Skip to comments.Single-Action Self-Defense
Posted on 09/19/2006 2:27:56 PM PDT by kiriath_jearim
Do single-action sixguns have a place in self-defense?
By Bart Skelton
It's not often enough that my friend Pete Kellen calls, but when he does the conversation is always notable . Pete is one of those people who have literally seen and done it all. He recently retired from the Department of Justice after a career as a federal prosecutor. Prior to this he was an FBI agent, as well as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Pete's a staunch supporter of gun rights and a distinguished gun collector. He's undoubtedly qualified to pass judgment on a number of subjects.
During our last discussion we hashed out a point on which we couldn't concur. Pete said he'd just read an article about the use of the single-action revolver for defense purposes. Pete is a 1911 fan, though he is also a veteran revolver shooter, his latest preference being the Smith & Wesson Thunder Ranch .45 ACP. He told me he just couldn't understand anyone being bone-headed enough to contemplate using a single-action revolver for self-defense. The statement sparked a friendly wrangle between us. Pete said his main concern with carrying a single action was the reloading time in comparison with that of an automatic pistol or revolver.
I think the idea of carrying a single action for defense purposes--with the exception of as a law enforcement duty sidearm--is acceptable. I tend to like simplicity, and the time-honored and proven sixgun fits that bill. Many exhaustive experiments have been conducted regarding the carrying of various configurations of handguns for defense purposes, and disadvantages have been discovered lingering within each. I believe personal penchant should still be the deciding factor when it comes to defense carry.
The single-action revolver has many appealing attributes. For me, the heaviness of the muzzle, the grip contour and the natural way my fingers fit the hammer and trigger are the most noteworthy. With the Colt in particular, there is no need for the fitting of custom grips, unless you wish to make duplicates of the factory stocks in ivory or some other fancy material. The natural feel of the single action makes it point easily, just like your finger, making target acquisition very fast. The ease of hammer and trigger manipulation adds to the quickness.
For years I shot a single action using my strong-hand thumb to cock the hammer. Sometime back, an acquaintance introduced me to the method of cocking with the weak thumb. After some practice I've found that I'm able to fire my single actions almost as fast as I can a double action, and while I'm no Jerry Miculek, I am able to hold my own on occasion with a double-action wheelgun.
For anyone who doesn't believe a single action can be fired rapidly enough to stop a fight, I would recommend reading up on the old revolver magician, Ed McGivern. Though he performed most of his feats with a double action, he also investigated the limits of the single action and found that he could almost equal the results between the two. Using a 51?2-inch Colt Single Action Army in .38 Special, Ed could place five shots in a playing card in one second. He held the Colt in his left hand and fanned with his right. He experimented with thumbing the Colt also, finding that he was a little slower but more accurate, and it was much less detrimental to the gun.
Shooting fast isn't the most important business when it comes to self-defense; accuracy is likely the most important consideration. Contrary to many accounts by gun experts, the single action is a wonderfully accurate handgun. I've found that most of them can duplicate the accuracy of a double action--and many autos--when shot from a rest.
At the heart of self-defense with a handgun is the ability to reload it reasonably fast. This is where the single action loses its edge. I've seen a few Cowboy Action shooters reload a hogleg with lightning speed, but it can't be done as quickly as reloading a double action. Placing the hammer on half-cock and punching out each empty with the ejector rod, then loading one round at a time takes some time, and doing it quickly takes plenty of practice.
My friend Pete is comfortable carrying a pair of 1911s, and he's a well-armed man who nobody in his right mind would tangle with. In a serious situation, that brace of slab-sided iron will provide the ultimate self-defense tool. But don't write off anyone carrying an old Peacemaker. For everyday carry, including self-defense work, I'll take a six-shooter anytime.
Things appear to be going well for this company as well.
I believe that the first rule of gunfighting is that you must bring a gun. My first choice will probably always be a 1911, but if an SAA is your favorite, and that's what you have with you, the first rule has been met. If you know how and when to use it, it'll work.
I'm a 1911 fan, too, but I do enjoy shooting a SAA .45 "Long" Colt revolver. The Uberti models in my post above were from the Uberti website.
I also like the Ruger Vaquero revolvers, too.
Looks like our little secret is out.
Vaquero is nice, I've shot it in both 44 and 45, but Ruger lost some of the "feel" when they modernized the action and beefed up the frame. There is still nothing quite like the natural feel and pointing qualities of original SAA frame.
Also, never go to a gunfight with a pistol with a caliber that doesn't start with a "4." As noted above, reload time with a single-action wouldn't make the cut with me. But then I am a certified (thankfully NOT certifiable) 1911 shooter. I own three Colt Gold Cups (Series 70 National Match for me only, thank you) so you can tell I have the bug pretty bad. I could be talked into one of the Colt clones, but I do like the real deal. ;>)
Find the right kind of parties. :)
The new Vaquero is much more in line with the original SAA. Frame is same size as the old model Blackhawk.
SA might be fine for some but I wouldn't be comfortable with it. I'll take my 1911 or Beretta 92 over a revolver any day.
Single action revolvers are fine for defense against bears and other critters, but I wouldn't choose one for a combat situation.
That being said, I own two Super Blackhawks, and I love them.
Reason, picked up from someone else but made sense to me;
It takes time to load the Ruger after you've decided there is something out there.
Taking that time allows you NOT to fly off and empty 15 rounds of 9 mm into the neighbors.
Many years ago a guy I shot with regularly pulled out his 1911 and spattered at least 12 rounds into walls, telephone poles, trees and stucco - I don't think he ever saw what or who he was shooting (sort of) at.
That's when the good old .45 ACP with soft lead is a godsend - didn't go through any walls.
If you want to see what single action can do, watch the cowboy mounted shooters. On the run down at full gallop it sounds like some of them have semi autos. I used to do the mounted cowboy shooting until my arthritis kicked in on the second day of competition.
I feel very comfortable with the single action, but as was mentioned, reloading is slow. Of course the old muzzle loaders were slower.
Single Actions used for concealed carry/self defense will not be the 7-1/2" hunting or target models. The SA's used for concealed carry are mostly 4" or shorter barrels. Several models are avaiable with either two or three inch barrels, ejector's removed and the front frame cleaned up. They use rounded sights and all edges are smoothed. Off the shelf .45 Colt ammo is a formidable load in them. They are more common than you think.
Wow. As much as I love guns and shooting, I just can't figure out why I would ever do THAT.
A high school friend of mine bought a S&W Model 10 as soon as he was legally old enough. On his second or third day of shooting he tried to fan it.
He got a palm full of firing pin--a long, deep, bloody, painfull, slow healing gash.
My Dad's advice to not fan his Model 19 suddenly made a lot of sense.
1911 standard magazine holds 7 rounds......so, he must have reloaded?
I have a five shot 45/70 Govt single action revolver and a 12ga mag pump action shotgun.
I guess that should do it.
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