The 1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver is the most famous handgun in the world. No Hollywood Western movie would ever be complete without one.
The .45 Colt has been owned by a multitude of notable people including Buffalo Bill, John Wesley Hardin, Theodore Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrat, Sam Bass, Judge Roy Bean, Billy The Kid, The James Brothers, The Dalton Gang, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and many more.
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The .45 Colt was easy to shoot, regardless of your marksmanship skills, your height or weight, be you a strong man or a seven stone weakling...the Colt .45 made all men equal. Consequently it was known as The Equalizer and it was also known as the gun that won the West.
The modern Italian Uberti reproduction below sports a brightly colored blued barrel, cylinder and trigger guard with traditional case hardened hammer and frame.
The U.S military saw the potential of the revolver and adopted it straight away as did the cavalry, lawmen, outlaws, homesteaders, prospectors and well almost everyone. The revolver fired a powerful cartridge, it was accurate and it was deadly...a true man-stopper. Even today, handguns that fire this round are revered quite highly by the shooter.
.45 Colt Cartridge shown below at about actual size.
The Colt .45 SAA Single Action Army is one of the worlds longest lived production revolvers of all time, such was and still is its popularity. The U.S Army welcomed the Colt .45 and adopted two versions, the Colt Army with five and a half inch barrel and the Colt Cavalry with a seven and a half inch barrel.
The modern Italian, Uberti reproduction below sports a deep blued barrel, cylinder, trigger guard and grip housing. To finish off the overall effect, the hammer and frame have been case hardened in the traditional style, the grips are artificial pearl. Quite a stunning revolver!
Both of these guns fires the .45 Long Colt cartridge, the civilian models were sold in a variety of different barrel lengths from four inches up to twelve inches and a target shooting version called the Colt Bisley, seen below, with a lowered hammer spur and different shaped grip was manufactured. About forty thousand Bisley's were produced.
Some thirty-seven thousand Colt .45 SAA revolvers were sold to the U.S Army from 1873 to 1893 and production didn't stop until December 1941 when America joined World War Two. At this time about four hundred thousand Colt .45 SAA's had been made.
In the mid 1950's there was a sudden surge of demand for the Colt .45 SAA due to the publicity gained with all the Western movies and TV series. As a result, the Colt .45 SAA is still made under license by several manufacturers to this day.
Below is shown a modern manufactured Uberti reproduction of the .45 Colt Cattleman 1873. It is simply superb and hard to distinguish from the real thing.
First production Colt .45 SAA revolvers were made from 1873 until 1941 with serial numbers all below 357860. Second production Colt .45 SAA revolvers were made from 1955 until 1974 with the serial number 0001SA to 73319SA.
Third production Colt .45 SAA revolvers were made from 1976 until 1981 and were offered in a variety of calibers including .44 special, .357 Magnum, and .38 Special. At this present time Colt are again manufacturing the SAA, for how long until they stop and then take it up again is anyone's guess.
Below is a typical example of a modern Italian manufactured .45 Colt revolver that has been manufactured to fire .44 Magnum bullets instead of the .45 Long Colt bullet.
The Colt .45 SAA is a very robust gun, it is made from three major components, the cylinder frame, the handle frame with trigger guard and the barrel. These are simply held together with several screws, the same system that is used today on modern revolvers.
The revolver is loaded by pulling the hammer back half cocked then opening the swing out port gate on the rear right side of the revolver housing and simply dropping in each bullet in turn.
To fire a shot, the hammer is pulled back full cock by the thumb or fanned back by the palm of the hand and the trigger is pulled. If the trigger is already pulled then simply fanning back the hammer and releasing it will fire the gun.
To unload the gun, the hammer is set to half cock then the gate is opened and the ram under the barrel is pushed up to shove the empty cases out one at a time. The cylinder can be taken out by unscrewing the base pins and pulling them out, the cylinder then falls out.
There is no safety catch on a revolver so people in gun clubs normally only load five shots instead of six, leaving an empty chamber under the hammer. Below is an excellent engraved .45 Colt Cattleman revolver from the Italian company of Uberti.
Below are the entire one hundred and five years of production serial numbers for the Colt Single Action Army. The dates are from 1873 up to 1978 respectively and the serial numbers are inclusive. Example: serial number 14990 would be for the year of 1874 and 191990 for the year 1899.