Brainwashed by the Movies


July 8, 2014, 01:02 PM
I like many others are brainwashed into loving the looks of a 4 5/8" BL on a S/a Old Western styled revolver!
I blame the Movies because most old Colts had the long barrels for making power and having a good sight radius. The movies and "Fast Draws" made us think the other way.
Besides, the revolvers DO look good like that! Even Remingtons and the old BP C&B revolvers take on a new life with short barrels!

I bought my Stainless Vaquero in 4 5/8" because I wanted the smaller, easier to hide/Holster revolver. It handles GREAT too! If I bought a .45 Vaquero, it'd be a 7 1/2" just for nostalgias sake plus sights and max power.
The Colt and S&W DA revolvers in4" were common on Police belts nd to most buyers so naturally we went for the shorter S/A, it was a "familiar"...
Good or bad thing, it's a fact and I am pretty sure things won't change so ammo makers need to make ammo around this barrel length for preformance's sake.
We got influenced pretty easily but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing as a great many shooters choose one!
Kinda like that "Gangster" pointing a gun sideways, How DUMB!

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July 8, 2014, 02:47 PM

I don't know for sure but the western movies and TV series of my misspent youth notwithstanding, I just have always liked the looks of the 4 5/8" barrel on a SAA. To me it makes the whole gun appear well balanced and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Which is strange in relation to my collection of single action revolvers in that most of my more traditional single actions (Ruger Vaquero, Ruger Single Six, and Beretta Stampede) sport 5 1/2" barrels, while my less traditional single actions (Ruger Blackhawks), have my preferred 4 5/8" set-up.

I think to me it's all great and I enjoy all of my single action revolvers no matter what their barrel length is.

Driftwood Johnson
July 8, 2014, 09:08 PM

The most popular barrel length for the SAA by sales was the 5 1/2" barrel. That is what I see most often in the old Westerns. Frankly, I think a 5 1/2" barrel looks boring. I do have a soft spot for the 4 3/4" length though (Ruger makes it 4 5/8). This 2nd Gen was made in 1968.

This Bisley was made in 1906 or 1909, I forget exactly when right now.

Lucky Derby
July 9, 2014, 03:26 AM
Those are some nice Colts Driftwood.

July 9, 2014, 06:08 AM
WOW! I have an exact twin to your Bisley-same barrel length, same 'finish', etc. Mine is lettered and shipped in 1907-caliber 32-20.

July 9, 2014, 12:28 PM
Not really an area where I'm knowledgeable, but it is my understanding that the Army wanted the longer 7 1/2 barrel for cavalry use. It was intended as their primary weapon and the longer barrel was fine on horseback. They used it at some pretty long ranges as I understand and why they wanted the long barrel.

The shorter barrels seems more popular with civilian use.

If I'm wrong wouldn't mind someone correcting me.

July 9, 2014, 02:29 PM
Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke preferred the 7 1/2" barrel! :D

Arkansas Paul
July 9, 2014, 03:00 PM
Frankly, I think a 5 1/2" barrel looks boring.

I agree. I like the 4 3/4" myself. There's just something about the barrel that ends at the ejector rod housing that looks perfect to me.

And seriously, what does 3/4" extra really do in real world terms?

Ed Ames
July 9, 2014, 03:57 PM
I can't blame tv or movies since I was born after most of that went off the air/died as a movie genre. But I do generally like the shorter barrels on single actions.

I actually have a nuanced preference. I think the shorter the distance between trigger and top, the longer the barrel should be to look good.

In other words, a gun with no top strap (e.g. 1860 c&b), or with a compact frame (many of the American top breaks), looks great with a longer barrel but seeme odd when shortened. A taller gun (1873, blackhawk, etc) looks unbalanced and odd with the long barrel, but looks great with 3-?/? to 4-?/? barrel.

People are strange...

July 9, 2014, 04:02 PM
More firearms are sold because a guy saw it in a movie than you can shake a stick at. I have an M1 Rifle and Carbine because of 'Combat'. And desperately need a pair of consecutively numbered Vaqueros because of Roy Rogers. Saw 'em at a Canadian shop last year. $2500 Cdn. Need both kidneys. snicker.
It's not brainwashing. It's training.
"...intended as their primary weapon..." No cavalryman would ever consider a revolver as his primary weapon. That'd be his sabre. Geez.
"...This Bisley was..." Made for target shooting. That was the idea behind 'em.

