Colt Peacemaker vs. Webley MK VI Part 1
The gun test that never happened
By Dennis Adler
It would seem logical that the Colt Peacemaker, a gun developed in 1872 and made famous on the American Frontier, and the British Webley MK VI, developed in 1915 and used by British forces in WWI and WWII, would not have crossed paths in combat. The U.S. military adopted the Colt Model 1911 as its standard issue sidearm prior to WWI and the government had, in fact, begun to replace the Peacemaker back in 1889 for the U.S. Navy, with the Colt Model 1889 Navy in .38 and .41 calibers and in 1892 for the Army with a series of smaller caliber (.38 Long Colt) revolvers beginning with the Model 1892. Colt made improved .38 caliber Models in 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901, and with the Model 1905 issued to the Marine Corps. In response to criticism of the .38 caliber double action revolvers being under powered for a military sidearm, Colt developed the New Service in 1909 chambered for a .45 Colt cartridge. Two years later the Colt Model 1911 was adopted as the standard issue U.S. military sidearm replacing the majority of revolvers then in use.
However, other semi-auto handguns were also being carried in the service, and during WWI, with shortages of handguns, both Colt and Smith & Wesson developed the Model 1917 revolver that could use .45 ACP rounds in a full moon clip (to allow ejecting the rimless cartridges from the cylinder. The cartridges fit the chambers, but were too small around the rim to engage the ejector and thus the need for the full moon clip capturing the rims of all six cartridges).
How does a Colt Peacemaker fit into all this? General Officers were permitted to carry whatever gun they wanted, though they were issued the small .32 ACP Colt Model 1903 as a “General Officer’s” sidearm. Some chose to carry the old Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver; among them General George S. Patton, who had originally worn a brace of ivory stocked, nickel plated and hand engraved Peacemakers in 1916 when he was a Lieutenant under the command of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. Lt. Patton was assigned to Pershing’s famous Punitive Expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa, and leading a small detachment of men engaged in a gunfight with one of Villa’s top lieutenants, General Julio Cardenas and two of his men. In the brief conflict Patton shot Cardenas and one of his lieutenants off their horses, and along with two of Patton’s riflemen ended the fight. In WWII Patton wore one of those two Colt Peacemakers on his right hip and an S&W .357 Magnum with ivory grips in his left holster. Though he openly remarked on his dislike of semi-autos, he did carry a 1911 during WWI, and during WWII kept the government issued Colt Hammerless as a backup pistol.
Old guns from different eras
So we have Patton with his 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker but who had the Webley? Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Patton’s opposite number in the British military and something of a tactical adversary on the battlefield during the liberation of Sicily in 1944. Though rarely photographed wearing a sidearm, Montgomery would have carried the Webley MK VI revolver. Between them we have the two most “flamboyant” and controversial command officers of WWII. Patton and Montgomery are how we come face to face with the idea of comparing the Colt Peacemaker and the Webley MK VI, because in this classic tale, the two legendary revolvers did indeed cross paths!
Sizing them up
This is mixing eras, calibers, and designs, though not too much of the latter. The Webley is fundamentally a British version of the S&W double action .44 topbreak introduced in 1881. The British .455 caliber, however, was close to the American .45 caliber Colt SAA and the guns were of near equal size, the Webley just a bit larger and heavier. It was also a DA/SA, so a modest advantage over the Peacemaker, but just modest, as it was a heavy DA trigger pull and accuracy suffered except at very close range. As for sighting, the Webley had larger sights, which were easier to see, but a practiced Colt SAA shooter (like Patton) could easily match a man with a MK VI for shot to shot accuracy, and nothing was faster out of the holster than a Colt Single Action for the first shot. As for the S&W topbreak .44s, they were all out of production before the MK VI was introduced (though earlier Webley topbreaks did overlap with the S&W).
Overall length for the Umarex Colt with 5-1/2 inch barrel is 11 inches, the Webley MK VI measures 11-1/2 inches with its 6-inch barrel. On my scale the Colt weighs 34 ounces with six rounds loaded, the MK IV, 39 ounces with six rounds. About 43 years apart in design and a single action vs. a DA/SA, but in terms of firepower and practical carry as a sidearm, about as American and British as the two extremes can get.
Saturday, the gun test that never happened, the MK VI pellet model vs. the Peacemaker pellet model.