Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Sky Dog, Dec 1, 2018.
I'm new to these pistols. I haven't decided on case hardened or nickel. Please enlighten me.
It's a matter of personal preference.
Your first decision point is whether to go with a Pietta or an Uberti (or other). Then there's the matter of barrel length, grips, etc.
A gun nickel plated overall, including sights like the SAA (not SSA) is hard to aim.
Get the blue/cc if you want a shooter.
If you REALLY want a shooter, get a Ruger Blackhawk with adjustable sights.
I disagree. I shot this pair of shiny Stainless Vaqueros for a number of years in Cowboy Action Shooting matches. What I think Jim is probably saying is that on a bright, sunny day, the sights can be hard to see because ot the glare. My solution was to keep a Sharpie in my gun cart and blacken the rear surface of the front sight so it would show up despite the glare.
Anyhoo, as Jim says, it is SAA (for Single Action Army) not SSA. A common mistake. Also, a lot of shooters call these replicas Single Action Armies, which they are not. That is a name trademarked by Colt. Reproduction, as you said, or replica of the SAA is a more accurate term.
Your choices in imports are pretty much restricted to those manufactured in Italy by either Uberti or Pietta. These are imported into the US by the major importers, such as Taylors and Cimarron, but those folks are importers and do not manufacture anything.
For a long time, Uberti clones of the SAA were of better quality than Pietta. PIetta seems to have increased their quality of late, and most seem to think they are just about equal.
However just last year Uberti changed the design of their SAA replicas. The firing pin on these revolvers, including the Colt, was always fixed in the hammer. It is a well known fact that it is not safe to carry one of these, or a Colt, fully loaded with six rounds in the cylinder. If the gun should happen to fall, and the hammer should strike the ground, the gun will probably discharge. Even with the hammer on the so called Safety Cock notch. Here is why. These are Colt parts, but the Uberti and Pietta parts are very similar. The upper arrow is pointing to the 'safety cock' notch. The lower arrow is pointing to the tip of the trigger, known as the sear. Notice how thin the sear is. If the sear is in the 'safety cock' notch, and a strong blow is struck to the hammer spur, something may shear off, and the revolver may fire. So it was always prudent to only carry one of these revolvers, Colt, Uberti, or Pietta, loaded with five rounds and the hammer down on an empty chamber.
But last year Uberti introduced a slightly different design. The firing pin is normally retracted slightly inside the hammer. It cannot touch the primer of a round in the chamber. When the trigger is pulled, an actuator slides up, pushing the firing pin forward, so it can fire a cartridge. The idea is, with the new system, it is safe to carry the revolver fully loaded with six rounds. The older model Ubertis are fast dissapperaring from distributors inventories, and soon the newer models with the retractable firing pin will be all that is available. Remember, this is only with the Uberti clones. So far, the new design is getting mixed reviews. Some like it, some don't. Some don't like it simply because when you cock the hammer there are only three clicks, not the traditional four clicks of a Colt. To me, that is silly, because the only time I can count the clicks is when I am fooling around with the gun shooting bad guys on TV. With my earplugs in, on the firing line, I cannot hear the clicks at all. Just my opinion of course.
Here is a link to Uberti's video about the retractable firing pin.
I will state that I have had a chance to fire the new design, and it did have a problem. It was not 100% reliable. If I pulled the trigger very slowly, sometimes it would not fire. If I yanked the trigger the way I normally do, it would always fire. It was not my gun, so I could not take it apart to see what was wrong, but I suspect there was a burr somewhere inside that might have been preventing the firing pin from moving forward properly.
Pietta is still making their replicas with the firing pin fixed in the hammer. So you get four clicks if you are listening.
Nickel plated vs blued, is up to you. I only have one Uberti Cattleman left in my safe that I bought used about 15 years ago, so obviously it has the firing pin fixed in the hammer. At the time, the only way these could be imported was with a cylinder pin with two notches on it. With the pin all the way back, the rear end of the pin prevented the hammer from falling all the way. With the pin pulled to the forward position, the gun would fire. I replaced the pin with an after market pin so I would not have to bother with it, and always kept the chamber under the hammer empty.
The 'case colors' on these revolvers is not the old fashioned bone case hardening, which is time consuming and expensive to produce. It is done by dipping the parts in a hot chemical bath. This imparts colors similar to the old bone method, and actually provides a bit of surface hardness, which was the point of Case Hardening in the first place. Just like real bone Case Hardening, the colors are fragile and will fade over time. Harsh chemicals and even prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will also fade the colors.
With any of these guns, you load them by first placing the hammer at the half cock position. This allows the cylinder to rotate for loading. You open the gate and eject the empty brass and load fresh rounds.Then you ALWAYS bring the hammer back to full cock, before lowering it. Lowering the hammer from half cock is a no-no, as it can lead to the bolt scribing a ring around the chamber. If you have the older version, and you are listening, you will get four clicks when you cock the hammer. Safety Cock, Half Cock, Bolt pops up against the Cylinder, and then Full Cock. With the new Ubertis you only get three clicks. By the way, the correct way to load one of the old models with the firing pin fixed in the hammer is to load one, skip one, then load four more. Bring the hammer to full cock, then gently lower it. If you did it correctly, there will be an empty round under the hammer.
