The Single Action Army, Peacemaker, or Model P has been in production in various forms and generations since 1873. Now, it is also available from a respected maker based in Italy. The SAA was a favorite six-gun of many explorers, soldiers, and adventurers such as Lawrence of Arabia, General George S. Patton, General Douglas McArthur, and General Wainwright. In their hands, the revolver drew blood and defended their person and their country.
Lawmen such as Lone Wolf Gonzullas, Tom Threepersons, and Frank Hamer carried the SAA long into the previous century. Today, we have first quality revolvers (and plenty of cheap competitors) that will serve well. These revolvers are affordable, and in my opinion, also among the most useful, smooth handling, and accurate SAA types ever manufactured.
I own several Pietta revolvers and have enjoyed excellent results with each. The Taylors and Company revolvers are manufactured to rigid standards by Peitta for modern shooters. These revolvers are well suited to Cowboy Action shooting, informal recreational shooting, and defense against animals while hiking or exploring. Those familiar with the handling qualities of the SAA could certainly make a good defense of their person in a home defense situation. The first time I held a burglar at gunpoint, many years ago, it was with a SAA revolver—I was too young to be a peace officer.
During the Old West period, most revolvers were plainly finished. There were more cheap guns than good guns, just as today, and embellishment was uncommon. Unless you were named Buffalo Bill Cody, your guns were rather plain. George S Patton Jr. carried an ornate engraved revolver, and lawman Frank Hamer carried a revolver engraved in a modest pattern. Hamer’s ‘Old Lucky’ was a gift.
Buffalo Bill Cody was a wealthy man, and in his later years, his revolvers were for show—although they were as formidable as any other. Roy Roger’s movie guns were often ornately engraved. Today, Taylors and Company has managed to offer a very nicely engraved revolver in the Cattle Brand-type at a fair price. This is made affordable by modern laser engraving. Lasers, specially designed for Pietta, offer excellent quality. While Pietta offers several types of engraving, this revolver features a Cattle Brand design.
Cowboys of the old west had to know their brands and this is a fitting design. The coverage is excellent. The grips are a modern polymer made to resemble ivory. The action of the Taylors and Company Cattle Brand revolver is the traditional type with a hammer-mounted firing pin. This means the revolver must be loaded with only five cartridges for safe carry. Load one; skip a chamber, load four and cock the hammer and you have the hammer down on an empty chamber.
Pietta also manufactures revolvers with the transfer bar action, allowing safe carry of six cartridges. In my experience, either is plenty smooth and accurate, but it is the traditional action that offers a better trigger pull. Trigger compression on this revolver is a crisp four pounds. The Cattlebrand Engraved revolvers feature the Artillery length barrel at 5 ½ inches. The balance and heft are ideal.
The revolver points like a finger and comes on target quickly. The SAA has proven versatile and has been chambered for many cartridges in its long life. The revolver is available in .357 Magnum and .45 Colt. The .357 Magnum chambering gives shooters the option of using the hard-hitting Magnum for field use and the .38 Special for targets and Cowboy Action Shooting. For most shooters, this combination is ideal for all around use. The famous exhibition shooter, Ed McGivern, ordered a 5 ½-inch barrel .357 Magnum SAA as soon as they became available in the late 1930s.
The revolver illustrated is chambered for the original Single Action Army caliber the .45 Colt. I am a .45 Colt fan and when ordering my personal Engraved Cattlebrand revolver, I allowed that either caliber would do. As luck had it, the .357 Magnum was out of stock. The .45 Colt was the piece on hand and that worked just fine.
The .45 Colt operates at low pressure yet delivers a hard blow. The original loading fired a 250-grain conical bullet at 800-900 fps depending on barrel length and load variation. Today, most cowboy action loads, such as the accurate and clean burning Fiocchi, break about 750 fps. This load is accurate and offers good performance for competition and target shooting. For many years, a standard for outdoors use was a hard cast Keith designed 250-grain SWC over enough Unique powder for 1,000 fps. Today, I use WW 231 or Titegroup for 850 fps with most loads and occasionally stroke the piece to 950 fps for outdoors use.
Using hard cast bullets from Oregon Trail, I have been able to fire groups with my best handloads of 2.0-2.5 inches at 25 yards. This would be a good choice for thin-skinned game at moderate range. Clearly, the revolver is accurate enough for cowboy action or other chores.
As for personal defense, the original soft lead 255-grain bullet tumbled in flesh and was easily the most effective of the Old West calibers. The modern hard cast bullets do not seem to tumble. However, penetration is excellent. I have loaded the Hornady 250-grain XTP to a modest 800 fps, yet the bullet penetrates 42 inches of water with some expansion.
Buffalo Bore offers a couple of defense loads that are very interesting. The 225-grain full wadcutter offers a hard-hitting bullet with good accuracy and a cookie cutter effect. It tracks straight in the vitals and is very accurate. My personal favorite defense load is the Buffalo Bore 225-grain lead SWC HP bullet. For personal defense it just doesn’t get any better. It is hard to ignore such a powerful option and its capabilities.
The revolver balances well and is plenty accurate. For cowboy action shooting, those preferring a traditional caliber or the original SAA caliber will be hard pressed to find a more suitable revolver.
Packing the .45 SAA
I have been using the Galco Wheelgunner holster with good results. This holster isn’t a cowboy holster but a modern, all around, go-anywhere, do-anything holster for the Single Action Army. The ride is high, and the holster is molded for good retention. By moving the belt slide, the shooter is able to use the holster for either strong side or crossdraw carry. A hammer thong holds the handgun secure by slipping over the hammer. This thong is easily moved during the draw. Overall, the Wheelgunner holster a good choice for the Cattlebrand revolver.