by B.B. Pelletier
I’ve been asked to report on this pistol by many readers, so today I’m happy to respond. I first shot a Gamo P-23 right after it hit the market in mid-1998.
Slim and trim – the epitome of a pocket pistol. No wonder there is so much interest in the Gamo P-23.
The P-23 is one of those curious air pistols that shoots either lead pellets or steel BBs. Naturally, it’s .177 caliber. When shooting BBs, the pistol is a 12-shot repeater that fires just as fast as you can pull the trigger. You can also load lead pellets singly for far greater accuracy. The rifling is designed to not have a problem with BBs, but to still grab the larger lead pellets and spin them. Only one type of ammunition can be in the gun at a time, because the linear BB magazine will try to load the barrel if there is anything in it.
Styling and fit
One reason the P-23 has lasted this long is that it looked right from the beginning. It’s styled to look like a SIG Sauer P230 pocket pistol, which is a very classic modern design. You can also see hints of the PPK in the gun, but not so many that it isn’t its own distinctive design. Pick it up, and it’s almost like holding a P08 Luger! It fits your hand and everybody else’s, too. As small as the pistol is, the grip is surprisingly large, so you guys with the first baseman’s mitts on the end of your arms should find this one of the nicer pocket pistols to hold.
Another nice feature about the looks is that Gamo made the CO2 cartridge loading cap almost flush with the bottom of the grip. After all the bad remarks I’ve read concerning the PPK/S grip, which hangs down significantly, I know this is a desirable feature.
To load the gun with either kind of ammo, the metal upper slide is unlocked and tipped forward. Pellets can then be loaded one at a time into the rear of the barrel, or BBs can be loaded into a spring-loaded magazine located on top of the synthetic frame. The loading port is funnel-shaped to ease the process. With the orange plastic magazine follower pulled down and locked out of the way, loading goes quickly.
With the forward half of the upper slide rotated forward, the BB port is exposed. Lock the orange follower out of the way and load 12 BBs.
Make a note that only the forward part of the upper slide is metal. The back part that doesn’t have to move is synthetic.
The trigger is double-action only, and it has a very light, even pull. There is a small, visible hammer inside the rear of the slide. Even if you catch it and pull back, there’s no full-cock notch for the trigger to catch. But you will find the double-action pull very nice. It’s certainly no hinderance to shooting because this pistol is meant for fast action – not targets.
Power and gas conservation
The P-23 gets about 400 f.p.s., give or take, with steel BBs and around 275 with light lead pellets. You can expect Gamo’s rated 60 shots per CO2 cartridge, but you’ll probably shoot them so fast that you’ll have to stop to take count before you’re convinced. After all, that’s just five magazines of BBs.
I was surprised by the P-23’s accuracy with lead pellets. Usually, these pocket pistols are more noisemaker than serious airgun, but at 23 feet I managed a half-inch group with five RWS Hobbys. BBs are not as accurate, of course, but they will still stay inside 4″ at 10 yards, which is good for BBs from any pistol.
My only big complaint is the rear sight. It moves sideways for windage and is held in place by a small setscrew. Tighten this screw too much, and it pushes the sight completely up and out of the receiver dovetail. The plastic sight dovetail in the receiver is simply too soft and flexible. Take care when tightening this screw.
So, I’m saying the P-23 is a good little air pistol. When it was new in ’98, I paid $62 for one. Over the years, they’ve gone down about $4, so there is even more incentive to get one than ever.