July 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
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.
September 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
We recently reviewed three 38 Special revolvers that cost about $400 and thought we would increase our budget and caliber size, and then sourced three revolvers each costing about $500 in three different big-bore calibers: 44 Special, 45 ACP, and 45 Colt, often called 45 Long Colt (LC) to ensure it’s not mixed up with the Auto Colt cartridge. The three revolvers included two Charter Arms products, the Classic Bulldog in 44 Special and the newer Pitbull in 45 ACP, plus the Taurus Public Defender Polymer chambered in .410 shotshell and 45 LC.
Even though these were new revolvers, we still performed a range-rod test since there was a bit of side-to-side wiggle in the cylinders of all the revolvers. Range rods check the alignment of the chambers to the barrel bore. We also noted that the action of the Taurus seemed a bit stiff; our initial dry firing in double action found the cylinder would not fully index to the next chamber at times. Dry firing took care of the indexing issue, and all passed the range rod test. We also noted during the range-rod test the barrel of the Pitbull was not fully screwed into the frame. It was off by a fraction of a turn, enough to cock the front sight to the left when aiming the revolver. It is unacceptable that a gun leaves the factory in this condition. We anticipated and needed to use Kentucky windage with the Pitbull at the range.
In the past Charter Arms revolvers have been favorably rated, but in these two examples we found exception. The not-fully-screwed-down barrel was also the reason the cylinder-to-barrel gap was so large. We measured the gap between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone at the rear of the barrel using feeler gauges from Brownells (606-950-252WB) and found a gap of 0.010 inches for the Pitbull and the Bulldog Classic and the Taurus at 0.005 inch. A gap of 0.003 inches is desirable for a competition revolver, but up to 0.006 inches is often found. A large gap allows more gas to escape, reducing the bullet’s velocity. It also means there is more flash, and if the chamber and cylinder are not perfectly aligned, a user might experience splash from burning powders and bits of shaved bullet metal. We did not experience any splash with the Charter Arms revolvers. We did note that the Classic Bulldog had about 30 fps more than the published data for Hornady Critical Defense165-grain FTX bullet, which is 900 fps out of 2.5-inch barrel. The 3-inch barrel of Bulldog must have helped increase velocity. The Pitbull had noticeably less muzzle velocity compared to factory data. We assumed the reduction came because the Pitbull has a 2.5-inch barrel and the factory data for the cartridges use either a 4- or 5-inch barrel. Reduced muzzle velocity also occurred in the Taurus.
A common feature of all three revolvers was a safety transfer bar. This system prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.
These revolvers are made for close-in work, but we still tested accuracy out to 25 yards. Since the Taurus offers the ability to fire .410 shotshells as well as cartridges, we sourced some CCI shot cartridges in 44 Special. CCI manufactures shotshells in 45 ACP, but warns against using the the cartridges in revolvers since the crimp that holds the shot in the cartridge case may interfere with the rotation of cylinder after being fired. One of our team members regularly carries a revolver loaded with bird shot cartridges and bullet cartridges when we walks his dog in the woods. He’s equipped to deal with snakes as well as bears, depending on what chamber he lets fly.