Light, Versatile and Discreet

Tyler Gun Works Custom Featherweight Ruger Vaquero

The idea was simple. After all, they’re the best kind. Build a gun tough enough to be carried all day, in a caliber capable of performing a wide range of tasks, while being light enough to go unnoticed when worn. Ask a slew of handgunners about the perfect platform fitting these criteria, and it’s obvious what sixgun style it’d be.

The gun would be like the men and women it was made for — rugged, reliable and resilient. Giving up is never an option for this group. Add to it basic mechanics and simplicity of operation, and one firearm type stands above all others — the humble single-action revolver. Being chambered in the .45 Colt, the original cartridge, makes it perfect! The best news?

The base gun was already available in the guise of a stainless-steel New Model mid-frame Ruger Vaquero. It just needed some Tyler Gun Works and RW Grip Frames love and attention.

The Mastermind

Who could come up with such a simple and seductive sixgun idea? Why, Bobby Tyler, head honcho of Tyler Gun Works, that’s who! Bobby has a brilliant mind. He’s not your typical “fix Grandpa’s old shotgun” kind of gunsmith, although he’s perfectly capable of doing so. No, Bobby is a custom gun designer specializing in making guns people want without them knowing they need that specific gun — until they see it.

When shooters, real shooters, see said guns, bells and whistles go off, light bulbs flash, and the person knows they want, no, make that need, that gun. I know. It’s happened to me — quite a few times. And therein lies Bobby Tyler’s success: making batch gun runs of 50–100 units, adding his embellishments and selling them.

Grip Gripe?

For this project, a custom grip frame would be conjoined to the cylinder frame, blending as one. The grips frame design stems from Bobby personally handling Elmer Keith’s famous #5 custom revolver. The #5’s grip frame consists of a Colt Bisley backstrap married to a Colt SAA trigger guard, forming what may be the most copied grip frame in existence. As perfect as it seemed, Bobby noticed something. He’s good at that!

While it may have been perfect for Elmer, it came up short for people with above-average or larger hands.

When one spends a lifetime working with their hands — be it farming, ranching, construction, or gunsmithing — the hands, like any well-worked muscle, grow. You know what I mean when shaking hands with someone spending 12-16 hours a day riding fence, pulling cable, bailing hay, or stacking feed. Their calloused hands are vise grips, capable of cracking walnuts – and huge.

So, Bobby modified the #5 grip frame, making it 1/4″ longer to fit larger hands and rounding the butt. This last tweak removes sharp corners, so they can’t dig into your hand during recoil. It spreads recoil through your whole hand, not just your web. The more you hold it, the more you appreciate what it is you are holding.

Industry Organizer

Bobby Tyler is smart enough to know he can’t do it all himself. So, he partners up with good people to get his projects completed. Dusty Hooley is Bobby’s lead gunsmith and evidence of Bobby hiring good people. Bobby sets the plan in motion, and Dusty ensures it’s completed to Bobby’s standards.

While coming up with the grip frame modification, only one man could pull it off. It’s Ronnie Wells of RW Grip Frames. Ronnie is the grip frame guru, having over 350 different style grip frames using aluminum or brass.

He’s a master mechanic, knowing how to rebuild, set up, and program CNC machines to make any gun-related part. He specializes in making parts for mass production. You can see why Ronnie and Bobby make such a great team. Anyway, Ronnie makes the grip frame for the Featherweight Vaquero to Bobby’s specs. Ronnie calls it the “Bo Ty,” short for Bobby Tyler.

Rugged black micarta stocks are fitted to the grip frame as if they sprouted from it. This is accomplished by sanding and fitting the stocks while they’re bolted onto the frame.

Outta’ Sight Sights

Being built on a Vaquero frame, the Featherweight has all the classic lines only a fixed-sighted single-action revolver possesses, including a durable hog trough rear sight. But thanks to the skills of RW Grips, the rear sight is like none you have ever seen before on a single action. A horseshoe-shaped notch is cut in the frame’s rear and serrated to diffuse ambient light, providing the shooter with a consistently bright sight picture.

Bobby tells of shooting a rattlesnake in the pitch dark on a recent hunt. After illuminating the snake with a flashlight, sight acquisition was quick, and the sight picture was clear due to the hog trough channel and modified serrated rear sight notch. It didn’t end well for Mr. Rattler.

Focus Pocus

The front sight is a Tyler Gun Works custom windage adjustable dovetail design. For most, the front sight is the most noticeable, standing out like the crown jewel that it is. Bobby told Ronnie Wells what he wanted, and Ronnie figured out a way to manufacture it. Ronnie states, “It’s designed to be user-friendly and easily manufactured while being beautifully elegant and traditionally rustic at the same time.” And it is!

