Category Archives: Firearms

U.S. Fire Arms Mfg. Co. — A Look at the Premier “Colt” Model 1873 Single Action


USFA Rodeo chambered in .45 Colt

U.S.F.A. Rodeo chambered in .45 Colt

Fans of my blog posts on firearms (by far my most popular) have probably guessed by now that I’ve recently been on a Western kick, most notably with Winchester lever action rifles and copies, and clones of the 1873 Colt Single Action revolver:

I rather thought I’d had enough of this trend, but a couple of months ago my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange) had on consignment something from a company with which I was unfamiliar — U.S. Fire Arms Manufacturing of Hartford, Connecticut.  If that town sounds familiar, it’s because Hartford is the original home of one of the most storied names in U.S. gun manufacturing — Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, later renamed by dropping “Patent” from their moniker.

USFA Rodeo

U.S.F.A. Rodeo

U.S. Firearms began as in importer of Uberti-made parts for the Model 1873 Single Action revolver, a Colt design best known as the “Single Action Army“, “Peacemaker”, or just “Colt 45”.  U.S.F.A would then hand-fit these Uberti parts into superlative copies of the Colt Model 1873.  But U.S.F.A. evolved, and later began making all their own parts.

Uberti El Patrón; USFA Rodeo

Uberti El Patrón; U.S.F.A. Rodeo

These all-U.S.F.A. revolvers soon took on the reputation of being the best-made versions of the Model 1873 ever produced, exceeding in quality even the Colt originals, and far beyond anything Colt produces today.

Uberti El Patrón Competition; USFA Rodeo

Uberti El Patrón Competition; U.S.F.A. Rodeo

But when I first saw this U.S.F.A. “Rodeo” version I had no idea what I was seeing.  The matte “blue” (actually black to my eye) and the hard rubber grips made the weapon look uninspiring, to say the least.  It was only after I started researching U.S.F.A. and their later in-house products that I understood the significance.  Handling the revolver and operating the hammer, cylinder, and trigger confirmed what I’d read.  For instance, I have quite simply never handled a revolver on which the cylinder did not exhibit at least a very slight amount of “play” in the lock-up with the frame . . . up until I held this Rodeo.  The cylinder exhibited absolutely no play whatsoever, not even a hint.  It was the tightest cylinder-to-frame lock-up I have ever encountered, far beyond such highly prized revolvers as Colt’s Python, Ruger’s GP100 Match Competition, Uberti’s El Patrón Competition model, or even offerings from Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center.

Uberti El Patrón Competition; U.S.F.A. Rodeo — Note the hammer/firing pin differences

Uberti El Patrón Competition; U.S.F.A. Rodeo — Note the hammer/firing pin differences

And the U.S.F.A. Rodeo was their “cheap” offering!  Not from any degradation in the fit and tight tolerances, but rather that matte finish and the hard rubber grips.  Considering when new these Rodeos went for several hundred less than their case-hardened brethren, I think that matte finish was a small price to pay for a pistol of this quality.  Apparently so, too, did Cowboy Action Shooters, who snatched these up whenever they could.

USFA Rodeo hard rubber grips

U.S.F.A. Rodeo hard rubber grips

And then there was the caliber.  This U.S.F.A. Rodeo was chambered for .45 Colt, which matched another weapon I had planned on having Mike DiMuzio convert for me, an early Interarms-Rossi M92 copy of the famed Winchester Model 1892.

"45 Colt", sometimes referred to as .45 'Long' Colt, or .45 LC

“45 Colt”, sometimes referred to as .45 ‘Long’ Colt, or .45 LC

Interarms Rossi M92 in .45 Colt

My intent, up until Mike’s unfortunate and very untimely death late last year, was to have the Rossi converted as I had the one pictured below, mimicking the Winchester Model 1892 used by Chuck Connors in the classic 1958-to-1963 television series The Rifleman.

