I have owned and handled many SAA type revolvers. The one that made the greatest impression on me was an engraved Colt Single Action Army. I am a shooter rather than a collector, and decided I would like to have my own engraved single-action revolver. Attempting to keep some semblance of a bank account wasn’t thrown out of the window as I searched.
I had had this type of handgun on my mind for many years, but college, hungry little anchors to provide for, housing, and other concerns were more important than an engraved SAA revolver.
Today, the financial stress is relieved as I will never be a millionaire, so what the hell… I have been very happy with Pietta clones of the SAA, and when I saw the looks and price of the Traditions Liberty, it was love at first sight. The revolver features a beautiful blue finish. The engraving is nicely done with an appearance similar to acid etching, but the laser engraving is not as deep as old type German style engraving—and it costs a fraction of the original.
The style is similar to vine scrolls with border work that is simply amazing. You can spend a pleasant evening simply looking over the coverage. I am not an expert on the differences between Banknote, American, English, and Nimschke engraving, but the mix of the Pietta is excellent. The barrel, ejector, frame, cylinder, and back strap feature coverage. The hammer and trigger are casehardened. The front strap isn’t covered. The back strap engraving adds to the adhesion of the piece when firing. The grips are white polymer.
The 4.75-inch barrel length is ideal for all day packing. The revolver also features a modern transfer bar ignition system. The hammer does not contain the firing pin, but the spring-loaded firing pin is housed in the frame. When the hammer is at rest the hammer cannot touch the firing pin. When the hammer is cocked the transfer bar rises to a position that allows the falling hammer to strike the transfer bar, and the impact is transferred to the hammer. This makes for greater safety.
The price is fair—little more than a standard revolver and much less expensive than custom engraving. When choosing a caliber, the .45 Colt had great appeal but I climbed the logic ladder and chose the .357 Magnum. The easy shooting .38 Special cartridge, which may be used in .357 Magnum revolvers, made the chambering ideal for Cowboy Action shooting. When loaded with the proper Magnum loads, there is no cartridge with better wound ballistics. In a pinch, a heavy-loaded Magnum is useful for defense against bears and the big cats, and I wanted the revolver to be an outdoors revolver.
It isn’t harmful to dry fire a transfer bar ignition system, so this was undertaken before any range work. The trigger is crisp at 4 pounds with a clean break. Since my initial purchase, I have fired perhaps 2,500 trouble-free cartridges in the Pietta with excellent results. Ninety percent have been .38 Special loads. Among the most accurate and useful are those from Fiocchi Ammunition.
The traditional 158-grain RNL loading shoots to the point of aim. The Cowboy Action .38 Special load is also a good resource. Fiocchi offers a clean burning FMJ version in both 130-grain and 158-grain weights. For those who do not like cleaning the bore, the FMJ loads are a good resource. Copper fouling occurs eventually, but these are excellent loads. The lead bullet loads are not prone to leading either—the result of good bullet composition and modest velocity. Any of these loads will group five shots into 2 – 2.5 inches at 25 yards. Yes, this show piece is a shooter! The action is smooth and the piece is fast into action and accurate.
I have also fired a number of .357 Magnum loads to gauge the accuracy and long-range ability of this revolver. The Fiocchi 158-grain XTP isn’t a hard kicker but offers excellent accuracy. I have enjoyed pleasant shooting at range up to 100 yards with this loading.
The single-action revolver may have a long hammer fall, but the base pin keeps the cylinder tight, and the revolver is accurate. I have also fired Hornady’s Critical Defense loading with the Liberty. At a strong 1,380 feet per second, this is an ideal personal defense loading.
Those who shoot cowboy action shooting remind us just how quickly and accurately a single-action revolver may be fired. Anyone armed with the Traditions Liberty would be well armed, and the Critical Defense load is a good defense loading. I have also loaded a modest number of handloads with the Hornady 180-grain XTP to about 1100 fps. If you are hiking or spelunking and using the revolver for defense against large animals, this is an estimable loading.
For defense against feral dogs, coyote, small bears, and the big cats, this revolver is ideal. Yet, it isn’t a drag on the belt. If I were using the revolver for cowboy action shooting, I would use .38 Special lead bullets and not worry about the Magnum. However, the .357 Magnum is a fascinating cartridge to work with. The more I fire the short barrel SAA in .357 Magnum, the more I am pleased with the revolver.
Are you a fan of engraved pistols? How about single-action revolvers? Which one is your favorite? Share your answers or experiences with SAA revolvers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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