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Old September 21, 2011, 08:06 PM   #1
Elliottsdad
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Single Action Revolver as your only gun?

I recently read an older post about if you could only own one handgun ever, and almost every single person responded "revolver" (most commented on their durability/not much to go wrong)... anyway, this got me thinking:
If you were really only going to own one handgun, and wanted it to last a lifetime, wouldn't it also be single-action, as there are less parts, and less to go wrong?
Convince me to buy a Uberti Cattleman Bird's Head, or a Ruger Vaquero, I'm in love with both these, and can't decide which one to buy!! This will be my nightstand, range, plinking (if .45LC can be called plinking), and occasional carry gun (however impractical). I would greaty appreciate:

Comments on Revolvers as the best one-gun option?
Comments on Single-action revolvers as an even better subset?
Comments on either of these two models as an affordable way to fit this bill.

Thanks for all your opinions!!
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Old September 21, 2011, 08:11 PM   #2
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I prefer the Uberti because it's closer to an original Colt. The Ruger kinda looks like one from a distance but the action is nothing like a Colt. I dunno it's just something about those four clicks when you cock the hammer.
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Old September 21, 2011, 09:03 PM   #3
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I would not choose a SA as my only handgun.

However, if some set of circumstances dictated that I choose a SA it would be one of the old, 3-screw Ruger Blackhawks. They have the simplicity of the original SAA action but replaced the leif springs with music wire coil springs. Those things will last for ever.

As an example this 44 Blackhawk was made in the late 1950s:



It will still be shooting 44 Specials and 44 Magnums long after I am a pile of ashes in a pine box.

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Old September 21, 2011, 09:40 PM   #4
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I admit I am not a big fan of single action revolvers -- most are hard to reload, or at least harder than most modern style revolvers. But my biggest concern is that in a home defense situation, a novice might be inclined to cock the gun in anticipation of needing to shoot rather than cocking it when actually having to shoot. Most single action triggers are fairly light and when nerves and adrenalin mix -- light triggers make me nervous.

That said, I would rather have a good single action revolver in a good-sized western caliber than a little tiny .380 auto anything.
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Old September 22, 2011, 12:51 AM   #5
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It works for me.

My choice: Ruger Vaquero, 45 Colt. And yes, I plink with it. It's the original Vaquero that can give a 44 magnum a run for the prize. Mine is stainless with 4-5/8" barrel for ease of packability and tolererance of neglect. It lives in a leather holster all the time. The front sight is slightly modified for visibility and to regulate point of impact.DSC_0426.jpg

DSC_0427b.jpg

DSC_0428b.jpg
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Old September 22, 2011, 01:09 AM   #6
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If I were to choose a SA revo as my only gun, it would be a Ruger just because of the all coil wire springs. Colts and their clones sometimes will break or wear out springs. I've broken two flat springs in clones. I would do away with the push button base pin release in favor of a solid screw. The base pin pops out way too easy for my tastes.

If it's your only gun, get it sighted in and make sure it's on target, then get a top quality action job. If it's off at all in windage, get that fixed with the action job.

I hate the Vaquero sight picture, I would have to get a Blackhawk.
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Old September 22, 2011, 02:45 AM   #7
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Vaquero sights

The Vaquero front sight does leave something to be desired. It looks good; that is, when you can see it. But depending on the angle of the light, it changes from not bad to downright hard to see and certainly hard to acquire a sight picture in a hurry. However, for me, the Vaquero's rear sight is perfect. If you are going to use widely varying bullet weights, the Blackhawk's adjustable rear sight has it's advantages. But the clean, smooth profile of the Vaquero makes for much nicer handling qualities. With the Vaquero it's best to regulate your sights to one particular bullet weight. I think it's important to be able to find that front sight quickly regardless of the background and light direction. I filed down my front sight and silver-soldered a brass rod along the top of it, rough-filed the face of it, painted it flourescent orange, and top-coated it with clear fingernail polish. Like so:
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Old September 22, 2011, 05:02 AM   #8
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In theory a SA would last longer due to less parts and such, but if I had to only have one pistol to last forever I'd get a 357 DA.
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Old September 22, 2011, 05:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
In theory a SA would last longer due to less parts and such, but if I had to only have one pistol to last forever I'd get a 357 DA.
That kinda my way of thinking. Plus there are other considerations. Which gun, the S/A or the D/A is the better quality weapon overall? A good, solid, well made D/A might be a better choice than a cheaper (not less expensive, there is a difference) S/A.

Personally, I'm a Smith & Wesson guy. I'd take my chances trying to wear one out, especially in a situation where I wasn't likely to be shooting it hundred of rounds, every other day and twice on Sunday. I just don't think the "less likely to wear out" argument is important. We're not likely to ever wear out any gun.

Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to use either of the two guns the OP mentioned as my "only" gun. They'd both do the job. I'd probably get the Ruger myself. I've got several Ruger 22 S/A's and they're good solid guns.
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Old September 22, 2011, 06:08 AM   #10
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the Uberti being more "Colt like" doesn't have the transfer bar safety, so it's a 5 shot revolver... I'm more comfortable loading 6 in my Rugers, & infact regularly carry a custom snubbie Ruger SA...

however I also agree, that if we are talking a quality double action, it should still last more than a lifetime, even though it has more parts, & a double action is more generally suited for today's self defense needs

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Old September 22, 2011, 06:13 AM   #11
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I'd probably want a Blackhawk or Vaquero in 357 mag, 44 special or 45 Colt with a shorter barrel 4 or 4 5/8".
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Old September 22, 2011, 06:50 AM   #12
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Of the guns I have now I'd probably take a Ruger Bisley, either my Lipsey Flatop 44 special or my Williams SS 41 magnum. Be a hard road though without a .22 LR! Dennis
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Old September 22, 2011, 07:08 AM   #13
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I would not choose a SA either, but a DA.

If I had to have a SA, it would be a Ruger of some sort in .357 Mag. If I only had one gun, 44 Mag or 45LC would be too expensive to shoot regularly and I would not have invested in reloading equipment. But .38 Spl is pretty cheap for plinking.

The Ruger part is simple, Ruger quality is just a lot better than Uberti. Uberti might be fun for playing around with but I would not trust it as my only gun.
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Old September 22, 2011, 07:38 AM   #14
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I think whether or not a SA is a good choice depends completley on the user much more than on the gun. People used SAs for many years and managed to kill an awful lot of bad guys with SA cap and ball revolvers.
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Old September 22, 2011, 08:59 AM   #15
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Personal choice.

That said, I like my SAs. All I shoot for the most part. What I carry in the hills, fishing, camp gun. Even house gun (although I admit my .44Spec Bulldog is currently handling that chore). As I am not a soldier or LEO, I don't see the need for a DA or bottom feeder. A simple SA revolver meets my needs perfectly. I enjoy thumbing in the rounds one by one, and then pushing them out the same way.

I would certainly choose Ruger for the coil springs over a Colt ( or clone ) if I could only have one (impossible!) . Also made in USA and is affordable. Win win. A adjustable sight BH .45 Colt would be my choice (big and slow, load light to hot)... but one also needs a .22 as well.... So the 'one' SA scenario is 'impossible' with me .
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Old September 22, 2011, 09:12 AM   #16
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While I agree with SwampYankees logic and shared it for quite some time, my choice has changed and is now a Ruger Blachawk convertible in .45 caliber. As far as cost, .45 acp ball ammo can be had nearly as cheaply as .38 Special, .45 acp defensive ammo is available and as effective as any defensive ammo, and the Option for .45 Colt in all it's flavors, hot or not, commercial or hand-loaded has tilted me firmly in the direction of the larger caliber.
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Old September 22, 2011, 10:59 AM   #17
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I wouldn't have have any problem being armed with a single action. Its what I carry on most trail walks anyway. And like most of you my gun brand of choice would be a Ruger. My caliber of choice is the 32 magnum. They are light weight and easy to carry. Plus ammo is light and easy on powder and lead.

I am fortunate enough to own 2 of the ruger single six's in 32 mag with adjustable sights and 5.5" barrels. I can load them down to replace the 22 that everyone should own or up to a good hot 38 in power. If used carefuly I wouldn't have any problems shooting a deer with one. I like to hunt close and at 20-25 yards it should kill deer just fine. Of course its a fine round for small game and I even have shot loads for snakes.
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Old September 22, 2011, 11:31 AM   #18
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Hammerhead

Wolf sells base pin latch springs that are stronger than factory. I had same problem with my single six, not anymore. For getting base pin latch nut off I took a flat blade screw driver and with a dremel tool with the thin grinding wheel and ground the blade flat and sloted it and it works great. Hope this helps.
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Old September 22, 2011, 11:41 AM   #19
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Quote:
Wolf sells base pin latch springs that are stronger than factory. I had same problem with my single six, not anymore. For getting base pin latch nut off I took a flat blade screw driver and with a dremel tool with the thin grinding wheel and ground the blade flat and sloted it and it works great. Hope this helps.
Yup, thanks.
Love my new Bisley flat top .44 special, but the base pin needs to be checked regularly.
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Old September 22, 2011, 12:10 PM   #20
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This is one of those relatively rare "easy ones"--if already deciding on SA. I've got both the Ruger and Uberti. Love the Uberti and have nothing bad to say about...other than the aforementioned "only 5" (safe) shot aspect. (it's true, there's the Uberti-made Beretta Stampede that permits a full 6, something else to look at perhaps, but that's a different subject. Many like them, others say the small bits making up the transfer bar mechanism don't hold up well to heavy usage. If that's not you, maybe not an issue.....Therefore, for this exercise: for me it's the always rugged and reliable Ruger, and specifically New Vaquero--as in the newer, smaller "mid" frame guns since 2006. More specifically yet, 3-3/4" "Montado" (in .357 or .45) or the limited distribution (Davidson's) .44 Special "Sheriff"--same exact configuration except the hammer, which is swappable after-purchase for a Montado or SBH hammer. These guns are the most packable, carryable and CC'able of any full framed SA (non custom).

