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SAA vs Cowboy

First announced at the January 1998 SHOT Show the new Colt Cowboy single-action revolver is specifically designed for the cowboy action competitor, Colt collector, and casual recreational shooter. It preserves virtually all of the styling, handling, and historical design characteristics of the original Single Action Army while incorporating several modern internal features and manufacturing techniques. And at a suggested retail price of $599, the Cowboy is less than half the cost of a “real” Colt SAA. It is initially offered only in .45 Colt chambering with 5 1/2-inch barrel and blued finish, but Colt spokesmen expect that additional chamberings, finishes, and barrel lengths will be warranted by demand.

Two very interesting things about this new gun are how much it’s like the original and how very different it is from the original. Simply, the new Colt Cowboy revolver is a Single Action Army featuring an investment-cast steel grip frame (compared to the forged original), a downscaled yet still classic-type finish, and a modern transfer bar ignition system. (The investment cast technology and less premium finish are what primarily account for the new gun’s more competitive pricing.) The shape and size of the frame, cylinder dimensions and fluting, grip configuration, barrel length, caliber, sights, and flat mainspring hammer function remain the same. The artificial “case-hard” finish on the frame closely resembles the appearance of true casehardened steel, and while the satin blue finish on the grip frame, the cylinder, and the barrel is not as high polish as the original, its overall effect is the same. A number of parts are actually interchangeable between the Cowboy revolver and the current SAA—including trigger, barrel, ejector rod assembly, and grip frame. Non-interchangeable parts include the cylinder, cylinder frame, hammer, grip panels, and (of course) the transfer bar ignition parts. One of the SAA’s strengths has always been the low number of parts used in its construction, and Colt has been successful from an engineering point of view in incorporating the transfer bar ignition with a minimum design disruption and minimum additional parts.


There are some differences between the SAA and the Cowboy that are visible on close inspection. The checkered black plastic grip panels on the Cowboy have the same molded-in rampant Colt logo at the top as does the current SAA, but the eagle seal and motto that appears on the original’s grips is nowhere to be found on the Cowboy. The Cowboy’s hammer is slightly smaller in actual dimension, has a slightly different shape, and utilizes horizontal grooves on the top of the spur rather than the crosshatch pattern on the SAA. The base pin bushing inside the cylinder is fixed on the Cowboy, whereas it was removable in earlier versions of the SAA. The base pin itself is the same diameter as on the SAA, but it is a bit shorter and has a spring-loaded plunger in its rear tip (due to the presence of the transfer bar system). The frame thickness of the Cowboy (measured at the topstrap) is about 0.02 inch thicker than the SAA’s (a nominal .730 inch compared to .710 inch), again due to the requirements of the transfer bar system.

The SAA design allows the hammer at rest to put the tip of the hammer-mounted firing pin directly against the primer of any cartridge that is loaded in the barrel-aligned chamber. In this position any external blow against the hammer will likely discharge that cartridge. Hence the century-old stricture against carrying a revolver with a loaded chamber under the hammer (making all those frontier six-shooters actually five-shooters).

In contrast, a transfer bar ignition system places a trigger-activated steel bar between the face of the hammer and the rear of a spring-loaded firing pin in the frame, a bar that does not move into place until the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear in actual deliberate firing. At rest the bar is withdrawn and the hammer face rests directly against the frame, making no contact with the firing pin at all. So the new Colt Cowboy can be safely carried with six rounds loaded while the SAA cannot.

And, of course, the classic four clicks always heard when cocking a true Colt Single Action Army are now just three clicks on the Cowboy, as the initial slight “safety notch” on an SAA hammer just rearward from full-rest position is no longer there. Purists will miss it. But purists will also appreciate the fact that Colt did not go the two-click route by making the loading gate the active part in freeing cylinder rotation for loading like Ruger did with its single actions. Instead, the Colt Cowboy’s cylinder rotates free at the halfcock notch, independent of loading gate position, and that all-important third click is preserved. All four clicks still remain on the current SAA.






