Uberti Colt Single Action Army Revolver
- By Graham Allen
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 17/03/2017
There are several truly iconic firearms that even nonshooters can recognise and name. For instance, if you think of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood ‘Westerns’, you automatically think of two weapons – the lever action Winchester and the Colt .45 ‘Peacemaker’ revolver. The Colt ‘Single Action Army’, to give it its correct title, was adopted by the US Army in 1873 and is sometimes known by this date. It was in service until it was replaced by the Colt 1892, in surprise, surprise – 1892!
The 1892 should have been a superior weapon, as it was faster to re-load due to its swing out cylinder and also quicker to fire because of the double action trigger. It wasn’t the success that Colt had hoped for however, as the 1892 fired a rather feeble .38 calibre cartridge that was rather lacking in stopping power compared to the good old .45.
Less talk of the inferior replacement, though, let’s get back to the item in question, a real ‘shootin’ iron’! Samuel Colt first patented his design for a ‘revolving gun’ in 1835 in the UK and then in America in 1836. At the time, they were muzzle-loaders of course and the 1851 Navy typified the style. He hadn’t actually invented the revolver, as they had been around in flintlock form for many years but they were incredibly expensive, hand-made weapons and not very practical. He did however revolutionise the design and manufacture of the revolver and his production line techniques were ground breaking and later copied by carmaker Henry Ford. The real leap forward was that every part was machine made and therefore interchangeable with another similar part. There was obviously a certain degree of hand-finishing and polishing involved during final assembly but generally speaking, the parts were identical.
The change from cap and ball to the self contained cartridge made for a simpler design and the pistols were easier to load and fire, even on horseback and Colt’s cartridge revolvers proved very popular with Cavalry units for this very reason. The Colt Company would have loved to have made cartridge pistols earlier but until 1869 Smith & Wesson (Colt’s rivals) owned the patent that was originally granted to a former Colt employee, Rollin White. Samuel Colt died in 1862 but his legacy lived on but it is ironic that he never saw the pistol that made the name Colt so famous.
The weak, open frame of the early models was replaced by a much stronger item; one with a top strap and individual cartridges were loaded into the fixed cylinder via a flip out loading gate on the right side of the frame. Once fired, empty cases were ejected one at a time using a spring-loaded ejector housed in a tube fixed to the barrel. This may seem long-winded but loading was still much, much faster than with the muzzle-loaders of old. The grip frame and lock mechanism was very similar to those used on the earlier Colt revolvers, in a case of, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it’!
The Colt Company produced a dazzling array of variants, from short-barrelled ‘Birdhead’ gripped pocket pistols to ‘Buggy Rifles’ with long barrels and removable shoulder stocks, later known by the name ‘Buntline Specials’. Most SAA revolvers were made with 4¾-inch, 5½-inch and 7½-inch barrels, the latter known as ‘Cavalry’ models. The pistols were also made in a wide range of calibres, but .45 Long Colt is the real classic loading, although many ordered them in 44-40 to match the rounds used in Winchester carbines and rifles. The 1873 proved to be incredibly popular throughout the United States and beyond but production eventually ceased at the start of the Second World War. The post war interest in the Old West, caused by Western films and TV shows, meant that demand was high again, so the model was re-introduced in 1956. Colt didn’t want to miss out, as several European companies were marketing extremely good reproductions.
UK citizens are denied the pleasure of owning and shooting these fantastic revolvers of course but shooters around the world are still lucky enough to be able to carry on using these classic designs. Most people don’t actually use actual Colts however and the Italian company Aldo Uberti exports their fine range of replicas throughout the world.
UK collectors of Westernstyle revolvers are still catered for though, as Uberti also manufacture blank firing versions of some of their products and the example I have here on my desk is an absolute beauty! Apart from the solid 4¾-inch barrel and partially blocked cylinder, this is an exact replica of the original. The frame, loading gate and hammer are all treated to a colour case hardened finish and the barrel, ejector rod housing, backstrap and cylinder have been charcoal blued. Overall fit and finish of the metal parts is exceptional and I couldn’t find any faults whatsoever. Equally, the smooth walnut grips are perfectly carved and finished. The left-side of the frame is marked with two authentic looking patent dates and there’s a serial number just in front of the trigger guard. I just love the contrast between the bluing and case hardening and handling this work of art makes me want to go out and shoot it! If I did, I wouldn’t be making any holes in any targets though, as it’s chambered in .38/9mm calibre rimmed blanks. I did try it (on private land, well away from the public!) and boy, are those blanks loud! The blast is vented out the front of the cylinder to comply with UK legislation and obviously nothing comes out of the muzzle.
Loading is obviously the same as the original; the hammer is set to half cock and the loading gate opened. In the half cock position, the cylinder is free to rotate and six blanks are loaded easily into the waiting chambers; once all six cartridges are loaded, the gate is shut. To fire, the hammer has to be thumbed back all the way back and the trigger pressed. The hammer can also be pulled back a fraction from its rest position and this ensures that the hammer’s fixed firing pin is well away from the cartridge’s primer. The cocking action is very smooth, rotating the cylinder as it is drawn back. The trigger is actually very sweet, which makes the fact that I’m not deemed fit to own a functioning firearm version all the more galling! To unload, the hammer is once again placed on half cock and empties pushed out of the loading gate by pushing back on the sprung ejector rod.
The Uberti Colt Single Action Army is truly a work of engineering art and would make a fantastic addition to any Western-themed collection and can be bought by anyone ever 18. At just over £400, it’s obviously not cheap, but when you consider that apart from its inability to fire live rounds, it is authentic in every way to an original. The Uberti range has a variety of models and they could form an interesting collection in their own right. Henry Krank also sell a range of suitable holsters for these blank firerers and the one shown is the Gunfighter holster and belt, which costs £68. All-inall a very impressive product!
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