Finally, these all are inherently stainless (well, the .44 can be had both ways), and while not normally a big SS fan, I can't argue the practical aspects and it's a real plus as a one and only gun that might see multiple uses, and SS just happens to be particularly attractive and well suited to the shortie Montado/Sheriff too. I put a black sharpie on the back of the front sight--or you can carefully apply some orange glow paint...if the visibility of the front sight is of concern (and it's a legitimate concern on the bright stainless models such as the Vaquero line).

Regarding caliber, the balance and relative weight of the big bores (.44 and .45) is so wonderful, it's very tempting to go that route as your "one and only." I carry warmly loaded .44s to mimic lower .44 Mag levels when camping in bear country. While not designed for "magnum" (aka "Ruger only") levels, contrary to myth, the smaller "mid" framed .45s can also handle healthy loads, not just super mild "cowboy" loads. But, the beauty of the .44 Special is it has that much more margin (metal between the chambers) to play with the loads. Otherwise, if ammo cost and off-the-shelf availability are predominate concerns, go with the ubiquitous .357. I shoot mostly .38s range, and would load warm +P .38s for night stand use, and leave the full house ("regular") .357s for camp and trail, and occasional range just to keep acquainted. If you're not regularly dealing with "bear country," the economy and flexibility of the .357 platform is hard to miss with.

As far as the Birdshead aspect goes, if you're set on that, secure the New Vaquero first (you might decide you like the plowhandle after all, and custom grips abound out there if the stock ones are insufficient),...and if still wanting to go that birdshead route, do as the other poster did with his custom Montado. OR, if the increased weight and size do not bother, and/or you want to be able to shoot "44 magnum level" loads out of your .45, find the increasingly rare regular (large frame) Vaquero .45 Birdshead. I believe it too came in the shorter "Sheriff" length, but I'm not sure. If not, though less "CC'able" yet, the next length up 4-5/8" is still a good one. To me, if you're set on the .45 but really don't need to shoot those "magnum" levels, I'd stick with the smaller framed New Vaquero/Montado .45 (or .44 Sp, .357) and be happier 'n a pig in stuff.

Word to the wise, Ruger has inexplicably labeled its New Vaquero .44 Specials just "Vaqeuro" on the frame. Also, to confuse matters further, Ruger and many of its distributors/vendors are also calling the entire New Vaquero line just "Vaquero." SO, ironically, if asking about a .44 Special rest-assured it's the smaller framed New Vaquero,....otherwise (.357, .45) you may have to ask "which frame?" One tell-tale sign (usually, especially if new) is the hammer. If it's high and swept back, especially looking exaggerated next to the shorter, closer-in spur of the large frame Vaquero (the latter shared with the regular Blackhawks by the way), you've got yourself a New Vaquero (emphasis on the large N). (EDIT: as an anomaly to the foregoing, there is a special SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) model Ruger makes that is a regular New Vaquero but equipped with the lower profile Montado hammer). Also, ALL New Vaqueros (again the large N) EXCEPT the .44 Special say "New" on the frame. ALL .44 Magnums from the factory are the larger frame "Vaquero" sharing the same basic frame as the regular two screw (post 73) Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk.

As I said, "easy"

PS, "Montado" is just a marketing name Ruger originally used. You often will not see that moniker anywhere in current listings unless a seller on Gunbroker, etc. Currently, distributors usually just list them as just 3-3/4"...again prompting you, the buyer, to ask, is this the smaller framed New Vaqero or older, large frame Vaquero...and "what does it actually say on the frame?" If just Vaquero and it's a .357 or .45, it's the older, larger model. Btw, the New Vaquero has the updated chamber alignment where the cylinder stops in precise line with the chamber you want to load/eject, unlike the older Vaqeros (and same-framed Blackhawks). Another advantage of the newer mid-framed guns.

Last edited by gak; September 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM.
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Old September 22, 2011, 08:36 PM   #21
Elliottsdad
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wow

Gak, wow, lots of details, lots to think about.

