Special thanks to Harwood W. Loomis at The M1911 Pistols Organization (www.M1911.org).
Remember the Lone Ranger? Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, and look at one of the newest CO2-powered BB guns offered by Umarex USA, under license from Colt. This is the Colt Peacemaker .177, an incredibly accurately detailed (and fun!) reproduction of a Colt Peacemaker Model from the late 1800s. This is, without a doubt, the most accurate Peacemaker reproduction I’ve ever seen in a BB gun. It looks, feels and acts real.
The level of detail and authenticity is astonishing, carrying through the entire gun. Small details throughout, tell you this is a Colt Peacemaker.
The CO2 cartridge is contained in the grip frame. The left side panel pops off, revealing space for the gas canister in the area where the hammer spring would be in a real revolver. The canister is locked into place by a set screw under the grip frame. A hex key is built into the removable grip panel.
Now for the fun part. Air gun revolvers typically use a small, pinwheel-like disk, with holes for loading the pellets. The disk is then dropped into the gun to shoot. It works, but it doesn’t look or act much like a real revolver. The Peacemaker is different. Rather than load pellets or BBs into a tiny disk, the Peacemaker uses realistic-looking bullets with a hole running length-wise. The center hole contains a rubber sleeve sized to hold a BB that’s inserted into the back end. The bullets are loaded into the cylinder, just like the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. It just doesn’t get more authentic than this.
Between the realistic action and the weight and balance of the all-metal frame, there’s enough six-gun here to “fill yer hand, Pardner” and have fun plinking. The only problem is that you’ll likely want a lot of extra “bullets”, and they are so popular that it’s not easy to buy spares.
The Peacemaker has a manual safety. It’s inconspicuously located under the frame, just ahead of the trigger guard. It’s easily accessed and used, yet it’s out of the way until you need it.
Shooting the Peacemaker is a joy—just like playing cowboys and Indians like us older kids did when we were young. The trigger pull is light and crisp, and because it’s a single action revolver there is little trigger movement. BBs have plenty of power to punch through soda cans, and the Peacemaker is plenty accurate for an afternoon of backyard plinking. The Colt/Umarex Peacemaker is in a class by itself; there is nothing even remotely like it on the market today.
By Dennis Adler
Collectors call them “snake guns,” Pythons, Diamondbacks, Cobras, Anacondas, King Cobras, etc. Colt once had an entire lineup of famous double action revolvers named after snakes, and each and every one, in its own right, has become collectible, some more than others. At the top of the order was the Colt Python. Back in the 1950s and well into the late 20th century revolvers were king among law enforcement sidearms, and one of the most popular was the Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, introduced in 1955.
The .357 Magnum Colt Python was one of two significant revolvers introduced in 1955, making it a very memorable year for Colt. The other was the second generation Single Action Army. The Python was a superbly designed and handcrafted gun, harder to manufacturer because it was built to a standard that only Colt could live up to; Pythons took longer to make than any other production pistol at the time because each was hand fitted and hand polished to perfection. And they were unmistakable for any other revolver, bold in shape with a full length bull barrel, fully shrouded ejector rod and full length stippled vent rib. The grips were big and distinctively shaped to provide a firm hold on the heavy recoiling .357 magnum, which came with a standard 6-inch barrel. An optional 4-inch barrel (popular with law enforcement) was also offered, a short-lived 3-inch barrel (Combat Python), long 8-inch target barrel length, and the very desirable compact model with a 2½-inch barrel and smaller Colt Service grips for easier concealment. Add the standard fully adjustable white-outline rear sight, a 1/8-inch front ramp with red inset, handsome Colt Royal blue finish or high polish nickel, and you had guns with instant appeal. Built like a target pistol the Pythons came with a distinctive wide spur checkered hammer and grooved, curved trigger. Overall weight for the standard 6-inch model was 44 ounces, 41 ounces with the 4-inch barrel.
