Posts Tagged ‘BB pistol’

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol left
Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol

It’s accuracy day for the Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol, and some of you have been eagerly awaiting this day! I decided to shoot 3 different BBs in the gun just to give you a general idea of how well it groups.

Because this is a BB gun, the shooting distance was 5 meters, which is 16 feet, 5 inches. I sat backwards on a chair, resting my forearms over the back, so the pistol was fairly steady. I selected a 10-meter rifle target for this session because the smaller bull seemed appropriate for the shorter distance.

I forgot!
After installing the CO2 cartridge and loading the first 10 BBs, I tried to shoot the target and the gun wouldn’t fire! What was wring? I knew this was a double-action-only trigger, and it should have worked. Right?

Wrong! This trigger is not DAO. It only feels like one! It’s really a single-action trigger that requires the hammer to be cocked before it’ll work. You can squeeze the trigger all day and nothing will happen until the hammer is cocked. So, with this little problem out of the way, the test could begin.

Crosman Copperhead BBs
First up were 10 Crosman Copperhead BBs. As I shot, I noted that the pistol was very steady in my rested hands. And the target shows that…I think. Ten Copperheads went into 1.521 inches at 5 meters. But note the 2 holes that are apart from the main group. Eight of those BBs made a group measuring 0.78 inches.

The farthest of the 2 holes that are apart from the main group — the one to the extreme right — was a called flier. My hand twitched to the left as the shot fired. The other one, though, was held just like all the rest.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Coppergead group
Ten shots in 1.521 inches, though the one at the right was a called flier. But look at the 8 that landed on the bull. They measure 0.78 inches between centers.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs
Next I tried 10 Daisy Premium Grade BBs. Like I mentioned in Part 1, they’re top-grade BBs that always deliver the goods. This time, 10 of them went into 1.114 inches. There were no called fliers, and the group is fairly well centered on the bull.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Daisy group
Ten Daisy Premium Grade BBs went into 1.114 inches at 5 meters. No fliers were called.

Umarex BBs
The last BB I tried was the Umarex precision BB — another top-grade BB. Ten of them grouped in 1.28 inches, with 9 going into 0.998 inches. There were no called fliers in this group, either.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Umarex group
Ten Umarex BBs went into 1.114 inches at 5 meters. No fliers were called.

Overall impressions
As I told you in Part 2, the trigger-pull on this pistol feels very much like a double-action pull. That’s one where the trigger first cocks the hammer before releasing it to fire the gun. It “stacks” or increases in effort significantly toward the end of the pull, like a vintage Colt double-action revolver. Once you learn how to use that, it helps with accuracy. The pistol is actually stabilized before firing.

This little Beretta is a fun BB gun, make no mistake. I found it trouble-free and easy to use. The sights are right on, and there are no quirks in the operation. If you like BB repeaters, this would be one to consider!

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Part 1

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol
Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol

Today, we’ll look at the velocity of the Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol. We’ll also look at the trigger and the shot count.

Of course, the first step to shoot a CO2 BB pistol like this one is to install a fresh CO2 cartridge. And when you do, never forget to put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip before piercing. The oil will be blown through the gun, coating every seal on the inside and sealing it tight for a long time. I found the cartridge sealed immediately after it pierced, so this pistol is conventional in that respect. Remember — once the cartridge is pierced and the gas stops hissing, you don’t want to tighten the screw any more or you’ll soon tear the face seal that the cartridge butts against, creating a leak.

The BB magazine holds 17 BBs comfortably, and 18 can be forced in. I loaded them one at a time, but in this mag, they load easily.

Umarex Precision BBs
Thye first BB I tested was the Umarex Precision BB. In past tests I have found this BB to be one of the 2 top BBs on the market for precision and size uniformity. They tend to be larger in diameter, which means they give the best velocity.

These BBs averaged 368 f.p.s. for 10 shots, but I did notice the gun is very susceptible to velocity dropoff if the shots are fired fast. When I waited at least 10 seconds between shots, the velocity held steady; but if I fired 2 shots quickly, the second one was always much slower. In one test, the first shot went 372 f.p.s. and the next shot…fired a second later…went 358 f.p.s.

