Colt’s Single Action Army: Standing Out for Elite Collectors

At Collector’s Elite Auctions, you’ll find the finest luxury guns and collectibles for the discerning collector. One thing that collectors have known for decades is that Colt’s Single Action Army is always a solid choice as a collectible and, potentially, as an investment. In the inaugural sale that runs from June 6 to June 20, there are no less than 15 Single Action Army revolvers among the listings. Many are engraved by master engravers. Some sport exotic grips like giraffe bone and ivory. Others are gold-plated or inlaid, and there are even two consecutively serialized pairs. 

Colt’s Single Action Army celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2023, and there’s even a special commemorative gun in this sale! With more than 500,000 produced in that time, the guns have changed very little, but collectors break them down into different generations. First generation guns were made from 1873 to 1941. Second generation guns date from 1956 to 1975. Third generation guns started in 1976 and continue today.

Generations of Colt’s Single Action Army

First generation Single Action Army revolvers were made for 68 years. Production was paused due to World War II in 1941. In 1949, they announced that production would not resume. 

The 1950s ushered in the era of the western. Suddenly, what was once old was now new again. Second generation guns were made in an almost dizzying array of calibers, barrel lengths, finishes and other special features, making them a boon for collectors. 

Second generation guns have become highly collectible as first-generation gun prices have skyrocketed into the stratosphere. This sale is a perfect example of that kind of collectability and is proof positive of how hard these guns are to find. There are no first-generation guns being offered and only one second generation gun. Dating to 1971, this particular Single Action Army is impressive because it has the original box and paperwork. Add in the fact that master engraver Bill Mains — one of the engravers for the stars — did the work on it, and you’ve got a truly special piece. 

master engraver Bill Mains

In 1975, the century-old machines used to make the guns were wearing out. The factory was retooled, and production resumed in 1976. This ushered in the era of the third generation. In the almost half-century since then, the Single Action Army has seen a tremendous amount of variety. Much like the generation of guns that came before them, there’s also a big variety of collectability in the 14 third generation Single Action Army revolvers that await new owners in this sale. 

There are two guns in this sale that were engraved by one of the finest engravers of the 20th century — Alvin A. White, or simply A. A. White. One is an exceptional recreation of the R. J. Kornbrath-engraved gun given by Interpol to “Carbine” Williams. The other boasts a custom gold-plated finish

Special Order SAA Revolvers 

You can still get a brand-new Single Action Army revolver, but they’re now only available as a special order. All of the myriad options for caliber, finish and grips have gone away — unless you order from the Colt Custom Shop — which these two lots did. In fact, one of the pairs offered here was actually shipped in 2023; the other dates to 2021. Both pairs of guns opted for so many options that they’re actually a steal at the opening bids; they cost more right from Colt! 

The 150th anniversary edition offered in the sale is a great way to commemorate this American icon, with only 120 made in this configuration. It features special anniversary banners and hand-chased engraving, with final finish work done by Turnbull Restoration. 

Single Action Army revolvers that rate in high condition — generally anywhere from 90 percent to New In Box — have always fetched a premium. This can be seen as far back as the 1950s when the modern era of gun collecting was in its infancy. Even then, collectors knew the importance of these Colts. Add in special features, exceptional engraving and limited production, and you’ve got a recipe for some of the most sought-after collectibles on the market. 

This is your opportunity to get investment grade guns before they go up more. And go up they almost certainly will. Take a look at all of the Single Action Army guns in this sale and figure out which you can’t live without. Get ready to bid and join the ranks of the other elite collectors who will be vying for the best guns in this first Collector’s Elite Auction

About the Author

Logan Metesh

Logan Metesh is an arms historian with a focus on history and development. He has a degree in historic preservation and has worked for the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry. Over the years, he has contributed to multiple books and written hundreds of articles for different publications. He is the owner of High Caliber History LLC and the host of the No Lowballers Podcast.

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