Mike DiMuzio “Rifleman” conversion top; early Interarms Rossi M92 below

Rossi Ranch Hand pistol top; DiMuzion “Rifleman” conversion below

Well, Mike unfortunately has passed, and I was left with a .45 Colt Winchester clone.  As any cowboy will tell you, your rifle’s caliber should always match that of your sidearms, and my Uberti Single Action revolver is chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum, which matches my “Rifleman” conversion, but not my Interarms Rossi.  So, the Interarms Rossi simply required a similarly chambered .45 Colt revolver.  That’s the story I gave Ursula, and I’m sticking to it.  So, after much research and considerable “Do I really need this?” soul searching, the U.S.F.A. Rodeo finally followed me home like some abandoned puppy, complete with original foam-lined box and protective gun sock (top foam piece removed to show U.S.F.A. label).

U.S.F.A. Rodeo complete with box and gun sock

U.S.F.A. Rodeo complete with box and gun sock

I tried to date this weapon as best I could using the serial number, but that turned out to be an exercise in stupidity on my part.  I say stupidity, because I originally estimated this Rodeo as dating back to around 2002.  Then I noticed the fine print on the label.  U.S.F.A. revised their inner box label in July, 2006 (see lower left corner), and copyrighted the label that same year (lower center).

U.S.F.A. MFG. CO., Hartford, CT (Connecticut) label

U.S.F.A. MFG. CO., Hartford, CT (Connecticut) label

Now my revised estimate is a manufacturing date sometime between July 2006 (duh!) and the company’s demise sometime in 2011 (another duh!), with my best guess being late 2006 to sometime in 2007.

U.S.F.A. MFG. Co. HARTFORD C.T. U.S.A.

U.S.F.A. MFG. Co. HARTFORD C.T. U.S.A.

Why did U.S.F.A. fail?  It’s what I call “The Walmartization of the American Economy”, in which Americans grow increasingly addicted to lower prices at the expense of quality.  And, like all addictions, this one is also bad for us.  It depresses everything from standards to wages, but I digress.  Just quit Walmart for Target,  and exchange your Sam’s card for one from Costco is all I say on the matter.  You, your neighbors, your country, and your grandchildren will all eventually thank you in the future.

Bottom line:  U.S. Fire Arms could not price this high-quality, hand-fitted firearm to a point where it was profitable to continue making them, even with the cheaper matte finish.

Authentic Colt Patent Stamps: Sept. 19, 1871; July 2, 1872; July 19, 1875

Authentic Colt Patent Stamps: Sept. 19, 1871; July 2, 1872; July 19, 1875

What makes the U.S.F.A. better than, say, the Uberti?  Other than the incredibly tight tolerances and hand-fitting, I mean?  How about authenticity.  For one, the Uberti uses a low-profile style hammer for easier, quicker cocking; whereas the U.S.F.A. version has a more correct silhouette.  The U.S.F.A. firing pin is also conical, as was the original Colt, while the Uberti uses a tapered firing pin.

Period correct conical firing pin on the U.S.F.A. Rodeo

Uberti tapered firing pin

Uberti tapered firing pin

The trigger on the U.S.F.A. Rodeo is very good . . . but it’s not quite as good as that on Uberti’s El Patrón Competition.  Both exhibit minimal-to-nonexistent trigger movement and an exceptionally clean break, but the El Patrón Competition has, as you would expect from the name, a competition trigger that breaks at what I estimate to be barely over two pounds.  Most people would consider that a “hair-trigger”.  The Rodeo trigger requires slightly more force to trip the hammer, but not much.  Thus, the Uberti wins on three counts — trigger pull, price, and finish.

Uberti case-hardened finish; U.S.F.A. Rodeo matte blue finish

Uberti case-hardened finish; U.S.F.A. Rodeo matte blue finish

That’s not to say that this rodeo was exorbitantly priced.  Far from it.  Comparing to what other Rodeos in similar condition are commanding, it appears this one went for a little more than half what one would expect, especially as I suspect that this example is unfired.