 

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Far from the same.
The Cowboy only looks like the Peacemaker on the outside.
The Cowboy was made from parts cast in Canada for Colt, the SAA has always been sourced in the US.
Gunsmiths I've talked to don't like the cheaper Cowboy's action, quite different from the Peacemaker.
The Cowboy is NOT a Single Action Army.
Denis
 

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Sure the fit and finish does not compare to the SAA but I believe it did its stated purpose as intended, but I can't explain why it was discontinued unless Colt wasn't making enough on the gun or were inventories stacking up because it didn't sell? The cylinder was slightly fatter than the SAA so the bolt notches could be made deeper. That would be an advantage to many a cowboy matches.
 

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Would the quality of the Cowboy surpass the quality of the Italian single actions?
No, I bought one new from an FFL friend / dealer when they were being dumped. They weren't popular. If you wanted a Colt you bought a "real" Colt. If you wanted a cheap clone you bought something else. Don't remember what the clones where selling for back then but it a heck of a lot less than $599. I would say it was better than the Italian guns in that time period but today the Italian guns are way better than the Colt Cowboy and truer to the Colt SAA. I sold mine awhile back. I can't believe what people are paying for them now, guessing they think it's a real Colt SAA. Didn't know the bit about the frames being from Canada, I always though Colt bought them from the Italians or Star.
 

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Agree with the above. From a distance or if you blur your eyes, mine look fine. Just like looking on line. It appears the grip frame and grips were not fitted to the individual frame, on one of my cowboys, it’s very obvious. But I knew that going into the purchase and they are fully acceptable for cowboy action, which is what they were intended for. My first colt cowboy now shows holster wear from SASS and I smile at that.
I too agree that there are a lot of un informed buyers especially on line that don’t know the difference between a cowboy and a SAA and are maybe learning that after the purchase. And I see a lot of sellers not divulging any more info than they want to.
 

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Agree with the above. From a distance or if you blur your eyes, mine look fine. Just like looking on line. It appears the grip frame and grips were not fitted to the individual frame, on one of my cowboys, it’s very obvious. But I knew that going into the purchase and they are fully acceptable for cowboy action, which is what they were intended for. My first colt cowboy now shows holster wear from SASS and I smile at that.
I too agree that there are a lot of un informed buyers especially on line that don’t know the difference between a cowboy and a SAA and are maybe learning that after the purchase. And I see a lot of sellers not divulging any more info than they want to.
Agree- I think a very small percentage of the Cowboy buyers actually know what they are getting and are willing to pay, just to have one of the "not many made" beasts, that so often occurred with Colt over the years. The majority don't know the difference and just want a wheel gun that says Colt on it, to say they have a Colt .45 like their favorite westerns had.... While the current prices +/- $1000 seems high to us, it's half or less than buying what we consider to be a "real" Colt SAA, about the same price disparity as when the Cowboy first came out compared to the real ones. They'll shoot a box of ammo through it, have a huge smile on their face and then show it to their non gun friends as their "big cowboy gun"! From there, it'll sit on a shelf for many years.

As to comparing them to the current Italian guns, I also agree. The last few years of Uberti and Cimarron guns I've handled have fairly well impressed me and are very much worth their asking price.
 

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The Cowboy is not a SAA. It was only made to compete with Ruger single actions. Thank God someone at Colt came to their senses and canceled that idea. Nowadays they are collectibles or a learning lesson ($$$$) for those that think Cowboy equates to SAA.
 

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When starting out in cowboy action shooting years ago I couldn't afford a set of Colt SAA's. Instead I bought two Ruger Bisley Vaqueros from a gun shop owner's personal collection in Akron, OH. I put lighter hammer springs in them which helped my clock time. They're tanks and after thousands of rounds they look and operate just as good as the day I bought them.
I finally saved enough to buy the real deal - Colt SAA 5-1/2" case hardened. The pride and joy of my revolver collection. The Uberti Schofield in 45lc in another gem.
The choice is yours. Settle for a fine Uberti now, or save for what you really want.
 

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SAA vs Cowboy

First announced at the January 1998 SHOT Show the new Colt Cowboy single-action revolver is specifically designed for the cowboy action competitor, Colt collector, and casual recreational shooter. It preserves virtually all of the styling, handling, and historical design characteristics of the original Single Action Army while incorporating several modern internal features and manufacturing techniques. And at a suggested retail price of $599, the Cowboy is less than half the cost of a “real” Colt SAA. It is initially offered only in .45 Colt chambering with 5 1/2-inch barrel and blued finish, but Colt spokesmen expect that additional chamberings, finishes, and barrel lengths will be warranted by demand.

