Uberti / Remington 1875 "Army Outlaw" and "Frontier" .45 LC Replica Revolvers
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Styled by Remington to resemble their famous 1858 percussion revolver, from which it inherited a solid top strap and a reinforcing web ("sail") beneath the barrel, the Model 1875 Army is the same size with the same grip frame as the Model 1858. However, the Model 1875 was designed from the outset as a metallic cartridge revolver; it is not a percussion conversion. Remington intended their 1875 Improved Army to compete in the market place with the 1873 Colt Single Action Army (SAA).
Unfortunately, the Remington 1875 Army was introduced two years after the Colt SAA and Colt had already garnered the big Federal contracts. Remington sold around 650 Model 1875 revolvers to the U.S. government to equip Indian reservation police forces (Indian cops used their Remington revolvers to murder Chief Sitting Bull) and 1,000 were sold to the Mexican government. Some 10,000 were ordered by the Egyptian Army, but not delivered due to Egypt being seriously in arrears on their earlier purchase of Remington Rolling Block infantry rifles.
Model 1875 revolvers were made in .44 Remington, .44-40 (.44 W.) and .45 Colt calibers, but sequentially, not simultaneously. Apparently, not more than one caliber was produced at any given time. The standard barrel length was 7.5" and, although a 5.75" barrel could be had (probably by special order only); it was not catalogued.
There were two production batches of 1875 Improved Army revolvers, each starting with serial number one. The first batch of almost 13,000 were built with hammers lacking a safety notch. These are easily identified by a small, 1858 type front sight. The second batch of less than 2,000 units added a safety notch to the hammer and had a rounded blade front sight similar to a Colt SAA front sight. Altogether, probably fewer than 15,000 Model 1875 revolvers were made before production ceased in 1889 (or maybe 1879 or 1887--sources do not agree).
The Uberti (www.uberti.com) Model 1975 replicates the second batch of Remington Model 1875's. Uberti calls their 5.5" barreled version of the 1875 the "Frontier" model. The Uberti 1875 replica with a 7.5" barrel is named the "Army Outlaw," apparently because the famous outlaw Frank James carried an 1875 Remington. However, other Western luminaries also preferred the Remington single action, including Buffalo Bill Cody, who wrote that his had never failed him. Buffalo Bill's Remington and the letter attesting to its reliability can be found at the Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming. These Uberti replicas are faithful to the original Remington design.
The Model 1875 Army was replaced by the Model 1890 (1890 Police), which lacked the identifying sail under the barrel, but retained the basic Remington action. The Model 1890 proved much less popular than the Model 1875, only about 2,000 being made before the model was discontinued in 1896. Model 1890's were available with either 7.5" or 5.5" barrels. Perhaps the 1890 looked so much like a Colt SAA that the market regarded it as merely a Colt knock-off. Uberti also offers an 1890 Police replica.
Uberti Model 1875 replicas are chambered only for the .45 Long Colt (LC) cartridge. The .45 Colt was the most powerful handgun cartridge of its day, capable of driving a 255 grain lead bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 930 fps with 40.0 grains of black powder. The muzzle energy (ME) of that load is 490 ft. lbs., easily surpassing the 356 ft. lbs. ME of the later and highly regarded .45 ACP round (230 grain bullet at 835 fps).
Modern .45 Colt factory loads are loaded with smokeless powder to reduced velocity. Winchester, for example, advertises a MV of 860 fps and ME of 419 ft. lbs. with a 255 grain lead bullet.
Reloaders with modern revolvers designed for use with smokeless powder, such as our Ubertis, can stay within the SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) limit and still duplicate the power of the original black powder loads using 250-255 grain cast lead bullets and modern smokeless powders. (Blue Dot, Vith. 3N37, 2400, HS-6, Unique and Universal are all viable powders.) Using modern JHP bullets, such as a Speer Gold Dot driven at 850-1050 fps, full power .45 Colt loads are very effective for personal or home defense. However, DO NOT try to "magnumize" the .45 Colt cartridge by exceeding the SAAMI MAP. If you want a big bore magnum revolver, buy one chambered for the .44 Rem. Magnum or .454 Casull cartridges.
