July 2018

Single-Action Revolvers: Best Buy Is Uberti’s Cattleman 1873

We take a look at single-action 45 Colt revolvers from Colt, Ruger, and Uberti to find the best choice for cowboy action shooting, recreation, hunting, and personal defense.

Single-Action Revolvers: Best Buy Is Uberti’s Cattleman 1873

Here are the 45 Colt single-action revolvers that squared off in this test. Top to bottom are the Ruger Vaquero Bisley No. 5129, the Uberti 1873 Cattleman Old West No. 355131, both with 5.5-inch barrels, and a Second Generation Colt Single Action Army with a 7.5-inch barrel. While we liked all the revolvers for various reasons, the plain Uberti was the price leader and a good performer. But our favorite is the Colt, which is three times as expensive, of course.

In this installment, we test a trio of revolvers from Uberti, Colt, and Ruger in stainless steel, antique or original finish, and nickel plating. We included a Bisley grip frame and two barrel lengths to give readers a broad range of choices if they’re interested in 45 Colt single-action revolvers of the traditional style with fixed sights.

The test handguns were the Uberti 1873 Cattleman Old West No. 355131, a Second Generation Colt Single Action Army 45 Colt, and a Ruger Vaquero Bisley No. 5129. Part of our interest was how the longer barrel of the Colt, at 7.5 inches, compared to the 5.5-inch tubes on the others when drawn from leather. Also, we were curious how the Ruger Bisley performed with some pretty stiff loads when pitted against the standard plow-handled grip frame of the Colt and Uberti. For wheelgun aficionados, the comparison of a Colt Single Action Army (SAA) to any of its derivatives always creates interest, and in this case, there’s a 2nd Generation SAA that many seek out ahead of more-modern-production versions.

Cowboy Action shooters are thought to have the most interest in single-action revolvers, but there are many more SAA-type revolvers sold than there are cowboy shooters, even considering that such competitors need two guns in action and often have one in the shop as well. Folks love single-action revolvers for recreational shooting, for hunting, collecting, and even for personal defense. Yep, if you take the National Rifle Association Handguns 101 course, you will see the list of reasons for owning a handgun, and single-action revolvers fit into every niche, including collecting. As an example, one of our raters has a great deal of law-enforcement experience, and the first time he arrested (on personal time) a lawbreaker at gun point, he used a Colt Single Action Army.

With all of these factors in mind, we went on a bargain hunt, checking gun stores, online sources, and pawn shops to find lightly-pistols in good testing condition. We did not wish to pay too much for the Colt, but we knew we would spend more than a thousand dollars because of their scarcity. And we wanted to pay just a percentage of the new price for the other revolvers. To our thinking, $100 is real money, so if we could find a shooter and save that cash, then we’d have a bargain.

For a thorough evaluation, our shooters fired the three revolvers on a general shooting course and then for accuracy from a solid benchrest. On the action course, shooters drew the revolvers from standard belt holsters and fired at targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. We also fired offhand at 15 yards to test accuracy and handling. The ammunition used in the general firing course was the Black Hills Ammunition 250-grain cowboy load. This loading is designed for low recoil and good accuracy.

When it came to benchrest accuracy, we were able to properly line up the fixed sights and fire three loads. These included the Fiocchi 45 Long Colt 250-grain Cowboy Action, Hornady’s 45 Colt 185-grain Critical Defense brand, a personal-defense loading, and the 45 Colt Buffalo Bore 255-grain semi-wadcutter, an outdoors and hunting load. The three single-action revolvers completed the test without any type of problems. Even after firing 50 cartridges, cylinder rotation never slowed. The hammers cocked smoothly, and the trigger action was consistent. The ejector rods worked as designed, and the cylinders rotated smoothly.

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