Top 5 Wheelguns

Top 5 Wheelguns

Why revolvers endure

By Dennis Adler

Out of the holster and ready for action, the 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker has the feel of a real .45 Single Action Army and draws the number 1 spot in my Top 5 Wheelguns review.

Back in my youth (that’s like an episode of Happy Days in writer years) there were two kinds of television shows that boys liked, westerns and detective shows, mostly westerns, but detective shows were a lot like westerns (some actually were) and the heroes almost always carried revolvers. Back in the 1950s and 1960s just about all lawmen; U.S. Marshals, uniformed cops, detectives, both police and private, State Troopers and FBI agents, among others, typically carried S&W or Colt revolvers. It wasn’t until years later that semi-autos began to make a dent in the general law enforcement sidearm category, and even after they did, revolvers remained the preferred backup gun. read more


Three guns at 10 paces Part 3

Three guns at 10 paces Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

How important is barrel length?

By Dennis Adler

Three contenders for accuracy, all Umarex models, all with rifled steel barrels and firing the same 7.0 gr. Meisterkugeln Professional Line lead wadcutter pellets from 10 meters. Will barrel lengths of 3-1/2 inches, 5-1/2 inches and 7-1/2 inches, make a significant different at that distance? Shown are the deluxe hand engraved Nimschke models, full nickel 7-1/2 inch holstered, nickel and gold 5-1/2 inch and the Umarex Legends 3-1/2 inch Ace in the Hole. (Hand carved holster and .38 caliber cartridge belt designed by Jim Barnard, TrailRider Products)

And now for the short end of the stick…and I mean that in a nice way, because the Umarex Legends Ace in the Hole is a really nice, short-barreled Single Action Army variant, albeit overdressed for the room. I think we have all slung enough criticism at this gun for its appearances, with apologies to Expendables fans, and this time we’re going for its better self as a close representation of a Colt Shopkeeper model. There is one advantage to this pistol (well two if you count that it even exists in any form), and one disadvantage. Oddly the disadvantage is what was intended to be the gun’s big advantage, the oddly shaped fanning hammer. This is a prop department’s idea of making a Single Action faster to work. Visually it has become one of the gun’s two trademark features, and if you want to fan away at the Ace it will shoot as fast as you can run it, with commensurate accuracy, and that’s pretty much what you get with a real cut down Peacemaker at fighting distances of 10 to 15 feet. I have done it with actual 3-1/2-inch barreled Colt’s. read more


Three guns at 10 paces Part 2

Three guns at 10 paces Part 2 Part 1

How important is barrel length?

By Dennis Adler

Loaded with Colts for every distance, a lawman might have carried both a 7-1/2 inch and a 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker, and even a Sheriff’s Model in a shoulder holster for a backup. With the fine Umarex CO2 models, 7-1/2 inch holstered, 5-1/2 inch deluxe Nimschke hand engraved model tucked in my belt, and the “Almost a Colt” Ace in the Hole in the c.1890s Al. Furstnow-style skeleton shoulder rig, optimum range for accuracy is 10 meters, no matter what the barrel length. The question is how much difference does barrel length make with the CO2 Peacemakers?

Although Colt’s offered many barrel lengths, the company only considered the 1888 Sheriff’s Model with 3-1/2 inch barrel, the 4-3/4 inch, 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch barrel lengths as “standard” models, everything else was a special order barrel. The 5-1/2 inch and 4-3/4 inch were introduced in 1875, technically, three years after the 7-1/2 inch model designed by William Mason was accepted by the U.S. Ordnance Department as the Army’s new military issue sidearm. That was in 1872 not 1873. While the Peacemaker is regarded as an 1873 model, the first patent was granted on September 19, 1871. A second patent was received on July 2, 1872 and both patent dates were stamped on the left side of Singe Action Army frames produced through 1875. That year Mason and Colt’s were granted a third patent for the design dated January 19, 1875. All three patent dates were stamped on frames beginning early that year. This was known as the three line patent date stamp and 5-1/2 inch models have three patent dates on their frames. read more


Three guns at 10 paces Part 1

Three guns at 10 paces Part 1

How important is barrel length?

By Dennis Adler

“Whenever you get into a row, be sure not to shoot

too quick. Take time. I’ve known many a feller to

slip up for shootin’ in a hurry.”

                                                 – James Butler Hickok

I was just finishing up a 2-day photo shoot for Guns of the Old West, so it seemed like the right time to bring out the Umarex Colt Peacemakers and get in some authentic looking photos for Airgun Experience with these three Umarex models. You have to give a little latitude for the Ace in the Hole in the shoulder rig, which isn’t officially a Colt-licensed model and not entirely authentic looking either. But it gets the job done.

