SAA caliber?


January 3, 2007, 06:08 PM
im a semi auto guy. im used to 9mm/40sw/45acp

so the SAA is new to me (dont have one yet, still gathering info) so i was wondering on calibers. I see 45colt, 44-40 and 357mag. I have never shot any of these calibers but have shot 44mag. Which has the most/least recoil? and would be the cheapest to shoot? Im drawn to the 45colt simply because you normally associate that with the SAA's. Id also want a rifle chambered for the same round and i believe most lever actions come in these 3 calibers as well. Id want to use the same cartridge obv. Id go out on a limb and say the 357mag would be the easiest to buy ammo for but wanted to know from people with knowledge on this.


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Sniper X
January 3, 2007, 06:23 PM
I have a saa in 45lc but wish it was .357 mag because I also have a 1894 in .357 mag. This is by far (.357mag) the cheapest and most fun to shoot as you can shoot .38spl in it and I got 3000 rounds of .38spl for 180 bucks. I am going to buy a saa in .357 so I can have both chambered in the same round. That has allways been the way to go. I like the 45lc though and will probably keep it. Also, 45lc has the most recoil.

January 3, 2007, 06:33 PM
I'd say 45LC.

My reasoning:

Ejecting cases. You have to line up the fired cartridge with the loading gate and ejector rod. The ejector rod is about 1/8th inch (0.125") in diameter, give or take. With a .22 caliber hole, it fills half the chamber and requires considerable precision to accurately line up. Required precision is less on a 0.357 diameter hole, giving about 0.23" in possible slop room when unloading empties. But, a .45LC chamber is 0.452 in diameter, giving about 0.330 in available slop room when trying to quickly line up each chamber to eject the spent case.

.45LC is also lower pressure in most offerings than .357mag or .38special, meaning that it expands against the chamber less forcefully and grips it less tightly. Ejection is easier.

Jim March
January 3, 2007, 06:36 PM
Since all 357 guns can also shoot 38Special and 38Spl+P, that's the flexible option.

In a real SAA, "true clone" or "near clone", there's not enough power for the 44Magnum. Hot-rodded 45LC+P rounds exist but those are only for guns that are also available as 44Mags. So your net power available in 357 is higher than in 45LC. 357Mag SAA types are a bit heavier than 45LCs due to the extra metal in the cylinders and barrel walls.

The 44-40 is tricky because it's supposed to be .427 diameter, whereas the 44Russian/Special/Magnum family calibers are .429. So a LOT of "44-40" guns get shipped with .429 barrels and sometimes an extra cylinder in 44Special.

In which case you either have to reload with .429 components or find a supplier of "mutant" 44-40. Which are available if you search, but it will cost you.

The next problem with 44-40 is that as a bottleneck cartridge, it's more difficult for a newbie to reload for. Not THAT bad mind you but it is more difficult.

Personally, if I'm going to go with an old-West oddball bottleneck round, I'd look to the 38-40. It's bore is genuinely identical to the 10mm and 40S&W so bullet components are easy to get. Ballistics of the 38-40 are nearly identical to the 40S&W. A special-order double-cylinder gun in 38-40 and 40S&W would be WAY cool.

Bottleneck cartridges are really neat in SAA type guns as they insert into the chambers faster and easier, and in the case of the 38-40 and 44-40 operate at low pressure so they usually fall right out of the cylinder bores. No ejector rop needed, just get the loading gate open, tip the barrel up and spin the cylinder along your arm. Major style points :).

Which brings us back to the 357Mag. Two more modern bottleneck cartridges with the benefits involved exist but fire .357 diameter bullets: the 356GNR (using a 41Magnum shell necked down to 357) and the 38/44Bain&Davis (same concept starting with the 44Mag and necking it down). In an SAA or similar you could NOT safely exceed 357Magnum power levels (meaning bullet speed for a given weight) but you drop the pressure from the bigger case and you get the easy feeding/extraction issues, esp. if you run them at lower power. A 38/44B&D shooting a 158gr lead load at 1,000fps would be a real sweetheart and an effective street defense piece.

For these calibers, what you do is, you buy a 357 gun and get a second 357Magnum cylinder. Get the second cylinder properly fitted by a local gunsmith first if need be, do what it takes to make it shoot well, and then send the cylinder alone off to a gunsmith for modding. If you're going for 356GNR you send it to Gary Reeder. He can also supply new brass, loading dies and reloading data. You'd need somebody else to do a 38/44...don't know who but let us know if you're interested...I'm mildly so and have done a bit of research. Either way, the cool part is, when you want to swap back to standard 357Mag the other cylinder is right there.

