Tag Archives: Single Action Army

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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Fun Photo Friday — Six Shooter Week


Two Calibers from One Gun . . . Times Two

Two Calibers from One Gun . . . Times Two

Today’s Fun Photo Friday I present some favorite shots from my firearms posts of earlier this week.  Here is a gallery of the cylinder engraving touted in Wednesday’s post on the Talo Distributor Exlusive Ruger Single-Six Convertible “Cowboy”:

And here’s a second gallery of additional favorites:

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Six Shooter Week — Uberti 1873 El Patrón Competition


El Patrón — "The Boss"

El Patrón — “The Boss”

Regular readers of my firearms posts may have detected a slight deviation from my usual affinity toward semiautomatics.  Lately I’ve come to appreciate the firearms that tamed the Wild, Wild West, particularly Winchester lever actions.  Here are a rare pair of consecutively numbered, “Centennial Edition” Winchester Model 1894s, unfired and chambered in .30-30 and .44 Magnum.  (see:  Winchester Rifles — Part 1 and Winchester Rifles — Part 2)

Centennial Edition Winchester 1894 rifles — .30-30 and .44 Magnum

I also have a childhood fascination with the old black-and-white television westerns of the 1950s.  In those shows, the Winchester Model 1892 often substituted for the more era-appropriate Model 1873 because new 1873 weren’t being made (as they are now) and existing ones were rather pricey.  Two favorites from the Golden Age of Television were The Rifleman and Wanted: Dead or Alive.  (see:  Firearms — Television Westerns from the 1950s for more on the weapons pictured below)

Mare’s Leg (top) — Pistol version of the M1892; Rifleman’s Rifle — Modified M1892 for trick handling and rapid fire

Two weapons bore the title of “The Gun that Won the West”.  The first was the aforementioned Winchester Model 1873.  The second was a pistol that coincidentally also made its debut in the year 1873 — the famous Colt Model 1873.  The Colt M1873 also went by several other names depending on configuration and caliber — two of the more common versions being the Single Action Army (.45 “Long” Colt), the Frontier Six Shooter (.44-40), and “The Peacemaker”.  Today, most people just refer to the Colt M1873 and its clones as Peacemakers, 1873s, or the SAA, short for Single Action Army.

El Patrón — "The Boss"

El Patrón — “The Boss”

The M1873 you are looking at today is from Italian manufacturer Uberti, a maker of replica firearms that supplies re-branded Old West rifles and handguns to Benelli (Uberti’s direct owner), Beretta (owner of Benelli), Cimarron Firearms Company, and Taylor’s and Company.

Uberti Single Action Army box

Uberti Single Action Army box

Uberti’s El Patrón box comes with the following goodies —Instruction Manual, Instruction (be careful or you’ll shoot your eye out, kid) Sheet, Cylinder Lock, and, of course, an El Patrón Competition six-shooter.

Uberti Single Action Army — What's inside the box

Uberti Single Action Army — What’s inside the box

This particular Uberti is a special factory-tuned Cattleman “El Patrón Competition” model with lowered hammer for easier one-handed cocking and a very light trigger for competition shooting.  Other features include a blued cylinder, case-hardened frame, steel trigger guard and backstrap, and nicely textured walnut grips.  A stainless steel version is also available.  But, really?  This is an Old West firearm.  Stainless just wouldn’t look right.

Blued cylinder set in a case-hardened frame

Blued cylinder set in a case-hardened frame

Stamped into the barrel is the model name and caliber, in this case .357 Magnum.  That means this weapon will also handle the lower-powered, cheaper to fire .38 Special without a hitch.

Uberti El Patrón Competition barrel markings

Uberti El Patrón Competition barrel markings

I find the numbered cylinder an interesting and useful touch.  Since this is an almost exact replica of the original Colt, it is imperative that you leave the hammer down on an empty chamber for safety, and numbering the chambers makes that a snap.

Numbered Chambers — a nice touch

Numbered Chambers — a nice touch

As anyone with experience will tell you, the proper way to accomplish this with the 1873 is to pull the hammer back to the half-cock position (don’t confuse that with a “safe” position; it isn’t), open the loading gate, rotate the cylinder to chamber 1, and load a bullet.  Now, skip chamber 6, then load in order chambers 5, 4, 3, and 2.  Loaded chamber five is now beneath the half-cocked hammer, and empty chamber six is the next in line.  Close the loading gate and cock the hammer to the firing position.  This will rotate empty chamber six into firing position.  With your thumb on the hammer, pull the trigger until the sear trips and then gently ride the hammer completely down against the frame.  Don’t release the trigger prematurely or the hammer will stop at the half-cock position.

Chamber #1 ready to load

Chamber #1 ready to load

It is possible to load five chambers in sequence, close the gate, and then carefully pull the trigger while gently pulling back the hammer until the hammer disengages from the half-cock position, then lower hammer onto the empty chamber.  But the problem with this method is that you then have to wiggle the cylinder until it locks up with the cylinder bolt, which was disengaged when the hammer was previously in the half-cocked position.  Rotating the cylinder and hopefully not inadvertently placing a loaded chamber beneath the hammer just doesn’t work for me.  I simply cannot recommend this method.

Loading gate, blued cylinder, and case-hardened frame

Loading gate, blued cylinder, and case-hardened frame

There is a third method that supposedly allows for safely carrying an 1873 with all six chambers loaded, but I’m certainly not going to do it.  That requires additional manipulation so that the firing pin built into the face of the hammer rests directly on the cylinder between the rims of two loaded cartridges.  Yeah . . . right.  I’m not doing it.

Case-hardened mottling

Case-hardened mottling

Disassembly is a snap.  Just pull the hammer to the half-cocked position, open the loading gate, push the spring loaded base pin latch, pull out the base pin (the long metal rod below), and remove the cylinder through the gate opening.  Reassembly is not quite as easy, at least for me.  You have to get the cylinder into just the right position before pushing the base pin latch and reinserting the base pin.  If it doesn’t all go together perfectly, the hammer cannot be pulled back beyond the half-cock position.  The trick here is to keep pushing on the base pin while wiggling the cylinder until the base pin snaps fully back into the frame.

Simple breakdown; reassembly not so much

Simple breakdown; reassembly not so much

Now for my impressions.  Bear in mind I’ve yet to fire this weapon.  That being said I can tell you that cylinder lockup is incredibly tight with barely any movement.  Both fit and finish are superb.  The Uberti emits the legendary ‘C-O-L-T’ cocking sound — that’s four distinct “clicks”, one for each letter in “Colt”, as the hammer is cocked back into firing position.  Because of the low-angle hammer and the custom Wolff springs, the Uberti is incredibly easy to thumb cock with no shifting of the hand required.  The trigger is by far the best I’ve encountered in any weapon.  There is absolutely no slack take-up, the break is clean and crisp with almost zero (less than a millimeter) creep, and the trigger weight feels to me as though it has to be well under three pounds.

Uberti Single Action Army and a Ruger Single-Six

Uberti Single Action Army and a Ruger Single-Six

So, show me favorably impressed.  The Uberti 1873 Cattleman El Patrón Competition is a solid, well-built, tight example of the classic, original Colt 1873 design.  Suggested retail is currently $669, or $799 for the blasphemous stainless model.  Calibers include .38SPL/.357 Magnum and .45 Colt, and barrel lengths come in 4.75 inches/120 mm, 5.5 inches/140mm, and a CMS (Custom Mounted Shooter) at 3.5 inches/90mm.

Now, if only Uberti would offer a Paladin Have Gun — Will Travel version with a 7.5-inch/190-millimeter “Cavalry” length.  Well, I can dream, can’t I?

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