Beeman P1/HW45 air pistol
by B.B. Pelletier
The other day when I reviewed the HW75M pistol, I referred you to a post I'd written on the Beeman P1 back in 2005, titled The Beeman P1/HW 45: A shoulder stock, red dot sight & more! I thought I'd thoroughly covered the P1 in that post, but when I looked at it again I saw that it wasn't complete. I want to correct that today.
Several readers expressed an interest in either the HW75 or the HW45/P1, and one gentleman asked me which of the two pistols I'd choose to train for shooting an M1911A1. I picked the P1 because of its recoil. The HW75 is going to be a lot easier to shoot accurately, but the P1 will be very demanding of your hold, just like the 1911 firearm. When considering my reply to that question, I had to evaluate both pistols critically, and that was what pointed out the holes in the earlier post.
You can see why the P1 (top gun) is called a 1911 on steroids! The pistol below is a 1911 .45 ACP, but the air pistol dwarfs it. Notice, though, that the grips are very similar. Grip panels interchange.
P1: Beeman's magnum pistol
The P1 or HW45 (identical, except for their names) is a powerful spring-piston pistol with two power levels (only one in the .22 caliber version). The levels are achieved by the sear catching the piston with the spring half-compressed and fully compressed. Although it's a selling point to have the two levels, my own pistol started detonating on the lower level. After I solved that problem (more about that in a minute), I never used low power again.
Fitting the piston seal
I called Beeman Service Manager Don Walker when my gun started detonating with almost every shot. He told me to dry-fire the pistol on high power two times. He explained that the P1 has a PTFE (another term for Teflon) piston seal and that the factory fits the seal by dry-firing the gun. Sometimes, they don't quite get it fitted and the owner has to do it. Teflon deforms and doesn't recover when the gun is dry-fired. Since there is no place to go, the seal conforms perfectly to the end of the compression chamber. There were also some Webley rifles with PTFE seals; I believe the Beeman C1 had one.
Adjustable trigger, manual safety
The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first stage travel (what the manual calls "slack") and the weight of the second stage. Since it's possible to eliminate the first stage with the adjustment, you can make this a single-stage trigger if you like. The safety on the P1/HW45 is manual, so you can decide to use it or not. It has levers on both sides of the frame, so the pistol is ambidextrous. There's a dry-fire training feature so you can use the trigger without cocking the gun.
The sights are the same as the HW75. The rear is click-adjustable in both directions and the front is a low, square blade.
To cock the pistol, pull back on the hammer slightly and the top of the gun will pop up. Pull it up and forward to cock the mainspring. The sear catches at both low and high power. There is a trick to cocking. By rotating your left (cocking) hand clockwise and grasping the upper portion of the gun (the part that contains the barrel) underneath, the cocking effort is greatly reduced. To envision what I'm saying, put your two closed fists together, thumbs up, in front of you so they touch, then rotate each one in the direction it wants to go. This is how you will be holding the pistol if you follow my instructions.
Loading and firing
With the gun cocked, insert a pellet in the breech point-first. Then return the top to the closed position and the hammer will lock it closed. The pistol is now ready to fire. For best results, use the same hold you would for shooting targets with an M1911A1. Apply pressure with your middle finger, squeezing the pistol into the web of your hand. Apply no pressure with the other two fingers or the thumb. Squeeze the trigger straight back until the shot fires. The pistol will recoil the maximum amount and, more important to accuracy, it will move the same way every time.
When I first bought my P1, it got close to 600 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets. The gun had some objectionable buzzing, so I stripped it, following an article published by The Airgun Letter. This pistol isn't easy to disassemble, so I don't recommend doing this unless you are already the master of several different spring-piston powerplants. I wiped all the factory grease off the internal parts and lubricated the compression chamber with Beeman M-2-M moly grease. I lubricated the mainspring with Beeman Mainspring Dampening Compound (no longer available). Were I to do the same job today, I'd use black tar on the mainspring (a special viscous grease used by spring gun tuners to control vibration).
The result was a very smooth pistol and a 40 f.p.s. drop in velocity - to 559 with Hobbys. Which begs the question: What can be done to increase power in a P1? NOTHING!!! This gun already runs at its maximum. Various spring gun tuners in the 1990s offered "sure-fire" power upgrades to this pistol, but nothing ever beat the power the factory put in it. One guy was so frustrated by the situation that he made up a special barrel from nested brass tubes of differing diameters to shoot 1/8" ball bearings. He claimed velocities of more than 800 f.p.s., but when another gun was built and tested for Tom' Gaylord's The Airgun Revue, it got 664 f.p.s. on high power. The article did say the ball bearing was loose enough to roll out the barrel, so that could have caused the lower velocity than the initial gun had. Accuracy of the test gun was 1.5" at 10 meters, which is not bad for a smoothbore, but not in the P1's class when lead pellets are used.
Diana P5 Magnum
In case you wonder, the RWS Diana P5 Magnum is another 550 f.p.s. air pistol. When it first came out, RWS advertised it as a 700 f.p.s gun, but independent testing quickly poked holes in that elevated number. You'll still see the number on some websites that haven't kept pace. It's very accurate and well-made, and you often hear the compliment that it's a "poor man's P1," which says as much about the Weihrauch as the Diana.
Brass tubes of different diameters were nested to create this custom .125 caliber smoothbore. An attempt to make the P1 shoot faster.
Like the HW75, the P1/HW45 is a gun you'll shoot for the rest of your life and hand down to future generations. Both are as well-made as the Beeman R1, which says a lot.