It has been a long wait for a replica of the iconic Colt Single Action Army revolver which not only looks right but is also a capable shooter. No surprise then that when Umarex launched a replica of the Colt SAA in 2015 there was a great deal of interest from both replica collectors and shooters. Was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look…
Real Steel Background
A detailed description of the history and development of the Colt Single Action Army revolver has been written by Steve and may be found in the Classic Handguns section (a link to which is provided at the end of this review).
Arguably one of the most famous pistols of all time, the Colt Single Action Army — also known as the “Peacemaker” or simply “Colt .45” — was first adopted by the United States Army in 1873. Along with the Smith & Wesson Model 3 “Schofield” it was to replace another pistol made by Samuel Colt, the Model 1860 percussion revolver.
Various models were produced in what would become known as the “First Generation” of these pistols (1873 – 1941) including the “Cavalry” model with a 7 ½ inch barrel, the “Bisley” with a 5 ½ inch barrel and the “Civilian” or “Gunfighter” with a 4 ½ inch barrel. The CO2 replica presented here is the 1873 “Artillery” model, also with a 5 ½ inch barrel, but distinguished from the Bisley in that the latter featured a wider trigger and hammer spur and different shape grips.
The Umarex Artillery Model
An interesting point is that whilst all true “Single Action Army” or “SAA” revolvers were chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge, a “Colt Frontier” model was also produced chambered in .44-40 Winchester making it compatible with another famous gun introduced in 1873, the Winchester lever-action rifle (source: Wikipedia and World Guns).
Packaging and Presentation 3.5 / 5
The pistol is presented in a sturdy and rather attractive cardboard box, printed to look like wood, along with the Colt logo, a picture of the gun and basic technical information. On the underside of the box are more detailed specifications given in a tabular format.
The gun is prevented from moving inside the box by a sheet of bubble wrap, comes with six “cartridges” and a detailed manual in English, French, Italian, Polish, German, Spanish, Russian and Turkish. The manual covers safe usage, technical data, operation and basic maintenance. Instructions on how to disassemble the pistol and an exploded diagram are not given.
I opted for the “blued” version and the finish is superb. Both “Nickel” and “Antique” versions are also available, each with different colour grips.
Nickel and Blued — a pair of exceptionally fine pistols! Photo courtesy of John Beattie
Visual Accuracy 9 / 10
Visual accuracy is excellent, the only real differences being the hammer sits slightly proud when in the rest position, the front post is slightly less prominent and there is a smaller head on the screw below the hammer.
Image above courtesy of Colt.com
The Umarex replica, CO2
Image courtesy of icollector.com – please note the lack of a screw to the rear of the base pin on this model and the metallic brown of case-hardened steel
There are also an additional pair of small screws diagonally opposite each other either side of the cylinder and a couple of extra pins, one of which is to hold the dummy firing pin in place. This last item is in fact the same as on the original except that the pin or rivet would not be visible.
Detailed, accurately placed markings are included, although these appear in a more prominent white than would usually be found
The only other real difference on the right-hand side is there is only one pin instead of two between the cylinder and the trigger. A Colt logo, as this is a licensed version, has been included. The calibre is noted along with a pentagon “F” (for the German market) followed by the serial number. This would normally have been located on the underside, just forward of the trigger guard, often with two identical numbers being stamped: one for the grip frame and one for the cylinder frame.
Image courtesy of icollector.com
Whilst having done my best to do justice to the beautiful finish, you really have to see the pistol for yourself in order to appreciate the various shades of blues, purples and browns which the gun exhibits in the correct light
Similarly, the backstrap exhibits a soft metallic brown colour. The grips, although plastic, have a lacquered walnut appearance and in my opinion look very good indeed
Basking in evening sunshine! Neither the safety switch nor the piercing screw are at all obtrusive; the text on the butt reads “Licensed Trademark of Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC”
Operational and Functional Accuracy 14.5 / 15
The weight and feel of the gun complement its visual appearance perfectly. With the shells removed there are no extraneous rattles nor movement from any loose parts; it feels solid and realistic in the hand. This is what is known as a “solid-frame” revolver (source: World Guns), as against to the “top-break” mechanism of, for example, the Webleys and “hinged-frame” of Smith & Wesson.
