Colt Peacemaker vs. Webley MK VI Part 2

Colt Peacemaker vs. Webley MK VI Part 2

The gun test that never happened

By Dennis Adler

The gun test that never happened, actually happened, in part, back in 2018 when I did a comparison of drawing and firing a 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker vs. a Webley MK VI, to see if there was any advantage to one gun over the other clearing leather.

Realism is a feature we all want in a premium CO2 pistol and two of the absolute best are the Colt Peacemaker and Webley MK VI, both shown here with centerfire models. Both are equally impressive copies but the Webley being an historic 20th century handgun used in two World Wars, does give this British warhorse a lot of appeal to military arms collectors.

The first test

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The belief that a Colt Single Action is faster to draw and fire accurately than a double action is debatable; depends on the person doing the shooting. One very famous case in point is the legendary exhibition shooter Ed McGivern who set a record shooting two S&W Model 10 double action revolvers on August 20, 1932, emptying both in less than 2 seconds. The following month he set another record firing 5 rounds from an S&W Model 10 at 15 feet in 2/5ths of a second and grouping his shots close enough that he could cover them with his hand. He was actually faster with a double action revolver than anyone with a semi-auto! So, if the question is “which is faster, a single or double action revolver” and the person pulling the trigger was Ed McGivern, the answer is Ed McGivern.

For the rest of us lacking the incomparable dexterity of an Ed McGivern, the advantage of just pulling the trigger still seems pretty obvious, but there have also been legendary shooters who used a Colt Single Action. The late Bob Munden was as fast as McGivern, at least at emptying a sixgun. In today’s competitive shooting world, wheelguns are greatly outnumbered by semi-autos, except of course, for Cowboy Fast Draw and Cowboy Action Shooting, and even in CAS there is a Wild Bunch class for 1911s. For those of us who still like the reliability and handling of a revolver, the age old question of “which is faster” still looms large.

In my original fast draw tests, I used a 5-1/2 inch deluxe hand engraved Nimschke nickel and gold Peacemaker (which was a special order model from Pyramyd Air) but any 5-1/2 inch model is faster. I began by cocking the Nimschke in the holster just as I began to draw and clear leather. You can see that the hammer is already cocked as I pull the gun, but my finger is well away from the trigger at this point. Actors who were taught fast draw by Arvo Ojala back in the 1950s and 1960s only used blanks, and then only after training with empty guns for weeks. Even then, there was the occasional black powder stain down an actor’s pant leg when the gun went off in the holster because they got their finger on the trigger too soon. You don’t want to do that with a 4.5mm pellet either.

I’m not a particularly fast shot even with all the practice I get. The number one advantage of a Single Action is getting off the first shot; there’s nothing faster out of the holster. Of course, I’m not talking a 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker but rather a shorter barreled 5-1/2, or 4-3/4 inch gun. I’m going with a 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker against as close to a vintage double action CO2 model as there is, the Webley MK VI. The test is simple enough; how long does it take me to draw and fire the first shot, and then how long to empty six chambers. And no fanning the Peacemaker!

As I clear leather and begin to rotate the gun up, I also begin to move my finger toward the trigger, but still not on or near the trigger until I level the gun.
In this test, I shot from the hip to get the fastest time, which clocked 0.5 seconds from the time I started to draw until I fired. This is as fast as I can draw and fire, give or take a 10th of a second.

In the lead photo you can see a centerfire Colt Peacemakers and a Webley MK VI for comparison with their CO2 counterparts, so this is a legitimate standoff c.1915 if you will. I have done this in the past with the cartridge guns, so this is not the first time I have made this comparison. I’m going to use the same holster for both guns since the Webley fits, though it does sit a little higher.

Is there a difference between handling centerfire and CO2 models?