U.S.F.A. Rodeo loading gate

U.S.F.A. Rodeo loading gate

Now this next comparison is a bit of a shocker.  As tight and solid as the U.S.F.A. Rodeo feels in hand, it actually weighs in at nearly three ounces less than Uberti’s offering — 2.82 counces/80 grams less, to be precise.  It could be that the added weight on the Uberti results from beefing up both frame and cylinder to handle the higher pressures of the .357 Magnum round, or it could be the Uberti’s wood grips come at a weight premium over the U.S.F.A.’s rubber, but those are just guesses on my part.

U.S.F.A. Rodeo .45 Colt comes in at 38.16 ounces/1,082 grams

U.S.F.A. Rodeo .45 Colt comes in at 38.16 ounces/1,082 grams

Uberti El Patrón in .357 Magnum/.38 Special weighs 2.82 ounces/80 grams more

Uberti El Patrón in .357 Magnum/.38 Special weighs 2.82 ounces/80 grams more

There are two guns that vie for the title “The Gun that Won the West”.  Both were introduced to the American public in the year 1873.  One was a lever action rifle — the Winchester Model 1873.  The other was the original version of the revolver you’ve read about today — Colt’s Model 1873 “Peacemaker” Single Action Army.  I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s modern interpretation of this Colt classic.  Next week we return to the Chile-to-Santiago cruise aboard the Golden Princess.  Next stop — Nicaragua.

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The Myths Driving the Magazine Capacity Debate — and How They Get You Killed


The FNH FNX9 comes standard with three 17-round magazines — Total capacity 52 rounds (51+1 in the chamber) 9mm

Several uninformed, firearms-ignorant, but highly opinionated gun control advocates have recently made magazine capacity their latest target (pun intended) in their attempt to disarm law abiding citizens rather than address the issue of firearms abuse by those who do not abide by laws.  Regular readers of my blog know where I stand on that (see:  When Will We Rein in these Deliverers of Death?) — denying the law abiding access to firearms because of law breakers is akin to denying the law abiding access to automobiles because of drunk drivers, or those who would use vehicles to kill and maim.  The rational among us realize that the former makes as much since as the latter.  Those with an irrational fear of firearms?  Not so much.

The FNH FNX45 comes standard with three 15-round magazines — Total capacity 46 rounds (45+1 in the chamber) of .45 ACP

Recently New York and Colorado became among the latest to jump on the magazine capacity bandwagon.  But how informed was this legislation?  How much safer are the citizens of these states because of these bans on arbitrarily defined “high-capacity” magazines?  What have citizens been asked to give up in return for this supposed increase in safety?

The first video below demonstrates very convincingly the myths behind magazine capacity limits.  It was produced by Ken Campbell, Sheriff of Boone County, Indiana.  The first 1:44 is a bit slow so you can skip ahead if you don’t want to read through the background, but I highly encourage you to watch the remainder to do something Michael Bloomberg and others have not — to actually get educated on the issue:

This second video demonstrates the principle point made by Sheriff Campbell in his video — limiting magazine capacity limits the ability of the law abiding to defend themselves.  The scenario in this video is not only realistic, it’s actually more common than you think — people defending themselves really do run out of ammunition, and six-round or even ten-round limits on magazines really are unrealistic in a self-defense situation no matter how good your training:

I’ll be returning to my Paracas, Peru, travel series after this week, so please bear with me all you travel and photography fans.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday will be devoted to repeats of some really great recipes for Super Bowl Sunday.  That’s right — this week will feature two bonus blogs.