CO2 is loaded by gently easing-off the left-hand side plastic grip panel. The grip is held in place by a metal clip and a small plastic tab, molded as part of the grip at the top, which fits into the frame. At first I thought Umarex had been a bit mean by not including an Allen (Hex) key in order to tighten the CO2, but then noticed the tool for the job very cleverly hidden inside the grip panel. An excellent idea! This key is not only convenient, it is easy to use and you are less likely to overtighten the CO2 capsule which on insertion seals perfectly.
No Allen keys required! The CO2 capsule seats and seals perfectly; the tightening screw is recessed within the grip and not visible when shooting
The technique for loading a “cartridge” is one I have not seen before in that each is loaded by pressing a 4.5mm BB into the base as against to the front of the shell. The shells are made of metal which may well be brass; they certainly look the part!
Identical to the original, the hammer is then moved to half-cock, the loading gate opened and each shell dropped into the cylinder. As with the Nagant M1895 and Webley Service revolvers, the cylinder rotates in a clockwise direction as viewed by the shooter. I usually like to shoot five shells at a time and the proper way to do this is to skip loading the second shell which results in the hammer resting on an empty chamber when it is again lowered after inserting the fifth shell. This was how they were originally advised to be carried as there was no drop-safety fitted in the late nineteenth century.
Photo left – the gate open and the hammer at its first-cock position allowing a cartridge to be inserted; right – full-cock with the locking lug again engaged with the cylinder
In his article “Classic Handguns – The Colt Single Action Army Revolver” Steve notes four “clicks” when operating the hammer. With this replica there are three distinct stages; the first where the indexing lug drops into the frame allowing shells to be inserted, the second where the lug reappears but does not yet quite engage the cylinder and the third where the revolver is now at full-cock with the cylinder having completed its movement and the indexing lug again fully engaged. All in all very realistic indeed!
As mentioned above, the hammer at rest stands slightly proud when compared to the original, and although it is fitted with a “firing pin”, this is in fact purely for show as CO2 is released by the base of the hammer striking a valve which is hidden from view inside the frame. A working ejector rod is provided in the tube running along the right-hand side of the barrel, although this is not actually required on the replica.
Photo left – the ejector rod is fully functioning; right – there is a safety switch fitted to the underside of the frame
Shooting 34 / 40
My gun has a muzzle energy reduced to below 2 joules for markets within South East Asia including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand, whereas others (e.g. for Europe and the United States) have up to 3 joules as specified on the box. Whilst mine shoots at a reasonably consistent 325 +/- 5 fps, this is not representative of the muzzle velocity as designed and so I asked Marc, a fellow member of the Umarex Boys Club (UBC), if he would be so kind as to share his observations shot using both Nickel and “Antique” revolvers purchased in the UK and a selection of appropriate 4.5mm BBs.
Barrel length is 5 ½ inches on the Artillery Model, although you could argue that the “effective” barrel length here is in fact 7 inches as the BBs are loaded into the base of the shell.
Marc’s results were as follows:
Umarex Steel BB’s: (5.4grain) 404.6 fps – 400.6 fps – 398.1 fps
H&N Copper Coated Lead BBs: (7.4grain) 348.7 fps – 347.6 fps – 342.4 fps
Gamo Lead Balls: (8.18grain) 330.1 fps – 326.6 fps – 325.1 fps
Umarex Steel BB’s: (5.4grain) 394.1 fps – 391.6 fps – 385.7 fps
H&N Copper Coated Lead BBs: (7.4grain) 344.3 fps – 340.6 fps – 334.6 fps
Gamo Lead Balls: (8.18grain) 318.9 fps – 315.6 fps – 313.1 fps
It was then time for Marc to shoot a few targets, each with the gun semi-rested on a sandbag. Six targets of six shots each were fired from both guns using Umarex Steel and H&N Copper Coated Lead BBs; he chose to discontinue using the Gamo Lead Balls as, although grouping reasonably well, they proved to be the least accurate, shot low and tended to make the barrel dirty. The targets presented below are the best of those shot.
