Why single action?


February 27, 2010, 12:17 PM
OK all- I wanted to discuss reasons why people buy/like/shoot single action revolvers. I've shot a couple, and have never warmed up to them for a couple reasons- mostly loading/unloading, the ergonomics do not work for me, and I prefer SA/DA for carry reasons.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple specific reasons that people would buy a single action revolver:
1. Wild west nostalgia
2. Specific cowboy action type events and shooting fun

Are there other practical reasons? I'm not saying the two above don't warrant purchasing one, just interested to know more about the single action mystique.

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February 27, 2010, 12:40 PM
Just for the simplicity and elegance of it. It's the kind of gun Jesus would have carried.

A single action Army in .45 Colt or .357 Magnum (especially one with a transfer bar or other means of safely carrying all 6 chambers loaded) is a *lot* of firepower in a small robust package.

Arkansas Paul
February 27, 2010, 01:02 PM
You're right in that for carry purposes, DA makes a lot more sense.
For hunting purposes however, I like the SA. There are less moving parts, which means less to go wrong. It's simple and reliable. Not saying DAs aren't reliable, it's just I feel SAs are a bit more durable.

And yes, wild west nostalgia may have a bit to do with my preference to them as well.

February 27, 2010, 01:08 PM
They point and shoot better.

They look better.

They were good enough for John Wayne.

February 27, 2010, 01:24 PM
I just shoot a SAA better than other revolvers similar to what Dammitboy said.

February 27, 2010, 01:30 PM
I just like old Colt 4 3/4" SAA's.
Nostalga, history, craftsmanship, beauty, collector value, etc.

All rolled up in the lightest serious caliber big-bore handgun you can carry all day and not know it's on your belt until you need it.

Yes, I know about the titanium unobtainium fly-weight DA guns being made now in .44 Magelnum.
(More power then needed to kill anything needing killing in the part of the world I stomp around in. And unlike the Colt SAA, most unpleasent to shoot.)


February 27, 2010, 01:30 PM
Well...I would submit that if someone needs their DA revolver in a very, precise shooting moment he will probably thumb-cock the gun and take that precision shot in SA mode, anyway.

Some like the way the single-action recoils upward, instead of more of a rearward thrust of the DA gun.

Some just like old-school.

Or to borrow from Mike Rowe: "Why not a single action?"


February 27, 2010, 01:53 PM
They were good enough for John Wayne.
Yeah, because that's what was required for the film. Did he use one outside of movies?

February 27, 2010, 02:02 PM
Yes, he did, as well as almost every other type of gun.

John Wayne was a NRA life member, NRA spokesman, & gun collector, among his other fine traits.


February 27, 2010, 02:10 PM
That's a great question, and there's no great answer, unfortunately. My guess is that much of it has to do with childhood nostalgia. I had cowboy guns when I was a kid and there's must something familiar with the size and shape of the guns.

When I was going to school in Utah, I sold a very nice telescope I had (a spotting scope, actually). I then used the money to buy my first -- and still favorite -- revolver, a Ruger Security-Six. It was $169. I'd never heard of Ruger before and had only shot a handgun once...at night and in a quarry. All I saw, alas, was a muzzle blast, but it was fun, even if the gun was a Llama 9mm.

But reality soon hit me like a brick bat. The Ruger was just too expensive to shoot. So I went back to the store and told the pawn shop owner that I needed something cheap to shoot and that I didn't have a whole lot of money for the gun. He sold me a brand new RG single action .22LR cowboy gun that reminded me a lot of my childhood toy (and it was almost the same weight!)


My RG Single Action.

Sure, the gun had fixed sights. Sure it had an aluminum frame. And yes, I had to tighten the plastic grips every time I cleaned the gun.

It cost me $65 and I loved it. I'd throw it in the trunk with a few boxes of .22LR ammo and I got to where I could hit almost anything with it. I eventually sold it to buy a Ruger Standard Auto for $92 and have missed my RG ever since. So much so that I bought a Ruger Single-Six when I couldn't stand it any longer.

