45 Colt, Blackhawk or SAA?


Nov 10, 2010
Please help me choose... I used to own a Pietta .45 Colt SAA clone and still have the RCBS 45-270-SAA mold, reloading dies and a bunch of cases, so I'd like to get another 45. I also have an 1897 SAA in .38-40 so I'm very familiar with the Colt's ergonomics, which I love.
Is the size of the Blackhawk noticeably bigger than the SAA, and is it potentially something that would bug me? I mean, has it been a problem for anyone? Or is it something hardly noticeable? What about the weight?
I would welcome the option of using heavier loads in the Ruger, but it isn't a requirement. Here in France the Blackhawk goes for around $1400 new... A Pietta, around $500-550. Now I'd take a Freedom Arms 97 over both but I can't imagine the cost here, if it's even possible to get one. FA never replied to my inquiry about dealers.
My Pietta I had a decade back had a locking problem that caused off-center primer strikes so I got rid of it. Are today's Piettas better? I imagine I just got a lemon... I have a Pietta 1858 with perfect timing and rock-solid lock-up, so...
Thanks :)
I don't find any really noticeable difference in size between the two, as far as carrying and shooting. Yes, the scale and caliper can tell, but unless you're pretty sensitive I don't think it would bother you.

To me, the issues are power and appearance. Obviously you are the only one who can decide on appearance. As for power, I personally am finding less and less use for it. My hunting days are over, I think, and while it occasionally is fun to go knock myself around with recoil, I generally don't enjoy it like I did a few decades ago. These days when I pick up something chambered for .45 Colt, it almost always is an SAA.

I don't really know anything about Pietta's cartridge guns, though.
I have both a Blackhawk and a Uberti SAA in 357. The Blackhawk is definitely heavier.
I have several Uberti 45s and find that to ME, the SAA clones balance much better and feel more natural in the hand. But that's just me.
The sights are better on the Blackhawk, without a doubt.
You probably won't be disappointed either way, but with a cost difference like you described, I'd go with the SAA clone.
I don’t like the high front sight on the Blackhawk for just plinking . If I were getting one to use for hunting it would be my choice , other than that the Pietta or Vaquero .
I own two SAA's and two Blackhawks.

The Blackhawk is a little bigger. It has a transfer bar safety. You just open the loading gate to load and unload. The sights are MUCH bigger.

The SAA is a little smaller. An authentic one won't have any kind of safety system. You put it on half cock to load and unload through the loading gate. The sights are small notches.

The SAA is more historic and I like its balance with a short barrel. I got one recently in 9mm to practice shooting inexpensive ammo through a revolver with a medium frame and small sights.

The Blackhawks are slightly easier to load and unload. Their big sights make accurate shooting much easier.

They're both good. It's more that they're different, rather than one being better and one being worse.

I have an older 3 screw Blackhawk in .357, an older Vaquero in .45 Colt, along with a Beretta Stampede (actually made by Uberti), also in .45 Colt. Between the three the Blackhawk has the smoothest action and the best trigger, (probably because it's the oldest of the single actions), followed by a tie for Second Place with the Vaquero and Stampede. All of them are well built , nicely finished, and accurate, with a bit of an edge to the Vaquero in the accuracy department.

In regards to Pietta quality I have three of their black powder revolvers (Remington New Model Army and New Model Navy, along with a Colt Model 1860. The Colt has the best grip frame and the slickest single action as well as the best feel to it in terms of handling and balance ( at least to me)! Again all three revolvers are quality builds with no problems and have first rate fit and finish. YzBLssa.jpg
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See if you can get a current production Flattop, if you want the adjustable sights but the dimensions closer to the SAA. The current Flattop and New Vaquero are supposed to be built on the original size Blackhawk frame, which is close to the original SAA dimensions.

Rugers tend to go for more than the SAA copies in the U.S. as well, but not 3x more. Geez.

With that big a disparity in cost, and if the gun is primarily for punching cardboard, it kind of makes sense to go with the SAA copy. If it’s to hunt with, the adjustable sights and durability of the Ruger do make a lot of sense.
After reading the chapter on single actions in Patrick Sweeney's book Ruger Pistols and Revolvers, I've a better understanding of why Ruger made changes to ruggedize the Colt-styled single action for heavy use. Kuhnhausen's Ruger Single Action Revolvers shop manual is also enlightening. I tend to lean toward their Vacquero models if you prefer traditional styling.

I have two older Pietta Remington reproductions, both of which are usually run with cartridge conversion cylinders. Given this small sample size, they've been good guns -- the big boy shoots very tight groups considering that the conversion cylinder was a drop-in component manufactured years later on a different continent!

