Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Uberti 1873 Cattleman, 'El Patron'

Uberti Cattleman El Patron

No single handgun was more important or as well known as the Colt Single Action Army revolver. Released in 1873 and issued to the U.S. Army as their standard issue revolver, it became incredibly popular among citizens as a defensive firearm because of its ease of use, revolutionary self contained cartridges, and three barrel length options ranging from 4.75” to 7.5”. Between 1873 and present day well over half a million pistols have been manufactured in over half a dozen different calibers and a handful of different finishes.

Image copyright Point-of-Aim Productions 2013

A History...

When someone says the name “Colt” in todays firearm community, the first thing they most likely would think of the M1911. Personally, I go even further back to the Paterson revolver of 1836 or even the Walker. But my all-time favorite is the Colt Single Action Arm of 1873. The Single Action Army (or SAA) was pivotal in the modernization of revolvers and even the metallic cartridge. Was is the first metallic cartridge revolver? No, Smith and Wesson beat them to the punch with the Top Break which was chambered for the .44 S&W American and .44 Russian cartridges. The U.S. Army adopted the S&W Model 3 (Top Break) in 1870 to replace the 1860 Colt Army pistols and had them chambered for the .45 Schofield cartridge. When the SAA was introduced in 1873, Colt chambered them for a new .45 Long Colt cartridge. The .45 Long Colt (or .45LC) had a longer case than the .45 Schofield and was more powerful. One distinct advantage that the SAA had over the Model 3 was that it could chamber not only the .45LC, but also the .45 Schofield which made it more popular amongst the troops. After 1875, The U.S. Army standardized the SAA for everyone. 
The SAA was replaced in 1892 with the Colt Model 1982, a Double-Action revolver manufactured chambered in .38 Long Colt. All the remaining SAA’s were sold to civilians. There were technically four different barrel lengths available for civilians. A “Calvary” model that had a 7.5” barrel, an “Artillery” model with a 5.5” barrel, a “Gunslinger” model with a 4.75” barrel, and a VERY rare “Sheriff's” model with a cut down 3.5” barrel that didn't have an ejector rod. Interestingly enough, the .45LC was NOT the most popular chambering for civilians. In 1873, Winchester released their Model 1873 Repeating Rifle, or “The Gun that Won the West” which wasn’t chambered for the .45LC. What was appealing to civilians was that they could get there long gun and and sidearm chambered in the same cartridge, which in most cases was the .44-40 Winchester Center Fire (or WCF) but also .38-40 WCF, .32-20 WCF, and .25-20 WCF were popular.  
There have been three “generations” of the SAA. The ‘First Generation’ was manufactured between 1873 and 1941. Up until 1896, a single screw was used to hold in the base pin that retains the cylinder into the frame. After 1896, a spring loaded button was retrofitted to all new SAA’s which also indicated the transition to stronger steel for use with modern smokeless powder instead of black powder. Most of the models were available in a color case hardened frame finish with blued cylinder and barrel with black rubber grips. During WW2, colt ceased production of the SAA to focus on the M1911 pistol. Production restarted in 1956 up until 1974, and these models were considered “Second Generation” models but had no significant differences to the first generation models. In 1976 a change in barrel thread pitch (how it attaches to the frame) and using a solid cylinder plug instead of removable plug marked the start of the “Third Generation” models. They were only produced in limited numbers at first through Colts Custom Shop up until 1992. In 1994, production resumed 100% due to the jump in Cowboy Action Shooting popularity and continues today. 
In 1959, seeing a gap in the market for Colt revolvers due to the popularity of ‘spaghetti western’ movies, a man by the name of A. Uberti started Uberti Firearms to create exact replicas of famous Colt, Remington, and Winchester firearm designs. The Italian based company became very popular among Hollywood directors since they couldn't get their hands on the authentic firearms and were much less expensive. Uberti now manufactures over two dozen different firearms that were originally designed between 1860 and 1900.

