If you want to unleash your inner cowboy or cowgirl, there have never been more options than what is available right now. Colt continues to make their Single Action revolver. Uberti and Pietta of Italy make Colt clones to suit any taste and a few different types of the Smith & Wesson American. The calibers are various, from as small as 32-20 to 45 Colt. We can’t forget the variety of percussion revolvers from the Colt Walker to the Remington New Model Army produced by both firms. But you don’t have to spill powder to burn powder. The modern cowboy demands minimal mess and ammunition selection that won’t cost an arm to supply. Here are my top four revolvers for the modern cowboy:
1. Diamondback Sidekick Bird’s Head
For Shot Show 2023, Diamondback Firearms introduced their Sidekick Bird’s Head. This new double-action revolver retains the same single-action styling, nine-round capacity, and swing-out convertible 22 LR/22 Win. Mag. cylinders as the original Sidekick that debuted in 2021. The Sidekick Birdshead is simply a more pocketable version, ditching the original 4 1/2 inch barrel and squared grip frame for a 3-inch barrel and a shortened, rounded Bird’s Head grip. The Sidekick offers the modern cowboy the versatility of choosing 22 Long Rifle or 22 Magnum for any pest control need, as well as a convenient swing-out cylinder and ejector rod assembly for fast loading and unloading.
Although not a traditional single-action revolver by any stretch, its old-style lines paired with a solid double-action make the Diamondback Bird’s Head a natural substitute for a Colt 1877 Lightning. All we await are a pair of handsome wood grips. With an MSRP of $327, you are coming out ahead for a fun gun that has plenty of utility.
2. Cimarron 1862 Pocket Navy Conversion .380
The Colt 1862 Pocket series were not made in huge numbers in the 19th century, but these .36 caliber five-shooters were a popular hideout piece out West and a widely issued sidearm for modernizing Eastern police departments. The Uberti cap-and-ball replica available from a number of importers is a hoot to shoot and easy to tuck into the belt. What would make it better? An appropriate cartridge conversion.
In came the Uberti 1862 Pocket Navy Conversion, chambered in .380 ACP for Cimarron Firearms of Fredericksburg, Texas. This conversion is built from the ground up to take smokeless powder cartridges and has the aesthetic of a hide-out cartridge conversion revolver done on the Pocket Models back in the late 1860s. This one has the same elegant, small frame and fluted cylinder of the 1862 Navy, but has the polished blued six-inch barrel of the 1862 Police model, sans loading lever or ejector rod.
The inclusion of the .380 ACP gives the modern cowboy a modern, easy-to-find cartridge to feed his revolver, as well as the capability and feel of the modern equivalent of the old. 36 caliber Navy load. Despite its inauthentic chambering, the Pocket Navy conversion is perhaps the most authentic looking on the list and is available through Cimarron for $647.
3. Taylors & Company TC9
No handgun is more cowboy than the old Colt Single Action Army revolver. Uberti makes more Colt clones than anyone, but the TC9 is a new departure. The TC9 is a Single Action Army six-shooter chambered in 9mm Luger and imported by Taylors & Company in Winchester, Virginia. The TC9 comes with black checkered or checkered walnut grips and is available with either a 4 ¾ or 5 ½ inch barrel, both of which were the most popular sizes on the civilian market in the 19th century.
For the 21st century, the TC9 has a fluted cylinder head-spaced for the 9mm Luger round. While it won’t give the satisfying thump or smoke of the 45 Colt round, the 9mm Luger round is inexpensive, capable, and plentiful, all of which make the TC9 an accessible choice for everyday shooters looking to unleash their inner cowboy. The TC9 can be had from Taylor’s for a modest $575, but it is one you are not likely to find at your local store.
4. The Ruger New Vaquero 9mm/357 Magnum
I would be remiss if a Ruger Vaquero did not make the list. The Vaquero mimics the lines and general operation of the Colt Single Action revolver but is safe to carry with all six rounds fully loaded thanks to the inclusion of Ruger’s transfer bar safety. The Vaquero is a durable, reliable improvement over the Colt that has seen prolific use in SASS and other cowboy-action competition. The base model Vaquero is available with either a blued or stainless finish and chambers either the 357 Magnum or 45 Colt cartridges. But perhaps the most versatile version of the Vaquero is the 9mm/357 Magnum Convertible.
This revolver comes with the same blued steel finish and rosewood grips as the standard 357 Magnum Vaquero. It comes with the shortest standard barrel length, 4.62 inches. Included with the revolver is an additional cylinder chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge. All that is needed to change cylinders is to open the loading gate and remove the cylinder pin below the ejector rod. This allows the modern cowboy to shoot affordable 9mm Luger ammunition in the same platform as the old cowboy, but if extra power is needed, the 357 Magnum cylinder is still on hand. The Vaquero Convertible is the most expensive revolver on the list and is an exclusive product for Lipsey’s Wholesale Firearms. MSRP is $1,139, although I have seen them at shops for just under one grand.