For this review we requested both 1875 models from Uberti; an Army Outlaw (7.5" barrel, nickel finish) and a Frontier (5.5" barrel, blued barrel and cylinder with color case-hardened frame). Both guns are supplied with walnut grips. The actions are identical, but this way we got to examine both of the available finishes and test both barrel lengths.
Right out of their cardboard Uberti boxes, it was obvious that these are high quality revolvers. Both the blue/case-hardened and nickel finishes are beautifully executed; visually, these revolvers are attention getters. Mechanically, everything fits correctly and works properly. The actions are tight, with very little cylinder play and a uniform cylinder gap. The single action triggers release cleanly without perceptible take-up.
The instruction sheets that came with our 1875 revolvers actually apply specifically to Uberti's 1873 Colt SAA replicas (Stallion, Cattleman and El Patron), not to the Remington pattern 1875 Army Outlaw and Frontier. The procedure for loading and unloading these revolvers are the same, but the mechanisms are different and the parts list and exploded diagram in the instruction sheet do not apply to the 1875's. A dedicated instruction sheet should be supplied with these Model 1875 revolvers.
The lock work of most single action revolvers is intrinsically simple and the Remington lock work is perhaps the most elegant design of the breed. With a Remington SA revolver, removing the grips and the single trigger guard screw (which lets you lift off the trigger guard) and two frame screws allows disassembly of the entire mechanism. Complete disassembly of a Colt SAA requires removing the grips and the five screws holding the grip frame to the main frame, plus the three screws in the frame that retain the parts in the action. It is a wonder to us that the simpler to maintain Remington design did not win more hearts on the western frontier.
The Uberti 1875 cylinders are slightly larger in diameter than a Second Generation Colt SAA cylinder we measured, 1.651" diameter for the Colt and 1.6735" diameter for the Uberti 1875 per our digital caliper. The thinnest part of the chambers bored into both cylinders is the wall between the chambers, which measured .038" for the Colt and .041" for the Uberti 1875.
Of course, all traditional SA revolvers should be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer, regardless of whether the revolver has a hammer safety notch (quarter cock position). Load only five cartridges in a six shot cylinder. The safety notch is only half safe and a strong pull on the trigger of an Uberti 1875 will drop the hammer from the quarter cock position. In the event of a strong external blow, the hammer safety notch could be forced, discharging the firearm if a loaded chamber is under the hammer. On their 1875's, Uberti has added a small block in the front of the hammer that is linked to the mechanism and intended to prevent this, but don't bet your life on it.
Here is an easy way to properly load a single action revolver, such as our Uberti replicas. Bring the hammer back to the half-cock position, which frees the cylinder to rotate for loading or unloading, and swing open the loading gate. (Located in the right side of the recoil shield at the rear of the frame.) Load the first cartridge into the cylinder. Skip the next chamber (leave it empty). Then, load the next four chambers. Do not rotate the cylinder again. Thumb the hammer back to the full cock position. Verify that the empty chamber is now under the hammer by looking trhough the gap between the rear of the cylinder and the recoil shield and then lower the hammer. This load one, skip one, load four more routine is fast, easy and works with any traditional, six shot SA revolver.
Properly loaded with an empty chamber under the hammer, SA revolvers are the safest of all handguns. There is no safety to fumble, the hammer cannot be forced and even pulling the trigger will not fire the gun. The hammer must be manually cocked to bring a fresh cartridge into firing position and only then does pulling the trigger allows the weapon to discharge. This is one reason that cowboys and other armed horsemen prefer a SA revolver to a DA revolver or autoloading pistol. On horseback with a DA gun in hand, a sudden grab at the reins can result in an inadvertent discharge, usually into the horse's neck at contact range.