RugerSAs.jpg PiettaRemingtons.jpg
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Thanks guys, very informative and great photos. The New Vaquero here is even more expensive than the Blackhawk, around $1700, ridiculous... Bannockburn, yes, I have a Tissot ;-) I guess it will come down to budget when the time comes. I have just submitted my application for the authorisation to buy and should get back the paperwork in around eight months... Imagine that... And I can buy a suppressor without any paperwork, go figure... The authorisation much be renewed every five years, so you never really own your firearm...
Tallball, what is that SAA you found in 9mm? I heard Pietta released one this year but haven't seen one for sale.
Now the long wait starts... So don't hesitate to add to this thread...
Thanks :)

An excellent question.

Picture that is worth a thousand words department:

In this photo we are looking at the rear of three cylinders. An Uberti Cattleman on the left, a Ruger 'original model' Vaquero in the center, and a 2nd Gen Colt Single Action Army on the right. The 'original model' Vaquero was the exact same size as a Blackhawk.

All three cylinders are chambered for 45 Colt. Notice there is more steel between the chambers at their narrowest points with the Ruger cylinder than there is with either the Uberti replica or the Colt. I don't have the numbers handy right now, I seem to recall there was somewhere around .060" between chambers with the Ruger, more like .040 between chambers on the other two. That right there is why you can shoot hotter loads in the Ruger than in either the Uberti or the Colt, simply because there is more steel between the chambers. Also the Ruger design is slightly different, offsetting the bolt locking notch away from the centerline of the chambers, meaning there is more steel between bottom of the locking notch with the Ruger. Ruger specifically moved the notch for this reason. If you look very, very carefully, the Ruger cylinder is also slightly larger in diameter than the other two. Again, sorry I do not have the numbers handy, but the Ruger cylinder is slightly larger. That means the frame of the Ruger has to be slightly larger in order to house the larger diameter cylinder.


The fly in the ointment is that standard Rugers have aluminum grip frames, which are lighter in weight than the steel grip frame of a Colt or most replicas. When I have a chance I will weigh both a Blackhawk and a Colt to see if there is a significant difference in weight.

Other than that, it is up to you. Do you want adjustable sights? Then buy a Ruger. If you don't need adjustable sights, buy the less expensive clone.
Sixgunner455, unfortunately you can't hunt with a handgun in France. It can only leave your house to go to an official range, and you better not stop to get a burger on the way there...
Dave, I have Kuhnhausen's shop manual, which I used to do my SAA timing, great book.
Driftwood thanks, that photo explains a lot!
The standard Blackhawk .45 is larger than a Colt but I think the aluminum grip frame and big holes in barrel and cylinder make for a well balanced revolver.
Stainless guns, current Flattops, and New Vaqueros have steel grip frames that make them feel heavy in my hand.
A smaller caliber single action is heavy, especially with a 7.5" barrel, but a 9mm revolver at least lets you use the cheapest centerfire ammunition.
Picture that is worth a thousand words department:

In this photo we are looking at the rear of three cylinders. An Uberti Cattleman on the left, a Ruger 'original model' Vaquero in the center, and a 2nd Gen Colt Single Action Army on the right. The 'original model' Vaquero was the exact same size as a Blackhawk.


I am saving this picture as an important reference. Thank you Sir for it!
Please help me choose... I used to own a Pietta .45 Colt SAA clone and still have the RCBS 45-270-SAA mold, reloading dies and a bunch of cases, so I'd like to get another 45.
In that case, see this very informative article, includes also info about RCBS 45-270-SAA bullet, from Glen E. Fryxell:

A New Source for Hollow Point Bullet Moulds http://www.lasc.us/FryxellMpMolds.htm

The mold from MP-Molds mentioned in the article is MP 45-270SAA, https://www.mp-molds.com/bullet-casting-equipment/?pa_caliber=454

Here are excellent articles written by famous gunsmith John Linebaugh (RIP John!):

The .45 Colt - Dissolving the Myth, Discovering the Potential by John Linebaugh, https://www.johnlinebaughcustomsixguns.com/writings .

This article is a must for anybody loading 45 Colt on higher level than SAAMI spec.

Gunnotes...Smith & Wesson Mod 25-5, https://web.archive.org/web/20180525063939/http://www.handloads.com/articles/default.asp?id=12

Although, John is discussing loads for S&W Model 25 in 45 Colt, there is lot of usefully info in this article.

In addition, there are more articles here https://web.archive.org/web/20180426030426/http://handloads.com/articles/default.asp , including those about .45 Colt.