Two very interesting things about this new gun are how much it’s like the original and how very different it is from the original. Simply, the new Colt Cowboy revolver is a Single Action Army featuring an investment-cast steel grip frame (compared to the forged original), a downscaled yet still classic-type finish, and a modern transfer bar ignition system. (The investment cast technology and less premium finish are what primarily account for the new gun’s more competitive pricing.) The shape and size of the frame, cylinder dimensions and fluting, grip configuration, barrel length, caliber, sights, and flat mainspring hammer function remain the same. The artificial “case-hard” finish on the frame closely resembles the appearance of true casehardened steel, and while the satin blue finish on the grip frame, the cylinder, and the barrel is not as high polish as the original, its overall effect is the same. A number of parts are actually interchangeable between the Cowboy revolver and the current SAA—including trigger, barrel, ejector rod assembly, and grip frame. Non-interchangeable parts include the cylinder, cylinder frame, hammer, grip panels, and (of course) the transfer bar ignition parts. One of the SAA’s strengths has always been the low number of parts used in its construction, and Colt has been successful from an engineering point of view in incorporating the transfer bar ignition with a minimum design disruption and minimum additional parts.


There are some differences between the SAA and the Cowboy that are visible on close inspection. The checkered black plastic grip panels on the Cowboy have the same molded-in rampant Colt logo at the top as does the current SAA, but the eagle seal and motto that appears on the original’s grips is nowhere to be found on the Cowboy. The Cowboy’s hammer is slightly smaller in actual dimension, has a slightly different shape, and utilizes horizontal grooves on the top of the spur rather than the crosshatch pattern on the SAA. The base pin bushing inside the cylinder is fixed on the Cowboy, whereas it was removable in earlier versions of the SAA. The base pin itself is the same diameter as on the SAA, but it is a bit shorter and has a spring-loaded plunger in its rear tip (due to the presence of the transfer bar system). The frame thickness of the Cowboy (measured at the topstrap) is about 0.02 inch thicker than the SAA’s (a nominal .730 inch compared to .710 inch), again due to the requirements of the transfer bar system.

The SAA design allows the hammer at rest to put the tip of the hammer-mounted firing pin directly against the primer of any cartridge that is loaded in the barrel-aligned chamber. In this position any external blow against the hammer will likely discharge that cartridge. Hence the century-old stricture against carrying a revolver with a loaded chamber under the hammer (making all those frontier six-shooters actually five-shooters).

In contrast, a transfer bar ignition system places a trigger-activated steel bar between the face of the hammer and the rear of a spring-loaded firing pin in the frame, a bar that does not move into place until the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear in actual deliberate firing. At rest the bar is withdrawn and the hammer face rests directly against the frame, making no contact with the firing pin at all. So the new Colt Cowboy can be safely carried with six rounds loaded while the SAA cannot.

And, of course, the classic four clicks always heard when cocking a true Colt Single Action Army are now just three clicks on the Cowboy, as the initial slight “safety notch” on an SAA hammer just rearward from full-rest position is no longer there. Purists will miss it. But purists will also appreciate the fact that Colt did not go the two-click route by making the loading gate the active part in freeing cylinder rotation for loading like Ruger did with its single actions. Instead, the Colt Cowboy’s cylinder rotates free at the halfcock notch, independent of loading gate position, and that all-important third click is preserved. All four clicks still remain on the current SAA.
Extremely well stated about a Colt that should have never been IMHO!
It was cheaper to buy a Ruger!
 

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The Cowboy is not a SAA. It was only made to compete with Ruger single actions. Thank God someone at Colt came to their senses and canceled that idea. Nowadays they are collectibles or a learning lesson ($$$$) for those that think Cowboy equates to SAA.
It didn't come close to competing with a Ruger SAA. It was made to compete with the Italian clones. And back when it came out (and I bought one dirt cheap) it was a lot better than the clones. Now the Italians have really upped the game and I'd buy a Uberiti or Pietta before I'd look twice at the Cowboy. But I did have fun with it.
 
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