Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 6

Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 6

A horse of a different color – Colt combinations

By Dennis Adler

From 1873, when the only caliber offered was .45 Colt (which was developed by Colt), until 1940, when production of the first generation of Colt Peacemakers ended prior to the U.S. entering WWII, the factory had offered the Single Action Army model in a total of 30 different calibers and 23 different barrel lengths from as short as 2-inches to Buntline models (a later accepted epithet) having barrels from 10 to 16-inches. Since 1955, when Colt’s reintroduced the Peacemaker, the gun has never been out of production by Colt’s, making it the longest manufactured handgun in American history. It is a heck of tale to hang on the likes of an air pistol, but Umarex, Colt, and Pyramyd Air are coming to terms with it as the airguns slowly begin to follow the path of the cartridge guns and their evolution.  

We left off on Wednesday with the nickel and gold combination for the 7-1/2 inch pellet model, which is probably the best looking off-the-shelf pairing you can make with the Airgun Builder. But you can take this to a much higher, and for many, more interesting level, just as Colt’s actually did with the Peacemaker design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Simplicity is what makes up this combination created with the “Ace in the Hole” Airgun Builder by taking the weathered pellet model frame (the only frame option in this builder) and pairing it with all weathered parts including the 7-1/2 inch barrel option and white medallion grips. I have named this The Cavalry Edition. It also looks great with the wood finish medallion grips.

While nickel, blued with color casehardened frame, and gold and silver plated guns were built, the most distinguishing characteristics were created by factory and independent engravers who used all of the elements of handgun design to create distinctive examples of the Peacemaker. One element that lent itself to this was combining different finishes such as a silver plated frame against a blued barrel, ejector, triggerguard and trigger, with almost every surface engraved. Gold inlays on the recoil shield and loading gate were also used along with elegant carved grips. We are a long way from seeing any of that in Peacemaker CO2 pistols, (not the engraving necessarily, but gold inlays, blued finishes, color casehardened look frames, and carved grips), but with the Airgun Builder one can create combination that will lend themselves both to distinctive looks, and also present a platform for engraving, something we will discuss at a later date.

The U.S. military regarded the 7-1/2 inch barrel as the Cavalry model and the 5-1/2 inch as the Artillery model for un-mounted troops. This combination will eventually be offered as an option for the “Ace in the Hole” once the 5-1/2 inch barrels are available for the Ace Airgun Builder. It will be known as The Sheriff. It is a fact, that when 7-1/2 military models were returned to Colt’s for refurbishing, the barrels were sometimes cut down to 5-1/2 inches. Quite a few of the factory refinished models found their way into the secondary market where lawmen, usually small town sheriffs and deputies, purchased them. Most lawmen didn’t make much of a living wearing a badge, and a new Colt cost a lot more than one of these factory refurbished cavalry pistols with the cut down barrel. This also helped make the 5-1/2 inch a popular model in the 1870s and 1880s.

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Options abound

A vast majority of multi-finish Peacemakers were built by the Colt’s Custom Shop in the postwar era, and as more model variations, including .22 LR models, increased throughout the Colt SAA line. Certainly no one at Colt’s ever envisioned the impressive BB and pellet cartridge loading CO2 models we have today, but the ideas they embraced apply just the same.

For those of you who have or have seen the .22 LR Colt Frontier Scout models of the past, this is a familiar configuration that you can recreate in the nickel Airgun Builder using the nickel frame (the only frame offered in that builder) with all weathered features except the trigger. The wood finish medallion grips are the best accent for this one, as is the 5-1/2 inch barrel, which is closest to most Frontier Scouts which had 4-3/4 inch barrels. The 4-3/4 inch is still a much needed addition to the CO2 models but not on the radar just right now. This classic Colt combination and is aptly named The Frontier Scout.

One important example is the .22 caliber Frontier Scout which used an alloy frame (compositions changed during manufacturing years) that was either given a dark anodized finish or left in the white, leaving the remainder of the gun blued. The company offered many duo-tone editions over the years including versions with blued barrels, blue black anodized frames, and contrasting nickel cylinders, hammers and triggers, and engraving on frames, cylinders, and barrels.

I call this 7-1/2 inch combo The Aces High, and it is built in the “Ace” platform using all weathered parts except for the distinctive gold cylinder, hammer and trigger. This combination was also seen in limited edition Frontier Scout models. The finishing touch is the polished “Ace in the Hole” grips.

