A new Schofield

A new Schofield

The game is afoot!

By Dennis Adler

One gun or two? That was a decision a lot of lawmen made in the 1870s and 1880s, usually it was two, one with a shorter barrel, but occasionally, it was a pair of long barreled six-shooters. In this case a mix of Colt Peacemaker in the strong side holster and a Schofield for crossdraw.

We wait patiently for things we want, and sometimes just when our patience is almost exhausted a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon. Of course, a glimmer isn’t always what you expect as you get closer, but when it is a new Schofield model that provides some balance to the new found weight of the Colt Peacemaker, it is a welcomed addition. The Schofield we have tested in the past is not changed, it is still the same barrel length, still the same fine construction and operation (worthy of going up against the Peacemaker even though it remains a smoothbore gun), but now the awful original finish has taken a second seat not only to the handsome nickel version but a brand new weathered finish model. If this sounds awfully familiar, you’re right; it is the same slow evolution that we saw with the Webley MK VI. And that begs the question, “Can a rifled barrel Schofield be too far off?”

Bear River was the first airgun manufacturer to challenge the Umarex Colt Peacemaker with a very authentic looking copy of the S&W Schofield topbreak revolver. The latest version wears a weathered finish, which gives the gun a lot more character than the original black finish, and also makes it a nice option to the bright nickel model.

In the pecking order

Colt has always ranked first among guns of the old west, first choice of the U.S. military from 1855 to 1985, but never too far behind Colt was Smith & Wesson. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, many western lawmen, outlaws and cowboys showed a preference for wearing a brace of Colts around their waist, and with as many different revolvers as there were at the time, Colt, S&W, Remington, Merwin-Hulbert, Hopkins & Allen, and an endless array of cartridge conversions, the Colt was more often the gun of choice. For Smith & Wesson, it was always hard to be number two, and S&W held that position for over a hundred years as other brands faded into history in the wake of Colt’s enduring success.

Pyramyd Air has created a means of ordering BB or pellet cartridge firing Peacemakers in a variety of finish combinations and barrel lengths. This group of new CO2 models shows combinations that were actually built by Colt’s at one time or another.

The Schofield was created as a means of retaining the .44 caliber S&W Model 3 American as a Cavalry pistol (first adopted in 1872) alongside the new Colt Peacemaker. The Colt finally won out because the .45 caliber Schofield used a different cartridge and the military preferred the slightly more powerful .45 Colt over the shorter .45 Schofield round. Even so, S&W left an indelible mark on the American West.

The Colt Peacemaker had a standard 7-1/2 inch barrel length, the S&W Schofield a standard 7-inch barrel. The greater difference was ammunition, a Colt could fire S&W .45 Schofield rounds, but a .45 Colt cartridge was too long for the Schofield’s cylinder. This is also true of the CO2 models which do not have interchangeable rounds. With the new weathered Schofield and the option to build a weathered 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker you can have a pair of historic-looking six-shooters.

Doubling up on .177 Caliber

In the world of airguns, we have the opportunity to recreate that remarkable history of Colt Peacemaker and S&W Schofield with BB and pellet cartridge-loading models; the 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker pellet model and 7-inch Schofield BB model revolver, now in its new suit of deliberately tattered clothes. 

The 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker can now be built as an “Ol’ Reliable” in a full weathered pellet version with the Airgun Builder as a counterpoint to the new Bear River (Barra) Schofield weathered model. You can also build an all nickel 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker (as a BB model no less) to rival the bright nickel finish Schofield. All the options are on the table now.

There’s even more to the options since with the nickel Airgun Builder you can order a 7-1/2 inch BB cartridge model to pair with the nickel Schofield.