The Design

The model that we are working with today is one of Uberti’s newer versions of their Cattleman revolver. In 2010 Uberti released their ‘El Patron’ variation of the Cattleman that added a number of upgrades that really appealed to me. The El Patron, at first glance, for all intents and purposes, is a Single Action Army revolver. What is cool about it versus the other Cattleman revolvers, however, is that it uses Wolff high performance springs, a numbered cylinder, steel back strap and trigger guard, a wide front sight, and checkered walnut grips. I am a true trigger snob, I will admit it. One pull of this trigger will satisfy ANY trigger snob. It is SUPER light, no doubt from the help of those Wolff springs. The function of the hammer in all four stages is crisp, positive, and smooth as silk. Not one hiccup in the operation of this revolver. The El Patron model tested sports a 5.5” barrel and is chambered for the .45LC, however, they are also available in 4.75” and 3.5” barrels in either .45LC or .357 Magnum. Finishes are also choosable as either a blued cylinder and barrel with a color case-hardened frame (tested) or stainless steel. These pistols are through and through Colt replicas, but function and shoot like genuine Colts (bold statement, I know).

Image copyright Point-of-Aim Productions 2013

I had very high hopes for this revolver as it stood in a very large shadow. Luckily, it was able to hold its own very well. We didn’t test too many different types of ammo as .45LC just isn't very easy to find and don’t come in many variations. Usually you find either light ‘cowboy’ loads that propel a 250 or 255 grain bullet at around 700 feet-per-second or you get nuclear loads by Buffalo Bore and Double Tap that were made for shooting from the massive Colt Anaconda and has velocities over shadowing that of the .44 Magnum. We were able to acquire Winchester Cowboy 250 grain lead loads, Federal American Eagle 255 grain lead loads, Hornady 255 grain lead loads, and two of my hand loads. All performed VERY well with the exception of the Federal loadings. They weren't as accurate as the Winchester or Hornady. I wanted to procure some Double Tap “Standard Pressure” loads that were to replicate the original black powder loadings of 1873 but never was able to. Recoil on all the ammo was very mild since they were lower velocity, only leaving the muzzle at around 750 feet per second on the high end.
My two hand loads had good results as well using an Oregon Trail 250 grain lead bullet. I worked up a ‘cowboy’ load and a ‘standard’ load. The cowboy load used Trail Boss powder while the standard load used Unique. Velocities were very mild with the Trail Boss, averaging only 630 feet per second. My standard loads, however, were hot, hot, hot! They averaged 930 feet per second with the hottest load being almost 960 feet per second which is on par with what the original black powder loading was. I did notice that the edges around the grip where it attaches to the frame are very sharp and while shooting my standard loads cut my thumb on one side. The lighter loads didn't even effect me but when I started shooting the hotter stuff, my thumb took a licking. 
All the factory ammo cycled without a problem but my hand loads decided to get stuck a few times in rotation. It looked to be either a worn rim on the cartridge or the primer was just a bit too high. Easy fix, but annoying never-the-less. The  ejector rod functions smoothly with no hang ups and, unlike Ruger single actions, had a smooth edge on the underside as to not to cut you while using it. Disassembly was simple and fast with only three pieces total (frame, takedown pin, and cylinder). Something to note was the fact that the barrel is a bit larger than standard .45 caliber barrels. Not to get TOO technical, but most .45 caliber barrels are around .451” wide... the Uberti runs about .454” wide so that brush you would normal use to scrub a barrel may not even grab the lands and grooves. Just something to note.

Final Thoughts

Who wouldn’t love to have a genuine Colt Single Action Army revolver? I know I would! The only issue is their steep $1400 plus MSRP.  Granted... is IS a genuine Colt we are talking about, but in this day and age, a replica will sure get the job done... especially at a $620 MSRP. The cool part about the Uberti’s is the fact that the regular model Cattleman revolvers come is a crazy amount of versions ranging from a 4.75” Stainless Steel frame chambered in .357 Magnum to a 7.5” Color case-hardened frame in .44-40 WCF. They have so many different finishes and variations that the possibilities are almost endless. One model I’d like to get is their “Old West” model that has a worn steel finish with the original screw in frame instead of the spring loaded button (essentially an early first generation replica). 
As of this writing, Uberti has released a new model called the ‘Horseman’ that mimics more modern firearms like the Ruger Vaquero and Blackhawk in that is uses a captive recoil spring and a transfer bar mechanism for safety instead of the old school exposed firing pin. Which ever model you choose to go with, it is worth taking a look at the Uberti’s. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ruger GP100

