View Full Version : Colt SAA - maybe Blackpowder ??

Joe W
January 27, 2005, 02:04 PM
I have a SAA that was manufactured in late 1902. It has a 2nd generation barrel, cylinder and hammer. I was told that if the frame does not have "VP" on the trigger guard it could be, or is, a frame made for blackpowder. The person that told me this claims that some SAA Colts as late as 1903/04 were still made for blackpowder and only those with "VP" on trigger guard are safe to shoot with smokeless ammo.
I had not known this and have shot a lot of rounds through it but mostly Cowboy Action loaded rounds.
Do you think as this gun has a 2nd gen. cylinder and barrel it is safe to continue to shoot ??

James K
January 27, 2005, 03:58 PM
Serial number 165000 is generally considered the cut-off point for black powder SAA frames; yours should be in the 230000 range and would be OK for smokeless loads. I can't find exactly when Colt started using the VP but it seems to have been around 1909. Maybe someone else can provide that information. But I believe your gun could be for smokeless powder but not have the VP.

Colt started putting the VP on the military contract pistols in 1937, but they had used it on commercial pistols much earlier. As I said, I can't find just when they started.


January 29, 2005, 06:06 AM
I was under the impression that Colt made a number of SAA black powder frames up to World War 2.Any other input you guys ???

January 29, 2005, 03:53 PM
Colt discontinued the true black powder frames at around number 165000.

Colt has made black powder-TYPE frames up until the late 1990's.

These are smokeless frames, only made with the old black powder FEATURES like the screw retained base pin.

What determines a true black powder frame is the steel used and the heat treating.
Colt discontinued the true black powder frame before the turn of the 20th Century, and didn't re-introduce the black powder TYPE frame until sometime in the mid-1980's as a special order model for collectors.

After the introduction of the smokless frame, Colt never again made SAA frames with the old steel and heat treating.

James K
January 29, 2005, 08:03 PM
I was told one time by someone who had worked at Colt that the changeover was not to "better steel", as often stated, but to steel, since the old frames were wrought iron. I don't know how to confirm that, other than to have destructive tests run on an old frame, but I would like to know if anyone else has heard the same. He also said that that was why Colt case-hardened the frame, since iron cannot be hardened like steel and the only way to get wear restistance was case hardening. (It was kept after the change just for looks.)


January 29, 2005, 11:50 PM
Come to think of it, many contemporary firearms were iron.
The Winchester 1873 had an iron receiver for some period of time.

I don't know if, or how long Colt SAA's had iron frames, but the smokeless guns were definitely steel.

Whatever, after the change to smokeless frames, Colt never made a SAA frame the old way again.
Frames made to LOOK like the old black powder models are made of modern steels and heat treating.

As for making true black powder frames after the change over, Colt would not do this for safety reasons, and for economic reasons.
Why go to all the trouble to make separate frames, and why risk a customer blowing one up with smokeless loads?

February 1, 2005, 02:29 PM
I don't think Colt warranted their SAAs for smokeless powder until 1903. I shoot a 1st Gen. Frontier Six Shooter, and even though it's been restored on a new frame, it has the original, 1897 cyinder in it. I shot factory smokeless and weak handloads in it, but now shoot it only, and rarely, with black powder.
There used to be a newspaper format magazine devoted to antique guns and shooting, called IIRC, Bullet 'n' Press. One article suggested that no gun designed during the black powder era, regardless of when it was actually manufactured, should be shot with smokeless powder. This would include a lot of Colts, Winchesters, Marlins - and maybe Mausers, for that matter - that were made before the metalurgical requirements and manufacturing procedures for smokeless powder use were well-known. I decided the convenience of smokeless powder did not balance the possibility of blowing up an old gun.

Dave Sample
February 2, 2005, 12:11 AM
If it has a 2nd generation Cylinder and Barrel it's OK to shoot it with any reasonalble Cowboy Load. How do you know it has had these parts installed?