April 27, 2012
Given the parameters of its William Mason-inspired design, I used to think there was no way to improve upon the classic Single Action Army. Many have tried, but the original 1873 configuration seemed impervious to change. Its plow-handled grip provided perfect purchase and pointability, it balanced well, and the rugged fixed sights—while not the quickest to line up—couldn't get knocked out of whack if the gun was bumped or even dropped.
But now, A. Uberti of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, has taken the basic single-action revolver and adapted it for today's more demanding shootists, who require faster cocking, quicker pointability and improved accuracy.
Dubbed the Uberti El Patron CMS, this newest version of an old western icon was, in fact, inspired by the demands of Cowboy Mounted shooters—hence the CMS handle. But that doesn't mean the CMS version is relegated to the saddle. Available in either .45 Colt or .357 magnum, and in blued and case-hardened or stainless steel finishes (both with finely checkered one-piece walnut grips), this compact single action is equally ideal for Cowboy Action shooting, packing on the trail or even self-defense.
Uberti's original El Patron (which means "the boss" in Spanish), came out over a year ago and was actually a factory-tuned 1873 Cattleman, offered in 4.75- or 5.5-inch barrel lengths. While the Uberti El Patron CMS has the same factory-tuned innards as the regular El Patron—with American-made Wolff springs and a hand-honed and polished action—it is the external appearance that sets this gun apart.
The first thing one notices is the shortened 3.5-inch barrel for quicker leather clearance (a four-inch version is also available) and a bobbed ejector rod housing. The lowered and flared hammer spur, another feature not found on the regular El Patron, is an indication that the CMS version is made for fast, one-handed cocking.
The beveled cylinder is inherited from the regular El Patron, but other shared features of the CMS such as its numbered cylinder chambers aren't as readily apparent. Raising the gun to draw a bead on the target reveals a 3/32-inch wide front sight blade, which nestles comfortably within an 1/8-inch wide rear sight notch cut into the tail end of the topstrap.
The wide, smooth trigger gives a distinctly different feel to this gun compared to most single actions, and the resultant trigger let-off is vastly improved. The checkering on the grips firmly anchors the gun in the hand during recoil.
I requested a blued and case hardened version in traditional .45 Colt for testing. This gun features a government-and-attorney-mandated "safety" that Uberti is required to put on its fixed firing pin single actions. This safety is, quite simply, an extended cylinder base pin.
When the spring-loaded base pin "button" on the dished-out portion of the frame in front of the cylinder is pushed in, it frees the cylinder base pin, which can then be pushed in until the rearward portion protrudes out just enough from the back of the frame to block the hammer from falling all the way and striking the primer.
It's a simple and effective arrangement, and most guns are shipped with the safety on, so be sure to examine the position of the cylinder base pin before shooting. To put the gun in firing condition, push the base pin latch in and make sure the cylinder base pin has been pulled forward to its second indentation, which will secure it in the frame and permits the fixed firing pin of the hammer to strike the primer.
(Cylinder base pin safety notwithstanding, you should only carry five cartridges in fixed firing pin SAs, with the hammer resting on the empty sixth chamber.)
As expected, this top-of-the-line gun functioned flawlessly. The action was smooth as silk, and the trigger broke at an impressive 2.5 pounds (albeit with a slight amount of creep), which enabled me to get 2.5-inch groups at 25 yards with Winchester 250-grain Cowboy and Black Hills 230-grain roundnose lead loadings.
It was only when I tried ejecting the empty cases that I ran into a slight hiccup. The 3.5-inch ejector rod half-moon finger tab kept running into the cylinder base pin, thus preventing the full length of the rod from adequately punching out the empties. Unless the cases slid out by themselves (which didn't occur once the gun had fired multiple rounds) I had to pluck them out with my fingers.
I suspect this isn't as much of a problem with the four-inch barrel version, although I prefer the compactness of the 3.5-incher, ejection hang-ups aside. It reminds me of the custom three-inch Sheriff's Model I used to pack on hunting trips as a camp gun. But now the Uberti El Patron CMS has bested even that old-timer with a better action and improved accuracy.
- Type: single-action revolver
- Caliber: .45 Colt (tested), .357 Mag.
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel length: 3.5 (tested), 4 in.
- Overall Length: 9.5 in. (as tested)
- Weight: 2.3 lb.
- Sights: fixed, widened groove rear; steel blade front
- Grips: one-piece checkered walnut
- Price: $599 (blued and case hardened, tested), $749 (stainless steel)
- Manufacturer: A. Uberti, Gardone Val Trompia, Italy
- Importer: Uberti USA/Benelli USA, uberti.com, 301-283-6300
- Smallest avg. group: 230 gr. Black Hills—2.25 in.
- Largest avg. group: Federal SWHP—2.75 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (3 types)—2.5 in.
- Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 25 yards.