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. 


  1. Nice write up. I've been interested in an El Patron but am liking the new Horseman, especially at $559 MSRP!

    I wonder when they will start showing up in stores or online.

  2. I just picked up an El Patron for $579+tax...can't wait to get it out and shoot it.

    Did you experience any problems (other than to your thumb) from the hotter loads, especially to the gun itself? I'm wondering if I can handload a "hunting" round that will be hotter than the standard cowboy loads that seem to occupy the shelves these days (if you can find any ammo at all).

    1. I would stay away from big hunting rounds and stuff from buffalo bore or whomever makes the higher pressure rounds. These guns aren't built like the Ruger Vaquero's that can withstand those pressures. The cattleman are built like the original colts and can only withstand standard pressure ammunition.
      Besides my thumb, I didn't encounter any other issues!