Airguns of the American West Part 2

Airguns of the American West Part 2

Delivering Western Justice – The Umarex Colt Peacemakers

By Dennis Adler

Between May and November 1876 more than eight million people from the United States and around the world visited the Philadelphia Exposition, roughly 20 percent of the nation’s population at the time. Countless thousands were left in awe of Colt’s new Single Action Army revolvers.

Between May and November 1876 more than eight million people from the U.S. and around the world visited the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Roughly 20 percent of Americans got their first look at Colt’s new Peacemaker revolvers in this massive display cabinet containing a center pinwheel of 18 engraved Single Action Colts.

The Umarex Colt Peacemakers are more than just BB or pellet-firing CO2-versions of America’s greatest single action handgun; they are a tribute to one of the most significant eras in American history.

The original Colt SAA models were introduced in 1873 but the majority of early production was for the U.S. military, in fact, few civilians had even seen a Colt Peacemaker until 1874 or 1875. Many Americans actually got their very first glimpse of the new Colt revolvers in May 1876 at our nation’s International Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park. The Exposition was opened by President Ulysses S. Grant and Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil. As thousands waited to enter they could see, close by, the vast Main Exhibition Building. Beyond were the towers and expanse of Machinery Hall, the Gothic barns of Agricultural Hall, the arabesque architectural intricacies of Horticultural Hall, the art galleries of Memorial Hall, and twenty-four state and other buildings covering 236 acres. At the time it was the largest exposition in American history.

For the Centennial Exposition, Colt’s had prepared a pinwheel display of 18 specially engraved and ivory stocked Single Action Army models as the centerpiece of the company’s massive presentation case. Between May and November 1876 more than eight million people from around the world visited the Philadelphia Exposition, including nealry one out of every five Ameicans!

The Umarex BB and pellet model revolvers are nearly mirror images of the Colt Aungle Action Army.

The Umarex BB and pellet model revolvers are nearly mirror images of the Colt Single Action Army.

Style and Purpose

There was a sense of both elegance and simplicity in William Mason’s design for the Colt Peacemaker. Aside from frame, barrel, cylinder, and grips, the mechanics of the six-shot revolver were confined to only nine parts: mainspring, hammer swivel, hammer, short sear, short sear spring, long sear, lifter with spring (operates the lifter and long sear), trigger, and trigger spring. The remaining components of the SAA were cylinder pin and retaining screw, triggerguard and backstrap, hammer roller and hammer screw, hammer cam, hand (pawl), bolt, trigger, firing pin, and ejector assembly. The exterior bore three screws in the side of the frame (one of which was the hammer screw), plus the retaining screw for the cylinder arbor, two screws for the backstrap and one for the grip strap. When two-piece grips were introduced, a new grip screw was added to the parts list. The Umarex Colt Peacemakers recreate these details and features as accurately as possible while combining the differentiating internal mechanisms required for a CO2-powered air pistol. Interestingly, most of the operating features of the original William Mason design are still used in the .177 caliber models since the airguns operate almost exactly the same way!

the Umarex Colts feels different; it’s lighter because the mainspring has to be repositioned inside the frame. The space in the grip frame, where the mainspring fits in a cartridge-firing model, has to be open to accommodate the CO2 cartridge.

For the Umarex Colts the mainspring has to be repositioned inside the frame; the space in the grip frame, where the mainspring fits in a cartridge-firing model, has to be open to accommodate the CO2 cartridge.

The Details

The Colt branded, .177 caliber Single Action Army models are accurate in virtually every detail, right down to the SEPT. 18. 1871 JUL2.72JAN.19.75 patent dates stamped on the left side of frame and the Rampant Colt emblem. With an overall length of 11 inches and weighing 33 ounces, the 5-1/2 inch barrel length models weigh about 4 ounces less than a .45 Caliber 5-1/2 inch barrel length Colt Peacemaker. The minor differences are in the hammer face with a smaller firing pin used to activate the CO2 firing mechanism, as well as the hammer’s resting position back from the rear of the frame (as a .45 Colt SAA might appear with the hammer at half cock). There is a different arrangement of the transverse latch with an added screw to secure it inside the crossbolt, and, of course, the hole in the bottom of the grip strap for the hex head tool (attached to the left grip panel) used to tighten the seating screw and pierce the CO2 cartridge.

The Colt branded, .177 caliber Single Action Army models are accurate in virtually every detail, right down to the SEPT. 18. 1871 JUL2.72JAN.19.75 patent dates stamped on the left side of frame and the Rampant Colt emblem.

The Colt branded, .177 caliber Single Action Army models are accurate in virtually every detail, right down to the SEPT. 18. 1871 JUL2.72JAN.19.75 patent dates stamped on the left side of frame and the Rampant Colt emblem.

At a glance, even these differences are minor in appearance. The greatest departure from the tenets of Wm. Mason’s design is the requisite manual safety for the airgun, which is discretely hidden under the frame and just forward of the triggerguard. It blocks the action from working when set; in the fire position a red dot appears on the safety switch. It’s barely noticeable unless you turn the gun over.

