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EMF Bisley.

* In 1894, in response to the demands of target shooters of the day, Colt Firearms introduced their "Special Target" revolver. The first of these single-action wheelguns--which by target shooter's standards was an improved version of the Peacemaker--was shipped to Colt's London Agency. After some spectacular performances in England's famous target matches, held at the Bisley Range, Colt officials decided to rename their new Special Target revolver the "Bisley Model." This handsome arm was produced in both standard frame and flattop versions in a variety of chamberings, including the most popular target calibers of the day. For the 20 years of the Bisley's production, this sleek-looking six-gun was sought after by sportsmen, adventurers, and targeteers alike. The Bisley's rakish, low profile styling, balance, and superb finishing made it popular then, and to the modern-day collector as well.

E.M.F. Company Incorporated, Dept. GA, 1900 East Warner Avenue, Suite One D, Santa Ana, CA 92705 (714-261-6611), has recently introduced a replica of Colt's famous Bisley model. This new Italian-import handgun maintains the overall look and feel of the turn of the century Colt, yet possesses some subtle differences and unique features of its own. Like its name-sake, the EMF Bisley features the low profile "dog ear" hammer, large rounded triggerguard, adn the well-known grip configuration of the original Bisley. The major difference between the 1900-era sixguns and the EMF reproduction is in the cylinder base pin sytem, which, unlike the older Colts, also serves as a hammer block safety device. This additional feature, when engaged, allows the shooter to safely carry six loaded cartridges in the revolver's cylinder. Briefly, to operate this safety, simply pull the hammer back to the first click. Next, depress the cylinder base pin frame screw (located on the side of the gun's frame in front of the cylinder) and manually turn the base pin until the small extension protruding to the left is facing the right side of the handgun. A convenient red dot is in plain view on the left side of the base pin itself when the revolver's safety is not engaged. When it is engaged, it effectively blocks the rebounding firing pin on the hammer from striking a cartridge's primer. While I don't care for the cosmetics of this system, I have to admit it does work well. I guess I've spent too many years with my old Colt Peacemakers, and I am used to the age-old method of carrying just five rounds, with an empty chamber under the hammer.

One of the first five Bisley replicas produced for EMF was forwarded to me for evaluation. It was a 5-1/2-inch barreled .357 Magnum revolver, sporting a moder blue-black finished barrel, ejector housing and assembly, cylinder, backstrap and triggerguard assembly, with a dark color-case-hardened frame. The hamme and trigger are also blued and the two-piece stocks are of European walnut.

I compared this EMF reproduction to an original Bisley, I've had in my own collection for several years. Mine was manufactured and shipped to Tucson, Arizona in 1906, where I purchased it from one of my western compadres in 1976. Although it is a 4-3/4-inch barreled "Colt Frontier Six Shoorter" (.44-40) with factory hard rubber stocks, it serves as a comparison for general configuration and any dissimilarities between the two handguns. Overall, the two arms matched up fairly well, with the exception of the cylinder base pin "safety" system found on the EMF and mentioned earlier. Another minor variation I detected was an ever-so-slight difference in the two guns' frames. The EMF's top strap was a tad higher than the old Colt's. Also, the Italian import's front sight was a bit higher, much like that of a newly-manufactured Colt SAA. While the Bisley's distinguishable hammer can be found on the EMF version, it lacks the turned down curl at its very tip. Lastly, the grips on the EMF replica are somewhat thicker than those on my original Bisley, although they are not at all unpleasant. I suspect they may have been purposely made this way to accommodate the larger hands of today's shooters. Admittedly, these are major points, for the EMF Bisley is a good-looking sixgun and definitely maintains the appearance and flavor of a turn of the century Bisley model. I point these differences out strictly for the sake of objective reporting.

The EMF Bisley not only looks good, it performs well also. The .357 Magnum version sent to me handled and shot as I would expect an original Bisley to (even though the original model was never chambered for this caliber). From 25 yards, groups of 4 to 6 inches are appropriate for a big-bore, iron-sighted handgun with a long hammer fall, and the EMF had no problem whatsoever in keeping well within those parameters. I shot this six-shooter both at the Petersen Ranch and at Angeles Shooting Range in nearby Little Tujunga Canyon. After I used a box or so of ammo, to remove any manufacturing burrs and smooth out the bore (which is sometimes necessary with a new firearm), this repro handgun settled in to some pleasing accuracy. Using a variety of ammunition, I benchrested the Bisley at the 25-yard range and had no difficulty in keeping most of my groups of both .38 Special and .357 Magnum fodder around 4 inches. My best five-shot group in .38 Special was obtained with Winchester's 158-grain Lead Semi Wadcutter ammo. It measured a scant 2-1/8 inches, center to center, in the black. The harder kicking .357 Magnums scored their tightest grouping with a neat 3-1/4-inch cluster, center to center, in the black. This was achieved with Federal's 158-grain jacketed soft points. Other ammo used in my shooting was Winchester's 200-grain Lead .38 Special, Federal's 100-grain jacketed hollow point .357 Magnum, and 125-grain jacketed hollow point .357 Magnum. Of course, this test only reflects one shooter's ability on a given day, with a particular handgun. However, it does illustrate the accuracy potential of the EMF Bisley. I noticed that my test revolver shot about 3 inches low and 3 inches to the left with every type of ammunition. The cocking of the hammer was smooth and positive (the way I like it), and the trigger pulled crisply at around 4-1/2 pounds--a good single-action pull as far as this shooter is concerned. As would be expected, the sights, which consist of an authentic blade front and a simple slot in the topstrap of the frame, which serves as a rear sight, are the arm's biggest drawback to super-accurate shooting. But then again, it is a replica of an 1894-designed handgund. One advantage to these simple iron sights is quickly discovered in any rough field usage. If dropped or jarred arund--say during horseback use--you needn't worry about your sights being knocked out of line.

Retailing for $450, the EMF Bisley is also available in .44-40 and .45 Colt caliber, with .32-20 and .38-40 scheduled for the near future. This six-shooter can be purchased in a 7-1/2-inch-barreled version, as well as the 5-1/2-inch tube of the sample gun, and in blued or nickeled finish. A target-framed Bisley, as well as the standard model, is also available.

If you are looking for a reliable sixgun, whether it's for field work or just plain fun shooting, the EMF Bisley could be just what you're after--especially if your taste runs to old-time six-shooters. I am impressed with the Bisley ... the original old Colt and EMF's modern replica.
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Author:Spangenberger, Phil
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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