When I share my thoughts on a firearm the only thing I can do is share my perspective. I grew up when revolvers still ruled the world and actually patrolled many dark nights with only six rounds in the cylinder and six more on the belt.
I have faced off wild boar and took them cleanly with revolvers. I have a certain admiration for the single action revolver from a long and enduring fascination with westerns — which I call cowboy movies — tempered with quite a bit of Zane Grey.
Then again, I would never have wished to live in those times. Life was cruel and hard even for those with money and education. Sickness, hardship and death were constant, not theoretical. Just the same I know enough about the times to know that many of the cowboys were well-read and intelligent individuals who left behind interesting journals and literature if you care to find them.
The tools they used are interesting, too. My favorite firearm of the period is the Colt Single Action Army. Few of us can afford an original Colt single action. Most Colt Single Action Army revolvers start at two thousand dollars if you are lucky enough to find one.
If they offer any advantage over most of the single action clones that are now available, that advantage would be slight.
I have always liked single action revolvers and have seldom been without a good example. The revolver here — the Traditions Frontier Series 1873 single action revolver — is the latest and one of the best I have owned. It’s also affordable, retailing for about $450 at most outlets.
I have owned several Traditions revolvers and have enjoyed them quite a bit. The revolvers are made in Italy by Pietta and follows the Single Action Army pattern closely. This is a 4¾-inch barrel revolver chambered in .45 Colt. There are other calibers available, notably including .357 Magnum.
I have good Magnum revolvers and simply enjoy the .45 Colt. A good quality SAA .45 isn’t any more difficult to carry on the hip than a four-inch barrel .357 in most cases and hits hard without a lot of muzzle blast.
When I say it hits hard, you must assume I’m keeping the piece in case I have to hit something hard. I certainly am. No, it isn’t a modern polymer frame pistol that holds fifteen or more rounds. This is an all steel revolver that packs six big fat slugs. Contrary to what you may think I am of average intelligence and don’t feel helpless carrying a single action revolver.
I like the SAA when I am hiking or just wandering the woods, scouting or enjoying God’s green earth. The balance is excellent and, worn in a custom Jeffrey Custom Leather high ride holster, it just doesn’t get any better as a practical packing revolver.
The things I may run across in the wild include feral dogs, the big cats, and, I suppose, a bear. I say I suppose a bear because I have not seen one, but the areas I frequent have them. Wild animals like to keep a distance between you and them. But if you or the animal accidentally closes this distance, a fight may be on. I would be very reluctant to shoot a bear, but not as reluctant as I would to let him have my arm or leg.
Yes, there is also the chance of a bad guy in the wild, unfortunately. There have been murders on the Appalachian Trail, a very unfortunate thing, and a revolver of any type is a great comfort. I have been packing a long time and find the SAA .45 ideal for outdoors use. Let’s look at my new companion.
The Traditions revolver features a nicely blued barrel and cylinder. Note that the cylinder’s chambers are scalloped, a nice touch indeed on an affordably priced handgun. The grips are an attractively finished dark walnut. These are not the oversized grip found on some SAA types, but The Traditions 1873 grips are slightly larger than the traditional Colt.
The single action trigger action breaks at about three and one half pounds. That’s a good, decent trigger press that allows a trained shooter to shoot the revolver well.
The Traditions 1873 SAA features a transfer bar safety. The bar prevents the hammer from moving forward and striking the frame-mounted firing pin until the hammer is cocked and the trigger pressed, at which time the bar moves into the firing position. The hammer actually strikes the bar and the revolver goes bang. Immediately after you release the trigger the firing pin withdraws.
This is a safe system that allows carrying a round under the hammer, unlike the original design. Some still load only five and carry with the hammer down on an empty cylinder. That’s fine by me, especially if you also own older types of single action revolvers without the safety. Treat them all the same.
As you’d expect on a single action revolver, the Traditions 1873 has fixed sights that are broad enough to offer good visibility. Just don’t expect this to be a target gun. The front post is a traditional blade style witha rear notch. The action doesn’t sound like a Colt, it cannot, since the transfer bar action is a bit different. It works well it is simply different.
The frame has a color-cased hardened finish. Modern steel need only be colored for looks, not actually case hardened. A chemical process is performed to give the Traditions revolver its coloring.
The revolver handles well at close range. I practice drawing quickly and NEVER cock the hammer in the holster or as the handgun is by my leg. Just as I don’t release the safety on a 1911 until I come on target, I don’t cock the hammer of a Single Action Army type revolver until hands meet in front of my belt.
I practice firing at large animal- and man-sized targets as well. I’m preparing to defend myself, not engage in aggressive action, and the SAA serves in that role well. I also have fired for precision at 75 feet. The revolver is well-regulated for 250 grain loads and the six o’clock hold. If you use heavy loads, the point of impact rises since the revolver recoils while the bullet is still in the barrel.
With quality ammunition and good fundamentals, the Traditions 1873 will put five shots into two to three inches at 75 feet. The tightly fitted base pin and good trigger add up to an accurate revolver.
The .45 Colt round hits hard even with relatively mild loads. Most of my loads are about 770 to 800 fps. I have used the Mattsbullets.com 260 grain semi-wad cutters over Titegroup powder for the majority of my loadings.
Accuracy is good and the big SWC bullet slugs up well and offers good accuracy. I should mention that a 260 grain SWC at 780 fps will penetrate over forty inches of water. That’s a lot of penetration. If you hit a coyote broadside, which isn’t usually the case, it isn’t as quick a stop as a wound that plows through the critter front to back, as most of you realize.
A heavy penetrating big bore means a lot of raking ability. I load a little bit heavier for field use at about 900 fps. These slugs are solid, accurate, feature a flat nose and a well-defined driving band. This is the ideal .45 Colt bullet in my opinion.
I have also used the Hornady 250 grain XTP in certain loads. At about 900 fps this load is very accurate and hits hard. I use this load in the Winchester 1892 carbine for the most part and don’t load it too hot for occasional use in the revolver.
The XTP is a very accurate bullet that expands well over a wide range of velocities. I don’t have a fast-opening urban load because I don’t carry the SAA in the city, I carry a 1911 .45. I suppose I could come up with one, though
I like the Single Action Army design in general and the Traditions 1873 is among the more useful of these revolvers. The 1873 Frontier has proven useful in several examples and just feels right on the hip and in the hand.
Specifications: Traditions Frontier Series 1873 Single Action Revolver
Caliber: .45 Colt
Barrel Length: 4.57″
Capacity: 6 rounds
Safety: Transfer bar
MSRP: $549 (retail about $450)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
Well it is a revolver. The action is sure and true.
Accuracy * * * *
Accuracy relative- the Traditions is more accurate than most cowboy guns but not as accurate as a GP100 or Python
Ergonomics * * * *
As SAA revolvers go the piece is very well balanced. Handling is good. The little finger may hang off of the grip with larger hand sizes.
Fit and finish * * * *
Not breath taking but very good for the price.
Concealability * *
Well you may carry it under a coat during the winter without a lot of trouble—- but this is a field gun
Overall * * * * 1/2
Traditions’ Frontier Series 1873 is a good-looking, affordable example of the Single Action Army design. With its transfer bar safety, color-case hardened finish and extremely reasonable price, it’s a great all-around, useful, and attractive pistol that deserves a place in every gun safe.