Ruger GP100

The Ruger GP100 is by far the finest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ double action revolver. Even at todays prices, the GP100 is a solid contender against some of Smith and Wesson’s more expensive revolvers. Some would argue that Taurus beats out Ruger on price for what you get, but I will have to disagree in that, while some Taurus pistols may be cheaper, the quality of the Ruger at its price cannot be matched. Its durability, reliability, & accuracy is impeccable. Ruger revolvers are built so strongly that they will last you decades without having to replace a single spring. Available in 3”, 4” and 6” barrel lengths in .357 Magnum as well as .327 Federal Magnum, The versatility of the GP100 is endless.

Photo copyright Point-of-Aim Productions, 2013

A History...

Ruger made a name for themselves in the revolver market in the mid 1970’s with their Security Six line of pistols. Until then, a shooter was limited to either a Smith and Wesson or a Colt and even back in the 70’s those were not cheap guns. The Security Six gave shooters a budget revolver that still packed the strength and reliability needed to handle the powerful .357 Magnum round. The Security Six revolvers used mostly investment cast parts to keep production costs down, but Ruger was able to perfect the process and make the guns incurably strong. The Security six was the first revolver to incorporate a new transfer part safety feature instead of an exposed firing pin. What also help the popularity was the fact that many police departments and government organizations adopted the Security Six as their standard sidearm. In 1979 Ruger introduced the incredibly powerful Ruger Redhawk to compete with Smith and Wesson’s Model 29, that was designed for the new .44 Magnum cartridge. This revolver included many improvements over the Security Six such as a new spring system, higher strength steel, and a new locking system for the cylinder to handle to increased pressures of the .44 Magnum. Ruger saw that they could further reinforce the Security six with the features but decided to change the revolver completely instead of just add them to the existing line. The Security Six was discontinued in 1988. 
Three years before hand, Ruger introduced the new GP100. It took all of the new features of the Redhawk and put them into a smaller frame gun for the .357 Magnum. The revolver was a instant hit. Like the Security Six, it used a solid frame design instead of a side plate design like the Colt and Smith and Wesson aiding in its strength. Barrel lengths were available in 3”, 4”, and 6” variations with both full under lug or half under lug. The half under lug was usually kept for the .38 Special chambered versions. The GP100 has continued to be a popular revolver today and has gone threw very few, if any at all design changes through its life. The most noticeable a change was in grip designs. 


The GP100 is a tank. It is one of the most robust revolver designs on the market. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that it uses a solid frame design. Well what does that mean? A solid frame pistol is milled out from the inside to accommodate a trigger group, hammer, and yolk for the cylinder. Once everything is locked up, it is, as stated before, one of the most durable revolvers on the market today. Unlike a Smith and Wesson or a Colt, the Ruger’s assembly consists of a single screw which take down the grip, everything else is pinned in place or uses a captive spring. 
It would be unfair to compare a Ruger GP100 to a Colt Python as the Python is really the Cadillac of the revolver world. All other revolvers pale in comparison to Colt’s “snake” line of pistols. We can compare a GP100 to a Smith and Wesson 686 however as that would be its closest competition. So what is the difference? Both are double action revolvers. Both are chambered for the .357 Magnum. Both come with full under lugs. Both have multiple barrel lengths. Both have six-shot cylinders. The biggest difference is the way they are built. The Smith and Wesson uses a side plate design that uses four screws (or five depending on year of manufacture) instead of the solid frame design of the Ruger. The 686 also has more internal redundant safeties and a different cylinder lock feature. Some can argue that the 686 is held to tighter tolerances. There is no rattling in a 686 when you shake it where there is in a Ruger. Here is my argument to that: The floating transfer bar that Ruger has used sine 1975. The GP100 is a heavier gun than the 686, but in return, helps with recoil of full power magnum loads. Newer GP100’s have much smoother triggers than older ones. Some of the older GP100’s had rough and very heavy double action triggers with not so crisp single action triggers but those made within the last decade have certainly risen the bar. My GP100 I picked up in 2010 had a smooth, yet heavy 10 pound double action trigger while the single action is VERY crisp at 3 and 3/4 pounds. Smith and Wesson trigger are much smoother and the single action almost feels like a hair trigger. You can make arguments for both but what it boils down to is how much do you want to spend? 
Velocities out of my 4” GP100 were modest if not down right impressive. My 158gr Soft Jacketed Hollow Point .357 Magnum hand loads left the barrel at a hair under 1200FPS. Remington, Federal American Eagle, and Hornady Critical Defense all performed flawlessly out of the Ruger and accuracy was beyond top notch. My only small gripe with the pistol is the fact that the front sight is just black. If it had a red or white insert to help with visibility in low light, it would just be the cherry on top.

