John Milewski looks at variations on a theme - the Colt SAA from Umarex
The Umarex Colt Single Action Army (SAA) was among the most eagerly anticipated airguns of 2015 and its popularity has not waned since. Originally introduced as a 6-shot, BB-firing, CO2-powered replica of the famous Colt revolver, buyers could choose from either a blued, nickel, or antique finish. Umarex have not stood still since 2015 and have since added a plethora of variations to satisfy shooters, collectors and western fans. I’m going to look at some of the variations of the SAA this month and I suspect more of them will follow in the near future.
The Umarex SAA has been held in such high esteem because it is so realistic. It is slightly lighter than the original, but handles identically. The only external differences visible at a glance are the ‘at rest’ hammer position, which is further back than on the original, and the slightly less angled grip. There is also a safety catch under the frame, which is unobtrusive.
The revolvers require the loading of 6 pellet carriers that resemble .38 sized cartridges, and these are then loaded through a gate on the right side of the pistol’s frame in the manner of an original. Sights are fixed, but luckily, my examples shoot close enough to the point of aim that I don’t have to aim off.
Within months of the UK launch, Umarex announced that a pellet-firing variant would be available, and for many collectors who also shoot, this version soon became popular due to the potential for greater accuracy. I have tested pellet-firing versions against BB-firing SAAs, and the pellet variants group their shots a lot closer. For instance, I’ll place most shots through a 40mm bell target aperture at 8 yards with pellets, but maybe half as many with ball, which is fired from a smoothbore barrel as opposed to a rifled barrel on pellet firers. Incidentally, the ‘shells’ for BB firers are brass coloured, whereas pellet firers are silver in colour.
Earlier this year, longer 7½-inch barrelled versions came along and, ironically, these were the earliest of the Colts made in 1873. All initially went to the US Army with follow-up sales to civilians. After a couple of years, shorter 5½ inch barrelled revolvers were introduced and these are the standard length that Umarex initially chose. The longer barrelled air pistols add around 40 FPS to the muzzle velocity and the longer length helps to align sights more accurately. The actual barrels are around an inch shorter because the muzzle incorporates faux rifling to imitate a
“A lovely, fully engraved version has also been made for the US market”
.45 calibre revolver. I added a US Army issue holster to house mine when not in use.
These longer barrelled SAAs are available in NRA commemorative models, which have been endorsed by the American NRA. They come in an attractive, antique ‘worn’ finish and are as pretty to look at as they are to shoot.
US MARSHALL AND US RANGER
The US Marshall’s museum endorsed a limited edition of 1000 antique finish revolvers, which are marked as such on the frame. The museum saw the limited run as an ideal way to promote the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Protek Supplies in Bognor Regis had a boxed model on display the last time I visited the shop.
A similar model has just reached the UK, being sold as the Ranger in commemoration of the Texas Rangers. Rather than a US Marshall badge pressed into each grip, the badge depicts the Texas Rangers. US versions of the BB-firing Ranger came with a neat leather holster, but the versions I have seen so far in the UK seem to have omitted this interesting accessory.
To many, John Wayne was the iconic all-American cowboy, and both blued and nickel-plated commemorative models have been sold in the USA. The grips are adorned with badges depicting the Duke’s image and the backstrap carries the great man’s etched signature. Both pellet and BB-firing variants have been made. A lovely, fully engraved version has also been made for the US market.
For those after a unique piece, Pyramyd Air in the USA have commissioned a number of hand-engraved models by Adams & Adams in the USA. This is a company that specialises in hand engraving and have worked with the Colt Custom Shop. The revolvers have been scroll engraved in the 19th century Nimschke style,
which would have been used on original Colts over 130 years ago. These airguns are sold for between $550 and $600, and are undoubtedly an investment for the future.
I have fired 108 shots out of a standard 5½ inch barrelled version in 18 – 22 degree heat during July, and around 120 out of the 7½ inch barrelled version I tested. The final shots of these strings were still capable of hitting a soft drinks can 8 yards away, albeit without much punch. The revolvers are therefore economic with CO2 as well as accurate.
After the shooting’s done, they make great display pieces, too, as long as they are stored safely afterwards in accordance with the law.
Maybe Umarex will make a case hardened, 4¾ inch barrelled ‘Gunfighter’ model in antique finish next. I'm sure we haven't 'herd' the last of these Colts.
This Custom Shop Edition is based on a film prop from The Expendables. It is an interesting ‘hideaway’ gun but has no front sight!
Place the revolver on half cock and rotate the cylinder to load and unload in the manner of an original.
Each NRA commemorative model is marked accordingly on the backstrap. The 7½ inch SAA has greater velocity than the 5½ inch variant, and I found it more accurate, too.
This US Marshall’s limited edition was still for sale as I wrote this review.
Cowboys used to carry their money in cartridge/ money belts. This is a fine reproductiom by John Beattie Pistol Leather.
The most popular finish seems to be the blued version. You can see various shades of blue up close.
Contrary to early Hollywood influence, genuine gun leather did not hang half way down the leg!
The nickel is probably my favourite finish because the markings are subdued.
Pyramyd Air in the States have commissioned limited edition, hand-engraved SAAs such as this exquisite example. Image courtesy of Pyramyd Air.