Legends Ace in the Hole vs. Dan Wesson Model 715
Short barrel revolvers meet by chance
By Dennis Adler
Can a gun that never existed in the 19th century, be compared to a gun that didn’t exist until the 20th century? It is a curious question that you can only ask in the world of CO2 handguns.
The Umarex Legends Ace in the Hole is the gun that never existed as a real gun in the 1870s, at least not in the entire configuration of the .45 Colt that was made up for The Expendables movie, upon which the Ace is copied, but there were snub nose Peacemakers in the past, even ones with shaved hammers and no front sight. But, there were no ported barrels and no fanning hammers back then. The Ace in the Hole falls into a hole that makes it unique, but not authentic to actual Colt designs. But given that at least three such Colt Peacemakers of The Expendables design now exist (with custom movie guns, rarely is a single gun built, usually at least three are made so there are backups in the event a gun is damaged during a scene).
What the CO2 version of The Expendables SAA proven to be, in the time since it was introduced, is a pretty accurate short-barreled pellet pistol. And that begs the question, can a theoretically 1888 model (first year Colt produced a 3-1/2 inch barrel Peacemaker as a production gun) stand up against a modern DA/SA short barrel revolver? In the world of centerfire handguns I can tell you from first hand experience that it can, so, what will the Ace in the Hole do up against the best DA/SA short barrel CO2 models on the market, the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715? Let’s find out.
Since there are two short barrel Dan Wesson 715 models, the 2-1/2 inch and 4-inch, and the Ace in the Hole is a 3-1/2 inch, the closest match is the 4-inch DW. For airgun enthusiasts that demand authenticity in their CO2 models you can’t get any closer in a revolver than the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715, and the 4-inch version, (offered in a blued BB or nickel plated pellet version) even adds something a .357 magnum Dan Wesson doesn’t have, an under barrel accessory rail. I guess that’s the clincher, since Dan Wesson never made a 4-inch barrel with an accessory rail and Colt never made a gun exactly like the Ace in the Hole, we actually have two guns that never were, facing off in a SA vs. DA/SA challenge! Only in the world of airguns can such things happen.
The 4-inch ASG Dan Wesson uses the same Model 715 style frame and crane-mounted cylinder latch as the 2-1/2 and 6-inch versions (and also looks like it has interchangeable barrels with the correct design barrel bushing around the muzzle). It has the same double action/single action trigger, Hogue-style rubber grip design, and excellent front and rear sights. What I like about the 4-inch barrel is the weight and balance; it’s the perfect size gun for combining compact barrel length without sacrificing too much accuracy, that extra inch and a half goes a long way. Snub nose revolvers, for all their worth as concealed carry sidearms, generally give up a little something downrange and the 4-inch barrel length is a fine compromise.
While the ASG Dan Wesson could easily pass for a slightly customized Model 715, the Umarex Legends Ace in the Hole is a greater stretch of the imagination with the ported barrel, removable front sight, and odd shaped hammer. But today we are issuing a “suspension of disbelief” order and looking at these two as realistic enough. After all, customizing guns has a long history in the 19th century as exemplified by the Colt Peacemaker with cut down barrel and cutaway triggerguard, which actually did exist. The first known example belonged to a former Deputy U.S. Marshal and Texas Ranger with the unlikely name of Sebastian Lamar “Bass” Outlaw. Yep, a lawman named outlaw. His gun, probably customized by a gunsmith somewhere in Texas, was not a singular design, there were others and the design was improved upon and manufactured beginning in the 1920s by Colt’s own J. Henry FitzGerald, who among other things, became famous as Colt’s field rep, gunsmith at the Camp Perry matches, and gun customizer to legendary lawmen in the early 20th century. His guns were known as Fitz Specials and look a lot like DA/SA versions of the Colt Peacemaker Bass Outlaw carried in the late 1880s.
FitzGerald mainly modified the large frame Colt New Service, medium frame Police Positive, and later the J-Frame Detective Specials.
The guns weigh in
The 4-inch Dan Wesson model checked in with a carry weight of 38 ounces (empty), overall length of 9.68 inches and a light double action trigger pull of 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Single action trigger pull also came in a light on the finger at 5 pounds, 9 ounces average. The Ace in The Hole is a slightly smaller gun with a 3-1/2 inch barrel, carry weight of 32 ounces, overall length of 9.0 inches with a very light 1 pound, 12.5 ounces average trigger pull. Unlike the other Peacemaker models the Ace has some discernible creep in the take up before the trigger delivers a crisp break. This does not affect accuracy or speed but it is something you can definitely feel in the trigger that you will not experience with the other Peacemaker CO2 models.
Velocity with Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters had about a 50 fps difference on the two guns. With its shorter 3-1/2 inch barrel (actually 3-1/4 inch internally) the Ace averaged 344 fps, which is right up to spec with the manufacturer’s velocity figures for this model. The Dan Wesson clocked an average of 393 fps average and is factory rated at up to 410 fps. Before going to the accuracy tests, I ran one series through the chronograph with the H&N Sport Match Green 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters (almost my new favorite); the Ace clocked 397 fps and the Dan Wesson on alloy kicks up performance to a whopping 453 fps average, 43 fps over the factory specs.
A two handed hold was not common in the Old West and especially at the close distances where revolvers with 3-1/2 inch barrels were being used, but to get the best out of both guns I am using it for this 10 yard accuracy evaluation. OK, I’ll shoot them one-handed, too, just to be true to the Cowboy way, and they did have double action revolvers back then, so it’s not too much to ask.
The Ace delivered its six alloy rounds using a two-handed hold into a group measuring 1.125 inches (red circle in photo) and single handed a spread of 1.74 inches on an IPSC silhouette target. The Dan Wesson delivered its six with a two handed hold in to 1.25 inches with two overlapping (red checks in photo), and firing single handed, I put six into 1.68 inches. At 10 yards I’d be pleased to do as well with the cartridge firing models. Bottom line, the two guns can shoot as well as the other. The advantage would be firing double action with the Dan Wesson and faster reloading. Otherwise, we really haven’t come that far since 1888; a short barreled revolver is as good today as it was then.
A word about safety
Double Action/Single Action and SAA airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. Most airguns, in general, look like cartridge guns 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.