The fastest shot in the string went 385 f.p.s. and the slowest went 356 f.p.s., so the spread was 29 f.p.s. However, the first 3 shots on a new cartridge always go much faster than the average. If we eliminate those 3 shots from this string, the average drops to 363 f.p.s., which seems like a more reasonable average.

Daisy Premium Grade BB
Next I tried the Daisy Premium Grade BB that’s the other top BB on the market. These BBs are also very uniform and very consistently sized. Ten of them averaged 357 f.p.s., with a spread from 350 to 373 f.p.s. That’s a 23 foot-second spread.

The Daisy Premium Grade BB is as good as BBs get, unless you opt to buy the special Avanti Precision Ground Shot that are the finest BBs available today. But they only show their advantage when used in the equally superior Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun. If you shoot them in anything else, you’re wasting money as sure as someone who loads target rimfire ammo into a semiauto sporter.

Crosman Copperhead BB
The final BB I tried was the Crosman Copperhead BB. This BB is not as consistent as the other 2 because the diameter varies, causing velocity variations. You probably won’t find any flat spots on these BBs, but the diameter inconsistency puts it into the second rank for both velocity and accuracy.

In the 84 FS, Copperheads averaged 348 f.p.s., but the spread is very revealing. The low was 314 f.p.s., and the high was 375 f.p.s. That makes the spread 61 f.p.s.

After shooting 64 BBs (there were many that didn’t register on the chronograph, plus I filled the magazine with each type of BB and then shot the rest of them without recording the velocity), the next few Daisy BBs went 317, 306, 301 and 294 f.p.s., respectively. So, the liquid CO2 was exhausted at this point, and the gas pressure was dropping.

Shot count for a CO2 cartridge
I continued to shoot the pistol until the blowback no longer worked. That happened at shot 78, so that’s the number of shots you can get from the gun. By that time, the gun is shooting the Daisy BBs in the mid-200s, meaning that about 100 f.p.s. have been lost since the cartridge was fresh.

The blowback on this pistol is faster than the blowback on most air pistols, because the slide doesn’t come back as far. When the CO2 cartridge is fresh, you just feel an impulse when the gun fires, but I wouldn’t call it realistic recoil. But as the gas pressure lowers, the slide starts cycling slower and you do feel the recoil.

Remember that I told you in Part 1 that the trigger felt strange? I said it felt like a double-action-only trigger instead of the single-action trigger that it is. Well, this time I tested it and proved that’s how it feels. Despite the slide cocking the hammer for each shot, the trigger is still very long and heavy.

The first-stage pull runs about 4 lbs., and stage 2 breaks at 9 lbs., 9 oz. every time. Pull the trigger slowly, though, and stage 1 becomes creepy, plus stage 2 increases by a full pound. This will be an interesting handgun to shoot for accuracy!

Evaluation thus far
I like how the 84 FS holds. It’s small, but not tiny. It fills the hand with its wide grip frame. But that trigger will be something to contend with. The trigger on my Micro Desert Eagle .380 firearm pistol is also DAO and also challenges me when I shoot farther than 20 feet; but it’s smoother near the end of the pull. This trigger stacks up a lot at the end of the pull. We’ll see!

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol
Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol

Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta is one of the oldest companies in the world. They were founded in 1526, at a time when wheellock guns were high-tech and the flintlock was still a century in the future. On top of that, the company has remained under family control all that time!

Before the U.S. military adopted the model 92 as their sidearm, all I knew about Beretta was that they made some odd-looking handguns in small pistol calibers and they made fine shotguns. Since the 92 became the M9 pistol, Beretta has forced its way into the limelight in the U.S. gun culture. Still, what I know about the handgun models they make is very limited. So, when I first saw a picture of the Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol, it looked like a rehash of the 92 FS to me.

Well, it isn’t! The 84 FS is two-thirds the size of the 92 and more closely related to a pocket pistol, though the width of the frame that accommodates a double-stack magazine makes it too fat for such a role. The firearm is called the Cheetah and comes in .380 a.c.p. caliber. Given the width of the grip frame, it must be a mild gun to shoot with such a light cartridge. The double-stack magazine holds 13 rounds, so buyers living in states with magazine capacity limits have to either get a smaller mag, or avoid this gun altogether. Or, they can enjoy it in this BB gun version!