The answer to that question is yes, but outside of recoil on these two extremely authentic models, it is mostly the hammer draw and trigger pull, which is lighter than Colt Single Action cartridge guns (with the exception of those with custom tuned actions). There is also roughly a 2.0 ounce difference in average weight between the lighter CO2 5-1/2 inch model and .45 caliber Colts. On my scale, the Webley MK VI .455 caliber gun weighs 2 pounds, 5.5 ounces, and the Webley CO2 model 2 pounds, 5.5 ounces. Webley nailed it. In regard to how the CO2 models draw and handle (right up to the moment you pull the trigger), the differences are insignificant. The CO2 models are ideal for indoor or backyard shooting practice. And if you don’t have the actual centerfire models, you’ll still know almost exactly what they feel like and how they handle, except for felt recoil and the sound of an actual gunshot.

With the Webley in the same holster and firing double action, my initial beginning is about equal to the Peacemaker though the MK VI sits a little higher in the holster because of the large triggerguard. I have another holster it fits in better and I used that for today’s tests, but the difference is negligible in terms of speed.

For the short series of tests I am going to draw and fire one shot from the 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker and double action Webley MK VI (fired double action), and then compare the times. This is, of course, based entirely on my skill level, some of you will be faster, others a little slower but practice does make perfect. The second half of the test is really the most telling, the time required to fire all six rounds. With the Single Action I am going to do this one handed, so I have to use my shooting hand thumb to re-cock the hammer. No matter how fast I do this, it is unlikely it will be faster than pulling the 10 pound DA trigger on the Webley six times.

I am already engaging the trigger as the gun comes out of the holster since it is going to take a 10 plus pound pull to fire the MK VI. This is the point where the heft of the gun begins to take effect on the draw.
Starting to bring the Webley level I realized (after looking at the photos) that I had over cleared the holster before beginning to rotate the gun. This probably cost me a 10th of a second in bringing the gun to the firing position, plus I still have to pull the double action trigger.

With the 5-1/2 inch Colt, I cleared leather and fired the first shot in half a second. Switching to the Webley, drawing the stocky MK VI and firing the first round double action took an average of 0.81 seconds. However, there turned out to be a definite upside to the Webley. To fire all six rounds from the Single Action Peacemaker thumbing back the hammer one-handed, averaged 6.58 seconds (remember, no fanning), firing double action with the Webley MK VI, all six chambers were emptied in 2.01 seconds. (Ed McGivern’s record is safe with me!) Nevertheless, for rate of fire, the hands-down winner shooting single-handed goes to the double action revolver. I did it and I’ll take my oath on it. But how does that relate to accuracy? Well, as one feller put it back in 1878 when commenting on the new Colt double actions, a fast miss will get you “…laid out colder’n a wedge.”

And boom the MK VI goes off leveled at the target. It’s slower but quite manageable with the double action pull, but no match for a Peacemaker.

A warm wedge

So here I am at gunfighter distance (the infamous 10 paces) from a full size silhouette target with the 5-1/2 inch pellet firing Peacemaker (another custom model sold at one time by Pyramyd Air). I am fast drawing and firing with my arm extended, (not shooting from the hip). I did this six times and managed six rounds in the 9, 10 and X (one bullseye). All count as 5 point hits on the B-27. My first three were a bit high and left the last trio in the 10 and X. Not great overall, but probably any one hit good enough in a face to face shootout at 10 paces (unless the other guy was faster and as accurate. Farewell and adieu…)

My new shooting tests were done at 10 paces. That’s about 18 to 20 feet, but no one was measuring during a stand-up shootout in the Old West. In fact, very few gunfights actually took place like this. Most were much more spontaneous. At 20 feet shooting one round, re-holstering and repeating until all six rounds were fired I managed to get every shot inside the center mass of this B-27 silhouette target.

What happens when you throw a Webley double action into the mix with all six shots fired DA, again re-holstering and drawing for each shot? Even with extra practice, it is slower to draw and fire, since I can cock the Colt the instant the cylinder clears leather but have to wait with the Webley if I’m shooting double action. And it’s not that easy to thumb cock the Webley compared to a Colt. For my six shots I placed them inside the 9, 10 and X but not quite as tight as the Peacemaker. The average outcome is about the same, except, I could squeeze off a second shot with the Webley faster than the Colt Single Action if need be.