Much nicer gun with wood grips, beautiful fit and finish. It's heavier than my RG and is a pain to load and unload, yet it's one of my funnest guns to shoot. How could you NOT like it? There's nothing like getting it out of the safe on a wet, windy day and watching a Howard Hawks film. And it's fun and cheap to shoot.

I love it.




February 27, 2010, 02:23 PM
The first revolver I had was a Smith 686 , 6in. barrel , single and double action. I found right off shooting it single action the trigger pull was far lighter and I could hit the target far more often. Soon after the manual cocking became almost automatic. After a few years of Cowboy Shooting it is almost impossible for me to shoot my Smith or any other revolver double action. Speaking for myself I would rather hit the target the first time , I guess it is all what you are used to.

February 27, 2010, 02:55 PM
I like the historical aspects of single actions. There's nostalgia. My first guns were a set of Roy Rogers cap pistols when I was five years old. :)

On the practical side, they point more naturally for me and are more comfortable, especially with heavy loads. And I really enjoy the slower, more deliberate pace of the single action. But then most of my shooting is with muzzle loaders and CB revolvers.

This doesn't keep me from appreciating my Model 10, K-38, K-22, .357 Redhawk, or Model 29. ;)


February 27, 2010, 03:11 PM
For us reloaders who have Blackhawks and like the hot loads is another reason. They'll take loads that'll make a S&W run and hide!


February 27, 2010, 03:14 PM
For us reloaders who have Blackhawks and like the hot loads is another reason. They'll take loads that'll make a S&W run and hide!And I don't think I'd want to clean a double-action after shooting blackpowder :eek:

The Filthy Spitoon
February 27, 2010, 04:16 PM
I hear they are faster to draw and to get on target with for the first shot. Don't know about that, but they sure are comfortable in the hand, roll with recoil, and are "long and lean", making magnum DA revolvers feel clunky and unbalanced in comparison.

I did an experiment with my Blackhawk and S&W 625. I wanted to see how quickly I could dry-fire the guns six times. In the best of all worlds, involving no recoil whatsoever, and aiming at a pillow 5 feet away.

At least with me thumb-cocking the SA for every shot, it is a dramatically slower rate of fire than double action on my 625. I would not want to fade down another with a DA sixgun or a semi-auto handgun, as even a neophyte could kill me 3 times over before I got off 2 or 3 shots.

I love shooting my SA's, but keep in mind that they are more popular today because of 1950's westerns and Rugers - Colt couldn't sell any after WWII, and I believe suspended production for a time due to lack of interest in the guns. I think people thought like Jeff Cooper, who said the SA revolver was second-rate for target shooting and third-rate for defense.

February 27, 2010, 04:53 PM
Watch a Cowboy Action match some time if you think a SA can't be fired fast.

And dumping a lot of rounds down range in a gun fight does not equal winning the gun fight. Spray & Pray = Shoot fast = Miss fast.


February 27, 2010, 05:03 PM
Why single action?

Thats like asking "Why do ya like Redheads/Blondes/Etc."

Watch a Cowboy Action match some time if you think a SA can't be fired fast.

I agree and can shoot my SAs less then 1/10 a second slower then my S&W 610 or S&W 625 ---- EASY to empty { 5 rds.} out of a SA in less then 2.5 sec. --- check out this vid;


And Note that was for TEN Rds. thru Two revolvers in less then 3 seconds !!!!

EDIT --- And ALL 10 HITS !!!!

February 27, 2010, 06:20 PM
SA IMO usually wins in pointability and balance

To me, the Bisley style grip gets me right on target and fits my hand great.

The classic SAA grip doesn't fit me as well, but it still points better and balances great compared to many DA.

With this said, for most applications I prefer DA.

Vern Humphrey
February 27, 2010, 06:44 PM
Generally speaking, people like single actions because they are so "shootable." They are also widely available in cartridges like .45 Colt, .44-40 and so on, which aren't that often seen in double actions. For me, the ideal centerfire hunting and woods revolver is a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt.

February 27, 2010, 07:13 PM
This is a great discussion guys. It makes more sense to me now!

