Colt Single Action Army: Shooting The Legend

The Colt Single Action Army revolver served the United States for two decades as its main handgun, and has be heralded by some as the greatest handgun ever made. It has been called the SAA, M1873, the Colt .45, and of course the Peacemaker. A mainstay of any Western film, you need to shoot one to understand the allure.

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Firearm Featured:
Colt Single Action Army

Full transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys, this is Alex C and today we’re taking a look at a handgun that to me represents the frontier spirit of the late 1800’s America.

It lies perfectly at the junction between beauty and functionality.

This is the Colt Single Action Army.

Also known as The Peacemaker.

A wise man once said, “This is “the greatest handgun ever made.

“Six bullets; more than enough to kill anything that moves.” If you get this reference, you are awesome.

Single Action Army functions just about like any other single action you’ll find on the market today, with the distinctive four clicks when you clock the hammer.

First one being the safety notch.

Second one being so you can load it or unload it.

A third one which I really don’t know what it does.

And then the fourth one fourth one means ready to fire.

To load it you open the loading gate, take it to the second notch, take the cylinder to where you want to unload it, and then there is a slide on the front to remove the spin cartridge.

So with that quick overview let’s hit the range.

– Alright, so now that I’ve talked a little bit about the Colt Single action Army, we’ve got Patrick R out here and Patrick you’ve never owned a single action revolver.

– No. no.

– Now you’ve owned quite a few double action revolvers.

– Not quite a few but I think I’ve had two or three.

– And you’ve got a Colt Python which is arguably the pinnacle of what a double action revolver can be. – [Patrick] Yeah.

– [Alex] Which is also a Colt which is nice.

General handling impressions of the Single Action Army; what do you think? – It’s extremely pointable.

I really like it; it feels at home.

– Okay. And obviously you know how to work the Single Action Army the loading gate and everything. – [Patrick] Yeah – [Alex] Not too strange to get accustomed too.

– No it’s not; it’s a little fiddly but you know, given the time period that it was designed in, I think it was a pretty solid choice.

– But does it feel better than the Nagant revolver? – (laughs) Anything does; a rock does.

– But you can’t suppress this one.

So I’d like to throw that out there.

– No that’s okay. – [Alex] Yeah.

Anyways let’s say we get shooting.

– Yeah.

Alright so I’m going ahread a take a couple shots with the Single Action Army and well you know in the cowboy movies you always see them shooting from the hip so I’m going to give it a shot on my first shot.

(click) (gun fires) Way high. We’re not doing that anymore.

(gun fires) (laughs) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) Man, I like that a lot.

Trigger’s fantastic; pulling the hammer back’s really, you know, very instinctive.

Decocking the gun, it’s not hard either.

All in all I really like it; I wish they were more common.

I guess they are kind of common.

(click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) Alright, loading the Single Action Army is pretty straightforward.

You pull it back to the second click.

Half cocked position, open the loading gate.

Slide a round in, rotate the cylinder.

Repeat the process.

Thankfully the.45 Colt we’re using in this revolver is a pretty big round and it’s not as fiddly as the Nagant revolver was to load.

So there you go.

And it’s on there.

(click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) (click) (gun fires) Alright so the video wouldn’t be complete without one of us trying to fan the revolver.

Alex was mistaken earlier, I actually have a tiny little NAA Single Action Revolver but it doesn’t really match, or qualify I don’t think.

But I’ve tried fanning that and it’s a lot of fun So let’s give this one a go.

Alright.

(gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) That’s a little terrifying because it’s not quite as pointable as a modern semi-auto for me.

I just don’t have as much time on something like this but I mean it’s fun but a little bit nerve racking.

Alright guys, so we just got done at the range with the Colt Single Action Army and I have to say I’m sad that it took me this long to get behind one.

I really enjoyed it alot.

– You know guys, to be honest I would put a nice single action revolver on your gun bucket list.

Everyone needs to shoot a nice single action revolver at least once, it’s up there.

To me it’s as important as shooting an M1 Garand once in your life.

– Right. Yes.

– Well maybe it’s just me being a Texan and this is kind of close to my heart, you know, the cowboy culture and stuff.

– Right, right. You know, one thing that does kind of keep people off of these is the price.

I think their pretty seldom I believe.

– Colt is still making these.

I checked GunBroker and you can get a new in-box one for about $1500.

However there are so many used ones out there.

For example, this one was made in 1993 and you can get second gen, third gen ones for way under $1500.

And of course there’s other great single actions on the market. – [Patrick] There are, yes.

– [Alex] Ruger makes a fantastic firearm called the Blackhawk revolver.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with that.

But it is every bit as much a gun as this one.

– Yes. I mean I’ve had an opportunity to handle a Blackhawk and I’d say that their pretty darn close.

And I think they offer convertible versions of that as well.