I own a Ruger New Vaquero in 357, a "near clone" of the SAA. It's about as strong, almost identical in size and feel, fits the same holsters but has a modern transfer bar safety so it can be carried fully loaded just like a modern DA revolver. The Beretta Stampede and Taurus Gaucho are identical in concept: "transfer bar equipped SAA near-clones". I think Ruger's version is the best :). Especially if you're going to modify it - the New Vaqueros can parts-swap with a lot of other Ruger SA guns. Mine has a SuperBlackHawk lower hammer and improved I added a bit of..."psychological warfare" :D.

The earlier Ruger Vaqueros looked similar but were built on a larger 44Magnum-class frame. They don't feel like an SAA.

If you REALLY want a gun lacking a transfer bar or other modern safety, OK, buy one. But I'm not sure I'd recommend it for a newbie shooter and the plain fact is, I didn't trust myself with one.

January 3, 2007, 06:42 PM
45 Colt is fun, effective, and very reloadable in both pistol and rifle.

357 Magnum is fun, effective, and very reloadable in both pistol and rifle.

Forget 44/40. It's expensive and focused upon Cowboy Action Shooting. The others are commonly available in range and self-defense loads.

January 3, 2007, 07:04 PM
i dont have the knowledge/equip for reloading..lets take it one step at a time lol

and as far as the cowboy shooting..cant you shoot 357 in that? because id like to join a SASS club and start doing that CAS and SASS different animals all together or the same?

Jim Watson
January 3, 2007, 07:22 PM
CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting) is a registered trademark of SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) so the one is the sport, the other is the organization, used interchangeably. There are a couple of other western shooting organizations and some outlaw local clubs.

The trend in CAS is generally toward .38s. They cost less to shoot and kick less. You could go with .357 magnums when you wanted or needed the power. The main thing I have against .38 SAAs is that they are heavy and do not balance as well as a .44 or .45 with bigger holes in barrel and cylinder. That matters more to me because I shoot Duelist - one handed. Not much to worry about if you shoot Traditional with both hands on the gun.

Jim March
January 3, 2007, 07:32 PM
CAS is done at steel plate targets, so for both safety and authenticity you are limited to lead-only bullets doing less than 1,000fps.

My understanding is that this speed limit is in place for rifles too, other than certain long-range side matches at some events, usually done with 45-70 or similar high-power rounds. The main match rifles on the other hand generally use pistol caliber cartidges, often the same caliber as your handguns (although not necessarily).

So if you have a pair of 357Mag wheelguns and a 357Mag levergun, the "speed limit" of 1,000fps in the levergun translates to 38Spl ammo. In most cases, to meet that speed limit in the levergun, the same ammo will only be doing 700 - 750fps from the revolvers which again puts you squarely in 38spl horsepower territory unless you load with the crazy 230gr slugs by Penn Bullets or something. And I don't think those qualify as traditional enough :).

Many people will shoot this sort of power in 357mag-length cases just to make the guns easier to clean and in some cases, aid feed reliability in the levergun. (Some leverguns will feed either 357 or 38 length ammo better than the other.) At which point the cases may say "357" but the power level is 38Spl or maybe even less...

January 3, 2007, 08:50 PM
I've got a pair of New Model Vaquero's in 357 / 38 for CAS and a second pair in 45 Colts. The 38s are certainly less recoil and for speed shooting that means a lot. Also, they're the cheapest to shoot and since I don't reload, it adds up pretty quick. The 45s though, don't really have that much recoil.

My rifles are a 94 Marlin in 357 / 38 and a Taurus Thunderbolt in 45 Colt. As soon as I save a little more I'll pick up a model 73 clone in 45 Colt.

If you're thinking of CAS in the future, the 38s are the way to go.

January 3, 2007, 09:14 PM
Been shooting CAS for about a year now. If you are considering moving in that direction then the best advice I can give you is to go with .357 for both your rifle and your pistols. Shooting .38 special is lighter recoil and far FAR cheaper than any other round but you can still use full power .357 Magnum rounds if you need to be serious about something.

Keep your rifle and pistols in the same caliber if you can, it saves a LOT of headaches!

I have an older Rossi 92 SRC and a pair of Taurus Gaucho pistols. The 92 is excellent but (and I hate to say this) I'd go with the Ruger guns long before I'd buy another set of the Taurus. The main issue is that QC on the Taurus SAA guns has been pretty spotty. When you get a good set of guns they are awesome but the road to getting a good pair can be pretty bumpy :mad:

January 3, 2007, 10:41 PM
I would go with the .357.
Others have their opinions but you can shoot a .357 cheapest, especially if you shoot .38 SPL in it. You can always load up to .357 magnum when you want more power.
It has been my experience that you can get .357 diameter bullets about anywhere. Brass is also very common and in some cases even free. I have never seen .45 LC or .44-40 brass that fits that category. And you also burn less powder with a smaller cartridge. This can all add up.
I was in the same situation about a week ago and I chose .357 today in the form of a Bisley Vaquero.