July 9, 2014, 04:04 PM
I preferred 5 1/2", and when given a choice, that is what I bought. (

July 9, 2014, 07:35 PM
The SAA, with a 5.5" barrel was referred to as the "Artillery Model". It was usually issued to infantry and artillery members who needed side arms.

dogtown tom
July 9, 2014, 09:52 PM
Sunray .... I have an M1 Rifle and Carbine because of 'Combat'. ...
The only machine gun I've ever really wanted was the Thompson that Vic
Morrow carried.

July 10, 2014, 12:00 AM
Many of us are likely swayed by things we've seen and liked. I tend to gravitate towards easy to carry. I've had various longer barreled SA revolvers, but they've ended up being traded off or cut down to 4 5/8". I had a 5 1/2" cut also, as I had plenty of good leather for that size, and none for 5 1/2" guns. The 4 5/8" guns are about perfect for all day carry and not getting in the way, or pushing up on chairs or vehicle seats or the ground when sitting. Same with 4" DA guns. The longer ones are a little nicer for shooting, but for carry, the shorter ones mentioned are my favorites.

July 10, 2014, 12:50 AM
I like cowboy movies and even if they are historically incorrect, I think the firearms in them are pretty neat. The real cowboys and outlaws and lawmen would have loved to own and use the guns we see on TV.

Driftwood Johnson
July 10, 2014, 09:05 PM
Howdy Again

The original barrel length of the Colt SAA was 7 1/2". We can talk about sight radius and long range shooting and all that, but personally I have always felt that the long barrel was a holdover from percussion days. With a C&B revolver you needed a loading lever long enough to get enough leverage to shove a ball into the chambers. You needed enough leverage to deform the ball as it went into the chamber mouth. Most large frame C&B revolvers had barrels 7 or 8 inches long just so a reasonably long loading lever could be housed underneath. When cartridge revolvers came along, it was natural to make them with long barrels too, since that is what Colt and Remington were used to making. My take on it anyway.

The original 7 1/2" Colts had gotten pretty worn by the 1890s, so most were sent back to Colt or Army armorers to be refreshed. Many of the barrels were cut down to 5 1/2" at that time. That is the origin of the 5 1/2" barrel. Many were issued to artillery units, hence the name Artillery Model. This is a collector's term only, there never was an Artillery Model listed in the Colt catalog.

I agree. I like the 4 3/4" myself. There's just something about the barrel that ends at the ejector rod housing that looks perfect to me.

And seriously, what does 3/4" extra really do in real world terms?

The 4 3/4" barrel was the shortest standard length barrel with Colt because that is the length of the ejector housing. The ejector housing and its associated parts were the same with all three standard barrel lengths; 7 1/2", 5 1/2", 4 3/4". A shorter barrel than 4 3/4" would require a different ejector rod assembly. Notice that the really short Storekeeper's Models usually do not have an ejector.

July 10, 2014, 09:21 PM
Thys why I always liked Clint Eastwood movies, more realism with firearms.

July 11, 2014, 10:59 AM
"And seriously, what does 3/4" extra really do in real world terms? "

Shooting looking OVER the sights and gun the extra 3/4 inch seems to give a better sense of just where the barrel is pointing. And sight radius...more, muzzle rise...less.

July 11, 2014, 10:20 PM
"Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke preferred the 7 1/2" barrel!"--jimbo555
At 6'7" he could make it work! ;)

July 11, 2014, 10:27 PM
I don't know about y'all, but we didn't watch "Gunsmoke"...we watched "Marshall Dillon" when I was a kid! :)

July 12, 2014, 04:09 AM
Paladin also carried a colt with a 7 1/2" barrel.

July 12, 2014, 11:31 PM
I remember spending the night at my grandparents house in the late '50's and watching "Have Gun Will Travel at 8:30, then Marshall Dillon at 9. Grandma did not like Paladin pointing his revolver at us! LOL

July 12, 2014, 11:57 PM
One of my dad's iron-clad rules was that WE WATCHED WESTERNS!!

July 13, 2014, 03:08 AM (

July 13, 2014, 08:26 PM
Movies? TV?
Well maybe.
I think I was more brainwashed by my Fanner 50's.

July 14, 2014, 12:06 AM
Yeap. Had my Fanner 50. Also had the Paladin set with the derringer in the belt buckle. Get this. At the elementary school which I attended in those days, we could bring one toy with us when we got back to school after the Christmas holiday. Guess what all the guys brought? Just about every one of them wearing their Fanner 50's or Paladin set. Imagine that happening today.