The BB gun
I am looking at the BB gun, which is powered by CO2 and has blowback that moves the slide and cocks the hammer for the next shot. The trigger operates only in the single-action mode, so the hammer must be cocked every time for the gun to fire — you can’t just pull the trigger and fire the gun unless the hammer is cocked.

The trigger-pull is unusual for single-action. It’s a long pull that has an increasing resistance as the blade nears the back of the triggerguard. It feels more like a smooth double-action pull; except that with the hammer being cocked by the slide, it cannot be by definition. There’s no pause before the sear releases, so the double-action pull metaphor holds all the way until the sear releases.

The safety is ambidextrous and is a thumb-actuated lever at the top rear of the slide. As small as this pistol is, the safety is easy to put on and take off with just the thumb of the firing hand.

The magazine is a drop-free design with the thumb-release button on the left side of the frame, behind the triggerguard. The bottom black portion is synthetic, while the silver top portion that contains the firing valve is metal.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol magazine
Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol magazine.

At the bottom of the magazine, the CO2 tensioning screw handle is spring-loaded to cling tight to the floorplate of the mag until you need it. Although it’s visible from the outside of the gun, the designers have taken steps to ensure that it isn’t obvious. This is a big red flag to BB pistol buyers, and it looks like the designers knew that.

I said this pistol is small, so the weight of 1.4 lbs. is lighter than that of a larger handgun. The overall length is 7 inches, and the smoothbore barrel is 3.6 inches. The single-stack BB magazine (single-stack for BBs, double-stack for .380 cartridges) holds 17 BBs plus the CO2 cartridge.

The sights are a fixed post in front and a fixed notch in the rear. The rear sight is cast with details to look like it drifts side-to-side, but it doesn’t. Given that the 84 FS is a self-defense type pistol, the sights are in keeping with that theme.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol rear sight
The rear sight looks like it slides in a dovetail, but it’s really just a sharply detailed casting.

The majority of this gun is made of metal; and the grips are plastic, held on by two steel screws, each. Besides the safety, the slide hold-open lever and the disassembly lever are both functional. And that’s all the controls there are on this handgun.

The Beretta 84FS is at the high end of the price spectrum for a BB pistol. It has blowback, which shooters desire, but the rest of the gun is as basic as the firearm it copies. It will take this review to determine if this will be a desirable BB gun for the target consumer.

Another thing buyers want to know is the gun’s pedigree. The gun is made in Taiwan and distributed by Umarex. Those are 2 positive marks, because Umarex is known for distributing realistic airguns, and Taiwan is known for making many other fine airguns.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol left
Beretta 84 FS BB pistol.

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol left
Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol.

I put this report of the Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol ahead of some others because one of our readers did a bad thing and got himself into trouble with his gun. I want to address that today before I get to the accuracy test.

I mentioned in Part 2 that while it’s possible to remove the slide from this pistol, it isn’t recommended. Well, blog reader Gregory did so anyway, and now he can’t get his pistol back together. I tried to help him by taking my slide off, and I lost the spring that powers the slide altogether.

Umarex USA couldn’t help
Since Gregory lives outside the U.S., I called Umarex USA for him so they could advise me how the spring goes back in the gun. Gregory has his spring, so all he needs to know is how to get it back in the gun. But Andrew at Umarex USA told me they do not support this gun, aside from exchanging it. So, they have no parts on hand, nor do they have any technical data relating to it. And, if you take the slide off, that’s not authorized, and they will not fix it under warranty.

Pyramyd Air steps in
Next, I called Pyramyd Air because this will become their problem sooner or later. I spoke with Gene Salvino, the service manager, who is also a firearms gunsmith and familiar with the disassembly of the firearm P38. I walked him through the problem and, sure enough, the spring popped out when he removed the slide. But he didn’t give up. Several guns later, he was able to reinstall the spring and get the gun working again.

Gene says he’ll try to get Umarex USA to stock the spring because, like me, he sees it as something people are going to need. He went through four guns before he was able to get a good spring back in and get the gun working again, so this is definitely a design problem.

Assembling the gun
Now we know beyond a doubt that you should not attempt to take the slide off the frame of this gun. But for Gregory’s sake, I want to show where the spring goes. I’m doing this without having seen the spring — just the place where it goes. But Gene confirmed that I was right about that.

