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Old November 18, 2002, 11:15 PM   #1
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Who makes the best Single Action Army?

As I was reading up on 1911s recently, it struck me that tons of folks are building Browning's 1911 pistol. I assume the patent has expired, leaving the market open for all the small custom shops.

This caused me to wonder: how many folks are building Single Action Army type revolers? I'm aware of the various Italian "spaghetti Colts", but is there anyone out there building a better SAA than Colt itself does?

What with random shops building high-quality Colt Lightning pump-rifles, resurrecting lever-action Winchester shotguns, etc. I'd imagine that somebody's making a profit on really high custom-quality SAAs.

Is it so, any references on the subject? Sure, I don't need an SAA now, but who knows what tomorrow may hold...
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Old November 19, 2002, 12:01 AM   #2
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AWA (American Western Arms) has some decent looking guns, though "as good as Colt" I'm not sure about.

U.S. Firearms makes some high end repros that are quite elegant, and I understand, have slightly thicker cylinders than the Colt SAA. The downside is, their prices have steadily spiraled upward in the past few years, and I think they now cost as much as most late model Colts.

Me, I still want a New Frontier Single Action Army in .44 Special
With top loads & hard cast bullets, a .357 mag, .41 mag, .44 special, .44 mag, .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh, .480 Ruger, .500 Linebaugh Maximum, and .500 S&W will all shoot through Bison. To select the gun, determine how big a hole you want to put in the Bison, and how much recoil you can stand
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Old November 19, 2002, 12:44 AM   #3
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U.S. Firearms

There's an article on the U.S. Firearms Rodeo revolver in the Dec. 2002 American Rifleman. They listed the price at $405 and gave it a generally favorable review. Worth considering I'd say.
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Old November 19, 2002, 01:43 AM   #4
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U.S. Firearms set up shop in the old Colt factory, and are making very high quality guns, that cost nearly as much as Colt's do.
They offer a number of nice options, including color case hardening, fire bluing, and custom grips.

However, the Colt is still top-of-the-line.
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Old November 19, 2002, 02:30 AM   #5
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The U.S. Firearms Rodeo is their economy model - sandblasted matte blue finish all over, only the hammer is case colored. Their high end models, with polished blues and bone case hardened frame, are much more
With top loads & hard cast bullets, a .357 mag, .41 mag, .44 special, .44 mag, .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh, .480 Ruger, .500 Linebaugh Maximum, and .500 S&W will all shoot through Bison. To select the gun, determine how big a hole you want to put in the Bison, and how much recoil you can stand
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Old November 19, 2002, 09:14 AM   #6
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The nicest single action army is probably a freedom arms casull. With the necessary gunsmithing to clean it up, a colt SAA is probably the nicest. Colts have true differential case hardening unlike most of the clones which are actually only case colored or are hardened completely through the thickness. Bad thing is that colts often need some smithing and trigger work despite already being really expensive to start with.

Best for the money would probably be a Cabela's Millenium. Its a matte black Uberti clone with a grip frame similar to the original 1st gen SAA (which is in turn like the Colt Navy). Has a few improvements to the older colt design (I believe the hand spring is different so it is not as prone to breakage). Costs around $200 NIB.

I believe the EAA Bounty Hunter is the only colt clone (as opposed to the Colt Cowboy and the Vaquero) which comes with a modern firing pin block. Not sure what they run at right now, but might be worth it if you want to load and carry six somewhere.

If you really want to know what the best is, and get a thousand different answers, go to the SASS Wire at and ask the same question there.
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Old November 20, 2002, 01:48 PM   #7
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If you just want one to plink around with occasionally, I wouldn't pay too much money for it. I'd just get a decent clone for 4 or 5 big ones and let it go at that.

Before I'd pay bigger money for what's supposed to be as good or better than a Colt, I'd go ahead and try to find a fair price on an acutual Colt, maybe at a large gun show, where those deals can sometimes be had.

A lot of people want to bad mouth Colt, but I have several Colt SAAs and they are all great shooters and built well. I could sell any one of them today for more than I paid for it, and I shoot all of them. I'm not sure what it is, but there really IS nothing like the feel of a Colt.
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Old November 20, 2002, 03:05 PM   #8
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Cimmarron Firearms in Fredricksburg, TX.

Uberti are excellent guns. Ruger builds a nice varient.

Colt is still good. Freedom Arms is excellent.

Cheaper ones exist that I don't know much about. May be some good ones in the bunch. dunno?
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Old November 20, 2002, 04:50 PM   #9
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"Exact" or just "close"

Do you want an "exact" SAA or just a look-alike single action?

