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Competition with an SAA: The Colt Bisley and Bisley Target

Bisley model sold for $2,875
Bisley Target model sold for $6,325

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Named for the famous British shooting competition range, the Colt Bisley was the target version of the 1873 Single Action Army revolver. Colt first offered a flat-top model of the SAA from 1890 until 1895, and dropped it to introduce a specialized Bisley model in 1894. The Bisley had a redesigned trigger, hammer, and grip frame. The regular SAA grip was designed to let the gun roll in the hand under recoil, to bring the hammer under the thumb for recocking. This was not ideal for target shooting, where one would prefer to maintain the exact same grip throughout a course of fire. The Bisley grip design eliminated the rolling of the gun, and the hammer was widened and lowered to allow easy recocking from that firing grip.

In addition to the basic Bisley model, a Bisley Target model was also offered, with a windage adjustable rear sight and an elevation adjustable front blade (the regular Bisley had the same fixed sights as the standard SAA). In total, 44,350 Bisley were sold, and 976 Bisley Targets. They could be ordered in any barrel length, but mostly were made with 7.5 inch barrels to get the longest sight radius for competition shooting. Almost any caliber could be ordered, and the Bisleys tended to skew more toward light cartridges than the standard SAA, with the most common being .32-20, aka .32 WCF. Production ended in 1912, and the last Bisley was shipped from Colt’s inventory in 1919.

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