Duke’s First 3rd Gen. SAA

And towards the end of 1976 is when I was introduced to 3rd Generation SAAs. That October the job I was working had paid a bit of overtime, so I ordered one of the new .45s with 7 ½” barrel. It was a disappointment. The grip frame’s edges did not match the main frame and the action was rough. The frame had been so heavily polished all screw holes were dished out. Third Generation serial numbers started over again at 80,000SA, leaving a gap of 5,000-plus after discontinuance of the 2nd Generation. My first 3rd Generation SAA had a number about 500 into that 80,000SA range.

Happily not all 3rd Generation SAAs were as poorly put together as mine. Some I saw in the late 1970s were finely made handguns. Regardless, Colt got and deserved a reputation for spotty quality. By 1978, at Skeeter Skelton’s continual urging, Colt added .44 Special as a caliber option to the 3rd Generation. Also at that year, serial numbers reached 99,999SA so Colt started them again at SA00001.

In 1978 I discovered a little known fact about SAAs. Third Generation cylinders could be fitted to 2nd Generation SAAs by simply fitting 3rd Generation hands to go with them. I had managed to find a 2nd Generation .357 Magnum at a very decent price and, wonder of wonders, a brand new unfired 5 ½” .44-40 barrel marked Colt Frontier Six-Shooter. That had to have been left over from 1st Generation production. Those two were mated by my gunsmith, and then he put in a new 3rd Generation .44 Special cylinder and hand. Everything went together perfectly and that particular SAA has been Yvonne’s now for three decades.