I've enjoyed shooting single-action revolvers for some time now. But the models I've worked with and purchased have been of the modern variety, like the Ruger Super Blackhawk and the Freedom Arms Model 97. I've thought about getting involved in cowboy action shooting events several times. But with so many firearm-related hobbies already in play, I have yet to allocate the time and money needed to give it a try.
Not too long ago I caught up with the folks from Taylor's & Co. during the SHOT Show Media Day at the Range. This company specializes in providing a wide variety of firearms and support gear for those who enjoy period and Old West shooting events. Their offerings range from Civil War re-enactment items all the way to guns and holsters for the Wild Bunch division of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS).
While looking over the various products on display that day, a team member decked out in a dapper Western period costume handed me a Cattleman revolver chambered in .45 Colt. He explained that this particular wheel gun had been tuned at the factory for an extra smooth action and light trigger pull. In the short time I had at the range to look over and work with the Cattleman, I was convinced a longer range test was in order.
The Taylor's &Co. Cattleman revolvers are based on one of the most famous firearms ever developed: the 1873 Colt Single Action Army. Also known as the SAA, Model P, Peacemaker and M1873, it was the sidearm that won the U.S. service revolver trials of 1872. This reliable and accurate 6-shot remained in service until 1892, sporting barrels ranging from 7.5" to under 4" in length. Some were quite plain while others were embellished with detailed engraving and fancy grip panels. The 1873 revolver was originally chambered for the .45 Long Colt cartridge, but it would eventually be chambered for several more including the .32-20 Win., .41 Colt and .44-40 Win.
Taylor's offers several models of the 1873 Cattleman which are manufactured in Italy by Uberti, a well-known Italian gun manufacturing company that is now owned and operated by Beretta Holding. For this review, I selected the Gunfighter model chambered in .45 Colt. Fitted with a 5.5" barrel and plain, smooth hardwood grip panels, the Gunfighter has a slightly longer Army-sized grip frame which provides more room for the little finger of the shooting hand. Blued steel is used to form the barrel, cylinder, ejector housing, trigger, trigger guard and the grip frame. The forged frame, loading gate and hammer all sport a case-hardened finish. The cylinder bears Italian proof marks and the last four digits of the serial number.
The Gunfighter's sights consist of a fixed front blade paired with a grooved rear sight notch. The loading gate is located on the right side of the frame, as would be expected. The spring loaded ejector rod head swings out away from the barrel as it is pressed to eject spent cartridge cases. The grooved cylinder pin is held in place by a spring loaded retainer pin. The rounded trigger guard is part of the single piece grip frame and houses a narrow steel bow trigger.
The firing pin is mounted to the hammer which has a lightly checked spur for improved cocking. As a single-action revolver, the hammer must be fully cocked for each shot fired. It should be noted here that the hammer has three positions, each of which is accompanied by a distinctive “click” as the hammer moves through its arch of travel. The first click is the safe position. Thanks to a modern hammer safety, not found on the original 1873 model, the Cattleman revolvers can be carried with all six chambers loaded when the hammer is in this first position. The second click frees the cylinder to rotate clockwise for loading. The third click is fully cocked. With the hammer in this position the revolver is ready to fire.
One option that's available for all Cattleman revolvers ordered through Taylor's is an in-house Deluxe Tuned Action service. This involves a spring change and polishing of internal parts to provide an extra smooth action and light trigger pull. The company says this service should give the revolvers about a 3-pound trigger pull. Whether by accident or by design, the Gunfighter I received demonstrated a 1-lb. 10-oz. trigger pull according to a Lyman's digital trigger gauge, making it the lightest trigger I've worked with on any gun so far.
But no Old West wheel gun is truly complete without a high quality rig to ride in, so Taylor's included some leather to test, a right-handed Laredoan Rig. The 2.75" wide vegetable-tanned leather belt is suede-lined and features 24 hand-molded cartridge loops. The ridge holster is fitted with a leather leg lace and hammer tie down loop. Designed to emulate the fancy rigs worn by actors in Hollywood Westerns, the belt and holster are decorated with six engraved silver-plated conchs. Each conch is held in place with a sturdy Chicago screw, as is the simple belt buckle. Available in a black, brown or tan (shown), the Laredoan was comfortable to wear and rugged enough for years of use.
The Gunfighter had a top-notch level of fit and finish. The 5.5” barrel and steel grip frame gave the revolver a nice balance. As a shooter who is accustomed to pressing handgun triggers in the 5 to 12-lb. range, it took the better part of a box of ammo to get used to the light, almost delicate, 1-lb. 10-oz. trigger pull. But once I had the hang of it, I was hooked. Each turn of the cylinder during reloading provided an audible click indicating proper alignment with ejector rod. Spent brass ejected easily or simply fell free of the cylinder. In other words, it was fun and easy to work with.
After burning up plenty of ammo while whistling the theme song from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly during informal testing, the Gunfighter was bench rested for formal accuracy testing using five 5-shot groups fired at 25 yards. Despite the rudimentary nature of the fixed sights, the revolver proved to be accurate. The excellent trigger and the use of moderate recoil ammunition also contributed to the tight groups.
The Bone Orchard 200-gr. lead flat point .45 Colt load is made by a small ammunition company in Pennsylvania for cowboy action shooting. It's one of the loads available through Taylor's & Co. This round produced a best single group of 2.42" with an average of 2.70". Another good factory load for cowboy shooting is Winchester's 250-gr. lead flat point which produced a best single group of 2.55" and an average of 2.83". But I was curious to know how this old-fashioned revolver would behave with modern defensive ammunition, so the Gunfighter was filled with DoubleTap cartridges topped with 160-gr. Barnes Tac-XP all-copper hollow points. This load produced the tightest accuracy of the test set with a best single group of 2.10" and an average of 2.34".
Shooting the Taylor's & Co. factory tuned 1873 Cattleman Gunfighter was one of the most enjoyable shooting experiences I've had so far this year. Up until now, I thought the primary draw of cowboy action shooting was the pageantry and theatrics of the events. Buy after running this revolver, it's clear that the guns can be just as much fun as the competitions. If the Gunfighter model is not quite your speed, Taylor's offers the Cattleman revolver in several configurations that are eligible for a factory action tune-up.
Distributor: Taylor's & Co.
Model: Cattleman Model 1873 Gunfighter
Action: Single-Action Revolver
Caliber: .45 Colt
Finish: Blued Steel with Case Hardened Forged Frame
Grip: Army Size Smooth Walnut
Sights: Blade Front, Notch Rear
Barrel Length: 5.50”
Overall Length: 11”
Weight: 36.8 ozs.
Capacity: Six Rounds
Rifle Grooves: Six
Accessories: Owner's Manual
MSRP: $518 (Standard Action), $643 (Deluxe Tuned Action)