RUGER SINGLE ACTION GRIP FRAMES

1953 TO  PRESENT

by Bill Hamm

photography by Bill Hamm & Boge Quinn

March 18, 2003

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I have had many questions over the years from folks about which “grip panel” goes on which single action Ruger.  Especially about the difference in the early Single-Sixes and Blackhawk “Flattops” when compared to the later Blackhawks and Single-Sixes, short barreled New Model Super Blackhawks, and on into the New Model Blackhawks, Vaqueros, and Bisley Vaqueros.  It can be quite confusing unless you are a student of the subject.  These questions are primarily generated by someone attempting to purchase replacement grips or custom grips for their Ruger single action revolver.  Also it may be  about a grip frame on an old collectible Ruger that someone is about to lay out a goodly sum of dollars to purchase and they want to make sure the gun is “right”.

  Several months ago a Gunblast reader requested that I provide some information on the different type grip frames that Ruger installed on their single action handguns.   I thought this would probably be an interesting subject for others as well and have complied what I believe is a complete listing of the different types used since 1953.  I have included the year the specific type was introduced, type of material and finish, grip panel information, and the current production status of each of the grip frames.

During the research of the different types I was surprised to find out that Ruger has produced fourteen different types of frames since 1953, more than I had first thought.

I hope this helps you identify and answer questions that you may have about these grip frames.  If anyone has any different observations or comments they will certainly be welcome.

 

Introduced Type / Marking Frame Material / Finish Grip Panels Production Status
1953 Ruger’s first frame was the XR3.  It was introduced on the Single-Six, same size as Colt SAA, marked “XR3.” Had the maker, "Alcoa” on the frames.  Also used on .357 and .44 “Flattop” Blackhawks. Aluminum alloy, black anodized; aluminum alloy natural polished on most engraved Single-Sixes Black checkered hard rubber, varnished Walnut, Rosewood,  available as an accessory Stag and Ivory.  Above had Black Ruger Eagles.  Also some experimental plastics, without medallions. Discontinued 1962
1958 Bearcat grip frame is integral to cylinder frame, early frames were marked "Alcoa" (Although normally hard to read) and have a PR-1 mark.  The trigger guard is a separate part. Aluminum alloy grip frame, black anodized. Trigger guards are brass anodized with a few black finish Rosen impregnated Rosewood without medallions.  Oil filled Walnut with silver/aluminum medallions containing an impressed Ruger Eagle Discontinued 1970
1959 Super Blackhawk “Dragoon” style with square back trigger guard; no marking, some observed with a letter such as an “A”; about 300 early frames were ¼” longer than the standard frame, known today as “long frames.” Steel/blued Varnished Walnut, oil filled Walnut with Black Ruger Eagle medallions.  Beginning in about mid 1971 the medallions were changed to a flat Silver Eagle. Discontinued 1973
1962/1963 Redesigned and replaced the original 1953 XR3 frame, marked “XR3-RED,” also had the maker, “Alcoa,” on early frames.  Used on Single-Six, Super Single-Six, Blackhawk, Hawkeye, Old Army. Hawkeye frame had wider trigger slot to accommodate Super Blackhawk trigger. Aluminum alloy, black anodized Varnished Walnut, oil filled Walnut with Black Ruger Eagle medallions.  Beginning about mid 1971 the medallions were changed to a flat Silver Eagle.

Discontinued 1972/73 (except for Old Army which was discontinued about 1985 when replaced with steel)

1966

Super Blackhawk Brass “Dragoon” style with square back trigger guard.  Same dimensions as 1959 Super Blackhawk.  Marked “MR-3DB.”  Initially for Super Blackhawks, then shipped on various Blackhawks, majority in 1972.

Brass Oil filled Walnut with Black Ruger Eagle medallions or the later flat Silver Eagle. Discontinued 1972/73.  In catalog for the Old Army until 1975.
1971 Super Bearcat, same dimensions as original 1958 Bearcat.  No mark observed. Steel, blued Oil filled Walnut with  silver/aluminum medallions containing an impressed Ruger Eagle. Discontinued 1974
1972/1973

Redesign of the Old Model 1962/63  XR3-RED for the New Model to accommodate new trigger spring and safety transfer bar.  Same dimensions as Old Model XR3-RED.  Marked XRN-3RED on black anodized and blued steel, KXR3 on stainless (began with Super Single-Sixes in 1974).  Used on New Model Single-Six, Super Single-Six, Blackhawk, Vaquero, and 4-5/8” & 5-1/2” barrel Super Blackhawks.

Aluminum alloy, black anodized; steel, blued; stainless steel

Oil filled Walnut, Goncalo Alves, Rosewood, and simulated Ivory, all with the raised silver with black background Ruger Eagle.  Also simulated ivory with scrimshaw black eagle on Sheriff and other special models.

