From my Ruger Grip frame tutorial. There's a lot more to Ruger grip frames than meets the eye:
GENERAL SUMMARY OF RUGER GRIP FRAMES:
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.
There are other issues to be aware of when swapping GFs depending on which models are being swapped which I can elaborate on if interested:
*matching the grip frame 'ears' to main frame & hammer,
*grip frame projections,
*Birdshead grip frames
*and internal locks,
*a simple modification is required for NM Flat Tops and New Vaqueros which all have the "Reverse Indexing Pawl System",
*NM grip frame adaption to old models; trigger return spring, and
*a few mods for Old Model grip frame to NM main frame.
In a nutshell, there's three basic ‘plow handle’ Ruger grip sizes:
There are also XR3-RED ‘short’ grip frames (not shown) model specific to the .32 Mag Single Six Vaqueritos which are ¼” vertically shorter than the XR3 and XR3-RED grips frame.
Your ---------- has the------ grip frame. As illustrated above, the only difference from the more common XR3-RED grip frame, is that the XR3-RED is 1/8" longer HORIZONTALLY behind the trigger guard. This XR3-REDesign was to reduce rapping knuckles with heavier recoiling cartridges.
The Super BH and the SBH Hunter (with round trigger guard) are the same size; and they both have the same horizontal length behind the trigger guard as the XR3-RED.
The Bisley grip frame has the least knuckle space, horizontal length behind the trigger guard because of its larger trigger guard, being 3/16" less than the XR3-RED and SBHs; 1/16" less than the XR3.
The Bisley grip frame, the Super BH, and the SBH Hunter (with round grip frame) are all the same Vertical length and are both 3/8" VERTICALLY longer at the fore-grip strap, (with room for another finger) than the XR3 and XR3-RED which are the same vertical length. The Bisley back-strap is the longest vertically of all grip frames because it rises higher behind the hammer.
1. INTERCHAGEABILITY OF GRIP FRAMES:
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.
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 around the ears for installing a Bisley GF. Or two regular screws if removing a Bisley GF. The Bisley grip frame is .177" (almost 3/16”) closer to the trigger guard than the standard XR3-RED size (aluminum and steel), the SBH Dragoon, and the SBH Hunter grip frames.
Depending on model and vintage, be aware of:
Matching the grip frame 'ears'* to main frame & hammer,
Grip frame projections, **
Birdshead grip frames, ***
Grip frames with internal locks, ****
NM Flat Tops and New Vaqueros which all have the "Reverse Indexing Pawl System", *****
NM grip frame adaption to old models; trigger return spring, ******
Old Model grip frame to NM main frame. *******
Note: I always check the grip frame screw holes for machining chips left in them (especially stainless guns) from threading the holes and clean them out if present. The two screw holes behind the trigger guard usually have huge rollover burrs from drilling the hammer pin hole and milling the frame. This will cause screws to screw in too tight and/or break off.
Grip frame installation: 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.
*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 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
Ears & Hammer Base sizes: 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, the NM Flat Top Blackhawk hammers, and the new .327 Single Seven hammers. All other hammers designed prior to 2005 used on current model and Old 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 top small base hammers 1.071” — 1.076” (measured in line with the two outside holes) predates the c. 2005 large base newly introduced model hammer designs. Measured on the centerline of the two large holes from back of hammer base to over the full cock notch.
Bottom hammer is a new Flat Top Blackhawk with large base 1.122” — 1.130” and narrow shank.
Mike Campbell photo.
Narrower shank hammers (except Montado hammers) coincide with the larger base hammer design on the New Vaqs and the 1st anniversary new mid-size in 2005 flat tops and 2006 and later large frame flat tops, and in my opinion are much better looking. I know of no other reason for it other than the improved looks. For many years I was relieving the shanks by hand.
Right hand hammer is after c. 2005 up to current production with large base 1.122” — 1.130” and narrow shank.
Mike Campbell photo. RugerForum.com ? View topic - NM Flat top question
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. Install in reverse! Piece o’ cake.
NOTE: New Vaquero and NM Flat Tops use a hammer spring with slightly less tension but that has nothing to do with the internal lock. Ruger supplied the new spring due to SASS customer demand. It does not need to be changed for reliable ignition and in fact I prefer it. Especially so when I use it in my Single Sixes with their shorter hammer and resulting less leverage!
** Grip Frame Projections shown here pointing to the left just above the two rear trigger guard screws and either side of where the hammer would be. To fit grip frames with projections to guns w/o the cut out in the cyl frame, just saw or grind off the projections, they are not needed on steel grip frames:
*** Birds head grip frames: Birds head grip frames, although one of the easiest swaps and the correct vintage Birdshead is a drop in, three details to be aware of:
1st) For Rugers with the Indexing Pawl System to align the cyl chambers with the loading gate trough, the preferred birdshead grip is one that came from a New Vaq. introduced in 2005. If not, the slight divot needs to be reproduced in the birdshead GF. Current production have the divot and do not have the projections. Birdshead grip frames w/o the divot were introduced on the original Vaq in early 2002.
