Colt 5-1/2 inch SAA pellet model

Colt 5-1/2 inch SAA pellet model

Last nickel Peacemaker standing

by Dennis Adler

For Old West shooting fun at just pennies compared to live ammo, it’s hard to beat the Umarex pellet-firing, rifled barrel Peacemakers. The last of the nickel models currently offered (aside from the John Wayne Series) the 5-1/2 inch barrel models load and handle like a real Colt Peacemaker. (Holster by .45Maker)

It barely seems like the Umarex Colt Peacemaker has been around long enough for some of the most popular models to have faded away, yet you will not find a nickel 7-1/2 inch pellet model, and thus no foundation for the costly but handsome hand engraved 7-1/2 inch model. The options for a nickel gun, the only really good looking one of the CO2 models, except for the weathered limited edition John Wayne Signature series, have been pared down to one 5-1/2 inch pellet and one 5-1/2 inch BB model and the same options in the John Wayne lineup. What I’m mostly carping about is the loss of the 7-1/2 inch nickel pellet model; the most accurate of all the single action CO2 pistols including the Bear River Schofield and Crosman Remington, neither of which have a rifled steel barrel like the Peacemaker. But is my lament empty handed?

The 7-1/2 inch pellet model was very well received when it was introduced. It proved to be the most accurate single action pellet revolver on the market and even with its old Peacemaker open channel sights accurate enough to run up against DA/SA pellet revolvers with adjustable sights for accuracy.
It cost a lot but you got a lot with the very limited Adams & Adams hand engraved CO2 models, which were not all hat and no cattle, but the best looking, accurately shooting version of the 7-1/2 inch model.

Historical facts

The 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker was the first cartridge model produced by Colt’s and patented in 1872 by William Mason, Superintendent of the Armory for the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Co. The new gun was adopted by the U.S. Army to replace Civil War era guns like the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army, and also begin the phase out of cartridge conversion models of the same purchased and issued from 1872 to 1873. (The U.S. Army had also purchased the new S&W American and later the Schofield version, which would all eventually be phased out in favor of the Colt .45 SAA). Even into the early 1870s, some U.S. Cavalry troops were still armed with Richards and Richards-Mason conversions after the Model 1873 Single Action Army was adopted. Fast forward to the 1880s and the turnover of older and worn 7-1/2 inch Peacemakers for refurbishing at Colt’s and you discover that a good number of them left the factory with new finishes, damaged and worn parts replaced, new wood grips, and barrels cut down to 5-1/2 inches!

Even with the black grips the 5-1/2 inch nickel model is a sharp looking gun. If you don’t care for the black grips, the white ivory-like stocks are also available .

As it turned out, the 5-1/2 inch was becoming the most popular barrel length for the Peacemaker. The Cavalry still carried the 7-1/2 inch, a lot of seasoned lawmen as well, but the public at large wanted the shorter barrel length because it was easier to carry and faster to draw.

Heck Thomas carried a plain 7-1/2 inch blued Colt SAA and a .30-30 Winchester Model 1894. A ruthless and unrelenting lawman working out of Judge Isaac Parker’s Court in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, he helped clear out the Oklahoma Badlands in the late 1890s and early 1900s to help Oklahoma achieve statehood. His holster and belt, reproduced by Chisholm’s Trail, features unusual fish scale stamping, double rows of bullet loops for Colt pistol ammo and specially sized double loops for .30-30 Winchester ammunition. The entire rig is antiqued. (Copy of Heck Thomas’ Oath of Office courtesy United States Marshals Museum)

If you look at some of the most famous lawmen in the Old West, most of them carried 5-1/2 or 4-3/4 inch barrel length Colts. A few equally famous lawmen also carried a 7-1/2 inch model, like Deputy U.S. Marshal Henry “Heck” Thomas, one of the Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma who cleaned up the outlaw element in the Oklahoma and the Indian Territories during the 1890s and early 1900s, so Oklahoma could become the 46th State on November 16, 1907. His two famous partners, Deputy U.S. Marshals Bill Tilghman and Chris Madsen preferred 5-1/2 and 4-3/4 inch barrel length Colts. Historically, it was a draw between the 7-1/2 and 5-1/2 inch models. Some men carried both.

