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Who made the first SAA with birdshead grip?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Mizar, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Hello,

    A recent thread here sparked my interest (purely historical) about the origins of the birdshead grips, but only on Colt 1873 type revolvers. From my limited search on the subject I gathered the following (quite brief) information:

    - Colt introduced the birdshead SAA model as a standard offering in 1991.

    - I have read about some (four pieces) 1st generation guns custom made by the Colt factory at the end of the 19 century with Lightning/Thunder grip shape, but no hard evidence about it - only forum talks.

    - USFA offered custom birdshead guns from 1997 and later, in 2002, they introduced the Double Eagle revolver.

    - Uberti - I don't know when they started making them, maybe sometimes in the late 90s? They were providing the parts for the older USFA builds, so it sounds plausible, but needs a proof.

    - Ruger introduced the birdshead Vaquero in 2001.

    - According to Turnbull, one Jerry Klufas (gunsmith) was well known for such conversions - he shortened the barrels and made birdshead grip frames on Colt SAAs, but I cannot find more specific information about him.

    So, if you have any information about this topic, I will be happy if you share it here.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  2. lewwallace

    lewwallace Member

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  3. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    A bird's head grip combined with a short (4 3/4") barrel would make a nice compact package for the SAA.

    I know that Colt didn't make such guns in the 19th century, but this modification is so obvious that I can't believe that local gunsmiths didn't do it. After all, only two parts would be necessary: a backstrap and the grip itself.
     
  4. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    As a matter of historical interest, there are surviving examples of Colt SAAs that were aftermarket modified into snub nose, of belly guns, with barrels shortened, even removed entirely. But the back straps remain square butts. There is even a pocket version with elongated grips, apparently from an 1860 Army Colt.

    Apparently when firing from under the table, or out of the pocket, they wanted that square butt.

    Bob Wright
     
  5. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Hi Bob,
    it's obvious that such grip styles in a SAA were/are contemporary, but I would like to find out the manufacturer that made it first. Let us just assume for a minute, that Colt was the first company that offered birdshead grip SAA as a (more, or less) a standard offering - now, as those guns are actually real Colts, we can call them "fantasy guns" only when we refer to the 19 century reenactment. But, as the original manufacturer offered such guns, we cannot call them "fantasy" as a whole, because those are real Colts we are talking about, not just an Italian replica... That grip style just does not fit our own perception of a "real" SAA, as we are used to look at it thru a 19 century context, but that does not make those 3rd generation Colts less "real" - they are still real Colt 1873 style revolvers, made by the original manufacturer.
     
  6. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    I'm a little dense tonight (tonight?) and not quite sure what you are saying.

    From all the information so far available, the birds head SAA, or Single Action, is only a modern concept. Birds head grip styles go back to the earliest cartridge revolvers for other makers.

    Bob Wright
     
  7. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    It's just my curiosity - who made the first commercially available SAA revolver with birdshead grips.
     
  8. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that gunsmiths often made them up going back over a century. The term SAA implies a Colt though and not the product of companies other than Colt.

    Single Action revolvers with birdshead grips were offered by a number of companies before the turn of the century Merwin Hulbert was one. Here's a link to a few images and you can find out more about them.

    https://www.google.com/search?tbm=i...V8ITQIHY-oDrEQ4lYIKygD&biw=1350&bih=608&dpr=1

    S&W also offered them.
     
  9. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Thank you, tipoc, but like I said - I'm only interested in the M1873 pattern revolvers that are either original Colt, or a copy (replica, whatever). The only information I have found about 1st generation Colt SAA with Lightning/Thunder grip shape is this picture (from Facebook), but I would like to know if those grips are factory made, or a later gunsmith modification.

    "Colt Single Action Army manufactured in 1880, and inspected by David Clark, and thus stamped with DFC on frame, bbl, and cylinder. No US markings found, and were thus most likely obliterated." Quote from the Facebook post.

    13661962_1216859494991512_1035515378810554499_o.jpg
     
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  10. orpington

    orpington Member

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    A Colt 18seventy3 SAA with bird's head grips would be an after market modification. A few of these exist but these are after market modifications and diminish the collector value, especially if a First Generation SAA revolver. (Note: My "seven" key doesn't work). If you want An early bird's head Colt, get a Colt 18 seventy seven Lightning/Thunderer/Rainmaker or an 18 seventy 8 DA revolver.
     
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  11. Iggy

    Iggy Member

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    Thunderer.jpg
    Colt's 1877 Thunderer. Factory gun. Belonged to the last train robber in Wyoming.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018 at 10:05 PM
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  12. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Is this a 1873 Colt?
     
  13. Hertzer

    Hertzer Member

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    No, the colt Model 1877 was a double action revolver (the lightning and the thunderer), though I believe one of the designers did work on the Model 1873 it is not the same gun.
     
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