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Old October 6, 2010, 10:29 AM   #1
Vinnie Harold
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What ammo for the Colt SSA and clones?

Gentlemen,

I am close to laying down the money for a SSA. I have always wanted one, and am not 100% sure as to whether it MUST be a Colt. I am looking at USFA and the STI Texican. The Freedom Arms is out of my league.

I am confused about ammunition. I do not load my own, so I will have to buy.
The USFA comes in several calibers: 45 Colt, 44 special, 44 WCF (what is WCF) and 38 special.

I shoot a hollow point 38 special in my Colt Detective Special, but is this the same ammo that the USFA SAA would shoot?

Are these calibers readily available, and where is the best place to purchase them. If I wanted to go on "the cheap", which caliber SSA would you recommend, and why?
Do these revolvers shoot any of the FMJ factory ammo, or again, is it "special" ammo.

Thanks.

Vinnie
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Old October 6, 2010, 10:44 AM   #2
RickB
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A buddy recently bought a USFA, and it is a beautiful gun. The fit and finish are outstanding. I have a 1st Generation Frontier Six Shooter that was restored by Colt in the '50s or '60s, and it is likewise beautiful (and has a better trigger than the USFA). The new Colts I saw at SHOT a couple of years ago, also very nice. I don't think you can go wrong with either brand. I read recently that the USFA guns actually have slightly larger frames and cylinders, so they are strong enough to handle just about any ammo that isn't marked something like,"for rifles or single shots only". Not that Colts can't handle modern ammo, but again, you will find loads with warnings about the strength of the gun in which they will be fired, and I wouldn't shoot those in a Colt. The popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting has resulted in much more widespread availability and variety in the "cowboy" calibers that you mention. .44 WCF - Winchester Center Fire, also called .44-40 - was the second-most popular chambering for the Colt SAA in the old west, as it was compatible with Winchester's lever-action rifles; the cowboy had to be concerned with a supply of only one cartridge type if both his guns used the same one. I'd expect .38 Special to be cheapest to shoot, and the ammo more readily available than the other chamberings. It's not really an authentic old-west cartridge, though.
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Old October 6, 2010, 12:07 PM   #3
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It's SAA as in Single Action Army, but we know what you mean...a common keyboard slip! My "rule," generally, is "IF you're going to pay Colt prices, get the Colt." I'm referring to the STI Texican mostly. It's supposed to be excellent, but I don't hear of many purchasing versus the "big two" - Colt and USFA, among the premium SAA-inspired products out there. STI made a modestly big splash a few years ago with the intro of the Texican, but I think Colt and USFA loyalists decided to stay with the low risk approach by sticking with their good thing.

Back to my "rule," I won't claim as some will that you'll "make money" on the Colt as an investment these days, especially in these uncertain times. But, you'll stay the same or at worst "lose less" of your original investment, versus some other pricey choices. Before the flames, I am *not* suggesting you have to spend that kind of "Colt" money for an equal--or some will say better--product, which I truly believe the USFA's "standard" Single Action is (meaning, at least the equal)--for $150-$250 less, and in some cases greater savings. The Single Action is the closest "apples-to-apples" comparison to Colt's standard SAA offering. USFA does offer a broader selection of "off the shelf" calibers, though ironically, between the two, Colt alone offers the .357,...the USFA only the .38 Special in that bore. USFA also offers standard or optional features that are either harder to get with the Colt or not at all...among them case-hardened hammer, early "blackpowder" cylinder bevel--optional and standard, respectively, on the USFA.

The one situation I might stray from my "rule" I started this post out with is the USFA "Pre War," which is truly a stellar piece, offering as standard features the Colt does not as even optional, IIRC, including a special, premium finish, and other items. The Pre War high-retails for more than Colt's common street price these days, but its street price is about the same as Colt's. In other words, no, it does not have the Colt name, but is a "more special" gun than the standard Colt in terms of features and cosmetics--for the same price.

FWIW, I've got both Colt--just 'cause 'I had to at least once'--and USFA (the "lesser" Rodeo, but same great quality and internal bits), and love 'em both. No regrets. However, with current mindset, I'd get the USFA Single Action )described above) "on sale," have the same quality and be $ ahead.

Last edited by gak; October 6, 2010 at 12:14 PM.
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Old October 6, 2010, 05:41 PM   #4
Vinnie Harold
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Thanks for your info and explanation

I appreciate your help in discussing the SAA.
My thinking goes along these lines, and correct me if it is flawed.
Why pay as much for a Colt clone even though some might say it is a better pistol, when Colt is the standard. My thought is to get the Colt, then maybe later, one of the clones.
GAK, when you say pre-war USFA, what kind of serial numbers am I looking for? You prefer these older models than the newer USEA SAA? Am I looking at auctions for something like this?