January 3, 2007, 11:38 PM
Much easier to find all kinds of loadings for the .357 including .38s. Not true with the .45 Colt but it's my favorite. You almost have to be a reloader or have a helluva lot more money than me to shoot it very much. It aint a magnum but the thing about it is, the .45 colt with those big old bullets trucking along about 850 to 900 fps has been dropping both men and all kinds of animals for a lot of years.

January 4, 2007, 01:34 AM
It ain't all that fast, but puts a hell of a thump on whatever is your target. Recoil is tame. I've got a '92 Rossi and Ruger Bisley chambered in it and cannot begin to describe what fun the combo is. Accurate, easy to shoot and those big 250+ grain slugs really make an impression. If you handload, a good ruger/'92 clone will give you some awesome capablitiy with whatever you have in mind for it.

January 4, 2007, 11:08 AM
i figured the 357 would be cheaper..since i spent some time looking online at ammo.
but you know how it is when you like guns, you wont one or two of everything and every caliber. Im kinda scared of the reload thing, i guess it reminds of retread tires for some reason. prb a bad to relate but its just like everything else you have to work your way up to it and im sure when it comes to reloading you would rather learn to do it yourself than buy from someone else, but i dont know.

As far as the rifles to i lke the Winchester 94 Legacy, prb not 100% as tradtional looking as the clones, but I just dont see paying a $1000 for a clone when I can get the Winchester under $650. I would think that SASS/CAS would not have a prb with it. Would they?

and while we're on this, man i like that Cimarron Lightning in 32-20. but talk about exp to shoot, thats like looking for a needle in a haystack there.

Father Knows Best
January 4, 2007, 11:41 AM
For cheap ammo, the .357 is the way to go.

My favorite, however, is the .44 Special. It is incredibly accurate, and be loaded to pretty stout levels. You can also use the shorter .44 Russian cases. I load .44 Russian cases with 22 grains of black powder and a 200 grain lead bullet, and it's an extremely accurate and very fun load in the SAA.

January 4, 2007, 12:17 PM
Sam Colt made the Peacemaker in .45LC, so I went with that. I have the 7.5" new Vaquero and I also bought a Uberti 1866 short rifle in .45LC. Love them both and wouldn't change a thing.
Here's my Ruger next to Dads 1st. generation Colt:
And my Uberti:

January 4, 2007, 02:43 PM
I have a DA 357-44 B&D. But in general, if you have to ask, you aren't ready for a wildcat. I did once have a batch of cases stick but that appears to have been due to poor brass.

Do modern 44-40 fireamrs have a 429 groove diameter?

In a SAA clone I'd go 357 Mag, 44 Spl, or 45 Colt. The 357 is probably the best choice for a beginner. Nothing wrong with the 44 Spl or 45 Colt but you have to expect to pay money for ammo unless you reload.

Father Knows Best
January 4, 2007, 02:48 PM
Do modern 44-40 fireamrs have a 429 groove diameter?
Some do; some don't. That's the rub -- you really need to slug the barrel on any firearm marked "44-40" to know. I've slugged almost a dozen Uberti 44-40 revolvers and rifles made between 1976 and 2002, and all were .429 in the grooves. On the other hand, there are credible reports of other Ubertis from that period having .426 bores. Colt reportedly is using .426 barrels on its current production 44-40 SAA's, but there are lots of them floating around with .429 barrels that were made in the 80s and 90s. USFA uses .426 barrels. Ruger is anybody's guess.

Jim Watson
January 4, 2007, 03:38 PM
I shoot .44-40s so as to have common sixgun and carbine ammunition - I got a racehorse deal on a real Winchester .44 WCF, traded for a Colt .44 Special and had a .44-40 cylinder fitted, then added a Cimarron Model P (ASM make) when two revolvers got to be necessary. Three different makes, different barrel and chamber dimensions on each.

I guess I could slug revolver barrels and cylinder throats, and cast the rifle's chamber neck, then do a lot of target shooting to pick an absolutely optimum bullet for each gun but that would sure wipe out the advantage of same caliber guns. I buy .428" bullets when available, that is the largest that will chamber freely in my rifle in Starline brass, but they are not real common and mostly I use the stuff from a local outfit labeled .427" that mikes .4275" or thereabouts due to sizer die wear or tolerances.

Harve Curry
January 4, 2007, 06:23 PM
shooter71 : SAA caliber?

45LC you can get another cylinder for 45acp, since your already a 45acp shooter. But 45 will be about the heaviest recoiling in a SAA frame size.

357 is probably the most common for ammuntion and 38spl for light recoil.

38-40. Possible to get a custom cylinder in 40S&W or 10mm. 10mm could be the best round for a Colt or new Ruger SAA size frame. But it would be custom.

44 special. Best factory offered chambering in many folks opinions for the SAA but you have to be a reloader to realize the best of a 44spl.

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