Colt Single Action Army BB gun: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• The gun has a rear sight
• Kitchen-sink velocity test
• Daisy Premium Grade BBs
• Loading and unloading
• Umarex Precision Steel BBs
• Crosman Copperhead BBs
• Avanti Precision Ground Shot
• Lead balls
• Shot count
Well, it’s official. The Colt Single Action Army BB revolver I’m testing for you is a production model. The photos Pyramyd Air originally posted on their site were photos that Umarex sent them of a pre-production gun. All the blued guns will look like the one I’m testing. If you were concerned how your blued gun would look, it should look just like mine. By the time you read this blog, the images on Pyramyd Air’s site will have been updated.
The gun has a rear sight
I also want to clear up something. There was a question about whether this revolver has a rear sight. Initially it was listed as not having one, but it does have a rear sight. The rear sight on an authentic Single Action Army revolver is a notch cut at the rear of the frame — same as on most double-action revolvers that don’t have adjustable sights. The earliest single actions had a narrow v-notch. Later, Colt milled this into a square channel. The BB gun we’re looking at has the earlier v-shaped notch. It can only be seen when the hammer is cocked back.
Kitchen-sink velocity test
We have lots of new readers who want me to test BB guns with everything from standard BBs to lead balls. I’ll do it only if the larger lead balls will not harm the gun. In this case, I proceeded slowly from the BBs that I knew were good, and managed to test it with just about everything.
I tested the revolver with 6 shots instead of 10, because that’s what a cylinder holds. Let’s get started.
Daisy Premium Grade BBs
I began the test using Daisy Premium Grade BBs. The initial average velocity for 6 shots was 395 f.p.s. with a spread from 379 to 405 f.p.s. This seemed right, until I saw the velocities start to rise with other BBs after the second cylinderful. After 36 shots had been fired, I retested the Daisys, again. This time, the average was 408 f.p.s., with a spread from 397 to 424 f.p.s. That represents the real average, I believe. I think the plastic bases of the cartridges into which the BBs are pressed had to be broken in with a few shots before they started releasing their BBs right. Keep that in mind if you buy extra cartridges.
I did notice the velocity dropping steadily as each shot was fired. I allowed no less than 10 seconds between shots, and sometimes more than that; but this revolver does seem to cool off fast. Of course, I could only shoot each shot single action because that’s the only way this revolver operates.
Loading and unloading
To load the revolver, thumb back the hammer to the first click, which would be half-cock on a firearm. Be very careful not to go too far back with the hammer or the bolt will drop and stop the cylinder from turning. Open the loading gate on the right side of the frame and load each cartridge into its chamber — one at a time. There’s no possibility for a speedloader with a single-action.
With this revolver, you have to turn the cylinder by hand for each cartridge you load. The part that’s called the “hand” in the revolver mechanism (the part that advances the cylinder when the gun is cocked) puts so much pressure on the cylinder that it won’t quite align with the chamber until you manually turn it past where the hand stops it. In this respect, this revolver is vastly different than a Colt firearm, whose cylinder spins freer.
To unload the gun, pull the hammer back to half-cock, open the loading gate and rotate the cylinder with the muzzle elevated. The cartridges just fall out. You never have to use the ejector rod.
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to insert the loaded cartridges into the gun:
The following video shows you how to remove the cartridges from the gun:
Umarex Precision Steel BBs
Next, I loaded Umarex Precision Steel BBs. This was the second BB I tried, and the cartridges were still a little tight. So, the first 6 gave an average velocity of 393 f.p.s., with a spread from 386 to 407 f.p.s., but when I returned to them after 42 shots had been fired, I got an average of 409 f.p.s., with a spread from 399 to 416 f.p.s.
Crosman Copperhead BBs
Next, I shot 6 Crosman Copperhead BBs through the chronograph. They averaged 409 f.p.s., so I knew the gun was now shooting to its maximum capability. The spread went from 403 to 416 f.p.s.
Avanti Precision Ground Shot
Next up was the Avanti Precision Ground Shot that you’ve come to know from recent BB gun tests. These BBs (they’re really something more than just BBs, but I don’t know what else to call them) cost 2-3 times what the other premium brands do, so they aren’t for casual plinking. But inquiring minds want to know, so I tested them anyway.
They averaged 410 f.p.s. in the Single Action Army. The velocity spread went from 396 to 417 f.p.s., with one dud shot, where the BB just rolled out the barrel after a weak-sounding shot. Something wasn’t aligned on that one.
Hornady Black Diamond
The next BB I tried was the new Hornady Black Diamond that I’m now testing in many guns. They averaged 408 f.p.s. in the Colt, with a spread from 402 to 416 f.p.s.
That finishes the steel BBs, but I knew that many of our readers would ask if I tested round lead balls, too. Since the Colt is designed to accept and shoot them without damage to the gun, I gave them a go. The first balls I shot were some precision copper-coated 4.4mm balls I bought years ago to feed my East German Haenel 310 bolt-action rifle. Because they’re larger than steel BBs and also made of lead, these weigh more than the typical 5.1-grain BB. These balls weigh between 7.5 and 7.8 grains, and averaged 350 f.p.s. The spread went from 342 to 358 f.p.s.
Lastly, I tested Gamo round lead balls, which are sized 4.5mm. They’re very uniform, weighing 8.7 grains. The Pyramyd Air website lists them at 8.2 grains, so no doubt that’s what you’ll get if you order them today, but mine are heavier. They averaged 335 f.p.s., with a spread from 304 to 357 f.p.s.
First, I don’t think the 4.5mm lead balls are suited to this revolver. I say that because of the large velocity spread and lower velocity. The 4.4mm balls had the tightest velocity spead of the test. Although they’re slower, they might do well. Of course, they do cost more than 10 times what regular BBs cost, and I doubt they’ll be on anyone’s wish list. Pyramyd Air doesn’t stock them, and I bought 30,000 when they were available 18 years ago. They won’t be easy to find today.
Next, Umarex lists the velocity for this revolver at 410 f.p.s., which I find is spot-on. And that velocity is also on the high side for a BB gun, so I was interested in the shot count.
After testing all the BBs discussed here there were 54 shots on this CO2 cartridge. I continued shooting with Daisy BBs to see how many total shots there might be. I continued to allow a minimum of 10 seconds between each shot. Shot number 60 went 414 f.p.s. and shot 70 went 378 f.p.s. By shot 70 the velocity was definitely trailing off, and the gun never topped 400 f.p.s. again. Shot 80 went 319 f.p.s. and shot 82 went 317. Because of 4 test shots I fired during the test, shot 82 marked the final shot from the 13th cylinder of cartridges. All on a single CO2 cartridge! That’s great gas economy for a CO2 pistol — but remember how conservatively I was shooting.
Next up, we’ll test the gun for accuracy, but that’s going to have to wait, because next week I’m at the SHOT Show. My blogs next week will be focused on the show.