February 27, 2010, 07:13 PM
After owning and shooting guns for over 25 years, I bought my first Black powder gun, now I get it.Now I want a Blackhawk in 357. And besides it reminds me of my Fanner 50.

February 27, 2010, 07:20 PM
My first revolver was a black powder .44 Remington replica.

To me, single action is the default. I have DAO, DA/SA, and SA revolvers now, and I like them all.

If you're going to shoot full-house .44 Magnum (or heavier) loads at relatively long distances, a heavy single action will be a good deal more comfortable than a modern DA revolver. I have both, and I shoot both, but when I run out of ammo with the DA, I'm usually glad. When I run out of ammo with the SA, I'm thinking, "Man, that's all?":)

My carry wheelguns (town or trail) are all modern Smiths. One day, I may hunt with my long-barrel Super Blackhawk, but I don't live in a state where I can get a booklet full of doe tags, so I've backed off on the handgun-hunting bug I thought I had.:) But I like shooting single actions for the same reason as I like shooting over/under shotguns: they balance well, they point well, and they're a pleasure to shoot, in ways that other guns aren't.

February 27, 2010, 08:59 PM
Every revolver I grew up shooting was a single action Ruger of one type or another. All I own is single action. I think I've shot a Taurus M80, but I forget. I have shot a 642, and it was appauling compared to the Blackhawks that day. IOW, I haven't really had much trigger time with DA revolvers, so I can't offer much here. I know they work well, are accurate and fun. There is really only a fraction of a reason to get a DA revolver in my mind. I know not everyone would agree. I need to do more DA shooting I guess.

The Filthy Spitoon
February 27, 2010, 09:06 PM
Silly me, I was firing the weapons one-handed.

Got any videos on how quickly you can fire duelist?

Would you still take an SA over a DA one handed? Is that really a good idea for us non-CAS folk?

February 27, 2010, 09:50 PM
I imagine there is a type of gun for every shooter. I've had every action type available and just kind of settled into the single action as the one that suits me. I find I go through a lot less ammo and tend to make every shot count, it just slows me down and lets me enjoy the shooting more. Now I know there is some amazing speed shooters with single actions, but I'm sure not one of them, I just like taking my time and letting the world wait.

February 27, 2010, 09:52 PM
If you gotta ask, you need to read more Skeeter.


sixgun MAK
February 27, 2010, 10:19 PM
Because there ain't nothin' better than a Colt SAA.

February 27, 2010, 10:36 PM
Single actions are the reason humans have thumbs.

February 28, 2010, 12:50 AM
Sam Colt's old plow handle 1851, from which the SAA grip frame shape evolved, balances better in my hand than anything made before or since.

Ever seen a trick shooter twirling a Glock from hand to hand, spinning it on his fingers, throwing it up in the air and catching it behind his back? Didn't think so.

February 28, 2010, 01:01 AM
The same reason you might buy a 69' Chevelle. Not an environmentally nor an economically good decision but still a hell of a good time.

February 28, 2010, 01:45 AM
Reading with interest.

February 28, 2010, 02:03 AM
Single Action has it's place as a hobby, but not as a personal defense weapon. I respect everyone's likes and dislikes but trying to argue why someone likes one type of weapon over another is futile.

February 28, 2010, 07:47 AM
My single action Bond Arms in .357 has a place in SD, my right front pocket.:D

February 28, 2010, 08:30 AM
Since I started shooting handguns I've noticed:

Single actions are lighter and stronger than similar sized DA

Solid framed so theoretically have more inherent accuracy

They do have their place in shooting world

And like the 1911, is a gun from earlier times that just keeps demonstrating its effectiveness.

February 28, 2010, 11:50 AM
Ever seen a trick shooter twirling a Glock from hand to hand, spinning it on his fingers, throwing it up in the air and catching it behind his back? Didn't think so.Shoot, that ain't nothing!!
I bet Plaxico Burris could do that inside his pants!