– They do and also this comes in.45 Colt.

It comes in 44-40. It comes in all sorts of calibers,.38,.357.

However, I wanted the original, you know,.45 Colt.

Just because to me that’s correct and kind of cool.

– Yeah. No. I agree. It’s such a hard hitting round.

Our steel plate was really kind of moving quite a lot whenever we’d connect.

– Absolutely guys. Rounding out a revolver collection, if you’re a revolver guy, a single action is one of those that I think you need to have.

– Yeah. If you’re a revolver guy, absolutely.

– Be it a Single Action Army, a Blackhawk, or what have you.

But I think we’ll close out the video by saying we had a great time shooting this you know. – [Patrick] Yeah.

– [Alex] Some guns we come out here and it seems like a chore but I honestly felt like, let’s put it this way: I had a great time with this.

– Well I don’t know about you but shooting is never a chore for me. – [Alex] (laughs) – [Patrick] But I mean I really did enjoy shooting the Single Action Army.

– I guess I should rephrase that; when I shoot a gun like the Nagant revolver, it kind of makes me think – [Patrick] A workout, sure.

– [Alex] Let’s finish this video up and get to the next cool gun.

– Right, I mean a work out sure, but never a chore. – [Alex] (laughs) Right.

– [Patrick] If you have an opportunity to get behind one go ahead and do it, you won’t regret it.

– Anyways guys, I’d like to thank Ventura Munitions for providing the ammo for this test.

– Yep, and Grizzly Targets for providing their tough AR500 Steel Targets.

– Absolutely guys, I’m Alex C.

– Patrick R.

– Thanks for watching TFB TV, hope to see you next time.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • Amit Nachman

    i don’t know what kind of safety measures you guys take, but the amount of finger on trigger when it really should not be there(you are not shooting or demonstrating shooting) and generally handling the revolver like a toy in this video was alarming. love your videos but please stray safe and don’t shoot yourself in the face flinging a pistol like that. Yeah, you counted how many rounds you loaded. Yeah, the hammer is not cocked…Still bro, better safe than sorry.

    • Scott

      I’m going to agree. We *all* can get too sloppy/casual and need to guard against it.

    • Amit, SAAs have very small trigger guards, and Alex has very long fingers. It wouldn’t surprise me if he basically had to take his hand all the way off the gun to get his finger outside the trigger guard.

      SAAs were not at all designed with modern safe shooting techniques in mind, and it takes a lot more presence of mind and patience to handle one with the kind of care we today expect to come naturally. These single actions just do not want to play right with modern safe shooting styles that require the finger to come outside the trigger guard at every opportunity.

      I shoot a Blackhawk regularly, and this is still a problem for me. It’s not a matter of getting sloppy, it’s a matter of the SAA’s ergonomics coming from a time when shooters were just expected to have their finger inside the guard if they were holding the gun. It’s very tricky to handle them safely.

      • Oldtrader3

        Nathanial, I don’t care how big his hands are or how long his finger is, he is going to kill someone or shoot himself, cocking a SAA with his finger inside the trigger guard. If he picked up one of my ‘smithed SAA’s and did that, it would fire while this fool is trying to get his finger out!

        • I am saying it’s a learned skill specific to SAAs, in my experience. Alex is free to jump in here, but I think this is one of his first major exposures to the pattern.

        • I prefer cocking it with my finger in the trigger guard. Aiming down range while doing this is fine I reckon.

        • StylishFever

          Dude calm down, we get it. You’re acting like you’re going to get shot through the monitor.

      • SP mclaughlin

        In my experience with a .22 Sauer clone, placing my finger behind the completely behind the triggerguard felt the most natural.

      • hikerguy

        While there were a few Alex C size guys in those days, most folks were smaller than now.. The gun may have fit them better as a general rule. I would have to guess ergonomics were probably not as important as function. My Colt was a natural pointer, though. Miss everything but the loading and unloading.

      • Amit Nachman

        I understand. I am not trying to be that guy that shouts trigger discipline all the time.I just honestly felt that if I were near when someone handled any firearm like this, I would leave the range. The fact someone is inexprienced with a weapon should make him work more slowly and carefuly. I have taught dozens of 18 year old kids how to shoot, and the only reason I was not scared doing that is that I insisted weapons be treated as loaded at all times. Again, I really just eould hate to see one of you guys shoot himself.

    • Simcha M.

      Totsee et ha etsbah m’ ha hedek, keebeeneemat!!!

      • Amit Nachman

        Bidiuk.

  • StylishFever

    They call me Revolver… Ocelot.

    • Anonymoose

      (Patric Laine)

      • StylishFever

        Six shots. More than enough to kill anything that moves.

        • Anonymoose

          Except for those times when you need to kill flayed, quadruple-amputee former Presidents.

          • StylishFever

            Ahhhh… The Thor.