Walther P38 BB pistol slide off
The slide has been taken off this gun. That long slot in the right side of the frame is where the slide return spring goes. It’s held in the gun by the fit of the slide to the frame. You can see two cutouts at the top of the long slot in this photo. When the spring is installed, it must be compressed enough to allow the slide projection to enter the frame through the rear slot (the one on the left).

Walther P38 BB pistol slide coming off
The slide is slipped over the front of the frame and pulled to the rear. A projection on the inside of the slide passes through a slot cut in the frame for this purpose. The long spring has to be compressed behind (to the left of) the place where the projection enters the frame.

The slide has a projection on the right side that slips through a cutout in the frame when assembling the gun. Getting the slide back on is simple once you understand how it fits. First, the front of the slide is put over the front of the frame, where it aligns very easily. Then, pull the slide all the way to the rear of the frame as far as it will go. At that point, the projection on the inside of the slide is aligned with the cutout in the frame, so it’s ready to be installed. You just push down on the top of the slide to get the hammer out of the way, while pushing the slide forward and it goes back into position very smoothly. After that, the barrel inserts into the front of the slide and the barrel latch is swung closed, locking the gun together.

The trick
The trick in all of this is to insert the spring into the slot on the right side of the frame, and to compress it so it’s behind the slide projection once it slips into the frame. You’ll need a thin tool for this; and, according to Gene, it’s a skill that takes some time to master. I don’t have a spring to show you, but I’m presently working on finding or making a replacement.

What the spring does
The spring really isn’t that powerful. Think of a long ballpoint pen spring that is also very thin. It holds the slide in the forward position.

You can use the gun without the spring, which is what I’m going to do today. You just have to keep the muzzle pointed slightly down when shooting and you have to make certain that the slide is all the way forward before you pull the trigger. The slide moves extremely easily on the frame when the spring isn’t installed, and you can operate the pistol without it if you just pay attention to the slide’s position.

I function-fired the pistol many times, and the pistol operates as it should without the spring. Even the blowback works perfectly, as long as there’s a slight downward angle to the gun. Sometimes, the slide will not go all the way forward, so you have to push it the last quarter-inch; but you can do that with the thumb of your shooting hand. It isn’t a perfect solution by any means, but it beats cursing the darkness and being without your gun!

Loading revisited
I mentioned in Part 2 that you load the magazine one BB at a time. I said it wasn’t a problem as long as you kept the magazine oriented up so the BB could fall down inside after it entered the mag. Well, during this test I encountered one additional thing. You should hold your finger on the opposite side of the mag when loading; if you don’t, some BBs will pass straight through the top of the mag and fall out the other side.

Walther P38 BB pistol loading magazine
Keep your finger over the hole on the opposite side of the magazine if you don’t want to lose BBs while loading.

Shooting for accuracy
The P38 is a blowback BB pistol — not traditionally the most accurate of air pistols. Where those pistols without blowback can have closer tolerances and a tighter barrel, these blowbacks have to leave a little room for the reliable operation of the slide and for the BBs that get blown into the barrel. So, they’re more for the shooting experience and less for precision.

Knowing that, I stepped off 12 feet from the Winchester Airgun Target Cube that I now use as a backstop and trap for all BB-gun tests. Of course, I had the cube positioned lower than my hand so the gun could be positioned downward. For targets, I decided to use Shoot-N-C bullseyes that were just applied to the front of the Target Cube. That made changing targets fast and easy.

I want to comment on the trigger-pull now. You never appreciate it until shooting for accuracy, and I was able to evaluate this one very well in today’s test. As I said earlier, the P38 has a trigger-pull that feels like a light double-action pull. That became very evident when I was shooting for accuracy. But the trigger also stacks at the end of the pull, just like a vintage Colt. The pull weight increases exponentially right before the gun fires, and that lets you control this trigger with precision. It takes some getting used to, but I’ve shot enough vintage Colts that I recognized it right away.

Winchester Airgun Target Cube
The Shoot-N-C target bulls were just applied to the front of the Winchester Airgun Target Cube. Very quick to change targets! This is a two-inch bull.

The first target revealed two things. First, the sights were hard to see against the target. I was using a center hold, and the black sights of the gun disappeared against the black bull. Second, the gun shoots a little low. I confirmed that with the second target and was able to raise the rounds by holding more of the front sight up above the rear sight.

