The Colt Peacemaker and the Great Western II's
Ever since I sat in the theaters watching the Saturday afternoon shows with all the cowboys, the Colt Single Action Army "Peacemaker" was something I just had to have. Once I got one it turns out they're kinda like potato chips, more than one is better!
The three guns in the picture are from top to bottom:
A "real" Colt Peacemaker from about 1875 with a 5.5 inch barrel with a serial number in the 19,xxx range it is in the first batch made and is black powder cartridge ONLY.
A stainless Great Western II "Colt Clone" with a 4.75 barrel in 45 Long Colt.
A Great Western II Express, 4.75 barrel in 45 Long Colt.
The Great Western II's are manufactured by Pietta in Italy and imported by the EMF Company. Some additional work including special grips is done by the EMF gunsmiths. The result is a very good looking gun with very nice fit and finish. There are a couple of choices in finish, highly polished stainless and a nice deep blue with a color case frame and hammer.
The Express is a new release by EMF and I hadn't even heard of one until a local dealer http://mbkunlimited.com/ said I had to see the new guns he just got in.
He tends to get neat stuff in early and fortunately has good prices. My wife who also shoots both SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) and Cowboy Fast Draw and I fondled a couple of them and each of us walked out with one.
The Express in the name of the third gun refers to the grip which is copied from the 1877 Colt Thunderer. It's kind of like a birds head grip only different. Since the Thunderer was one of Colt's first double actions the Express is actually built on a Single Action frame so that it can be used in SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) events. One thing about the "six shooters" they are really "five shooters" since the firing pin is on the hammer you always carry it with the hammer down on an empty chamber.
You'd have to be some kind of crazy to set the firing pin down on a live round and then walk around hoping that nothing happens to make a loud noise when it isn't meant to happen! 200 to 250 grains of lead down the leg isn't my idea of a good time.
Remember Hop Along Cassidy! Yes, the Colt action does have a "safety" notch that will hold the hammer just off the frame so that the firing pin doesn't actuall touch the primer. But if you have ever looked at the notches on a single action hammer it isn't exactly confidence building. It is awful tiny and they do indeed break.
The only difference between the standard great western and the Express is the grip backstrap. Out of curiosity I tried the bachstrap from the stainless on the Express and it fit just fine. Both of the GW's are about as close to a Colt as you can get but at about half the price, and the parts are interchangeable with Colt parts and are hardened to stand up to a lot of use.
The stainless gun was used in Cowboy Fast Draw last year and I have no idea how many thousands of times it was cocked and fired. Grant you Cowboy Fast Draw uses a wax bullet but it also enjoyed a bunch of live rounds in between. Regardless, fast draw puts a lot of stress on the gun and after all of that it still has all of the same pieces it started with except that two springs were changed. The original springs weren't broken they were just a bit too heavy for fast draw.
Right out of the box the Great Westerns have very nice actions and the cylinders lock up cleanly with zero end shake or wobble. As they come they would be fully acceptable for most shooting but that doesn't stop the urge to make things better.
Before playing with the actions, I just had to try putting some rounds downrange. At about 15 yards which is pretty typical SASS distance, five round groups unsupported were in the 3 to 4 inch size with TEN-X Cowboy ammo. I don't own a pistol vice rest so I can't tell what it would do then but it seemed to hit where I was pointing.
Before getting the Express, I checked with the Cowboy Fast Draw Association (CFDA) to make sure they would be legal. The determination was that since the guns and grips were of a type used back when and it is a factory stock gun they are legal in CFDA. The CFDA rules are pretty simple, it must be 45 Colt and no external changes to the gun except that the front sight can be removed (some of the old time gunslingers did that) but I don't know anybody in CFDA that does. You can clean up the actions and put in lighter springs. but that is about it.
That brings up the one place where the Great Western differs from the Colt. The hand spring in the Colt is quite a fragile leaf type spring, Great western and some others drill a small hole above the backstrap screw and replace the leaf spring with a small coil spring and plunger. You could put a stock Colt hand and spring in there but the coil is much more reliable.
Just remember don't EVER fast draw with live ammunition. CFDA uses wax bullets over shotgun primers in special cartridges.
If you are interested in Cowboy Fast Draw take a look at http://www.cowboyfastdraw.com. For more on Cowboy Action Shooting check out SASS at http://www.sassnet.com/ .
Post and photo by Damiphino.........