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.
Very interesting and good timing to talk about SAA type revolvers. I just happen to have picked up a few the last few weeks. One is dual cylinder 45Colt and 45acp. One is an engraved model. Both are EMF brand made by Pietta and look great. They work correctly as far as all the mechanicals go but I haven’t been able to shoot either yet. I also ordered a Uberti in 357. I’m actually a big fan of westerns, particularly Eastwood “Dollar” films, and 3:10 to Yuma and will be doing the custom grips from those movie revolvers. Just kinda got tired of the same old same old re-hashing of polymer pistols and semi autos in general and want to do something different. These are a great way to do it.
Any love for ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’? My favorite film ever. 😛
Good movie. But The Searchers is a corker. And I think it was Open Range? the one with Costner and Duvall.
Add “Purgatory” with Sam Shepard to the list.
Red River and Stage Coach. Both with John Wayne.
I love all of the westerns people have mentioned, and many more besides, but I think 3:10 to Yuma has to top the list. It captures the archetypal story more deeply and fully than any other, and with more nuance and subtlety. Watch both the old and new 3:10 to Yuma films back to back. I found the new version to be one of the most accurate remakes I have ever seen, though I confess I prefer the original by a very a slight margin. But in the newer version I think the line “Even bad men love their mamas!” is one of the best lines ever, and one of the best deliveries ever, and that whole scene was one of the best scenes in the a great movie.
3:10 to Yuma was written by the great Elmore Leonard. Another less well-known but also exceptional Western is Valdez is Coming starring Burt Lancaster – Also by Elmore Leonard.
Check out Monte Walsh. Both versions are worthwhile but the original with Lee Marvin is the best.
A little more about the Colt Army carried by Monte:
The actual Colt SAA (serial number # 4562, Mfd. 1874) used in the film by Monte Walsh (Tom Selleck) was manufactured at the beginning of the model’s manufacturing history. This specimen was restored by Kenny Howell of R&D Gun Shop.
Speaking of Kenny Howell, they are who I got my 1858 Remington conversion cylinders from. Very nice people over there.
There are a lot of good westerns that you can copy the gun rigs from. Assuming you have mucho dinero lol.
I just bought one of these yesterday and I like the feel of it. However after taking the cylinder out and shining a light down the barrel i noticed a perfectly straight, thin line going down the middle on the bottom of the inside. I was wondering if this is a defect or are the barrels folded round and welded? I mainly want to know if its safe to use before taking it to the range.
I doubt the barrel is a rolled/folded sheet welded. As far as I know even the frames are forged so to make a barrel in that manner just doesn’t sound right. But in this world I guess anything is possible. Maybe the line has something to do with the tools used to cut the rifling?
Is it better to go with the .45 Colt for the tradition or the .357?
If cost is a factor the .357 saves you a little money. You can shoot .38s in it as well. My last revolver purchase is .357.
Having said that. If I was to buy a single action revolver it would be a .45. I like the way they shoot and that big bullet gets the job done just about anywhere. I might want a .44 mag if I lived in Alaska.
For tradition the .45. For power the .357.
Not so if one is putting 33000 to 38000 psi 45 colt loads in a original Blackhawk or Vaquero as those loads will best any 44 Mag.
I’d strongly urge you NOT to use those loads in a Traditions Frontier revolver.
“I’d strongly urge you NOT to use those loads in a Traditions Frontier revolver.”
Defiantly Not ! only in very few guns and notice I said the Original Ruger Blackhawk/Vaquero,I should have added not even the Ruger New Blackhawk/New Vaqueros.
Well this is definitely a case where we’re both right. In the right firearm the .45 Colt is at least the equal of the .44 mag when properly loaded, but in the wrong firearm you won’t be firing a hand gun but rather a hand grenade.
In the Traditions Frontier (4-3/4″) you’d be looking at a full SAAMI spec .357 loading generating ~750 ft/lbs of energy, although most factory loads would be more like 550-600. The .45 would peak out around 500ft/lbs.
I can’t, won’t argue with your statement.
The 45 will be several ounces lighter and have better balance IMO.