2nd) All BH grip frames have tall ears.
3rd) Ruger BH grip frames are too wide in the middle to just round off standard plow handle shaped grips to fit, even the larger Super BH grips panels, unless you trim ~ 1/8” from the Ruger BH grip frame back strap from the middle up to the top to match, of course. Some aftermarket BHs like Qualite will allow the use of rounded off Ruger plow handle grip panels however.
**** Internal locks: Prior to 2012, some of the NM XR3-RED aluminum and blue and stainless XR3 steel GFs have the internal lock, but no longer. A standard spring perch Ruger # KXR00500 is needed when switching from a grip frame with an internal lock to one w/o a lock. Or to eliminate the lock from a grip frame that has one, I figured out back in 2007 that there's a $2.00 Ruger spring perch that will work as a lock bypass! I realized that the spring seat in my Bearcat is the longest seat made for the Ruger single actions, go figure!! And it just bridges the gap in the grip frames with internal lock! That’s all I use now. The beauty of the Bearcat spring seat is that disassembles the same way as the lock.
To swap the Bearcat spring seat for the lock, you don’t even need to remove the grip frame, just the grips! After cocking the hammer, a disassembly pin like a nail is inserted into the spring strut thru the hole above the lock. Now uncock the hammer so the spring and strut are loose. This allows the lock to be wiggled out of the grip frame and off the strut, because the temporary pin used to hold the spring compressed, fits in the groove on the top of the lock. Therefore the strut and spring assembly doesn’t need removal from the grip frame, just let it dangle in place. (Nor does the spring need to be dismounted from the strut, like Ruger SAs w/o the lock where the disassembly pin is inserted below the spring seat. So it captures the seat on the strut with the spring making it much more difficult to change.) Now the Bearcat seat installs on the bottom end of the strut just like the lock, and sits over the gap in the grip frame where the lock was.
Just place the Bearcat seat on the strut below the spring and pin, and wiggle them together onto the two shelves on either side of the gap in the grip frame. Now cock the hammer, remove the spring retaining pin, and drop the hammer. Voila, all done.
Lock shown here: http://www.gunblast.com/images/Hamm_...s/DSC00231.jpg
Bearcat spring seat shown here: http://www.gunblast.com/images/Hamm_...s/Dsc00106.jpg
Brownells #780-000-948AK, $2.12, here: http://www.brownells.com/handgun-par...?sku=780000948
Or order direct from Ruger # PRO3603
When I got my 1st Ruger with the lock in 2007 I wanted it gone, so I checked all my Ruger seats for a longer one. The Bearcat spring seat is the longest seat made for their single actions, go figure!! And it just bridges the larger gap in the grip frames for the internal lock and works perfectly for a lock by-pass.
I prefer to retain the original spring because it's lighter than the normal spring. This is especially helpful on the single sixes because their shorter hammer has less leverage than the larger frames.
The Bearcat spring seat is the easiest swap there is. A disassembly pin slips in the strut hole above the seat just like the lock, therefore the spring doesn’t need to be dismounted from the strut. In fact you don’t even need to remove the grip frame from the gun! With the regular seats, the pin is inserted below the seat and it’s captured on the strut with the spring.
The seat doesn't overhang the gap very much on either side but it does work and I've been using these for years on several guns and never had one slip yet. The spring tension keeps it securely in place.
If you want, you can file a small shelf on either side of the gap in the grip frame to insure it doesn't slip out, but not necessary.
New Vaquero and NM Flat Tops use a hammer spring with slightly less tension but that has nothing to do with the internal lock. Ruger supplied the new spring due to SASS customer demand. It does not need to be changed for reliable ignition and in fact I prefer it. Especially so when I use it in my Single Sixes with their shorter hammer and resulting less leverage!
*****Reverse Indexing Pawl System All the NM FT Blackhawks and NEW Vaqs have this system which allows the cyl to roll backwards enough for the chambers to align to the loading gate trough without the hammer on half cock (which can’t be done on standard new models). You can see the device (3 parts) in the hammer channel to the lower left of the cyl pin hole shown below. Grip frames from models w/o this system need a divot cut for the free spin cyl pawl.
