Whenever the word“engraving” is mentioned in reference to a single-action revolver, the price generally goes up commensurately with the amount of engraving and the name of the engraver. Back in the days of the original Colt Peacemaker, there was only one way to engrave—by hand. Acid etching was also used, but only for decorative placement of model names, and rarely in place of hand engraving, at least on Colts.
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Acid etching is used frequently today for engraving on production handguns, but laser engraving has made embellishing firearms a great deal easier and more affordable, providing a look that is more like handwork. Deep laser engraving, a relatively new process being used by a small number of arms-makers, including Pietta, has come even closer to recreating historic vine scrolls and border work around frames, recoil shields and muzzles, giving the look and depth of actual hand engraving. However, even its traditional laser engraving allows Pietta to make a quality handgun with a look that belies its price. The company’s latest laser-engraved model—offered by Cimarron Firearms in Fredericksburg, Texas—is a 7 1⁄2-inch-barreled Frontier replica of the Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army. Aside from the eye-catching vine scrolls and classic 19th century styles used on the frame, barrel, ejector housing, cylinder and backstrap, the nickel-plated revolver comes with a standard factory-tuned action that is very impressive for an out-of-the-box sixgun.
To get a revolver with a glass-smooth hammer that positively clicks through each step and an average trigger pull of 2.88 pounds usually requires a trip to the gunsmith’s shop. While the trigger pull might be considered a hair light for some, the 7 1⁄2-inch-barreled Frontier proved delightfully consistent, with the trigger breaking cleanly shot after shot with only 0.18 inches of take-up. Another factor often overlooked is the hammer draw, which on most Single Action Army models averages 6 pounds. The Frontier averaged 3.34 pounds, which is substantially better than most guns even with tuned actions.
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While Pietta’s standard (if the term can be used) laser engraving does not have the depth of its deep laser designs, the Cimarron model certainly has a lot going for it in terms of looks with the degree of detail around the cylinder, along the topstrap, triggerguard, shovel and backstrap, as well as the nicely polished nickel finish and ivory white synthetic grips.
For the gun test, I stepped off 20 paces (roughly 15 yards) and went to work with Ten-X 165-grain hollow-base flat points (HBFPs). The rounds averaged 712 fps through the screens of a ProChrono chronograph and the Ten-X, which is a lightweight, highly accurate round, delivered a best group of six, though I only count five for scoring, that measured 1.7 inches. The five-round group, including two in almost the same hole, covered just 1.2 inches. A second test was shot with Goex Black Dawg 235-grain Pinnacle round-nose flat points (RNFPs), which cleared their smoky way through the chronograph’s traps at 762 fps on average. While not as accurate, I really love shooting the Black Dawg ammunition for the smoke, fire and kick that takes you back to a time in the Old West when a Colt .45 boomed every time the trigger was pulled. The best Black Dawg rounds covered 2.2 inches in a neat little triangle. All shots were fired off-hand, and at 15 yards a 1.2-inch group from a 71⁄2-inch-barreled Single Action Army isn’t half bad. Stepping up to a SASS distance of 10 yards and firing five rounds, the best group with the Ten-X ammo measured 0.63 inches, while the Black Dawg ammunition produced a 0.88-inch group. It really made that steel sing!
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As for consistent accuracy, you can’t ask for much more than the 7 1⁄2-inch-barreled Frontier delivers, along with a sturdy build, a light trigger and hammer, and some fine laser engraving to make the revolver look as good as it shoots.
• Caliber: .45 Colt
• Barrel: 7 1⁄2 inches
• OA Length: 113⁄4 inches
• Sights: Fixed
• Weight: 4.48 pounds (empty)
• Grips: Poly ivory
• Action: SA
• Finish: Nickel, engraved
• Capacity: 6-shot
• MSRP: $713
I can remember when Pietta started manufacturing Colt-style SAA revolvers back in 2002, and they were not this well refined or accurate. The company has made consistent leaps forward in its manufacturing (including a new state-of-the-art factory) to produce single actions that have a level of quality that exceeds all expectations. This new Frontier model from Cimarron fits that description. Pietta’s current revolvers have improved fits and finishes, including polishing and bluing techniques, metallurgy and internal quality (just as important as how the gun looks on the outside). These production-priced revolvers come out of the box with standard tuned actions and finishes you’d traditionally pay extra to get. The laser-engraved, 7 1⁄2-inch-barreled, nickel-plated Frontier model has an MSRP of $713. For more, visit cimarron-firearms.com or call 877- 749-4861.
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This article originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.