EMF Dakota .45 Colt
I called up Gary at EMF and asked him to send me a pair of their EMF Dakota revolvers for product testing and use in CAS events. I was already familiar with this revolver as Id had one previously. The one I had before shot pretty far to the left at 25 yards for me with the factory loads from Hornady and the reloads I used also. Since at that time my intended purpose for it required it to hit close enough to POA at 25-40 yards for hunting use I sent it back for them to adjust the POI and found they dont have that capability at the US HQ for EMF. So I let them provide me with a new one in replacement which I then traded unfired on a Ruger Bisley with adjustable sights. I then promptly forgot about the EMF Dakota revolvers for a while until I decided to take up CAS shooting.
The impetus for this was the influx of CAS shooters to my site when Shooters.com closed down. My good pard Big Ed Douglas of San Pedro Saddlery offered to provide me the belt and holsters if Id take up shooting CAS. With such kind generosity and the urging of the other pards on my CAS Forum I decided to go for it. For revolvers to fit those holsters my first thoughts turned to the Dakota revolvers from EMF. The one Id had before exhibited excellent fit and finish. It was as tight as any factory issue revolver Ive run across and the trigger was just fine for me right out of the box. Over all a darned nice gun I thought. Only concern was the POI and POA didnt coincide out at the 25-40 yards I was trying to use it at. Being assured by the pards on the CAS Forum that the handgun targets are both large and close I figured that the way the other Dakota had performed would be fine for CAS shooting. Thus a call to Gary at EMF which resulted in a pair of them with 4-3/4 barrels headed my way for a 60 day trial and a super price break if I chose to keep them after that.
When these two revolvers showed up I took them out of the boxes and examined them closely. Once again fit and finish was superb. Ive never owned a Colt SAA but to my eyes the fit and finish of these sure do the old Colts proud. I think about the only cheaper priced Colt Clone is the Cabelas Millennium which isnt likely gonna be much cheaper after you pay the shipping and the fee your local FFL dealer will charge you to receive it for you. They are a super buy when you consider the low price, great fit and finish and quality that goes into them. Yeah Im still happy with them.
The first firing session I wasnt too happy however. I loaded the first one up with Hornady CAS ammo and fired five shots on paper from a standing free hand position from about 20 yards. This established a couple of things for me. One was this one also hit well left at that range but of more importance I noted that the base pin was almost ready to fall out after only five shots. Not good! So I slid the base pin back into place making real sure it was set into the correct detent. (NOTE: The Dakotas have two detents on the base pin. One is for a safety which is required to get them imported into the US. The other is the one to use for firing.) So I took the second of the pair to the line and began firing it. Whoa! The base pin fell out while firing. Now I was a really unhappy camper.
I took both guns apart and did the cleaning routine again. I then put them together and made darn sure the pins on both were firmly locked into the correct detent position. This time one of them worked fine but the other still wanted to push the base pin under recoil. I had to keep a constant check on it to keep it pushed into place. A call to Gary at EMF resulted in a pair of new base pins being shipped to me at no cost. Replacement did fix this problem but not before I shot the guns in my first CAS match.
My first match occurred before the replacement base pins arrived. So I took some black electrical tape and taped the still loose one in place and fired the match. The base pin stayed in place with the tape and the other gave no problems during the entire match. Both guns performed flawlessly for the match. And indeed both hit close enough to POA that I sure cant blame them for the misses I had. Now with the replacement base pin in place both guns shoot fine and no tape is needed. Since my first gun didnt exhibit this problem and only one of these two did other than for the first cylinder of ammo fired I think it was just an anomaly and see no reason for you to think youd see the same if you buy these guns. They really are an excellent buy for the money and are great guns especially for someone wanting to get into CAS shooting on a budget. Heck for me they are fine regardless of budget. Unless you just want more snob appeal I see no reason to need a more expensive pair of guns for the game.
So far Ive shot them mostly with factory ammo from Hornady and Black Hills. One of them shows a preference for Hornady ammo and the other for Black Hills. Group size using both brands of ammo in both guns is more than satisfactory for CAS games. POI with both brands is more than adequate for CAS games. But each revolver does seem to have its preference between the two and each shoots one brand just a wee bit closer to POA than the other and in slightly tighter groups than the other. Im sure once I do some more load development with them using a variety of bullets I cast and/or buy that Ill be able to find the optimum load that gives good tight groups and where POA and POI are as close together as youre gonna get with fixed sight guns using the primitive sights common to such Colt and Colt clone revolvers. Until then both the Hornady and Black Hills CAS ammo are doing just fine thank you as are the hand loads I had left over that I put together for my previous Dakota.
Just for grins I put both guns on paper over sand bags at a distance of 25 yards to see how closely POA and POI were and to see how well I was able to group them using each brand of factory ammo. Using the last three digits of each guns serial number to identify it here is the results I obtained.
#491 Shot Black Hills CAS ammo into groups that averaged just under 6 and was only a couple inches left of POA. It shot the Hornady ammo into groups that averaged about 4 and was almost dead on for POI.
#526 shot Black Hills ammo into groups that average right on 4 with POI about 2 left of POA and shot Hornady CAS ammo into groups that average almost 6 but was almost 5 left of POA.
As I said each revolver had its own favorite of the two ammo types. Makes me wonder if Ill find a single hand load that both will love but even if I dont the targets in CAS are big and close and at those distances both guns did just fine with both brands of ammo. From normal CAS handgun target distance shooting free hand standing as I would in a match I was easily able to keep my shoots in groups of less than 3 while firing about as fast as I was comfortable doing. These guns will get more shooting and much more load development work as time goes on. Ill update this review from time to time as I collect new data from this shooting.
For now Im a happy camper with both guns. I use them for CAS shooting and can highly recommend them to you if you are looking for a Colt clone for any reason but especially for CAS shooting matches. I dont believe youll find a better buy. Besides the folks that run the EMF company are fine folks to deal with. They will treat you right.
Here is some copy from the EMF web site with more info on them for you.
1873 Single Action Revolver, Casehardened Frame, Walnut Grips, .45LC Caliber, Blued 4 3/4" Barrel, Black Nickel Plated Backstrap & Triggerguard,Old Model. Item # CA45CHBN434NM
Hartford Quality at a Lower Price
Historically authentic plus quality. The New Dakota Series of reproductions of the 1873 Single Action Revolver matches the historical authenticity of EMF's renowned Hartford Reproductions. As for the Hartford Series, the frame and barrel are machined to exacting standards from steel by Uberti, famous Italian gunsmakers. The parts of EMF Company's authentic New Dakota reproductions are machined to exacting specifications.
The main difference between the Dakota and Hartford Series is that the backstrap and triggerguard are made of brass instead of steel, thereby reducing cost. These items are black nickel plated so as to be virtually indistinguishable from steel.
EMF also offers Frontier Marshal Reproductions, where the brass backstrap and triggerguard show the brass finish.
New Model. The word "New" in the New Dakota Series signifies the New Model version, where, the cylinder is retained by a screw on the side of the frame. This screw is spring loaded to facilitate removal of the cylinder.
Choice of calibers & barrel lengths. The New Dakota Series comes in three calibers (.357, .44/40 and .45LC) and three barrel lengths (4 3/4", 5 1/2" and 7 1/2"). The grip is made of single-piece walnut.
Visit the EMF Web Site at: http://www.emf-company.com/
EMF Company, Inc
1900 E. Warner Ave., Suite 1-D
Santa Ana, CA 92705, USA
Tel: (949) 261-6611
Fax: (949) 756-0133