For nearly all of the past 138 years, Colt’s of Hartford, Conn., has made the Single Action Army revolver in .45 Colt. Produced in many barrel lengths, calibers, finishes and styles, one of the more popular variations is the so-called Sheriff’s Model. The first were made in the 19th century and were known at the Hartford factory as the “ejectorless” Single Actions. The Sheriff’s Model terminology came from latter-day collectors, who also sometimes used the term “Storekeeper’s Model.” This interesting variation on the Peacemaker is now back in the Colt catalog.
By any name, the gun is simply a Single Action Army manufactured without the ejector rod or ejector rod housing on the barrel. This was done to create a simpler, easier-to-carry revolver useful in the Frontier era for short engagements that might not demand quick reloading. Colt made up the guns on special order, fitting them with barrels of any length the customer wanted. Eventually, it became obvious that either the 3 or 4-inch barrels were the most popular. The frame of the Sheriff’s Model differs slightly from the frame of the standard SAA in that the regular guns have a loop of steel on their front right edge. This loop or socket accepts the rear end of the ejector rod housing, which is held to the barrel by a screw. Without an ejector, the loop of steel is superfluous. Colt made those early versions by taking regular frames and removing the loop, which resulted in a non-symmetrical profile. It isn’t particularly attractive, so a different frame was used when the company made up short runs of the Sheriff’s Models on two occasions in the post-World War II period. This current run also has a more pleasing symmetrical shape. Reloading the gun requires the use of a short dowel to punch-out fired cases. More commonly, modern shooters would probably perform the extraction/ejection process with a common lead pencil or ballpoint pen.
To please history buffs, Colt offers the new Sheriff’s Model with either the 3-inch barrel, or the more popular (at least in the Frontier era) 4-inch barrel. There is a choice in chamberings as well, .45 Colt or .44-40 Win., and our sample was a 3 inch, .45 Colt. Also, .45 Schofield ammunition—essentially a short version of the original .45 Colt—works in any revolver chambered for the .45 Colt.
Colt finishes the new guns in the traditional way. The main frame and loading gate are color case-hardened, producing surface hardness, as well as a rainbow of dark colors that gun aficionados often find attractive. Other portions of the gun—barrel, cylinder, trigger guard, backstrap and screws—are polished and blued.
On this model, Colt installed a new set of checkered black stocks with the Rampant Colt in an oval at the top. Toward the bottom of the stocks is a precisely rendered Federal Eagle. Although the material appears to be some form of plastic, the quality of the material and die are excellent. It is an accurate rendering of an earlier gun. Combined with the high quality of the machine work and polish on metal parts, the stocks finish off a modern version of a timeless classic.
The lack of the ejector rod and housing, combined with a shorter barrel, produce a gun with a distinctively different balance. It is light at the muzzle and handling must be adjusted accordingly. That’s particularly true when shooting against the clock, as in Cowboy Action matches. Properly handled, the Sheriff’s Model can be a speedy revolver to work.
At the range, evaluation shooting involved three different types of current-production ammunition loaded for use in SASS matches. This means a soft lead bullet of round-nose flat-point style loaded at very modest velocities. Recoil was noticeable, but not onerous. As it is with most Peacemakers and their many copies, the revolver tends to roll muzzle-up when fired, as originally intended by Col. Colt. Another Peacemaker feature was also apparent—the Sheriff’s Model tends to shoot low. That’s because the front sight is higher than it needs to be so the end user can file it down to match his hold and a particular load. Evidently, the current designers set out to build a version of an old classic that flies in the face of the cliché that “they don’t make them like they used to.”
The Sheriff’s Model is an accurate rendering of a century-old classic and a handsome little revolver. For the purists among Colt’s customers, it is pleasing to note that this new version is built on an original-style blackpowder frame, as were those thrilling guns of yesteryear.