Pietta 1873 - A modern version of an Old West classic
By Gary Lewis
When I first laid eyes on the Pietta 1873, I could think of several reasons why I would like to carry one (or two). Self-defense for wilderness camping and fly-fishing. Cowboy action shooting. What I didn't think about was rattlesnakes.
Manufactured in Italy, this gun is a clone of the Colt Single-Action Army. My test gun was chambered for 357 Magnum (45 Long Colt and 44-40 are options) and came with 5-1/2-inch barrel, a color case-hardened frame and walnut grips. In hand it was pleasing to the eye, with good fit and finish and a deep blue to the barrel and cylinder.
My first inclination with any new gun is to take it to the range and put it through its paces with a box of ammunition. This time that didn't happen. Instead, I packed the gun in a holster on a hiking trip with my daughters. The second trip out, we packed into a wilderness area for an overnight along a creek. Again, I carried the gun for protection.
My daughter slept in her tent and I slept under the stars.
In the morning we hiked a mile downstream then fished our way back to camp. When we were 20 yards from camp, a snake startled me. I was on a narrow ledge with the creek below me. I drew the gun and watched the snake dart away. This wasn't one of those snakes that coils and rattles a warning.
When the snake reached the cliff it turned and came straight for me.
The gun was loaded with 158-grain wadcutters in case of an encounter with a cougar. The snake presented a substantially smaller target, but its head and about six inches of its body were off the ground. I shot it below the head and shot it two more times then stepped out of the way as it tumbled down to splash into the creek.
Afterward, I waited a few minutes and fished the snake out of the water and cut off its head. I wouldn't have shot it except it was aggressive.
These were the first three shots I fired from the Pietta and all three centered the target. The first two bullets struck about a half-inch apart. The third was lower down. You have to appreciate a fixed-sight revolver that is sighted-in at the factory!
A few days later, at the COSSA shooting park east of my hometown, I shot the gun again. I didn't shoot as well as I did one-handed on a moving snake, but the Pietta delivered six-shot groups in a three-inch circle at 20 yards from a Weaver stance.
While working on an article for American Handgunner, I tested snake shot in the Pietta and throughout all the testing, carrying and fun-shooting with various loads, I never experienced a function issue.
Pietta's 1873 is offered in three centerfire calibers (357 Magnum, 44-40 and 45 Long Colt) and three traditional barrel lengths: 4-3/4, 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inches. They come in a variety of finishes, too, including blued steel, case-hardening, nickel-plating and matte with several options for grips. Check out the web site for special editions including Buntlines.
This Pietta is faithful to the original in almost every way and, with a suggested retail starting at $375, it is a good value for a single-action enthusiast.