Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Curly Pete

Advice on Puchasing a Colt SAA

Recommended Posts

I recently started thinking that I should have a real colt SAA or probably a pair of them.  I know very little about the different generations and was amazed at the wide range of prices.  I am not looking for collector guns, I want to actually shoot them and they need to be in 44-40.

 

Other than the date they were manufactured what else is different between the 3 generations?  

 

As a shooter which generation is preferred and why?

 

At this point I will only be shooting smokeless powder at cowboy velocities, but I read somewhere that first generation guns before a certain serial number cannot be shot with smokeless.  What is serial number that I need to be after in order to safely use smokeless rounds?

 

I understand that price will very a lot depending on condition and countless other variables, I have seen prices form about $1,000 to over $10,000.  What would be a reasonable price for a solid shooter in the various gens?

 

On line I found a third generation, 5 1/2" blued and case hardened that looks pretty good from the pictures, that is priced at $1,600 plus shipping.  The price seems to be reasonable based on my limited knowledge but I am concerned that my ignorance may lead to a mistake that I will regret.

 

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.

 

Curly Pete 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Brand new third generation have been showing up at attractive prices and have been well received.  Some third generation have also shown up in pairs here on the Wire.  Best bang for the buck,  in my opinion.

 

Early first generation are often priced too high to be in the "shooter" price and often in poor condition.  Original parts are rare and expensive.   

 

Second generation are often much higher priced than any third.  Often well worn and rough and still priced higher than a new one. Really nice examples twice as high.

 

Oddly,  commemorative models are being comparably low prices.  So low, some are buying them to rebuild into custom guns.

 

2016192140_ColtSAA1.jpg.41bdc3779994359c14d6dd8d2f320cd2.jpg

 

New 2019 45 Colt 

 

1848509822_ColtSAAantiqued2Feb2020.jpg.92466f973ebea1e2eda8d84666aedc01.jpg

 

Second generation made in 1971 in 45Colt with finish scrubbed off and needing some minor repair.  I traided for it but the tag price wes the same as the new ones. 

 

 

Edited by Warden Callaway
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First and second gen guns are quite similar as far as parts interchangeability goes. Second gen guns are generally considered to be  made from better materials, and as the best shooters. There were very few 44-40 second gen guns, all tho you could find a 44-40 cylinder and have it fitted to a .44 spl gun.  .  Third gen guns got a different barrel thread, and earlier ones did not have a removable cylinder bushing, may be a little less collectable than earlier gens but still great shooters. $1600 looks like a fair price, after checking Gunbroker auctions , for a nice example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+1 for Warden Callaway's comments. 

 

I have and occasionally shoot two pairs of 2nd gen Colts.  Both pair are commemorative models.  One of the four was new in the box and the other 3 were like new.  They were much more reasonable than non-commemorative 2nd gen. revolvers.

 

Third gen revolvers from 1976 to 1998 are nice revolvers, but some purists don't like the fact that they did not have removable cylinder bushings.  The removable cylinder bushings were re-introduced in 1999 (some classify revolvers made after 1998 as "current production" rather than 3rd. gen).  I have fired 3rd gen revolvers and the only thing that bothers me is that the length of the arch of hammer cock seems noticeably longer than my 2nd gen Colts.  I shoot gunfighter style (a revolver in each hand) and I like the feel of my 2nd gens better.

 

Good luck with your hunt.  I have never regretted purchasing my Colts. 

 

  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, TN Mongo, SASS #61450 said:

I shoot gunfighter style (a revolver in each hand) and I like the feel of my 2nd gens better.

 

Here is a video I made when I'd just bought a new SAA and by coincidence got my old, made in 62 SAA back from getting the hammer rebuilt.   I noted the difference in hammer throw.  