Quote:
More specifically yet, 3-3/4" "Montado" (in .357 or .45)
I'll have to check this out.

Quote:
As far as the Birdshead aspect goes, if you're set on that, secure the New Vaquero first (you might decide you like the plowhandle after all, and custom grips abound out there if the stock ones are insufficient),...and if still wanting to go that birdshead route, do as the other poster did with his custom Montado.
I'm pretty much set on the bird's head grip, as well as the .45 Colt caliber. That custom Montado is one of the sexiest guns I've seen in a long time. Does any manufacturer make anything reasonably close to that (without having to go custom)?
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Old September 22, 2011, 08:51 PM   #22
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Quote:
I think whether or not a SA is a good choice depends completley on the user much more than on the gun. People used SAs for many years and managed to kill an awful lot of bad guys with SA cap and ball revolvers.
That is so true on the user and the cap and ball part. Hickock did very well with his brace of Navy Colts and their anemic by todays standards .36 caliber round ball. He continued to use those well into the cartridge era. He was killed by being shot in the back when he couldn't get his normal seat with his back to the wall and was sitting with his back to the door.
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Old September 22, 2011, 10:17 PM   #23
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I love single actions and I am lucky enough to have a Colt Single Action that was given to me as a gift. However, the double action is a superior defense gun and if that is the purpose of the weapon, then the double action is recommended. If all I had was a single action, I could dang sure use it as needed. In fact, I remember when I was young man, just married, living in a not so great part of town and the only gun I had was a Ruger Blackhawk. I remember hearing a loud bang in my crappy duplex home and clearing that house with a cocked single action, scared as heck. The neat thing is life is too short to not have both a good double action as well as a single action just because we love westerns, John Wayne, Matt Dillon, and all of the rest.
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Old September 23, 2011, 07:54 AM   #24
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Quote:
That custom Montado is one of the sexiest guns I've seen in a long time. Does any manufacturer make anything reasonably close to that (without having to go custom)?
1st off... thanks... I have many many custom guns, & this one has fast become my hands down favorite... as GAK mentioned, the stainless is a good feature for lots of use, & while some may not like the polished look, it's actually the most easy finish to maintain... I have many satin finished stainless revolvers, that either get a scratch or ding on them, or get holster wear, that's visible on the finish... with the polished stainless Rugers, a little flitz & a polishing rag or polishing wheel on the dremel, & the finish is good as new...

Birdshead vrs "plowhandle" ??? I'm a new shooter to CAS, & shoot with another pair of Montados with the standard grips... those grips fit my hand nicely, seem smaller than my Colt clone 44-40... I'm probably going to change them out to birdshead grips over the winter, just so I get the same feel as with my snubbie...

... as this is my 1st full sized gun with the birdshead grips, 1st I was concerned about shooting heavier loads with the gun for CCW use... the standard pressure Buffalo Bore 255 grain Elmer Kieths proved easy to shoot in the gun, & ended up being the load I chose to carry with... the stock Ruger grips I bought to fit the birdshead grip frame were plenty thick & filled my hand nicely... however they were smooth plastic, & kinda looked cheesy ( they may have been seconds, as I bought them off Gunbroker rather than from Ruger directly )... the grips on the gun now are custom made checkered buffalo horn, & IMO, not only look better, but offer a more quality "feel" & the checkering offers slip free grip

will someone make copies??? probably... but as far as I know, it's the only one like it right now

BTW... my 2nd favorite carry gun is a S&W L frame air lite 44 special... so it's not "all" about single actions, I still think for most, if you're only going to have one gun, a quality double action is more versitile... I have a newer 6" stainless S&W 610 & dispite my problems with S&W's initial quality ( 3 times back to S&W, before the gun was even safe to shoot... it had excessive headspace that made it unsafe to shoot from new )... once the QC "bugs" were out, that is also one of the nicest shooting guns I have, & now expect it to shoot nicely for a lifetime... with moon clips, the 610 shoots both 10 mm & 40 S&W, which add greatly to it's versatility... of coarse I couldn't leave well enough alone, & had mine also chambered for 10 mm magnum, so that's all I shoot in mine now, but in a pinch, it'll shoot what is rapidly becoming one of the most popular cartridges out there for law enforcement ( the 40 S&W )
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Old September 23, 2011, 11:51 AM   #25
napg19
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There was a couple times in my life that for years all I had was my single six, so I practiced with it in case I needed it. Aside from slow reloading one can be confident with a SA. When i get older and if my SP101 is too much to handle I can still fall back on the single six, providing it's not six BG's doing a home invasion with auto's. Guess I better learn how to throw my Bible accuratly.
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