Your other option, other than a real Colt, is Ruger. Ruger has been making single action revolvers for a long time, starting back in 1953 with the first Single Six. These early Rugers had coil springs replacing the leaf springs of a Colt, so the springs were less suceptable to breakage. But they still were not safe to load the chambers fully with a live round under the hammer. Sometime in the mid 1970s Ruger changed the design of all their single action revolvers to include a Transfer Bar. The transfer bar is a safety device that allows the gun to be fully loaded in all chambers. Here is a photo of a New Vaquero with the hammer cocked. The arrow is pointing to the transfer bar.As name implies, the transfer bar transfers the hammer's energy to the frame mounted firing pin. Normally the transfer bar is retracted by a spring, so with the hammer down, there is no way for a blow to the hammer to be transferred to the firing pin. Hence, completely safe to carry fully loaded. If you drop it on the hammer, you will probably scratch up the finish, but it will not fire. With a New Model Ruger, when you open the loading gate, the cylinder is free to rotate for loading. Close the gate and the gun locks up again.
Ruger single action revolvers are available in two different sizes. The New Vaquero is a bit smaller than the 'original model' Vaquero. It is pretty much the same size as a Colt or clone. The revolver at the top of photo is a Colt, the revolver at the bottom is a New Vaquero. Pretty much the same size. This New Vaquero has the 'color case' finish on the frame, which is no longer available.
Today the New Vaquero is only available with a blued frame. Like this:
Ruger Blackhawks, with adjustable sights, are still made with the slightly larger frame and cylinder. I bought this one brand-spanky new back in 1975.
There are a few distributor special Blackhawks made with the smaller size frame, but mostly all the Blackhawks have the larger frame.
And of course, with a Ruger you don't get four clicks. You get two. Bolt popping up, then full cock.
Certainly a Sharpie would not be period correct. A carbide lamp would be more nearly correct.
Four clicks mean nothing downrange. I'm a traditionalist myself and certainly prefer the ole Colt-style actions. Dreaded getting my first New Model Blackhawk, but suddenly realized that thing shot!....and shot well! So now I'm happily owner of each. Several of each, in fact.
A guy here had his stainless Rugers' topstraps, top of barrel, and sight blade grit blasted to dull the glare. I think he painted the sights, too.
In short, I started out with a Uberti because it was just soooo cool.
I had to retire it after about a year.
I replaced it with a
Ruger 5129 Vaquero Bisley 6RD 45LC 5.5"
It is polished stainless and still very sexy for being a new revolver.
You may not be aware that I dislike the term Period Correct. It sounds too much like Politically Correct. I prefer the term Historically Accurate.
Anyway, SASS is not a historical reenactment organization, it is more of a combination of historical shooting and Saturday morning matinees at the movie theater, as some of us relive the adventures of Hoppy and the Duke that we remember as kids. So I had no problem using a Sharpie.
When Ruger first introduced the Stainless Vaqueros they came with a matte finish. However they soon realized a highly polished Stainless gun would look very similar to the nickel plated guns of the 19th Century. So the decision was made to go with the high polish finish. It was fairly common to bead blast the entire stainless Vaquero to cut down on glare. A few of my friends did that. But I kept mine shiny and used the Sharpie on the front sight.
The guns with partial bead blast down the sighting plane looked classy.
I've seen a few with the front sight cut vertical like the old Colt above, or even the "shark fin" of the New Service.
I saw in a Frontier town museum, a very worn SAA with Lyman ivory bead dovetailed into the barrel just like a rifle. Be great shooting but SASS didn't allow it in my day.
I've always heard of that referred to as a "hawk bill" blade.
Why did you have to retire the Uberti? I have a Taylor’s & Co. Drifter in 357 that has about 1K rounds through it in the last 3 months that I really like. I do put about 85% 38’s through it though.
I don't want to go into details because I don't have cold hard facts, nor can I prove anything.
I had an issue with the cylinder.
Rumor has it (I haven't tried very hard to verify it) that the cylinder is not made from bar stock or plate.
It is rumored that it is a casting & then final machined.
Based on what happened and the way the cylinder looked, it definitely didn't appear to be machined from bar stock.
I repeat..... I am not calling out Uberti.
They have to have tens of thousands of revolvers out there in the world.
Yes... I was shooting reloads.
I considered this gun a plinker and loaded plinker ammo.
Could I have screwed up?
Of coarse I could have.
I can't prove I didn't.
Castings & Forgings have their place in the manufacturing world.
That being said, if a Casting or Forging is compromised in some way, failures can & will occur.
So......... With all of that being said, I broke my gun and take full responsibility.
