View Full Version : Colt SAA barrel change

June 5, 2012, 09:57 AM
I have a SAA in 38 special with a 7.5 inch barrel which I need to replace. Won't go into why. I've found a 5.5 inch on GB and thought I would put that on until when or if I find a suitable 7.5. They are both 2nd gen. Are there any problems with this or is it just unscrewing one and screwing the other in? Would it be better to have a smith do it? I'm fairly handy but know better than to experiment with something this expensive. I'm going to check out youtube for a video, just haven't done it yet. All suggestions appreciated.

June 5, 2012, 10:31 AM
Better to let a smith do it in case there is a cylinder gap problem. A smith also has the proper tools to loosen a barrel without taking a chance on warping the frame.

Jim Watson
June 5, 2012, 10:57 AM
Barrel vise to not skin up the barrels, frame wrench to not bend the receiver, lathe or specialty hand tools to cut the shoulder so it screws in with the sight straight up and down and trim the tenon so the cylinder gap is right.

Oh, yeah, and some knowhow.

June 5, 2012, 11:19 AM
Okay, I'm convinced. To the smith. But I'm still wondering, is that all Colt would have done when they built it? Just pickup any frame and any barrel length and put them together? Nothing done to the frame to alter the balance with a longer or shorter barrel? I think not but don't really know one way or the other.

Jim Watson
June 5, 2012, 11:30 AM
The frames and outside diameters of cylinder and barrel are all the same.
Which is why a smallbore SAA is so heavy and out of balance. Anything smaller than .44 feels awkward to me, although I would likely put up with .38s if I got back into CAS. But they would be SHORT .38s.

Is that why you want to rebarrel?

June 5, 2012, 12:55 PM
I was working on a load for a semi auto that shoots relative low power 38 wadcutters. I was also trying the rounds in some revolvers and my guess is the round was not strong enough to exit a 7.5 inch barrel so the next round caused a bulge in the barrel about 2 inches from the end. I was not even aware it happened (still not 100% sure I did it, but the evidence is there) and shot the gun on many more occasions. When I was cleaning it I noticed the difference when the swab went thru the enlarged area but didn't really think much about it. Eventually I checked it out more carefully and could barely notice the bulge from the outside. It's there just not overly obvious and the gun is still very accurate. It may take a while to find a 7.5 inch replacement but there are plenty of 5.5 so I figure I'll just shoot it that way until I find a suitable longer one.

James K
June 5, 2012, 01:11 PM
"Just unscrew the barrel...." FWIW, the last time I changed barrels on a Colt SAA, I about busted a gut trying to "just unscrew" the barrel, and I had the right equipment. Those are on there very tight.

FWIW, I would not entrust the job to a local gunsmith - I would send it to Colt.


June 5, 2012, 06:25 PM
My partner several years ago had a 4 3/4" barrel put on his 2nd gen Buntline with no problems by a local gunsmith. He purchased the barrel from Peacemaker Specialists in Cal. You had better make sure the barrel is either a 1st or 2nd generation, cause if someone screws on a 3rd generation it will be the last time a barrel change will occur. The threads are not the same and will be destroyed. You're better off purchasing a barrel from those who are trustworthy.

June 5, 2012, 07:19 PM
"FWIW, I would not entrust the job to a local gunsmith - I would send it to Colt. "

Most smiths spend years and thousands of dollars on a education and tools so they can do anything that the factory can do.

James K
June 5, 2012, 09:19 PM
As a former gunsmith (retired), I wish that were true. But I see too many postings right on this site as well as others from folks who say something to the effect that "I like to tinker with guns and I am going to set up as a gunsmith; what do I need besides an FFL?"

Unfortunately too many of those well-intentioned guys do set up a shop and hang up a sign, but that does not make them gunsmiths, let alone get them all the equipment they should have for doing all kinds of work. The good ones are smart enough to at least know their limitations and farm out the work; the bad ones will chuck that SAA in a big vise, grap a piece of 2x2 and proceed to bend the ejector housing, twist the frame and mar the barrel.

I say again, let Colt take on that job, or someplace like C&S, but they are way backlogged, I understand.


June 6, 2012, 08:14 AM
Colt is only a shell of it's former self. They are very picky about which guns they'll touch. They want nothing to do with the older SA's and aren't afraid to tell you that you're on your own. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if colt would refuse to replace a barrel that they weren't supplying themselves. The higher cost if they did the job wouldn't phase me at all, but Peacemaker Specialist did work for me and are an A+ company. They have many parts at their fingertips and like their name says they are peacemaker specialists. Check with Colt though and inform us all how well they treated you. I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, cause colt was always my favorite. Good luck.