Uberti versus Pietta - IMHO
Thought I'd get some juices flowing.
Uberti versus Pietta
I thought I would make some general observations on Uberti and Pietta cap and ball revolvers based on my recent experience.
First some history. My first cap and ball revolver was a brass frame .44 cal 1851 Navy from Navy Arms that I purchased in a gun store in Connecticut in 1969 as a Christmas present to myself. I wanted a handgun and cap and ball were the only type I was legal to buy at the time.
I didn’t shoot it until late summer of 1970 since a move to Florida intervened. I loaded it with 3F holy black and covered the balls with Crisco to avoid chain fires. The Crisco and Florida heat and repeated firings created quite a mess but it was fun. So much so that I ordered a Remington 58 replica from Dixie Gun Works. I don’t remember what brand it was. I shot both pistols quite a bit until I save up to buy my first Colt 1911 in 1972. From there on they took a back seat to my 1911 and a Colt Frontier .22 revolver.
I moved to Saudi Arabia in 1975 and gave both the 51 and 58 to a friend who was interested in cap and ball.
For the next eleven years I didn’t do much shooting. When I returned full time to the USA and moved to Nevada in 1988 I returned to shooting in a big way. I was competing in IPSC with 1911’s and shooting replicas of guns from the 1750’s to 1900 for fun. I was shooting an Pietta 1860 Army that I ‘antiqued’ and my son was shooting a Pietta 1851 Navy. I swear the 60 Army was progressive rifling but I don’t have it anymore. I also purchased but never shot (too expensive to shoot) a Colt 2nd Gen 1860 Army with fluted cylinder and a Walker. The Colts that I assume were a product of Uberti by way of Colt Black Powder Arms were much better fit and finished than the Pietta’s but functionally didn’t seem any better. I lost most of my guns and all my cap and ball pistols in a 1998 divorce.
Tired of IPSC (I’ve fired over 250,000 rounds of .45 ACP in practice and competition), I gravitated back to cap and ball in 2012. In the last year I have owned and shot two Pietta 1851’s and an 1860 Army, and an Uberti 1849 Pocket, 1847 Whitneyville Hartford Dragoon, 1851 Navy 5 inch barrel, a Remington NMA, and an Navy Richards Mason Conversion in .38. I didn’t keep the 1849 Pocket (too small) or the 1847 WH Dragoon (too big).
These are my observations:
In general, Pietta’s are less expensive than Uberti’s and mostly you get what you pay for.
I don’t understand why Pietta has the barrel markings on the sides instead of under the loading lever like Uberti’s. You would think they would learn.
Fit and finish are OK on the less expensive models like the standard 51 and the 60. Fit and finish on the higher end “Wild Bill” engraved 51 was as good as Uberti. When I removed the finish from them to antique them, machining marks and out of round on the 60 barrel were evident. During defarbing to remove the Made in Italy and Black Powder warning markings it was evident that the flats on the lower cost 51 weren’t as flat as the ones on the Wild Bill.
The wood grips fit well and the finish was much like an original Colt,
All have good cocking actions and great triggers.
All the 51’s had “Pietta tail” that I corrected. All had minor issues with bolt fit. The 60 had a back strap screw that defied removal until I resorted to Kroil, heat, and an impact driver. The frames on the 51’s were free of burrs but the Wild Bill was better. The 60 had obvious casting marks and burrs.
The Wild Bill hit to point of aim at 25 yds but the regular 51 and 60 shot way high. The front sight on the Wild Bill is visibly taller. All are good shooters but the Wild Bill shoots smaller groups even with the 25 grain charges of Pyrodex P that I prefer.
Uberti revolvers are more expensive than Pietta’s. I attribute this to their better finish and in general better fit of parts. No markings except under the loading lever are another plus.
While the grip shape of the Uberti’s is accurate, the high gloss coating isn’t. On my latest acquisition, a 51 Navy with 5 inch barrel, it took 7 applications of paint remover to get it off.
While all my Uberti’s have short arbors, this hasn’t caused me any grief. Maybe it will as the wedge needs to be driven further into the barrel.
Bolt fit and timing has been good on all of them. The screw that holds the ejector housing on the 51 RM Conversion can’t be removed. I’ve tried heat, Kriol, and an impact driver to no avail. I have a spare screw and someday I will drill out the stuck screw if I have to.
Cocking action and trigger pulls are excellent on all. All shoot high as expected except the Remington NMA which shoots to point of aim at 25 yards. I opted for the full casehardened frame Remington version from Taylors and it is one magnificent looking and shooting revolver.
Pietta’s are reliable shooters. If you intend to “antique” them and are reasonably handy with tools then don’t spend the extra money to get a better finished Uberti. The 1851 Wild Bill at Cabela’s on sale for $ 299 is a great value that you shouldn’t pass up if you like 51 Navy pistols.
Uberti’s simply are better finished and better looking without all the markings you see on the Pietta’s. They are also more expensive. If you can live with a short arbor and the same cap sucking problems as an original Colt there is really nothing you need to do to start using an Uberti out of the box. If you like glossy wood finish you are good to go. If you don’t, you have some work cut out for you.
There is room for both Pietta and Uberti in our world and room for improvement in both brands.
If I could only keep two of my revolvers, it would be the Pietta Wild Bill 1851 Navy and the Uberti Remington NMA.