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A Tribute to Mike DiMuzio and a Look at the Interarms Rossi M92 in .45 Colt


Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

Many of you may remember my popular post on firearms from 1950s Television Westerns in general, and The Rifleman’s Winchester Model 1892 in particular.  You may also recall my YouTube video on spin-cocking a full size Model 1892 rifle, the “Flip Special”.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

That very special “Flip Special” was custom made for me by Mike DiMuzio of North Carolina.  Alas, I am deeply saddened to report that Mike passed away less than a month ago.  Mike and I had exchanged emails and chatted several times over the course of the past year and a half.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

This rifle from the late ’70s to early ’80s.  It was manufactured by Rossi of Brazil according to specifications outlined by Sam Cummings’ International Armament Corporation, otherwise known as Interarms (Sam Cummings, a very interesting character, was the basis for Sterling Heyward in my mystery novel The Globe).  This particular Rossi M92 is a fairly faithful rendition of the iconic Winchester Model 1892, a rifle used in countless television shows and movies because of its close resemblance to the Winchester Model 1873.  The Model 1892 was a favorite of the late John Wayne, and he used large loop variations of the M1892 in many films ranging from Stagecoach (1939) to True Grit (1969).

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

So, why weren’t Winchester Model 1873s used in television and movie productions?  Why instead this anachronism?  Up until fairly recently the only 1873s available were rare antiques too valuable for use in television and movies.  Now new M1873 rifles are being manufactured by Uberti of Italy and since 2013 under the Winchester name by Miroku of Japan.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

I purchased this version of the Model 1892 with the sole intention of sending it to Mike for conversion into another Rifleman “Flip Special,” and I was rather excited to have found a .45 Colt example although a rifle in .44-40 Winchester would be more authentic.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

I was immediately drawn to this firearm when I first laid eyes on it at my local favorite gun store Collector’s Gun Exchange.  While Rossi made M92 rifles for various U.S. importers back in the ’70s and beyond, the Interarms versions were a cut above the rest.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I was looking to acquire another converted Rossi, and how this rifle differs from the later model Rossi seen here:

Classic "Rifleman" vs. Classic Model 1892

Classic “Rifleman” vs. Classic Model 1892

Most obvious is the finish on the wood:

Classic Model 1892 vs. Classic "Rifleman"

Classic Model 1892 vs. Classic “Rifleman”

The current Rossi M92 rifles sport a matte finish while the Interarms version displays a richer, high gloss.  Mike stained the “Flip Special” pictured here to better match the finish of an original antique Winchester.

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Another difference is the location of the front sight.  On the Interarms the front sight is part of the barrel band that affixes the magazine tube to the rifle barrel.  The recent Rossi has the front sight dovetailed directly into the barrel.

Front Sight Comparisons — Old (top) vs. New

Front Sight Comparisons — Old (top) vs. New

Now for the most important difference of all.  See if you can pick up on the difference in the next two photos.  Here is the Interarms Rossi:

Classic Model 1892

Classic Model 1892

And now the new “improved” version from Rossi:

New Rossi M92 with Safety

New Rossi M92 with Safety

As you can see Rossi now incorporates into the Model 1892 design a firing safety whereas the earlier Interarms Rossi stays truer to the original John Moses Browning/Winchester design.  Here the two are pictured together:

New Rossi with Safety vs. Classic Model 1892

New Rossi with Safety vs. Classic Model 1892

A safety is all fine and good . . . if you’re carrying a lever action Winchester design with a cartridge chambered, but that was never the intent of the design.  As with the Colt Single Action Army, the hammer should be resting on an empty chamber (for an explanation as to why see my look at the Uberti version of the 1873 Colt).  Alas, far too many gun owners today do not understand basic firearm operation and safety, so even later Winchesters were eventually dumbed down to compensate for careless firearms handling.

For now this Interarms Rossi will remain unconverted, although I have found two other sources to do the work for me.  I’m just not convinced that anyone can do as good a job as Mike DiMuzio, who learned his craft at the hands of Moe Hunt — personal gunsmith to Chuck Connors (Lucas McCainThe Rifleman).  Mike not only modified and installed levers on his conversions, he also smithed the internal action to beef it up and smooth it out to make spin-cocking the rifle possible.  Here’s one last look at Mike’s handwork:

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

And finally I leave you with two videos of Mike doing his thing and making it look simple (it isn’t, trust me).  So long, Mike.  You’ll be sorely missed.

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