REPRODUCTION REVOLVERS ARE a vastly under-appreciated segment of the firearms industry. Not only can we learn from past designs, but many of those long-ago guns remain useful and relevant today. And, of course, they are a fascinating part of our history.
Whether you’re currently a fan of reproduction revolvers or not, check out my pick of some of the well-made options on the market. Who knows, maybe you’ll pick up repro revolver fever along the way.
Thanks to Hollywood this particular revolver design has become the visual epitome of the Old West. Perhaps you know the Colt Single Action Army as The Peacemaker.
The SA Army is a revolving-cylinder design with a six-shot capacity and enjoyed two decades as the U.S. military’s service revolver. Dating back to 1872 the first Colt SA Army was chambered in .45 Colt and had a 7.5-inch barrel, two features today’s reproduction from Colt retains.
The modern Colt SAA is an ode to the original Peacemaker. Although Colt does offer it in more than one chambering and with different barrels, we’re going to focus on the .45 Colt in the classic style.
Its 7.5-inch blued barrel gives it an overall length of 13 inches and it has an empty weight of 44 oz. Thanks to blued parts, double eagle black composite grips, and a color-case-hardened frame this reproduction Colt SAA appears cut from shades of midnight.
Variations available include .45 Colt and .357 Magnum models with barrels ranging from 4.75-inches to 5.5-inches to 7.5-inches.
Colt did a fantastic job with this revolver. Fitment is stellar and performance rocks. This is undoubtedly more accurate than the first model was in 1872, but I’m not complaining. MSRP: $1799.
It was the 1850s when Colt created the bird’s head grip for their derringers. The curved grip is designed to fit more naturally into the swell of the shooter’s palm – whether or not it does depends on your specific hand size and shape, of course – and allows easier concealment.
It was 1877 when Colt came up with larger grips in the same style for their full-frame revolvers. In the spirit of those long-ago designs Uberti created their Bird’s Head Revolver. The Uberti Bird’s Head Revolver is a member of an entire line of these guns each with a different barrel length and chambered in a variety of cartridges.
This newest model is available in .45 Colt and .357 Magnum with barrels ranging from 3.5-inches to 5.5-inches. All models in the Bird’s Head line are case hardened with steel backstraps and trigger guards. MSRP: starts at $579.
Cimarron takes attention to detail seriously, something that is clear in guns like their 1872 Open Top Navy revolver. From its 1851-Navy-sized grips to its chambering options this gun is a well-done replica of the original.
This model was part of the progression from muzzle-loaded percussion revolvers to breech-loading paper cartridge revolvers to breech-loading metal cartridge revolvers. Although the full-frame Open Top didn’t technically go into production until 1872, it was one of Colt’s two patents from 1871.
Features of Cimarron’s 1872 Open Top Navy include barrel lengths varying from the original 7-1/2-inch barrel 4-3/4-inch and 5-1/2-inch barrels. They are offered in standard blue or color-case-hardened finishes and are, of course, the classic six-gun capacity.
The gun is available chambered in .38 Colt, .45 Colt, .44 Colt, and .44 Smith and Wesson Special/Colt/Russian. Empty weight averages 2 pounds, 7 ounces. This is a beautifully rendered revolver that should appeal to antique collectors and revolver fans alike. MSRP: $518.70.
This model is steeped in history. The 1847 Walker originates in the year of its name and is a single-action, revolving-cylinder gun. It was designed by the formidable team of Texas Ranger Samuel Hamilton Walker and Samuel Colt; Walker required a gun capable of greater power at limited distances and this was the result. In fact, Walker himself carried a pair of 1847 Walker revolvers during his time fighting in the Mexican-American War.
Walker was killed in action on Oct. 9 of that same year during the Battle of Huamantla in Tlaxcala, Mexico.
There were only 1100 of these guns produced in the original run and 1000 of those were made for the military. Today the cost of one of those originals tends to be in the ballpark of $1 million dollars which is out of reach for most of us; fortunately, we have replicas.
Uberti’s 1847 Walker is a celebration of the blackpowder revolvers of long ago. The frame is case-hardened, the backstrap is steel, and the trigger guard is brass. Features include a square-backed trigger guard, loading lever and latch close to the muzzle, and loading cutouts to securely seat percussion caps. It’s a .44-caliber revolver with a nine-inch barrel.
The 1847 is more than a revolver, it’s a piece of American history, and Uberti did well designing and producing this replica. MSRP: $489.
The 1873 Single Action Revolver Liberty Model is a favorite of mine from the Traditions line. It’s a solid-frame, gate-loading design with a six-round capacity and a transfer bar safety system based on the Colt Single Action Army revolver.
