The 43⁄4″ barrel Colt Single Action Army is the fastest and best-balanced barrel length. (Photo credit Colt’s Manufacturing Company, LLC)
Thanks to Hollywood Westerns, the M1873 Colt Single Action Army (SAA) is the world’s most recognized pistol. The real pistol is a lot more deadly than the noisemaker portrayed by Hollywood. A good shooter can shoot coins out of the air with it as fast as you can toss them up and also put all his slugs in the kill zone of a man silhouette target out to several hundred yards. This is in sharp contrast to the movies, where no one gets hit until a crucial scene to the plot and actors shoot at each other harmlessly the rest of the time.
Hollywood has everyone wearing low-slung Buscadero holsters that first appeared on the Mexican border areas in the 1920s, but the men of the Old West carried the gun high on the hip in a Slim Jim or a Mexican Loop holster. Even the draw is different in the movies, where they cock the gun while it’s still in the holster and wildly fan the hammer with their free hand once it’s out. Try that with real bullets, and if you don’t manage to shoot yourself in the leg, you will find that you can’t hit anything at any distance fanning the gun. Fanning a six-gun has also ruined more lock work than you can imagine. It’s a show-off’s stunt, and show-offs didn’t last long as gunfighters. Fanning’s only place is in fantasy Western movies.
The Old West gunfighters never cocked a pistol until its muzzle was pointed away from them half way to the target. The hammer was cocked by laying the thumb crossways over the hammer, which positions the hand high up on