I was a bit less accurate with the Webley firing double action with the heavy 10 plus pound trigger pull. Still all six shots are inside center mass with two almost overlapping (not sequential, just two in the same spot by chance) but none in the X.

Last test is based on having time to aim more carefully before firing, from a defensive position, not a fast draw. This is where you can really separate the Peacemaker from the Webley. The MK VI is accurate, but fired double action not quite as precise as the Single Action Colt. Trigger pull on the Webley is heavy and my best effort still shot above POA and a bit left. The smooth, single action trigger on the Peacemaker allowed me to be more accurate and my six shots were closely clustered right around the A in the A-Zone of the IPSC silhouette target. My six hits measured 1.18 inches, the Webley 1.625 inches. And just to level the playing field I went back and shot another six rounds with the Webley single action and got an almost identical group hitting a little high and left of POA. The Webley MK VI is a great CO2 pistol, a historical benchmark for airguns; the Peacemaker is just a better shooter.

Aimed shots fired off hand from the same distance, by aimed I mean a quick sight picture and shoot, put groups much tighter with both guns, but the Webley was less accurate, the Colt winning with six shots just over an inch, and on top of the A in the A-Zone of this IPSC silhouette target. Both guns were aimed at the same point just below the A.

6 thoughts on “Colt Peacemaker vs. Webley MK VI Part 2”

  1. Is there a chance that the power of the Webley is the reason for less accuracy than the Colt?
    It seems to me that one looks like a real big bore service sidearm and the other, less power and light tuned action, looks more like a competition gun.

    • Bill:

      Historically, both were designed as military sidearms. I think what truly separates the 1873 Colt Peacemaker from the 1915 Webley MK VI is one word, elegant. The Colt was made light, trim, and stylish. The Webley in traditional British practice was over built, heavy, and all but indestructible. Two different design philosophies at work at two different periods in time. The double action trigger is another reason why the Webley is a little harder to handle. The single action trigger design of the Colt aided in its accuracy. Last, the MK VI is a big gun built for combat and while the Colt served the same purpose it was, like some of Samuel Colt’s later percussion designs (he had passed away long before the Peacemaker was introduced) both functional and attractive. The Webley has its visual appeal as well, but not for the same reasons in my opinion.


  2. As a combat pistol for use in a gunfight where reloading is needed , the Webley , like the Schofield is a better choice. For drawing from the holster, first shot determining the winner, the Peacemaker gets the nod, as it does as well for aimed shots on target. In trained hands the da revolver , for single hand shooting, the Webley like the S&W wins. I believe that McGivern ‘s revolver was already drawn , so that while he was deadly fast and accurate , his revolver was already out and on target. A true test would be man on man sa versus da from the holster. Shooting a Peacemaker against say the Webley using two hands would be a horse of a different color. Shooting a Peacemaker two handed as I did in CAS , it is just as fast as da revolver, and maybe faster. There is a challenge.

    • You raise a good point there! It is not Cowboy like to use a two-handed hold, though I’ll bet many did for a long shot, or at least rested the barrel over the support arm to steady the gun, but some SASS competition classes allow for the two-handed hold and using the support hand thumb to cock the hammer. I would say that can put the DA and the SA on even terms, as would fanning (not allowed in SASS), though with somewhat less accuracy in exchange for speed. I can see a 5-1/2 inch Peacemaker vs. Dan Wesson test somewhere down the road.

  3. In my comment above there’s a small thing missing; I forgot to mention that I was talking about the two airguns!!!
    Sorry for the trouble Dennis. But I want to point out that regarding the real weapons I feel exactly the same. Although I think that I have already expressed here my love for Colts I can confess guilty, one more time; there are no prettier handguns than the 1851_1873 series, 7,5 inches please.

  4. Rapid fire, two handed with 5 1/2 Peacemaker pictured at left , from 7 yards. Rushed first shots and hit high and to right. Settled in at 6 o clock and on the money. I’m your Huckleberry.

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