Walther P38 BB pistol first target
The first target showed the pistol was shooting low, though it was hard to see the sights. I guess this 10-shot group measures just over one inch.

Walther P38 BB pistol second target
The second target was lit better, which allowed me to see the sights. This looks like another one-inch group.

Overall evaluation
The Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol is a realistic action pistol that delivers on performance. It should not be disassembled, as I have explained here; but if you just want a realistic action shooter, I think this is a gun to consider.

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol left
Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol.

Falke stock restoration update
Before we begin looking at the Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol, I have an announcement. I feel like a kid who knows he is about to get his first BB gun! Doug Phillips, the man who is restoring the stock of my Falke 90 rifle (which I’m in the middle of testing), has been updating me weekly on the status of the project. He had to completely rebuild the section of the stock where the trigger is located, which on this gun is a very thin and complex wooden shelf that has holes for the front and rear triggerguard bolts, plus an enlarged hole for the trigger. Because this shelf was more than half missing, he had to completely redo it, including redrilling all the holes. It took him three attempts to get things in the right place, but he now tells me that they’re finally right.

But the real news is something that he didn’t tell me, but he showed me in a very small photo. The initials in the checkering on the left forearm panel are now gone. I was unable to tell they’d ever been there, though I’ll need to see the gun close up to know that for sure. And the grain in the walnut now stands out instead of being hidden by a cheap-looking layer of shellac.

All of the dents and scratches are gone as well. I’ll be writing a blog about this work when I get the gun back, but I wanted to share the progress with you now. I’m so grateful to blog reader Kevin for recommending Doug in the first place. I took plenty of before pictures, and Doug has taken pictures all through the restoration process, so you’ll get to see the project from start to finish. But, now, let’s get to today’s report.

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol
One question that blog reader John asked after the first report: Can the gun be disassembled in the same way as the P38 firearm? The answer is a qualified “yes.” I should have showed that in Part 1, but since I didn’t, we’ll look at it now. There’s another lever on the left side of the gun that I didn’t mention last time. It’s at the forward edge of the frame, above and in front of the triggerguard. It’s the disassembly lever or what the owner’s manual calls the barrel catch lever. To disassemble the gun, rotate the rear of the catch down and forward until it stops. The barrel can then be pulled straight off the frame. As I recall, that’s exactly how the firearm came apart, as well.

Walther P38 BB pistol barrel off
To remove the barrel, swing the barrel catch lever down and forward until it stops. Then the barrel assembly slides straight out of the frame like this.

It’s possible to also take the slide off the gun, but it doesn’t serve any useful purpose, so I recommend against it. The barrel comes off to clear a jammed BB, but removing the slide doesn’t give you access to anything that you need on the gun.

Firing behavior
This gun has blowback! Although the slide is a smaller mass than on other pistols, it still comes back with a jolt — creating the simulation of recoil. The impulse is quick and sharp, unlike some other blowback guns that have bulkier slides.

The trigger is two-stage (non-adjustable). Stage one has more resistance than usual, making it almost feel like a single-stage trigger, but you’ll feel the start of the second stage if you persist. Stage one takes almost exactly 3 lbs. of pull and stage two breaks at between 7 lbs., 5 oz. and 8 lbs., 5 oz. I know that sounds heavy; but since this trigger feels more like a double-action pull than a single-action pull, it doesn’t seem that bad. Very few double-action guns have an 8-lb. trigger pull.

The stick magazine is set up to receive just one BB at a time. Once the BB enters the mag, the mag must be oriented nearly straight up and down or the BB will stay at the top of the mag and block other BBs from being loaded. That makes this a more troublesome magazine to load than the average stick mag.

However, the BBs do go into the mag opening easily enough. As I mentioned in Part 1, the place the BBs enter the magazine is funnel-shaped, plus there’s a small groove that leads to it. If you hold the mag nearly vertical, each BB that enters will fall to the bottom, making room for the next. The way this magazine is designed, I don’t think it will be possible to fit it to a speedloader.

I tested the velocity with Daisy zinc-plated BBs, which have proven themselves to be the best general-purpose BB on the market. The velocity of the test gun averaged 385 f.p.s. with a fresh CO2 cartridge. At the average velocity, this pistol generates 1.68 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The range was from 374 to 404 f.p.s., so the total variation was 30 f.p.s. I did notice the gun cools down a lot as it’s shot, so waiting longer between shots gives you higher velocity.