Photo courtesy of OldSkool Photography, 2012

Final Thoughts

Looking to get a solid double action revolver but don't feel like spending the money on a Smith and Wesson 686 or even a used Colt Python? Look no further than the Ruger GP100. These days they sport 3”, 4”, and 6” barrels in both stainless steel and blued. The GP100’s are also available these days in a seven-shot .327 Federal Magnum version which is very intriguing to me. Custom options aren't very readily available aftermarket wise. Sights, grips, and springs are really the only think you can do on one of the GP100’s. 
MSRP on the newest GP100’s will run you about $730 but you can usually find them in shops for $650 or less. Compare that to a Smith and Wesson 686 which runs $829 MSRP or a USED Colt Python that would set you back $1200 in FAIR condition. Even though the Ruger is more of a budget revolver is doesn’t skimp on features, construction, reliability, and accuracy. Definitely one of my favorite pistols of my collection.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Delta Elite Part 2

Colt Delta Elite (part 2)

My Colt Delta Elite was given to me as a wedding gift by my wife ( I know, she’s a keeper right?!). It was purchased in 2011 and transferred to 2A Sales and Supplies of Jessup, Maryland where since 2009 I have purchased all of my firearms. In my part one review we talked about the ins and outs, the history, the ergo’s and touched on the customization. In part two we will be going into the full customization that I did to this pistol to make it my own. 

The Parts

Image copyright Point-of-Aim Productions
I knew right away when I got the Delta that I was going to change a number of things out. I have always been a huge fan of the 10mm Auto cartridge, and thanks to my Uncle, have had a fondness for the Delta Elite. The 1911 platform is arguably the perfect platform to build a pistol off of because of the vast array of parts you can get for that pistol. Since the Delta Elite is based off the 1911, it was game on. Most of the parts I added were for functionality rather than aesthetics. That being said, the cool thing about most of the 1911 parts available is that they look bad ass. Since there is a whole community for people that shoot Delta’s and customize them so I decided to take come cues from them. The Delta comes with a funky plastic recoil spring guide rod and dual recoil springs. Those were the first to go. 
Most of the parts that I picked up were made by Ed Brown products. I got those because of the enormous amount of reviews and pricing. Some parts also came from Wilson Combat. I knew I wanted a gun that looks modern and had most of the bells and whistles but that functioned perfectly for me. I wanted a flat mainspring housing to help with comfort and point of aim. A high ride beavertail grip safety was a must after the gun to a chunk out of my hand the first range trip out. A nicer trigger that was tuned, combat hammer, extended thumb safety, and slide release. Once I knew all the pieces I wanted, I got to work. A few hundred dollars later and I had all the parts that I needed. 