 

 

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a couple 3rd gens and one second gen, I love all of them. Whatever fits your budget!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

First Generation pistols can be, broadly, split into two categories, black powder frame and smokeless powder frame.  These terms are how they are commonly referred to, and they are technically inaccurate.   Colt did not say that the SAA was okay for use with smokeless powder until 1900.  The smokeless frame was introduced in the late 1890's.  I am not sure of the exact date.  As such, all black powder frame First Generations should be fired with black powder only, as should the earliest smokeless frames.   The main difference is that the black powder frame has a screw on the underside of the frame that you need a screwdriver to remove to take out the cylinder pin.   The smokeless frame has the more familiar push button on the side of the frame that requires no tools to operate.  There were other minor cosmetic changes made to the gun over its run, which was from 1873 to 1941 when Colt halted production so they could concentrate on guns for the War.

 

The Second Generation was created in response to the sudden demand for the guns in the wake of the huge popularity of the TV Western.  In 1956 they started making the guns again, and this Second Generation ran until 1974 or 75.    Among other things, a lot of "commemorative" SAAs where made in this generation, and for some reason, even unfired ones tend to go for far less money than a generic Second Gen pistol.  This has allowed me to own and shoot some very nice pistols.   As near as I can tell based on what is in my collection, there are very few if any changes to the pistol over this time period.   The most common reason I have heard for the suspension of production is that the tooling used to make them was pretty much worn out and no longer usable.

 

Prices for First and Second Generation guns are all over the map, depending on condition and configuration.   Pristine examples,  genuine US Army surplus, or other rare and/or unusual configurations can run into the 10's of 1000's of dollars.   On the other hand, an ugly, but otherwise in good shooting condition can be had for far less.  I have one 1st Gen I got for 500 bucks and one 2nd Gen for 700.  Both were obtained in the last 5 years.

 

Also of note is that due to their age, all First Generations are either antiques or Curio and Relic eligible guns.   All Second Generation guns are also C and R, even if they are not over 50 years old.   This can be an important factor in obtaining them and in being able to search for better prices nationwide.

 

Third Generation production started 1976 and continues to this day.   Contrary to common misconception, there is NO Fourth Generation, although the term has been bandied about for decades with multiple meanings.   When the Third Gen started, it was a Custom Shop only gun.   When after a few years they brought it back into full production, I remember one article in Guns and Ammo that referred to the now regular production guns as "fourth generation."  It was a term that did not catch on.   The other way that Fourth Generation gets mentioned is how when the Third Gen started, the cylinder did not have a removable bushing as did the First and Second Generations.   A few years ago, I am not sure when exactly, Colt went back to the removable bushing, and many will refer to guns made after the change as Fourth Gen guns.  This is a misnomer.  According to Colt, they are still Third Generation guns.   A more "correct" way to differentiate between the guns with and without the removable bushing is "Early" and "Late" Third Generation.  This has caught on, but I don't know if Colt recognizes the terms. 

 

For what it is worth, if you get a brand new Third Gen, have it factory engraved and get a letter to authenticate the engraving, this is also Curio and Relic eligible.  

Also, a Sheriff's model is Curio and Relic, even a brand new one, but I think they stopped making them a couple of years ago.

 

Prices for Third Gens are going up.   Even on the used market it's getting harder to fine one for less than 2000, and you can pretty much forget under a thousand unless its in REALLY bad shape.

 

I have Colts from all three generations in my collection, including some 2nd Gen commemoratives.   People will be all over the gamut from great to garbage on the quality of the 3rds, depending on when they were made.   Seconds are generally considered to be great no matter what, and firsts tend to highly regarded, with the caveat that some of the oldest ones might be worn out.  You will also find firsts that have been customized and reconfigured a lot, which may drive their price down to more affordable levels.  For example, I have a very nice First Gen .32-20 that I got for a very reasonable price, because it left the factory as a .44-40.   I have never obtained a Colt, in any generation, that I regretted.  All have worked well for me.

 

One final word on the Commemoratives.   I can only speak to the two that I have.  One of them was great.  The other, ironically, the NRA Centennial one, had an action that was like sandpaper.  I took it back to the factory for an action job, which was less than a hundred bucks, and it now runs as flawlessly as any other one in my collection.   Prices for these guns, as alluded to before, tend to be far below that of a generic Second Generation in similar condition.  Even unturned examples don't seem to have a huge premium in price.  With two notable exceptions; the Winchester Colt commemorative, and the SAA Centennial ones.   And of course, these are three that I am most interested in.  [grumble grumble complain.]  On the other hand, the rest of them tend to be the most affordable of the Second Gens, but they may or may not need an action job when you find them.   They also are often very interestingly configured and come with a nice display box.