It’s offered in .357 Magnum and .45 Long Colt, the latter of which being the chambering I prefer. Regardless of caliber the gun cycles reliably and is flat-out enjoyable to shoot.
The Liberty is a member of the company’s Frontier family and is an authentic reproduction made on a steel frame. Details include its being laser-engraved with the Liberty name, the original model’s patent number, and an eagle. For a nice extra touch the white PVC grip panels are engraved with the eagle logo as well.
For those unfamiliar with a gate-loaded gun the process is remarkably simple to become accustomed to running: simply pull the hammer to half-cock, open the loading gate, and load the revolver one chamber at a time as you rotate the cylinder by hand while the gun remains half-cocked. Fun fact: some shooters load six-shots revolvers such as the Liberty by filling the first chamber, skipping the second, and then continuing to load the remaining four.
When the gun is loaded with five shells they then cautiously lower the hammer on the empty chamber. This is done so that the hammer isn’t resting on a live round while being carried, which could cause an accidental discharge if the gun were to be dropped or the hammer caught on something. Most modern replicas have floating firing pins on the hammers that prevent this.
However you load it spent brass is ejected one at a time just as it was loaded one at a time. MSRP: $624.
A repro-revolver roundup cannot be written without the Dragoon. The original Model 1848 Percussion Army Revolver was designed by none other than Samuel Colt specifically for the U.S. Army’s Cavalry which was then known as the Regiment of Mounted Rifles.
The large, heavy revolver was intended to be carried in a holster attached to a saddle and was essentially a refined version of the earlier Colt Walker revolver, which experienced issues with the strength of the steel used in construction and suffered from a weak latch mechanism on the reloading arm that could lock the gun up after recoil. The Dragoon fixed all that.
There are three variants of the Dragoon and Taylor’s offers them all. Well, there are technically four or five depending on your labeling of the transition-model Dragoon that preceded the three variants and inclusion of the Baby Dragoon.
Taylor’s 1848 Dragoon is produced as it should be with a case-hardened, forged-steel frame, blued components, and a brass backstrap and trigger guard. The company’s Whitneyville Dragoon is designed with features similar to that of the Walker revolver, as the transition-model Dragoons once were; subsequent first, second, and third Dragoon models are also patterned after their long-ago predecessors.
The three variants can be identified as follows: the 1st model has oval cylinder notches and a square-back trigger guard; the 2nd model has both square notches and a square-back trigger guard; and the 3rd rmodel everses the first’s with square notches and a rounded-back trigger guard.
The .44-caliber black powder revolvers feature a 7.5-inch round barrel, six-round capacity, walnut grips, and an empty weight of 4.1-pounds. Taylor’s also offers a drop-in conversion cylinder for smokeless .45 Long Colt ammunition. Basically, you have options. MSRP: starts at $465.
For a blend of the Old West and modernization there’s the Bisley Ruger Vaquero. The Bisley was first designed for target shooting and made its first public appearance at the 1894 British Commonwealth Championship Match in England.
To maximize its target-shooting capabilities it was made with a larger, longer grip and lower hammer. The gun is also known for its flat top strap, wider trigger, and elongated mainspring. It is, of course, a single-action revolver.
The Ruger Bisley Vaquero is offered in either .45 Colt or .357 Magnum and has a six-round capacity in both chamberings.
Features include a 5.5-inch barrel and white grips. In the original western tradition, the grips are larger for a more comfortable, natural hold on the gun. The barrel is cold-hammer forged for precise rifling and superior accuracy.
Loading and unloading the Bisley Ruger Vaquero is made simpler with Ruger’s patented reverse-indexing pawl. The cylinder is beveled for smoother holstering, and for an additional layer of safety, Ruger implemented their patented transfer bar mechanism and loading gate interlock—that’s one of the places modernization comes in handy.
Other features include an oversized, crescent-shaped ejector rod head, an empty weight of 45 oz., and a high-gloss stainless steel finish. MSRP: $899.
This revolver is the result of the long-ago musings and machinations of Jean Alexandre LeMat, a Frenchman who left his native country for the United States in 1843. LeMat came to the United States to finish his medical studies but in the end he became best known for this revolver.
It is unique, to be sure; the original LeMat had a nine-round capacity in .42 or .36 caliber and is was known as the Grape Shot Revolver. There’s more than its capacity that makes it impressive, though. The cylinder reovolved around a larger-bore barrel in the center of the gun, which was capable of firing a load of buckshot. You simply slide the mechanism on the hammer so the firing pin was in the lower position to strike the primer on the central barrel, and you have a very short-barreled single-shot shotgun.