Thank goodness I didn’t spend my money on an AR ( yuk) like I was going to do. I’ve been contemplating a .45 SA for quite awhile. I’ve only got a .44 Super Black Hawk now and it’s a ten inch barreled one, a bit much for toting around town. My usual carry is a 1911, but something about a SA in forty five gets my buzz on. Hopefully the GS doesn’t charge me to much to order this firearm. this will be my first gunm purchase in ten years, money don’t come easy for a possum. ps Another stimulus check would be nice
Good to see ya, Marsupial One, we were getting worried an F-150 might have clipped ya as you were scuttling across the county road…
I can hear them rattling down the road long before the headlights blind me. Actually I’ve been kayaking on a river for the last two weeks, quite an adventure. Even got scared a couple times.,. Words of wisdom, cheap Walmart kayaks are not so good, unless you don’t mind swimming
Possum, what river? Tell us about it.
I’m an avid kayak fisherman when time allows. I’ve never been able to do a long camping float, but it is on my to do list.
What Wal mart kayak did you use? Sit inside or sit on top? If inexpensive is necessary then I can’t recommend Pelican strongly enough. They are the best value to quality ratio IMNSHO. Next up would be the Perception Pescador series.
Of course for premium kayaks any of the name brands will be good. Currently I have old Wilderness Ride 135, but when one turns up in the stores again I planning on getting a Pelican Catch 100. The weight savings will make it easier for me to get out and fish more and quicker.
Crap, forgot to click the notify me box
Sit on top, SunDolphin ss10, not going to mention the river, it’s in the midwest, eventually finds the Mississippi. I went alone, three days out hail storm, lightning, strong wind, limbs busting. Swamped twice, once catching a pretty good sized Flathead. Squirrels and fish, was eats. Had a heck of a good time
Wow, that’s an adventure. My natural flotation exceeds the capacity of most Sun Dolphins, and they are really thin material. You are a braver creature than I am, taking a trip in one.
Sounds like a lot of fun, though. I hope to get to do it someday. Glad you had fun and made it back. I hope wet possum fur smells better than wet dog fur 😉
Check out the Taylors (Uberti) 4109DE which I have. Very fine with a wonderful trigger.
Ditto on the Taylor’s! I have one in 45LC and after tuning it very slightly (burr removal and slight trigger creep removal) it is wonderful. Good balance, good accuracy, just plain feels good in the hand. These are made by Uberti and mine is a 4 5/8 inch barrel, brass trigger guard and backstrap with checkered walnut grip, color case hardened look on the frame and hammer. I highly recommend these. Keep your powder dry!
Is its mainspring leaf or coil?
Looking at the schematic online it appears to be leaf.
As with the traditional Colt, it is a single strip of steel. However, these newer model Piettas with the transfer bar have gone to the Ruger style hand spring, the weakest link in the Colt system (the hand spring is very thin and has a tendency to break). The Ruger hand spring is actually a spring and plunger hidden that insert through a small hole in the frame behind the grip frame. It pushes near to the top of the hand to push it out and into position. It is pretty close to fail safe.
I purchase 2 EMF Great Western, Californian models made by Pietta, one 357 mag and the other 45 COLT over 2 years ago. I think the fit and finish on both is perfect. They are about as close as you can get to an actual
SAA Colt. They do not have the transfer bar safety but the floating firing pin that colt started using near the end of the first generation run. They seem to be a cross between Colts first and second generation SAA’s. The hammer is the first gen early style with the later floating firing pin, the cylinder has the taper like the first gen, the front and rear sights are like the second gen style. The only mechanical difference is they used a coil spring for the hand rather then the flat type spring that colt uses, you have to disassemble the gun to see it.
What about the mainspring, leaf or coil? Inquiring Possums want to know…
The Main spring in the Pietta EMF- Great Western is a the leaf or flat type spring.
I’ve never felt one bit handicapped with a single action either, and I like sixguns in .45 Colt so much that I even bought all the tools to recut forcing cones, crown muzzles, and cut proper size chamber throats myself.
I have 2 revolvers. Didn’t buy either. The Colt trooper I inherited and the Taurus I traded gunsmith work for. I just bought Rosewood grips for from Hogue (they are really, really nice) for the Trooper.
I have no idea why, but I’m becoming compelled to buy a cowboy pistol as a snake gun. Gotta be better than the Taurus.
Problem is, then I’ll have t buy a cowboy rifle to match. And then a carbine for those other occasions. And on and on till I have a whole other avenue of gun buying that I’ve avoided for 40 years of gun buying.
Those SAA types are very cool and I think I have to have one like my dad and his brothers and cousins in Wyoming in the 1930’s. WTF, sign me up.