It is much easier to shoot accurately by first manually cocking the hammer of any handgun, even DA revolvers and pistols. Accurate bullet placement is what counts with any firearm and single action revolvers, by design, promote accurate shooting. Also, it takes very little time or effort to cock a SA hammer, far less time than it takes to draw or aim, so there is no appreciable difference in the time required to put the first, critical shot on target. In fact, most experienced shooters would agree that SA revolvers are the fastest of all handguns to draw and fire, as has been repeatedly demonstrated by quick draw artists.
Unloading the fired brass from a traditional SA revolver involves bringing the hammer back to the half-cock position, so the cylinder can be freely rotated. Open the loading gate. Use the ejector rod, located beneath the right side of the barrel, to punch out the empty cartridge cases, manually rotating the cylinder to bring each fired case into position to be ejected.
This process is admittedly more time consuming than the single hand ejector stroke required on a DA revolver with a swing-out cylinder or ejecting an autoloader's empty magazine and replacing it with a loaded magazine, but it is not difficult and can be performed rapidly with a little practice. Reloading a SA revolver is actually faster and easier than reloading an autoloader's empty magazine, a point semi-auto fans choose to ignore.
Incidentally, unlike the common Colt style ejector rod housing (also used on Ruger SA revolvers), the Remington 1875 ejector rod is external and exposed for its full length. The finger button at the front end rides in a slot cut into the sail assembly beneath the barrel. The sail assembly is pinned into the receiver at its rear and secured by a screw at its front, which also serves as the cylinder pin stop.
The sights on these Uberti/Remington replicas are not very good. A shallow groove machined into the top strap serves as the rear sight. While the bottom of this notch is square, the vertical sides are beveled outward at their upper corners. This oddly shaped rear sight groove makes proper positioning of the front blade, which itself is tapered (not square), mostly a matter of guesswork. In addition, the rear sight notch is too shallow for fast, accurate aiming. Not being adjustable, the sights can only be regulated for one load, presumably (in the case of these nearly exact replicas) the original .45 LC factory load using a 255 grain cast lead bullet in front of 40.0 grains of black powder at a MV of 930 fps. We suggest a deeper, square notch with vertical sides and a front blade with vertical sides (Patridge type sights) would not unduly compromise the aesthetics of the Uberti 1975 replica and it would certainly make these revolvers easier and more precise to aim. It would also help if the sights were regulated for some modern load.
The walnut grip panels fit tight and securely, with a lip under the frame at the front and a pin at the rear. A single screw clamps them together and secures them in the grip frame. The craftsmen at Uberti did an exceptionally good job fitting the grips to these revolvers. There is zero grip play or movement under recoil. What appears to be a glossy oil finish emphasizes the beauty of the walnut.
Beneath the grip panels is the main or hammer spring, a long leaf spring. It is tensioned by a small screw in the front of the grip frame. We experimented with adjusting this screw, but found it did not dramatically change either the hammer draw or the trigger pull weight. We left it set so that the screw puts just a slight pressure on the main spring when the hammer is fully cocked. This also leaves the screw head flush with the grip frame.
The hammers are relatively massive, as with all SA revolvers, and the main springs are considerably stronger than we think they need to be. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate a source of aftermarket, reduced weight main springs for Uberti/Remington revolvers. After the completion of this review, we intend to grind the stock main springs to reduce their force, which should lighter the action.
Aesthetically, these are very handsome revolvers. The lines are excellent and the finish is impeccable. The nickel plating on the Army Outlaw is flawless and the cylinder pin and screws are niter blued, for a most unusual and attractive contrast. The Frontier's hot blued barrel, cylinder and screws, as well as the color case-hardened frame, were obviously carefully polished before finishing.
Contrary to U.S. practice, but in accordance with European tradition, the major parts bear matching serial numbers (usually the last two or three digits) and both the barrel and cylinder are stamped with proof marks. The full serial number is stamped externally on the bottom of the grip frame and again inside the grip frame, under the wood grips. The top of the barrel is stamped with the Stoeger (MD) and Uberti (Italy) names and the left side is stamped "1875 Outlaw model" and "Cal. .45 LC."
