Thursday, June 3, 2010

Colt Single Action Revolver Disassembly

When you think of a single-action revolver, this is probably what you picture. The Colt Single Action, Single Action Army, S.A.A., Peacemaker; these are all names given to this gun and it is one of the most well known guns in the world, thanks in no small part to Hollywood's love for it.

Most single-action revolvers you can buy today (with the exception of Ruger revolvers, which we will discuss later) share this basic design. Whether it was manufactured by Colt, Uberti, Beretta, Cimarron and so forth, they all use the same basic design. There may be a few differences here and there, but these instructions will apply to all.

What I will be working on today is a Colt that was manufactured in the 1980s. One thing about this design that shooters should be aware of is that models with the firing pin mounted on the hammer, like the Colt I am working on, are not safe to carry with a round in the chamber under the firing pin. If the gun is to be carried or otherwise not immediately shot, one chamber should be left empty. The Ruger SA revolvers can be safely carried with a round in every chamber, but you will get yelled at if you go to a Cowboy Action shoot with one loaded like that.

Before you get started on the disassembly, keep in mind that we will need several different sized screwdrivers or bits. There are a number of different sized screws in this gun, and using the wrong sized screwdriver will mar the screw heads. Choose a bit that fits snugly in the screw slot and goes as close to the edge as possible.

While, at first glance, the designs of Ruger (top) and Colt (bottom) SA revolvers appear identical, the mechanical differences between the two are significant. Most SA reproductions use the Colt design, but a few use the Ruger design. The easiest way to tell them apart is to look at the pins or screws in the frame.

The Colt, on the left, has three screws holding the trigger group in place. The Ruger, on the right, has two pins.

If your gun uses the Colt design, you are in the right place. I will show you, step by step, how to disassemble your pistol. There are no special tricks to reassembly, just take these steps in the reverse order and you should be fine. The only tools you should need are a few different sizes of screwdrivers.

First, as with any gun, we need to make sure that it is unloaded. Cock the hammer back to the half-cock position and open the loading gate. You should be able to spin the cylinder freely and check all chambers.

Now, we'll field strip the gun.There is a spring-loaded button on the front of the frame that holds the cylinder rod in place. (On some models this will just be a screw that needs to be removed.)

Press the button and pull the rod out towards the front of the gun. It can be a tight fit, but don't get any tools involved. Just work it and it should come out.

With the hammer in the half-cock position, open the loading gate and remove the cylinder. The gun is now field-stripped to the point that routine maintenance and cleaning can take place. As a note, the only part of the gun that should be lubricated, other than a fine coat of oil to protect the finish, is the cylinder rod.

Some guns will have a removable bushing in the cylinder. This one does not. If it cannot be removed by hand, leave it in place.

Remove the grips.They are usually held in place by a single screw. Some guns will have one-piece grips with no screw. To remove these, first remove the rear grip frame and carefully pull the grips away from the frame.

The grip frame will usually be in two pieces. There will be one screw on the bottom and two on the top holding it in place. Remove these to remove the rear grip frame.

The mainspring is a leaf spring and is held in place by a single screw. Remove it, take note of how it fits against the hammer.

The trigger guard is attached to the frame by three screws.

Now we will remove the trigger group. First, remove the trigger/cylinder stop spring. It is held in place by a single screw.

Remove the trigger screw and the trigger.

Remove the cylinder stop.

The large screw holds the hammer. Remove it downwards. You may need to press the cylinder hand into the frame to start it.

The cylinder hand is easily removed. Do not separate the spring from the hand, and do not remove the firing pin unless repair requires it.

The loading gate is held in place by a plunger. Remove this small screw in the bottom of the frame to remove it.

 Removing the cylinder pin stop requires two screwdrivers.

Remove this screw then tilt the ejector housing up to remove it from the barrel.

Now, just remove the ejector...

And you're done!

The Colt single action revolver in all of it's glory. To reassemble, just reverse the order of these steps. 

If you have any questions or problems, feel free to ask me in the comments.


  1. Can you please give me the trigger group dimensions? Also can you take a photo of the trigger,sear and the hammer aligned together from exactly 90 degrees upward with a common item for comparison (penny, ruler). I'm going to try building this revolver for a project.(un-firing replica of course)

  2. I have a new Uberti that has a cylinder pin (AKA "base pin") that sometimes WILL NOT come out by hand. Even if it is installed without a cylinder at all, so you can freely reach it to push and turn the whole main body of the pin, it sticks tight in its rear hole (below the firing pin hole). I've twice had to use stubby pliers (with teeth covered by duct tape) to manage to pull it free, and I've tried more gun oil and less gun oil with seeming to effect the problem at all. Any suggestions would be most humbly appreciated!

    1. I know this is a very late post but I just saw this now.

      The "fix" is simple. Chuck the cylinder pin in a drill press and using 600 to 800 wet or dry emery paper, "turn" down the pin ONLY that portion that goes into the recoil plate. A little at a time though, and not too much. That should do the trick for you.


