This is the third in a series of three posts about the Colt single-action revolver, its reproductions, and the evolution of passive and active safeties. These posts are not statements about any of the lawsuits, whether criminal or civil, resulting from the shooting that took place on the set of the film Rust during that film’s production. A more comprehensive treatment of this topic was published in Armax: The Journal of Contemporary Arms.

Prior to the resurgence of the Western genre in American Culture, those who owned single action revolvers were generally aware of how to handle them. However, as Americans became enamored with the Western genre in the post-World War II period, the market for firearms associated with the Old West increased. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the firearms design landscape had changed as well. Whilst modern federal regulation has its roots in the National Firearms Act of 1934, this did not impact the average handgun owner. By contrast, the Gun Control Act of 1968 did affect handguns. A section of the 1968 Act gave the Department of Treasury the power to determine what guns could be imported into the United States. To determine which firearms were acceptable for import, the Department introduced “factoring criteria,” with a point system that could be used to identify models of handguns eligible for importation. One factoring criteria for imported revolvers was that they must have a safety device that would “withstand the impact of a weight equal to the weight of the revolver dropping from a distance of 36” in a line parallel to the barrel upon the rear of the hammer spur, a total of 5 times.”[1] By the 1970s, the vast majority of modern double action revolvers would have passed this test, however, no extant variant of a Colt-type single action revolver could. From this point forward, companies overseas that produced replica firearms would have to deviate from the original in order to sell their products in the United States.

This requirement was never imposed on American manufacturers. However, Ruger did take out multiple patents in the early 1970s to incorporate a passive safety into their single actions in the chance that the criteria would be applied to domestic manufacturers in the future.[2] This revolver was in appearance similar to the originals, but functionally different. It utilized a transfer bar and reduced the hammer positioning down from four to just two (full down and full cock). They discontinued their single action line of revolvers, branding them “Old Models,” and released a new series, aptly named, “New Models.” Colt, however, has not strayed from their four position hammer system. Rather than incorporate a modified safety system, they put a disclaimer on the firearm itself.

While US manufacturers had the choice to change the single action, foreign manufacturers were not given that leeway. As such, companies such as Uberti, Pietta, and Pedersoli have been incorporating mechanical safeties into their reproductions since the 1960s.

[1] 18 U.S.C. 25(d)(3); Factoring Criteria for Weapons, Form 4590 (Washington ,DC: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF), 1968; rev March 2008. Available via: Using the Form 4590, handguns must demonstrate a specific number of points to be approved for importation. Revolvers must achieve a score of at least 45 points to qualify. According to the United Sates Department of Justice: “Domestically produced handguns do not have to satisfy factoring criteria applied to imported handguns” (Gun Violence Reduction: National Integrated Firearms Violence Reduction Strategy (Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, 2001), Appendix C & D, available via:

[2] William B. Ruger & Lawrence L. Larson, Safety Device for Revolvers, U.S. Patent No 3,738,042 (f. 25 August 1971; g 12 June 1973). William B. Ruger & Lawrence L Larson, Mechanism for Single-action Firearms, US Patent No 3,777,384 (f. 5 May 1972; g 11 December 1973). William B. Ruger & Larence L Larson, Loading Gate Arrangement for Single-action Revolver, US Patent No 3,768,190 (f. 3 January 1972; g. 30 October 1973).