In January 2003 Cocobolo grips with the silver Ruger Eagle but a red background are seen on the 50th Anniversary Single-Six commemorative revolvers.
Current production
1972/1973 Redesigned the Old Model 1959 Super Blackhawk “Dragoon” to accommodate new trigger spring and new safety transfer bar, same dimensions as Old Model, no mark observed.  New Model Super Blackhawk, .357 Maximum. Steel, blued; stainless steel Oil filled Walnut, Goncalo Alves, and Rosewood.  Raised silver with black background Ruger Eagle medallions. Current production
1975 1962/1963 XR3-RED frame produced in stainless steel for Old Army, marked KXR3.  Introduced steel in 1985 for blued Old Army. Has wide trigger slot. Stainless steel; steel, blued Oil filled Walnut, Rosewood,  and simulated Ivory.  Raised silver with black background Ruger eagle medallions. Current production
1986 Bisley, a modified Colt Bisley style of a longer grip frame; no major mark observed.  Used on Bisley and Bisley Vaquero. Steel, blued; stainless steel Oil filled walnut, Goncalo Alves, Rosewood, and simulated Ivory.  Raised silver Ruger Eagle medallions. Current production
1992 New Model Super Blackhawk “Hunter” with round trigger guard, same grip panel size as standard Super Blackhawk, marked KHRN. Stainless steel Green and silver, black and silver laminated wood.  Raised silver with black background Ruger Eagle medallions. Discontinued 1994 but reintroduced 2002 – current production
1993 New Model Bearcat, same panel size as Old Model Bearcat and Super Bearcat, no major mark. Steel, blued; stainless steel Oil filled walnut, Rosewood.  Some early guns may have the old style oil filled walnut panels and  flat silver/aluminum impressed Ruger Eagle medallions.  Most have rosewood panels and smaller raised silver with black background Ruger Eagle medallions. Discontinued  1994 but reintroduced in 1996 – current production
2001 XRN-3RED “short” frame, about ¼” shorter than standard 1972/73 XRN-3RED.  Single-Six .32s w/ Vaquero sights, stainless frame marked KXR3 like standard stainless frame. Steel, blued; stainless steel Rosewood, simulated Ivory.  Raised silver with black background Ruger eagle medallions. Current production
2001/2002 Bird’s Head on large and small frame Bird's Head Vaquero and fixed “Vaquero style” sight .32 H&Rs. Steel, blued; stainless steel Black micarta, simulated Ivory.  Raised silver with black background Ruger eagle medallions. Current production

 

UPDATE!

March 23, 2006

In March 2003 we initially published our article on Ruger Single Action Grip Frames made from 1953 to 2003.  Since that time Ruger has added a new grip frame to its Single Action revolver line.  Several Gunblast members have requested information on the new grip frame and grip panels, so this is an update to the original 2003 article.

Introduced Type / Marking Frame Material / Finish Grip Panels Production Status
2004/2005 The NEW XR3 style grip frame is very similar to the original Ruger Single Action, Colt SAA style, introduced in 1953.  The grip panel locator pin is in a slightly different location from the original, primarily due to the new internal safety lock mechanism.  These frames are found on the smaller cylinder framed “New” Vaquero (2004) and the 50th Anniversary .357 Blackhawk “Flattop” (2005).  They are also found on the larger cylinder frame 50th Anniversary .44 “Flattop” (2006). Steel/blued or stainless.  The interior design accommodates the new internal safety lock mechanism. “New” Vaquero – Black hard rubber checkered panels with the Ruger trademark Eagle logo molded into the panel.

  50th Anniversary Blackhawk “Flattops” – Black hard rubber checkered panels with the old style post 1966 – 1971 “fat neck” trademark black eagle on silver medallions.

Current production

 

 

XR3 Grip Frame (Old Model)

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XR3 Grip Panels. Top row from left; checkered black rubber, varnished walnut.  Bottom row from left:  factory ivory, factory stag.

Left side of XR3 grip frame.

“XR3” mark inside left side at bottom of frame.

Detail view of the “XR3” size mark and the “Alcoa” makers mark used on early XR3 frames.

 

 

UPDATE!

March 23, 2006

XR3 Grip Frame (New Model)

(click pictures for a larger version)

Right side view of the “New” Vaquero grip frame interior with the internal safety lock.  This is s/n 510-00230’s frame, note the “00230” electric penciled in the upper right corner for matching it up with its correct cylinder frame after the grip frame was fitted and blued. 

Comparison of the original old model XR3 alloy frame on the left to the “New” Vaquero steel frame on the right.  Note the absence of the “V” support in the upper part of the frame where it meets with the cylinder frame and the lack of the support on the back strap of the new model XR3 frame.  I imagine that Ruger decided that these “supports” were no longer needed on the steel frames.

The “New” Vaquero's black hard rubber checkered grip panel.

Close-up view of the “New” Vaquero's trademark Ruger Eagle that is molded into the grip panel.

