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SAA barrel length

9137 Views 23 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  pecosriver
I have been wanting an SAA cal. 45 Colt. I will use it as a shooter, and I cannot afford a huge price. I have been looking on Gunbroker, and I see many of the more affordable SAA 45 shooters have the 7.5 inch barrel. I have previously held SAA's with shorter barrels, but have never had my hands on one with the 7.5 inch barrel. I know that 7.5 inches was the original length of the army issue revolver. But how do they feel? Well balanced? Comfortable to shoot? I am reluctant to bid on one of these without some input from those who know.
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Over the years, I've owned SAAs in each of the 3 standard length bbls; Personally I MUCH prefer the 4.75 and 5.5 (the 5.5 is my favorite). To me, the shorter bbls just feel much more balanced. Right now I don't have a 7.5" and wouldn't buy another, unless it was an early 1st gen, or a New Frontier for some longer distance silhouette shooting.

Best regards,
SAA's and their barrel lengths are like most things with some variety.. everybody likes what they likes..
most will agree that the 5.5 is the most commonly seen for sale and likely the most owned. In almost every type of gun, the shortest barrel tends to be the most sought after, hardest to find, and most expensive, and opposite with the longest barrel. When you have to pick and own just one SAA, I would also go with the 5.5 for best balance and accuracy. The 4 3/4" is nice if you are wanting that cowboy feel and a shave a little weight off .. quick pointing and shoot.
Traditionalists and collectors like myself, have to own the long barreled 7.5" because it is the original configuration.
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Here's a thought...

Look in your area for a Cowboy & Western Action Shooting club like SASS or NCOWS, and attend a shoot.

You'll find single actions galore - Colts and clones - 'and' most folks will let you handle and shoot them!

Hell, they'll let you shoot everything, 'and' they'll supply the ammunition.

Can't beat that...

Once you've done that - then make your choice.
Most will disagree, but I like 7 1/2 the best with 5 1/2 a close second. I don't care for 4 3/4 that much and I have plenty of all 3.
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Guess I fall into the "most" category, Chaffee. I have thirteen SAA's - eleven are 4 3/4. Prefer the balance and appearance.
From a shooting standpoint I prefer the 7 1/2" barrel. I find it is easier to hit well with the longer sight radius, even at relative short range. From the carrying standpoint I like the shorter barrels better as they are less "in the way". If you are used to shorter guns the 7 1/2" may feel a bit awkword till you spend a bit of time with it.
When you say shooter will you be using it for target type shooting (tin cans included) or cowboy action shooting? For target shooting I much prefer the 7 1/2 inch, but I like extra barrel weight which the 7 1/2 inch gives. One of the hardest pistols for me to shoot is the German P.08 Luger. All the weight is in your hand and the lightweight barrel isn't heavy enough to settle down. The extra sight radius of the 7 1/2 inch is also a plus for target type shooting.
Back in the early days of fast draw it was all done w/live ammo then wax bullets came along & I always used a 7 1/2 ".In 1960 the very 1st Calif. state wax championship was held out @ Corriganville Calif, the 1st prize was a 1959 Colt,I still have both of them,the times varied between .50 & .55,that's hundreths of a second.There are photos of me shooting this contest on if anyone doubts this.When I shot "Walk & Draw" I did use a 4 3/4" because it rolls out of the holster easier when your walking,when I entered "fancy gun handling"contests I mostly used the 4 3/4's but I did compete several times w/a pair of 7 1/2's,reminds me of spinning a baton.I won't own a 5 1/2",to me they're out of balance for everything that I do,about 6 or 7 yrs ago I found a 2nd gen w/a 5 1/2 for $750.00 & couldn't resist,the 5 1/2 bbl lasted about 2 wks until I stretched it out to 7 1/2.When Cowboy shooting 1st started I used the 7 1/2's only,but then I also used a 32" full & full dbl bbl. 12 guage,it shot like a rifle.I'll add here that I have a 6' 5" armspan so the long bbl's didn't seem to slow me down,when I used the 4 3/4's my times hardly changed because I probably was still pulling them the same as I did the 7 1/2's.
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I have all three bbl lengths, but when I pull one out of the safe to go shooting, it is almost always a 4 3/4" bbl one!
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I like 4 3/4 and 7 1/2" equally. I've only owned one 5 1/2" but sold it. It's my least favorite barrel length, which is like saying a particular woman is your least favorite Victoria Secret model. All that said, I would really like a 5 1/2" .44 Special, but only in nickel. If I only had one, though, it would probably be a 7 1/2" nickel. Just think of which one turns you on the most when you're watching cowboy movies. How's that for being scientific and practical?
For me, 7 1/2 inches is the classic length for a Colt SAA. That's how they started out and that's how they look best. I like all barrel lengths, but if I could only keep one, it would be one that has a 7 1/2 inch barrel.
Having started with a Ruger that had a 4 5/8" barrel I kind of preferred the balance though I do have Colt SAA 5 1/2" and that .38-40 in a 4" :). The 5 1/2" is a well balanced SAA, shoots accurately POA and being a .357 I can practice with the .38 SPCL. I realize we're discussing SAAs but the vast majority of Colts I own in the DA category are 4" so I'm used to handling and shooting the shorter barreled handgun. My OM, being a 6", is my go to target revolver as it just plain smokes the competition. We all have differing preferences for various reasons.
I didn't see any mention how caliber affects balance. A SAA in .32-20 feels like twice the weigh of a .45 out on my extended arm, more so with the 7 1/2inch thicker barrel. I don't have a .32-20 but have hefted them. I have .45s in 4 3/4 & 7 1/2, one in .38 Colt 7 1/2 & several in .38-40 5 1/2. To me the .38-40 5 1/2 & .45 7 1/2 seem pretty much alike in heft. I don't shoot any of them much and can't pick a favorite from experience but either of the last two are OK with me.
Guess I fall into the "most" category, Chaffee. I have thirteen SAA's - eleven are 4 3/4. Prefer the balance and appearance.
Well it's like how water circles the drain opposite in the S. hemisphere :). I guess we are opposites when it comes to this. Luckily for us both, there are plenty of Colts for each of us to enjoy!

