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GUNS Magazine November 2010 - Page 68
W illiam Mason, chief engineer at Colt, came up with one of the grandest sixguns of all time, the 1873 Single Action Army. I’ve often maintained the SAA is so good Mason must’ve fallen asleep at the drawing board and some supernatural force drew up the plans in front of him as he slept. John Taffin Colt’s new sixgun was chambered in a new cartridge— the .45 Colt with a 255-grain bullet over 40 grains of black powder. Barrel length was 7-1/2", it had a top strap and the grip frame was borrowed from the 1851 Navy. This was a very powerful pistol, and when I have duplicated the load with modern components in old-style brass, muzzle velocity is right at 900 fps. The US Army did not only adopt this new revolver, but it also became a favorite among civilians. Colt would produce more than 350,000 Single Action Army revolvers from 1873 to 1940. Beginning in 1878 it was also chambered in the cartridges used by the Winchester 1873 levergun—first, the .44 Winchester Centerfire, then the .38 WCF, and the .32 WCF. During the course of production of what is now known as the 1st Generation Colts, these four cartridges were the most popular and in the order mentioned. More than 30 other chamberings were also offered. By 1940 demand for the Colt Peacemaker had dropped and the machinery was worn out, so Colt removed it from production. Thanks to the demand produced by old Westerns on the new medium of television in the early 1950s such a demand rose the first of the 2nd Generation Colts arrived in December 1955. This time production would last a much shorter period ending in 1974 when machinery was once again worn out. This time the shutdown period was much shorter and the 3rd Generation Colts arrived in 1976. Since then, the Colt Single Action Army has followed a somewhat strange WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • NOVEMBER 2010 68