The Gun Test: Colt .45 “The Peacemaker”

colt SAA .45

Umarex has done a great job of replicating the Colt SAA with discreet pellet-calibre information and safety catch – it’s just a shame about those glossy plastic grips.

Key Specs
Manufacturer: Umarex
Model: Colt Single Action Army .45
UK Distributor: Armex
Price: £232.40
Frame: Full metal
Grips: Plastic – glossy dark wood effect
Weight: 997g
Finish: Blued gun metal (nickel also available)
Barrel Length: 7.5-inch rifled
Total Length: 12.75 in

The Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Better known as the Peacemaker, the Colt .45 or The Gun That Won The West. Whatever you want to call it, this handgun is an iconic piece of Americana. This single-action pistol, initially chambered in .45 Colt, was adopted as the standard military service revolver from 1873 until 1892. While the US military may have given up on it 125 years ago, interest has never waned.

Colt still makes the Single Action Army today, and Umarex has delivered it into the hands of airgun shooters, initially with a five-inch barrel but now with the longer 7.5-inch cavalry tube. The long-barrelled SAA is a .177 pellet firer and available in either blued or nickel finishes. It weighs in at 997 grams, while the real 7.5-inch SAA was a shade heavier at 1,048g. Nevertheless, the controls are similar, and for a CO2-powered gun this is pretty much as close as you’re going to get to the real thing.

The Legend Lives On

My first impression on seeing the pistol concerned the quality and lustre of the blued finish. Bluing has been something of an Achilles’ heel for Umarex in the past, with that on a Beretta M 92 FS I owned being particularly poor and patchy. But the bluing on the SAA is top notch as far as looks go. Straight out of the box it’s even, dark and glorious.

The grips are made of shiny plastic with a dark wood pattern and a non-functioning screw in the middle. I’m no SAA expert, but from the guns I’ve seen, including one used by the 7th Cavalry, it appears that early examples did not have the screw present – that was a later addition. Screw or no screw, the grips are acceptable rather than great, yet it would have been nice for a gun of this high quality to have been supplied with grips made from real wood. The gun seen here is a review sample and has to go back. If it was mine I’d remove the grips and very lightly sand them to eradicate the high-gloss finish. I’ve heard of some people following this up with a gentle application of dark brown shoe polish. Think very carefully before doing this to your own gun, though!

loading the colt

The pistol must be at half-cock before the loading gate can be swung open so the cartridges can be ejected, ready for more pellets

Unlike the original, the Umarex SAA has a safety catch, but it’s been discreetly placed in front of the trigger guard and can’t easily be seen unless the gun is flipped upside down. Like the original, the hammer can be brought to half-cock for loading and unloading, and, of course, to full-cock for shooting. The safety can only be engaged when the hammer is in the uncocked position; it works by blocking the trigger and preventing the hammer from being operated.

The instruction book would have you load a CO2 capsule at this point, but as the gun comes with all six cartridges already loaded in the cylinder I’d recommend unloading the gun first so you can be absolutely certain it’s safe. Make sure the safety’s off then set the gun to half-cock by pulling back the hammer until you hear the first click. The loading gate on the right-hand side of the action can now be swung away and the cartridges removed. The SAA features a spring-loaded spent case ejector rod lying underneath the barrel – this was necessary on the original to remove .45 cases that had expanded upon firing. While it’s wonderful to have this working feature on the CO2 replica, it’s not necessary as the cases just drop out to the rear. The gun can only be decocked from full-cock. To do this, hold onto the hammer, squeeze the trigger and gently guide the hammer back to rest.

The pellet is loaded into the back of a cartridge made to resemble the .45 Colt original

The left-hand pistol grip can be prised off to reveal the CO2 loading bay. The grip is fitted with an internal 6mm hex key which is used to screw the 12g capsule into place, piercing the gas seal; you’ll hear a hiss of CO2 when doing this. Keep tightening until the hiss stops, but easy does it – there’s no need to screw it in too hard. The fake .45 cartridges can now be loaded with a .177 pellet of your choice. The ammo fits into the rear of each cartridge and are held in place with a soft gasket. Because the gun is not magazine-fed you can use whatever shape of pellet you prefer. I found Rangemaster Li diabolo to be a reliable, accurate pellet in this gun.

Being single action the gun has a surprisingly crisp trigger. This, along with that long, rifled barrel, aids accuracy. The main hindrance here is the sighting system, it being the same notch and post as the original. The irons are fixed, but thankfully offered a spot-on point of impact at six yards, with the POI only dropping 5cm at 10 yards. Accuracy was great, with a six-shot group of just 13mm centre-to-centre at 10 yards. This was achieved shooting off a small bench bag from US firm Dog-Gone-Good. This level of accuracy was maintained with the first 24 shots from the CO2 capsule, after which the velocity fell and group size increased. Nevertheless, the gun was still capable of hitting a rabbit’s head-style spinner at 10 yards after 48 shots.

colt pellet gun

The grip features an integral hex key to seat a 12g CO2 capsule

The gun itself is surprisingly easy to shoot. I was worried that the long barrel might make it nose heavy, but it’s easy to keep on aim even when shooting one-handed, and that made it fun. The reloading process is also enjoyable. I warmed to the little ritual of unloading the spent .45 cartridge cases and reloading them with fresh pellets – it slows down the pace of shooting and gives you a chance to relax between details.

But after putting less than a tin of pellets through the SAA, I noticed the bluing was beginning to wear off in a couple of places, notably the muzzle. It’s very light wear at the moment, but will, of course, get steadily worse with more use. If you like the antique look then that could even be a plus point, but if you don’t then consider getting the SAA in nickel instead.

Verdict: 85/100

Build Quality: 16/20
Loading: 18/20
Trigger: 17/20
Accuracy: 16/20
Value: 18/20


This article originally appeared in the issue 96 of Airgun Shooter magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store

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Posted in Air Pistols, Air Rifles, Reviews, Tests

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