For the Old West Lover in Us: Davidson’s Exclusive 1873 Revolver

To me, there’s something special about using a Colt 1873-style revolver. Part of it, of course, is the connection to our Old West history, cowboys and gunfighters, and all those John Wayne movies I watched as a kid. But there’s also a simplicity and a functionality to the 1873 and its single-action operation I find very attractive, as well as how good the revolver feels in hand, the weight, and the fine balance.

So, when firearms wholesaler Davidson’s announced it had teamed up with Italian gunmaker Pietta to create an Exclusive 1873 single-action revolver in two calibers? I wanted one to use and review.

Pietta is known for its authentic historical firearms reproductions. In addition to 1873 handguns, Pietta manufacturers black powder revolvers, historical long arms like the .50 caliber Smith Carbine, plus several modern shotguns and one modern rifle.

Davidson’s teamed up with Italian gunmaker Pietta to create an Exclusive 1873 single-action revolver, a reproduction of the Colt 1873 Single Action Revolver.

Davidson’s regularly partners with various gun makers to develop and sell special, “Exclusive” firearm offerings, found in the company’s Gallery of Guns. As it has done for years, Davidson’s Exclusives offer everything from historical firearms like the Pietta to firearms with a special Davidson’s-only features including finish and calibers.

Offered in both .357 Magnum as well as the more traditional .45 Colt, Davidson’s Exclusives 1873’s feature a deep blued finish on the frame, cylinder, and barrel. The revolvers are nicely accented with high-polished brass trigger guards, front straps, and back straps.  

The 1873 Single Action Army–most famous handgun in the world?

The Exclusive 1873 sights are the open and fixed, with a notch at rear and a blade at the front. These 1873 models feature the traditional four-click hammer and both chamberings have 4.75-inch barrels.

I requested a model in .357 Magnum, in part because I had some new Black Hills ammunition in that caliber I wanted to try out.

Many books have been written about the Single Action Army Revolver, developed by Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and accepted by the U.S. Army in 1873 as its duty sidearm. It’s been variously called the SAA, the Model P, the Peacemaker, and the M1873.

A Single Action Army has been carried by Wyatt Earp, General George S. Patton, and too many other famous people to even begin a short list.

If the Single Action Army is not the most famous handgun in the world, certainly in the United States? I have no clue what would take the top spot. It really has to be the 1873 with that four-click hammer, the large front sight, and that Old West look American’s have come to love.

Including this American.

To test the Exclusive 1873 single-action for function and accuracy, I used three brands of .357 Magnum ammunition: Aguila firing a 158-grain semi-jacketed soft point bullet; Black Hills Ammunition’s new Honey Badger 127-grain hunting and self-defense round; and, Winchester’s Super X Personal Protection launching a 125-grain jacketed hollow-point bullet. 

Black Hills Ammunition’s new .357 Mag. Honey Badger 127-grain round is made for hunting and self-defense, and features many cutting petals.

I chronographed ten rounds of each on my RCBS AmmoMaster Chronograph with the muzzle approximately five feet from the unit. The rounds averaged: 1,183 feet per second (fps) for the Aguila; 1,376 fps with the Black Hills Honey Badger; and, 1,447 fps with the Winchester Personal Protection.

At what I consider a basic self-defense distance of five yards, the Davidson’s Exclusive 1873 put all three brands of rounds wherever they were supposed to go, usually with a five-shot group of one inch or better. Too easy, I decided, so I backed up another five yards.

At ten yards and shooting offhand, my best group was with the Black Hills Honey Badger, which placed five shots at 1.15-inches, with four of those shots touching and scoring a very impressive .45-inch group.

Best grouping with the Exclusive 1873 was the Black Hills Honey Badger, five shots at 1.15-inches (four shots at .45-inches!) fired offhand at ten yards.

The Winchester pegged a five-shot group at 1.67-inches, with the first four shots grouping at .91-inches. Yes, I pulled shot number five, to the left.

Winchester’s Super X Personal Defense pegged a five-shot group at 1.67-inches, with the first four shots grouping at .91-inches, offhand at ten yards. 

The Aguila averaged right at two inches for five shots strings.

Now the rear sight on the Davidson’s Exclusive 1873 is not exactly what most shooters would consider stellar. Open and fixed, the rear sight is cut into the top of the frame, and the rear notch and front blade can be hard to pick up in low light and when the target itself is dark.

The Exclusive 1873’s traditional 1873 rear sight is functional enough at closer ranges, but can be hard to pick up in low light and when the target is dark colored.