July 14, 2014, 02:00 PM
I bought a new vaquero in .357 mag this year. I always prefered the look of the 4 5/8", but when I held and pointed that and the 5 1/2", I ended up taking the 5 1/2" one home with me. Funny, because if I had not handeled both at the same time, Im sure Id have bought the 4 1/2"

July 14, 2014, 10:19 PM
I prefer the look of the 5.5", though I also have a 4.62 and 4.75"

July 15, 2014, 10:44 PM
No doubt the 4 1/2 is handier and easier to carry but I prefer the looks of the 5 1/2 inch SAA.

July 16, 2014, 01:48 AM
Some really nice Pix there!' Personally, I've always been drawn to shorter barrels just because I like the look of a shorter rvolver. Heck I even lke the "Storekeepers" versions though they were likely very hard to hit with as most Snubbies are today.
I have read of the barrels being worn out on the Military .45's and I wonder how soft the barrel steel was? Evidentlly complete rebuilds were cost effective for the military.
I'm sure the aversge Cowboy shot his revolver a lot less than did the average Calverymen did. Both in battle and during prtice, they used them a lot.
I am sure todays barrel steel is much better. and will last longer.
A good point of the shorter Leather neded ws brought up! I have cut a couple holsters down to fit shorter guns and it's no easy proposition! You must first roughthe cut out then do the final shapeing to make it look correct. I have come up with arounded cut, on a slight angle that seems to look pretty good for a Kitvhen Table job! You don't want the end of the barrel exposed nor do you want the leather to "fold" closed on an open holster bottom.
I got lucky the first cut nd found the right length by dumb luck.
Holster alteration is an real art believe me!

July 16, 2014, 09:32 AM
James Garner in the "Support your Local....." twin set of movies carries a 5.5" SAA and operates it quite effectively.
not today's trigger control, but hey.

Walter Brennan (sic) also had a 5.5"

July 16, 2014, 09:41 AM
I'd think it safe to say, folks like Walter Brennan had is own SAAs for the movies.. and YES, holding the hammer with the web of your hand would make it impossible to fire, but I think Walter KNEW that, knew what position he and James Garner was in and was making dam sure even his empty gun was as safe as possible.

Jim Watson
July 16, 2014, 10:11 AM
When I tooled up for CAS, I traded an obscure automatic for a 7.5" .44 Special. That did well, but I wanted the cool civilian/gunfighter look, so I had a 4.75" put on, along with a .44 WCF cylinder so I could shoot the same ammo as my rifle. I shot that for about one season and then had the 7.5" put back on so I could HIT stuff. The longer sight radius really does make a difference. For me, at least.
When SASS went from three to four guns, I added a 7.5" .44 WCF clone.

If I were to resume CAS, I would probably shoot 5.5" .38 Specials. I already know the 4.75" sight radius is short and a smallbore 7.5" is so darned heavy.

July 16, 2014, 12:25 PM
Thys why I always liked Clint Eastwood movies, more realism with firearms.
Yes! Most other westerns would have Josey toting around a brace Colt SAA's or Remington 1875s even though the story takes place directly after the Civil War! I always dig it when I see percussion revolvers in movies during the Civil War or shortly before/after before cartridge guns were common.

May 25, 2015, 12:20 AM
Great thread, guys! I was 15 years old when Arvo Ojala launched the quick draw craze that would last at least ten years and spawn the reactive and starkly real competitive combat shooting science. My buddy and I used to hang out at our local gunsmith shop for an occasional drooling session over an original single action or c&b colt that might show up in his display case. On one magic afternoon during our summer break, Arvo showed up to collect a pair of single action Colts that Fred had timed. In a brilliant act of compassion for a pair of almost-comatose teenagers he offered to test Fred's work right on the spot and loaded up one of the shiny 4 3/4" Colts with a handful of 4-in-1 blanks. He extended his gunhand per the quick draw protocol and my buddy called it. The roar that came out of that Colt in the small enclosed shop was stunning. He turned to me and asked how many shots. I knew the report was, 'long', so I smiled and said, "Two". He grinned and knocked three empties out; then he thanked Fred and left. I always thought that my eyes were so big that he was too embarrassed to hang around. Yeah; movies count. From that day I have been in love with 4 3/4" SAs. Nowadays, though, my eyesight at 75 is only good for twenty five yard shooting with a pistol and a longer sight radius is useless. The shorter barrel fits my philosphy pretty well; if you can't knock it on its can at 50 yards, get a rifle.

May 25, 2015, 12:49 AM
I prefer the looks of a 3 screw SBH.

Jim K
May 26, 2015, 12:57 AM
FWIW, I agree with Driftwood that the long barrel was a carryover from the percussion era. The right side loading gate was, too, just replacing the capping cutout with a gate. The Army (for unknown reasons) wanted a .45 revolver, while Colt naturally wanted to change their tooling as little as possible. One result was the small rim of the .45 Colt, to keep the new cylinder as close as possible in diameter to the 1860 Army .44 caliber cylinder. The small .45 rim kept the cartridge from working well in rifles, and few were made in that caliber until recent years.


