Sunday, July 07, 2013

Pietta 1873 Millenium Single Action Revolver

Yesterday at Cabela's I bought a Pietta 1873 Millenium replica of the Colt Single Action Army revolver. The gun is chambered for .45 Colt, has a 4-3/4" barrel, and a matte blued finish with a brass grip frame and wood grips. Cabela's also sells them in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, with the same matte blued or a nickel finish.

Overall the Pietta is a pretty faithful copy of the Colt SAA, with the obvious exception of the utilitarian finish. The other way in which is diverges from the SAA's design is the presence of a safety that works by pushing the cylinder base pin back towards the hammer, to prevent it from dropping all the way and striking a primer. IMO it is neither easy to operate nor very robust, so I intend to treat the gun as a traditional single action, and keep an empty chamber under the hammer if I carry it.

Out of the box the action was very smooth and the trigger was very crisp, with absolutely no creep or takeup. It's a couple pounds heavier than I'd like, however, so I will do some careful stoning to lighten it a tad.

I already had a few boxes of Black Hills .45 Colt cowboy loads at home. They feature a 250 grain hard cast RNFP bullet at about 750 FPS. I wanted to pick up another box or two of ammo but the only .45 Colt that the store had in stock was Buffalo Bore +P, which shouldn't be used in SAAs or clones. However, they did have one box remaining of Ultramax .45 S&W Schofield with a 180 grain bullet at 650 FPS, a real mouse fart load. (For those unfamiliar with .45 Schofield, it shares the same case dimensions as .45 Colt, but is shorter. It can be safely fired in the Colt chamber.)

Today I brought the Pietta to my gun club and fired it at 25 yards, then 10 yards. At 25 yards it shot about 8" low and 8" left with the Black Hills .45 Colt loads. At 10 yards it was about 6" low and 6" left. The Schofield rounds impacted closer to center, but still low. This 10 yard group of 12 shots was fired before I started filing the front sight to raise the point of impact. I was aiming at 6 o'clock on the bullseye.

The two flyers were my fault.

The gun digested 100 rounds today, mostly trouble free. I did have a problem after the first three shots, because after playing with the safety last night I apparently failed to properly seat the cylinder base pin catch in the correct detent, and the pin started walking out. This prevented the cylinder from rotating so I had to dismount it from the gun. This goes in the operator error column.

The other issue I had was ammo related. One empty .45 Colt cartridge case was very tight in the chamber after I fired it, and I couldn't eject it until I again dismounted the cylinder and smacked the empty out with a mallet, using the base pin as a drift. Most of the remaining empties actually fell out if I elevated the muzzle, even without using the ejector rod. So, that one gets chalked up to an ammo problem.

If you want a Colt Single Action Army replica that won't break the bank, the Pietta 1873 is worth a look. As a copy of the SAA, it is not suitable for heavy loads, but the original ballistics for the .45 Colt round are nothing to sneeze at. A 250 grain .45 caliber bullet going about 900 FPS will take game up to deer size cleanly, or prove effective for self defense.


Paul said...

I've been looking at these for a while. The 357 is the one I'd probably end up with if funds and etc ever line up right. The reason being, the 45 Colt is more "traditional" since it was the most chambered round in the original Colt, but with my 45 Vaquero being my "go to" sixgun I don't want to run the chance of slipping the wrong round in the gun. Plus, with a 357 in this size frame one would have no problem running full bore 357 rounds in it, or 38 wadcutters for that matter. It would make for a very versatile sixgun.

Have you considered twisting the barrel to bring the impact more in line with the sight picture? My Vaquero had the same issue with windage and I had the 'smith at Shapels in Boise tweak the barrel over for me a smidge. It's now lined up properly.

Anonymous said...

I had one (45 colt) and at any distance it shot low to the left

Anonymous said...

The revolver [Pietta 1873] shoots low because it is designed that way so the front sight can be filed to point of impact. Just like the originals. Colt recognized that guns sight differently for different people. So they left the front sight intentionally high.
As to shooting to the left. Try putting a bit less finger through the trigger guard. Used your finger tip. It shoots fairly straingt that way. Most peole put toomuch finger in because of the thinner grip progfile and trigger reach.
mine is in 357 and is a wonderful revolver right out of the box if I do my part.

Anonymous said...

"I intend to treat the gun as a traditional single action, and keep an empty chamber under the hammer if I carry it."

Why to keep any of the chambers loaded if carrying a gun? I mean in Finland, if you're away from the shooting desk of the range, everyone has their guns totally empty. At least that is a perfect preventive measure to avoid accidents, right?

Dave Markowitz said...

"Why to keep any of the chambers loaded if carrying a gun? "

Because an unloaded gun is nothing more than an awkward, expensive club. For some of us guns aren't used for just punching holes in paper. They are tools for defense or for hunting.

Anonymous said...

To the gentleman who mentioned he had trouble ejecting a cartridge from one chamber in the cylinder, I recommend taking a bore light to that chamber and checking its finish. I had the same issue with my Pietta 1873 in .357 Magnum and discovered to my surprise that multiple chambers were not fully finished (polished) and had rough spots. It was a lesson to me to never assume a gun with an attractive exterior finish necessarily maintains that same standard in the less visible areas of the firearm. I believe you will also find the forcing cone at the rear of the barrel is rough, rather than being properly polished. A couple of weeks after I bought my Pietta I bought a Ruger New Blackhawk (Flat top) in .44 Special. I paid $487 for the Pietta and $495 for the Ruger. For a difference of less than $10 the Ruger offered adjustable sights and proper finishing -- not just on the outside where it looks pretty -- but also on the inside where it counts. I recommend anyone purchasing a firearm do a thorough check of chambers, forcing cones and bores. Save yourself any unpleasant surprises.

Dave Markowitz said...

OTH, I used to own a 1976-vintage Ruger Blackhawk in .357 with a 9mm cylinder. The .357 cylinder had rough chambers that didn't like ejecting anything loaded hotter than .38 wadcutters.