Charles Daly 1873 Standard Model .38 Special
The finish looked great, we thought. The bluing was very well done on nicely polished parts. The one-piece walnut grips dark finish was complemented by an incised and tasteful "CD" at the top. The fit of the wood to the steel was excellent. The wood was too sharp at the bottom, as was the case with the AWA. The cylinder had the appropriate bevels at its front end, and had the full-length, base-pin bushing insert common to early Colts. The trigger guard had the turn-of-century rounding that most of us prefer. The action was mighty slick, the hammer feeling quite smooth, though not as light as the AWAs.
The barrel bore the Charles Daly name and the caliber markings on its left side. Neither the barrel nor the frame had any of the usually seen Colt date stamps or address markings. The gun looked and felt like a Colt, despite the absence of the markings. However, the cylinder did not quite interchange with that of a genuine old Colt. The front sight was way too high, as we found on the range, but thats always better than being too short. The sight picture was better than the AWAs, with a slightly wider and cleaner rear notch, and a flat top to the front sight.
Daly offers several options, but in only two calibers, .45 LC and .38/.357 Mag. There is a stainless version with pseudo-ivory grips and with your choice of three barrel lengths, 4.8, 5.5, or 7.5 inches. Theres a brass-handled version in three lengths, but .45 only, at $450. There are three blued & case-colored versions, like our test gun, in each of 45 and .38/.357 at $479 each, and six stainless versions, each of which will set you back $630. From the images posted on the company website (www.charlesdaly.com), the brass grips do not quite have the correct contours.
One thing we didnt much care for was the base pin. It had two notches cut into it that had to be lined up so they were in the bottom position as you pressed the base pin into the cylinder. The second notch acted as a firing pin block, and thats fine, but getting either notch in the right spot was a nasty trick. We prefer the original Colt system, which had a groove machined into the base pin so all you had to do was slide it back until it stopped against the frame, and the catch would then lock easily into place. The AWA had just such a base pin and wed be sure to get one for the Daly.
On the range we found the Daly printed well enough, groups being 1.5 to 2 inches, but it shot about six inches low with everything. The light-bullet .357 loads printed even lower, though the 130-grain SXT Winchester ammo shot to about the same point as the cowboy loads. The blowby and blast seemed to be tolerable with .357 ammo in this gun. We tried one heavy-bullet Buffalo Bore .38 round and it shot much closer to the aim point than anything else. The fix here is to know what ammo youre going to use, and then file the front sight so your load hits where you want. The gun also printed about 2 inches right, something youd have to live with.