SA revolver suggestions


chris in va
January 21, 2013, 06:25 PM
Never thought I would ask this.

I had a Ruger SP101 and just couldn't warm up to it. My Dad was really into the whole 'western' culture and wanted a birdshead six-shooter long as I can remember. Sadly he died last year, so as a tribute to him I wanted to get one in his honor.

I know very little about SA revolvers.

Maybe a 'birdshead' grip isn't a good idea. I do think something in 45 Colt would be nice, seems like a flexible cartridge to reload for.

Any suggestions are much appreciated.

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January 21, 2013, 06:37 PM
IMHO there are Ruger Blackhawks and Super Blackhawks and then there are all the other SA revolvers.

January 21, 2013, 06:39 PM
I can only tell you that they are great guns. I got a Uberti. I wanted a .45 Colt. I'm not sure about a birds head grip. Go for it. I thought the Ruger New Vaquero was cool too. Watch out for how they index on the cylinder. Some guns are designed way off. I wanted a purely traditional gun.

Sorry for your loss too.

January 21, 2013, 07:16 PM

My sympathies for your Dad.

The 45 Colt is a great cartridge for reloading. I even load them with black powder when in the mood.

If you want adjustable sights, go for the Blackhawk. It's available with an extra cylinder that takes 45 ACP or just in 45 Colt.

For fixed sights, there is the Vaquero. The older, heavier version is basically a Blackhawk without the adjustable sights. The newer version is smaller and lighter, closer to a Colt SSA. (Yes. I'm a fan of Ruger single actions.)

I don't care for birds head grips. They feel small in my large hands. But if possible, try to handle the various types. My favorite is the grip on the newer Vaquero. YMMV.

Also, try the balance with different barrel lenghts. I find it makes a noticable difference.

There are other makes of 45 Colt SAs but I have no experience witht them.

Good luck with your search.


January 21, 2013, 07:20 PM
Ruger New Vaquero Birdshead in 45 ACP!

and my newest....
Ruger Vaquero Sheriff in 44 Spec!
(not my pic...haven't gotten mine the mail though!! ;))

January 21, 2013, 07:26 PM
Grasshopper, er, chris in va.,

The world of single action revolvers is vast and well beyond the scope of THR. There are many very good choices out there starting with the original Colt SAA (which is currently still in production), well made clones from Uberti, totally modern designs such as Ruger and countless variations. Your search is only limited by how much time you want to spend learning about their differences.

The best source is a local Single Action Shooting Society club. SASS requires the exclusive use of single action revolvers and is a vast source of information. You will most likely find all you need to know there.

January 21, 2013, 07:43 PM
One statement of caution ... They are addictive! :)

I can second the Uberti made single actions as well as a few other well done Italian Colt copies. I loved the looks of the Ruger Vaqueros but opted for the more tradition Colt styled Uberti.

Here's one with Birdshead and one like the SAA:

Crunchy Frog
January 21, 2013, 08:54 PM
Single action revolvers are lots of fun. There are a couple of birdshead gripped center fire SA revolvers on the market; besides the Ruger and the Uberti mentioned above there is the Beretta Stampede (made by Uberti) and a couple of the Pietta revolvers are so equipped.

The birdshead Ruger is a distributor exclusive and it a little hard to find; it's available in .45 ACP as well as .45 Colt.

One factor in favor of the Ruger and the Beretta is the transfer bar ignition that makes it safe to carry the gun fully loaded. The Uberti and Pietta revolvers are copies of the Colt Single Action Army revolver and should be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer.

January 21, 2013, 09:09 PM
I've shot the bird's head style and found that it's fine and actually feels pretty nice even with my larger hands. But I would not want to shoot them with stronger ammo in the gun.

The choice between adjustable and fixed sights is related to what sort of ammo you will wish to shoot thru the gun. If you are content to load up and shoot one ammo recipe or maybe two complementary recipes that produce the same POI for the sights then you would be happy with the fixed sight model with the front trimmed to match the ammo.

On the other hand if you are sure you'll want to play with a variety of loads then a Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk is the way to go as you can adjust to match the POI for any ammo you can load up.

The downside to the adjustables is that the guns no longer have the nice sleek top line as found on the fixed sight options.

