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COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY, COLT SAA

Photo of Colt Single Action Army with blued finish, case colors on case hardened frame, and smooth walnut grips

No firearm evokes images of America's Old West more than the Colt Single Action Army. From 1873 to the present day, it's been carried in the holsters of lawmen and gunfighters, cowboys and cowboy re-enacters, soldiers, bandits, the famous and the infamous.

One reason for the Single Action Army's popularity is its natural point-ability. Most people can pick up a Colt SAA, point the gun toward the target without even looking at the sights, and find that they're just about right on target. It's a marvel of ergonomic design, especially considering it was introduced in 1873.

The factory production models have been made in blued or nickel finishes (see nickel model photo below) with wood or black hard rubber grips. The current factory barrel lengths are 4 3/4", 5 1/2" and 7 1/2". Calibers are .32/30, .38 Special, .38/40, .357 Magnum, .44/40 and .45 Colt.

Beyond the standard factory models, the Single Action Army revolvers have been made in nearly every configuration you can imagine. There have been 7 1/2" barrels, 12" (the Buntline), 6 1/2", 8 1/2", 9", 9 1/2", 10 1/2", and more. In addition to the blued and nickel finishes, the SAA revolvers have been made with gold plated frames, and an unimaginable number of engraved finishes, both factory engraved and privately custom engraved.

The blued model features a case-hardened frame with attractive variations of color that are the byproduct of the case hardening process. The bluing is Colt's famous Royal Blue, which gives a shine unlike any blued finish from any other manufacturer. The nickel finish models are also highly polished before the final finish is applied, giving them a sparkle that you wont' find on lesser guns.

Colt Single Action Army revolvers aren't cheap, but the best never is.

For more information about the Single Action Army, click here.

Colt Single Action Army in nickle finish with hard black rubber grips featuring the rampant Colt logo

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Models: P1640, P1650, P1670, P1840, P1850, P1870, P1940, P1950, P1970
Name Single Action Army
Frame Finish: Blue - Color Case Hardened or Nickel
Barrel lengths: 4 3⁄4", 51⁄2", 71⁄2"
Overall lengths: 101⁄4”, 11", 13"
Calibers: .45 LC, .357, .44 - .40
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Action: Single
Front sight: Fixed
Rear sight: Fixed
Grips: Black Composite Eagle Grips

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Colt Single Action Army Reviews:

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Tom Kerr, Victor, WA
May 2, 2013

"1st generation, left the factory in 1883. I was using triple seven in it until I called hodgdon and the rep kind of made me feel foolish when he said to read the warning on the powder container. Wow--lucky I didn't damage the weapon.
It's a colt frontier with an etched barrel--7and a half inches long.
I am now back to using black powder but it shoots quite high with this load. I put .030 cards over the powder so I think I will see if it shoots any better without the cards.
any comments about how to make a better load would be appreciated."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Don, Colorado Springs, CO
January 21, 2013

Primary Use: hunting

"Mine was made in 1898. Perfect balance, pointability, and an overall pleasure to shoot. Yes, I still use it in the woods, and the backyard. By far my favorite firearm I own. And its 115 years old. If only my wife held up that well....

If you have never fired one, sorry, your loss. I love mine."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Earl Hooper, Poulsbo, KS
June 13, 2012

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"My Colt is a 1905 - 4 3/4" barrel with deeply patina yellow ivory (elephant?) grips with my grandfather and fathers names written on the inside of the grips. Both gone now, my father gave me the pistol and original hoster in 1980. It's a 38-40 (38 WCF) which I load light so that I can shoot it all I want. I'm in the process of donating it to the Town Museum in Ellsworth, Kansas where they both lived. It is the most important treasure I have, almost original finish and a perfect firearm. It looks just like The Dukes favorite six gun, except this one is perfect in every way. My Dad could shoot a jackrabbit on the run with it, and my mother was not much less of a shot. The joys of being raised on the plains in the 40's & 50's."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Ron, Orange Park, NJ
April 8, 2012

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"The Colt SAA 45 Colt is the finest revolver I've ever handled. Smoothest action and a pleasurable joy to shoot. Absolutely worth the cost. My favorite and sure to be your favorite too. The Ruger Vaquero is my second choice & also ae excellant weapon. "

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By gs4570, Ofallon, MO
February 18, 2012

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"I have six of these . I love to shoot them at the range. I have many other types of sidearms but these are my favorite. Just like the old time gunfighters use to say. There is nothing like a Colt."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Horse Colt, Waldo, NM
February 2, 2012

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"Once you feel the action of the Colt ... and the 4 clicks pulling back the hammer (some say it spells out C-O-L-T)
You know you are holding quality in your hands. The blue is gorgeous, the case hardening colors are like a New Mexico sunset near Taos.
I personally find the chambering must be .45 for true authentic value. If you ever have one tuned professionally, it even gets better ... like a pistol on "ball bearings" .. try one and you will see what I mean."

Overall Rating: review stars, 4 out of 5 possible stars 4 out of 5
By kwethington1, Ellicott City, MD
December 16, 2011

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"The Colt Single Action Army action is as smooth an action as any I have held, and I tried all the new ones, including the other expensive domestic and foreign, knock-off versions of the early model Colts. A Colt revolver is an heirloom."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Kelly, Columbia, NC
September 16, 2011

Primary Use: Hunting

"Quite simply put, this gun is a beautiful thing. You know you're holding the best. The action is lke a Swiss watch. I never tire of shooting it."