P.S. you do have good taste when it comes to guns regardless of barrel length.
Out of all my SAAs the 5 1/2" guns I have kept is due to unusual or hard to find calibers. I have also kept 5 1/2" guns to complete three or more barrel "sets".
Most of my shooting experience has been with Ruger Blackhawks/Super Blackhawks. I've always liked the feel of the 4 3/4" (4 5/8" for Rugers) for carrying and short range shooting. But when I headed to the woods where power and range were factors, I selected the 7 1/2" barrels. The longer sight radius and higher velocities obtained were an advantage to me when dealing with .44 Magnums.

Bob Wright
As the number of varying preferences offered here would seem to indicate; that's probably why Colt made the Single Action Army in different barrel lengths! People are different, what works and feels good to one person doesn't necessarily mean it works for others.

Aesthetically, my preference is the 4 3/4 inch barrel Single Action and they dominate my small collection. However, for shooting, I much prefer the sight radius and handling of a 5 1/2 inch barrel Single Action; it just works for me! My current shooter is a 1901 38-40 with a 5 1/2 inch barrel.

Consider the responses to your thread, but ultimately you'll need to figure out what works best for you!
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"As the number of varying preferences offered here would seem to indicate; that's probably why Colt made the Single Action Army in different barrel lengths! People are different, what works and feels good to one person doesn't necessarily mean it works for others."--Old Colts

Well spoken, Old Colts! I grew up in the 1950's and guess I just got hung up on the 4 3/4" bbl as that is what most of the silver screen cowboys used. For some reason the 5 1/2" bbl has never appealed to me. The 7 1/2" is classic, and I can live with it. I have a 32-20 in 7 1/2" and boy is that sucker muzzle heavy, even the 4 3/4" 32-20 is a hefty gun! To me the 45 and 44-40 in 4 3/4" just balances better, looks better, and I can shoot it just as accurately as the other two bbl lengths.
To me for a SAA:

The 4 3/4" length is the raciest.
The 7 1/2" is the most traditional.
The 5 1/2" is the least exciting.
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