Special editions were also done using gold instead of nickel (or silver plating), such as the Golden Spike model, while other combinations had dark anodized frames combined with all nickel features. These are combinations you can recreate with the Airgun Builder, so however unusual it may appear, it is a proper combination used by Colt’s at some point in time.  

That combo also works for the 3-1/2 inch barrel which was suggested by one of our readers. Not sure which grips he added but this is a smart looking combo I’m calling The Full House.
Going all out for a unique look, take the Ace platform and add a gold 7-1/2 inch barrel, hammer and trigger with the polished Ace grips and you have a pretty eye catching Peacemaker. This one can have only one name, The Royale.

As I have said in past articles, nickel and gold combinations were most common in the late 19th century, and again with the majority being hand engraved. Blued and silver (or nickel) combinations are a more contemporary combination that has been done by gunmakers including Pietta, which builds a greater variety of Single Action models today than Colt.

Another classic I showed before, The New York is a nickel and gold combo with 5-1/2 barrel making a dignified looking sixgun that begs for some hand engraving.
My last combination is a 7/1-2 with a gold barrel that I have named Yukon Gold. If we had a gold frame, you might even get a book named after it…

Given the various styles that have been created with cartridge models as presentation guns in the late 19th and throughout the 20th centuries, there is almost no combination you can envision with the Airgun Builder that has not already been done with a rimfire or centerfire Single Action Army design. James Bond author Ian Fleming even went so far in his 1965 novel “The Man with the Golden Gun” to arm Bond’s antagonist with a totally gold plated 4-3/4 inch Colt Peacemaker! Let your imaginations wander.

In his last James Bond novel, “The Man with the Golden Gun” published in 1965 (a year after Fleming passed away) he gave the villain a most distinctive looking gun, a gold plated Colt .45 Single Action. There is no limit to what you can do with a Peacemaker Mr. Bond.

15 thoughts on “Revisiting the Peacemakers Part 6”

  1. This is why the Peacemaker has and will continue to be as popular as an airgun as it has been as a firearm. It is well balanced, accurate , and lends itself to customization . My rebellious nature has me carrying a revolver for sport and defense. Fast into action , fires a wide spectrum of ammunition reliably. Custom grips rather than a rubber wrap around a polymer frame.

  2. Hopefully more custom grip options will appear, The Cavalry and Artillery models only need the proper wood grips with inspectors cartouche to complete the revolvers. That should be relatively easy

    • Bill

      Much as I would like to see real wood grips the cost of making them would be quite high. They would have to be hollowed out inside to accommodate the hardware that is inside the plastic grips. Of course, a CNC machine could be programmed to make wood grips with the correct interior to accept the metal parts, but again setting up machinery for such as job would make grips very expensive. It is going to have to come from less costly plastics which can be made to better simulate wood, stag, aged ivory, even mother of pearl. Someone just has to see a reason to do it and a profit to be made.


      • Agree , they will need to be reverse made from molds. I tried convincing one maker but they didn’t want to do it. With these custom Peacemaker revolvers , someone should see the serious demand here and in Europe

      • I understand that it has been mentioned here, but can you please remind me about the original black rubber grips and if they would be easier to adapt to the co2 models?

        • Bill,

          There are hard rubber grips and also plastic copies. No matter which you would use, you would have problems because the CO2 models have the larger Army-size grips (also used on .45 Colts as well as the standard, smaller Navy-size grips). Either way, they would have to be hollowed out to fit the metal interior parts of the CO2 grips. Casting new grips to fit with the metal inside parts is about the only logical way to do it. There is a company in England that plans to start offering custom CO2 grips by this fall, at least that was the last I was able to find out.


  3. Your Full House revolver pictured above is similar to the one I ordered, but mine has the faux wood grips. I think I’ll call it the Royal Flush which I believe beats your Full House.

    Now can you tell me if the gold parts are actually gold plated? Or are they actually brass?

        • Goldfinger: Note to self, never fire a .357 magnum revolver in the cabin of a small jet at high altitiude…

          It is a gold colored finish on the Dan Wesson, likley gold anodized over the alloy. I know when we did the Colt Nimschke engraved guns with Adams & Adams we had the cylinder and other parts gold plated. If Umarex is not using gold plating on the parts, then it is probably gold anodized. I do not know for sure so I will ask Umarex. All of the parts for these guns, no matter what finish, all come from Umarex. PA is assembling them but is not involved in any parts manufacturing. I did ask John Adams who is engraving a pair of the nickel and gold CO2 models and his opinion is that it is gold plating not gold anodized.

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