The one knock I have on the Colt Single Action Armry used in SASS competition is that it is a little too refined for such heavy, constant use in competitions where hundreds of rounds are fired off in rapid succession. No revolver can be all things to all people for all uses.

This Colt comes close for a single action revolver.

I don't wear a three piece suit to work around the yard and I don't wear jeans and a T-shirt to attend church or go to work in the office. I don't use my Kimber Eclipse, Target, Pro model for three gun competition either, although it is my most accurate pistol. I use a Ruger Vaquero, Single Six for cowboy shooting because, although not as refined or quite as smooth a pistol as the Colt, it is still a fine looking revolver and built tough as nails and meant to take the beating an SASS type of competition produces on firearms.

One of the guys I was shooting with was using a Colt .357, with a six inch barrel. After about 250 rounds, he always started having problems with some of his screws coming loose. I either use my Kimber, five inch custom Heavy Duty (HD), meaning, more steel where there will be wear, or I use an MP4. Both are half the cost of the Eclipse Target. This way, the nicer weapons stay nice, and the work horses, do what they were designed to do.

No one denies that the Colt Singe Action Army is a beautiful gun, very well made, very accurate, with an action as smooth as the polished jewels on an expensive watch. There is a place for every useable firearm. This one is, as I said, meant to be taken out and shot once in a while, cleaned and oiled often and placed in an easy to get to locked trophy case. And when, upon your or your spouse's death, handed down to a descendent who appreciates how important being able to have and bear arms and the special meaning that the Secon Amendment to the Bill of Rights of our Constitution, has to citizens of the United States who realize how valuable it is.

When I do go, there are a few firearms I will not ask to be sold, the Colt Single Action Army is one of them I would want to pass down to my son and daughter."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Ernie, Port Richey, FL
August 30, 2011

Primary Use: Defense/Law Enforcement

"The look, the feel, the power, I just think it's a great gun."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Raymond, Thomasville, AZ
August 24, 2011

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"I love my 1973 3rd Generation Single Action Army Colt revolver. I never tire of shooting and enjoying this wonderful work of art. This gun shoots a one inch group when I do my part, and is just a shade left of dead center. I have no other firearm that I like as much."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Michael Edwards, New Iberia, LA
August 21, 2011

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"I am a gun nut and the two .357 magnum SAA pistols are a welcome addition to my collection. I have several Henry Lever Action Rifles, an old J.C.Higgins shotgun and a variety of hand guns which includes several Colt 1911 pistols, a couple of colt 22 cal. along with my 357's."

Overall Rating: review stars, 5 out of 5 possible stars 5 out of 5
By Mike Emory, Cincinatti, OH
May 11, 2011

Primary Use: Target Shooting

"I just bought this Single Action Army two weeks ago. It's like a piece of history. Yeah, it was more expensive than the Rugers or the Ubertis, but it was worth every penny. It's quality through and through. I've looked at some of the Single Actions from the early 1900's and I can't tell the difference between those and mine, except that mine looks new. I'm never selling this pistol. Ever."

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More About The Colt Single Action Army

The Single Action Army was introduced in 1873. It was specifically designed by Colt to be used by the US Army, but quickly became the most desirable handgun for cowboys, lawmen (and outlaws), and anyone else needing an accurate and dependable sidearm.

The SAA was produced from 1873 until 1940, when Colt ceased production to concentrate on making weapons for World War II. The models produced during this period are called "First Generation". Colt resumed production of the SAA after the war in 1956, and continued until 1974, with the models made in these years referred to as "Second Generation". In 1974, there were minor changes in design, and models produced from 1974 through 1982 are referred to as "Third Generation".

When Cowboy action shooting became a popular sport in the early 1990's, Colt again resumed production of the Single Action Army in 1992. Models produced since 1992 are referred to as "Fourth Generation" or "Late Third Generation".

The relatively small grip of the pistol fits nearly all sizes of hands. This grip, combined with the cylinder and bore axis sitting quite a bit above the hand (compared to other revolvers), makes the Single Action Army a natural pointer. It also is central to the gun's good looks. The SAA is as distinctive-looking as any gun ever made.

closeup photograph showing the color case-hardened frame on the Single Action Army modelThe color case-hardened frame of the pistol also contributes to its good looks. Most makers of SAA clones paint the case colors on the frames. Colt still uses the real color case-hardening method their gunsmiths used in the 1800's (with more advanced machinery, of course). The frame of the gun is heated to a high temperature, and then it is immersed in a case hardening solution. The solution puts a coating of carbon on the frame. If the solution were a simple case hardening solution, there would be no color. It's the addition of substances such as charcoal or even wood in the hardening solution that produces the rainbow of colors.

Once the frame has sat in the hardening solution long enough, it is again heated to a high temperature, then immersed in water to quench the heated metal. The result is a frame that has steel of a standard softness at its center, but with a hard carbon coating on the outside that resists scratches and wear, and looks good as well.

The lock work of the Single Action Army features a "hand" that turns the cylinder of the pistol when the hammer is pulled back, moving the cylinder into position for firing. There are three notches on the face of the hammer, allowing the hammer to sit in four positions: fully rested; out of contact with the chambered cartridge (2nd position); disengaged from the cylinder bolt to allow the cylinder to be rotated for loading (3rd position); and fully cocked. As the hammer is cocked from the full rest position, four distinct clicks can be heard as it moves through its positions. SAA aficionados swear that the clicks are saying "C-O-L-T".

Single Action Army revolvers hold their value extremely well. First and Second Generation models are generally considered to be good investments. Values for collectible SAA's range from two or three thousand for more recent and common specimens in excellent condition to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands for rare or historically significant pieces.

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