There are between 50 and 60 shots in one CO2 cartridge. All 60 won’t be powerful, but they should all shoot out of the gun. So plan on shooting three full magazines before changing cartridges.

Thus far, the Walther P38 seems to be everything they advertised. Let’s hope it’s also reasonably accurate; and if it is, this will be one very authentic and nice BB pistol!

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol left
Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol.

Am I a gun collector? Not in the strictest sense. I do have a lot of guns, but I run through them fast — getting rid of the ones I’m no longer interested in and getting others that I’ve never had before. A couple guns, like the M1 Carbine, do fascinate me to the point that I’m attracted to every one of them. Even with that model, I’ve pared down the number I own to just one.

And I’ve always been this way. If you met me 40 years ago, I would just be a younger version of myself, and the guns I owned then were different from those I have today. I’m sentimental to a point, but my curiosity overcomes nostalgia when it comes to owning guns. And, because I have limited means, I have to own them sequentially rather than all at once.

Back in the salad years, I was questing after the guns that everyone wants — the Lugers, Colt SAAs and Winchester lever actions. And among all those wonderful guns I once owned, there was a Walther P38. The P38, which is short for Pistole (19)38 was designed in 1938 to use modern (at the time) production methods to build a sidearm that replaced the more complex and manufacturing-intensive P08 (Luger). The P38 was adopted by the German army in 9x19mm caliber, which is more commonly called the 9mm Luger.

I knew when I bought the gun that it wasn’t built the same as a Luger (which I would have to wait a few more years to acquire), and the actual pistol I could afford at the time had lots of wear on it. The accuracy wasn’t the absolute best — and that was at a time when I was shooting handguns all the time, so accuracy mattered a lot.

My impressions of the gun were that it was made differently than I’d expected. It was made of stamped parts, and the tolerances were on the loose side. Of course, my well-used gun was probably even looser than the norm, but I do remember being surprised at the rattle it made when shaken.

At the time, it was one of a very few semiautomatic pistols that were both single-action and double-action. So, you could carry it with a round in the chamber and just pull the trigger to start shooting. The Browning High Power (P35) was another one, but in those days I couldn’t come close to affording one of those. Over the years, they’ve come down in price as my purchasing power has risen, but I’ve still never owned one!

I was prepared for a horrible double-action trigger-pull from my weary P38, but even that well-worn example surprised me by being light and smooth. And the single-action pull was reasonable, if just a bit creepy. After all, this was a wartime sidearm that had seen a lifetime of field use and it was in about the same operating condition as any arms-room M1911A1, so a creepy trigger is to be expected.

This was my very first 9mm handgun, and the light recoil really came as a shock. After a childhood spent listening to stories of Lugers that shot through several people with a single bullet, I was expecting a real cannon; but as anyone who has shot the round knows, that simply is not the case. It has very little recoil for the power and is absolutely delightful to shoot.

The other thing that surprised me was how natural this pistol felt. It was replacing the Luger, which is the poster-child for an ergonomic handgun, yet the P38 did not disappoint when I brought it up to shoot.

The Walther P38 BB pistol
Now that I’ve told you my own backstory of P38 experience, let’s look at this Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol! For starters, this one is finished beautifully! Umarex has really gotten the finish of these replica guns down to a fine science, and this one is darkly blued. The metal is smooth and shiny and so good-looking that only the owner will know it isn’t a firearm.

The grips are brown plastic, designed to resemble wood, but they don’t quite make it. They are a little too reflective, though an effort has been made to dull them.

This is a BB pistol with a 20-shot drop-free stick magazine. It’s released by a lever located at the bottom rear of the grip frame, and the mag must be removed to pop off the left grip panel so you can install a CO2 cartridge. The tensioning screw for the cartridge is completely hidden within the grip so the gun’s profile is entirely authentic. In fact, there’s even a cleat at the bottom of the left grip panel for a lanyard hook — just like on the firearm!

The safety is a switch on the upper left rear of the slide. Up makes the gun ready to fire and down makes it safe, but you need to push the lever all the way down until a click is felt. If you don’t, the gun is not on safe and will fire when the trigger is pulled. The safety looks like the kind that also de-cocks the hammer, but this one doesn’t do that.