Should I stick with the 45 Colt cartridge....I have a lead on a 2nd generation Colt SAA in .38 caliber for about $1200. Yes or no?

Also, do you know anything about Colt restoration. I ended up looking at Doug Turnbull's sight, and he had some beautifully restored Colt SAA, but the prices were$4000 and above. When he restores a Colt, let's say the one I might buy for $1200, what does he do under the label of restoration to increase the value of the revolver so much
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Old October 6, 2010, 07:52 PM   #5
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Converted Colt fan

I can't speak for the Colt SA's as I don't own one....yet.
(I found a super deal on a 1st gen colt SA which I traded for to give to my father, and eventually will inherit),

but I do own a Colt Official police, and I can say that I get pleasure from the fact that it is an old 1932 Colt.
Feels like history.

So now I am a confirmed converted Colt fan!

Shooting a Uberti or other clone is just not the same!
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Old October 6, 2010, 10:15 PM   #6
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Vinnie, I'll try to remember your points, if not in correct order. Others can weigh in where my reply is inadequate.
$1200 is a fair-to good price on a 2nd Gen, if in good shape, which have been escalating even in this economy. I still caution regarding the smaller calibers (meaning, "starting" with .38 and going "down" from there) re the weight if actually planning to. use/carry it much. You don't mention barrel length, but I'd not go over 5.5"--the length you see extending 3/4" or so beyond the ejector housing.

The "Pre War" USFA I mentioned is not literally Pre War but new production built to emulate closely the Pre WWII Colts, which arguably are the most revered of Colts. Pricier yet is a new (as of Spring 2010) USFA model which copies "exactly" (as possible, ie w/o any Colt designation) the historic old/wild west "blackpowder" era Colts produced in the 19th Century. USFA makes no bones that--up to that model--all of its SAs sported cylinders slightly larger in diameter--for strength--than the Colt standard....imperceptible to all but the keenest SAA-expert eye, but to some a sore point. This new model is the answer to those wanting "absolutely exact." Unless you are really "into this," I'd stop at the Pre War with its slightly larger cylinder.

Unless otherwise spec'd, the Pre Wars (and other USFAs) will come with the "smokeless" (aka modern) era cross-frame/spring latch cylinder release--introduced in the mid 1890s and carried on to present--vs the frame-end screw on the above and other "blackpowder" (BP) feature- spec'd guns. Colt offers this latter (end screw) feature as an option also. Unless you're also really "into" this unique-to-BP aspect, I'd go with the cross-latch as it's much easier to remove/replace the cylinder for cleaning, or inserting a "convertible" cylinder (.44 Sp on .44-40 guns or vice versa, .45 ACP into a .45LC gun, etc).

Turnbull is the best in the business. That said, it's rare to see an "original" Colt with as vibrant colors as he usually does. Granted, few of us were around during the 1st Gen period to say what they were like truly new--even if someone has a "like new" example that's lived its life in a drawer...it's still not the same. But, especially if exposed to the elements and most especially if actually used, all CCH colors will fade with time--and that's what you see now on virtually all used 1st and 2nd/3rd Gens. The 2nd Gens, according to those old enough to remember, were never as vibrant originally...but, neither are the brand new Colts. This is certainly no slam on Mr. Turnbull's work, which results in a gorgeous finish. Still, for the money you can have three or four new USFAs, or two or three decent 2nd or brand new "4th" Gens. (The latter is a term that rankles some, stating--as does Colt--it "really" is just a late 3rd Gen. However, it is nevertheless at least an informal description given by many to recent (6-7 year) production which re-instated the removeable cylinder bushing gone since the 2nd Gen and--to.many--is one of many quality improvements putting Colt at or close to its old stature again after many years having strayed a bit). Regarding other aspects of a Turnbull restoration, expect impeccable work, but--as with most any restoration--don't expect to get your money back as an "investment." It may be just me, but I'd be afraid to scratch up such a gem with actual use. It's then more of a museum piece to me. Not so much of a concern with virtually any even mildly used 2nd Gen or.new Colt or USFA. YMMV.

Back to the 2nd Gen .38s. There aren't that many of them out there. Once the .357 caught on, it became the more popular cartridge between the two. And since the .357 can also shoot .38s--and many do just that much of the time--for most buyers, the .357 is the more desirable due to the flexibility of its configuration. That said, from a collectibility standpoint, the .38s made early in the 2nd Gen--say 1956-1959 or so, *can* bring more $ and are therefore, to some, a better investment between the two.