To clean a traditional SA revolver the only disassembly necessary is removing the cylinder from the frame. Removing the cylinder from the frame of a Uberti 1875 for cleaning is simple. First, pull the hammer back to the half-cock position. Then, depress the spring-loaded locking pin on the left side of the frame immediately in front of the cylinder (the usual place) and slide the long cylinder pin forward. The cylinder pin runs through the full length of the ejector shroud/sail assembly under the barrel. It is keyed and will not come all the way out of the frame. Roll the cylinder out of the frame through the open loading gate.
Replacing the cylinder is slightly different than with most SA revolvers. Roll the cylinder back into the frame and close the loading gate. Then, ease the hammer back from the half cock notch far enough so that pulling the trigger will allow the hammer to move fully forward (all the way down). The cylinder pin will now slide easily through the cylinder and latch into the frame with a soft click. After the cylinder pin is seated, manually rotate the cylinder clockwise a short distance until the cylinder locking bolt clicks into place. These details are not addressed in the supplied instruction sheet.
Uberti 1875 Army Outlaw Specifications (as reviewed)
Uberti 1875 Frontier Specifications (as reviewed)
The fun part of any gun review should be shooting the guns and this was certainly the case with our pair of Uberti 1875 revolvers. We were, naturally, anxious to get them to the range. This we did on the first available day when there was a break in the rain. We did out shooting under overcast skies with temperatures in the high 50's F and negligible wind. (It started raining again just as we were leaving the range, typical March weather in Western Oregon.) Our venue for shooting test guns is the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting benches and 25 yard target stands, our standard distance for testing handgun accuracy. We fired five shot groups at slow fire pistol (bull's eye) targets, using a Pistol Perch rest. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays and Jim Fleck did the shooting for record.
Because these are the first Remington pattern cartridge revolvers we have reviewed, we brought along a New Model Ruger Blackhawk and a Colt SAA New Frontier (both in .45 LC) as known reference standards. Externally, all are handsome SA revolvers with walnut grip panels, but the two Uberti 1875's and the Colt SAA (with its color case-hardened frame and Colt royal blue grip frame, barrel and cylinder--much like the Uberti Frontier's finish) are definitely a cut above the blued steel, medium polished Ruger Blackhawk. Aesthetically, Chuck and Rocky preferred the overall look of the Ubertis to both the Colt and Ruger, while Jim voted for the Colt New Frontier.
All three shooters have a lot of experience with Ruger SA revolvers. Chuck has also spent a lot of time with Colt single actions. Rocky and Jim have some prior experience with Colt SA's. None of us had any experience with Remington pattern cartridge revolvers prior to this review, although we have all owned Remington 1858 percussion revolver replicas.
For our test shooting, thanks to the Obama post-reelection ammo shortage, the sole available factory load was aluminum cased Blazer ammo loaded with a 200 grain JHP bullet at a catalog MV of 1000 fps. (Actual chronographed velocity 10' from the 7.5" barrel was 907 fps.) In addition, we had a couple of reloads. The first was loaded with a Speer 200 grain JHP bullet in front of 11.0 grains of HS-6 powder for a chronographed velocity of 874 fps. Our second reload used a Laser Cast 200 grain lead semi-wadcutter (SWC) bullet with 11.0 grains of HS-6 powder for a chronographed velocity of 925 fps. Here are the shooting results:
1875 Army Outlaw
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS = 2.26"
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS = 2.06"
Chuck and Jim shot the smallest groups with our Uberti 1875's at 5/8", but we all had fun shooting these classic revolvers. As the results show, there is no meaningful difference in accuracy between the Army Outlaw and Frontier revolvers, which answered one of our initial questions.
