Uberti & Pietta .44 Calibre Revolvers Comparison
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- Last updated: 07/12/2023
I believe it was sometime in the mid-1980s that the American Army decided to change the standard issue pistol and calibre from the Colt 1911 in .45 to the Beretta Model 92 in 9mm. For the first time in almost a century and a half, Colt would not be the official handgun supplier to the American troops.
Colt’s monopoly in this lucrative sector began when the Walker revolver was issued to mounted dragoons during the war with Mexico in 1847, and successive Colt revolvers, both percussion models and breech loaders, were the companion of both cavalrymen and foot soldiers in many conflicts, both at home and abroad.
The first challenge to Colt’s supremacy came towards the end of the American Civil War when, with costs escalating for the Ordnance Department, Remington offered the government their New Model Army (NMA) revolver at a cheaper price than the Colt 1860 Army pistol. The last order for Colt revolvers was delivered in mid-1864 and from then until the end of the war, Remington became the official supplier. Arguments have raged as to which is the better of the two guns, with both having pros and cons.
Today, these two stalwarts from the Civil War, in the form of reproductions from two of Italy’s premier gunmakers, are still battling it out on shooting lines and re-enactment fields across the globe, but instead of the combatants being the two American companies of Colt and Remington, each producing their own model, we now see Uberti and Pietta both turning out copies of the Colt 1860 Army and the Remington NMA. So, let’s have a look and see which one you should purchase with your hard-earned cash.
Whilst both Italian stalwarts produce accurate copies of the Colt and Remington revolvers, there are also several ‘fantasy’ revolvers in their ranges that have no basis in historical correctness. Nevertheless, they prove popular with shooters and re-enactors. Chief among these are the brass-framed versions made by Pietta, sometimes favoured by re-enactors as creating a Confederate impression, although brass copies of these two models were never undertaken by the South during the War. There are also stainless-steel examples from both companies, with and without target sights, which some shooters will choose because of the material’s resistance to the ravages of black powder, though thorough cleaning is still advised after use.
For comparisons, we will use the regular barrel length (8”) with standard sights. The first impression you have of any item is a visual one – do you like the look of it or not? Here, again, there are advocates in both camps, so this is purely down to personal preference. The Remington has a very workmanlike appearance, with a ‘no-frills’ look about it. Only the brass trigger guard makes any pretence at a colourful show, with the rest of the pistol being plain blue, or black, as it often appears.
The Colt, on the other hand, has a combined brass trigger guard and front grip strap, plus an engraved Navy scene on the cylinder, leaning a little more towards a decorative appearance, enhanced by the colour-cased finish on the frame, loading lever, and hammer.
In profile, the Remington is again the more business-like, with its solid frame and the ‘web’ under the loading lever giving the impression of a stronger pistol. Whilst I like to see an octagonal barrel on a rifle, a round one works better for me on a revolver. The step on the top/front of the Remington frame means it does not match the clean lines of the open-top Colt, with the latter’s creeping loading lever also a little more aesthetic. The slightly larger one-piece Colt grips just edge the NMA’s panels, and even in the front sight department, the Colt’s smooth lines are more pleasing than the too-large-looking Remington post. So, for me, it’s round one to the Colt 1860 Army as far as looks are concerned.
Looks count for little in the performance stakes, more so back when your life depended on your kit doing what it was made to do. Picking up these two pistols could possibly give you an indication of which one you are going to choose without any further evaluation. Those with larger-than-average hands may find the Remington grip just too small. Conversely, those with smaller hands might find the larger Colt grip, combined with the slightly higher spur on the hammer, a little too much. If your hands suit both guns, then it will be down to a shooting test to see which is the most comfortable.
Weight-wise, there is very little in it, with the Remington weighing a fraction more than the Colt from both manufacturers in carbon steel. The stainless models are slightly heavier from both camps.
Looking at the pistols in more detail, you will find variations in design and function which could also sway your decision on which gun to buy. If you are going to be shooting the gun rather than using it for re-enacting, then you will probably lean towards the perceived strength of the Remington, with its one-piece frame and grip strap, and possibly in stainless steel. The Remington barrel is screwed into the frame, whereas the Colt has the barrel and frame held together with a wedge through the barrel lug and a slot in the cylinder arbour. The Remington design is unquestionably the stronger of the two, but anyone who dismisses the Colt as ‘weak’ loses sight of the fact that the Colt factory produced almost a million of their open-top design pistols, covering several models, over a 25-year period, so they can’t be too bad! Many Colt 1860 models that saw service in the Civil War are still around today in shootable condition.
The mechanisms of the two guns are different, with Remington using a two-screw system, while Colt opts for three. In my experience, although the Colt has more parts, the fact that you can strip it down further means that the small parts are more accessible and so work ‘inside’ the pistol is easier. This is particularly helpful during cleaning.
Both pistols employ a safety system whereby the cylinder can be locked with the hammer resting between two nipples, preventing an accidental discharge should a loaded gun be accidentally dropped. The Colt uses tiny pins on the rear of the cylinder that locate into a notch in the hammer face, while Remington goes the other way and uses the face of the hammer resting in a slot in the cylinder rear. Both systems work well, although the Remington would seem the better option.
Both pistols use the same ‘catch and latch’ arrangement for retaining the loading lever in place while the gun is in use. You may find minor variations in the hatching on the catch, but there is nothing to choose between the two makes.
The Colt has one disadvantage against the New Model Army, and it could be a big one if it happened in a shooting competition. The open frame design of the Colt can sometimes allow a spent or broken cap to fall into the hammer channel, causing a misfire when the next shot is fired. This quirk cannot happen with the solid frame of the Remington, so, from the shooting point of view, I would have to say that the Remington wins this round.
Around 30 years ago, I purchased my first brand-new muzzle-loading revolver from Henry Krank and had the opportunity to compare the two makes in the shop. If I remember correctly, there was about £40 difference in the price, with Uberti being the dearer of the two, but there was no comparison between the two guns. The Pietta’s action was rough against the smoothness of the Uberti, and I forked out the extra cash. The first time I took it to the range I fired over 100 shots without a hiccough – money well spent.
Three decades down the line, I have tried every percussion revolver from both manufacturers and can say that Pietta caught up years ago. The Uberti is still the more expensive of the two – by about £20 on the standard models – but this would seem to have nothing to do with quality, more likely Uberti’s price from the factory. There is nothing to choose between the two, but close examination might find a tiny, raised edge on a grip on one or a slightly lighter trigger pull on another. Prospective purchasers will likely have chosen the model they want beforehand, so it would just be a matter of popping down to Pudsey (ring first to check stock), putting one from each manufacturer on the counter, and checking them out. Whichever you choose, I am sure it will give you years of good service if you look after it.