An age old rivalry

Almost since Umarex and Colt teamed up to produce the Peacemaker as a .177 caliber BB cartridge model, there have been hand engraved special editions available. With the addition of pellet firing, rifled barrel models in 2016, even more engraved versions were added to the John Wayne signature series, including “The Shootist” model, and a very limited edition 5-1/2 inch gold and nickel plated L.D. Nimschke hand engraved Peacemaker from Adams & Adams. Following the introduction of the 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker and Schofield, it only seemed fair to dredge up the old 1870’s rivalry between Colt and Smith & Wesson that had begun with the U.S. Cavalry.

Here it is the first hand engraved .177 caliber Schofield revolver done a couple of years ago by Adams & Adams. It’s a striking counterpoint to the Adams & Adams hand engraved 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker. Both guns have engraving based on original 19th century patterns and we may see them once again as new models become more plentiful.

Working with Adams & Adams engraving, Pyramyd Air was able to build a limited edition of hand engraved Peacemakers and Schofields, in the grand tradition of American arms making. With new Schofields in the pipeline and the Airgun Builder making it possible to create almost any configuration of SAA, it is likely we will see some new engraved examples in the future. To be true to the period Adams & Adams has used the same L.D. Nimschke and Cuno Helfricht patterns as were seen on many original Colt and S&W models. Recreating these historic designs on the CO2 Peacemakers and Schofields is no different than working on the original single action six-guns. The end result still combines the flowing scrollwork, foliate designs, and punch dot backgrounds necessary to cover the frame and topstrap, barrel, ejector housing, triggerguard and backstrap. The first of each done when the CO2 models were first introduced is shown here as an example of what can be accomplished. 

Authenticity to a fault, 147 years after the Colt SAA and S&W Topbreak revolvers were introduced, the .177 caliber Colt Peacemaker and Schofield airguns use cartridges that are incompatible, and for the same reason, two different manufacturers. The topbreak S&W design is much faster to unload and reload which was its greatest advantage over the Peacemaker.

Both the Colt and Schofield are copied from original cartridge models and have the approximate weight and balance of the real guns, and operation is virtually identical to the Colt and Schofield. 

The hand engraving that has been offered by Adams & Adams stands up to work found on original S&W Schofield and No. 3 Americans.

Food for thought

This is a sampling of original 19th century Colts that were factory engraved and a few 20th century factory guns to show how engraving and interpretations of engraving and gold inlay styles evolved. All of these combinations are possible (though not financially reasonable using real gold for the CO2 models), but there is very little that was done in the past that cannot be done in the present, and some of these designs have been reproduced by Adams & Adams and other noted American engravers. With the Airgun Builder the possibilities are much greater than ever before. Imagination and a willingness to spend some money to create a CO2 model that is uniquely yours are all it takes.

In 1876 Colt’s displayed a cabinet of new models and a series of hand engraved deluxe models done by factory engraver Cuno Helfricht at the Centennial Exposition in Pennsylvania. This is one the original guns with nickel plating and fire blued screws. (Private collection)
Just so you know I’m not kidding about nickel and gold Peacemakers, here is a black powder frame model (c.1890) with New York style engraving and “real” mother of pearl grips, which was surprisingly common back in the day.

More contemporary engraving styles were developed in the mid to late 20th century by Colt factory engravers and well respected contract master engravers like Leonard Francolini. (Private collection)
This is a grand approach to engraving using an all-blued frame with gold inlayed engraving, gold borders for the recoil shield, cylinder, and gold wedding ring around the muzzle. The gun was done in the late 20th century by Colt’s master engraver George Spring.

Peacemaker & Schofield comparisons downrange 

With the new weathered Schofield adding some new blood to the competition, I wan to review the shootout I did between the engraved guns a couple of years ago because in that respect the guns have not changed. I shot the test at 25 feet, more or less splitting the distance between 21 feet, ideal for the smoothbore and 33 feet, ideal for the rifled barrel Colt.

Which gun is the better shooter? We found out awhile back but the advantage in one’s accuracy barely outweighs the looks of the other. Tough choice just like it was in the 1870s.