Used by the California Highway Patrol, Colorado and Georgia State Police, and Florida Highway Patrol, among others, the Python’s remained popular with civilians and law enforcement alike in the decades leading up to the transition to semi-autos in the 1980s. By the 1990s high capacity semi-autos sealed the fate of the revolver as a primary sidearm for the vast majority of law enforcement agencies. By the early 21st century the Python and all Colt revolvers, save for the Single Action Army, were discontinued.
A little more than a year ago Umarex got together with Colt to build an authentic copy of the famed Single Action Army. To make this gun as authentic as possible the six-shot Peacemaker was literally a six-shooter using brass bullets that loaded a single steel BB into each cartridge. You loaded and unloaded the air pistol exactly as one would a real .45 Colt SAA. The concept of the BB cartridge opened the door for Umarex and Colt to take the cartridge-loading air pistol to the next level and reproduce the second most famous Colt wheelgun in history, the Python. This new double action, single action airgun is nearly identical is size, weight and operation and load their charge of six rounds either individually or with an included speed loader. (Extra cartridges and speed loaders are also available for just $22.95 a set).
The Hands-on Test
The moment you pick up the Colt Python airgun you have a sense of authenticity in their weight, balance, and very familiar operation. The guns even fit existing Colt Python holsters like the Galco thumb break belt holster shown. With a very modest suggested retail of $149.99 the Pythons are available in a deep matte blued black or nickel (actually chrome) finish with authentic wood grained or black checkered plastic grips. (The nickel chrome versions are a Pyramyd Air exclusive).
The BB-cartridge loading six-shooters weigh in at 39.4 ounces (empty) just 4.6 ounces less than a real Python with 6-inch barrel. The double action functions smoothly with a double action trigger pull averaging 10 lbs. 11 oz. and 6 lbs. 7 oz. single action. The wide notch rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage with a serrated ramped front sight for easy target acquisition. It is a hand-filling revolver, just like the original .357 Magnum models.
At a glance the Umarex/Colt Python air pistols look incredibly accurate, and they are for the most part, but there are some noteworthy differences aside from what comes out the barrel. For one, there is an important and discretely placed serrated manual safety lever at the base of the hammer that allows the gun to be locked so the action will not function. This is a good design, especially on the blued gun where it is almost indistinguishable against the dark finish. There is a corresponding window on the right side of the frame that displays a white S or F to denote the pistol’s condition. The guns have the original “PYTHON .357” and “.357 MAGNUM CTG” markings on the left side of the barrel and the Rampant Colt on the frame just below the cylinder release.
Unlike many CO2 powered revolvers the Python does not require removing a grip panel to insert the 12 gr. cartridges; rather like semi-autos with interchangeable magazines, the base of the pistol grip has a recessed, threaded cover that unscrews allowing the CO2 to be inserted, and then with the cap replaced, it is turned tight with an enclosed hex head wrench to pierce the cartridge and ready the gun for firing. This keeps things looking and working more authentically since the grips are actually screwed to the frame and have Colt emblems. Now for the differences; the frame is just slightly higher to accommodate the air pistol action, the ramped front sight atop the vent rib does not have the red insert, and the rear lacks the white outline, minor details but a difference. The speed loaders are easy to use and make loading the six BB-charged rounds as close to the real thing as it gets.
For the range test I used one of the best steel BBs on the market, Hornady Black Diamond black anodized BBs. The rounds are simply pressed into the hollow point bullet nose, and you can do this quickly by placing all six cartridges into the speed loader (just seat the cartridges and lock the release) then press the rounds into a tin holding a quantity of BBs. They find the hollow point openings and with a little downward pressure are loaded all at once and ready for the cylinder drop. Just make sure they are seated all the way in.
With the 6-inch barrel, excellent sights, an average velocity of 400 fps, and light, crisp, single action trigger pull, the target was moved out from the usual 21 feet used for semi-auto blowback action airguns to a more competitive 10 meters (33 feet). The test was done with the blued gun with two six round sets being discharged at a Birchwood Casey 3.75 inch circumference Big Burst orange target. The gun was consistent placing all 12 steel BBs inside the 10 and X rings with a best six measuring 1.5 inches.
