.177 caliber Colt Peacemaker vs. Schofield Topbreak Revolver
Two Gun Lawman Part 2
By creating limited edition, hand engraved models of the Colt Peacemaker and Schofield, a grand tradition in American arms making is being preserved. For the 7-1/2 inch hand engraved Peacemaker Adams & Adams have used the same L.D. Nimschke pattern as the 5-1/2 inch model, only on an all nickel gun. To do hand engraving on an alloy framed pistol, achieve the depth and detail of the original 19th century hand engraved models by Nimschke, Helfricht, and others takes a skilled hand. This is a softer metal than cartridge guns which are hardened steel. Recreating the L.D. Nimschke designs on the Umarex Colt Peacemakers is no different than working on a .45 Colt Single Action. The end result still combines the flowing scrollwork, foliate designs, and punch dot backgrounds necessary to cover the frame and topstrap, barrel, ejector housing, triggerguard and backstrap. Colt engraving varies by the percentage of coverage and barrel length for the most part, and must also incorporate engraving to surround the Colt’s patent dates on the left side of the frame and the Rampant Colt emblem at the rear.
For the new Schofield model, many of the established hallmarks of Colt single action engraving are not possible, as the S&W-based topbreak six-shooter has different areas to engrave than a Colt, and others that are simply absent from the Schofield design altogether, like an ejector housing, rounded recoil shields and a loading gate. Thus the Schofield presents a very different canvas for the engraver’s art to be applied.
The design for the Bear River Schofield is based on an original hand engraved S&W American attributed to the legendary frontier scout and showman, Texas Jack Omohundro, but it wasn’t actually his gun, rather a special hand engraved model he presented as a gift to the Earl of Dunraven in 1874. Omohundro had guided the Earl on several hunting expeditions during visits to the U.S. and he had admired Jack’s S&W pistol. It was on their third hunt together that Omohundro decided the Earl should have an American handgun like his. The S&W was handsomely engraved in the elegant “New York style” employed by craftsmen such as L.D. Nimschke, nickel plated and fitted with ivory stocks. Texas Jack’s S&W was also engraved but not as elaborately as the revolver presented to the Earl of Dunraven.
That design has been faithfully used along with elements from another famous hand engraved S&W owned by Theodore Roosevelt. The patterns from both designs have been combined to give the .177 caliber Schofield model a unique engraving style of its own, with deep scrollwork and punch dot background on the side plates, scrollwork along both sides of the barrel, backstrap and the triggerguard, which is numbered on the underside from 1 of 100 to 100 of 100.
The hand engraved Schofield model is copied from the original S&W models, has the approximate weight and balance of the real guns, and operation is virtually identical to the .45 Schofield caliber six-guns (with the exception of the added manual safety behind the hammer).
For the first shootout between these two historic .177 caliber Western handguns, the hand engraved nickel plated models will be fired back to back at the same target from 25 feet. This is partially splitting the difference between 10 meters (33 feet), the traditional distance for a pellet firing single action pistol, and 21 feet, the optimum range for a BB firing model. Since the 7-1/2 inch Colt Peacemaker is only offered in a rifled barrel, pellet cartridge model, and the Schofield only as a smoothbore BB cartridge firing model, (though it will fire special Schofield pellet cartridges), 25 feet is a good gunfighter distance.
The Schofield has a short, light hammer draw of 3 pounds, 13 ounces, a light 3 pound, 5 ounce, average trigger pull, and a very easy to operate topbreak latch that releases the barrel to swing down for reloading. The rebounding hammer has no firing pin, but does have a nicely checkered hammer spur, and an added manual safety mechanism discretely placed at the base of the hammer that rotates into a locked or unlocked position with the thumb. The one important alteration to the gun’s operation is a modification to the ejector design which stops short of kicking all six shell cases out of the cylinder; one concession to the original design you’ll be glad they made since empty shell cases have a habit of vanishing, and the air pistol’s are made to be reloaded. The BB shells are the same as those used in the Webley topbreak revolver so extra rounds are readily available.
The Schofield has a rear notch sight cut into the latch, rather than at the back of the topstrap channel like a Peacemaker. Conversely, the Colt has a taller and easier to see front blade sight, so in the end it’s almost a draw when it comes to taking careful aim.
As to which gun is faster on the draw, the Colt has always maintained a slight edge for speed, balance in the hand, and for pointing naturally, while the S&W’s grip angle and hammer shape make it a little less agile. Those who swear by the S&W will disagree because the hammer travels less distance to rotate the cylinder and cock the action. And of course, when it comes to reloading, the S&W leaves the Colt in the dust.
The 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt tested has a light hammer draw of 4 pounds, 8 ounces average, and an almost hairpin 2 pound, 8 ounce, average trigger pull. The large hammer spur has nice heavy checkering, and as with the first CO2 models, the manual safety is very discretely hidden under the front of the frame forward of the triggerguard. For what it’s worth the manual safety on the Schofield, while a bit more obtrusive, is faster to work.
For the shootout between the smoothbore BB cartridge Schofield and rifled barrel pellet cartridge 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker, I selected Umarex .177 steel BBs and Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. Professional Line wadcutter pellets. The target was a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C set out at 25 feet. All shots were fired using a two-handed hold for better stability. Both guns were chronographed with a six shot string, the Schofield averaging from 387 fps to 402 fps, the Colt 359 fps to 376 fps. The Schofield is factory rated at 410 fps and the Colt at 380 fps.
I fired two six round groups at the same target with each gun and the best average for the Schofield was 12 shots measuring 2.28 inches center to center with a best six covering 0.875 inches with two overlapping. I expected the Colt pellet model to do better at the same distance and it punched a dozen shots into 2.20 inches and a best six just a hair wider than the Schofield’s BB at 0.95 inches but with a pair overlapping in the X bull.
In the end both guns are shooting sub 1-inch groups at 25 feet with a marginal variance in accuracy between them. So, just as it was in the 1870s, choosing between a Peacemaker and a Schofield remains a matter of personal preference, and for those who carried both revolvers in the Old West, they drew which ever gun was fastest. Last, and most noteworthy, the difference between smoothbore BB and rifled barrel pellet revolvers remains a close decision once again. As for me, I’ll take Doc Holliday’s line…“I have two guns, one for each of you.”
A word about safety
Single 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, the Colt Peacemakers 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.