1873 Single Action Army


Kevin Lee McIver's great grandpa in Oklahoma sporting his Colt SAA Peacemaker and a cigar.
Kevin Lee McIver’s great grandpa in Oklahoma sporting his Colt SAA Peacemaker and a cigar. Photo: Collard family.

The Colt Single Action Army is perhaps the most widely recognized pistols of all time. Quick shooting and fast on the draw, the SAA is reminiscent of a time in America’s history when the Wild West was a lawless frontier.

Over a century ago, the SAA cleared a path for an emerging nation. Lawmen, badmen, farmers, Native Americans, prospectors, and soldiers all used Samuel Colt’s most famous design for their endeavors. There were many other pistols on the frontier; but none earned a reputation like the “Peacemaker.”

Since its inception in 1873 to today, the SAA has few equals when it comes to appearance or quick to draw and get that first shot. Easy to disassemble, assemble, maintain and shoot, the SAA is also very rugged; however, this is no weapon for the timid.

Those familiar with the SAA know that it can be an experience when it comes to shooting at the range or in the field: loading and ejecting one round at a time; adjusting elevation by filing down the front sight (a one shot deal with no margin for error); and carrying only five rounds in the cylinder, as a sixth one would rest directly under the hammer. For those of us fond of its uniqueness, it is the “classic” firearm.

Today, despite the overwhelming popularity of double-action revolvers and semi-automatic pistols with their “modern-day” conveniences, cowboys have made a comeback, with Sam Colt’s design high on the wanted list.

These shootists yearn for the Old West and their weapon is the SAA. This renewed interest in American cowboy history has generated an increase in SAA manufacture.

In many of these models, parts are identical to the original Colt SAAs, making them every bit historically correct, except for the name. In other models, they have been “modernized” with features like adjustable sights or safety mechanisms; however, they are still Single Action Army at heart.

Current manufacturers or importers of SAA reproductions include American Arms, Cimarron, Century Gun Distributors, Colt, Dixie Gun Works, EAA, EMF, Freedom Arms, Mitchell, Navy Arms, QFI, Ruger, and Uberti.

My particular “Peacemaker” is a Hartford model imported by EMF of California. A SAA reproduction from Italy, the Hartford is identical to the 1st generation SAAs, to include the infamous patent dates stamped on the left side of the frame. Used both at the firing range and as a backup when hunting, the EMF Hartford is a fine, accurate shooter and is a credit to Colt’s design genius and to fine Italian craftsmanship.

A great Italian reproduction single army action pistol imported by EMF
EMF Hartford Colt. A great Italian reproduction single army action pistol imported by EMF. Photo: Kevin Lee McIver

If you want to relive a piece of history, get into Single Action Shooting. You can simply buy a SAA and head to the range, or you can join one of the SA shooting groups who practice what they preach by firing only western-style firearms.

One of these, the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) “lives” the old west with appropriate dress and unique live-fire action competitions. At SASS shoots, pre-1899 weapons are the norm, although there is a category for shooting modernized SAAs if you wish. Either way, you’ll be a cowboy on the lawless frontier.

So head to the gun store, pick up a piece of history and strap on your shooting iron.

Kevin Lee McIver
Groovy Outdoors Head Guru

Kevin Lee McIver

Soldier, Army Ranger, Writer, & Adventurer

One thought on “1873 Single Action Army

  • September 29, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Interesting article on Colt–thanks

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