Jim NE
May 26, 2015, 02:15 PM
Movies? TV?
Well maybe.
I think I was more brainwashed by my Fanner 50's.
Wow...they even had a "Planet of the Apes" version! (??? :) :) )

May 26, 2015, 03:15 PM
pendennis said:

The SAA, with a 5.5" barrel was referred to as the "Artillery Model". It was usually issued to infantry and artillery members who needed side arms.

The Army did not purchase 5 1/2" barreled Single Action Colts. Original 7 1/2" barreled guns were returned to Colt for refurbishing and while in the process, their barrels were cut to 5 1/2" length.

All origninal Colts were issued with 7 1/2" barrels. The terms "Cavary" and "Artillery" models are of recent adoption by collectors.

As to their primary weapon, the basic weapon of the cavalry was the carbine.

Bob Wright

Jim K
May 26, 2015, 04:16 PM
Most cavalry tacticians taught that the primary weapon of the cavalry in the U.S. was the saber. The U.S. never took to the lance, and the carbine was used when the cavalry dismounted and fought on foot. The saber was used in the right hand, the revolver ("pistol") in the left. The trooper controlled his horse with his knees and boot heels.

While there were some notable opponents of the saber in the Civil War, it was considered the primary weapon for cavalry throughout the era of the horse. As a practical matter, it really was effective at short range and, as one old timer put it, "a saber don't run dry."


the Black Spot
May 26, 2015, 10:00 PM
5.5" and 7.5" for me. I carry a .44 special blackhawk 5.5" all the time.

May 26, 2015, 10:34 PM
I read one time was Bat Masterson. That ordered the 1st 4 3/4 barrel for himself . Then others followed .
My self I would just like to own a old Colt SA no matter the barrel length. I under stand back in the early 1950's My Grandmother(motherside) sold my then deceased
Grand father Colt SA to a guy for 5 bucks. I do remember my father was madder than He## even if I was just a kid. He was really upset. .

May 28, 2015, 03:09 AM
I think both have their place. I have two GP100s One in 4.x" and one at 6". Really enjoy them both. Wouldn't give up either one.

May 28, 2015, 07:33 AM
From a visual and aesthetics standpoint, I prefer the 5 " barrel on SAA style revolvers. However, when I had a Blackhawk, it had the 4 ⅝" barrel. The large front sight on it needed the extra mass of the ejector under the barrel to balance it visually.

I love everything about my Colt SAA with it's 5 " barrel.

May 28, 2015, 11:59 AM
ACK! It lives! Zombie thread!

Any way sorry guys the Carbine WAS the main weapon of horse troopers. Union use of the same made a huge difference in the out come of the civil war.

During the period between the War Between the States and the Spanish American War accuracy to 600 meters with the carbine was expected for Army wide competitions. Might be interesting to do that with the M4 today on those huge Army targets of the 1880's.

Unlike the movies and TV most US Cavalry battles of the time WERE dismounted, or ended up so, and the Carbine was used extensively. Unfortunately when the Spencer was removed from service and replaced with a single shot many commanders figured what the heck. The guy that had the highest carbine ammo expenditures in the US Army just before the trap door was forced on the horse soldiers and who had demonstrated the effectiveness of carbines in the later half of the ACW did not bother with training for the single shot......he paid for that at a place the winners called Greasy Grass and the Army paid attention and adopted new training standards.

Certainly much training continued to be done with mounted use of the revolver and with the Sabre. But the battle winner was the carbine. To use the handgun or sabre in battle, one had to expose valuable horses to death and maiming for gosh sakes!


May 28, 2015, 01:19 PM
I have one of these cap guns currently.

When I was a kid I had a Fanner 50. I also had the Belt Buckle Derringer the when mounted on the belt if you tensed your muscles it popped the gun out and fired.

May 28, 2015, 02:35 PM
Arkansas Paul asked "And seriously, what does 3/4" extra really do in real world terms?"

Here are velocity readings I took on a 4 3/4in and a 5 1/2in SAA replicas.

The load is 40 grns of FFFG (3F) Olde Eynsford under a 250grn PRS Big Lube bullet. All loads fired 10 feet from chrono.

4 3/4 Bbl Pietta:

1. 925
2. 903
3. 927
4. 923
Average 922.4

Cimarron 5 1/2 Bbl :

1. 1004
2. 967
3. 1048
4. 1070
5. 1047
Average 1027.2

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