Firearms

Review: Uberti Bisley — Blue Steel and Case Hardened

Uberti Bisley right profile with Fiocchi ammunition

Not long ago at the gun shop, I was lamenting on some simple facts of life. I have little time to shoot the firearms I really love. The Savage 99 rifle and Colt SAA revolver are among these. My friend Clay asked what I would be shooting if I had the time and on my own dime. I didn’t even have to think about.

Uberti Bisley right profile with Fiocchi ammunition
The Uberti Bisley is a handsome and accurate revolver.

I answered that my Colt SAA in .45 Colt, with 7 ½-inch barrel, and I would probably be firing at brick-sized targets at the 100 yard line. I began my life as a gun crank and handgun evaluator by getting hold of every firearm I could and taking it to the limits of accuracy. Sometimes the chore is rewarding. That is the case with this review.

Recently, I obtained another Uberti single action revolver. It is a blue steel and case hardened revolver, so it has the right look. The big difference is the grip frame. This revolver features the Bisley grip. This grip configuration was designed to give American shooters a better platform for target shooting during the famous Bisley match. It worked, but the Bisley revolver was never popular in the late West period and was discontinued.

It is a different look than the SAA; that is certain. Some really like the Bisley; others cannot shoot it well. I like it and like the look. I own four SAA revolvers for the single Bisley, and that’s fine. One is plenty when it shoots this well.

checkered hammer spur on a revolver
The checkered hammer spur is easy enough to cock.

I enjoy firing single action revolvers, and this one is a must have for the accumulation of handguns I enjoy. An old-style revolver, such as this one, is like reaching into the past and shaking hands with the folks who used such a gun. The Uberti revolver is similar to the fit and finish of a modern Colt, more than comparable in fact. Maybe not quite as good as a first or second Generation Colt, but the Uberti comes with plenty of pride of ownership. You don’t have to debate on the condition or safety of an Uberti, and it isn’t too valuable to fire.

The Bisley revolver is handsomely finished. The grips fit the grip frame well. The barrel is what is sometimes called the Gunfighter length, cut off at the end of the ejector for 4 ¾-inch length.

The Uberti is well made of good material and probably stronger than the first Generation Colt. However, this isn’t the gun to hot-rod with heavy loads. Standard cowboy action loads will ensure the revolver last forever. A handloader may load a 255-grain SWC to 850 fps and have a great, all around outdoors and personal defense loading. I will crank up the Lyman dies and work something up with Hodgdon Titegroup and a 200-grain SWC for practice, and harder-hitting trail loads with the 255-grain bullet.

The Uberti differs from the original in that is has a safety notch in the hammer. After the piece is loaded, rather than allow the firing pin to rest on a loaded chamber, the hammer may be moved slightly to the rear to actuate the safety notch. This is fine as far as it goes, but I carry my single action revolvers with an empty chamber under the hammer. Load one cartridge, skip one, load four and cock and lower the hammer and you have an empty under the hammer.

Uberti Bisley revolver left profile
Fit and finish are excellent throughout.

A note on half cock, never place the revolver on half cock and then lower the hammer from half cock. Cock the hammer all of the way and lower it. Lowering from half cock is what causes the bolt stop to ring the cylinder.

The revolver isn’t heavy at 36 ounces, about like a 4-inch barrel .357 revolver. The 4 ¾-inch barrel gives the piece a good balance. The action is smooth enough. Single action revolvers are usually trouble free. The repairs needed are often because the gun is old or has been played with more than fired. They are simple to work on.

While not recommend for use as a house gun—there have been better choices since about 1908—the single action has certainly served well. This is a first class recreational handgun. For cowboy action, I am not so certain about the Bisley grip. The standard SAA grip just may be better for fast handling.

The Bisley grip is way cool, and I do good shooting with this piece. My revolver is a little different from most. I have the greatest respect for the .45 Colt, and the .357 Magnum probably makes the most sense as a modern chambering for Cowboy Action. My revolver takes the .44 Special cartridge. This is a well-balanced and superbly accurate cartridge. It is sometimes misunderstood, with modern writers and shooters questioning why the .44 Special is loaded so mildly.

Five cowboy cartridges
Left to right: .38 Special, .44-40, .44 Special with 240-grain bullet, another .44 Special handload with a 250-grain SWC and a .45 Colt for reference.

When the .44 Special was introduced, it was stronger than the .44 Russian and many other older cartridges. With a 246-grain bullet at 750 to 800 fps, the .44 Special offered a big bore bullet and mild recoil. The .45 Colt was the man-stopper and the .44-40 a game getter. The .44 Special still provides all that was promised, mild recoil and target grade accuracy.

The Bisley features a notch in the top strap and a wedge-type front sight blade. The sight picture is good, and those who practice may have good accuracy. With a single action revolver sight, regulation is unpredictable with some firing high, some low, and some off to the left or right. I have learned to regulate single action sights, but it isn’t something I enjoy doing on a daily basis.

The loads on hand were the Fiocchi 200-grain jacketed hollowpoint and Fiocchi 250-grain Cowboy load. I began with the lead flat point. This load features a specially formulated bullet that takes the rifling well and offers little leading. At 780 fps, it is easy to shoot well. With the Fiocchi 210-grain bullet, the Bisley was dead on for windage and elevation at 15 yards. I like that, and the lighter load is a wise choice.

Patent dates on a Uberti Bisley revolver
Note patent dates—a nice historical touch.

The Bisely’s 4.0-pound trigger is manageable, and I was able to fire several 1.5-inch 15-yard groups. This isn’t a quick shooting revolver, as you must load the piece one bullet at a time and then knock them out with the ejector rod one round at a time. However, it seemed like it took no time that I had fired 50 cartridges.

They were not fired at paper past the initial sighting in groups, but at range bric-a-brac and dirt clods. This revolver is a lot of fun to fire. My evaluation showed that the piece sets in the hands right for target shooting. For fast shooting at close range, well, the old plow handled SAA is the better choice.

I also fired the Fiocchi 200-grain JHP. This is an affordable loading that delivered excellent accuracy. Moving to a long 25 yards, I fired a five-shot group of 2.0 inches and another at 2.5 inches. This dog will run. The jacketed bullet breaks at 768 fps, so there will be no expansion. The Uberti Bisley is accurate and well made of good material. The fit and finish cannot be faulted. This is the best type of handgun to own. The Uberti Bisley puts a smile on your face, shoots straight, and offers the opportunity to fire a historical-type of revolver for little hard cash.

A Cowboy gun, blue steel and case hardened, Bisley grip, the gunfighter length and it shoots straight. What’s not to like? Share your answer in the comment section.

[bob]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. Bob, thank you for your article on the Bisley revolver. I have an original Colt Bisley in 38-40. It was handed down through the family to me. Originally it belonged to a great uncle who was an early day marshall in Oklahoma. I have never fired it, but I do have some ammunition for it. Waiting for the zombies.

  2. Thanks to Bob and his fine article in regard to Bisley revolver, I don’t have one, always wanted one but never bought it and now, I want it bad. I agree wholeheartedly that there is something really beautiful in the old Bisley grip making the gun one handsome doggy.

  3. I discovered the Bisley grip while in the Navy. I was using an air drill and could not get over how good the grip was. This was sometime between 1981-1983 so I was not able to google it but found out it was the Bisley grip. Have not had a pistol with it but maybe some day.(running out of time though) I have read where it was not the preferred carry grip. Good article. Thanks

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