I’ve loved westerns for as long was I can remember. Since my belt had “Duke” embossed on the back of it when I was four years old, I don’t think I had much choice. But it wasn’t the movies that made me want to shoot a single action revolver or made me dream of the quick draw. It was real life.
I got to see a quick draw shooting demonstration by Bob Munden when I was young enough to be enamored, but old enough to assume it was a trick. It wasn’t a trick. There are five speeds to good shooting; fast, real fast, Jerry Michulek, light speed and Bob Munden. No matter how good your favorite shooter on YouTube is, they aren’t Munden fast. Mr. Muden was most famous for being able to draw and fire — accurately — faster than the blink of an eye. That’s not hyperbole. He could do it literally faster than a human being can blink.
As much as I’ve practiced with my Ruger Blackhawk, it turns out that I have absolutely no talent for that kind of shooting. There’s not a bit of fast anywhere in me, and I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn without looking right down the sights. But man was it fun, and I never lost my love of the single action revolver.
I’m hardly alone in my affection for the genre. Specialty gunmakers are churning out great-looking quality pistols for the single action enthusiast. Many, if not most of these are based on the 1873 Colt Single Action Army Model P.
The Peacemaker, as it was called, is probably the most recognized of the old west firearms. You can find modern examples of every version and custom one-off made. Really, there’s something for everyone. This customization usually means a high price, especially for a firearm that’s likely limited to range duty or the occasional hunting trip.
Enter Cimarron Firearms. The Fredericksburg, Texas firearm company offers the SA enthusiast a less expensive recreation of the 1873 Single Action Army — a great looking one-off version of the Peacemaker bound to tickle the fancy of the cowboy and wild west enthusiast. Cimarron calls it the El Malo. The Bad One.
The El Malo is a good looking gun right out of the box.
El Malo’s manufactured by Pietta of Italy, imported by Cimarron. The handgun comes in a variety of barrel lengths and calibers. The one reviewed here is the full 7 1/2” barrel chambered in .45LC, a true cowboy cartridge if there ever was one.
El Malo’s frame is fashioned from gorgeous color case hardened steel. The barrel’s been blued a shining black, and there’s a mirror shine throughout the metal. There’s no roughness or gross tool marks to be found. Gun companies usually skimp on the finish for their lower priced guns. That’s certainly not the case for El Malo.
Heading out the range, I found El Malo’s smooth and simple walnut handle fit my hand well. As the day wore on the temperature hit 90 degrees (Texas “winter”). My hands got sweaty. The revolver began to slip during recoil. This isn’t a hard recoiling revolver. A classic handle shape and two and a half pounds mean the .45LC kicks like a kitten. Even so, as the handle became downright slick, I was fighting to keep a solid grip. El Malo had become El Resbaladizo (The Slippery One).
Finding ammunition for the .45LC wasn’t difficult. For the store-bought rounds, I used both Magtech’s 250gr lead flat tipped round and Winchester’s 225gr hollow points. For my hand loads, I used an almost max pressure load of eight grains of Universal pushing a 230gr LRNFP bullet.
After thoroughly cleaning the gun, I sprayed some Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Oil in the cylinders and bore and commenced to shooting. All in all, I put 250 rounds through the El Malo.
The revolver had no failures of any kind, either to cock, cycle or shoot. I noticed no change in the force it took to cycle the weapon, and it was never difficult to load or unload. The empty brass actually dropped a little easier from the cylinders at the end of the test than at the start.
When I shot the Winchester rounds, I often felt debris striking my face and shooting glasses. Nothing hard or damaging, but it was certainly there. I could find no marks, no lead around the forcing cone or top strap either. Neither my own handloads or the Magtech loads had that effect. I still haven’t figured out what was going on there.
Accuracy was good but not great. The most common round I see around here in .45LC is the Winchester hollow point round, which printed a 2.6” five-shot group off of a bag at 25 yards. The Magtech scored about the same as my hand loads, averaging 2.5” but occasionally throwing a slightly smaller group.
El Malo’s sight set-up consists of a tall fixed-front iron with a notch-in-frame rear sight. Muy malo! The sights aren’t adjustable in any way, and those on mine weren’t quite right. At 25 yards, this particular revolver centered all of its groups a couple of inches to the left and about three inches high. Shooting high at that range is common on these guns, and was even considered standard, but being left of center isn’t — and there’s nothing to be done about it.
Something I certainly can’t complain about: El Malo’s trigger. It’s excellent. Breaking at a scant pound, there’s absolutely zero creep or grit. The gun is fully cocked until that little bit of pressure breaks right through the wall and the hammer fires. Considering how little pressure it takes to breach that wall, it would almost be a challenge to get the trigger pull to swing the barrel off target.
El Malo’s action is lightning quick and smooth. I cocked and turned the cylinder back-to-back between the El Malo and and my Rugers, and there’s no comparison. El Malo es muy mejor. Placing the single-action revolver on half cock and giving the cylinder a spin instantly evoked the Western movies of my youth. Or maybe a good turn on the “Wheel of Fortune.” The thing just goes and goes, turning and clicking away.
All in all, Cimarron has blessed this great nation with a great looking, good shooting Italian-made gun. El Malo will certainly turn heads at the range; it’s one of those guns that everyone wants to pick up and shoot. There’s a real working gun romance factor to it. As far as accuracy is concerned, it is what it isn’t. Note where it shoots and adjust accordingly and you can reasonably expect to put a round into a deer or pig at 25 yards. Bad guys need not apply.
Specifications: El Malo .45 Colt Single Action Pistol
Caliber: .45 LC (as reviewed)
Barrel Length: 7 1/2” (as reviewed)
Frame: Color case hardened steel
Finish: Standard blue
Weight: 2.5 Lbs.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
The El Malo’s color case frame and deep black/blue give the gun an authentic look, and the overall work is well executed. A point off for acceptable, but not outstanding wood.
Reliability * * * * *
If you cock the hammer and pull the trigger the gun will fire. It’s just that simple. No issues with cycling, firing, or ejecting using any of the rounds.
Accuracy * * *
Given the quality of the trigger, I was expecting better accuracy. 2 1/2” groups will still get the job done for the range or for light hunting within the range limitations of the caliber. The off-center point of aim on a fixed sight revolver was disappointing.
Overall * * *
The El Malo is a great looking gun that performs well. The trigger and action are both excellent, as is the overall fit and finish. Accuracy is OK, but nothing to write home about for a single action revolver. Printing left of the target is a big blot in an otherwise excellent copybook.