February 28, 2010, 02:26 PM
I would have to say in my limited experiance, the SA wheelguns I have fired handled better than a DA. That being said, if hunting or recreation is your only purpose, SA is fine. For serious work they quickly fall short. I wouldn't use a wheelgun for much other than hunting and fun as there are better home defense choices by far, but if it is what you elect to use, training is a must. SA make me feel warm and fuzzy and are a hoot to shoot. That is about all the reason you need. Some people let that govern their choice in weapon choice for serious work unfortunately. My sentence placement is a little erratic, sorry. My point is SA are fun and have a narrow number of uses that they are good contenders just as long as they stay there.

February 28, 2010, 02:37 PM
Wild west nostalgia
That would be my ONLY reason for buying one.

I'm interested in the Colt SAA experience without the Colt SAA price. None of the newer "safer" single actions would accomplish that. I've settled on one or the other of the Cimarrons. I'd never carry the gun, or use it for self-defense, so the absence of a transfer bar is irrelevant to my situation.

February 28, 2010, 02:45 PM
At first because a 44 Mag Super Blackhawk was a lot less than a S&W M29.


Later, just because I wanted one.


So I got two


Willy G.
February 28, 2010, 03:00 PM
The real reason.

February 28, 2010, 03:09 PM
I feel sorta bad for folks who mainly think of hand guns as "personal defense weapons".....

I started out many years ago with bulls eye target shooting... a very genteel and enjoyable sport. I was still in high school at the time. Older shooters took me under their wing and let me shoot their guns.

I had a grand time shooting fine target grade guns. We would move from slow fire to timed fire and then on to "balloon shoots". As a teenager I greatly enjoyed shooting all my targets first and then sniping off the still remaining balloons of the guy next to me.... who was the Chief of Police. In his defense I will say that he shot with his service revolver while I was using a High Standard target .22.... still he did a pretty good job of pretending to be upset.... pretty sure shooting next to me helped him improve his speed loader use <grin>

I grew up in a no rifle deer hunting area... soon as I turned 21 I switched over to handgun hunting.... it was only a few years ago that I picked up a concealed carry permit and started buying smaller defense style hand guns...

I had never owned any single action revolvers until recently either... now one of the draws is that the local gunsmith doesn't even want to do trigger work on new double action revolvers with MIM components in them.... but he can sure still smooth and lighten a single action Ruger.

No offense intended... as an earlier poster stated it all in what you want out of a gun. For self defense I want something small enough that I will have it on me if God forbid I ever need it <Kahr PM 9 or S&W 638> but for enjoyment I want great adjustable sights, an accurate gun that shoots cheap cast bullets well and a great trigger pull

February 28, 2010, 03:11 PM
Why single action? I use single actions for everything,and I have found that they work just as well on crackheads,thieves and trespassers as they do on deer around these parts.

February 28, 2010, 03:24 PM
One good thing for me is that most SA have smaller grips than large frame double actions. I love N-Frames, but the trigger is a bit of a stretch for me and I need to shift from my normal grip if I want to shoot them DA.

Gary A
February 28, 2010, 04:13 PM
Many say the single-action is only suited for recreation and hunting, but it seems to me that if someone shoots them most of the time and likes them, they would do fine for home defense, largely because most people have more than one and in a HD situation there would be at least a chance to grab another should one be depleted. Why switch to a less familiar platform? Now for concealed carry or a car gun on a road trip, I can see where the reloading speed would be a big factor to consider. But, to repel boarders at home, I think a single-action that someone knows how to use and is familiar with would do just dandy. After all, there's a 12 gauge parked in the corner.

The main reason for a single-action is simply because they are...well, they are just "right" and life is too short to waste time doing things that aren't "right".

February 28, 2010, 04:25 PM
they would do fine for home defense,I agree completely.
Pity the fool that goes up against a SAA .45 Colt and a man that knows how to use it.

I liken it to a big-game hunter with a Ruger #1 single-shot rifle.
He is going to make the most out of every shot, and is likely going to be an excellent shot.

Same with a good single-action man and the 5 or 6 rounds in the gun at his disposal.
If you're a Bad Guy, don't underestimate him, because he will kill you and have a few rounds left over.

Those four clicks when the hammer comes back might as well be the hoof beats of a Pale Horseman.