A jointed ramrod mounted on the right-hand side of the frame was capable of loading the cylinder chambers and the shotgun barrel.
The original LeMat was produce from 1856 to 1865 with 2,900 rolling out of the factories—the earliest were produced in Philadelphia, the second generation were made overseas in Paris and many were shipped to the Confederate States during the American Civil War via the United Kingdom. After metallic cartridges were introduced a pinfire version of the LeMat was made, but these are extremely rare. A centerfire version was also made in Belgium, but again, very few were manufactured.
Italian gunmaker, Pietta, makes a LeMat line that is quite faithful to the originals and are comprised of three main models: the Cavalry, Army, and Navy. The Cavalry has a spur trigger guard, lever barrel release, cross-pin barrel selector, and lanyard ring. Differences in the others include a knurled pin barrel release and spur barrel selector on the Navy with the Army being similar to the Navy only with a cross-in barrel selector.
This single-action revolver has a 6.75-inch barrel length and hand-checkered walnut grips on all models.
The cylinder is chambered for .44 caliber bullets and the central barrel is a 20-gauge round barrel, while the revolver barrel is an octagon barrel with a 1:30 twist rate.
Forgive me if I fan-girl here, but the Pietta LeMat is one of the coolest reproduction revolvers on the market. If you’ve never fired a LeMat, get on it. Taylors & Company also make a fine LeMat reproduction. MSRP: $1200.
Manufactured in Italy by Davide Pedersoli, this Remington 1858 Pattern revolver harkens back to the mid-1800s when Eliphalet Remington made percussion revolvers during the Civil War.
The Remington Pattern was created by Eliphalet based on the September 14, 1858 Fordyce Beals patent. It was made to be a highly accurate, large-frame revolver and featured a solid-frame design for improved durability.
The Remington-Beals Model revolvers, also known as the Model 1858 because of the patent marks on the cylinder, began production in 1861 and was used during the American Civil War. It was a secondary supplemental issue firearm for the Union Army until the infamous Colt factory fire of 1864, which made the Colt 1860 Army unavailable for quite some time. In the interim, large numbers of the Remington revolvers were ordered by the government.
It went on to see use in the American West as a percussion revolver and later as a metallic cartridge conversion.
Today, Pedersoli builds their Remington Pattern guns to echo the exceptional quality of the original.
The Pedersoli Custom Remington Pattern revolver is a .44-caliber gun with a 7 and 7/8-inch barrel featuring a 1-in-18-inch twist rate. It has an overall length of 13 and 9/16-inches and an empty weight of 2.71-pounds. Although the heart of this reproduction remains, Pedersoli took care to modernize mechanisms and some features for greater accuracy and quality.
The trigger group and cylinder have been hardened and finished to reduce friction and facilitate smoothness and the main spring is tapered for flexibility. Prior to chroming the company also polishes the barrel, frame, hammer, and cylinder with fine emery paper. Needless to say this is a beautifully crafted firearm. MSRP: unlisted.
The Colt Buntline’s claim to fame can be found in Stuart Lake’s “Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall”. The book was mostly fiction and included inaccurate nuggets such as claiming Earp himself carried a Buntline.
History doesn’t back that up at all—but the book still had an impact on actual firearms history.
Lake’s excuse? He later admitted he “put words into Wyatt’s mouth because of the inarticulateness and monosyllabic way he had of talking.”
After the book was published in 1931 many—including the folks at Colt—began referring to long-barreled revolvers as Buntlines.
In 2007, firearms expert Mas Ayoob penned an article for Guns Magazine titled “One Policeman’s Custom Revolver”. Within the article Mas writes that Josie Earp, widow of Wyatt Earp, did once mention an extra-long barreled revolver Wyatt loved.
It is true that such revolvers were available at the time as custom orders. Colt made the guns at a cost of one dollar per additional inch over 7.5-inches in length. There is further evidence orders of such guns were made by people in Wyatt’s life, such as Buckskin Frank Leslie. What became of them and whether or not they were as long-barreled as Lake claimed we’ll never know.
This particular reproduction Buntline is manufactured by Pietta for EMF Company. It’s a single-action revolver chambered in .45 Colt with a nearly ridiculous 12-inch barrel. Features include walnut grips and case hardening.
If you want a piece of hotly-contested western firearms history this is the revolver for you. Trust me, it is well worth the enjoyment of delving deeper into the tales spun by Stuart Lake and their contrast with reality. MSRP: $640.