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.
The first test
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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…)
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.
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.