The Process

As stated above, the first to go was the recoil springs and guide. Those were simple drop in parts from Wolff Gun Springs and Wilson combat. I went with a one-piece full length guide rod assembly from Wilson and a single 24 pound recoil spring from Wolff that also came with an extra power firing pin spring. While the full length guide rod has never really been proven as a functional addition, it gives the custom look. The next drop in part was the slide release. I picked up an Ed Brown extended slide release and it dropped right in allowing my big thumbs to reach the slide release without turning the gun in my hand. The next part that was easy to go in was a “Maxi-Well” Ed Brown mainspring housing. It is a sharply checkered flat mainspring housing with an extended magazine opening to aid in faster magazine changes. Now if I wanted to go all out I could have sent it to a smith and have it blended but that was more money I didn't want to spend. In finding the housing didn't come with a mainspring... I ordered an extra power one from Wolff and picked up a flat end firing pin block from EGW to help in slide thrust and recoil. The last parts I picked up from Ed Brown were the Bullet Proof Hammer, beavertail grip safety, extended thumb safety, and a new long, solid trigger from Swenson. Those parts I sent off to Terry Gardner of Impact Guns to have them installed and the trigger tunes to a crisp 3.5 pounds. I was impressed with the trigger, but I must say, the beavertail blending was less than stellar. I still recommended his for work, but I wish he had taken some extra time with the blending of the beavertail safety. 

The Results
Image copyright Point-of-Aim productions

Went the pistol got back to me I couldn't have been happier. It feels great in my hand, and is smooth as silk to shoot. The Delta out of the box shot high and right for me the first few times out... now it shoots dead on. Th trigger is perfect. When I used the pistol in a Bowling Pin shoot last year I averaged a 4.5 second time to shoot down six steel bowling pins. It was my first time. I love this gun, it will truly be my favorite pistol in my cabinet for years to come. ONLY thing I want to add: Novak Lo-Mount sights. Otherwise, this pistol is perfect. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Colt Delta Elite (part 1)

Colt Delta Elite (part 1)

This is going to end up being a two part review for a few reasons. First I want to go over the history and perfection that is the Colt 1911 design, the 10mm Auto cartridge, and the history of the specific Delta Elite model. I’ll also talk about the accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and breakdown of the Delta Elite. Part 2 will involve me going into the modifications I have made to my personal Delta Elite that, in my opinion, make it a much better firearm.
Image Copyright Point-of-Aim Productions

A History...

There was a cartridge that was developed in the early 1980’s that was to put to shame the tried and true .45ACP. It was the brain child of the late, great, Col. Jeff Cooper with the help of Norma (see my Glock 20SF review for a full history on the 10mm Auto). After the failed introduction of Dornaus & Dixon’s Bren Ten pistol, both Colt and Smith and Wesson introduced pistols chambered in the new cartridge. Smith and Wesson came out with the Model 1006 and Colt came out with the Delta Elite which was tested by the FBI for their agents but ultimately never used. 
The Delta Elite never gained the popularity of the standard 1911 pistol because of the unpopular cartridge it was chambered in. The original Delta’s were also plagued by issues because of the higher pressure’s associated with the 10mm Auto. Colt added a section of metal to the frame where the slide release is located to prevent the frame from flexing under the recoil of the new cartridge. Unfortunately it did exactly what it was designed to do, to devastating effects. The frames would crack in a short time and the slides suffered stress cracks as well. This was fixed in the late 1980’s and the problems were a thing of the past. 
Throughout the Delta’s life from the late 80’s to early 90’s there were five variations of the pistol. The first was a strait blued pistol, shortly after they introduced a stainless versions. A GOLD CUP version was introduced that added a number of custom features like adjustable sights, high speed trigger, and flat mainspring housing. In 1988, a Delta Match 10 was introduced that was essentially a blued version of the Gold Cup, sources say only around 400 were made. A simple version was made that was parkerized, and had no delta markings on the grips or the normal Delta roll marks. The final variant was called the Colt Elite Ten Fourty that included a .40S&W swap-out barrel and a few new custom enhancements.
The Delta, sadly, was discontinued in the early 90’s and had a significant cult following. Delta’s in good shape go for over $1200 at shows and auctions. Colt announced they were re-introducing the Delta Elite in 2008 with significant improvements such as a bull barrel, high ride beavertail grip safety, extended slide stop, and beveled magazine well. Unfortunately (and I do MEAN unfortunately) that never came to fruition. However, in March of 2009, Colt did re-introduce the Delta Elite in its old configuration with checkered rubber wrap-around grips. That is the model we are focusing on today.


