Uberti Old West Defense .38 Special

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  • Stoeger OWD I 033_gowfinal
    Produced by Uberti on the .22 Stallion frame, the OWD (Old West Defense) is a compact six-gun in .38 Long Colt/.38 Special and would have been the perfect hideout gun for a Pinkerton man or Wells Fargo operative.
  • Stoeger OWD II 007_gowfinal
    The OWD (bottom) is almost identical in size with the Colt 1877 Lightning (top) which was Colt’s first double-action six-shooter. It was chambered in .38 Long Colt and was a favorite of lawmen and outlaws.
  • Stoeger OWD I 034_gowfinal
    Here you can compare the Uberti OWD with a replica of a full-size Colt Model P (SAA) with a 5.5” barrel (top). In the late 19th century the OWD would have been considered a “pocket pistol.”
  • Stoeger's OWD 002_gowfinal
    Author put the OWD through its paces at a two day, 10 stage CAS match and found the little sixgun to be fast-handling, reliable and the grips fit his hand to a ‘T.’
  • Stoeger OWD I 064_gowfinal
    Unlike the Colt Lightning, the OWD with its short 3.5” barrel has an ejector rod and housing. The Colt had to have a 4.5” barrel for the factory to fit it with an ejector assembly.
  • Stoeger OWD I 061_gowfinal
    Like the Colt Lightning, the Uberti OWD has a “birdshead” grip, so-named because of its looks. The grips are one-piece walnut with nice hand checkering.
  • Stoeger OWD I 054_gowfinal
    Two features distinguish the scaled-down OWD from being an exact SAA reproduction; the firing pin is mounted in the frame of the OWD and the chambers in the cylinder are counter-bored or rebated to enclose the cartridge case heads.

Gun Details

The Colt Lightning is long gone, however, over the years there have been a number of SA six-shooters that have the look if not the action of the Lightning. Which leads us to a new handgun introduced by Uberti—the Bird’s Head Stallion Old West Defense (OWD). This gun is a version of the Stallion series of small-scale SA revolvers. It very much resembles the 1873 SAA, but the original Stallions were chambered in .22 LR and .22 WMR only. This latest version says on the left side of the barrel that it will take .38 Colt & S&W Spec. It has a 3.5-inch barrel that is equipped with an ejector rod/housing and the “plow handle” grip frame ends at the butt in what has become known as the “birdshead” alluding to its shape.

In my estimation the OWD moniker fits this gun very well owing to its amalgamation of compact size, lethality and concealability. Were I a Pinkerton man or Wells Fargo operative, it would certainly rate high on my list as a carry gun for locales where I’d want to be discretely armed. Of course in reality it’s a fantasy gun, as nothing like this that I’m aware of ever came off a 19th century production line, but at the same time, its late 1800’s roots are more than evident. It has the classic “four click action” as you thumb the hammer back to full-cock, but then you will note that the firing pin is obviously not riveted to the hammer nose, but mounted inside the frame. Beware; this is not a spring-loaded, inertia-type firing pin, so when the hammer is at rest the firing pin protrudes through the breech-face. It will lie against a primer if the chamber under the hammer is loaded and a blow to said hammer could have dire consequences. This means that your six-shooter is best carried as a five-shooter—then again any dyed-in-the-wool Cowboy Action Shooter will do that anyway.

Another noteworthy feature is the rebated cylinder chambers. While this might have been a good idea in the days of “balloon-head” cartridge cases, I don’t really see the “why and wherefore” today. To me, on a “cowboy” revolver it just makes things a little more difficult at the loading table of a CAS match. The cowpoke manning the table has to be extra careful because he can’t see the breech-end of the cylinder to verify that the chamber under the hammer is empty. Aside from that, I really don’t have any other adverse comments to make about the OWD.

An external examination demonstrated a superb level of quality and workmanship. The barrel, cylinder and grip frame/triggerguard are expertly polished and deeply blued. This blends in well with the blues and grays of the color casehardened frame and hammer. Wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit is top shelf. One-piece walnut grips adorn the OWD and they are skillfully checkered adding to their looks and utility.

I noted that the OWD has a healthy hammer spring, but the trigger pull has the bare minimum of creep and breaks at about 4 pounds. The front sight is a fairly low blade that is 0.125 inches wide, making it easier to see and quicker to get on target. The fixed rear sight notch is corresponding in width and I found later on that the sights were rather well regulated. Like other short-barrel SA revolvers that I’ve handled lately, removal of the OWD cylinder can be challenging. In order to pull out the base pin, you have to get by the ejector rod head and the only way you can do that is to push it all the way back as far as it will go. The challenge is holding it back under spring tension while you press in on the base pin release and simultaneously withdrawn the pin. I did it; so can you.