In his famous July 20th, 1865 Springfield, Missouri, gunfight with ex-Confederate David Tutt, Wild Bill Hickok carefully rested his 7-1/2 inch barreled Colt 1851 Navy over his left arm and, after first being fired upon by Tutt, who missed Hickok by several inches, returned fire killing the man where he stood with a single shot through the heart at a distance of 75 paces. Just what exactly is a “pace?” Webster’s defines it as “…any of various standard linear measures, representing the space naturally measured by the movement of the feet in walking: roughly 30 to 40 inches.” Thus 75 paces across the Springfield town square was a distance of anywhere between 175 to 250 feet. Let’s call it an average of 200 feet from the muzzle of Hickok’s Colt Navy, fired from the corner of South Street, to David Tutt taking aim at Wild Bill from in front of the courthouse and the corner of Campbell Street. This was the gunfight that established Hickok’s legend as a shootist, a reputation that served him well as a lawman, giving many a man facing him a moment of clarity before reaching for a gun, but later in life prompted others to try a make a reputation by killing him. Jack McCall took the cowards way out and murdered Wild Bill in Deadwood, North Dakota Territory on August 2, 1876 by shooting him from behind. McCall eventually hung for his deed. read more


A Boring Topic

A Boring Topic

When you can and can’t shoot a .177 caliber lead BB 

By Dennis Adler

The caliber conundrum, when is a .177 caliber not 0.177 inches? When it is a steel BB (far left) which actually has a diameter of 0.173 inches (average) or 4.3mm, compared to a lead round pellet (center) which is just slightly larger at 4.5mm, or a wadcutter pellet (right). The difference in diameter is what keeps you from loading a lead ball into a .177 caliber, magazine-fed blowback action pistol designed for steel BBs. This is the same whether it is a stick magazine or a self-contained CO2 BB magazine; that .2mm difference is a lot with an air pistol.

The operative word in Airgun Experience is experience, and the way you get experience is by doing things and often doing them wrong. Failure is the best teacher, and hopefully it isn’t always costly, just educational. One of the early mistakes I made was trying to shoot .177 caliber lead BBs from a semi-auto pistol chambered for .177 caliber steel BBs. Lead BBs don’t fit. An air pistol that shoots steel BBs and is marked .177 caliber (4.5mm) does not actually shoot a .177 caliber diameter BB. Now, if it is a pellet-firing rifled barrel pistol it can, because the bore on a .177 caliber BB pistol and a 4.5mm pellet pistol are not exactly the same. A steel BB will drop right through the barrel on a smoothbore blowback action BB pistol. A 4.5mm pellet won’t even fit if you try to insert it, whereas with a pellet firing pistol you can actually push the pellet into the barrel. read more


Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream

If we had our way

By Dennis Adler

You can do the same thing with a Colt licensed CO2-powered Peacemaker as was done with the original guns in the Old West; in other words, make them more than the sum of their parts through engraving. The real 3rd generation Colt Nimschke New York engraved model at top, engraved by Adams & Adams, was the inspiration for the current hand engraved CO2 model (bottom) available from Pyramyd Air.

If we were to interpret the meaning of this line from Hamlet in the context of “to have versus to want,” then the question is, “is it better to give up than face the troubles?” Not our troubles, but those of airgun manufacturers with a global market. A lot of us are expecting a renaissance in airgun design for the American market, but the Renaissance took place in Europe the first time, and that is where it is happening again, at least for airguns that have the greatest appeal to readers of the Airgun Experience. We covet what we cannot have, it is human nature, and more so the nature of collectors and enthusiasts. What many of us envision as the “next logical step” is, in fact, logical, but it is not always practical, “…ay, there’s the rub.” read more


Winning the Cold War

Winning the Cold War

The battle between CO2 and the thermometer Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

By Dennis Adler

Back in the Old West guns had to work no matter what the temperature. With CO2 powered Peacemakers it isn’t quite as cut and dried. Depending upon the gun, CO2 can be problematic at temperatures below 50 degrees (CO2 works best at between 70 and 80 degrees), but as this cold weather test will show, there are always exceptions. (The custom 5-1/2 inch Colt holster by Chisholm’s Trail is now available from Pyramyd Air)

Using Nitrogen in place of CO2 has its benefits if the temperature is well below minimum for CO2. But there is another question, CO2 super cools when rapid firing is involved, this could be fanning a single action, like the 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker or using a select fire semi-auto, such as the Umarex Model 712 Broomhandle Mauser. I have put these two classic 19th century handguns (the Broomhandle was initially developed in 1895), into a 21st century battle to see how well Nitrogen survives the ultimate test of an air pistol. read more