January 21, 2013, 10:04 PM
Sorry for your loss.
I use a .357 Vaquero for a house gun. Loaded with Horniday .38 Special Custom ammo with the XTP bullet it should keep overpenetration to a minimum and still keep a high shock value to the load.
Those of us who use S/A's have to always remember that we just get 6 chances andhave to make them count! Pratice and familiarity is paramount when choosing a S/A. There is no spray and pray with one.
I chose the 4 5/8" bbl for quick handling and got mine in stainless just cause I liked the shine.
I chose the 357 for it's versitility. .38 SPecial for house defense and playing. 357Magnums for outdoors and self protection where overpenetration isn't aworry.
Due to the weight of the Vaquero, recoil is NOT an issue even with hot loads and that's a big bonus! I stoll wanna try those Bear loads to see if a 180 gr will roll the revolver in my grip? So far none of the 357 loads I have tried causes this reaction. Follow-up shots are smooth when using a CAS style 2 hand hold and recocking is a breeze!
I am trying to learn the two cartrige reload as per Gunsite teachings. It's hard to learn but practice I hope will cure that.
I use one other little trick for home defense and that's a New York reload of a Model 36 Chief backing up my Vaquero. It's way faster than trying to stuff 6 cartriges in quickly.
Somethings to consider for we S/A shooters...

January 21, 2013, 10:06 PM
I'll agree with the other posts , they are addictive. I am in the hunt also for a .45. The rugers are built well and you won't go wrong with one. I'm kinda fond of the 3 screws, but for hunting they are a bit noisy when cocking. A 45 bisley is on the list next. I have a single six, a .41 and a .357. The .357 is a tack driver.

January 21, 2013, 10:40 PM
Run over to revolver section for reading materiel and check out the classifieds for guns.

January 21, 2013, 10:49 PM
I have the Birdshead Uberti 3-1/2" in .45LC. The grip feels small in my glove size L-XL hands, which aren't that big. Recoil is manageable up thru a 255@1000 load which is the max I'd put thru any SAA copy. I also have a 5.5" Bisley Blackhawk which can handle stronger loads. The BH can also be carried with the hammer down on a chambered round safely because of the transfer bar.

I love 'em both and won't sell either one. Enjoy your search!

January 22, 2013, 03:31 AM
I have a Ruger Bisley Vaquero in .45 Colt and 2 New Vaqueros in 38/357.
I think my next SA revolver is going to be either a Birdshead or a 1871/1872 Open Top revolver.

Yes, they are very addictive alright!

chris in va
January 22, 2013, 03:59 AM
Thanks for the input so far, very interesting.

Maybe the birdshead grip is out. I have large hands and would probably need something bigger. Dad just mentioned the BH version rolls better in the hand but he never got to actually buy one.

From a balance standpoint is there a certain barrel length that works better? I also like the option of a 45acp cylinder for flexibility as I already reload and cast for it.

Guess I'll be the only one at the shop asking to see revolvers.:p

January 22, 2013, 06:24 AM
chris in va

Sorry for your loss. I'm not a fan of the birdshead grip either and I have relatively small hands. It just doesn't feel proportioned properly in the right places, like you're trying to maintain your grip on a baseball cut in half. As to barrel length I usually gravitate to the classic 4 5/8", though I do have a couple with the 5 1/2" barrel length and one 7 1/2" barrel Cavalry model.

January 22, 2013, 06:50 AM
If it is 45 ACP that would come in handy for you (due to your reloading for it)...
then I would suggest the Ruger Blackhawk convertible in 45LC/45ACP

they can be had for just under 500. NEW!

they do have adjustable rear sight and a tall front sight, so they do NOT look like traditional single actions from the "old west".

Keep us posted!
Sorry about your loss....

January 22, 2013, 07:24 AM
This would be my recommendation, it is an Uberti, 5 1/2" barrel, with 45 long Colt and 45 ACP cylinders.

The dual cylinders were fun for about a week. The sights are fixed so finding loads to hit to point of aim with both cartridges is a pain. I have left the ACP cylinder in place and worked up a load with the Lyman 454244 and adjusted my sights accordingly. It is still alot of fun.

January 22, 2013, 06:39 PM
Strawhat, nice gun. Now, about that watch. I can't believe you're going to include it in the picture and not tell us anything about it.

35 Whelen
January 23, 2013, 01:17 AM
I'd suggest handling lots of guns before making a decision. To me the Blackhawks are big, bulky, and heavy which I don't care for, but that's a personal thing. The Vaquero's I've shot and handled are much better, but I love the traditional single action design.

My Dad just bought a pair of Colt clones in .44 Special; a 4 3/4" standard and a 5 1/2" birdshead. I'm not crazy about the birdsheas grip, but to each his own.

By the way, if you do get a Uberti in .45 Colt, you can get a 45 ACP cylinder for it from VTI GUn Parts ( for $110. One of my CAS revolvers came to me as a 44-40 so I just ordered a 44 Special cylinder from them and with a minimal amount of fitting, I was set!


January 23, 2013, 10:27 AM
Strawhat, nice gun. Now, about that watch. I can't believe you're going to include it in the picture and not tell us anything about it.

That was built by the National Watch Company in 1871. It is key wound and key set. A 7 jewel, it used to keep okay time but recently started acting up. The full plate movement is marked "J.T. Reyerson", the serial number and "Elgin, Ill". It has been my everyday watch for about 12 years.