The one thing I wish was different is that this P38 doesn’t have a double-action trigger. The hammer must be manually cocked to prepare the gun for firing the first shot. After that, blowback cocks the hammer for each successive shot, so you have a true semiautomatic pistol. The blowback is brisk, though the mass of the slide is low, and you can definitely feel the shot going off. After the last BB has left the muzzle, the slide stays back so you know it’s time to reload.

The slide is held in place by the slide release, which is a working lever on the left side of the gun, just above the trigger. Reload the magazine, slip it back in the gun and push the lever down to let the slide go forward.

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol slide release
When the last BB’s fired, the slide stays open like this, alerting the shooter that the pistol needs to be reloaded. The slide release is a lever just above the trigger that’s pushed down to release the slide.

The magazine could be easier to load. To load it, you retract the spring-loaded follower and lock it in position, then feed each BB through the same hole they are fired from at the top of the magazine. Most stick magazines have a enlarged cutout in the follower channel that assists the loading of BBs, but this one doesn’t have that.

On the other hand, there is a loading groove where the BBs enter the mag, and the hole they drop into is slightly funnel-shaped. I guess I should reserve my comments on loading until after I’ve done it a few times.

The sights are fixed, both front and rear. They’re sharp and easy to see, and we’ll learn how close the gun shoots to the point of aim in the accuracy test.

The test pistol weighs 2 lbs. with a CO2 cartridge installed but no BBs in the magazine. That’s slightly heavier than the most common P38 firearm that has an aluminum frame and even heavier than the steel-frame early gun. But it isn’t a heavy handgun. It feels just right to me. The grip is neither too wide nor too narrow for me. Since the firearm has a single-stack 8-round mag, the width of the grip can be controlled by the thickness of the grip panels.

This will be a fun test for us. I just hope it’s as accurate as it looks!

Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol right

The new best airguns for the money: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Blog reader Kevin Lentz asked for this report; but as soon as he posted his request, it was seconded by a couple other readers. The first time I did a report with this title was way back in 2007, and that was a four-parter. This time, I’ll hold it to just two parts to save some time, because there are a lot of new models coming out at this time of year. Kevin revised the categories just a little and I went with his suggestions.

Guns under $150: Air rifles
A couple guns that used to be in this category have fallen off the list, in my opinion. They did so due to major changes in product quality. Even at this low level, a gun has to shine to make the list.

Crosman’s 1077 is a wonderful 12-shot CO2 repeater. It’s accurate, reliable and a lot of fun to shoot. This budget rifle is accurate enough to benefit from a scope.

The Crosman M4-177 multi-pump is another wonderful value for the price. It’s accurate, has a tactical look and is very rugged. As a bonus, this is a five-shot repeater!

The Gamo Lady Recon makes the list for its accuracy, ease of operation and the fact that it comes with open sights. The plain Recon doesn’t have open sights and misses the list for the lack. This is a lot of youth air rifle for the money, but I suppose only girls will like it because of the pink color.

Stoeger’s X5 makes the list for accuracy and build quality. The one drawback with this one is the heavy trigger. But if you get past that, this is a lot of airgun for the money.

Daisy’s Powerline 953 TargetPro is a budget version of that company’s 853 target rifle. Though it lacks the Lothar Walther barrel, the 953 manages to do quite well with its domestic barrel. It’s a great way to get into target shooting without spending a bundle.

Buy the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 only if you like hitting what you shoot at. Billed as the world’s most accurate BB gun and the only gun used in the International BB Gun Championships (because nothing else can compete with it), the 499 is every target shooter’s dream. Sure, it’s a BB gun, but one that will put 10 shots inside Roosevelt’s head on a dime offhand at 5 yards.

And the winner among air rifles in this price range is the Air Venturi Bronco. It is, without question, the most accurate pellet rifle under $150, and it has the best trigger of the category as well.

What can I say? I love this air rifle.

Guns under $150: Air pistols
For informal target shooting, you can’t do any better than Beeman’s P17 single-stroke pistol. It’s a Chinese-made copy of the German-made Beeman P3 that costs many times more, yet the P17 holds its own on power and accuracy. A few of them have been known to have reliability issues; but if you oil yours with Pellgunoil, I think you’ll get past that. I’ve owned two, and both were perfect.

