Immediate Popularity

Any firearm or caliber adopted by the U.S. Army almost instantly becomes popular in the American civilian market. That was exceptionally true with what by then became known as the Colt Single Action Army. Consider this: by 1892 the U.S. Government had bought only about 37,000 SAAs, but by then the Colt factory had made and shipped a total of 144,000.

Serial numbers of the SAA started with #1 and by 1940, when production ceased for the first time, ended at 357,859. During the early and mid-1870s production, that 7 ½" barrel length dominated. However, the civilian market expressed a desire for shorter lengths. In 1875 a 5 ½" barrel length was made standard.

Along about this time Colt had been honoring special order requests for an even shorter length where the barrel ended about at the end of the ejector rod housing. That was 4 ¾". That length grew so popular Colt added it as “standard” in 1879. Although Colt shipped custom orders with barrels as short as 2 ½" and as long as 16", those three lengths were always considered standard after 1879. Without having proof to back up this statement, I think by the time 1st Generation production ceased in 1940, more SAAs were shipped with the 4 ¾" barrel.