Remington New Model Army .44 - HWS (Hartford)
Bizarrely, of the handful of real steel handguns I have fired, the 1858 Remington New Model Army is one.
Admittedly, it was a modern Uberti (or similar) replica, but as near as damn it the real thing, so I was intrigued by the airsoft replica, especially as I have always had a soft spot for airsoft revolvers, especially those with Tanaka Work's excellent PEGASUS gas system, which Hartford have licensed for use on the New Model Army.
The 1858 was one of the most commonly used revolvers in the American Civil War and has appeared in many Westerns (although not as commonly as the Colt Single Action Army).
The New Model Army was a popular gun as it was one of the earliest to feature a top strap, which meant that the design is stronger and less wear-prone than the Colt revolvers of the same era.
I picked this gun up from a forum, but it was a very recently release and the complete lack of wear on the cylinder (at the time, some has now developed) supported the owners claim that it was unused.
In the Box
Hartford have made the connection with the Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Clint features on the box lid, brandishing a pair of New Model Armys, although in the movie he actually carries revolvers with no top strap (Probably Colts).
The box itself reminded me of that of the Tanio Koba VP70. It's just cardboard and plain brown at that, aside from the image of Mr Eastwood and the text.
Inside the gun rests on a carboard inner that supports it and there is a manual (essential for disassembly), a tool to remove the cylinder, a small allen key, the essential brass nozzle to allow you to fill the gas reservoir in the cylinder and a neat tin (marked Percussion Caps) containing BBs.
First impressions are very good.
The gun looks plain, and maybe a little matt in its finish (Tanaka's midnight blue would really finish this gun), but it looks and feels like a quality piece.
Although not that heavy at 790g, it's a slender gun and feels solid and weighty in the hand. The frame and barrel appear to be made of a similar plastic to Western Arms' heavy weight models.
The wood grips somehow look a little unfinished, but they are real wood and that beats fake wood grips anyday in my view; They feel so right in the hand.
The trigger guard is brass plated, as is the foresight (Since I bought this gun, I've had to polish the guard as it tarnished).
The action feels tight and precise and the hammer cocks with a definite action, matched by a firm, but ultra-precise single action trigger.
External metal parts are plentiful, with the hammer, trigger, cylinder, loading lever, foresight and trigger guard all being metal.
I hadn't realised at the time, but this model is the 'short' barreled version.
If you look at the loading lever, you see it finishes pretty much flush with the bracing under it. The full length version has a longer section ahead of the bracing and a longer barrel (190mm inner vs the 155mm inner of this gun).
Initially, the 'short' barreled gun was listed as a 'limited edition', but I notice that Hartford's website, is slating it for reproduction in Spring/Summer 2008.
The whole frame and barrel is made of what looks and feels like heavyweight ABS, which looks a little modern and tactical for the style of gun, a finish like Tanaka's midnight Blue would be more in keeeping, but the gun looks and feels a quality piece.
Along the top of the frame is a U-shaped channel which forms the rear sight.It seems ironic that a number of makers of compact 1911s currently make guns with similar channel sights, citing them as a modern feature.
A spindly brass blade forms the front sight, which sits atop the distinctive eight sided barrel.
On the top face of the barrel are the only markings on the gun. They read "PATENTED SEPT.14.1858"/"NEW MODEL ARMY PERCUSSION REVOLVER. ILION NEWYORK. U.S.A"/"MANUFACTURED BY HARTFORD.CO.LTD."
I'm not entirely sure, but (even ignoring the Hartford reference) I suspect these markings aren't entirely correct, but they look appropriate - If anyone can provide an image of a real NMA 1858's markings I'd be very interested.
The cylinder is all metal, but on my gun the rear plate (which features dummy percussion caps) rattled and I couldn't work out any way to make it fit tightly. Some threadlock might do the trick, I suppose.
With the hammer at half cock, the cylinder can be spun freely, allowing you to load BBs and align the gas fill valve with the 'gate' (it's actually just a groove) on the frame.
Pulling the hammer to full cock, aligns the cylinder and sets the action. Someone remarked that earlier guns need you to do this quickly or the action would not align properly, but I have encountered no such problems with my gun. Cocking it slowly is part of the fun, but I did experiment with fanning the hammer with the trigger depressed (not recommended on airsoft or real revolvers) and it worked fine.
The entire gas mechanism for a PEGASUS pistol is within the cylinder, as you can see above. The gas is stored in the reservoir and on the 1858 the BBs are simply stuffed into the cylinder openings - This is, of course realistic, as the standard New Model Army didn't take shells (although many were later converted to do so).
The wood grips could do with some lacquering for a more realistic period feel, but the fact that they are wood is a huge bonus. I would imagine real steel grips would fit easily enough. There is a small screw on the grips front edge to allow you to adjust the pressue on the hammer spring.
The loading lever, which would normally be used to disassemble the Remington, is metal too, as is the hammer (which features chequering on the spur) and trigger.
There are not that many parts in the HWS Remington New Model Army, but a comparison of the exploded diagram of it and the real thing show a remarkably similarity, only the centre firing pin to actuate the PEGASUS gas system seems notably different. Part sizes my differ fractionaly (and be metric versus imperial), but I would not be surprised to find real steel trigger parts, etc fit the Hartford.
Over 10 shots, the HWS Remington New Model Army averaged 297 fps (using Propane and .2g BBs) indoors (at 17C).
This might seem a little down on expected performance for a Tanaka PEGASUS revolver, but this is designed to the new Japanese legislation, so it's good to see it can, at least, keep up with GBBs (and that it is possible to design an NBB which meets the legislation, otherwise we may have seen the demise of Tanaka's revolver range).
I did notice that if you leave the hammer half cocked for a few minutes and then fully cock it, the power of the first shot is puny. I'm not sure why this is the case, but be aware of it.
Leaving it at full cock didn't seem to have the same effect when I tried it.
Click on image for bigger version in separate window.
Carrying out my standard 5m/6 round, off hand test, the HWS Remington put 5 rounds into a 35mm diameter.
Each shot has to be cocked and the gun realigned on target, so a degree of error is to be expected, but this was pretty decent given that and the rudimentary sights. The BBs were all well grouped around the target centre, too, thanks to the excellent trigger which makes it easy to keep the gun on target as you fire.
The Hartford has no Hop-Up, so don't expect to get decent range.
Trigger pull was 1405g, which is a fairly typical weight pull for a Tanaka revolver - There is absolutely no creep in the trigger though, making it feel lighter and crisp to use.
Take down is, sadly, a lot more complex than with the real thing.
I have taken this apart, but as it requires almost complete disassembly of the gun, I decided against doing so again for this review.
Below is a scan of the steps required (a special tool is provided to remove the cylinder from the frame).
This is certainly not a task you would want to undertake lightly and never without good light and a way to ensure no parts go astray.
Field stripping it ain't!
Overall, the Hartford/HWS Remington New Model Army revolver is a great looking gun and a good performer, within the limitations of the Japanese legislation that limits its power.
Performance and accuracy are pretty good for this style of airsoft gun and, whilst I doubt it'll prove popular with hi-capacity mag loving skirmishers, it's a lovely example of airsoft replication for those who appreciate such things, with details like the wood grips and brass trigger guard indicative of the attention to detail. The similarity in terms of design is impressive, too, although much easier to achieve with a PEGASUS style revolver than most other airsoft designs, which need to worry about gas routing and blowback mechanism.
I can see a few opportunities to improve on its period appearance, but aside from that the Hartford is an excellent example of a high quality airsoft replica pistol.
Weight : 790g
Realism : ****
Quality : *****
Power : ****
Accuracy : ****
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