February 28, 2010, 05:32 PM
Pity the fool that goes up against a SAA .45 Colt and a man who knows who to use it. Indeed. Words to live by. I also feel the same way about a man with a single shot rifle. I'd rather go up against three guys with AKs on full auto than a guy with a single shot who has his sights on me.

February 28, 2010, 06:41 PM
I started off with single action revolvers years ago. I have hunted with them for years. When I got my CCW permit I tried autos & DA revolvers. I found I liked the big single actions anyway. So, after alot of searching I went back to single action revolvers for all duties.

Heck, I even shoot IDPA with them. My reloads take a little longer but I don't drop many points.

February 28, 2010, 06:57 PM
Willy G.
The real reason.

My point exactly! Nothing balances like a SAA. Nothing. That’s not an opinion. It’s a physical FACT. Even an expert wouldn’t even ATEMTPT those types of tricks with an auto-loader or DA revolver. It wouldn’t be possible. All those guns are imbalanced. Unlike the SAA, they’re dynamically unstable.

February 28, 2010, 07:58 PM
I bought a Ruger Single Six for my first handgun about a year ago. At the time I wanted something I would feel absolutely comfortable with, and not having the ability to just randomly throw lead downrange was a plus, not a minus. It's worked out great, I love going to the range. And my marksmanship is gradually improving.

Now that I'm ready to move on to my next gun, I'm leaning towards a S&W 64. Still a revolver, but DA and a larger caliber. Seems like a natural progression. But I'm sure the Single Six will be along for every range session.

February 28, 2010, 09:48 PM
Got a 4 5/8 Blackhawk in .357. For reference there's a bring-back shooter P38 in the locker, a fullsize 1911 on the bedside table and I'm on my 3rd XD40 for EDC .

The Blackhawk in one hand, and a Marlin 1894c in the other makes me feel like a 10 year old cowboy every time. Makes me feel almost as good as petting my best dog.

If you doubt me try it.

February 28, 2010, 10:58 PM
I've also heard and read that the SAA style grip is nicer on the hands when shooting full house .45's and .44 Mag because of the way it swings in the grip to help redirect some of the recoil away from the shooter's hand.

Living where I do I can't really comment on the home defense issue but I've also often read here that if the issue can't be settled in 5 or 6 shots then the trouble is bigger than a handgun is going to fix anyway.

A lot of folks tend to get all wired on the defense shooting aspects. They forget that some of us actually enjoy shooting for fun. And for us it is the variety that counts for a lot. I've got a 1911, a CZ Shadow as well as 4 S&W ejector models, my two Pietta cowboy SAA's and a couple of black powder Uberti 1858 Remington clones. The variety of experience this handgun collection provides keeps me grinning hugely.

March 1, 2010, 09:44 PM
Just kind of makes you want to walk around the house singing old Marty Robins songs. Looking in the mirror and saying things like "Fill your hand, you son of a b****"

March 3, 2010, 05:06 PM
I can shoot big bore cartridges from SA sixguns, whereas S&W N-frames and Ruger Redhawks are too big for my hands. (too long of a reach to the trigger in DA mode) I can reach the trigger of a Super Redhawk, but that is a m-a-s-s-i-v-e sixgun, not a carry gun.

Recoil is more pleasant from SA sixguns than DA, all else being equal.

Also, SA sixguns tend to "hang" more comfortably from the belt, than many DA revolvers and autoloaders, particularly double-stack-magazine autoloaders.

As others have said, shooting is not all about defense, defense, and defense. Some of us like handguns for other reasons, and an SA sixgun can fulfill those other reasons, and still be far from useless for defense.

And, amen to reading passages from thy Skeeter scriptures.

March 3, 2010, 07:10 PM
If I was dropped off on an island and told I would not coming back but I could take one pistol with ammo it would be my single action ruger vaquero 357. I don't think you could break it. A very important quality.

March 3, 2010, 10:37 PM

I applaud you for actually carrying a SA! What kind of holster do you have?


