Colt 5-1/2 inch SAA pellet model
Last nickel Peacemaker standing
by Dennis Adler
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…