Colt SAA Four For Four

A COLLECTING “completist” fulfills his Second Generation goal

Duke’s Second Gen fearsome foursome. From left: 4¾" .357 Magnum, 5½"
.38 Special, 5½" .44 Special and 4-3/4" .45 Colt.

In 2018 I managed to achieve a goal of mine: gathering at least one Colt SAA chambered for each of the cartridges for which the Second Generation of production had been chambered — .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special and .45 Colt.

Except for the 5½" barrel, this .45 Colt Second Gen SAA is virtually
identical to the first one Duke bought in 1968.

That Doesn’t Sound Too Difficult, Does It?

Well, easy or not, it took me 50 years to have them all at the same time! I usually did have one and sometimes more of the aforementioned calibers in my stash of SAAs, but never managed to accumulate the “Big Four” all at once.

Readers with Colt SAA experience are likely thinking right now: “Why Second Generation?” One reason for aiming at the Second Gen is because I started with a 1964 vintage .45 Colt Peacemaker. The year was 1968. However, the hard truth is the First Generation SAAs were offered for about 30 calibers, some of which were only made in ones or twos, and today it would require the backing of a billionaire to round them all up. For the uninitiated, Colt SAA Second Generation production started in 1956 and went to 1974. All made during this time frame have an “SA” suffix to the serial number.

All Second Generation Colt SAAs will have an SA suffix in the serial number.

Caliber Countdown

The hardest part of getting the Second Gen Quartet is the .44 Special because it’s the cartridge for which the fewest guns were made. However, I need to clarify this statement. Whereas only 2,073 .44 Specials were produced between 1958 and 1967, there are probably even more around today. Decades back, obtaining Second Gen .44 barrels and cylinders was easy and so many Second Gen guns — likely .357s — were refurbished to .44 Special. (I know this because I’d done several myself.)

The Second Gen .44 Special I landed for my Quartet was made in 1961. It’s got a 5½” barrel, blue/color case hardened finish, and two-piece hard rubber grips. It’s one of 1,131 made identically to it.

Duke feels Second Generation .38 Specials are perhaps the most accurate Colt SAAs ever made.

Two Medium Bores

The second hardest cartridge for which to round up a Second Gen sample is the .38 Special. They were offered between 1956 and 1964 with a total of 10, 591 made in the three standard 4¾, 5½, and 7½” barrel lengths. Mine is identical in all respects to the 5½” .44 Special. Colt made 6,506 of this version — almost twice as many as all other Second Generation .38 Specials combined. From experience, I consider them the most accurate SAAs ever made.

Moving on to Second Generation .357s, I must admit to a sort of love/hate relationship with them. Such was my second-ever Colt SAA. Bought brand new the same month I turned 21, it came with a 4¾” barrel and blue/case colored finish. The year was 1970. Its original hard rubber grips long ago disappeared and so did the Colt itself a couple times only to have me buy it back eventually. (It helps to do a lot of your gun trading with friends.) For this reason it can be said I “love” this .357. The reason I sort of “hate” it is because I’m no great .357 Magnum fan although I’ve owned many. Colt made a total of 19,664 SAAs as .357s between 1960 and 1974. Mine is one of 2,776 made with same barrel length, finish, etc.

Second Gen cartridge menu (from left): .45 Colt, .44 Special, .357 Magnum and .38 Special.

The Big One

Finally we get to .45 Colt SAAs. They were made from beginning to end of the Second Generation and also produced in a few barrel lengths as short as 3″ (Sheriff’s Models) and as long as 12″ (Buntlines). A total of 38,794 were made. Mine is a 5½” specimen with blue/case color finish. Colt made 5,305 just like it. It was a Christmas gift from a very fine friend so I had a one-piece stock crafted for it out of fancy walnut.

So now you have it. My Second Generation Quartet. I could add other finishes or other barrel lengths but these satisfy my particular itch. Let’s return to the Third Generation SAAs mentioned earlier. I have them as .45 Colt, .44-40, .44 Special, and .38-40. Third Gen guns are fairly common as .357s, but around the beginning of this century Colt also made a small number of them in .38 Special and .32-20. Perhaps searching out those last three would provide me with a new goal? Let me think about it …

Author’s note: Production figures were taken from George Garton’s Colt’s SAA Postwar Models. If they differ from your books, please don’t fuss. Also note these numbers are only for standard production and do not include commemoratives.

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