Shooting Second Generation Colt SAAs


December 11, 2004, 06:17 PM
I noticed at a recent gunshow that the first and second generations are tagged at $2400 and up.
Colt brought back the Peacemaker in the mid 1950s amid post-war prosperty and a glut of serialized horse operas on the television. We were told that the new Colts were made on the original machinery and were original Colts in every way. The Single Action Army came chambered in .45 Colt and .357 magnum. In 1959, when I got my first handgun-a Colt Buntline Scout, the Colt .45 Revolver was as mysterious as it was unreachable. The hi-key black and white photos of the 5.5" Colt used in the magazine ads reached out of the pulp paper gun rag and grabbed me. It let me imagine that the color casehardened frame was even nicer and more contrasty against the blued hardware than it was in real life. The retail price was $125 just like the new Python. The only real life kid that could even touch one was Jacques Herter Jr.- a kid that we all hated because he got to hunt everything in sight and owned a Single Action Colt.45 AND a Python.
Over the years, I came to own and shoot one or two early 20th Century First Generation Colts. The 1908 Vintage 38-40 had the little narrow sights, a deeply pitted bore and a trigger pull that felt like 20 pounds. It didn't approach the accuracy of my Buntline Scout. A few decade ago, after Shooting some of Johnny Bates Second Generations, I decided that they were head and shoulders above the pre World War II revolvers in so far as sighting and weight of trigger pull and action were concerned. My lack of experience with SAAs made from 1920 to 1940 probably prejudiced that opinion and more recently I learned that Bates revolvers weren't exactly typical of box-stock early Second Gens. He had applied some finesse to the actions of his revolvers that further bolstered my ignorance about the straight-from-the-box items. He believes the 1956 revolver came with a First Generation main spring which he thinned and he also built up the hammer face beneath the full cock notch to eliminate creap (creep?)The resulting let-off brings to mind Mr. Paladin's " Hand-made Hamilton with a 2 ounce trigger"- though it actually breaks at between one and two pounds. Bates also found the Second Generations to have a nasty tendency to jump the base pin. He cured this with the excellent, oversize Belt Mountain replacement pins

The Single Action Army is one of those handguns that really benefits from a custom -tuned light trigger. Shooting my USFA Pre-War with its 4 pound trigger, I tend to push my groups to the left of point of aim. Not so with the 1956-made Colt. It hits point of aim with any good factory approximate load:
The 32 yard string prompted me to walk back to 45 yards and overlay the group with another five from the same one-handed stance:

The loads we checked out today all hit to the same point of aim. Both revolvers were factory-sighted to hit very close with the 250 grain bullet loads

At one time, Unique was considered the only smokeless powder suited to the .45 Colt. It still works very well at charge slightly higher than the ones we had on hand. Tight Group and WW 231 show great promise in approximating factory performance. Unique does not provide maximum consistency until charges are in the 7.5 grain vicinity.

The shooting I did today came fresh from considerable recent range time with double action revolvers and various black powder handguns.In a sense, I was starting cold with the Colts and they still manage to let me perform almost as well as I do with more familiar revolvers. Better- if you discount those shooter-induced spoilers.

It is easy to see why the Single Action Army remains on of the top choices of handgun enthusiasts.
This 1957 revolver has a marginally heavier trigger than the first one. My tendency to push the group is starting to become evident.

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Standing Wolf
December 11, 2004, 08:30 PM
Tight Group and WW 231 show great promise in approximating factory performance.

I've never had much success with 231, but Hodgdon Tight Group has made the right impression on me in very light .357 magnum and .44 magnum loads. It leaves Bullseye in the dust.

Excellent article, by the bye.

December 11, 2004, 09:35 PM
231 has been a fine .38 wadcutter powder for me and was just about perfect in my attempts to duplicate the velocity and extreme spread of the .32 magnum jhp loads. In real life I deplore all pistol powders except Unique, Bullseye and 2400 but I also use 296 and 231 occasionally. The only rational cause for my being stuck on those three ...wait-there is no rational cause.

This is the first time I've shot titegroup but it does show promise here. Of course this micro-mini review of loads, depending on single five shot strings, doesn't prove a whole lot. On the whole though. All of them seem to hit to the same point of aim and group about the same too.

December 12, 2004, 10:25 AM
Bates just gave me the chamber mouth measurements for the above revolvers. The 1956 goes .454 while the nickel one has .455s. He sizes all his bullets .454. This batch was put up for my 4 3/4" USFA and appears to be a very close factory duplicate. They are sized .452 to match the USFA chambers.

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