The Schofield has a short, light hammer draw of 3 pounds,  13 ounces, a light 3 pound, 5 ounce, average trigger pull, and a very easy to operate topbreak latch that releases the barrel to swing down for reloading. The rebounding hammer has no firing pin, but does have a nicely checkered hammer spur, and an added manual safety mechanism discretely placed at the base of the hammer that rotates into a locked or unlocked position with the thumb. The one important alteration to the gun’s operation is a modification to the ejector design which stops short of kicking all six shell cases out of the cylinder; one concession to the original design you’ll be glad they made since empty shell cases have a habit of vanishing, and the air pistol’s are made to be reloaded. The BB shells are the same as those used in the Webley topbreak revolver so extra rounds are readily available.

The Schofield has a rear notch sight cut into the latch, rather than at the back of the topstrap channel like a Peacemaker. Conversely, the Colt has a taller and easier to see front blade sight, so in the end it’s almost a draw when it comes to taking careful aim.

The shooting tests were done from a distance of 25 feet and fired using a two-handed hold, as opposed to this single handed aimed shot.

As to which gun is faster on the draw, the Colt has always maintained a slight edge for speed, balance in the hand, and for pointing naturally, while the S&W’s grip angle and hammer shape make it a little less agile. Those who swear by the S&W will disagree because the hammer travels less distance to rotate the cylinder and cock the action. And of course, when it comes to reloading, the S&W leaves the Colt in the dust.

The 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt tested has a light hammer draw of 4 pounds, 8 ounces average, and an almost hairpin 2 pound, 8 ounce, average trigger pull. The large hammer spur has nice heavy checkering, and as with the first CO2 models, the manual safety is very discretely hidden under the front of the frame forward of the triggerguard. For what it’s worth the manual safety on the Schofield, while a bit more obtrusive, is faster to work.

A real Old West shooting technique for longer distanced aimed shots was resting the shooting hand across the opposite arm. Wild Bill Hickok made this stance famous.

Clearing Leather

For the shootout between the smoothbore BB cartridge Schofield and rifled barrel pellet cartridge 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker, I selected Umarex .177 steel BBs and Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. Professional Line wadcutter pellets. The target was a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C set out at 25 feet. All shots were fired using a two-handed hold for better stability. Both guns were chronographed with a six shot string, the Schofield averaging from 387 fps to 402 fps, the Colt 359 fps to 376 fps. The Schofield is factory rated at 410 fps and the Colt at 380 fps.

The .177 caliber BB cartridge Schofield managed a best 6-shot group measuring 0.875 inches across the 9 and 10 rings. All 12 rounds covered 2.28 inches.

I fired two six round groups at the same target with each gun and the best average for the Schofield was 12 shots measuring 2.28 inches center to center with a best six covering 0.875 inches. I expected the Colt pellet model to do better at the same distance and it punched a dozen shots into 2.20 inches and a best six just a hair wider than the Schofield’s BB at 0.95 inches but with a pair in the X bull.

The Colt .177 caliber (4.5mm) pellet firing model with 7-1/2 inch barrel did better than the BB firing Schofield at 25 feet putting two overlapping shots into the center of the X and a best six spread across 0.75 inches and all 12 rounds measuring 2.20 inches.

In the end both guns are shooting sub 1-inch groups at 25 feet with a marginal variance in accuracy between them. So, just as it was in the 1870s, choosing between a Peacemaker and a Schofield remains a matter of personal preference, and for those who carried both revolvers in the Old West, they drew which ever gun was fastest. Last, and most noteworthy, the difference between smoothbore BB and rifled barrel pellet revolvers remains a close decision once again. As for me, I continue to ascribe to Doc Holliday’s philosophy, …“I have two guns, one for each of you.” 

Fair weather friends the new options with the Colt Peacemaker Airgun Builder and the new Schofield model from Bear River, give us yet another way to enjoy the Old West on air.

