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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'm new to this super awesome Colt game. I got my first one (a Python) a week ago and I already NEED another one. (It's bad) I want to get an SAA but there are so many different variations. I really like the case hardened frame and white grips tho. So my first question is which caliber? I reload a ton and I inherited a huge pile of stuff from my Dad so I already have the equipment to load for a lot of the different cartridge. I know this really depends on the intended use but I plan on shooting it just mostly plinking. I have and like big bores and smaller ones. What is the most valuable caliber? Most sought after? Maybe one caliber was generally built better than others? And the big question.... Where to buy one?? Cabelas Gun Library has a ton. A huge selection. But their prices seem high. At least compared to all the sold guns here. Any input would be greatly appreciated
 

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Here is some info on calibers of 1st gen SAA's from an internet web site:

From 1873 through 1940 (with small numbers assembled during and after World War II, the so called "Pre-War, Post-War" model), production of the Colt Single Action Army reached 357,859. This is identified as the "Pre War" or "First Generation" of the model. Calibers, at least thirty in all, ranged from .22 rimfire through .476 Eley, with approximately half, or 158,884 (including Bisley and Flat Top Target variations), chambered for .45 Colt. The next most prevalent were the .44-40 Winchester Center fire (WCF) at 71,392; 38-40 (38 WCF) at 50,520; 32-20 Winchester (32 WCF) at 43,284 and, the 41 Colt at 19,676.
 

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I've long thought the Single Action Army was best served up as a 4 3/4-inch .45 Colt. It's so well-balanced and feels so good in the hand in that configuration. The .45 Colt cartridge is very capable of handling most chores one could reasonably ask of a handgun. I've owned a 4 3/4-inch Single Action Army in .38-40 since the early 1980s and with the extra "meat" around the slightly smaller bore diameter, it feels just a bit "different."

For plinking though, a .38 Special chambered one or even a .32-20 might be quite entertaining for the reloader.
 

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Having a number of both .44 specials and .45 colts, I believe the .44 specials are less problematic on the consistency of cylinder throats, chamber sizes etc. I load both where they shoot about the same. I get nervous looking at the paper thin chamber walls on the .45 colt. In .32 wcf and some extent the .38 and .357 you will notice the more clubby weight as bmcgilvary already pointed out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'd love to put my hands on one. I have yet to see one in person. Unfortunately the two Cabelas close to me don't have any. They are all on their website
 

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You have to decide what you want first a shooter or a safe queen. Pre 1906 are generally shot with black powder. 1906 to the war generally ends first generations. You could most likely find nice 2nd and third generations with nice finish. There was a period they built the cylinders with fixed bushings and periods of poorer quality. Some of the commemorative can be had at a reasonable cost. All mine are first generation that were refinished therefore the collector value is gone but they are great shooters IMG_20170314_094203_kindlephoto-60593077.jpg the 44-40 is early 1880's the 38-40 is about 1906. IMG_20170314_094539_kindlephoto-60322794.jpg the bottom 45 is a serial # 24xxx which is 1870's Or So The Top Is 1900.might go to a gun show and see some you can handle. Where are you located?
 

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Some of the basics of SAA is they are divided into 3 generations. Do a quick search and read up on some basics of the generations. If you can, decide on which generation you’re after.. that’s usually based off you’re intentions, collector/ shootergun, just collector, or just a shooter. New production 3rds are hard to find brand new and sort of expensive now on gunbroker. I’d say average price is around $2K and go up. Local buy may be a bit cheaper.
45LC probably most popular caliber.. 38 Special probably most popular for reloader/shooters and 4-3/4” most popular length , but caliber and barrel length is strictly preference, one not usually more expensive than the other.
If you’re buying a used SAA gun, I’d recommend getting photos of it if you can and posting for opinions. There can be some pitfalls just like Pythons etc.
 

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Start by reading the Colt forum- you will learn a lot about them- this is the best place to get info, research the web, seperate the good from the bad- and get some good Colt SAA books.

You already started on the first part- there are a lot of guys here with very deep knowledge about the SAA.

Welcome aboard.!
 

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I just got through fiddling with mine along with several clones. The real Mc coys are nice but you can buy four or five replica`s for the price of a 3rd generation colt. Frankly, my replica`s are hard to tell apart! Disregard if the cost factor is no problem.
 

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Joe Browns Landing cropped.jpg I have to admit that I lean towards the 44 special slightly over the 45 Colt SAA because I prefer to reload the 44 and have better results accuracy wise. The cylinder throats seem to be more uniform as well. For carrying and all around use I like the 4 ¾” barrel length. That one I’m wearing is a 1980 vintage with a fixed bushing that is shunned by some but it is my favorite. It follows me around like my dog.
 

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I am one of those guys that really likes .38 special and .357 I like shooting .44-40. I have some really nice .38's and I shoot one of them all the time. The ammo is cheap, I reload my own and it is accurate. I do have a .45, 44 special and a .22. I have an original 1st generation .38 special on layaway and a .38-40 on layaway too. Here are a couple of photos

SAA FInish Yellow 3.jpg Colt SAA .357 Nickel L 1961.jpg
 

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You might take a look at the Cimarron/Uberti line. They sell a good quality 'shooter at a much much lower price than a used 2nd gen Colt (but this would obviously be a much better investment).
 

