How important is barrel length?
By Dennis Adler
And now for the short end of the stick…and I mean that in a nice way, because the Umarex Legends Ace in the Hole is a really nice, short-barreled Single Action Army variant, albeit overdressed for the room. I think we have all slung enough criticism at this gun for its appearances, with apologies to Expendables fans, and this time we’re going for its better self as a close representation of a Colt Shopkeeper model. There is one advantage to this pistol (well two if you count that it even exists in any form), and one disadvantage. Oddly the disadvantage is what was intended to be the gun’s big advantage, the oddly shaped fanning hammer. This is a prop department’s idea of making a Single Action faster to work. Visually it has become one of the gun’s two trademark features, and if you want to fan away at the Ace it will shoot as fast as you can run it, with commensurate accuracy, and that’s pretty much what you get with a real cut down Peacemaker at fighting distances of 10 to 15 feet. I have done it with actual 3-1/2-inch barreled Colt’s.
I’ve also done it with my initial test of the Ace last October in the three-part Airgun Experience review No. 193, No. 194 and No. 195. Unfortunately the articles are only numbered for me, so if you want to go back and read that review, just search for the Ace in the Hole on the Pyramyd Air home page, and on the product page click Review or you can follow this link /airgun-experience/umarex-legends-ace-in-the-hole-part-1/
In terms of the Ace’s fundamental design it is not way out in left field because modifications to Colt revolvers were often done, and as I pointed out earlier in this series of articles the U.S. Army had thousands of 7-1/2 inch barreled Colts that had been in use for years refurbished by Colt’s and the Springfield Armory and returned to service with shortened 5-1/2 inch barrels. That Umarex opted to use its superb Peacemaker tooling to make a Sheriff’s Model (or Shopkeeper) and then fit it with the fanning hammer from the Expendables movies and add faux barrel porting and a removable front sight (which isn’t a bad idea except that on a real gun it would get blown off by the recoil), doesn’t make this a bad choice, if you want a 3-1/2 inch barrel length CO2 Peacemaker. The Legends Ace in the Hole is still more of a Western gun than it is a modern one. Film buffs will recall that Shane’s 7-1/2 inch nickel plated Colt Peacemaker didn’t have a front sight! Don’t need one if you only shoot from the hip!
Velocity and accuracy
The lower height drop-in blade front sight with the Ace in the Hole is actually a modest improvement for aiming with a short barreled Single Action because most tend to shoot low. In the photo of me from the upcoming Summer issue of Guns of the Old West you can see an actual .45 Colt caliber Sheriff’s Model in the article titled “Sheriff and Posse” about two new centerfire models manufactured in Italy by F.lli Pietta. Both 3-1/2 inch barreled revolvers shot low in my review, as expected. That the Ace in the Hole doesn’t shoot low is a credit (well in a film it might be a credit like “third cowboy in the shootout”) to the Umarex copy of the Stallone gun. Lot’s of shootists in the Old West had their sights filed down so the gun pointed on target, but that really hasn’t proven necessary with any of the Umarex Single Actions.
Trigger pull on the Ace I’m testing is a very light 1 pound, 12.5 ounces average, but it has some creep in the trigger take up that is not evident in the 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch models. Still, the Ace has a crisp break when the hammer falls. As for the hammer, once you get used to thumb cocking it, which is a bit awkward, (and I’m even entertaining the thought of re-shaping it), it is manageable enough but not as quick as a typical Single Action hammer. None of this, however, has an actual bearing on this comparison of accuracy with the 3-1/2 inch barrel, (or rather 3.2 inch barrel, since the actual 4.5mm rifled steel barrel liner is recessed five-sixteenths of an inch from the muzzle).
With a fresh CO2 the Ace clocked a high velocity of 360 fps with the 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters and an average velocity of 344 fps, which is right up to spec with the manufacturer’s velocity figures for this model. At 10 meters firing offhand (using a two-handed hold), I had one of those “quit while you’re ahead” moments (which are getting fewer and farther between) and the Ace gave me a best six rounds at 0.687 inches with a best five at 0.50 inches. The obvious question is, “did I quit?” No. From 10 meters shooting from the rest, the next six rounds hit left of the bullseye (as I tend to do shooting from a rest) with five of six blowing out a section of the target paper and a sixth round hitting just above for a spread of, wait for it, 0.437 inches. I’m not sure whether to be impressed with the Ace or discouraged about the 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch guns which both should have out shot the 3-1/2 inch barreled Ace in the Hole. Apparently, Umarex chose the correct name. Was I able to do this consistently? The answer is no, but my worst six-shot group still only measured 0.75 inches. This sent me back to the 5-1/2 inch gun for one more round. As it turns out, the Ace raises more questions than it answers. The 5-1/2 inch gun is not as accurate at the same distance, with the same ammo, same CO2 and same shooter, the one variable in the equation. Can the Ace be more accurate than its longer barreled siblings? I think my answer is yes and the reason is the one saving grace of the Ace in the Hole, it’s lower, easier to center front sight.
Three for three
All three Umarex revolvers are remarkably accurate at 10 meters and will consistently shoot tight groups. I had a good day with the Ace, which only proves that I had a good day. But any day you shoot one of the CO2 Peacemakers and have 0.75 to 0.5 inch six-shot groups is a good day, and with these three that’s everyday. Choose your favorite and skin that smokewagon.