Colt Single Action Army (S.A.A) - Tanaka
The Tanaka SAAs are widely held as the most beautiful, accurately replicated and well made airsoft revolvers available.
They are only sporadically made and are often totally unobtainable.
When I noticed a silver 4 3/4" barrelled Civilian, in silver, on Guns N Guys (my favourite Hong Kong airsoft suppliers) website, I decided to snap it up before the stock went (within 3 days of it appearing, WGC's site was marking the same gun as Out Of Stock).
I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew this was a gun I was looking forward to testing.
In the Box
The box was fairly typical of Tanaka's other revolvers, except that the background to the photographic artwork on the lid was bright red, rather than the usual dark background.
Inside the box, the SAA sits in a polystyrene bed, which also contains the manual, a gas loading nozzle, a tool to help with removing the cylinder and a small bag of BBs.
The silver finish on this gun is nothing like the stainless finish on the S&W 629s, being a bright, highly polished chrome finish.
The weight and balance of the gun is good and there is nothing visible on the gun that one could describe as a fault or blemish.
The hammer cocks to two positions, half cock to permit rotation of the cylinder for loading and full cock, for firing. Of course, being a Single Action revolver, the SAA needs manually cocking before each shot, like a springer. This is achieved simply by pulling back the hammer.
The grips are black plastic (as far as I can tell), replicating hard rubber.
GunsNGuys website listed the weight as 430g (very light), but I was pleased to find the error was theirs, as everyone else listed it at 730g or so, which is what I found it weighed on arrival. I have to say that it is not easy to tell which parts of this gun are metal and which are plastic, such is the consistency of the finish on the gun.
The hammer certainly is metal, as is the trigger and cylinder.
The Single Action Army replicated by Tanaka is the original model Peacemaker.
The finish is SO mirror like that touching it with bare hands leaves finger prints. There are a few in the photos in this review, but mostly I handled the gun with cotton gloves whilst photographing it!
As I have come to expect of Tanaka revolvers, the SAA seems to have all the main features of the real revolver accurately replicated, with the exception of removable shells.
Unlike all the modern revolvers I have reviewed, the cylinder of a SAA is fixed in the frame, not swinging out on a crane, like the Ruger and S&W models I have tested. This makes loading trickier on the real thing, but it is not a major problem with the airsoft version.
The BBs can be pushed into open cylinder mouths and extra ones can be stored in the extractor rod (more on that later), whilst the gas is put into the cylinder (as on all other Tanaka revolvers I have seen) by opening the moving piece of the frame and using the, provided, gas can extension. You need to half cock the hammer to get the cylinder to rotate, as with the real thing and there is an evocative click each time the cylinder moves on a notch.
To load extra BBs, over the standard six cylinder openings, you need to remove the magazine stored in the extractor rod, which is done by depressing the 'screw' at the front (on the underside) of it. You can then fill the magazine with BBs and replace the extractor rod.
Be careful to ensure that the magazine/rod is securely refitted (and the 'screw' completely back into position) as it will fire out under pressure if not and could easily be lost forever!
The late Ray Meibaum's excellent (but now sadly defunct) Colt SAA site explained the differences between the various generation guns, but this gun bears Sept 19, 71 and July 2, 72 patent marks as well as a Jan 19 1875 one on the frame, just below the cylinder on the left side, looking forward down the barrel.
As well as the patent markings on the frame, there are plenty of Colt markings over the gun.
On the barrel's left side is the legend "COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY .45", with "COLT'S PTFA MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A." on the top of the barrel. There are a couple of small proofing marks on the left side of the trigger guard.
There are Colt logos on the grips in the form of a rampant horse in an oval raised section and there's a small Colt horse logo next to the patent marks. If you turn the gun upside down, you will find the only Tanaka mark right on the front of the frame, where it reads "ASGK"/"MFG.TANAKA".
The foresight is tall and clear, but the rear sight is a simple groove in the top of the frame, making the sights rudimentary at best.
The overall finish is excellent. I could not find anything that looked like a brush mark or pitting and the consistency of the mirror finish chrome effect across the various parts and materials appears 100%, even under varying light conditions, which are often expose even very minor flaws.
The trigger has a very short travel (it only needs to release the hammer, of course) and there is no safety on the gun at all, so carrying it with the hammer cocked is pretty much a non-starter. Standard practice with an SAA is to carry it with the hammer down on an empty cylinder, making it a 'five-shooter'.
Interestingly, the trigger is not symmetrically set in the frame. Rather it is offset to the left (as you look forward down the barrel). Odd and, no doubt, an example of limitations of early revolver design. It is also a very narrow trigger, rather than the broad bladed units that feature on most modern guns.
Shooting the Colt SAA is different.
You have to cock it each time between shots, which you could do by fanning the hammer, cowboy style (I tried and it works), but conventional wisdom warns against this as it can damage the hammer and cylinder.
I found that cocking the hammer, fully, required quite a lot of pressure(Nothing like both hands, but a little more than is comfortable with the thumb) and is quite a long travel, although the force required may decrease with use.
So, I carefully cocked the hammer each time with my thumb for the accuracy and performance testing.
Click on image for bigger version in separate window.
Carrying out my standard 5m/6 round, off hand test, I got fair, but not astonishing accuracy.
The shots were clustered around the aim point, fairly consistently, but the best 5 shots fell in a 2.5 inch (6.5 CM) radius. The sights are pretty crude, however, and work especially poorly in low light (as it was in my garage range at the time of testing).
I also felt that the gun tended to shoot right, although my tests do not reflect this. This may be because I took care between shots on the tests, but that I snatched shots when plinking, pushing the gun right.
Over 10 shots, the SAA averaged 299 fps (using Abbey Ultra gas) indoors (at a chilly 13C).
I half expected the SAA to have an incredibly light trigger, but, whilst it is far from heavy and has a very short travel, the pull weight is 35 ounces (1,000g), which is only a medium pull for an NBB, but good compared to the other Tanaka revolvers, except the very light PC629.
The finish of this SAA is remarkable. I do not think I have seen a better finished airsoft pistol, ever.
Obviously, a single action revolver is not to everyone's taste and the extremely bright silver finish of this gun is not exactly 'tactical', but I can see massive appeal to collectors, casual plinkers and western re-enacters.
I have to say, despite claims of astronomical power, I found my SAA only good in this department. The S&W Model 29/629s regularly produce more power, but that's not to say it is bad, simply not as exceptional as them. It is certainly more powerful than most stock GBBs and on a par with many NBBs and it must be said the gun was tested in low temperatures after been stored in the cold, so maybe I am been a little harsh.
Is it the 'best' airsoft gun in the world?
In terms of build quality and finish, it is a contender, but its appeal is limited to collectors and Cowboy Action shooters. It is very hard to imagine it making a usable skirmish sidearm, but, then again, General Patton carried one...
Weight : 740g
Realism : *****
Quality : *****
Power : ****
Accuracy : ***
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