We agreed that the intrinsic accuracy of these Ubertis is good. Unfortunately, neither the Army nor the Frontier model shot anywhere near their point of aim. The Frontier averaged about 10" low and a couple inches to the left with all of our test loads. The Army Outlaw was only about an inch low in elevation, but on average shot around 18" to the left. Its barrel was evidently mis-aligned in the frame. Needless to say, this is unacceptable.
We all felt the Ubertis' rear sight notch left a great deal to be desired, being neither a square nor a "V" notch, but sort of a "V" shape at the top with a square bottom. This made the proper vertical indexing of the front sight in the rear notch difficult to ascertain and the result was that our groups tended to string vertically. The slender, rounded and tapered front sight blade, particularly on the nickel-plated Army Outlaw, tended to reflect light from its tip, further complicating proper visual sight alignment. In total, the sights on the 1875 Uberti's are among the worst we have encountered.
As the hammers of these Remington replicas are cocked, particularly if cocked slowly, the resistance noticeably increases at a point between the quarter cock and half cock positions. This is where the hammer (main) spring starts to be compressed by a small roller in the base of the hammer. This abrupt increase in the effort required to cock the hammer does not impede the revolver's function, but it feels odd to shooters familiar with traditional Colt or Ruger single actions, which have smoother and more uniform hammer draws.
The Uberti 1875 trigger is very comfortable, wider than a Colt SAA trigger. The Uberti trigger has a slightly rounded face without any sharp edges.
The Uberti hammer spurs are checkered to provide a non-slip surface and, as usual, the checkering is too sharp for comfort. Flat-topped checkering, such as Colt uses on the SAA, is rare but definitely easier on the thumb.
With the hammer down, the Uberti's hammer spur is the same height as the top of its frame. Therefore, it blocks the rear sight groove after firing. This doesn't matter when shooting live ammunition, but it can be bothersome when dry firing.
The 1875's long, robust, steel ejector rod housing, cylinder pin and sail assembly provides substantial weight under the barrel, in much the same way the full length lug under the barrel of a Colt Python DA target revolver does. This increased barrel weight makes the revolver slightly easier to hold steady on the target, particularly from the offhand standing position. We compared the balance of the Army Outlaw to the Colt SAA New Frontier (both revolvers having 7.5" barrels). The difference in balance, despite the Colt's much larger and heavier ramp front sight, was still noticeable and favored the Army Outlaw.
The grips of the Uberti/Remington, Ruger and Colt SA revolvers are all of the plow handle (traditional Western) type and handle recoil well. They point naturally and feel good in the hand. The differences between them are subtle and any preference will depend on the individual shooter. The Colt and Ruger grips are slightly more flared at the bottom, with the Colt grip being a bit shorter than the New Model Ruger or Uberti/Remington grips. Measured from side to side about where the middle finger of the shooting hand naturally falls on the grip, we got 1.052" wide for the Colt handle, 1.136" for the Ruger and 1.233" for the Uberti.
The most noticeable difference between the grips is the Ubertis longer "length of pull." That is, there is more distance between the front face of the trigger (with the hammer cocked) and the grip frame of the Uberti. The Colt grip curves closest to the trigger and the Ruger is in-between. The slighter greater grip thickness and trigger reach of the Ubertis might make them more comfortable for a person with large hands and/or long fingers.
All three of our shooters have medium size hands and were fine with all three grips. Rocky slightly preferred the Uberti/Remington grip, Jim slightly preferred the Ruger grip and Chuck slightly preferred the Colt grip, but all three shooters were fine with all three handles and can shoot any of them without any problems. The Uberti grips evidenced the best fit and finish, however.
These Uberti 1875 revolvers show a commendable attention to detail and finishing that is increasingly rare on modern firearms. Unfortunately, they shot so far from the point of aim that they would be useless for any practical purpose. Obviously, no one at Uberti test fired these guns before they were shipped. In addition, shortly after the conclusion of this review, one of our revolver's hammer failed due to improper hardening, indicative of a lack of proper quality control at the factory.
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