IMHO, you cannot go wrong with .45 Colt in Ruger NM Blackhawk, Bisley or Vaquero with fixed sights. Here is why:

1. Ruger NM Blackhawk, Bisley and Vaquero (large frame) are STRONG revolvers. They will take indefinitely loads that will wreck Colt 1873, its clones, or any top break.
2. For moderate loads, Ruger makes bit lighter revolvers, Flattop and New Vaquero.
3. All those revolvers with adjustable sights are available as a Combo, with second cylinder for 45 ACP. In it, you can shoot also 45 Cowboy Special https://www.starlinebrass.com/45-cowboy-special . This is in essence 45 AR case with thinner rim like on .45 Colt.
4. All Ruger SA revolvers have a safety transfer bar, so all chambers in cylinder could be loaded. (CAUTION: Old Ruger 3 screw models do not have safety transfer bar and must be loaded with 5 rounds, like Colt clones).
5. Ruger Customer Service is second to none. If they cannot fix revolver (usually free of charge), they will replace it.

Good luck in finding right revolver!
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S&W 25-5
...But that's just me. At a MSRP around $1150 at the moment and a good used 6" around $800+, why not?
The one and only S&W trigger and phenomenal accuracy.
Don't get me wrong, I own SAA's.....

Best to have both, I agree, but right now he's looking at SA. The S&W would be a great addition, though.

My thoughts are, if you want a great target revolver and don't care to run hot loads, get the SAA, either in a bona fide Colt ($$$$$$$$), or one of the Italian clones (Uberti or Pietta), and my own money went with Uberti. I bought a Model 1873 Cattleman SAA last week and have already put over 50 rounds through it, with many more to come. I gave $650USD for mine, not sure what that would equate to in Euros or Francs, but less than half what a Colt would cost and there is practically no difference between them, because Uberti used Colt drawings to make their gun.

One notable difference that isn't visible is Uberti's new safety; it consists of a floating hammer nose (looks just like the traditional Colt pin), and a rod that goes up the middle of the hammer, unseen. An extra tab on the trigger pushes the rod up when there is pressure on the trigger, and holds the firing pin forward so it will punch the primer when firing the gun. If there is no finger pressure on the trigger, the internal rod drops and allows the firing pin to float. If the hammer falls in this condition, it will not hit the primer.

I think it's a pretty ingenious design that maintains the original look of the SAA's mechanism, but looking at a few youtube videos that owners of these guns have reported failures to fire, makes me wonder about its ultimate reliability. There are ways to defeat this safety, the best one seems to be removing the hammer nose and dropping an appropriately sized ball bearing behind it and then replacing it. The bearing holds the hammer nose out at all times, returning the function to that of the or. You will only get "3 clicks" when cocking the Uberti with this system, the first one disappears. You still place it in the half-cock to load or unload it. Another remedy I've read about is to order an older style hammer through one of the US distributors, (Taylors). They market their version of the Uberti revolver the same way Cimarron does, and replacing the hammer returns it to a "4 click" function. You might also have to replace the trigger as well, but one owner whose video I watched simply cut the extra tab off his trigger.

I'll leave mine as-is unless I start seeing the issue others have mentioned. Heck, I'm thinking of buying a second one and doing some Cowboy Action shooting, I also have a Henry rifle in .45 Colt and a double shotgun.

.45 Colt revolvers.jpg
I have a couple of blackhawks, same number of super blackhawks, and three SAA clones Loading is easy with each and all the triggers are good. I don't need the additional strength of the Rugers but their adjustable sights make them my preferred choice.
gilgsn, I have both the Pietta and Uberti 1873 SAA's in .45 Colt. Both are well made, but, the Uberti seems to a have slightly larger frame and is easier to grip/hold for me.
If you decide on an Italian replica, I doubt you'd be disappointed. They are very good guns.
The main problem I have with the Ruger BH is the finish quality. It's terrible. The revolver is really bulky and crude. I will suggest you look at Colt, Uberti and Pietta. All three make a better product. Sure you need to follow the advice of loading manuals.
Many years ago I had a Uberti clone in .45 Colt, it was a very nice revolver that looked great and shot well. I also bought an old model .45 Colt Vaquero at the same time. I ultimately gave the Uberti to a friend who was moving to Idaho and I kept the Vaquero. It is hell-for-stout and has fired a lot of lower powered lead and magnum-level jacketed rounds over the nearly 30 years I have owned it.

No complaints other than the bright stainless can be tough to shoot with when it’s high noon on a sunny day.

Based on the cost discrepancy you face in France, if you are looking for a fun .45 Colt target gun I would go with a Uberti. :thumbup:

Stay safe.