I'm a .44 Special fan so not the expert on the .45. I certainly can't argue the latter's iconic/original historical aspect. It was what put the SAA on the map with it's original 1873Army/Cavalry order and is a fine cartridge, and with either USFA or Colt can be paired with an extra-cost (but worth it IMO) "convertible" .45 ACP cylinder for cheaper plinking/target duty. If purchased this way, from the factory it comes tuned/timed with each cylinder installed. After-the-fact, expect to pay a smith to "fit" the spare cylinder properly--or send it back to the factory anyway.

If you want to be a little "different," both USFA and Colt make .44WCF (.44-40)/.44 Special convertible combos. The .44WCF was the second most popular SAA chambering in the "old days." As someone mentioned earlier, this was due to the fact it could be paired with the same caliber Winchester (and later, Marlin) levers and Colt pumps. These days, however, 45LC can also be had in a companion lever.
Long way of answering a few questions.

Last edited by gak; October 6, 2010 at 10:40 PM.
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Old October 7, 2010, 10:39 AM   #7
Vinnie Harold
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Gak, way too much to comprehend so, a follow up

I still caution regarding the smaller calibers (meaning, "starting" with .38 and going "down" from there) re the weight if actually planning to. use/carry it much. You don't mention barrel length, but I'd not go over 5.5"--the length you see extending 3/4" or so beyond the ejector housing.

What do you mean by cautioning me by starting with the .38 and going down from there? From a .38, I would go to a .44 and then a .45. Is that not going up?


Still, for the money you can have three or four new USFAs, or two or three decent 2nd or brand new "4th" Gens. (The latter is a term that rankles some, stating--as does Colt--it "really" is just a late 3rd Gen. However, it is nevertheless at least an informal description given by many to recent (6-7 year) production which re-instated the removeable cylinder bushing gone since the 2nd Gen and--to.many--is one of many quality improvements putting Colt at or close to its old stature again after many years having strayed a bit).

Do I understand this to mean that Colt is producing their "4th generation" today? I went to the Colt web site, and unless I am doing something wrong, all I saw were automatic Colts, no revolvers. Can you direct me to the proper area?

I'm a .44 Special fan so not the expert on the .45. I certainly can't argue the latter's iconic/original historical aspect. It was what put the SAA on the map with it's original 1873Army/Cavalry order and is a fine cartridge, and with either USFA or Colt can be paired with an extra-cost (but worth it IMO) "convertible" .45 ACP cylinder for cheaper plinking/target duty. If purchased this way, from the factory it comes tuned/timed with each cylinder installed.


Do you mean to say that if I purchase a NEW Colt or a NEW USFA I can also order a convertible cylinder to shoot the cheaper .45 ACP? Can I order such a cylinder from the factory if I purchase a 2nd generation Colt, or are they not compatible?

Thanks for your time and help.

Vinnie
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Old October 7, 2010, 10:47 AM   #8
Vinnie Harold
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One more thing Gak...

Forget the item about not finding the new Colts...they were right in front of my face...
But you do mention a 5 1/2 barrel length. Why that length instead of the 7 1/2?
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Old October 7, 2010, 11:40 AM   #9
Buzzcook
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Quote:
But you do mention a 5 1/2 barrel length. Why that length instead of the 7 1/2?
For many people the 5 1/2 barrel is better balance than the 7 1/2. Some will go further to the 4 3/4 barrel as the more "comfortable.
While I agree that the shorter barrels a quicker, my preference is for the longer 7 1/2 barrel because it is easier to aim, imho.
Which you choose depends on how they feel in your hand and what type of shooting you intend to do.

What cartridge you choose is pretty subjective. IMO shooting standard .45 Colt out of a SAA is about as fun as it gets. For me other considerations would be cost driven. The least expensive choice is always going to be a .22 rimfire.
If you have to have a centerfire and want the least expensive round, then the .38/.357 is the way to go.
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Old October 7, 2010, 12:15 PM   #10
Vinnie Harold
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Getting close guys..best buy is?

Again, I have a line on a 2nd generation .38 for $1300. I make the assumption that it is in good condition as I will have someone look it over before I buy.

I just got off the phone with Colt. I can buy a NEW 3rd generation for $1290. I can have a second cylinder made for $260 which will allow me to go from
.45 CL to .45 ACP.

I can buy a new SAA USFA for $1000

BUT, I am leaning toward having the real Colt as opposed to the clone.

Would you go new Colt in caliber of my choice (.357 or .45), or go with the older 2nd generation?