 

And that's really all I can say about it all.   Take it with a grain of salt, and good luck.

 

 

Edited by H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hunted a couple of years and decided a new Colt SAA was the only opportunity I was going to have to buy a shooter in good condition and bought one.   Then in February,  a first generation showed up at a nearly local gunshop.

 

1656965268_ColtFSS1881bFeb2020.jpg.a88b9c23dd9d2ebb7b5ca9b126640d5f.jpg

 

It was made in 1881 and is a Frontier Six Shooter in 44WCF.   It has the black powder frame, that is a screw holding the base pin in.  It's not a collector gun because it was apparently sent back to Colt at some time and updated with new parts, refinished and barrel cut to 5.25".   I found the half cock notch was rewelded and cut poorly and the overhanging ledge was gone.  So I sent the hammer off to have it rewelded and recut right.  I love the gun and still feel I got a good deal. 

 

1869153726_ColtSAAantiquedFeb2020.jpg.087e34fd5f72ad02053324b9b6c173d4.jpg

 

Then I found this one. A second generation in good condition but the finish scrubbed off.  I was able to trade for it.  It was awful dirty inside but showed of having custom action work. Great shooter.

 

1848560929_StimulusColt38WCFAApril2020.jpg.40b596f67d6ba33b389e4bee35afc7b1.jpg

 

The same gunshop got in this first generation made in 1906 so smokeless in 38WCF.   But the action was a wreck. I call it my stimulus Colt because I paid with my stimulus check (and a but more).  I took a gamble I could fix it without putting much more into it.  Turned out, all it needed was a new cam on the hammer.  

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

First Generation pistols can be, broadly, split into two categories, black powder frame and smokeless powder frame.  These terms are how they are commonly referred to, and they are technically inaccurate.   Colt did not say that the SAA was okay for use with smokeless powder until 1900.  The smokeless frame was introduced in the late 1890's.  I am not sure of the exact date.  As such, all black powder frame First Generations should be fired with black powder only, as should the earliest smokeless frames.   The main difference is that the black powder frame has a screw on the underside of the frame that you need a screwdriver to remove to take put the cylinder pin.   The smokeless frame as the more familiar push button on the side of the frame that requires no tools to operate.  There were other minor cosmetic changes made to the gun over its run, which was from 1873 to the early 1941 when Colt halted production so they could concentrate on guns for the War...........................................................

 

1st Gen Frame Info.

https://truewestmagazine.com/clearing-the-smoke/

 

Early 1st Gen smokeless frames should be used with black powder due to metallurgy of the age and the power of current smokeless powders.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Be positive you’re not buying a “parts gun”,

Be sure the barrel has not been replaced.

Check to be sure the finish was not “restored“ with a “cold blue” solution.

Front sight should not be “worked” or filed down

Be sure the rear “sight channel” has not been filed and “opened up”

Bolt “stops” on the exterior of the cylinder should not be wallowed out

Cylinder should not be scored.
Deduct for engraved names on the gun

Scratches and “dings” are to be expected, to some reasonable extent, but not deep, and not too much.  You’ll know that when you see it.

—————

GRIPS

Original-to-the-gun Colt grips are a must.  Deduct $250  for anything else.

Good, original grips are best.
Original grips should not be broken, cracked, chipped, defaced or excessively worn
Add back some for real ivory or real “stag” grips.  
 

ANYWAY......These are SOME of the things To look for.  There are others, including the bore and the gun’s action.

 

Car Brules


 

 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Odd guy out here.  Since you're looking for shooters, my advice is DON'T.  They aren't going to appreciate in value enough in your lifetime to be a good investment.  If you wish to play in the CAS game with them, they WILL need action work.  I'd suggest an alternative.  A pair of Pietta Great Western 2 in the barrel length of choice.

