This United States’ Colt single action revolver was known as the Colt Single Action Army and the Colt 45 as well as M1873, SSA (Single Action Army) and Model P. Peacemaker. The Colt was designed in 1872 by Wiliam Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff Richards and was produced by Colt’s Patent Firearms Mfg. Company in 1873. It is considered to be one of the top military pistols every produced.
The cylinder on the Colt revolves and holds six metallic cartridges. In order to avoid paying royalty fees due to a previous patent, work on the design for this specific cylinder could not begin until April of 1869. The first production run was chambered with a .45 Colt. It was a powerful cartridge relative to its period.
1873 to 1941 – The First Generation
The Colt Single Action Army revolver was available in a number of standard barrel lengths – 4 ¾”, 5 ½” and 7 ½”. During this time frame shorter barrels were also manufactured 4 ¾” (‘Civilian Model’ and “Gunfighter Model’) and 5 ½” (Artillery Model). One of the variants - sometimes referred to as the Sheriff’s, Banker’s or Storekeeper’s Model – came with a sub 4” barrel but no ejector rod.
A number of variants and calibers were produced during this time frame producing over 350,000 weapons. Almost half of those produced were chambered for the .45 Colt.
1956 to 1974 – The Second Generation
During WWII, Colt suspended production on its Single Action Army in order to dedicate more production time to filling orders for the war. By the time the war was over, the Single Action design was obsolete and Colt had no intentions of reviving it. However, with the invention of the television and the popularity of Western type movies, a demand for the revolver soon surfaced. In 1956, Colt began producing a Second Generation line of this revolver. This line was produced from 1956 to 1974 and was marked with a specific series of numbers.
1976 to Present Day – The Third Generation
The Third Generation of Colt Single Action Army revolvers first ran a limited production from 1976 to 1982 based on a few modifications of the first and second generation. In 1994, with the rise in cowboy shooting match popularity, production resumed on a special model known as the ‘Late Third Generation’ - sometimes called the ‘Fourth Generation’. This production ran until 2009 being and was identified with specific serial numbers. In 2010, Colt released the nickel-finish ‘Frontier Six Shooter’.
The Legacy Lives On
The Colt Single Action Army revolver remained a popular sidearm well into the 20th Century and is still well-known today. First introduced into service in 1873, it was the primary U.S. military firearm until 1892. A number of designs and variants of the United States’ Colt Single Action revolver have evolved throughout the years and have served to inspire a number of designs produced by other manufacturers.