Umarex Legends “Ace in the Hole” Part 2 Part 1
A Sheriff’s Model by any other name
By Dennis Adler
The Umarex Colt SAA “Ace in the Hole” is essentially an altered 3-1/2 inch barrel length Sheriff’s Model Peacemaker. The “Ace” is not a Colt licensed or marked Single Action (in the U.S.) but rather part of the Umarex Legends line which includes models like the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and Luger P.08 Parabellum. The Legends brand is dedicated to recreating historic guns, and the Colt Peacemaker Sheriff’s Model is nothing if not legendary. The “Ace” is, however, an alternative design based on a movie gun rather than the actual 3-1/2 inch Sheriff’s Model Colt, but is nevertheless a Colt design, and with the exception of the ported barrel, unusual drop in front sight, and rounded fanning hammer, a Colt Sheriff’s Model in appearance.
This is not to say that there weren’t some interesting modifications made to Colt Peacemakers from 1873 up to the turn of the century, some even by Colt’s own hand, like the Bisley Models, so giving Umarex a little latitude with the “Ace in the Hole” let’s stack it up against the 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker pellet models for features and handling.
One of the reasons the BB and pellet cartridge-firing Umarex Colt Single Action models are inherently accurate is the front sight, which when compared to an actual Colt Peacemaker, is lower. This is a plus since the front sight (either by design or inadvertently) takes into account the lower velocity of pellets and BBs and the tendency for Colt’s to aim low. A lot of original Colt owners shaved the front sight down a little at a time to find the gun’s sweet spot, others who knew Colts well enough would order their guns from the factory with altered sights; legendary frontier lawman Bat Masterson being among Colt’s repeat clientele.
Others like infamous Wyoming Stock Detective, Pinkerton agent, and sometimes lawman Tom Horn, had the front sight on his .38-40 Peacemaker shaved down by half. Interestingly, in 1901 Colt’s enlarged the blade front sight on Peacemakers and again in 1914. The front sights on Umarex Colt Peacemakers being lower make them fairly accurate at 21 feet and 10 meters (for BB and pellet models, respectively). The even lower front sight on the drop-in blade supplied with the “Ace in the Hole” is actually more akin to Tom Horn’s Single Action, and at close range gives the 3-1/2 inch barrel length gun fairly accurate aiming capability. The rifled barrel is recessed 1/4-inch from the muzzle for an internal barrel length of 3-1/4 inches.
Colt Peacemaker hammer designs changed very little over the years with the exception of the Bisley hammer and a few special order shaved or “slip” hammers which were slightly lowered, but none were done like the hammer on the “Ace” which is higher and designed for fanning. The round hammer spur on the “Ace” does, in fact, make fanning much faster and easier on the palm of the hand, but in turn it makes thumb cocking the gun a little slower. Well, perhaps “slower” isn’t exactly right, “awkward” is more accurate since the angle of the thumb has to change to reach the top of the rounded hammer spur. For a Colt Peacemaker that’s awkward.
On the other hand, I found the “Ace” to be excellent using a cross draw holster and fanning the hammer. Even a strong side draw is faster if you fan cock the hammer. This is one of those rare cases where the end definitely justifies the means if you want to fan the gun. But does anyone actually shoot that way outside of TV and movie Westerns and Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables? Well, some men in the Old West actually did.
The facts about Fanning
Since the days of the Mexican War, throughout the Civil War, and the beginning of the Westward Expansion in the late 1860s, there had been a practiced symmetry to shooting a revolver; drawing, cocking the hammer, and pulling the trigger all in a quick, almost seamless motion. And then you thumbed back the hammer and fired again, less one was inclined to fan the pistol. In practice it was not the best way to handle a six-gun unless you were darn close to your adversary or well practiced in the art of “fanning.” Of the latter, there are a few known cases, one of an old lawman imparting a bit of wisdom to a younger man when he showed him his Colt Peacemaker. He noted that the trigger of his gun was tied back to the triggerguard with a piece of leather. When he drew, he raked the forefinger of his left hand over the hammer repeatedly, the revolver firing with every stroke. His right forefinger never even touched the trigger but rather was added to his firm grasp around the grips. Other men just held the trigger back and fanned with the palm of their other hand (as we most often see in TV westerns and movies), but fanning was uncommon.
On the whole, most men fired a six-shooter the same way as it had been done since Samuel Colt produced his first Paterson revolvers, and this didn’t change much with the advent of double action revolvers in the late 1850s, in fact, quite the opposite happened. Early double actions were primitive by today’s standards, even by the standards that would come to pass by the end of the 19th century. There was, for lack of a better word, a prejudice by many cowboys toward double action revolvers in the 1870s and early 1880s. Author and historian Joseph G. Rosa tells a story in his book “The Gunfighter Man or Myth?” about a writer for the New Mexico Democrat who observed a young cowboy deciding on the purchase of a new revolver in 1884. The gun shop’s proprietor reached into a display case and retrieved a handsomely mounted .45 caliber revolver and said, “How do you like this? It is the newest thing out – a double action forty-five.” The cowpoke looked at the Colt Model 1878 and turned up his nose, “Ain’t worth a row of beans. No man ‘cept a tenderfoot wants that kind of thing. Give me an old reliable all the time. Ye see a man that’s used to the old style is apt to get fooled – not pull her off in time – and then he’ll be laid out colder’n a wedge.” That remained the general consensus throughout much of the late 19th century as single action revolvers remained the most popular sidearm among cowboys, lawman, and the majority of folks strapping on a six-gun. And a man well practiced with a single action could probably outshoot most men with a double action.
In Saturday’s Part 3 conclusion we’ll find out.