United States Fire-Armsí New "Old" Gunslinger Sixgun

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

April 13th, 2005

 

 

 

Over the past few years, I have come to expect certain things from United States Fire-Arms (USFA). One thing is that the guns will feel like a single action should feel. That is to say that the action will feel "right", for lack of a better word. Those of you who know single action revolvers will know what I mean by that.  When thumbing back the hammer, the working parts of the sixgun will feel precise, yet smooth. Another thing that I have come to expect from USFA is that their replicas of the Colt Single Action Army revolver will have that special feel in the hand; that the grip will be perfection, that the hammer spur will be placed exactly where it should be, and that the gun will point naturally, like the finger of God. The final thing that I have come to expect from a USFA sixgun is that the finish will be flawless. Even on their Rodeo, which wears a dull, utilitarian finish, there are no flaws. Their other sixguns, such as the Flattop Target and Pre-War, are some of the most perfectly finished revolvers available, at any price.  It was with these preconceived expectations in mind that my interest was piqued, when in a conversation with Gary Germaine at USFA that he told me about their new Gunslinger revolver that comes from the factory with an antiqued finish. I wanted to see this for myself, as I have seen guns before that were "antiqued" by various processes that did not quite achieve the desired effect. I have seen new guns that were stripped of their bluing and soaked in vinegar, among other things. I have also seen a sixgun that was purposely rusted, which looked more pitted and neglected, rather than old, like you had loaned a new gun to your brother in law. With all of this in mind, I requested a sample gun from USFA.

Upon opening the package, after a few weeks of awaiting its arrival, inside I found what did indeed appear to be a very old Colt. The exterior finish is a dull grayish brown, with some mottling, but is not pitted at all. It looks much like the finish seen on an old original Hawken rifle, or the browned appearance that is sometimes seen on an old lever action barrel. It is not a worn appearance, as is seen on old sixguns that spent a lot of time in a holster, nor does it look like a revolver that has seen years of neglect.  It just looks, again for lack of a better word, old. Gary tells me that their aging process is not a quickly applied chemical finish, but that they start with a finished gun, and carefully brown the exterior in several thin layers, which results in an even finish, with absolutely no pitting.

I carried the Gunslinger to a couple of gun shows where several collectors of old Colts were present. Showing the sixgun to these dealers, none suspected that it was anything other than an old Colt, until I directed then to read the inscription on the top of the barrel, which reads: "U.S.F.A. MFG. Co. Hartford, CT U.S.A", in two lines. I had removed the grips for this, as they are the only thing on the Gunslinger that looks new.  They are made of checkered hard black rubber, and would look better on the Gunslinger if they too were aged a bit. However, grips are easily replaced, and one could substitute a set of old ivories or a one-piece walnut grip that would look great on this sixgun. Also, a couple of hours in a brass tumbler might do the trick on these new grips, but since it was not my gun, I left them as received.

The Gunslinger is available chambered for the .32, .38, .and .44 WCF cartridges, the .38 and .44 Special cartridges, and the .45 Colt cartridge. My sample was chambered for the latter. It can be had with either a four and three-quarter, five and one-half, or seven and one-half inch barrel, with the sample gun wearing the former. The .45 Colt 4 ĺ inch sixgun weighs in at 36.8 ounces unloaded.  The .096 inch wide front sight is of the traditional single action profile, and measures .351 inch tall. The rear sight notch is of a squared design that measures .109 in width, resulting in a very good sight picture, with adequate front sight height to accommodate most common .45 Colt bullet weights.  The cylinder throats measured a perfect .4525 inch diameter, and the barrel/cylinder gap measured a consistent .003 inch. The trigger pull on the Gunslinger measured a crisp 2 pounds and 14 ounces, with no discernable creep. The Gunslinger has that same wonderful "four-click" feel to the action as should all Colt SAA replicas, and the action feels just right. The ejector rod rides smoothly in a cam-cut housing, and the chambers line up perfectly with the loading gate at half-cock, just as it should. While the exterior of the Gunslinger is aged to a brown patina, the insides and the bore of the gun are perfect.

I fired the Gunslinger for functioning and accuracy with a variety of different .45 Colt loads appropriate for any new SAA in good condition, including handloads and factory ammunition. The gun fired five-shot groups measuring from a best of just under one inch to the largest group which measured right at three and one-quarter inches at twenty-five yards from a rested position. Functioning was flawless, without any misfires and with all empty cases falling easily from the chambers. Besides the accuracy testing, I packed the Gunslinger around for a few days in a "Duke" holster and money belt from El Paso Saddlery, plinking at various targets of opportunity. This is one of my favorite holster rigs for carrying a sixgun, as the belt is soft and very flexible, and the pigskin-lined holster carries the sixgun very well.

For those who favor the look and feel of a first generation Colt in a sixgun built of modern steel, the Gunslinger is a very good alternative to paying several thousand dollars for an original. The list price on the Gunslinger at the time of this writing is only $912, which ainít cheap, but is a quality sixgun built by American craftsmen from quality materials. The Gunslinger should only improve its appearance as it gains some holster and grip frame wear. It is a gun that you will not worry too much about marring its finish as I do with my other USFA sixguns, as a mark here or there will only add a bit to its character. It is a gun that should be very well accepted by the Cowboy Action crowd, for it looks as if it has spent a year or two on the open range. The grips need some attention to match the rest of the gun. A set of Tru-Ivory aged grips are optional from USFA, as are smooth or checkered walnut or even genuine elephant ivory for the well-heeled. If I keep this Gunslinger, I have my eye on a set of very old yellowed stags that will look just right on this new "old" sixgun. The Gunslinger shoots good, feels right, and is built by USFA in the USA.

Check out the extensive line of revolvers, autos, and rifles from United States Fire-Arms Company online at:   www.usfirearms.com.

To order the excellent El Paso leather, go to: www.epsaddlery.com.

Jeff Quinn

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United States Fire-Arms' "Gunslinger" sixgun.

 

 

 

 

USFA's Gunslinger is right at home in a quality rig such as El Paso Saddlery's "Duke" holster and money belt.