Uberti, Cimarron, et al are mainly assmemblers. They purchase forgings from and Italian maker and then machine, fit, and finish the parts. Nothing wrong with the guns unless you are a high volume shooter. They tend to be less durable than other SAA-spec single actions, and I have it on good authority that 10,000 rounds is about the life expectancy (which isn't bad, considering the modest price).

American Western Arms have some really nice models. The Longhorn is their economy look-alike, and the PeaceKeeper is a high-end factory-tuned work of art (I've shot several, and they are very impressive). Expect prices of around $400 for the former and $650 for the latter. They buy unfinished parts from Italian makers like other SAA clones. However, I understand that they contract with the manufacturers for specific metallurgy, unlike the other makers who simply buy whatever is currently in the parts bin.

U.S. Firearms is, for all intents and purposes, Colt reborn. They restructured and uptated some tooling, but it's still the same gun made from the same parts in the same factory. As far as I can tell, the SAA models from U.S. are pretty much top-of-the-line when it comes to SAA-spec single action revolvers. The down side is that they have a top-of-the-line price.

Ruger makes the Vaquero. It's an SAA close-look-alike that is a thoroughly modern design with all the modern advances. They are made like little tanks and built to last a lifetime with only basic cleaning and care. Various models have nifty options like a bird's head grip or a bobbed-barrel Sheriff's mode. They are available in most popular revolver calibers. They are also hell-for-strong and can take magnum-class loads that would "dynamically dissasemble" most SAA-spec clones.

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Old November 20, 2002, 11:48 PM   #10
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While USFirearms are fantastic repros never forget that they could cut the the price of a Rodeo almost by a third and still make $. I wonder how inflated are their other prices. Buy aRuger or a COLT.

Last edited by webley455; November 21, 2002 at 09:39 AM.
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Old November 21, 2002, 12:12 AM   #11
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The real problem with a Vaquero is that the frame size is a bit bigger and "clunkier". You can alleviate that somewhat with an SAA-clone grip frame for Ruger "New Model" SAs by Power Custom, and a different lowered hammer.

The Freedom Arms model 97 series is also a transfer-bar gun, with a frame a little smaller than an SAA. In .45LC or 41Mag, it's a five-shot, in .357 it's a six-gun (and a VERY desirable one at that!).
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Old November 21, 2002, 02:30 AM   #12
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Dakotas and Hartford Models are pretty nice. Good prices too. Wide selection of neat stuff.

Dakotas are built by Armi san Marco in Itlaly. Most of the rest of E.M.F.'s line is Pedersoli, or Uberti.

I have one of these:

I want one of these, but they're always out of stock:

One of these days:

Neat place. Lots o' stuff. Leverguns, too.

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Old November 21, 2002, 03:45 PM   #13
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Actually, to return to the original question, there is only ONE SINGLE ACTION ARMY and it's COLTS. Everything thing else is a clone with some serious consideration to identifying the FREEDOM ARMS single action and the RUGER SINGLE ACTIONS as single action revolvers each unique in their own right with modern product improvements geared to making a stronger and more durable single action revolver in the the style made popular by COLT'S SINGLE ACTION ARMY.

Personally, my single action autos are 1911 pistols and are Colt's pre-Series 70's and my single action revolvers are either Colt's SAA's or New Frontiers or Ruger flat top 44's. I don't like the idea of clones and don't own anything with lawyer safeties or safety manuals scratched or pressed into barrels and frames.

As far as Italian guns, they make some lovely high end double and under/over shotguns, and they seem to make some decent replica long arms, but quality control of parts for short guns and the weapons themselves seem to vary horribly. IF one insists on buying a copy of a Colt Single Action Army, it would probably be worth paying attention to Hamilton Bowen's comments in his new book THE CUSTOM REVOLVER. It's a very well written and highly readable book in its own right and that's highly unusual among firearms related books--especially vanity press items (in which category, one should lump websites if that's not degrading the vanity presses).
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Old November 21, 2002, 10:52 PM   #14
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I liked the U.S. Firearms Rodeo well enough that I bought two of them. The fitting and workmanship is as good as anything I have seen since pre-war Colts. I have ordered a "high end" from them and will see what it looks like. They are $505 retail (not $405 unless they came down) and are a bargain, matte blue or not.

Cimarron does not "make guns from Italian parts"; Cimarrons are Uberti guns and IIRC are so marked. They are not bad, though some recent ones have very sharp firing pins.

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Old November 22, 2002, 08:40 AM   #15
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USFA retail

Suggested retail for the USFA Rodeo is $550. I just paid $498 for mine.

Got the following email from USFA regarding the misprint in American Rifleman:

Mr. Bieler:

American Rifleman goofed. There are three errors in the story. First, the
price should have been $550; Second, we have never used investment cast
parts; Third, we don't offer it in .38 Special. There will be a correction
in the next issue.

Geno Paesano
United States Fire Arms

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