Overall the Umarex Colt Pythons airguns are a great deal of fun to shoot and despite being air pistols they have a certain panache that only a Colt can deliver, even if it is only pushing a .177 caliber BB downrange. For more information visit umarexusa.com.
In 1955 Colt re-introduced its famous 1873 Single Action Army revolver. It was a welcomed reprise of “The Gun That Won The West” and Colt has never looked back, still manufacturing the legendary Peacemaker since 1873 – with a brief hiatus caused by the demands of WWII that kept the Single Action out of the lineup until 1955.
Over the decades there have been many variations of the Peacemaker but never a BB cartridge loading CO2 model, that is until Colt and Umarex teamed up to build an authentic .177 caliber Single Action Army in 2015. The gun is accurate in almost every detail, right down to the Colt patent dates and Rampant Colt emblem on the left side of frame. When I first saw this air pistol last year I was not only amazed at the engineering that had gone into making this all-metal six-shooter, but how all of the famous Colt features had been incorporated right down to the loading gate, ejector housing, hammer, triggerguard, and grip contours. It’s as close to the real deal as you can get without loading .45 Colt cartridges.
At about 33 ounces it’s a little lighter than a .45 Caliber 5-1/2 inch barrel length Colt Peacemaker, but the Colt Umarex SAA has the same looks except for the addition of a manual safety discretely hidden under the fame and just forward of the triggerguard. The nickel version is a dandy of a gun that will open up whole new avenues for Cowboy Action Shooters to practice quick draw and shooting from the hip, pistol handling and target shooting at close range without the expense or cleanup of black powder or smokeless powder .45 Colt rounds or wax bullets. Dimensionally, the BB gun is dead on. The rebounding hammer feels different, lighter, as there is no actual Colt-style mainspring and the hammer sits slightly back from the frame at rest. Cocking the gun follows normal single action operation by rotating the cylinder to the next chamber. There is a CO2 capsule stored inside the grip to power the .177 pellet downrange at an average of 410 feet per second. Unlike some of the BB cartridges in use, the Colt models load the BB or pellet into the base of the cartridge where the primer would usually go. The brass BB and silver pellet cartridges authentic, though not .45 Colt in size, more like a .32-20 Winchester round, which Single Actions were chambered for beginning in 1884. The gun fits any SAA holster, and even has to be oiled and cleaned (moderately after every 1,000 rounds) with an available Umarex cleaning kit.
Raising the bar
The new nickel finished SAA pellet model comes fitted with black panel grips and a Colt Peacemaker Rampant Colt inset emblem. In all respects other than what comes out of the recessed .45 Colt muzzle, the pellet model looks identical to the .177 caliber BB models, which is to say very much like a nickel plated smokeless powder frame Colt Single Action Army revolver design. The 1892 smokeless powder frame design introduced the transverse cylinder latch under the barrel to release the cylinder pin for disassembly.
Skinning the no-smoke wagon
This is one sharp looking revolver and with the 5-1/2 inch barrel it fits any Colt SAA holster from hand tooled belt holsters to shoulder rigs. Just as in the Old West, holsters were a matter of choice or more often what was available at the gun shop or local saddlery. To test the new pellet model Umarex Colt Peacemaker I dropped it into a one-off copy of a famous fringed holster pictured in the book Packing Iron. The copy of the holster was handmade by Javier Garcia of .45Maker (801-628-7219). To do a few Cowboy Action shooting drills with the pellet gun I set up silhouette targets at the SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) pistol distance of 10 yards and fired Duelist style, which is one handed. A CO2 pellet gun with a rifled barrel is definitely good out to 10 yards. I also set up a few tin cans to do some Old West target shooting!
Ammo choice was RWS Meisterkugeln, a traditional 4.5mm wad cutter target grade pellet. Purchasing at least a dozen extra cartridges is a good idea for faster reloading. Pellet cartridges run around $10 for a set of six.