Marc’s Nickel revolver
Then the “Antique”
Marc reports that fliers were evident from the Antique version, but not the Nickel; until he swapped the shells and they disappeared altogether!
I have also shot a few targets, this time off-hand, obtaining results similar to those of Marc including the occasional flier. Although I feel Marc’s are more representative of what a good shot should be able to achieve with the full-powered version, I have still included a couple of mine as illustrated below; with one very lucky one indeed, even more so as I did not check to see where the shots were falling – just had to show it!
The “Man in a Fedora” was shot one-handed: five red (most out of character!) followed by the blue (more like it for me, although still very pleased)
My latest to date – a slightly wider spread, shot off-hand using a two-handed stance and Daisy BBs; targets were shot left to right, red then blue, top then bottom with an overall mean of 35/50 for five shots
In the preceding photo, the cartridge which appeared to give the odd flier was put aside after sequence #4 and then used, loading individually each time, for the lowest target (sequences #7 and #8 scoring 41 and 36 respectively). A couple of days previously I had shot a total of six UBC six-yard competition targets each with five shots one-handed and five two-handed, obtaining a mean score of 65/100. POI is about one and half inches above POA.
Based on all these results, I think it is fair to say that one to one and a half inch grouping can be expected — but perhaps not every time — at a range of six yards (5.5m), admittedly with the occasional flier which both Marc and I agree may well be down to the experience of the shooter, not the gun!
Similarly, Marc has reported that more practice has resulted in similar groups to those he shot before, from both guns, but with fewer fliers. He also notes that the sights take a while to get used to, especially the ones on the “antique” version which can be a little more difficult to see in low lighting. He has had up to 90 good shots per capsule of CO2; I have experienced slightly less at around 75 to 80. The pistol is relatively quiet; more so, for example, than my Webley Service Revolver, 6mm CO2.
Marc’s “Antique” Colt .45
I should just like to add that this is an extremely comfortable pistol when shot using one hand as the wide heel of the grip tends to pivot itself into the palm of your hand. Certainly, what cannot be stressed enough is the realism (and fun!) of listening to those three clicks as you draw back on the hammer.
Nickel version fitted snugly within a “Johnny Ringo” holster made by John Beattie; a link to John’s exceptional work is given at the end
Quality and Reliability 14 / 15
First impressions are extremely good and I have every reason to believe this pistol will prove to be durable and reliable, hopefully on a par with my Umarex S&W 586 in the UK which is now over ten years old. The quality and overall finish is remarkable, even though some sort of high quality alloy will have been used instead of the steel of the original. Some wear is noticeable, particularly where the pistol interfaces with the holster, but this only tends to give the gun an even more authentic appearance.
Neither an exploded diagram nor field-stripping instructions are provided, but based on its smooth operation and reassuring heft I think it is fair to say this is a very well made pistol indeed.
Time for a hand of cards… PIPAS perhaps? Information as to PIPAS and other various unique and exciting UBC competitions may be found by following the UBC link below
Overall Impression 15 / 15
As a show piece alone it is quite beautiful, but together with the realistic operation and accuracy it is without doubt a worthy addition to any gun collection. Umarex have certainly done justice to the original in the form of this exceptionally fine replica of a quintessentially American revolver… the legendary “Peacemaker” or “Colt .45”.
Total 90 / 100
At home in its holster, this one made by “The Horse Shoe” leather shop in Northern Thailand
Review by Adrian. Adrian is also a moderator for the Umarex Boys Club Forums.
Pistol Leather website
Colt SAA on the Umarex website