At 20 yards and firing from a rest, my best groups were 2.25-inches with the Honey Badger and 2.65 inches with the Winchester. The Aguila was at least three inches and frequently closer to four inches.

Some of that is the sights, some of that was me and some no doubt the ammunition.

The single-action trigger on the Davison’s Exclusive 1873 broke, on average, at a crisp 3 pounds, 9 ounces of trigger pull, according to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge.

The Exclusive 1873 loaded easily. I half-cocked the hammer and opened the gate on the right side of the cylinder, and was ready to load.

To load the revolver, simply half cock the hammer and open the gate on the right side of the cylinder. Ready!

Unload? Half-cocked and gate opened, and then I tipped the revolver with the rear facing the ground. Frequently, my empty brass dropped out, one at a time of course, as I spun the cylinder. Other times, I pushed down on the ejector rod under the barrel to pop out the brass.

To unload, half cock the hammer and open the gate, and then tip the revolver with the rear facing the ground and depress the ejector rod to pop out used brass one at a time.

Cleaning the Exclusive 1873 was very simple. I depressed the cylinder pin retainer screw located on the left side of the frame and just forward of the cylinder and pulled out the base pin.

The cylinder on the Exclusive 1873 is removed by first depressing the cylinder pin retainer screw just forward of the cylinder, and then pulling the base pin towards the muzzle and out.

With the gate opened and the hammer half-cocked, the cylinder rolled out. At that point, I had easy access to the barrel and the individual cylinders for cleaning.

With the cylinder removed, clean out the barrel and the individual cylinders.

There is one thing I would change. I’d give the hammer spur serrations a little more depth for a better purchase for the thumb when cocking. The current hammer spur certainly functions, but the minimal depth of the serrations means they can easily become clogged with dust, etc., and purchase is reduced.

If you buy an Exclusive 1873, you might also want to purchase a kit to re-blue the finish in places. I carried the Exclusive 1873 a good deal this past fall on numerous hunts and shot it frequently. Between drawing it out of the holster and the abuse it took when I was crawling through the West Texas underbrush to get into position for shots, plus the general knocking around the revolver experienced, the finish wore through on several small spots.

Of course, that gives my Exclusive 1873 a well-earned look, too.

I carried the Exclusive 1873 literally for weeks during fall hunts, and I used what turned out to be the perfect holster for me: Galco Gunleather’s SAO Strongside/Crossdraw Belt Holster, secured to a Galco SB2 Casual Holster Belt 1 ½.” The holster went on my left side of my belt and provided a trouble-free draw, plus allowed easy access to the revolver while sitting.

McCombie carried the Exclusive 1873 extensively using a Galco SAO Strongside/Crossdraw Belt Holster, secured to a Galco SB2 Casual Holster Belt 1 ½.”

I also used a Glaco 2X2X2 Ammo Carrier to hold six rounds of .357 Magnum on the right side of my belt. Very handy!

The very handy Galco 2X2X2 Ammo Carrier held six rounds of .357 Magnum, and was attached the right side of McCombie’s belt.

Davidson’s Exclusive 1873 will be available through 2021, and upcoming models will have slight variations and additions to the features, including finish options. If you one, your FFL will have to contact Davidson’s and place an order. The first two shipments of the Exclusive 1873’s that Davidsons received from Pietta sold out almost immediately. So, put in your order soon.

Specifications:  Davidson’s Exclusive 1873 Revolver

Caliber: 357 Mag. (as tested—also available in 45 Colt)

Capacity: 6 rounds

Gun Type: Revolver, Single Action

Finish: Deep blue

Barrel Length: 4.75”

Overall Length: 9.2”

Weight: 40 oz.

Sights: Fixed rear, bladed front

Grips: Two-piece, brown checkered polymer  

Features: High-polished brass trigger guard, front strap, and back strap; Four Click Hammer; Made by Pietta, Italy.

MSRP: $519.99.

For more information visit Gallery of Guns website.

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Ti February 5, 2021, 10:13 am

    That Black Hills Honey Badger ammo looks interesting. I’d like to see what the terminal effects of that stuff looks like in a cadaver, uh, I mean, ballistic gel.

  • Phil February 5, 2021, 8:37 am

    That 1873 appears to be a second Gen. First Gen were Model Ps with a screw to hold the cylinder pin. The one shown in the dis-assembly pic is a push type. As for ammo, an order for .45 LC from Sportsmans G. was placed in Sept. I just received a note for a June delivery!

  • Todd February 2, 2021, 6:40 pm

    So then, in bullet statements, what makes this *special* relative to standard Pietta offerings?