Comparison of the checkering on the original old model XR3 black rubbers on the left versus the “New” Vaquero's on the right.  The old grip’s checkering is somewhat coarser.

50th Anniversary .357 Flattop steel XR3 grip frame on the left and an old model XR3 original alloy frame on the right.   The original XR3 frame has the 50th Anniversary’s grip panel laying on it.  The fit looks good with the exception of no “V” cut in the 50th’s panels, and the different grip locator pin position.

A pair of 50th Anniversary grip panels laying side by side. 

Bottom view comparison of an original .357 Flattop panel on the left versus a 50th Anniversary .357 Flattop panel on the right.  Note the sharper ends on the new style panels.

 

 

Bearcat Grip Frame

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Bearcat grip panel comparison left to right.  Rosen impregnated Rosewood, oil filled Walnut, Rosewood.

Old Model Bearcat frame right side.

Early Old Model Super Bearcat grip/cylinder frame with brass anodized trigger guard, no mark noted inside of these frames.

New model Bearcat grip/cylinder frame.  Noted an “A” or “B” inside a circle or square inside the frames examined.

 

 

Super Blackhawk Grip Frame

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Super Blackhawk grip panels, top row left to right:  early varnished walnut w/black eagle, oil filled walnut w/black eagle, oil filled walnut w/flat shiny white eagle.  Bottom row left to right:  oil filled walnut w/raised eagle – current style eagle, Goncalo Alves w/current eagle, rosewood w/current white eagle.

Left side Old Model Super Blackhawk.

Grip panel comparison: Left is for normal standard Super Blackhawk frame and right is for the rare early Super Blackhawk long frame; note the “c” inside the panel.

New model blued steel Super Blackhawk; note trigger spring.

 

 

XR3-RED Grip Frame

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XR3-RED Old Model grip frame, left side view. 

XR3-RED panel comparison:  top row left to right – oil filled walnut w/black eagle, oil filled walnut w/flat shiny white eagle, oil filled walnut w/raised white eagle (current style eagle).  Bottom row left to right:  Rosewood w/current eagle, simulated ivory w/ current eagle, “short” simulated ivory for the short frame Single-Six SSM 32 H&R Magnums.

New Model Blackhawk and Single-Six frame, “XRN-3RED” mark inside left side at bottom.

Full view of New Model “XRN-3RED” grip frame.  These frames, when made of steel, usually have the last 4 digits of the gun’s serial number electric-penciled inside the grip frame. 

Factory scrimshawed simulated ivory grip panel.

50th Anniversary Single-Six (New Model) with Cocobolo grip panels and red background eagle. 

Detail of red background eagle on 50th Anniversary Single-Six

 

 

Factory Brass Grip Frame

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Left side of a factory Brass grip frame, marked “MR-3DB” at bottom front end.  

Close up of the Brass frame mark, “MR-3DB”.

Super Blackhawk brass grip frame.

 

 

Old Army Stainless Grip Frame

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Detail of Old Army stainless steel frame showing the "KXR3" marking. The “K”, which indicates stainless in Ruger terms, is in the little circle in front of the “XR3".

 

 

Bisley Grip Frame

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Blued steel Bisley grip frame.

 

 

Super Blackhawk "Stainless Hunter" Grip Frame

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Stainless Hunter frame, right side view, note mark “KHRN”.

Detail view of the mark “KHRN” inside the stainless Hunter’s grip frame.  The serial number of the last 3 or 4 digits are put inside these frames, the electric-penciled number “016” is the serial number of this particular gun.

 

 

XRN-3RED "Short" Grip Frame

(click pictures for a larger version)

  

Left side view of the “short” grip frame that is used on the Single-Six SSM .32 H&R Magnums.  These frames are about ¼” shorter than the normal new model XRN-3RED.

 

 

"Bird's Head" Grip Frame

(click pictures for a larger version)

 

Right side of stainless Bird's Head grip frame.  

Detail of "KMR00307" marking on stainless Bird's Head grip frame. Again, "K" is Ruger's designation for stainless steel.

Black Micarta grip panels on stainless Bird's Head.

 

 

Grip Frame Drawings

Note: these drawings were prepared by Bill Hamm & Boge Quinn by tracing the right grip panels of models noted. Boge then color-coded and color-keyed the different grip styles and prepared the color overlay drawing as a multi-layer file for easy comparison.

XR3 

XR3-RED

KXR3 (Short)

Super Blackhawk (also Super Blackhawk "Stainless Hunter" which features the same grip frame with a rounded trigger guard)

Bisley

Bird's Head 

Multi-layer comparison drawing of all the above grip shapes.

UPDATED April 27th, 2006

Thanks to the reader who pointed out that my original drawing showed the Bisley grip improperly aligned at the top of the grip frame.

Boge Quinn

As always, we welcome your input. If any of you Ruger collectors spot any inaccuracies or omissions, please feel free to contact us.

Bill Hamm

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