The dovetail base also has a lockdown screw for added security from movement. The lock screw is covered by the 0.100″ thick sight blade and held in place with two more set screws. The blade front is serrated to deflect glare. These sights are strong, durable, will stay in place and are color cased, providing a nice contrast to the satin-finished gun.

Powers Parts, Too

The Powers Custom Bisley hammer has a half-cock notch for traditional cocking and is also color cased. The hammer spur has a dimpled pattern for positive cocking and good looks. The trigger is also a Powers Custom, matching the front sight base and hammer with Tyler Gun Works’ beautiful color case.

A Keith #5 Belt Mountain base pin is included to ensure a tight cylinder fit. The cylinder gap is set at 0.003″ or less, and the trigger pull is set at 2 lbs., 8 oz. The gun is also custom tuned and accurized by Tyler Gun Works. The 4⅛” barrel is short enough to stay out of the way while riding in your truck, yet not too short to cut down on ballistic performance and ejection of the old warhorse .45 Colt cartridge.

The cylinder has a Black Powder chamfer, and the bolt notches are deepened, straightened and cleaned up, as needed, to ensure tight lock-up with the cylinder bolt. Lastly, the cylinder is converted to a free-spin for ease of loading and unloading.

The recoil shield and loading gate are skillfully scalloped, lightening the gun to 2 lbs., 2 oz., without interrupting strength integrity. The factory stainless steel ejector rod housing is also recontoured and set back as needed.

Packaged Goods

The Featherweight Vaquero has both the Tyler Gun Works Action and Accuracy packages performed on it. The Action package deals with timing, action and lock-up. All moving parts and contact points are polished for friction-free performance. The Accuracy Package deals more with tolerances and measurements, such as barrel/cylinder gap, ever-important cylinder throats, barrel condition and crown.

Each gun is sighted-in for a 250- to 260-grain “Keith” bullet at just under 900 FPS at 25 yards. For you handloaders, this load consists of 8.8 grains of Unique powder and standard large pistol primer.

Birth Marks

The gun has Tyler Gun Works Friona, Texas, on top of the barrel, proving that it has been given a Tyler Action and Accuracy package job. Tyler & Wells is stamped on the bottom of the cylinder frame and .45 Colt is stamped on the left side of the barrel. A laser-engraved floating feather for the “Featherweight” model is on the right side of the cylinder frame.

Leather Goods

Bobby turned to Doc Barranti to stitch up a special shuck worthy of carrying this featherweight .45 and it comes with the gun. Dubbed the “Outfitter,” it is a rough-out model, meaning the rough or suede side of the hide is facing out. This gives the holster a rugged look, making scratches and other marks less noticeable from hard-wearing wranglers who are not only tough on themselves but their equipment.

This rig and gun are made for people not afraid of drowning in their own sweat and using guns as the tools they are. “Safe Queen” isn’t a known principle, or meaning, to these guys and gals. They want the kind of equipment they know they can rely on, one that may be needed to save their life from any mean critter, be it unruly cattle, nuisance animals in the wild, or ne’er-do-wells in town. These folks just want to be left alone yet will respond appropriately when called upon.

When wearing Barranti’s Outfitter rig, the Featherweight goes unnoticed. Bobby testified he recently carried his for a week while on a mountain lion hunt and never noticed he had it on. He also stated he never felt the “what a relief” moment when taking the rig off.

Fine testament for what is designed to be the “working man’s” gun, and yes, it’s for women too!


I loaded some handloads consisting of 260-grain Lyman/Keith 454424 slugs loaded over 9.3 grains of Power Pistol. For factory fodder, I used Buffalo Bore’s Standard 3E .45 Colt load rated at 1,000 FPS with a 255-grain soft-cast gas-checked bullet. Both loads shot well. Distance was 20 yards, and the gun consistently grouped 1″ to 1.5″ for five shots. The groups had three shots in 1/2″ or less. The best three-of-five shots are more representative of the gun’s accuracy using a Ransom Rest, removing the human factor.

Phantom Featherweight

The Featherweight is a beautiful concept for a tool meant to be carried a lot but shot infrequently. It just may be the ultimate “multi-tool” in my mind. It’s the insurance policy you pack yet don’t notice. When called upon, there’s no doubt to its reliability or performance.

It can feed, protect, or put an animal down should the need arise. It’s what you need to get you through your day — in one piece! The Tyler Gun Works Featherweight is peace of mind without knowing it’s there.

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