    I understand the noted finishes but then at the end it is stated that these will not likely be standard on following Davidson’s guns.

    I have one of the Davidson’s S&W 66s and the upgrades are noteworthy and functional. I’m not quite seeing the special of this Special but am willing to learn.

    Todd.

  • Blue Dog (he/him) February 2, 2021, 4:27 pm

    It is pretty enough, despite the sadly plain grips. The brass grip grip strap and trigger guard are classy and the Italians are making them better now than Colt has been for the last 30, 40 years. I would love to find one in the wild to get a good feel of it.

    It is always difficult picking between .357 and .45, almost like Betty and Veronica. Betty is the .357 and Veronica is the .45. Or like Ginger and Maryanne. Jennifer Marlow and Bailey Quarters.

  • Daniel February 1, 2021, 7:27 pm

    The grips look small for the size of the gun. The front of the cylinder is rebated and looks funny. The cylinder pin release button isn’t seated fully into the frame, the backstrap doesn’t mate with the rear of the frame, the grips don’t fit, all signs of poor workmanship, and poorer QC. This gun appears to have been made to a price point. Very surprising that the photos were taken with what appears to be a live round in one of the chambers.

  • George K. February 1, 2021, 2:15 pm

    I’ve just bought one from my local gun dealer. Strange thing ’cause my piece in .357 Mag sports fluted cylinder and beautiful smooth walnut grips. (No serrations). Nevertheless I like the brass strap, and it comes as a nice contrast to a very deep and beautiful case hardened cylinder and the frame. It almost looks “three-dimensional”.
    Why the difference between the one described in article and my own? Maybe because my gun was sold under the Cimarron Firearms Co. brand name?
    Article doesn’t mention safety built into the gun. My piece has a second generation manual safety, but user’s manual mentions also newer, third generation safety utilizing a transfer bar.

    • Mark N. February 2, 2021, 12:33 am

      Pietta used a transfer bar for a period of time (may still do so on some models), but has gone on to the same “floating” firing pin invented by Uberti. The firing pin on the hammer looks very authentic, but unlike the original Colts, does not contact a primer unless the trigger is pulled. There is a rod that goes up through the hammer that locks the firing pin. Nifty piece of engineering.

      As to differences, go to the EMF site. Pietta makes a number of variations, some with brass back straps, others with blued steel, as well as a number of different grips (plain one piece, plastic brown or black, faux ivory, pearl, and some with checkered wood grips. Some are laser etched. Prices vary.

  • Grady February 1, 2021, 12:20 pm

    Wish I still had my second generation Colt 73 that was stolen….

  • missourisam February 1, 2021, 12:19 pm

    I have a Ruger Blackhawk 5 inch in .45. I love it except for the loading sequence. The cylinder free spins clockwise only, from the rear, and just a smidge too far and the chamber will not line up and has to be rotated a full turn. You would think that a revolver this well designed would address this problem from the factory. I know the old style Blackhawks were much easier to load, but you lost one round per loading to keep a live round from being under the hammer, but sometimes think the trade off was worth while.

    • M.T Chambers February 1, 2021, 2:29 pm

      Check with your local SASS shooters, any reputable SASS pistolsmith can make an easy modification to to allow the cylinder to rotate either way. If you’re comfortable with working on your gun there are also Youtube videos on how to make the mod.

    • Scotty Gunn February 1, 2021, 2:52 pm

      Brownells and others sells a kit to fix that. I put one in for my father years ago.

  • Norm Fishler February 1, 2021, 12:13 pm

    I read the article with interest as well as the comments. A number of readers commented on the grips which was something I picked up on immediately.I went back through the article looking for reference as to whether or not standard Colt SAA grip replacements can be used , but found not a word. So my question is, will replacement grips from say, Eagle Grips fit? An inquiring mind needs to know.

    • Mark N. February 2, 2021, 12:52 am

      There are variations between the curves of back straps from different manufacturers, and as a result, most of the aftermarket suppliers will sell grips that are specific to that brand. If you are interested in making your own, check out Tombstone Grips.

  • William Larry Brady February 1, 2021, 10:48 am

    The 45 Caliber Pistol

  • Ed February 1, 2021, 10:20 am

    Bet the gun is easier to find than the ammo.