If you have any questions let em know. I also have another watch, marked "Elgin National Watch Co.", 7 jewel, that left the factory around 1886 or 1887.

January 23, 2013, 01:22 PM
Chris, --- sorry for your loss...but I think a gun in a style that your dad liked is a neat idea....

but with big hands....I don't think you're going to like the way the birdshead gun grip feels in your hands. I also don't think you're going to like the "shortness" of the grips on the Colts, Rugers, etc...

because of all of those issues, I went to a Freedom Arms large frame ( 5 shot revolver ) the model 83's just fit my hands better....and they make guns in .357 mag, .44 mag, .45 colt, .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh, .500 Wyoming express....

This is the one I had made last spring - 4 3/4" Octagonal barrel, .357 mag, full action job and trigger specd to 3.75 lbs with an overtravel screw...its been a great gun !

same gun - along side a S&W Model 27-2 4" Nickel ( .357 mag ) and a Henry Big Boy rifle in .357 mag..

My personal opinion on barrel length stay with 4 3/4" if you want to carry it, or go in and out of a holster with it for practice ...a barrel around 6" is a nice Range gun ...woods gun.../ there is a spec sheet on Freedom Arms revolvers on their the bottom of the main page.
Freedom Arms is more money ....but long after the money is spent / I think you'll love it every time you pick it up / mostly because it'll fit your hand better.... !

January 23, 2013, 01:47 PM
I'd suggest handling lots of guns before making a decision.
Agreed! I'd suggest doing a bunch of reading and a bunch of handling before buying. You have a lot of options are they are as varied as the shooters that love them.

I have mixed feelings about the birdshead design. I love a gentle roundbutting and while I think that birdshead grips look good on a short barreled sixgun, I don't find them to be very comfortable for shooting.

January 23, 2013, 01:54 PM
Craig is right ....about handling ...and ideally shooting a variety of these guns before you make your decision !

There is a huge variety in how the grips feel in a showroom vs on the range as you fire 4 or 5 rounds...

red rick
January 23, 2013, 09:03 PM
I waited all last year for a new Colt SAA to hit the dealers. I got tired of wanting and ordered a Taylors Smokewagon DE .45 ( Uberti ) yesterday. It should be here early next week.

The Ruger Vaquero is stronger but I wanted old school and the Colt 4 clicks so thats why I got the Uberti. If I was going to shoot hot loads or cowboy action I would get the Vaquero.

January 24, 2013, 07:38 AM
The Blackhawks and old model Vaquero's were built on a very large frame and cylinder to handle off the chart handloads. While they make good hunting guns for the guy who wants the srongest gun they can buy, they never really felt or looked "right" to me.

The new model Vaquero's have been scaled down in size and they look, feel and balance much closer to the traditional Colt SAA's. For normal loads one of those would be my preference.

January 24, 2013, 10:54 AM
Rugers have never been "built to take off the chart handloads" as Ruger has never condoned the use of handloads in their guns. To reduce production costs, Ruger eliminated the medium frame .357 Blackhawk from the lineup and with New Model introduction in 1973, started building all their centerfires on the large Super Blackhawk frame. The Vaquero in 1993 was just another variation on the same theme. Apparently enough folks complained that the Vaquero was too big and clumsy for cowboy actionshooting and other purposes that Ruger caved and designed the New Vaquero, reviving the old medium frame of 1955-1973 .357 Blackhawks and a new steel XR3 grip frame of the 1955-1962 flat-tops.

IMHO, Ruger really should've named the New Vaquero something else to avoid confusion, as shooters seem to have this need to add extraneous descriptors where none are needed. The proper names for these guns are Vaquero and New Vaquero. "Old Model" is Ruger's official designation for those single actions produced before 1973 with three screws in the frame and a half cock action. Those produced thereafter are officially known as "New Model" and it is stamped so right on the frame. Therefore, both the Vaquero and New Vaquero are "New Model" single actions utilize the "New Model" transfer bar action so the term "Old Model" is not really applicable and creates more confusion than it avoids.

I waited all last year for a new Colt SAA to hit the dealers.
Did you keep an eye on Gunbroker? Colt doesn't seem to be producing many SAA's and I wouldn't wait for a dealer to get one if that's what I wanted. Technically, I'd prefer a USFA but that's another matter.

January 24, 2013, 01:05 PM
I have a .357 Vaquero Sheriff's Model (3-3/4" barrel) built on the larger .44/.45 frame, and a 50th year .357 Blackhawk on the smaller frame. (Can never remember what which frame is called). I like the Vaquero better, just because of the grip size.

January 24, 2013, 03:26 PM
I have a super blackhawk and a blackhawk convertible 357/9mm. I have great big mitts. I ended up putting the original stocks back on both of them. I had a thing for the houge mongrips for a while but they get nasty kind of quick and I actually shoot both guns better with the old plow handles.

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