March 4, 2010, 07:52 AM
ArmedBear (post #22): “…If you're going to shoot full-house .44 Magnum (or heavier) loads at relatively long distances, a heavy single action will be a good deal more comfortable than a modern DA revolver. I have both, and I shoot both, but when I run out of ammo with the DA, I'm usually glad. When I run out of ammo with the SA, I'm thinking, "Man, that's all?"…”

You hit nail squarely! If for self defense and casual shooting, take whatever fits you better. But for serious business like hiking in a wilderness or hunting, this is where larger bore (41 or more) in strong SA with 4-5/8” or 6-1/2” barrel really shines; moderate weight and size with lot of firepower. Just make sure that all screws are secured. O yeah, #5 base pin would be VERY nice addition.

March 4, 2010, 11:36 AM
I'm a big fan of Gene 'n' Roy; collect their books and moves too.
I do believe I have every story by Louis Lamour.
I like the history of the old west so I guess thats why single actions just seem to feel right in my hand.
I've got others but the SA revolvers get used the most.

BTW, my ten year old daughter is also loving her .22 SA and watching Gene and Roy with her dad:D


March 5, 2010, 07:02 AM
Many years back they did a "shoot out" between two extremely skilled revolver shooters. I believe it was Thell Reed shooting the SA Colt 45 and John Pride shooting the DA revolver.

It was done at closer range then moved out some. The fastest first two shots out of the holster were consistantly shot by Reed with the single action revolver at close range. Extended strings...especially when distances opened up went in favor of the DA revolver - no surprise.

murdoc rose
March 5, 2010, 07:14 AM
saa's just have a special feel to them

Va Shooter
March 5, 2010, 10:34 AM
Getting the job done since 1873 45colt

Ruger bird'shead 45colt


March 5, 2010, 01:20 PM
They just look like a revolver.

Holster choices .... plenty of them.

March 5, 2010, 03:37 PM
Quote: "They were good enough for John Wayne. "

...how do you argue with that?

March 5, 2010, 06:35 PM
FFLGunDealers.net ,

Using a Simply Rugged Sourdough right now. I also have pancake holster made made by El Paso Saddlery, but I am not sure what the name is they give it. I have a PS6 from Mernickle and an IWB from Blackhills. Oh can't forget I even have a kydex from Kytec for my blackhawks.

March 5, 2010, 06:51 PM
Quote from Magnumite:
"Solid framed so theoretically have more inherent accuracy" (single-actions)

You only have to look at the revolvers from Freedom Arms to know that's a fact, not theory. You have to wonder just how sloppy some single-actions have to be put together to make them inaccurate.

March 5, 2010, 07:23 PM
The same reason you might buy a 69' Chevelle. Not an environmentally nor an economically good decision but still a hell of a good time.

Amen to that! I only own single action revolvers.

March 5, 2010, 11:17 PM
After I obtained my CHL all my handguns had to have SOME SD/Concealment role to them. Which is why I'm torn when eyeing a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 colt in the 4 5/8" bbl.

Yeah carrying my 686+/G19/1911 or even 642 makes more sense in a SD role but really ONLY is if you have to reload. I suspect that .45 Colt ....especially THIS variety:


is all you would ever need to stop a bad guy.

But if you are a believer in the "3 shots/3 sec's/3 feet protocol, the SA looks alot more equal. Indeed, isn't it true 99% of the time you just have to PRODUCE a gun to stop a mugging or worse? I suspect clearing leather in the presence of a badguy or two with a Blackhawk might cause them to rethink their intent.

However if you feel you're more likely as a civilian to get into something prolonged (possible - but improbable) needing you to go to the second/third mag or speedloader, then yeah I guess you have to stick to DA's or semi's.

Thats a decision I'm still wrestling with (ignoring the obvious fun I would have with a SA at the range) as I keep eyeing that Blackhawk. :evil:

March 6, 2010, 02:48 AM
Love. 'nuff said.

"You know what the first rule of flying is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home." --Malcolm Reynolds

(It's late and I'm feeling sentimental)


March 6, 2010, 11:05 AM
Well, I had to say theoretically because I had two sin gle action revolvers that were not accurate. But, you're rght a FA single action is one highly impressive revolver

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