One of few noteworthy physical differences between a .45 Colt SAA and the Umarex Colt SAA airgun is the addition of a manual safety which is discretely added just forward of the triggerguard.

One of the few noteworthy physical differences between a .45 Colt SAA and the Umarex Colt SAA airgun is the addition of a manual safety which is discretely added just forward of the triggerguard. The guns are shown with the new Western Justice hand tooled leather drop loop holster and cartridge belt.

Both of the models being tested are the nickel versions, the pellet firing model with a slightly brushed (coin) nickel finish and black Peacemaker grips, and a hand-engraved BB model from the first series of hand-engraved Umarex Colt Single Actions with white plastic grips. The holster for the test (if you’re testing a western gun, you might as well look the part!) is one of the new Western Justice models with a single drop loop and full length skirt design, stamping on the borders, and a rich mahogany stain. It is worn on a Western Justice cartridge belt designed with correctly sized loops for the BB and pellet cartridges. While the Umarex Colt is based on a .45 caliber model, Colt’s offered the Peacemaker in a wide range of calibers, including .32-20, which was another shared pistol and lever action rifle chambering, and about the correct size for the BB and pellet shells, which are just a little smaller in circumference than a .38 S&W caliber cartridge.

In Part 3 we put steel and lead downrange.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

8 thoughts on “Airguns of the American West Part 2

  1. Certainly a good time for western fans and those who like shooting old west handguns, What would make things even better would be Peacemakers available in all barrel lengths, in bb and pellet versions. These revolvers are capable of higher velocity and should be offered for the Us market in over 500 fps or faster versions. Nice to see as I had suggested, nickel plated versions of the Schofields , but shiny revolvers need white grips , either poly ivory or mother of pearl. The next big airgun replica should be a lever action rifle using the same cartridges ,in a Winchester 73 ,and a 92, with large loop and Mares leg versions. with a little effort a Remington 1875 could be done. Nice to see Mr Adler here, was a fan of GOTW. Read one of the last articles, on the Pietta engraved 1851, which I just ordered. Would be another nice revolver to see in an airgun revolver


  2. Well, it is great to see my fans from Guns of the Old West are following me. Spread the word!
    As to your wish list, a lot of it is in the works, some coming soon, others a little further down the trail, but for western guns, air is the new frontier.

    Dennis Adler


    • Glad to see you . I shot SASS for around 12 years , and western firearms are my favorite guns . Would be great to see a lever rifle to go with these revolvers . Western Action Air matches could be shot anywhere. Air guns are affordable,and handle very closely to the real firearms . Great for new shooters and addicting to collect . I am up to around a dozen of the Peacemakervariants alone. More to follow. Would love to see a stag grip nickel version to replace that Fanner Fifty I seem to have foolishly lost.


  3. I wish I still had my Fanner Fifty! I had the Wanted Dead or Alive Mare’s Laig cap gun, too. If we only knew then what we know now! Offering different finish grips is a great idea. We’ll see what comes along, and yes you are 100 percent right, the nickel plated Schofileds should have white grips. That too, may come. Glad you are enthusiastically collecting the Peacemaker airguns, lots more to come!

    Dennis Adler


  4. Nice thing about the Peacemaker is that I can do some things with them I would not do with a Colt or a loaded firearm. Fast draw and spin re holstering. I have gotten into the range of lightning fast draw, no brag ,just fact.


  5. Fast draw practice is one of the things I have talked about before with the Colt Umarex SAA. This is a great gun for fast darw, learning gun handling tricks, and practicing gunfighter-style shooting. It is far more affordable than even practicing with wax bullets, and there is virtually zero clean up when you’re done. Glad you and so many other SASS members are picking up on the SAA airguns.

    Dennis Adler


    • The Umarex air guns probably hit harder than the revolvers SASS shooters are using now , which is one reason I got out of it . Short stoked rifles and now revolvers lost the spirit of the Old West for me. Looking at the soon to be released two tone engraved Peacemaker , I would suggest white fleur de lis style grips or white Colt Horse and Eagle grips .


  6. SASS is a great shooting sport, but yes, in some ways the desire to win has brought about changes in the gun designs that are “not in the spirit of the Old West.” I always believed that the guns should be kept as close to original as possible. “Comprtition modified” Single Actions and rifles changed the nature of the game.

    Grips is an ongoing discussion for the new Umarex Colt Single Actions. Since they do not mount the same way as a cartridge model, changing designs is more difficult but not out of the question down the road.

    And just for everyone’s interest, occasionally there are typos in my articles (it happens), and I do go back in and make corrections after they have been posted, so if you read something that was a little off, go back and read it again, it’s likely been corrected. That’s one thing we were never able to to do in print media, a mistake was out there forever. I try to keep the copy in Airgun Experience as clean as possible, but if you find a typo, don’t be shy, let me know. I’ll fix it.

    Dennis Adler


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