Top 5 Cowboy Action Revolvers

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.

Colt 1873 Single Action Army

Original Colt Single Action Army.

Original Colt Single Action Army.

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.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=colt%201873

Ruger Vaquero

Ruger Vaquero.

Ruger Vaquero.

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.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=ruger%20vaquero

Uberti Cattleman

Uberti Cattleman.

Uberti Cattleman.

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.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=uberti%20cattleman

Taylor’s 1875 Army Outlaw

Taylor's Remington 1875.

Taylor’s Remington 1875.

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.

Buy one from Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=taylor%27s

Cimarron Lightning

Cimarron Lightnings.

Cimarron Lightnings.

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.

Buy one from Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=cimarron%20lightning

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.


{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Rick February 11, 2021, 12:44 am

    Billy the kid was photographed with a SAA, not an 1877…

  • Joseph Nicholson June 17, 2020, 12:54 pm

    I wanted to know if Great Western firearms made in the USA were a good for cowboy action shooting.

  • Master duelist February 6, 2017, 2:24 pm

    The nib rodeo has the original grips. It’s The two I shoot that have the imitation ivory,, a nice touch.

  • Master duelist February 6, 2017, 2:21 pm

    I mainly use my 4 3/4\” 45 colt rodeo. Very reliable ,accurate and indeed the closest modern copy of the original 1873 colt. It\’s given me the confidence to call and Nail the third and sometimes fourth targets in a row on the Texas star. I also have a taurus gaucho that I do use At times as my second. I too somehow lucked out and had an idea to stick with another rodeo as my second pistol for consistency and ordered it before the catastrophic closure U S firearms . I too have it stashed in the safe unfired in the original box and sleeve. Since the closure I decided to keep using the gaucho( a fine pistol itself) and leave the new rodeo as is.,It\’s also a 4 3/4\” 45 colt, I might be persuaded to part with it for the right price though to help out another sass shooter.they both now wear the slightly aged imitation ivory grips from western wildlife wonders and the fit was perfect right out of the box. It\’s a nice touch that I like and have even rec\’d positive comments on them.

  • Jerry Leastman October 10, 2016, 5:59 am

    I am just beginning and don’t want to make a mistake in what I buy for my first single six. I am a large man with a big hand. Most of what I try seems like the grip of a toy cap gun. I need a large grip; what single six would you recommend? Thank you for any advise that you can give me.

    • Tvpc October 11, 2016, 9:49 am

      You need an Army grip, which is bigger than the standard grip. This is from the 1860 Army Colt, which is black powder, or smokeless with a conversion cylinder. For a Colt clone cartridge revolver with Army grip, see the Alchimista on The old Ruger Vaquero also is a bigger gun than the new one.

  • Mark N. March 29, 2015, 12:58 am

    Neither Cimarron nor Taylor’s are manufacturers, instead selling Piettas and Ubertis, as does Dixie gun Works. I find it shocking that the Pietta is not mentioned at all. The new Piettas have a solid transfer bar safety and the same sturdy main spring designed by Ruger, plus their case hardening has far more color than the Ubertis. If you want a Ubertis with a “transfer bar” safety, you have to get the Horseman model–and I can’t say that the one I handled (but did not shoot) did not impress.
    I have never been a fan of the Rugers, but only for reasons of style. They make the toughest frames and the best main spring, and there is good reason they are probably the number one pistol in SASS. But they don’t look just like a Colt–and that has always turned me off.
    The colts are beautiful guns–but they also cost at least twice what a slicked up Italian clone costs. For a gun they have been producing for a hundred years, you’d think the price would be more competitive.

  • Wakatomika March 25, 2015, 6:01 pm

    I know it’s a Uberti, but the Cimarron Model “P”, is pretty popular in our circles. The Cattleman had or has that little folding safety thingy on the hammer that just mucks up the looks of the hammer. Also, don’t forget the older “New Model” Ruger Vaquero, which is still around though now made anymore.

  • ZEKE March 23, 2015, 7:57 pm

    Four out of five an’t bad, These SAA are just so cool.

  • MrArff March 23, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I have a Blackhawk conversion in 45LC/45 acp. awesome gun! I also own a Cimarron Richards-Mason conversion in 44 colt and one in 45 LC. These are the open type design “Colt Clones” that were in use before the ’73 Colt. They are a lot of fun to shoot. The SASS max distance is 7 yards, and it can be a challenge if you don’t practice with them.

    • Dave July 13, 2017, 6:40 pm

      The SASS minimum distance for pistols is 7 yards (21′) and 10 yards maximum distance. Most shoots are somewhere in between. With most Clones shooting low and to the left, you have to know your gun, aim right and shoot fast!

  • Laurence Cromwell March 23, 2015, 12:32 pm

    Jimmy Spurs (aka Jim McMahon) in Derry, NH is not only a superb shooter, but he does a wonderful job “slicking up” the Rugers. Check him out on .

