Everyone loves cowboy revolvers. You could be the most die-hard, Staccato-C carrying, plate carrier wearing, tactical bad dude on the planet, and you’ll still love a good old fashioned single action revolver. Here are some of our favorites for competition and just shooting.
Competition Cowboy Revolvers
If you’re super tactical, you might be surprised to find out that Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS – no, not close air support – Ed.) is one of the most popular shooting sports in the USA. The largest organization is the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), which boasts over 100,000 members across the world. While some shooters heavily customize guns, there are three options for shooters that want an off-the-shelf ready competition single action revolver for cowboy shooting.
The Ruger Vaquero SASS
The Ruger Vaquero, based on the Ruger Blackhawk could be the most popular modern entry in the single action revolver segment. Because it utilizes a transfer bar safety, it’s safe to load with six rounds, unlike proper replicas of the original Colt Single Action Army. The SASS Vaquero, shown in the top image, features several competition oriented features. A flared Montado-style hammer aids rapid cocking, a must for speed shooting. The sights have been re-profiled for a better sight picture as well.
Unfortunately, Ruger only produces a limited number of SASS Vaqueros each year, and sells them in pairs. That means they can be hard to find and command a significant premium when you do find a set. The SASS Vaquero is chambered in either .357 Magnum or .45 Colt.
Cimarron Firearms Evil Roy Competition Revolvers
Competitors in SASS events have to choose an alias to compete under. The alias Evil Roy belongs to one of the greatest SASS shooters to ever live, so it’s no wonder he has his own line of competition revolvers offered by Cimarron. Evil Roy Competition revolvers have a number of thoughtful features for the competitor. Best of those features are the improved sights. The rear sight notch is wider than on a standard single action revolver, and the front sight is profiled for a crisp sight picture. Additionally, the Evil Roy cowboy revolvers feature a nicely checkered grip.
Sadly however, the Evil Roy revolvers are intermittently available. Like many Colt clones, their country of origin is Italy. Thanks to COVID supply chain disruptions, the flow of Italian revolvers to the USA hasn’t been consistent. When they are available, they retail for between $600-800.
Pietta 1873 Gunfighter
This entry isn’t specifically tuned for competition. It doesn’t have extra whizbang features either. What it is, is affordable, and readily available. The Pietta 1873 Gunfighter retails for under $500. That means it’s a solid entry level choice for someone who wants to dip their toes in cowboy revolvers and shooting, but doesn’t want to go all in on competition guns…yet. Like our other options, it’s available in the two most common cowboy calibers, .357 Magnum and .45 Colt.
Cowboy Revolvers for Plinking and Fun Shooting
Let’s say you don’t want to shoot cowboy matches. Maybe you just want the feel and satisfaction of pulling back the hammer on a single action revolver. Sure, you could get basically any of the many centerfire single action revolvers out there. But ammo prices are still crazy, which is why a rimfire single action makes perfect sense for plinking and good old fashioned fun.
Ruger’s first revolver, the Single Six, introduced in 1953 was a rimfire. It makes sense then that their recent rimfire single action, the Ruger Wrangler, would be an immediate hit. It combines affordability, product quality, and good old fashioned rimfire fun into a single package. A retail cost under $250 makes the Wrangler accessible to anyone, and no one has ever complained that shooting a rimfire revolver wasn’t fun. The Wrangler certainly ticks those boxes.
Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider
We recently reviewed the Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep (pictured), which is a compact version of their Rough Rider series of revolvers. The Heritage Rough Riders are affordable, single action revolvers chambered in .22 LR, manufactured in America in a small town in Georgia. They have a fun party trick: unlike the Ruger Wrangler above, the Rough Rider and Barkeep guns from Heritage can fire .22 Magnum.
Out of single action revolvers and lever action rifles, .22 Magnum produces superior terminal ballistics to some centerfire cartridges, for the example the .32-20. The ability to chamber the potent .22 Magnum cartridge moves the Rough Rider guns into viable territory as a kit gun for taking small game. The other neat feature on the Rough Rider line-up is the manual safety. Sure, a manual safety on a single action revolver seems like a screen door on a submarine. But because the Rough Rider lacks a transfer bar like the Wrangle, the safety is necessary to make the gun safe to carry with six full chambers.
The EAA Bounty Hunter
Retailing around $300, the EAA Bounty Hunter in .22 LR/.22 Mag is one of the best kept secrets in cowboy revolvers. It’s affordable, and yet people sleep on them, likely because they’re imported by EAA. The guns themselves are made in Germany by Weihrauch, who have been making firearms and airguns since the 1800s. It’s bulkier than our other two rimfire single action revolvers, emulating the dimensions of the Colt SAA properly. Like the Ruger it has a transfer bar safety so it can be safely loaded with six rounds. The Bounty Hunter pictured above is my personal gun that I’ve had since I was 21, when my father gave it to me. Maybe it makes the list out of nostalgia and personal bias, but that’s ok.
Cowboy revolvers are great fun. Whether you’re thinking about getting into SASS competition, or you just want to bust pop cans, you can’t go wrong with any of the revolvers on our list. To be honest, this list barely cracks the surface of what’s out there. You’re not restricted to .357 or .45 or rimfire calibers. A little searching will show you guns in every caliber from .32 Magnum up to .44 Magnum, and everything in between. Or go truly old school and get a black powder revolver.
No matter what, you simply cannot beat the feeling of a single action wheelgun.