Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 2

Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 2

What Sam Colt learned about manufacturing the 1851 Navy

By Dennis Adler

This is one of those lessons in history that explains why, that even in what appears to be the best of times, all of your planning means very little if no one comprehends why you are doing it. This is the lesson Samuel Colt learned in the 1850s. How this relates to what is happening with Colt Peacemaker air pistols might seem a bit ambiguous, but as you read you will understand that what Colt learned in the past is relevant to what is about to happen in the present.

Sam Colt’s Experiences

In terms of celebrated Colt revolvers, the 1851 Navy is only surpassed by the 1873 Peacemaker as one of the most legendary guns of the American West. It was the perfect revolver in size, caliber (.36 caliber), weight, balance and handling. The U.S. Ordnance Department would select Colt’s 1851 Navy as the nation’s first standard issue sidearm for the Army and Navy in 1855, cementing the model’s role in American history, but in 1851, when it was still new and impressively innovative, Sam Colt – barely on his feet with his new company in Hartford, Connecticut – made a bold decision. During the first full year of manufacture, Colt displayed the 1851 Navy, along with other Colt models, 1849 Pocket Model and large .44 caliber Dragoons, at the London Exposition held in June. The 1851 London Exposition by its sheer size and scope is regarded as the first World’s Fair. read more


Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 1

Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 1

How Colt’s designs evolved and what it means to airguns

By Dennis Adler

Samuel Colt held on to the belief that his designs were the finest repeating firearms (revolvers and rifles) that could be made. Of course, he held the patent rights from 1835 and 1836 up until 1857 (with a 7-year patent extension), so it was hard to prove him wrong. Many tried but eventually failed.

You have to realize that the Colt Peacemaker was not Samuel Colt’s dream. In fact, he was dead setagainst cartridge revolvers, believing that his patented percussion pistols would endure throughout the duration of the Civil War and for years after. He actually had the opportunity to gain the rights from one of his employees, Rollin White, who had received a patent for the breech-loading bored through cylinder in 1855. Colt turned White down. Of course, in 1855 no one in the U.S. was making self-contained metallic cartridges that required a revolver with a breech loading, bored through cylinder. Colt’s revolvers, the only revolvers that were allowed to be manufactured in the United States at the time, used loose powder, cap and round balls or conical bullets, loaded into the front of the cylinder chamber, first with a measure of black powder, the ball or conical bullet, seated on top of it by ramming the bullet into the cylinder with the gun’s loading lever, and then placing a percussion cap on the nipple at the back of the cylinder corresponding to the chamber. A wise soldier or civilian also placed a little dab of lard over each chamber (before placing the percussion caps) to seal and protect each chamber from moisture, or worse, flash from firing that could ignite other chambers and cause a chain fire. This usually blew the gun apart and did little for the shooter’s hand. Other problems included using too much powder in which case the cylinder chamber could bulge and ruin the cylinder, or the cylinder could burst which again often did not bode well for the shooter’s hand. Rollin White saw a better way with a self-contained cartridge having a proper measure of powder and the bullet all in one, and the percussion cap at the back of the shell to be struck by the hammer. It was already being done in Europe and White, had, in fact, been “inspired” by European design patents when he drew up his own design and received a U.S. patent. Colt agreed to disagree, White took his idea to Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, who were just forming their own arms-making company and they not only liked the idea, they purchased the patent rights for Smith & Wesson. Almost at the same time, Daniel Wesson was developing America’s first self-contained metallic cartridge, the .22 Short rimfire. As soon as Colt’s patent expired in 1857, S&W introduced their little .22 caliber Tip-Up, 7-shot revolver, the S&W No.1. No actual threat to Colt’s .36 caliber 1851 Navy cap-and-ball pistols, which beginning in 1855 were adopted as the nation’s standard issue military sidearm. Sam Colt would never look back at what White had offered him, or even regard S&W as a competitor once the Civil War began. Then to everyone’s dismay, Sam Colt died in January 1862 at the age of 47 after suffering a brief illness, never to know the outcome of the war or the depths of the burden he had placed on his company’s future by sending Rollin White packing. After the war, the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Co. would be prevented from manufacturing breech-loading cartridge revolvers until 1869 and the expiration of the S&W Rollin White patent. read more


Umarex 850 M2 part 7

Umarex 850 M2 part 7

Zeroing in on accuracy with the Axeon scope

By Dennis Adler

The Umarex 850 M2 comes with a cheekpiece extension to provide shooters with more relief when adding a scope. It proved to be an advantage in maintaining proper eye relief with the Axeon 4-16×44.

No one since the 1860s has doubted the advantages of a telescopic sight on a rifle for improving accuracy. Telescopic sights were less common among civilian shooters back then, but not hunters or military sharpshooters, and by the 1870s and 1880s scoped rifles were already in general use both for civilians and military. Much of this success is owed to the Malcolm rifle scope manufactured in Syracuse, New York from 1855 on. It was considered among the finest. A rather lengthy affair, a Malcolm scope could be mounted on anything from a Winchester to a Sharps rifle. They were made in various sizes to accommodate barrel lengths. Malcolm rifle scopes influenced telescopic sight designs well into the 20th century, and are still made today by different manufacturers to original 19th century specifications, making them popular with shooters looking for authenticity with 19th century rifles like the Winchester single shot model shown below, mounted with a Malcolm scope sold by Taylor’s & Co. read more


Umarex 850 M2 part 6

Umarex 850 M2 part 6

An honest 25 yard CO2 air rifle

By Dennis Adler

With an overall length of 42 inches (as shown) and a weight of 6 pounds, 11 ounces (empty), the weight to size ratio makes this a fairly light rifle to carry in the field with open sights, or even scoped.