As I’m sure most of you can tell, I am a huge fan of the 10mm Auto cartridge. It is my favorite automatic pistol cartridge and I plan to expand my collection extensively. The Delta does not disappoint. As with the Glock, I tested the Colt with a variety of ammunition from Hornady, Remington, DoubleTap, and my hand loads. Everything performed incredibly well with a few hangups. The Remington 180gr loads gave me feeding problems almost immediately. I switched the magazines out but still had feeding issues. After 10 rounds or so it smoothed out so I am not 100% sure what the issue was. The Hornady and DoubleTap loads performed flawlessly with no feeding or extraction issues and were very accurate out to 15 yards. My hand loads did give me feeding issues however. The would not fully seat in the chamber, yet the same rounds functioned flawlessly when I ran the same rounds through my Glock. I have a feeling reaming and/or polishing the chamber will fix that problem. 
Accuracy was top notch with all the loads, my hand loads performing the best. The Hornady Ciritcal Defense and DoubleTap Bonded Defense kept groups within an inch at 15 yards. The Remington UMC loads opened up to about two inches but this was also off hand and not rested. Recoil was stout, noticeably more in the Colt that with the same loads in a Glock, which is interesting considering the Colt is a all stainless-steel gun. The trigger broke very crisply at around five pounds, with minimal take-up but a bit of over travel. The grips are sharply checkered plastic that give you a very good grip on the gun and are very comfortable. The sights are standard 3-dot system which are great, they aren't standard G.I. type low sights with no dot system. Colt uses the same sights on their 1991 series of pistols and their Series 70’s. 
One detractor i didn’t like on the gun was the grip safety. While I love the 1911, I am a firm believer in the less external safeties, the better, which is why I like the Glock and M&P pistols as much as I do. You will hear more about this in my Springfield XDm review soon. The grip safety on the Delta Elite is a tiny duck-bill type that took a chunk out of my big hands the first time out. I now have a nice .17 caliber size scar in the webbing between my thumb and index finger. It only took one time to start taping my hands to prevent that from happening. If you are going to do ONE modification to your pistol, it should be to change the grip safety. One of the Wilson Combat series 70/80 drop in safeties would be perfect. In Part 2 I am going to go into more detail what I did to the gun to make it perform best for me and my recommendations to you if you are considering one. 
Image courtesy OldSkool Photography


The great thing about the Delta Elite is the fact that it is simply a Colt 1911. The great thing about that is the amount of customization that can be done to the pistol. A 1911 can be COMPLETELY rebuilt and refinished to fit a customers needs. The problem with that is that depending on what you want done, after parts and labor from a qualified gunsmith, and the initial $1000-1200 investment on the pistol, you could be looking at the price of a Wilson Combat or Nighthawk Custom in 10mm. If you are like me, its the Colt name and logo that you really wanted and the legacy that the Delta Elite carries with it. From triggers, hammers, barrels, mainspring housings, safeties, and springs, there is endless possibilities for the Delta. I plan on going through my entire upgrade process and all of my options in Part 2 of this review, so stay tuned!!

Final Thoughts

If you are a fan of the Colt 1911 AND the 10mm Auto cartridge, then the Delta Elite is definitely worth looking at. Is it the ONLY option for a 1911 in 10mm? No, but it is the cheapest next to a Kimber Stainless Target II, and even then they can be expensive. Dan Wesson reintroduced the RZ10 last year branded under CZ-USA, but the retail on that is over $1300 with street prices going above that for its rarity. After the Colt, only Wilson Combat and Nighthawk Custom have options available for the 10mm Auto and they can run $3000+ depending on options. 
As a stock gun, the Delta is easy to handle and comfortable to shoot (minus the awful grip safety). The stainless steel construction with matching finish is beautiful and having the Delta logo on the grips really makes it stand out. I would have love to have seen the prototype bull barrel version, but alas, Colt stated they didn't get the accuracy out of it that they wanted. It is a solid competitor in the 10mm market as well as the 1911 market. I’d like to see a blued version come out to mimic the very first of the Deltas... but one can only hope.