You’ll also need a separate safe for cowboy guns, of course.
My all time favorite revolver is one of the little Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R mag. You can shoot light or heavy loads in it depending on how you load them up and it doesn’t seem like it will ever wear out. Not first choice for defense, but for banging steel it is as fun as you are gonna find.
I bought a charter arms professional in .32 h&r mag and love it. I have been looking for a good heavy handload to try in it. Any suggestions? 130 gr. Keith style bullet would be ideal for a woods walking load.
I was mostly popping out lighter weight cowboy loads for my reloads, bought a couple of boxes of Buffalo Bore +p for when I was out in the woods with it.
I like it. Nice article!
Love a 45 Colt!
Pietta’s are known for two shortcomings,soft internal parts and oversized improperly shaped grip frame, other than that they can indeed be fine shooters.
Two of my favorite and extremely accurate six shooters, are a pair of fantasy colt 1851 conversion guns in 45 colt, utilizing R&D cylinders as the starting point.
These 51’s were converted by a smith who has sadly passed on. He replaced the internal parts using colt blackpowder series hammers and everything else utilizing colt SAA parts, Ruger coil spring and plungers for everything but the mainspring, which remains a tuned leaf of his manufacture.They handle and point like a extension of ones hand and are so wonderfully graceful..
“Pietta’s are known for two shortcomings,soft internal parts and…”
Could disassembling them and case-hardening the internal bits take care that?
There there is really only one “soft” internal part, and that is the hand itself. The cylinder lock is fine, and as long as you make sure that it really fits in the slots in the cylinder (they tend to run a bit wide), nothing else is particularly subject to failure. I have had the firing pin on a .357 deform, but I just filed it back into shape. The hammer and the transfer bar are plenty hard. There really are no other internal parts except for the trigger/cylinder lock spring. That is one of the beauties of these guns–they are mechanically simple. In fact, there is very little difference in the internal parts between an 1873 and an 1851 Navy.
You don’t want a hard hand in a single-action revolver.
As the ratchet, hand and bolt wear, and the action loosens up, you stretch the hand by peening it with a blunt chisel and a restrained hammer tap to lengthen the hand, which will force the cylinder back into full engagement with the bolt again.
There are reasons why certain parts are the way they are inside guns, especially on a SAA. That wheel is quite round after nearly 150 years.
“You don’t want a hard hand in a single-action revolver.”
Thanks for stopping me from doing something stupid!
TTAG is fortunate to have DG commenting…
Unfortunately what usually causes the Pietta’s to go out of time with say CAS use, what I would refer to as normal use to a dedicated revolver shooters,the cam on the hammer and then the hand. The cam looses it’s defined edge/drop off and resembles a lump rather that the cam of a SAA.
One can or a decent smith can mill out the almost dead soft cam and replace it with a cam for a colt SAA and then time the gun properly, at which time if it were me also replace the hand with one from a SAA.
“TTAG is fortunate to have DG commenting…”
I second that sentiment.
Uh maybe I should skip the Pietti and get that Uberti. I’ve already got enough soft internal parts and anymore even a soft external part too. Miss Possum would probably like it case hardened but don’t know how it would hold up to the heat treatment?
Treat her nice, or wake up like Mr. Bobbit did, without something he valued… 🙂
In my experience the Uberti’s tend to be a improvement on Pietta’s at least those of the past 15 years of manufacture or so.
Both manufactures use case coloring,a chemical process.
True bone and charcoal pack case hardening,imparts the look and color as a part of the aprox 3 mil. deep outer hardening.
To see the difference in them compare photos of Pietta or Uberti’s sites to those of Doug Turnbull’s and you will see what I am speaking of.
Yawn, I’m not a great grandpa or a cowboy.
I did buy a Heritage .22LR on grandopening sale about a year ago. $89 was too good a deal to pass up. Leave it in the barn for possums and coons (yes, the 4 leg kind).
Here’s another malfunction. Supposed to be 25 comments on this thread and I can only see 10.
36… dammit jaydub, now you’ve gone beyond evil. Fool me once , shame on you; fool me twice, aw forget it, it’s still early…
I swear to you that I’m not trying to be evil. It just seems to be my natural setting.
I listed after a model P in my salad days because…..well, just because…..it was beautiful with the bright blue and CC frame. Always out of my minimum wage teenaged self.