If you can't decide between blued with color case hardening or nickel plated and you want the real thing instead of a reproduction, go to rockislandauctions.com and look up Lot 3929. There you'll find a pair of Colt revolvers with 7 1/2" barrels: one a Single Action Army in .45 Colt, the other a nickel plated Frontier Six Shooter in .44-40. These were made for the Centennial of the SAA in 1973 and there were only 500 matching sets like this. Estimated bidding range is from $2750 to $4000.
I remember the gunzine articles on those. Mike Venturino said they were the best built Colts in a long time.
I remember seeing both guns in the Gun Department at Woolworths, of all places! It was 1973 and while both of us were still too young to buy a handgun it was always fun to check out what was in the display case. Really liked the SAA but thought the Frontier Six Shooter with that bright nickel finish was the bee's knees!
Completely personal preference. But I don't care what anyone tells you, nickel finish is horrid when it comes to reflecting light. I suppose if a fella shot only on overcast days, or shot at fairly close range he could get by, but I prefer to be able to shoot whatever, wherever and whenever I want.
Since you asked for the time, and not how to build a watch, let me suggest one of these in .357-
It's a Uberti Hombre and is a great, inexpensive way to dip your toe in the single action water. They can be had new for $400 or if you check the Cowboy Action forums classifieds, you can probably snag a used one for $100 or so less.
I bought a pair about seven years ago to scratch the CAS itch (which has long since passed) and have been shooting them ever since. They're good solid, accurate revolvers and in the .357 chambering one has the ability to shoot either 38 Special or 357 Magnum. The photo above is a target fired at 50 yds with one of my Hombre's and is very typical accuracy of either of them.
If you're like most of us, you'll love the SA and they'll start multiplying!
I have a similar thread in this forum, regarding my search for my first SAA clone.
Because of the lockwork changes, I've ruled out Uberti, and will have to go with Pietta, probably the Cimarron branded "Frontier".
I'm NEVER going to carry one of these guns loaded, so the ability to do so with six in the cylinder is completely irrelevant to me. A friend recommended the Vaquero on this basis, but I asked him why I'd want to carry a fixed sight, single action revolver when I've got a 6" S&W Model 29-2. If I planned to hunt with a handgun, it'd be with a D/A .44 Magnum, not an S/A .45 Colt.
Unfortunately, finding one around here is probably going to be tough. I will likely have to special order it, pushing things back until after Christmas. I'll probably visit the local Cabelas today, but I don't have high hopes.
You can retrofit the older parts in a current Uberti. Would add about $100 to the cost.
I would buy a Vaquero now before I would buy a new Uberti with the retractable firing pin . I am not going to spend $100 to fix something they changed to please their lawyers .
I have an Uberti (Cimarron Arms imported, 45) with the retractable firing pin. While I only have a few hundred rounds through it, I haven't had any problems with it.
Had I known about the pin before buying I would have passed only for the silly reason that because of it you only get 3 rather than 4 clicks .
But the fit, finish and accuracy on mine has been superb.
FWIW - I have some Rugers (not SAA) and while they work well I'm just not a fan of the transfer bar.
Uberti uses a retractable firing pin and Ruger uses a transfer bar. So what's the difference other than Ruger caved in to their lawyers about 45 years before Uberti.
I've owned a New Vaquero and didn't care for at all. They're built like tanks, they look like tanks, they feel like tanks and hold absolutely no advantage over an 1873 Uberti.
They are American made , they stand behind their products , you can safely carry all 6 rounds ( they still do not advise that with the new Uberti ) , Bill has been dead a long time .
Well, the SAA design certainly has its aficionados and has had a great deal of Hollywood support. However, one should really consider the Uberti replica Smith & Wesson 1875 No. 3 Top Break (Schofield). Why, if you are ever in a cavalry action, or in contact while mounted, perhaps chased by desperados (or perhaps by modern day Pinkertons?), the rapid ejection and ability to reload from a speed loader just might save your life !
Where a firearm is made has nothing to do with quality, Colt and Ruger have been proving that for decades now. My New Vaquero had a constriction on the barrel, undersized cylinder throats and a horrible trigger, all well documented issues and all which had to be dealt with before the revolver was usable for anything other than informal plinking.
Conversely, I've purchased three Uberti's this year alone and all I've done to two of them is install a $5 spring to lighten the trigger pull from an acceptable 3 1/2 lbs. to 2 1/2 lbs. They're far and away more accurate than my New Vaquero ever was and cost less. Any FWIW I've owned more than a dozen Uberti's and have never had to return one for anything.
I didn't say anything about quality of either gun or company . I have a few Rugers and a couple pre retractable hammer Uberti's and one Colt and I haven't had a problem with any of them . It's just if I am going to buy a new gun that only resembles the Colt SAA in looks , I would buy American and get an Vaquero over the Uberti because of Ruger's excellent customer service and they do build a stronger revolver .
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