THE WINNER OF THE 3-1/2 NICKLE PEACEMAKER

This was a tough contest and only few were willing to step up to the table and try and answer the 10 questions on Colt history. Most, but not all, of the answers could be found by reading the articles on the Colt CO2 Peacemakers (and the answer to question 2 is actually on the gun’s patent dates!), but a little extra research or a knowledge of Colt history was needed to get all 10 correct. We congratulate Lawman67 for correctly answering all 10 and even adding a little added detail. It is a job well done.

Congrats to Lawman67 for winning the very first 3-1/2 inch nickel Peacemaker to come off the line!

1.

Who designed the Colt Peacemaker?

William Mason

2.

In what year was the first patent for the Peacemaker (Single Action Army) granted?

Sept. 19, 1871

3.

In what year did Colt’s build its first Sheriff’s Model without an ejector?

1882

4.

What was the barrel length on that first Sheriff’s Model?

2-1/2 inches

5.

In what year was the Transverse Cylinder Latch design introduced on the Peacemaker?

1892

6.

We know the first caliber for the Peacemaker was .45 Colt. What was the second caliber introduced in 1875?

.44 Rimfire

7.

The first Limited Edition John Wayne Shootist CO2 model (blued and hand engraved gun with presentation box) was based on the guns Wayne used in his last film, The Shootist. Who built those engraved .45 Colts for John Wayne? Here’s a hint, it wasn’t Colt!

Great Western

8.

In what year did Colt’s introduce 4-3/4 and 5-1/2 inch barrels?

1875

9.

When did Colt suspend manufacturing of the Peacemaker?

1940

10.

When did Colt reintroduce the Peacemaker?

1955

10 thoughts on “A new Schofield

  1. Thanks . Looking forward to the little Peacemaker. Hope the new Schofield arrived in a box, not a blister. Can the Wells Fargo versions soon be a reality? Too bad the new revolvers still don’t share the Peacemaker shells. Historically correct , but still makes for an inconvenience. At least the original could share Schofield rounds with the Peacemaker. Thanks for the chance at winning the Peacemaker. Will have a place of honor in my collection.


  2. The Schofield airgun is another excellent historical airgun . I have found the Peacemaker to be slightly faster from the holster and I can fan a quick second shot. The Schofield is a little slower from the holster but can be fast. Some deadly pistoleers preferred the S&W in the Old West. In a running gun battle or on horse back the Top Break has a distinct advantage. If you sacrificed a little power and went with a 45 Peacemaker and Schofield , loaded with the 45 Schofield ammo ,it would be a formidable pair, having about the same effect as a pair of 45 acp pistols.



  3. IOk, I accept fame of both of these revolvers but I still have a favourite; the Rem 1858. And if we accept the stats from the ” Arming the West” book, it seems that the SAA was not the real conqueror of the west, just as our beloved lever action wasn’t also. Can it be true that people in the west actually preferred percussion muskets and Remington revolvers? Well, I for one would go for reliability before fashion. After all, I think the other, famous, Bill stated : It never failed me, and that wasn’t for a SAA…


    • You bring up a good point. A lot of the action in the old west was between the end of the civil war. Cartridge conversions of black powder revolvers like the 1851 navy and the Temingyon saw extensive use as did theS&W top break revolvers. Wild Bill went down with a pr of 38 Colt Navy revolvers in his belt. Would like to see them as airgun replicas ,58 Remington as well



  4. I love the shape, look and feel of the S&W No.3, including the Schofield and the Russian. It is an important revolver in the history of american guns because its sale to Russia saved S&W, which was not doing too well against Colt until the Russians went wild over the S&W No.3. They added some very useful modifications, too, including the finger extension and the grip hip.

    The S&W No.3 Russian would be a very nice addition, with the 7″ barrel; slip this one into your holster. The engraving and blueing need not be offered; just a nickel plate.


    • I got mine from Uberti’s custom shop. It’s a treatment available from their catalog. A couple of thou! I just had to have it! That does not happen often. Here is a nickel Russian.


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