Nowadays, I do appreciate the Colt and its Brevettes but prefer the modern goodness of a small-framed Ruger Vaquero or Flat top Blackhawk.
I bought a couple original Ruger Flattops 25 years ago for that ratchet sound and half cock loading.
Now I like thumbing the gate open with a reverse index pawl and the beautiful utility of stainless steel.
….one of these..or something similar..belongs in every collection…just too much history there..and, as I recall..it got a pretty good workout in “Red Dawn”, as well….
They are great fighting guns….just need to get your fighting done in 5 or 6 rounds.
Reloading is slow compared to …everything.
The only cartridge guns that are slower are the european gate loaders that have fiddly ejection rods that are non spring loaded.
Ever try to reload a 95 nagant? Makes an American single action look like a sports car.
I suppose that a solid frame H&R DA revolver is slower as well …… in addition to being a puny caliber.
Nagants are slow and also have a trigger only a lawyer would love.
Maybe I could just carry TWO Ruger Vaqueros…bet nobody has done that before. LOL
I certainly would feel unarmed …… maybe a little heavy laden.
Slow loading? I inherited a DA .38 revolver from my father-in-law, has no loading gate nor swing out. You’re supposed to unscrew the cylinder pin to remove the cylinder completely, then use the pin to push out the empties, reload the cylinder and reinstall. I believe an expert could get off 5 shots with a flintlock muzzleloader in less time. Meanwhile, the action feels as though all moving parts are coated with sand. If it were for sale today I’d expect the price to be around $2 new. Guess what I plan to do with it!? I’m waiting for a gun buyback!!! BWAHAhaha!
I have two 1873s from Pietta, a 4 3/4″ in .45 Colt, and a 7 1/2″ in .357. The .45 came out of the box slick and after I did my typical tune up, got even slicker. It is one of my favorites to shoot.
Pietta, other than its tuned models, doesn’t spend a lot of time detailing the parts. The first thing I do after I buy one is to completely disassemble the pistol. I polish the interface between the sides of the hammer and the frame (notice that there are a few rough spots on the hammer on the gun in the article) to assure that they slide smoothly. Taking a minute bit of metal off the rounded part of the frame with a fine file makes a huge difference. Kepp sanding until the hammer slides back and forth through the frame without grittiness. I then polish both sides of the hammer where the hammer screw goes through. 800 grit wet/dry paper works very well.
Next I measure each of the slots in the cylinder and the width of the cylinder lock. From an article I found years ago, I learned that the lock is often fractionally wider than the cylinder slots, and one will peen the other or they will stick unless the widths are matched.
On the transfer bar models I have (black powder pistols do not have transfer bars), I also smooth the edges of the transfer bar so that it slides easily up and down in the slot. Once these simple tasks are completed, the gun should operate very smoothly.
Personally, prefer a high gloss finish on the grip. I will finely sand the grips and take down any areas where they are proud of the frame. I finish with numerous coats of TruOil, which is mostly linseed oil. (The .45 currently sports a pair of faux ivory grips from Tombstone Grips. These are a kit. The grip pieces come generallly approximating the shape of the grip frame, but then you have to sand them down with coarse emery boards until you get the shape right. Lots of white powder everywhere! You finish with fine grit wet/dry paper, and I finished with the polish used to clear the glaze off head lights. A lot of (very enjoyable) work, but worth the effort. Fully finished grips you can order are made of much softer materials.)
Great posts! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend.
With the right cross draw holster, in leather, I can see carrying one in winter time. Long coat over it for CCW. Depending on what/where this would make a good ‘Sunday’ gun.
“Sunday”? Is that the same as “BBQ”?
As a retired cop, I carry a Glock 23 as my daily urban conceal carry. But like you, when in the woods I often prefer my single action revolver. In my case it’s a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Mag.
I have a friend who retired two years back,for duty the dept. issued Sig 220’s.
When ever a missing person, hiker,camper or the like. The dept. organized a horseback search party, he would swap out the 220 for his Ruger Vaqueros.
The new crossover ’73’s with an Army 1860 grip are very nice, and short of a Bisley grip are the best handles on a .45 Long Colt (LC just sounds right).
Uberti El Patrón Grizzly Paw is probably the best of them.
Now if they’ll only make my El Patrón CMS (lowered hammer, short action) with an 1860 grip, I can agreeably assume room temperature.
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