There used to be several different models of this next gun to choose from, but the last one standing is the Crosman 357W. A pellet revolver for under $50, this CO2-powered gun has inspired shooters for decades. It has the accuracy you want and ease of operation, plus it’s a pellet revolver!

Another super buy is the Crosman 2240 .22-caliber single-shot pistol. This gun is the direct descendant of Crosman pistols dating all the way back to the 1940s. It’s accurate, powerful and a wonderful value.

The Crosman 1377C is a classic multi-pump air pistol selling for half the price of most other pump guns. It has the power and accuracy to hold its own against challengers selling at more than twice the price. Plus, it’s the basis of many hobby airgunners’ projects.

The Makarov BB pistol is the best BB pistol in this or any other price category. It’s accurate, reliable and extremely realistic. If you like to hit what you shoot at and want to shoot BBs, this is the gun to buy!

If you want a fun, realistic BB revolver, they don’t get any better than the Dan Wesson BB revolver. I’ve linked to the 8-inch barreled gun, but all the barrel lengths and finishes cost the same and provide the same great service.

Guns $150-250: Air rifles
Not as many guns in this price category, because I hold them to a higher standard. With guns like the Bronco and the Beeman P17 out there, most higher-priced guns can’t deliver.

Hatsan recently decided to go it alone in the U.S., but I haven’t had a chance to test anything they offer. Back when they were making guns for whatever conglomerate financial organization owned Webley at the time, who knows what craziness they were forced to make? So, they should be given the chance to make and sell good guns on their own. Time will tell, but this year I have no information, so they didn’t make the list.

With all the product-cheapening that’s been going on, it’s been difficult to see that the Diana RWS 34P has progressively morphed into a fine air rifle. The barrel got better, the trigger did the same and the powerplant went from a cheap buzzy nightmare in the 1980s to a dream gun in 2012. Diana avoided the Gamo pitfall of going to more power, and, instead, they concentrated on giving us a great rifle with reasonable power and splendid accuracy. You do need to use the artillery hold to get it, though. This one deserves credit for being a wonderful air rifle. When I list the 34P, I’m actually including all 34 rifles.

Guns $150-250: Air pistols
Same thing goes for air pistols as for rifles. Too much competition from the lower-price category and not enough innovation and quality in this one.

I can’t say enough good things about the Smith & Wesson 586 4-inch CO2 revolver. It’s a “real” gun! Get one if you like fine double- and single-action triggers, smooth revolver actions plus stunning accuracy. The realism cannot be faulted. Same thing goes for the 6-inch barreled gun.

Some of you may remember my story about telling the then-president of Crosman why airgunners would drop $150 on a handgun he sold for $39.95. Well, he left the company, and the new management decided to build these modified guns themselves! The Crosman 2300S is one such gun. It’s based on the 2240 frame, but has a boatload of high-value appointments that are just what most airgunners want. Can’t beat it for the price.

I’m going to include the Daisy Avanti 747 Triumph Match, which is somewhat quirky and more than a little clunky, but it’s the lowest-cost real target pistol available. The Lothar Walther barrel is what makes it rank above the nearly identical 717. And, Daisy, could you please give this gun a couple more names? I can still pronounce it without taking a breath.

What’s this? I put the Beeman P17 on this list for under $150 and I’m also putting the Beeman P3 on the same list? Yep. This one is good, too. Better trigger than the P17 and just as accurate and powerful. Want a better gun? Get a P3.

Well, that’s my list. You might ask me what the criteria were to make the list. Simple. These are the airguns I can recommend and not hear anything bad about them. That doesn’t mean that everyone likes all of them. It means that the guns, themselves, don’t have any bad habits or features that make people mad at me for recommending them. Next time, I’ll do a $250-500 list and an unlimited one. You think I was picky today? Just wait.

A note from Edith: This is a G-rated site
Recently, I’ve noticed some acronyms creeping in that aren’t G-rated. If you have a budding young airgunner that you’ve encouraged to read the blog and the comments, do you want to have to explain to him what those initials mean? Probably not, so it’s best if we don’t use those colorful words/acronyms in our comments.

Also, when symbols have to replace letters in a word because the word is offensive, please don’t use that word…with or without symbols. I appreciate your help in keeping Airgun Academy a G-rated site and a place where airgunners of every age can comfortably ask questions and grow to love the shooting sports.

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