can cause screws to screw in too tight and/or break off. You'll need to break off the burrs and pick them out with a dental pick or equivalent tool.