Airguns of the American West Part 3
Delivering Western Justice – Testing the Umarex Colt Peacemakers
By Dennis Adler
The Umarex models fit all SAA holsters and, like the originals, with some practice you can learn to draw pretty quickly and firing gunfighter style get shots on the target from 10 paces. Carefully aimed shots, as veteran frontier lawman Bat Masterson advised, “…looking through the sights is a very essential thing to do when shooting at an adversary who is returning your fire,” can land six BBs or pellets in the bull’s eye time and again.
The sights on the Umarex Colts are of the round front blade style with the notched topstrap channel serving as the rear sight. This was the way all Colt models came from the factory with the exception of target models, which were known as the Flattop and featured a flat topstrap and an added dovetailed rear sight combined with a taller solid base front sight with an adjustable German silver blade. The Flattop was offered by Colt’s from 1888 to 1895 and replaced with the new Bisley Target Model SAA in 1894-95.
The rebounding hammer on the Umarex Colts feels different; it’s lighter because the mainspring has to be repositioned inside the frame. The reason for this, as noted in Part 2, is that the opening inside the grip frame, where the mainspring traditionally arches from the base of the hammer to where it is screwed down at the bottom of the grip strap, has to be removed to allow room for the CO2 cartridge to fit. Although the hammer sits slightly back from the frame at rest, it still gives you those famous four clicks when cocking it, but they are closer together, and the last two almost overlap as the hammer locks. This also solidly rotates the cylinder to the next chamber with essentially the same mechanism Samuel Colt devised in 1835. And best of all, when you open the loading gate and start inserting six rounds, these airguns start feeling pretty darn real!
The BB model put 18 shots inside 1.74 inches, all within the 10 and X rings with a best six rounds at 21 feet measuring 0.77 inches. Average velocity for the Umarex Colt is 410 fps with .177 caliber steel BBs, and a slightly slower 380 fps average with heavier 4.5mm lead pellets. Unlike some of the BB cartridges in use, the Colt models load the BB or pellet into the base of the cartridge where the primer would usually go on a real cartridge. The two cartridges are distinguished by their cases, brass for the BBs and silver for pellets.
The pellet models have two great advantages over the BB version. First they shoot more accurate 4.5mm wadcutter lead pellets and secondly they have rifled barrels, whereas the BB models have smoothbore barrels. Ammo choice for the pellet model was RWS Meisterkugeln, a traditional wadcutter target grade pellet. Since this is a six-shooter, you shoot your six and then have to reload; so purchasing at least a dozen extra cartridges is a good idea for faster reloading. Pellet cartridges run around $10 for a set of six, and if you buy the Western Justice cartridge belt you’ll need 30 to fill it out.
Both guns were tested using an aimed one-handed stance and the pellet model delivered on its anticipated greater accuracy punching at least 11 shots into one ragged hold measuring 0.74 inches, and a total of 18 shots at 1.5 inches. Then I got cocky. If you remember your western history, gunfighter John Wesley Hardin did some exhibition shooting with playing cards on July 4, 1894. He actually signed and dated them. It’s estimated he shot about 17 or 18 cards from the deck he had on him that day, each with tight groups from about 10 paces. I’ve done this before with .45 Colts so I figured why not with the Umarex Colt pellet model? Here are the results.
After more than 175 years the Colt name and Rampant Colt emblem have become iconic symbols like the Mercedes-Benz Silver Star or Ferrari’s Cavallino Rampante, names and images that literally need no translation anywhere in the world. This achievement, taken in context, sprang from the imagination of a 15 year old boy and flourished into a company that has endured through territorial battles in the early 19th century, a Civil War that divided and nearly destroyed the nation, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and right up to current day battles in the Middle East. Colt’s, like any great institution, has suffered to survive over the years and that survival is also a part of the American story. The Colt name is woven into the very fabric of our country and nothing personifies that better, perhaps, than the fact that Colt still manufactures the fabled Peacemaker Single Action Army and has lent its name to the Umarex Colt Peacemakers. They represent the essence of success, designs that have not only withstood the test of time, but have become timeless.
Next Monday in Part 4 we will look at the Limited Edition hand engraved Colt Umarex Peacemaker Models, and the history of the legendary Colt factory engravers who inspired them.
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.