Taking my best gunfighter stance I did a quick draw for the first six shots just to see where I was hitting on the silhouette target. I put six pellets into the center of the target. Going to aimed shots six rounds grouped in the 10 and X rings at 1.75 inches. I repeated this a few more times with average six round groups measuring under 2-inches. Then I went after the tin cans, knocking them down in order and “kicking the cans”around the top of an old whiskey barrel (see the accompanying video gun test).
You can also practice drawing, re-holstering, and a little fancy gun handling with the Umarex Colt Peacemaker and shoot to your heart’s content for just pennies. The nickel finished, rifled barrel six-shooter has a suggested retail of just $179. 99. For more information visit umarexusa.com.
by Dennis Adler
Special thanks to Harwood W. Loomis at The M1911 Pistols Organization (www.M1911.org).
The new Colt/Umarex Commander 1911 model is a CO2-powered, (simulated) blowback version of the M1911A1. This is the most accurate reproduction of an M1911A1 I have ever seen in a BB gun. It looks and feels real, and it acts real. The experience of shooting this pistol is amazing – and I shot 1911s when I was in the Army.
The level of authenticity is astonishing. One of my pet peeves is fake 1911 air pistols that have swinging triggers. In this one, the trigger slides straight back, just like it should. The slide stop works. It not only swings up and down, it also locks the slide back after the last shot has been fired. The grip safety not only moves, it also functions as it should.
The thumb safety is functional. Like on a real 1911, it can’t be raised unless the hammer is cocked. As is common on air guns, it has markings for “SAFE” and “FIRE” positions. I can live with that if it gets us a properly functional thumb safety.
The barrel is smooth-bore. A smooth-bore barrel simply can’t produce the accuracy of a rifled barrel. But this is a plinking handgun, so accuracy isn’t critical. The advantage is that it shoots readily-available, steel BBs.
The specifications list the barrel length as 4.50 inches, yet the pistol is the size of a 5-inch M1911A1. This is because the muzzle of the .177-inch barrel is set back a half inch from the apparent muzzle at the front of the slide, for a .45 caliber barrel effect. The “muzzle” even has six ribs on the inside to look like the rifling in a real gun barrel.
What makes the new Colt/Umarex Commander an excellent training aid is that so much of the real 1911 manual of arms remains the same on this reproduction. The Commander is loaded using a magazine that occupies the full magazine well in the frame. The CO2 cartridge is loaded into the magazine, with the BBs, and the pistol is loaded by inserting the magazine and racking the slide. Just like in real life.
The pistol is made of metal, so its weight and balance are very close to those of a real 1911.
The trigger was light, with a bit of creep. The Commander uses some of the gas energy to cycle the slide, resulting in a CO2 air pistol that feels more like shooting a .22 caliber rimfire pistol than it does an air gun.
The Colt Defender stands out in quality and performance. It’s light compared to the actual Colt Defender Lightweight without any ammo. This Umarex replica does not look exactly like the real Colt Defender, but instead looks like a compact variant of the real Colt 1911A1 with a Picatinny rail in front of the trigger.
On the package of the Defender, the icons on the front and back give a full description of the construction, capabilities, features, ammo, power and expected velocity. Inside the package, you will find the manual of the Defender. Please read the manual before use and be sure to adhere to all safety information listed in the packaging.
When loading 12g CO2 capsules into the Defender, the chamber is accessed by pushing in the magazine release on the left side of the grip. The grips slide back revealing access on the left side. A spring tensioned folding half disk head screw extends from the bottom of the frame. You open it as indicated and rotate it counter clockwise to lower the dished head and insert a CO2 cartridge. Umarex brand CO2 capsules are recommended because they seal better and are “food” grade, presuming to be a cleaner CO2 source. (for why differences in CO2 quality make such a big difference in gun performance, see this CO2 quality article) Use RWS Chamber Lube as indicated. You tighten the screw by rotating clockwise until the CO2 capsule is pierced and seals.
If you flip the air pistol over you will see a follower on the right side. It slides down to a locking notch, allowing you to load 16 BB’s in the beveled area. Release the follower to apply tension for loading then slide the grips forward until they latch. The air gun is in a loaded condition with CO2 power available.
