By Dennis Adler
Frontier lawmen were plentiful; frontier lawmen with long and heroic careers, not so much, not everyone was Bill Tilghman, Bat Masterson or Wyatt Earp. But one small advantage a few stalwarts took benefit of was the short-barreled revolver for ease of carry, especially in town where deadly confrontations were occasionally within spitting distance.
A short-barreled Peacemaker was a lawman’s best backup, easy to carry, even in a coat pocket, and quick to get into action.
They were also handy when the threat was not only anticipated, but arriving on time with the noon train, and a sheriff and his deputy had the opportunity to formulate a plan. Usually this included at least one double barreled shotgun, but when things got up close and all too personal, that Sheriff’s Model Peacemaker was hard to beat. Colt introduced the first 2-1/2 inch barrel length Sheriff’s Model without ejector in 1882. It was a single gun and no further Sheriff’s Models were manufactured until 1888, again without ejectors.
The E.M.F. Guns
It is noteworthy that aside from revolvers designated as Sheriff’s Models by Colt’s, any Peacemaker could be specially ordered with a shorter barrel, so 2-1/2 inch, 3-inch, 3-1/4 inch, 3-1/2 inch, and 4-inch barrel lengths were options prior to 1888, after which Colt regarded the 3-inch Peacemaker as the Sheriff’s Model.
The Pietta Sheriff’s Models, “The Sheriff” and “The Posse” offer two different versions of the Single Action both based on circa 1892-style frames with the transverse cylinder latch (later known as the smokeless powder frame). Both models have 3-1/2 inch barrels, “The Sheriff” without cartridge ejector, and “The Posse” with a full length ejector. Both have color casehardened frames and polished blue cylinders, barrels, steel backstraps and triggerguards. Italian gunmakers generally use the chemical process to do color casehardening, and they are rarely as bright or varied in color as traditional bone and charcoal case colors. Pietta does a pretty solid job and their case colors have a nice mix of smoky grey areas with blues and reddish brown (or straw) mottling and, of course, like traditional color casehardening, no two are ever alike.
The colors on The Sheriff and The Posse are very strong through the top of the frame with deep tones. Colors were also well mixed on the hammers, while the triggers are blued. The case colors actually show up stronger in the photo studio (and photos) than they do to the naked eye, but they are bright and deep. Depending upon one’s personal preferences, “The Sheriff” has the more classic lines of the original ejectorless 1888 Peacemaker models (which were black powder frames).
Pietta introduced the design for the 3-1/2 inch ejectorless Sheriff’s models in 2011 available with either a blued or color casehardened frame, and nickel for the 3-1/2 inch with ejector housing (also popularly known as the shopkeeper). “The Sheriff” and “The Posse” are the most recent versions of the Pietta designs fitted with standard Navy-size hardwood stocks, and both with the Great Western II brand stamped on top of the barrels. The frames do, however, have the proper two line Colt’s patent dates stamped on the left side.
While having identical overall lengths, there are differences between these two Pietta models based on Colt Single Actions from the 1880s. The original Sheriff’s model built by Colt’s in 1882 was similar to the “The Sheriff” in that it did not have an ejector. When Colt’s made the Sheriff’s model a standard production pistol in 1888, barrel length was 3-1/2 inches. “The Posse” has an ejector which is the most important detail since an ejectorless frame has a different design.
The E.M.F. Pietta GWII models are authentic Single Action designs with a floating firing pin in the hammer and no telltale modern transfer bar, although Pietta does make Single Actions for some of its retailers with a transfer bar (like the Bill Tilghman model sold by Traditions), but the E.M.F. branded models remain true to the original.
For the better part of 15 years Pietta Single Actions have come with factory tuned actions, and of course, there are variations between guns, but they all have smoother hammers and lighter triggers out of the box than most Single Action reproductions, and actually lighter and smoother than some Colt Single Actions. Part of this comes from the attention to precise fitting at the factory.
Rarely does a Single Action model leave Pietta that isn’t tuned to provide an impressive (and two time SASS award winning Gun of the Year) action. Naturally, my expectations were for very smooth handling with “The Sheriff” and “The Posse.” I have several factory tuned Pietta single actions to use as a baseline for comparison (one in particular that has one of the smoothest actions of any Peacemaker copy I have ever owned and rivals a couple of my original factory tuned Colts) and that sets the bar pretty high.
The hammer draw on that 7-1/2 inch Pietta model is a lightning quick and remarkably smooth 3 pounds, 4.3 ounces with four crisp clicks as it comes back. Trigger pull is just 2 pounds, 14 ounces. In comparison, “The Sheriff” has a heavier hammer draw of 4 pounds, 3.8 ounces, still not bad, and a trigger pull of 3 pounds, 6.7 ounces, which had a little creep in the short trigger take up, but a crisp break.
“The Posse” weighed in with a hammer draw of 4 pounds, 3.9 ounces, almost identical to “The Sheriff” but with a lighter, smoother trigger pull of 2 pounds, 15 ounces, almost identical to the 7-1/2 inch model. Neither of the 3-1/2 inch guns feel quite as light and smooth as the older 7-1/2 inch Pietta, but they are still pretty darn good for out of the box six-shooters, especially considering that these newer examples use some investment cast parts, including the trigger, which has a flat finish and a circular casting mark. (The trigger on my older 7-1/2 inch model is a machined piece with a polished and blued finish.)