Thanks
Vinnie
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Old October 7, 2010, 12:41 PM   #11
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For a shooter, I'd get a new one. Some 2nd Gen guns are well over 50 years old, and they may be worn or inexpertly fiddled-with. There is also the issue, in .45 Colt chambering, of Colt having converted their bores to industry-standard .452" dimension, but keeping the cylinder mouths at the old black powder spec of .454" or even a bit more. These guns are not known for great accuracy with modern cast or jacketed bullets. New Colts have chambers properly matched to the bore. Some will say, "Why pay $1300 for a Colt, when you can get a USFA for $1000?", but I'm also in the camp that says, "Why get a knock-off when I can get the real thing for only $300 more?" The west wasn't won with a USFA.
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Old October 7, 2010, 01:02 PM   #12
Jim Watson
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I have a 3rd generation Colt .44 Special with .44-40 cylinder added for cowboy shooting to match my Winchester. I think a .45 Colt - .45 ACP convertible would be a good combination. I don't know how close the two rounds will shoot to each other's POI, though.

Certainly a .38 or .357 would give you more choice and lower cost for ammunition, but the smaller holes in barrel and cylinder make the gun heavy. I would not want anything but a 4 3/4 or maybe 5 1/2 inch barrel in a smallbore, even though my .44 is a 7 1/2 inch. A friend is the Lady's State Champion and she got there with 5 1/2" .38s, so that is in no way a bad choice.

I am glad you are thinking about the caliber in advance. There are a lot of non-handloaders who get all enthusiastic about some gun and then realize that the ammunition is too expensive for them to get the use they had planned out of their nice new gun. .38s are for sure less expensive and .45 ACP in a convertible not a whole lot more. The .45 Colt and the various .44s will cost more to shoot. Not a consideration for me, I load them all, but if you are buying, it is smart to plan ahead.

By the way, that 2nd generation .38 Special is a rather scarce gun, they went up to .357 Magnum in pretty short order after reintroducing the SAA. I would not buy one with the thought of having it restored. If it is not in good enough condition to suit you on shooting and looks, pass it by.

Last edited by Jim Watson; October 7, 2010 at 01:07 PM.
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Old October 8, 2010, 01:39 AM   #13
gak
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Some very good responses. Jim answered at least one of your questions of me. In .38/.357, the 7.5 barrel gets rather heavy. Sounds obvious but often overlooked by newer buyers. I got too cute with my language working the Blackberry. What I meant was .38 and "down" (smaller) these guns are rather heavy--and depending on barrel length they can get to feeling particularly barrel-heavy. So, it ALL depends on caliber as to the weight and balance, what will feel good to you, as others have said as well. .45 is , of course, the lightest, but the .44s are not appreciably heavier, at least to the casual observer. Not enough to be the decision point anyway. IMO, in the .38 or .357 you'd be happier with a 4.75"-5.5" barrel. Also, regardless of caliber, it's easier to tote the shorter guns around for "general purpose" use. If the emphasis is on target, then the 7.5 may be just the ticket...but still a bit heavy in calibers smaller than .44.

The choice of USFA vs Colt for you is strictly a personal one. If you feel that the Colt is worth the extra $ TO YOU, it's hard to argue with that...assuming you've developed an understanding you can get as good or better a gun for less..it just won't be a Colt (USFA--btw, some vendors sell for as little as $850, usually if a .45 it's w/o spare cylinder, but occasionally you might luck out. Colts are running $1150-$1200--not that far off Colt's quote--w/o options such as the spare cylinder. Colts, in recent years, can be a bit of a wait if you're "custom ordering" some extra features, but the .45 ACP cylinder shouldn't be that big a deal.

Final word (for tonight!) On caliber. As others have said: concerned about ammo costs? Get the .38 USFA or .357 Colt (and shoot mostly .38s in it anyway). However, the Colt and its copies are a real hoot in the larger calibers--weight/feel/balance and, with "normal" loads, fairly easy shooting.If you can deal with the costs or reload, I'd think strongly on that. AND, again, that's also where that spare .45 ACP cylinder can come into play with either brand. Occsionally one or the other company will run a special on these combo or convertible cylinder Offerings--worth asking. There are also a number of vendors worth checking out for either brand. PM me for a few ideas if you wish. One may have just the right package for you in stock.
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Old October 8, 2010, 10:10 AM   #14
gak
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Vinnie,
Just sent you a few PMs.
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Old October 8, 2010, 02:36 PM   #15
pythagorean
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Nothing beats the Colt SAA. This one is in .44-40 and just as pleasant to shoot as a .45 LC. Neither round is a worry to fire.
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