  • TVPC58 March 23, 2015, 12:02 pm

    SASS shooting is great! Ruger offers a matched-pair set of new generation Vaqueros approved by SASS, although any other new-gen Vaquero is great for SASS shooting. I don’t like the original Vaquero for SASS shooting as it seems too large and heavy for this purpose…more like a Dragoon.

    Check out Texas Jack’s. They have a great assortment of reproduction “cowboy” guns, clothing and accessories at fair prices. They have discounts on blemished firearms.

  • Mike March 23, 2015, 11:53 am

    I own an Alchimista II by Pietta and right out of the box this thing is just awesome! It is an 1873 Colt Replica but for those that don’t like the small grip of the 1873 this gun has incorporated the Checkered Handles and grip frame from the Colt 1860 Army. I have the 5 1/2″ Blued, Brass and Case hardened 357 mag. It also comes with the trick springs and a trigger job, as well as a lowered and wider hammer. They may have left it off this list but it is sure well worth looking at and I think Sam Trisler would agree if he ever got his hands on one.

  • Gypsum Creek Gus March 23, 2015, 9:07 am

    I have competed in SASS for about 6 years now, using a pair of the Ruger SASS vaqueros. Anyone who hasn’t tried a Ruger owes it to themselves to try them. Out of the box they were smooth and above all, reliable. Over the years I’ve given in to the customization bug and installed new springs, etc, in the interest of that little bit more speed capability, but honestly I was happy with them the way I received them.

  • T W McCloskey March 23, 2015, 5:50 am

    What happened to USFA? These were very fine six guns, and they are gone?


    • david March 23, 2015, 10:22 am

      Long gone

    • Sam Trisler March 23, 2015, 10:24 am

      They are out of business. I heard about them closing up about 6 months ago but I think they had been gone for a while longer. If they were still around they would be on this list. They made some damn fine guns.

    • .45Shootist March 8, 2016, 3:09 pm

      Sorry but the bad news is that they no longer exist. I have and use a pr. Of these in 4/34″ 45colt that are awesome and reliable. These came out the box ready to go and at the time I got them I found them to be the closest copy of a real colt model p at a far better price, right down to the 4click cocking they are accurate too ; I can call my hits on the Texas spinning star. Plus weight is right on ,not an anchor like my long gone ruger vaquero one in stainless, I am so glad I sold the ruger and ordered a spare rodeo and have it stashed new in the box safely hidden in my safe. Being on a limited budget I got these after seeing the rodeos and usfa recieve the highest reviews from both mike venturino and john taffin Both highly knowledgeable sixgun afficinados. I too am very sorry and sad to hear of their demise, keep looking a nd maybe place an ad . Maybe just maybe you’ll find someone willing to part with a good example at a fair price.

      • Dead- eye deulest June 26, 2016, 11:28 pm

        The usfa rodeos were made for sass competition and are great guns I’ve used mine for @8 yrs now with no problems round count well over 1000 and the only thing I changed were the grips , only for looks. I got some slightly aged ivory look from western wildlife wonders shop and they are a perfect fit right out of the package. I still use mine and even used it to qualify for .45 caliber revolver for my ccpermit I somehow had a premonition of just a blind stroke of luck and ordered a second one just 6 months before disaster struck usfa and they closed . I have it new unfired in the box sitting in the safe now I doubt the first will ever give out its a solid accurate dependable cowboy gun that I enjoy showing and shooting . Last week at the range a fellow stepped over from the next lane and asked to see it saying he was admiring it from over there and had to ask. Unfortunately I had to give him the bad news -no longer made! I’m getting better grips for all 3 of my cowboy pistols next month when they arrive!

      • Marco December 2, 2016, 10:40 pm

        I was a dealer for USFA for 10 years. Uberti made the frames for the early USFA and they were superior to what Uberti was exporting under their own name. At approx SN 2000 USFA made their on frames in the USA . the quality of a USFA SAA rivals that of any factory production 1st or 2nd gen Colt. They are far superior to any 3rd gen Colt. None of the Italian imports comes close to a USFA . The Rodeo was made for several of the big box stores like Cabela . They do NOT have the fit or finish of a regular USFA \gubn. Almost all of the case coloring on standard guns was done by Doug Turnbull, who ended up with a good quantity of unfinished guns when USFA closed their doors. . These USFAs sold from 850 to 1200 dollars in 2005. Today these guns are bringing $2200 to $4000 and up.(f you can find one.) I kept one in every caliber that USFA made. 22 LR 22Mag 32-20 327 mag 38-40 41 LC 44 Colt, 44 special . 45 ACP 45 LC and 455 Eley.. They are treasures. The market wouldn’t support those prices but the real reason was management. USFA were making $2000 guns and selling them for $900

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