There is a convenience to the Umarex 850 M2 being CO2 powered, versus more expensive pre-chargedpneumatics and single shot spring piston and single/multi stroke pellet rifles. The first is price, a quality PCP multi-shot .22 rifle, for example the Air Arms S510 XS Stealth Carbine sells for $1299 and will send a .22 caliber pellet downrange at an average of 950 fps…that’s target accuracy and stopping power (ft. lbs. of energy). Figure another $150 to $200 for a good scope (assuming you already have a compressor or high-quality hand pump to fill the rifle), and you have a high end .22 that will fulfill a bounty of shooting needs. Go with a fine, single shot gas-piston breakbarrel like the Sig Sauer ASP20 and you’ll be sending .22 pellets downrange at an average of 841 fps. The ASP20 will set you back $429 in .22 caliber and once again you will need a scope. The ASP20 is on the forefront of gas-piston breakbarrel designs. You can go very retro and spring (pun intended) for the new Springfield Armory M1A Underlever air rifle in .22 caliber and you can expect an average velocity of 750 fps. This will only set you back $199.99, a full $100 less than the Umarex 850 M2, but this CO2 model gives you a lot in return, especially in .22 caliber where the 8-shot repeater will send pellets downrange at 550 to 650 fps. Not as powerful as any of the aforementioned, but easier to handle, and as Tuesday’s tests showed, accurate with wadcutters out to 25 yards. That’s pretty much the practical limit for the CO2 model, while PCPs and most of the high end spring-piston guns can maintain accuracy out to 50 yards. That, of course, comes at a price. For an affordable dual CO2 power system design (88 gr. or more efficient dual 12 gr.) you won’t find much to compete with the Hammerli-based 850 M2. read more


Umarex 850 M2 part 5

Umarex 850 M2 part 5

An honest 25 yard CO2 air rifle

By Dennis Adler

The new Umarex 850 M2 is the next generation of the popular Hammerli 850 Air Magnum built in 2007. The original model was introduced following the merger of Hammerli and Umarex in 2006. The M2 retains classic sporting rifle lines with an all-weather synthetic Monte Carlo stock. The addition of short Picatinny rails on the sides and bottom of the M2 allow for adding lights, laser sights, and a bipod for rested shooting accuracy with or without a scope.

The new Umarex 850 M2, as we know, is an update of the Hammerli 850 Air Magnum and expectations from this improved version are very high after my initial tests of the .22 caliber model this past May. At that time, I had completed the 10 meter tests and was ready to shoot the 25 yard tests with the gun’s open sights and then with an Axeon 4-16×44 scope. Then the weather stepped in with high winds and brought an abrupt end to my plans. With other guns in the schedule the 850 M2 had to be shelved until there was an opening. The last couple of months have been trying at best and now we are into hot July weather here in Central Pennsylvania, so as we pick up the outdoor long-range testing of the 850 M2, ambient temperatures will be in the high 80s, wind will not be a factor, and higher temperatures will have a positive effect on velocity.   read more


Retrospect Series: Walther CP99 Blowback Action Compacts Part 2

Retrospect Series: Walther CP99 Blowback Action Compacts Part 2

Walther’s Concealed Carry P99 CO2 model

By Dennis Adler

With a weight, balance and trigger equivalent to the cartridge-firing Walther P99 Compact models the Umarex CP99 Compact makes an excellent training gun as well as an accurate .177 caliber semi-auto air pistol at 21 feet. It also fits all P99 duty gear.

To make this test of the CP99 Compact as realistic as possible I am using the same holster for the CO2 model that I have for my 9mm Walther P99; a Safariland ALS injection molded paddle holster. This is designed for the full size P99 but the Compact fits as well even with a shorter barrel length. As proof of how accurate the CP99 Compact is to the cartridge-firing models, the ALS (auto locking system) thumb release locking system in the Safariland holster works perfectly with the airgun. Makes sense since Umarex and Walther are two sides of the same coin. read more


Retrospect Series: Walther CP99 Blowback Action Compacts Part 1

Retrospect Series: Walther CP99 Blowback Action Compacts Part 1

Walther’s Concealed Carry P99 CO2 model

By Dennis Adler

The Umarex Walther CP99 Compact models are blowback action versions of the 9mm and .40 S&W Walther. Originally offered in all black or bi-tone finishes and authentic in all the essential details, the .177 caliber air pistols have a dustcover accessory rail suitable for compact lights and lasers.

Concealed carry has many definitions, the most basic being carrying any size handgun concealed from view either by clothing or other means. It is, in fact, easy to conceal a full size Government Model 1911 with the proper cover, the same for a Glock 17, a Walther P99 or PPQ, for example. But not everyone needs a duty-size gun for CCW; most people with concealed carry permits prefer subcompacts or compacts for easier and more comfortable carry in calibers like 9mm. Walther recognized that when the P99 Compact was added to the line in 2004. read more