Keeping Your SAA From An Early Death
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino
With my renewed fascination (more like obsession) with the Colt Single Action Army came a renewal of a friendship developed over 20 years ago with Eddie Janis, owner of Peacemaker Specialists of Paso Robles, CA. It’s an outfit devoted solely to the Colt SAA in all its generations and permutations. Eddie and I became acquainted at a Thunder Ranch class in Texas specifically for single-action shooters. We visited many times but in the years I worked on Shooting World War II Small Arms, my mind wasn’t in single-action mode very often so I hadn’t talked to him for several years.
One stop-shop: Peacemaker Specialists stocks new and used parts and specific
tools for SAA fanatics.
Duke has never liked the brightly polished sides on newer Colt SAAs, favoring
the old style color case hardened ones.
Back In Action
A fact of life for all fans of the big Colt SAA is that spare parts are going to be needed. Internal breakage happens to items ranging from screws to springs to rotating hands and locking bolts. Also a couple of specific tools come in handy. Furthermore, custom alterations and stocks are extras SAA fans tend to spend money on. However, a reality I faced when returning to Colt focus is that parts are no longer in great abundance. Many of the suppliers I used in the past don’t stock parts for current or past SAA generations anymore.
Fifty years ago my first SAA — a .45 made in 1964 — was bought used but in pristine condition. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay that way. In my untutored hands the screws quickly became buggered (as in “burred”) to the point of ruination. By the time I sold it in 1977, the cylinder pin was likewise burred and marred because I had pulled on it with pliers. Why? It was stuck as often happens with SAA cylinder pins. Internally, its bolt, hand, and springs for both parts were all replacements.
With Peacemakers as his sole focus, Eddie knows what his customers need. Buggered screws are a thing of the past now because I have the perfectly ground screwdrivers Peacemaker Specialists sells that are specially dimensioned for SAAs. And pulling stuck cylinder pins becomes a non-problem with their Base Pin Puller. It’s built with arms sliding perfectly into the base pin’s groove for an easy lift-out.
Recently I purchased a 1926-vintage SAA .45. Overall, the gun is in good condition with about 50 percent finish remaining, but a close look showed every one of its grip frame screws were trashed. I called Eddie and he quickly sent up a 6-screw grip frame set. Now my Colt won’t look like some birdbrain went after it with a 10-cent screwdriver! All Peacemaker Specialists’ exterior parts are sold blued or nickeled. I would especially advise shooters whose SAA has the cross-pin arrangement for securing base pins to have a spare set of the pin with nut and spring. I’ve known several that loosened and fell out — never to be seen again.
There’s something very nice about a color case hardened hammer.
Duke advises SAA shooters to keep a spare set of the cross pins holding the
base pin in the frame. They tend to loosen and fall out.
The Base Pin Puller beats a pair of pliers for getting balky base pins to move forward.
More Than Parts
However, Peacemaker Specialists isn’t just a source for spare parts. Ever get the notion to change a small bore Colt SAA, say a .38 Special or .357 Magnum, to a big bore .44 Special or .45 Colt? I have several times. Used to be barrels and cylinders were common. Not so much now. Peacemaker Specialists tries to keep a stock of barrels and cylinders for all three SAA generations in popular calibers. That’s not always possible so they are cataloged as POA (Price on Availability).
Then there is the matter of custom options. For instance I favor color case hardened hammers as Colt used on SAAs from 1873 until the 1930s. Afterwards they were blued with polished sides. In the late 1990s I sent several SAA hammers to Janis for color case hardening. For many years I tried to get custom grip makers to fashion one-piece type walnut grips for my Colts. Most turned me down, but Peacemaker Specialists catalogs them.
First Generation (1873-1941) and Second Generation (1956-1974) Peacemakers had stiff springs but otherwise were fairly good in regards to action smoothness. Third Generation ones are noted for heavy, gritty actions. I actually consider an action job by a knowledgeable gunsmith as part of the purchase price of a new SAA. Peacemaker Specialists offers various degrees of such smoothing and lightening. I’ve partaken of this service and always been satisfied.
Some cynical readers may take this column as a blatant advertisement for Peacemaker Specialists. In a way it is for I have become deeply re-engaged with Colt SAAs and in recent months I’ve needed and used most of their items and services.
Ph: (805) 238-9100