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The Most-Preferred Single Action Revolvers in Cowboy Action Shooting


cas revolvers

If you like shooting competitions, then you need to check out that exciting sport of cowboy action shooting (CAS) that’s gaining quite a following worldwide. It involves 3 types of guns – revolvers, lever action rifles and shotguns. Try a few competitive matches and have some fun as you hone your skill. CAS shooters are friendly and, if you’re new to the sport, happy to share their experience and even offer some tips you could use.

Single Action Shooting Society or SASS is a global organization that preserves, promote and governs the sport of cowboy action shooting. As the name implies, the sport uses single action revolvers, similar to those used in the time of the Old West.

The competitive aspect of CAS make it necessary for revolvers to be modified or slicked up in the manner that is legal. Have your trigger fancied up at the very least. For instance, only a Bisley grip frame with a Bisley style hammer is allowable.

The heyday of the single-action revolver is prior to the 1870’s, before the invention and widespread popularity of the double-action revolver. For a single-action revolver to work, the shooter has to cock the hammer first to fire each shot. Even when the double-action revolver’s popularity was at its peak, the single-action revolver was still favored by most gunmen for its firm trigger that made it more accurate and its hammer that was easier to cock. While many single-action revolvers went into production, a few names became legendary for their superior quality.

Below, in no particular order, are the most preferred revolvers in CAS. They are featured to help narrow down your gun choices for use in competition. You can make some enhancements and modifications as long as they are within the permitted range.


Ruger Vaquero


Credit: Mike Searson

The Ruger Vaquero was manufactured by Sturm, Ruger in 1993, based on the design of their earlier Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum that was introduced in 1973. This modern six-shot single-action revolver is coated in blued steel with a gloss stainless finish that is very similar to 19th-century revolvers with nickel-plated finish. Although it leans much on the classic Old West revolver’s aesthetic preferences, the Ruger Vaquero is powerful by today’s standards.


Colt M 1873 Peacemaker

Credit: Mike Cumpston

Credit: Mike Cumpston

The Colt M 1873 Peacemaker was originally developed in 1873 for military use but wasn’t standardized as a military revolver until 1892. The Peacemaker owed its moniker to its large size, precision and destructive force.

A popular variant of the Colt M 1873 is the Bisley model. It was initially produced for target shooting but rapidly gained the reputation as a fast shooting revolver. This ’73 variant has a longer grip frame, wide and lowered hammer, and a wider trigger.

After it was further developed as an inexpensive and more practical revolver for the military, the Colt M 1873 remained popular among lawmen, ranchers and outlaws for many more years.


Taylor’s 1875 Army Outlaw

Credit: Taylor’s & Company, Inc.

Taylor’s 1875 Army Outlaw is a very close copy of the 1875 Remington® single-action revolvers, which retained Remington’s 1858 model’s solid frame and overall styling. Carrying a robust and dependable design, these revolvers are slightly heavier than the Colts. Both lawmen and citizens of the wild west acknowledged the rugged physical strength of this new Remington model.

The 1875 Army Outlaw is made with a casted frame, and comes with a somewhat distinct grip and different trigger pull distance which some shooters find as a welcome change. Frank James usually carried one of these revolvers during his outlaw years.


Freedom Arms Model 83 Premiere

Credit: Michael E. Cumpston

Credit: Michael E. Cumpston

The Freedom Arms Model 83 Premiere is another modern revolver that’s popular among cowboy action shooting aficionados. Freedom Arms became widely known for developing single-action revolvers when they were still enormously popular. Their Premier class revolvers comes with a glossier finish and an original owner lifetime warranty.

The Model 83 Premiere still has a fast reload time and outstanding power behind its grip. The grip quality provides a perfect buffer to the minor recoil after every shot, which gives the user a smoother shot compared to other single-action revolvers.

The single-action revolvers featured above are all SASS-approved and in compliance with cowboy action shooting regulations. If you are looking for guns of superior quality and reputation for the sport, or if you just want to add one more to your competition arsenal, they are right here so don’t look any further.





  1. What about the Smith & Wesson model number three

    • Colt’s Single Action Army is widely known today as the “Gun that Won the West”, but Smith and Wesson’s Model 3 was its closet rival for that title. In 1870 Smith & Wesson introduced it as a large frame revolver in a more practical caliber. It was chambered in the .44 S&W American centerfire cartridge. The Smith & Wesson Model 3 Revolver came in many different variations and calibers. It was used by many famous figures in the Old West, and by the US Army. It would also have an international history seeing use in Australia, Japan, and Russia.

      Due to the Smith & Wesson Model 3 Revolver’s poor performance in the US Army’s tests, Smith & Wesson sought to make improvements to the Model 3 that were desirable for the Army. The most important modification to the Model 3 was moving the latch from the barrel to the frame. The caliber was also changed to .45 Schofield, which could be fired through a Colt Single Action Army, but a .45 Long Colt could not be fired through a Schofield Model 3 revolver. The fact that Schofield could not fire the .45 Long Colt round proved to be a major logistical problem and it caused the revolver to have a short service life. (Some of the info courtesy of

  2. Just some updated information. Most shooters are using the Ruger New Vaquero in .357/.38 in 4 4/8 or 5.5 in barrels. 45 Colt is not considered a competitive round but people still use them just to have fun at matches. There are some fast shooters who use .45 but the majority of the competitive shooters have moved to the .38 for cost reasons, recoil, cost, etc…

    • They should make a separate category for 45 colt then! IDPA and IPSEC separate out the large calibers from the 9mm’s. Correct me if I am wrong but .357/.38 is a caliber of the 1920’s!

  3. i have two 38Magnum ruger vaqueros for sale. If anyone is interested please email me at and i will send you pictures and then we can go on from there. There have only been shot once.

    • How much is the pistols and thebarrel length or colar text Ken 2148081842

  4. What about the Taurus model 2-357076 single action

  5. Wouldn’t the 1875 outlaw be more period with a bead front site and a lanyard ring?

    Is the S&W 3 worth the money? What are the best things about it and the worst?

    • The Uberti 1875 Remington ‘Outlaw” is a very close reproduction of the original revolver. With this version, the lanyard ring does not exist, as it was removed by many users at the time (honest folks as well as outlaws), and was not needed. However, some lanyard rings remained because many could not afford a good holster and these revolvers were stuffed into trousers and sashes; a makeshift lanyard could be used to keep from losing the revolver.

      The Smith & Wesson Model 3 is a single-action, cartridge-firing, top-break revolver produced by Smith & Wesson (S&W) from around 1870 to 1915, and was recently again offered as a reproduction by Smith & Wesson and Uberti. It was produced in several variations and subvariations, including both the “Russian” model, so named because it was supplied to the military of the Russian Empire, and the “Schofield” model, named after Major George W. Schofield, who made his own modifications to the Model 3 to meet his perceptions of the cavalry’s needs.

      The best feature of a top-break revolver is in faster loading, especially for mounted shooters. Is the cost worth it? It simply depends on a shooter’s preference and what their wallets will endure.

  6. What about the Cimarron Thunderer or Doc Holiday?

    • One of my favorite rigs that I own is the Doc Holiday shoulder holster with dagger and bird’s head 45 cal.

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