  3. Greetings, I have a Colt SAA in .357.The Cylinder
    Screw backed off. After screwing it back in, the cylinder turns whether cocked or uncocked. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Wayne

  4. Anonymous with the Uberti: Make sure that once you get the cylinder pin started, you let go of the cylinder pin stop and do not push the cylinder pin too far into the gun. If that is not what is happening, check that the cylinder pin stop is installed correctly, sometimes, if installed backwards, it will not fully release the cylinder pin, also check that there are no burrs in the holes in the frame for the cylinder pin, and that the holes in the frame are not oblong and are aligned correctly. If you have a micrometer measure the diameter of the cylinder pin holes in the frame and the diameter of the cylinder pin to make sure that the pin is not oversized. If you are still having problems contact Uberti, they should be able to get that sorted out for you.

    Wayne: It sounds like the cylinder stop spring might be out of place, possibly installed upside down or backwards. With the cylinder out of the gun, but the gun otherwise assembled, and the gun fully decocked, you should see the cylinder stop tab protruding out of the frame about 1/8 inch or so, right above the trigger, and you should be able press on it and feel a reasonable amount of spring tension. It should return when released. When fully cocking the gun you should see the cylinder stop drop down then return to the full upright position before the gun is fully cocked. If it is not doing these things then the cylinder stop, or it's spring, may be installed incorrectly or possibly broken. Carefully disassemble the gun and reassemble, paying close attention to the position of the cylinder stop and the cylinder stop spring. If all else fails, it may be time to find a gunsmith. I know a guy in Oregon ;)

  5. hey it the same on a Colt Frontier Scout 22?..looks very similiar..

  6. great instructional...very detailed..thanks

  7. well it was very helpful but my cylinder doesnt want rotate and the hammer on my colt single action army doesnt cock back fully. any suggestions?

  8. Great instructions and photos. My Colt Single Action Army .45 won't stay in the half-cocked position. It will fully cock all the way and fire, but won't stay half-cocked for loading, etc.

  9. Would this be the same for the Arminius saa replica ? Mine is 44magnum with floating firing pin.

  10. Very nice instructions along with the visuals.

  11. good stuff here.... very nicely done for the new Cimarron Pistolero I have...

  12. I've disassembled SA's in the past it never hurts to have a refresher course handy. This is a great one and the pictures are high quality. Many thanks!

  13. Many thanks for a great article. The instructions are precise and the photographs are sharp and clear.

  14. Great Post. Great Photos. Thanks very much for this write up.

    I too have an extremely tight cylinder pin. Thanks for the tips on that, that's the first time I've seen that addressed. I initially thought something was out of alignment, but even with the pin in it empty, no cylinder, it is nearly impossible to remove.

    Thanks again

  15. How do you remove the firing pin? Can it be driving out with a punch?

  16. Amazing Demonstration and Instructions about colt single action Gun

  17. Escellent! but I need to remove the barrel for engraving. It would be good to see how that is done properly.

  18. I have a Colt West Virginia Centennial 22 LR Revolver. The barrel is loose and not sure if these barrels were screwed on and what would be the best option to repair.thank you, Mike B

  19. My Single action is a .44-40 Regulator. I think it was made for American Arms Of Kansas City, MO. by UBERTI. The problem is the gun can be triggered to fire while in the half cocked position. I disassembled it as you directed. What should I look for as a possible cause. A damaged hammer or trigger?

  20. Thank you very much for such an excellent pictorial on disassembling the Colt & many of it's clones. I carried out a complete service on my Uberti 1873 without a hitch thanks to you.

  21. Just a quick follow up on my previous post where I forgot to mention something. You say the only part that should be lubricated is the cylinder pin. Having spent 13 years in an engineering environment any metal parts that operate on each other create friction & therefore, over a period of time, wear. Lubrication of the parts will reduce the wear factor & lead to smoother operation.

  22. Big thing is the trigger screw and bolt screw look the same but are different ,so when the trigger screw is removed the trigger needs to be mated together. One has a little nipple on the opposite of where screwdriver goes.

  23. Thanks Jones for sharing this informative blog. It is good if gun owner know about disassembling the gun. It is very important to do cleaning and oiling of a gun for good working of your gun. I am a firearm trainer and i will surly use the information of the blog.

    Scott Edvin

  24. I have a Uberti and after firing a few rounds through it the hammer will not cock back fully without holding forward tension on the trigger... any suggestions?

  25. I have a cimmaron .357 frontier sheriff with a 3.5" barrel. Is it possible to pull the cylinder pi n all the way out and remove the cylinder with out removing the ejector rod assembly? I've pulled the pin all the way out an the cylinder won't fall free like it does on my 7.5" barrel ruger.

  26. How do you take out the firing pin on an american arms regulator 45