 

My opine is based on that of a Gunsmith.  Not a collector nor a Cultist.  Colt is way overpriced for what you get.  They are not a "Handful of History" unless lettered to someone famous.  Just another gun.  Your call of course.  It's your money to spend your way.  If needs be, go for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Cat Brules said:

Front sight should not be “worked” or filed down

 

1865159359_StimulusColt38WCFBApril2020.jpg.7966e93e7f45dba20547464890717a04.jpg

 

I have an appointment with my TIG welding neighbor this evening to build up the front sight on the first generation 38WCF because it shoots 6" high at 10 steps 

 

94744816_Firstgeneration38WCFfrontsightMay2020.jpg.03ffaa18aa0ebd93f8cea59759b6afe8.jpg

 

It's the one in upper left.  Needs to be like Cimarron Model P old Model in center. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

 

Odd guy out here.  Since you're looking for shooters, my advice is DON'T.  They aren't going to appreciate in value enough in your lifetime to be a good investment.  If you wish to play in the CAS game with them, they WILL need action work.  I'd suggest an alternative.  A pair of Pietta Great Western 2 in the barrel length of choice.

 

My opine is based on that of a Gunsmith.  Not a collector nor a Cultist.  Colt is way overpriced for what you get.  They are not a "Handful of History" unless lettered to someone famous.  Just another gun.  Your call of course.  It's your money to spend your way.  If needs be, go for it.

 

You're right. 

 

My new Colt SAA,  while beautiful on the outside, was at least as poorly finished on the inside as any Uberti I've ever owned. The action parts showed no signs of being honed or fitted.  The hand cut was as rough as 50 grit sandpaper and couldn't be smoothed even with a diamond crusted needle file.  I take it that it was cut by EDM.  I had to open up the half cock notch just a tad before the top of the trigger would enter.  I changed out the springs for Wolfe reduced power springs.   Improved it a lot.

 

I'm noticing the parts, including screws,  are much harder on the Colt than the Italian guns.

 

But the man wants a Colt.  Made in America! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Warden Callaway said:

But the man wants a Colt.  Made in America! 

You can never pay too much for a Colt, only too soon.

 

* I don't own a Colt, but might someday.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh yeah,   make sure the Colt you're looking at is not a Colt "Cowboy".  The Cowboy model was an attempt to make a single action at a price point to compete with Ruger and imports.  It has a transfer bar action.   Not like a real Colt SAA.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have Colt SAAs made from 1876 to current production.  I love them all.  I warn you that they are addictive.  The best advice I can give is decide what you want it for then buy the best one you can afford.  Personally, if I were interested in a shooter, I would buy a current production 3rd gen (with the removable cylinder bushing).  They are very well made of excellent steel (much better that the 1st gen gun’s) and the don’t have 50-140 years of wear and tear.  I bought one with ivory grips for my son when he was born and it is a very nice gun.  I don’t like the older 3rd gen non removable  cylinder bushing  gun’s as well (though I own several) and would not pay as much for one as a new production.  They tend to be poorly fitted, badly polished and finished, and not as nice as the more recent crop.  If you find a good 2nd gen at a good price by all means buy it.  1st gens are great as well but a nice one might cost enough that you might not want to shoot it, though I shoot several, including an original cavalry model, some bisleys, and one made in 1905.  The 1876 one is a little too old to shoot for me.  Have fun and enjoy what you buy.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My second gens are very smooth and nice after worked on them some and fit great. They are shooters. My early 3rd gens were not as smooth and nice until opened them up and deburred. smoothed made sure timing was good and worked springs. Now they are as smooth as my second gens. As far as removable cylinder bushing, no comment, personal preference. and as a side note, my USFA's are better fit and finished than either the 2nd or 3rd gens but still not colts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought a consecutively numbered Colts from the SASS Classified. They were used but very gently used. Very gently. They were not cheap compared to Ubertis but they were not over priced.

Keep an eye on the classifieds and put in a want to buy and you just might find what you are looking for.

 

My pair of SAAs .44-40. NOT FOR SALE 

0316141408-00.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the information and advice.  I am going to get some additional information on the third gen that I found listed on line and I think I will pick it up to give it a try.  What is the worst that happens, I just have to resell it.

 

Thanks

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.