Bill Tilghman’s favorite Peacemaker was a beautiful factory engraved Single Action Army with a 4-3/4 inch barrel, presented to him by the city of Perry, Oklahoma. The one-of-a-kind gun has been recreated by Pietta with full hand engraving by Dassa Bros. in Italy. Tilghman’s holster and gunbelt were thoroughly researched by Alan and Donna Soellner, who handcrafted this copy duplicating the intricate carving and stamping on the holster and belt. (Oath of Office courtesy United States Marshals Museum, U.S. Deputy Marshal badge and Bill Tilghman badge courtesy Starpacker Badges)

With the Umarex CO2 Peacemakers the result may well have been the same experience as Colt’s, and the 5-1/2 inch models have outsold the 7-1/2 inch, currently relegated to a handful of limited editions, that after they sell out are gone. This is like so many other limited edition Umarex Colt Peacemakers in the past five years, such as the U.S. Marshal and first hand engraved John Wayne Shootist models. Limited generally means a short production run. The 7-1/2 inch was not intended to be a limited edition but another choice, it just hasn’t worked out that way and the 5-1/2 inch model currently rules the roost.

My personal 5-1/2 inch pellet model is a little different from what is offered today having been one of the special edition nickel and gold Nimschke models hand engraved by Adams & Adams.
My holster’s a little different too, a copy of one of the earliest belt clip holsters, dating from the late 19th century. These went over the waist of your pants and the two steel tips on the backside of the metal clip snagged pretty tightly on the fabric. It was (and is) easier to put on than it is to get off, but these old belt clip holsters stayed put! The hand engraving and gold plating was all part of the Nimschke package from Adams & Adams. (Holster custom made by Chisholm’s Trail Leather)

The nickel model delivers on looks, with the pellet model, it delivers on accuracy, and if you don’t care for the black grips, there are still plain white grips available (without the Colt medallion) if you prefer. There’s another advantage to the white grips which I’ll get into somewhere down the road.

One of the best features of the Umarex models is that the guns load one chamber at a time just like the original SAA models. And there is a big plus to this. Even though the guns have a cartridge ejector the pellet-loading cartridge cases, unlike actual centerfire .45 Colt rounds, will never expand after firing, so all you need to do is tilt the gun up and the empty round just falls out for reloading.
I shot this silhouette target Duelist Style at the SASS distance of 10 yards and put all rounds in the 10 and X rings. Lead and tin mixed it up pretty good too, as these shot up cans demonstrate. Pellets and rifled barrels simply make sense over smoothbore BB models.

For now, if you want a Colt Peacemaker in CO2, the options are limited but guns are still as impressive as ever. Will we ever see another nickel 7-1/2 inch model? Do you wish you had purchased one when they were available? Think on that for awhile.

To be continued…

6 thoughts on “Colt 5-1/2 inch SAA pellet model

  1. Umarex started off guns blazing , but has essentially abandoned thecWestern airgun line. It is surprising since there is demand not just in the US but in Europe. Seems like a been there , done that. If I had to keep only one replica airgun handgun, it would be the 7 1/2 Nickel Peacemaker. By now Umarex should have had a 4 3/4 , 3 1/2 and Buntlines versions . The technology is also there to do a case colored alloy frame , as well as 3D print Colt Horse and Eagle grips. Why not ? Maybe they will see the light, if not it is truly a shame


  2. Caption under picture for Heck Thomas:

    “he helped clear out the Oklahoma Badlands in the late 1980s . . .”

    1980s? 🙂

    I like my black grip nickel 5 1/2 Colt SAA pellet revolver with the black Chisholm’s Trail holster.



    • Wish they would make the grips small medallions in the top of the grip and two piece style grip screws or better yet the original horse and eagle grips. Like these replica grips fitted to a Pietta Posse 357


  3. I have 1 7.5 model, the gold cylinder/hammer/trigger version. I treasure that gun, because they discontinued it shortly after I bought it! The rest of mine are Colt & John Wayne 5.5 editions. Still would like to see a 4.75 model. And grips that are a more durable. I’m probably preaching to the choir at this point.


  4. I see no reason Umarex could not make at least a limited run of Peacemakers with high polish blue as they still offer in Europe, with a case colored frame . While heat applied casehardening cannot be done to an alloy frame , case coloring can. Pictured is an alloy frame Chiappa 22 let rifle, case colored frame


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