        • HobgoblinTruth

          There’s nothing like the feeling of slamming a long silver bullet into a well greased chamber.

          • StylishFever

            Alright, I’m alive again. Let’s go!

    • DW

      Ocelots are proud creatures.

      • StylishFever

        “Reloading like this… is a revolution.”

  • Riot

    You’re pretty good

    • StylishFever

      Just what I’d expect from a man with the same code as the boss.

    • Anonymoose

      …Pretty…good…!

    • Oldtrader3

      No he is not, he holds that Colt like an Ice Cream Cone!!!

  • FrenchKiss

    One should never go from “second-click” to “safety-click”, even after bringing the hammer all the way back. That will damage the sear and/or the hammer. Furthermore, you wouldn’t have to do that if you did a John Wayne load: load one, skip one, load 4 more. Then drop the hammer on an empty chamber. Do some research before showing the WRONG way to handle a SAA.

    I own a Pietta SAA clone and a New Vaquero. Both are fun shooters. But there is nothing like a Colt, which I hope to own soon.

  • The SAA is one of the most fun and least safe handguns you can buy!

    • Also RE: Blackhawks, they’re way less nice, but way more safe and just as much fun.

      • I must admit that I never got the whole “only load 5 rounds, even if youre at the range and are going to immediately fire the gun!!!”.

        • IMO, the best way to be safe on the range with an SAA or any single action is to fastidiously obey Rule 2.

          That goes for most any firearm, but especially SAAs.

    • Oldtrader3

      They are perfectly safe, if you carry five in the chambers and keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire. An empty chamber won’t kill you if your finger is not in the trigger guard!!!!
      I would like to own another Colt SAA but I am not going to pay 150-300% of the retail price for a new one which is what most of the dealers on GunBroker think that they are worth. A new gun from the factory should sell for retail price or it is dishonest price gouging by dealers!

      • They’re perfectly safe if you jump through a bunch of ritualistic hoops to make them safe, yup. 😉

        • Oldtrader3

          It is learned behavior, in order to keep from blowing your foot or someone else’s head off!

          • You can leave the valley girl speak at home, mate. The point I’m making is that the SAA is its own beast, with its own set of muscle memory and practices to shoot safely, exacerbated by the fact that nobody was terribly concerned with gun safety when it was designed.

  • John Shore

    The ‘third click’ in a real Colt is the bolt snapping back up as its extension overrides the cam stud on the hammer.

  • Marty Ewer

    “But you can’t suppress this one.” Classic!

  • Anonymoose

    just throwin this out there.

    • Anonymoose

      • StylishFever

        Never trust a Frenchman.

        • Anonymoose

          Huh…I guess technically he is French, since he was born in the middle of D-Day.

          • StylishFever

            That too and yet he hates the French. I was actually just quoting one of his lines in MGS 2.

  • ahil925

    Fanning a SAA or its clones is a decent way of damaging it. You all are aware of that right?

    • Patrick R.

      I was made aware of this after I had shot the video. While ignorance is no defense, this was my first exposure to a single action revolver of any importance.

      I also know that if it wasn’t done in the video there would have been a thousand comments with no more substance than “hey, you know you can fan those?”.

      • Patrick, I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it. SAAs really are strange pistols to the modern shooter, and when I started shooting single actions (not even SAAs!) it felt like learning to shoot all over again.

        • Oldtrader3

          I have (2) USFA SAA revolvers in .45 Colt. My (4) Colts were stolen by my neighbor (Tex Holl’s) grandson’s. If I caught a person fanning my USFA’s, I would break the offending arm!

    • Yes I am— I can always fix it though:-) I shoot my Evil Roy SAA a LOT! Hardly ever fan it though.

  • Will P.

    I have a couple DA revolvers, with nice flip open cylinders that are a lot easier to load and unload but for some reason I always enjoy shooting my New modle Ruger Blackhawk 6 1/2″ 357 mag and 1965 Ruger Blackhawk 4 5/8″ 41 mag more, it just feels more natural and just all around shoots better to me. Now granted I have taken a lot of time honing all of its internals and making the trigger about 2.5lbs with absolutely no take up or over travel, have polished the barrel(factory rugers have horrible machine marks in the barrel) they both can shoot a lot better than I’m capable of. Would love to have an actual Colt SAA in 45lc but I just can’t justify it, especially when there are so many clones out there with the same quality at a much lower price point. Well now that you’ve got one you need to get a lever action in 45lc to have the matching cowboy set!

  • Don Ward

    While this is definitely not a definitive Colt SAA video (I know more about the weapon than the reviewers and I ain’t no expert), HOLY heck, the negative nancies and handwringing in these comments.

  • iksnilol

    I think the single action design is way safer in the extreme magnum calibers. I am thinking a 500 S&W single action is less likely to be accidentally bumpfired than a double action.