On Page three of the included manual, checking to see if the air gun is unloaded is mentioned. While you can verify the air pistol is loaded with the grips closed, with a short segment of the feed slot being visible above the right grip, you cannot be sure it is not loaded if even no BB’s are visible in the area. The follower is visible, but there may be one or more BB’s above. DO NOT assume the air pistol is unloaded just because you do not see a BB in the feed slot! After it is first loaded, presume a BB is there but not visible, even when it stops releasing BB’s during firing. One may be hung up and fire the next time you squeeze the trigger. After the first time it is loaded, this air gun should be treated as always loaded.
I found the premium BB’s worked best for consistent feeds and velocities. At a rated 440 fps, which I exceeded at 447 fps through the Chrony, this air pistol shoots faster than many BB air rifles. Keep this and the 325 yard rated range in mind, using a safe back stop and a clear area behind the target. Follow the directions in the manual. They are very good about backstops and range safety. As the manual states; BB’s are also prone to ricochet, always have everyone with you wear adequate eye protection and be aware of anything to the sides or behind you that might be damaged, as well as what is in front of you or beyond the target.
The safety is on the right side just above the forward part of the trigger guard. Note the “Press”, you push in to release and slide back to remove the safety. A white “safe” dot is covered and the red “fire” dot is revealed as the safety is slid. The air gun is now ready to fire. It is double action only. The hammer is molded on and does not move. The barrel actually moves forward as you squeeze the trigger. At sear release it falls back against the valve venting the CO2 and firing a BB. Push in and move the safety slide forward to re-activate the safety. Parts sometimes fail. Even with the air gun on “Safe” do not point it at anyone or anything you do not intend to shoot!
The molded screws make the rear sight seem adjustable. It is not, nor can the sight be “drifted”, the dovetail mount is a solid molding. The front sight is also fixed. The sights were not a problem—the Defender I received was accurate right out of the package.
You can mount an adjustable laser sight using the Picatinny mount forward of the trigger guard. I installed the Walther FLR 650 light-laser combination to provide a laser for shooting without bringing up the sights and the light for shooting in low light or dark conditions. This laser light system works well out to the effective 10 meter range of the Colt Defender. The system has the laser in the center of six LED’s. There are three functions accessible by sequentially pressing the activation button on the right; laser, laser with lights and lights only. Pressing the button a fourth time turns the system off. Do not store on with the right side down. I have found the system will activate with movement in a case and you will run down the batteries without knowing it. You also reduce the life of the laser and can remove the air gun from a case with the laser on. This can be a problem since the laser is dangerous when focused on human eyes. The FLR 650 does make the air pistol muzzle heavy, but is no real deterrent to accurate shooting.
The Umarex Colt Defender seems to be a composite of similar Colt’s or an issue I have not seen. The biggest differences between it and the actual firearm seem to be the flat rear adjustable sights, the lack of an extended beaver tail grip safety and the tang versus solid trigger and the Umarex has a Picatinny rail mount under the muzzle. I do not have a problem with these differences and found the Umarex Colt Defender well worth the money. The differences in this gun are more than the Umarex Beretta M92 pellet pistol, which is almost perfect, but it is still a great gun to own and easy to shoot. Overall, I feel that you are getting a great value for your money.
The Umarex Colt Defender CO2 BB Repeater is a joy to shoot and very well constructed. I find it easy to load new 12g CO2 capsules and BB’s. It is a nice solid replica air pistol that I would recommend you buy to start or add to your collection.
Umarex air pistols, like this realistic looking Colt Defender are meant to enhance your replica collection and provide a reasonably accurate BB pistol for target shooting and plinking.
Find out more about the items mentioned in this article:
- Colt Defender BB Air Pistol
- Premium BB’s
- RWS Chamber Lube
- 12g CO2 capsules
- Walther FLR 650 LED Light Laser Combination
- Umarex Beretta M92 pellet pistol
by: Dennis Brooks