    • Mark N. February 2, 2021, 12:56 am

      You might be surprised. The Pietta Californian (case hardened frame, blued steel backstrap, one piece wood grips) in all barrel lengths and all three calibers are sold out. One of my local guns stores, Sportsman’s Warehouse, had two Ubertis in .45 Colt, and a few .22s. Usually they have about 15 or so. But you are right about the ammo. Sportsman’s had virtually no powder, no pistol caliber cases, no primers, and no loaded cartridges, other than a few stray boxes of 9 mm range ammo.

  • August Bender February 1, 2021, 9:43 am

    I agree with Jack and Mark. I don’t like the appearance of the grips or the brass grip frame and trigger guard. Those brown plastic grips just aren’t the right thing for this replica vintage revolver. I think smooth wood grips would look much better and blued steel would be a better choice for the grip frame and trigger guard. But, I guess Davidson’s wanted a unique look for this Exclusive 1873 revolver and they have achieved that, complete with the unfluted cylinder.

  • Griffendad February 1, 2021, 9:25 am

    Sorry, but that pistol looks like they had a lot of spare parts lying from different models and threw that together to clear out inventory.

  • PB- dave February 1, 2021, 9:16 am

    I agree with others that the grips are out of place, the 1911 colored plastic doesn’t fit- needs to be black. and grip frame needs to be steel( perferred case hardened in color) .
    however, Not bad for $500 tho……

  • Albert Fortin February 1, 2021, 8:46 am

    If you like repos you like repos. No big deal.If you do not like the ghun,do not buy it.simple really.

  • Anthony Romano February 1, 2021, 7:13 am

    I do cowboy action shooting and I can attest to Pietta making a fine gun. Although I shoot Colts in .357 I’ve had Piettas but sold them to get my Colts. Nothing like a single action!!

  • Perry DuPre DuPre February 1, 2021, 5:30 am

    Great Article!! I was more into the clint eastwood spegetti westerns m& although the peacemaker is/was a great peice of history!! I’d like to see the same work put into the 1862 remington!!

    • aardq February 1, 2021, 7:29 pm

      You must have a typo in your reply. There is no 1862 Remington. An 1861 (old model) and an 1863 (new model), but no 1862.

  • Jack007 February 1, 2021, 4:18 am

    Nice gun, even if it’s in that heretical .357 caliber. 🙂
    But, the only thing I don’t get are the grips? They just seem out of place for some reason?
    Maybe someone can educate me?

    • Jay Smith February 1, 2021, 9:27 am

      I thought the same about the grips ( are they plastic ? ) , and also agree with Mark on the brass frame ( maybe it’s cheaper , easier to machine & doesn’t need blueing – but , TRUE Case hardened ( on everything but the barrel ) would look spectacular ! The 2 screws on the back of the frame already appear to be filled with lint/debris ? I do like that they beveled the front of the cylinder . Think I will stick with my Rugers , built like tanks ( i got an extra transfer bar anyway , just in case ).

  • Mark N. February 1, 2021, 2:13 am

    I like Piettas, I own six of them, but I don’t know about this one. 1873s should have steel trigger guards and grip frames, as Colt built them. Brass is great on the black powder guns, but the look detracts here. The grips on this one are truly ugly. The rest of the gun is fine, the plain cylinder an interesting look, though I have a great fondness for Pietta’s case hardened colors. I don’t understan though why Pietta doesn’t actually blue the hammers–whatever they spray on there just rubs off, as seen in the pictures here.

    • Jim from LI February 1, 2021, 9:53 am

      When you get a Pietta, the question is from whom. Davidson’s obviously wanted a lowball spec and that’s what they got. A brass backstrap is a little cheaper than steel; leaving off the flutes from the cylinder saves a little time and money; likewise we’ll skip the color case treatment and just drop all the steel in the bluing tank. The finish isn’t wearing off that hammer, it’s being scraped off from dragging against the side of the frame. Very poor workmanship. The Italian reproductions have been very scarce since covid shut down most of Italy; perhaps Pietta is having quality problems connected to restarting production. My Piettas from EMF are much better made.

      • Mark N. February 2, 2021, 1:03 am

        I have an 1860 where the “case hardened” finish rubbed off the hammer and the rammer, most definitely NOT scraped off. These, and the Ubertis as well, can vary a lot from one gun to the next, with one being smooth as silk and the next being gritty and stiff. My Pietta came out of the box very slick, and then I polished the mating surfaces, filed the rough edges off the gap where the hammer fits, and now it is slicker than snot. I looked at two Ubertis this past weekend, both the same model, and one was smooth, the other very much not so much. I have an 1861 where the craftsman hammered the wedge in so tightly I had to take it to a shop to get it unstuck. Just a bit of TLC can make these all fine guns.

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