Hex retaining screw (holding an unseen spring) in hammer channel:
Ruger free spin pawl on the right:
Divot for free spin pawl on NM Flat Tops and New Vaqueros with the reverse indexing pawl system shown on the left:
Cutting the divot: To locate this notch, take a measurement from the location on your original GF. Or mark that area on the replacement GF with a magic marker, assemble the GF to the gun, then cock the hammer a few times. This will leave a ‘witness’ mark in the marker ink, so you simply make the "divot" there. Be cautious not to let the cut extend to the outside edge of the grip frame or it will show when assembled, and don’t cut notch too deep!
Use a thin cut-off blade in a Dremel tool. With grip frame in a vice, and your old grip frame nearby for reference, hold the Dremel with two hands for control. And replicate the divot in the new grip frame. It’s easier to clamp the Dremel tool in the vice at an angle and hold the grip frame instead.
“Reverse Indexing Pawl System" parts:
Names of parts, Ruger Part #s & Brownell Part #s (about $10 total):
Cylinder Rotation Stop Screw KMVQ04501 780-001-294ah
Ejector Alignment Pawl (not to be confused with the Cyl pawl) KMVQ04502 780-001-292ah
Cylinder rotation Stop Spring KMVQ04500 780-001-293ah
EXCEPTION:Anniv 357s don’t have the divot:
****** NM grip frame adaption to use old model trigger return spring.
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). Here's a couple of OMs with NM steel grips frames:
Notice the ears on this birdshead around the hammer still need to be fitted to the main frame:
Ruger didn't make any OM Birdshead grip frames. NM birdshead grip frames from Ruger are carbon or stainless steel, will come in the rough, and are a lot of work to fit to your gun, then you'll have to get it blued or polish the stainless GF. Best way to get a Birdshead GF and grips is to buy a used 'take off' either blue or stainless (there are none made of aluminum alloy); post a 'Want To Buy' in this forum's classifieds, or search ebay and Gunbroker.
Power Customs does make a 2 piece (like a Colt) for about $200 and they are top quality. I have used them. There are no modifications or any other parts needed (except Colt grips) to go on an OM. But they are not ready to just screw on, they take final match fitting to your OM main frame, the rear corner must be ground off if you want a birdshead shape, and they'll need to be blued, or polished if you choose the stainless version which is $30 more.
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 Bisley 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 more than $45 if you do. And you’ll need one of the adapter methods below:
You can make the simple aluminum adapter above to fit in the NM GF behind the old model trigger or just use a .22 LR case to hold the return spring and plunger. Either will need the one NM trigger return spring retaining pin closest to the trigger shown below to hold your OM trigger return spring/plunger adapter or .22 case in place. File a small notch in the .22 case head to nest on the retaining pin.
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.
Bisley grip frames:
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 you can see. 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: The Bisley grip frame is .177" (almost 3/16”) closer to the trigger guard than the standard XR3-RED size (aluminum and steel), the SBH Dragoon, and the SBH Hunter grip frames.
******* OLD Model grip frames adapted to NEW Model guns with simple modifications:
The OM SBH and Old Army black powder steel and SS grip frames are the easiest because they already have a wide trigger slot for the NM triggers which are all wide.
1. Drill a hole in the OM grip frame above the trigger guard for the cyl bolt NM plunger & return spring. Replicate the location of the hole from the NM GF.
2. Grind off the web behind the NM trigger and use the OM trigger return spring and plunger.
3. For other than the SBH and Old Army black powder grip frames with wide slots, the NM trigger must be narrowed or the OM GF trigger slot must be widened, your choice. You may have to lengthen the rear of the slot just a bit for the trigger to go far enough back to release the hammer. Makes a great trigger stop too if you lengthen the slot just enough. There you have it, piece 'o cake.
4. BRASS FRAMES OM ADAPTATION TO NMs (Factory Ruger brass grip frames were only made for old models):
Marked “MR-3DB.” = Super Blackhawk Brass “Dragoon” style with square back trigger guard. Same dimensions as 1959 Super Blackhawk. Initially for Super Blackhawks only, then shipped on various Blackhawks, majority in 1972. The ears on these are too short for post 1997 New Models. But all you need to do to use it on an earlier new Model is a hole drilled for the NM cyl latch return spring and plunger above the trigger guard, and a 1/16" lengthening of the front of the trigger slot. Plus a slight trigger modification by grinding off the bump on the rear of the trigger to use the old model trigger return spring and plunger. Or removal of material behind the trigger and two holes drilled for two added pins to accommodate the NM trigger return spring.
2. IN A NUTSHELL, THERE ARE THREE BASIC RUGER 'PLOW HANDLE' GRIP SIZES*:
Just to be aware: the New Model flat top BH & NEW Vaquero XR3 size steel grip frames are 7/16" thick, all other steel and aluminum frames are 1/2" but this does not affect the interchangeability, just the feel in your hand.
*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.