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The clones may be easier to get a hold of. IMG_20170924_123346_hdr.jpg This is a navy arms conversion in 38 special. IMG_20170314_095922_kindlephoto-59573054.jpg I gave the Remington clone to my son in law a he thinks it the nicest shooting iron. IMG_20170314_100007_kindlephoto-51844703.jpg The rugers are available but they are somewhat heavier and bulkier than the colt
 

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Caliber depends on what you are looking for. 45 Colt 44WCF or 38 WCF ate most historical, .357, 38 special, and 44 special seem to be good shooters. Barrel length is entirely preference. I can't stand a 4.75, like 5.5, and love 7.5 but thats me. Straight walled cases seem to be easier to reload than ones that step down.

Finish wise, in 3rd gens blue and case coloredis most common. White stocks- ivory, pearl, or american holly would have to likely be aftermarket.
 

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Get some good reference books and read them. The Forum section has a sticky on Gun Library suggested books by forum members. Lots of reference material out there on the Colt SAA.
 

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There are many opinions here, all of which have merritt. (Well, maybe not ALL ... ;)) Here is mine.

Sounds like you want a REAL Colt, so that eliminates the clones. (Good choice.) If you are only going to have one, or you plan to have many, you should start with THE iconic chamberng for the SAA, the .45 Colt. Blue and case-hardened is the iconic finish. Barrel length is complicated. The 7.5-inch barrel is the original length. However, if you grew up watching westerns like I did, you will probably want the "gunslinger" 4.75-inch length.

First, Second or Third Generation is the last decision. The cost goes up with age - and condition. Some consider Second Generation to be the "sweat spot." I agree. Let us see what you end up with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think this guy knows me ^^^^^. Hit the nail right on the head. I don't want a clone. (Would you go out on a date with a dude dressed up as a girl?) I am leaning towards a 4.75" blue/case hardened one with white grips. More than likely a second gen. I'd take 45 Colt, 44-40, or 357. Now who wants to sell me one??? And thank you to all of you. There's a lot of helpful advice here.
 

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You'll likely find more 3rd gens than any other gens.

3rd gen quality variation periods
Here's my general guide to the 3rd gen Colt quality which has the greatest quality variances compared to the 1st and 2nd gen SAAs. Most Colt SAAs do not have an accuracy problem, they shoot good patterns, it's just that the point of impact is not always at the point of aim.

The very early 3rds with an SA suffix #80000SA, 1976 and early SA prefix SA01001, 1979 - 1980 are fine and compare well to late 2nd gens in quality; still having the trigger guard bevel, and proper barrel address font (instead of the later .22 Peacemaker font), but alas, no cyl base pin bushing any longer.

The peak of the worst period; about SA65XXX to SA705XX range, 1983-85 (pre strike production, strike in 1986), inspect very closely for:

Cyl end shake (fore and aft play), flattened hammer spurs, off center firing pins in the hammer, non-flush backstrap ‘ears’ to hammer base fitting, poor loading gate fit, crooked front sights, sloppy actions with more than four clicks, crooked rolled stampings on frame and barrel (sometimes patent dates on frame are missing altogether), murky case coloring, poor grip strap to frame fit, over polished edges or edges so sharp at front of frame you could cut yourself, etc., etc. Check cyl alignment with recoil shields. I've seen some cyls stick out on one side and in on the other side due to uneven finishing of the recoil shield. The cyl should be near flush on both sides. You know, several of us have reported this in the past. However the 3rds do still retain this 1st and 2nd gen feature. To be sure it's a little less pronounced as in the past, but it does remain. To see it easily, hold the gun as if you're aiming it. Now shift your focus from the sights to the top seam of barrel-to-housing and point barrel a bit to the right so the entire seam can be seen. You'll notice the seam is higher up on the barrel at the muzzle and the housing flute tapers wider towards the front.

Like all SAA features, the taper may vary from gun to gun.
Once the labor strike occurred in 1986, production was taken over by the custom shop and quality improved somewhat. Now having said all that, I have found an occasional decent gun in that 1983 thru the strike period.

After that period things start to improve with typically only one or two of the problems per gun but sometimes more, and sometimes none. The lousy backstrap 'ears' to hammer base fitting is still fairly common as are flattened hammer spurs. Once the SA in the serial number splits SXXXXXA in 1993, they continue to get better thru 1999.

Around #S26XXXA in 1999 the authentic removable base pin cyl bushing like 1st and 2nd gen guns is first re-introduced on the 2000 units made for the 125Th SAA Anniversary Model, with unused 2nd gen serial numbers. By post 2003 all production guns had it and cyl end shake is usually all but eliminated. Case colors really improve as well as fitting. Hammer spurs are correct as well as most backstrap ‘ears’ to hammer base fit. Now the guns are approaching late 2nd gen quality and do to this day.

However the trigger guard/front grip strap still does not have the bevel of the 1st, 2nd and early 3rds with SA suffix, or the wide loading gates of the 1[SUP]st[/SUP] gen and early 2nd gen, and probably never will again. The 2nds never had the 2 line short barrel address, although it is a unique shorter single line address than the other barrel lengths, or the 1/2" radius cyl flutes of the 1st gen. Even the post 1934 1st gens lost the case colored hammers and all vestiges of the front cyl chamfer. At least three pre c. 1936 features can be special ordered from the custom shop now on 3rd gens; CCH hammer, the 2 line barrel address on short barrels and the cyl chamfer (but it's not accurately done). Of course there's a one to two plus years wait. Hondo44
 
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