If you are a competitive shooter and have not checked out the SASS, or cowboy action, matches you owe it to yourself to do so. Think of it as 3 gun with revolvers, lever actions and double barreled shotguns. I have shot a number of “friendly” cowboy matches and will attest to how much fun can be had while testing your skills. All of the shooters in this sport I have met have been friendly and more than willing to share knowledge and tips to improve your shooting.
SASS stands for Single Action Shooting Society. You guessed it they shoot single action revolvers. But not just any single action revolver. These need to be like the old guns the gunslingers of the old west carried. Well, kind of. Like most things used in competitions these revolvers are usually tricked out. At the very least they have had a trigger and action job to slick them up. But there are a few things that are required to be legal. For example you can only have a Bisley style hammer on a revolver with a Bisley grip frame. If you want to read more about the rules they can be found here.
Anyways, here are 5 revolvers that that you can use for a Cowboy Action match right out of the box. They would all benefit from an action job and some other modifications that are approved.
Call me Captain Obvious, but I would be remiss if this list didn’t start with The Classic. There are some SASS shooters that use the originals. By originals I mean the ones made by Colt. Colt still makes them too. But are they original? There have been some changes made to the ’73 over the years and the current ones are referred to as being a 3rd generation. The 1st generation is considered the ones made from 1873 until 1940 when production all but ended due to WWII. One notable variant is the Bisley Model. It was intended to be a target shooting gun but quickly gained a well deserved reputation as a fast shooting revolver. The Bisley has a lowered and wider hammer, longer grip frame with a different angle and a wider trigger.
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This is the work horse of the SASS world. The Ruger Blackhawk/Vaquero design is one of the strongest and reliable single action revolvers there is. You can also carry it with 6 rounds safely thanks to the transfer bar system. That doesn’t help with SASS shooting though, matches are shot with 5 rounds in the cylinder. There are 2 versions of the Vaquero. The 1st, or old style, are made on a bigger frame. While the new style is a lot closer in size to the Colt. Ruger also makes these with a Bisley style grip frame if that is your preference. I reviewed a matches set of Vaqueros a couple of months ago that are set up for SASS shooting. You can find that review here.
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The Uberti Cattleman falls into the class of a Colt clone. These are the Italian made revolvers that look and function very much like the Colt 1873s. There are others that makers of them too, but I generally have found the fit and finish on the Uberti made ones to be a little bit nicer. There is a huge range of revolvers available in the Cattleman line. There is a very basic, low priced model all the way to fancy engravings and inlaid grips models. Uberti doesn’t just make firearms for themselves either. There are models they make for Taylor’s, Cimarron and other importers. We have a full review of a Uberti Cattleman you can check out for more information.
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The wild west was not won only with Colts. Just like today, there were tons of manufactures both big and small. Remington had a good chunk of the revolver market as well. Heck, they had the patten on the revolver frame with a top strap that kept Colt from producing one until 1873. Taylor’s has a very slick copy of the Remington 1875. These are a bit heavier than the Colts, just look at the picture to see why. But this is a strong and reliable design. The 1875 also has a slightly different grip and trigger pull length than the Colts and will fit some shooters better.
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If you know your old Colt revolvers you are probably thinking what is a double action doing on a list of single actions? Yes the original Colt Lightnings were double action but the Cimarron version is a single action. Its not DASS we are talking about! There is just something about the shape of the Lightning grip that appeals to me. I was probably 11 years old the first time I saw a Lightning and I was as taken with it then and I am now. Billy the Kid was know to carry them, at least when he had his picture taken. Cimarron also makes a Thunderer that is slightly bigger.
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So there you go. 5 single action revolvers that are SASS legal. If you are a Cowboy Action shooter, chime in with what you compete with. If you are not, go get be… oh OK, go ahead and comment too.