Honing your shooting skills the old fashioned way
By Dennis Adler
How can a handgun with fixed sights equal the accuracy of a handgun with adjustable sights? For that matter how can a 145 year-old handgun design like the Colt Peacemaker shoot as accurately as a 21st century version of the Colt 1911 equipped with target sights (or any other semi-auto equally outfitted)? At some point it probably can’t, but at a fighting distance, say out to 25 yards, you would be amazed what a practiced shooter can do with a Single Action Army revolver. There is even a well documented commentary about one of the Old West’s greatest pistoleros, Wild Bill Hickok, by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Commenting on his friends abilities with a pistol, Cody said, “Bill was a pretty good shot, but he could not shoot as quick as half a dozen men we all knew in those days, nor as straight, either. But Bill was cool, and the men he went up against were rattled, I guess. Bill would just quietly pull his gun and give it to him…he was never in a hurry about it.” Hickok’s most famous gunfight took place just after the Civil War in Springfield, Missouri. Embroiled in a quarrel with an ex-Confederate soldier named David Tutt, the two men were at opposite sides of the town square when Tutt drew and fired at Hickok. His first and only shot missed. Hickok rested an 1851 Navy over his left arm and, took careful aim, and shot Tutt dead where he stood nearly 200 feet away! There was much to be said for the simple sights on a Colt revolver. Another famous lawman perhaps said it best. In one of his 1907 Human Life Magazine articles Bat Masterson wrote, “…looking through the sights is a very essential thing to do when shooting at an adversary who is returning your fire.”
So, we know a Peacemaker is accurate. We also know that the Umarex Colt Peacemaker has established itself as an accurate BB and pellet-firing air pistol. But can “poor” open sights equal the accuracy of adjustable sights on a semi-auto? To put this theory to the test I am going to pit the 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker up against one of the most accurate semi-auto air pistols currently available, the Tanfoglio Limited Custom. Yes, I know, the Colt is a rifled barrel, 4.5mm, pellet cartridge firing handgun and the Limited Custom is a .177 caliber BB firing semi-auto with a smoothbore barrel. At 21 feet, however, the Tanfoglio should have a clear advantage with its large adjustable rear and wide front sight, excellent blowback action design and light target trigger, especially up against a revolver with nothing more than a narrow channel notched down the topstrap that’s barely wider than the blade front sight.
How the test was won
To bring the Peacemaker a little parity with the Tanfoglio, I shot both pistols using a two-handed hold, and cocking the Peacemaker’s hammer with my offhand thumb. I’m not sure if gunfighters ever used a two-handed hold in the Old West, but I know of at least one who used his off side arm for support!
Both guns have already proven themselves in earlier Airgun Experience articles but never against each other. For the Peacemaker I am using Meisterkugeln Professional Line lead wadcutters, and for the Tanfoglio Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs, the load with which the Limited Custom has turned in its best accuracy. The target is a B-27 silhouette with a red dot added dead center in the X bull. To keep things equal, the Tanfoglio only gets six shots to equal the Peacemaker’s six at 21 feet.
Sight radius is another factor for accuracy, the greater the distance from the rear sight to the front on a handgun the better; the Peacemaker has an impressive 8-1/2 inch sight radius (with the 7-1/2 inch barrel), the Tanfoglio has an equally impressive 6-3/4 inch sight radius. Trigger pull on the Umarex Colt Peacemaker averages 3 pounds, 5 ounces with 0.25 inches of take up and a clean break. The Tanfoglio’s excellent target trigger has a very smooth trigger press of 2 pounds, 14 ounces, with 0.25 inches to a clean break and 0.06 inches over travel. Ounce for ounce the Tanfoglio weighs in at a hefty 2 pounds, 12 ounces with excellent balance in the hand. The Peacemaker is actually a lighter handgun at 2 pounds 1.5 ounces (empty) and a little muzzle heavy but it sets well in the hand, as all Colt Single Actions do (especially those with the larger Army-sized grips, like the Umarex models use).
Six out of six
After a short warm up session, I settled into the test beginning with the Peacemaker which delivered a best six shots on target measuring 0.95 inches in the X with one pair overlapping and a third on the edge that pealed off part of the red dot. The gun is almost dead on POA at 21 feet and easy to keep on target. The Tanfoglio, with its rear sight previously adjusted was dialed in for POA at 21 feet and deposited its six charges within 1.0 inches, but kept (or I kept) hitting slightly left. In the end the Peacemaker with a rifled barrel proved to be more accurate by 0.05 inches and also had more rounds closer to the X. You really cannot find fault with either of these two CO2 models however different in design they may be.
Which handgun is easier to shoot? For speed a semi-auto like the Limited Custom is hard to beat, the trigger pull is excellent and the gun points naturally. The sights are excellent and the accuracy speaks for itself. The Peacemaker can hit the mark every time, it is slower, more deliberate, and takes a little more effort, but is up to the challenge and capable of meeting and beating whatever semi-auto you throw at it.