My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The very first Airgun Experience was a tribute to John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist, and the limited edition Umarex Colt Peacemaker hand engraved and custom finished Shootist CO2 model. This was the beginning of an entire series of hand engraved CO2 Peacemakers in 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch barrel lengths that would be introduced in Airgun Experience articles.

This marks the 400th Airgun Experience article and over the period from No. 1 to No. 400 so many new CO2 air pistols and rifles have been introduced it becomes difficult to keep them all in comparative categories. The only real defining characteristics are magazine types, blowback or non-blowback actions (and that has to include revolvers), sights, though most are fixed sights of one type or another, and lastly, the quality of the build, fit, and finish. In most cases the differences between blowback and non-blowback semi autos covers all the rest, but not in every case and with today’s choices, that really doesn’t pare down the list all that much. So to start, let’s look back at new models introduced since Airgun Experience No. 1, which started with a new model.

The nickel finished 5-1/2 inch Peacemakers were the first fancy models, aside from early commemorative BB models like the U.S. Marshal’s Single Action. The western guns have always had a special place in Airgun Experience.

That air pistol, developed in 2016 from the 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemakers introduced the year before, was a hand-finished and engraved copy of John Wayne’s Single Actions from his final film, The Shootist and only 100 were made. They are gone now and forever in the “collectible” airgun category. But that gun did set the pace for the standards of Airgun Experience both for readers to expect and for me to live up to. With 399 articles under my belt I hope I have delivered what you have come to expect in an Airgun Experience review. And that you have come to know what it is that I like and expect in an air pistol or the occasional air rifle I might review. I’m a handgun guy and there’s no separating that from what I write and how I write it.

Sig Sauer jumped into the airgun market with rifled barrel pellet models like the P226 ASP, based on the P226 models that were made famous in the hands of U.S. Navy Seals. It was an authentic looking air pistol designed by Sig with the intention of its use as both a recreational shooting air pistol and as a training gun.
While the Sig lacked some very basic operating features for a blowback action pistol, like a slide and barrel lug interface (it was just molded into the slide), and functioning slide release (the slide could not lock back), the ruggedly built pellet model did offer a working safety decocker as one of its training features. It was a step forward in blowback action pellet pistol design and a portent of greater things to come from Sig Sauer by 2018.

What has surprised me most over the last three years has been the number of new CO2 models and the continual improvements in the authenticity of design, number 1 on my checklist, the quality of fit (“does this gun sound like it’s rattling to you?”), and finishes that don’t scream “air pistol” from 10 feet away. Of course, when it all comes together you end up with some very impressive looking CO2 models that bring a new level of responsibility with them, and that boldfaced paragraph I sometimes place at the end of an article about treating these highly authentic looking and handling air pistols with the same respect as their centerfire counterparts. That started early in the column with a couple of new Sig Sauer models in 2016, the first of which was featured in the second and third Airgun Experience articles covering the P226 ASP, a new Sig Sauer marketed blowback action, pellet-firing air pistol, the first of the ASP models, that both excited and disappointed. As a blowback action CO2 pistol it had several very neat features including a rifled barrel, working safety decocker, white dot sights, a fairly authentic trigger pull and a threaded barrel. But Sig used an economy of features to keep the price down and make the P226 ASP a basic hands-on training gun that was only good for familiarizing how the gun sighted, learning trigger control and safe handing with the safety decocker. Basic. It was a small step forward for pellet-firing CO2 pistols but functionally behind then current CO2 blowback action BB models like the Umarex Colt Commander. But it proved that Sig Sauer was in the game.

Aside from the Umarex Colt Peacemakers, the first new CO2 model that really rocked me back on my heels was the Air Venturi version of the Umarex Uzi pistol. Unlike the semi-auto only Umarex Uzi, this special version offered a real Mini Uzi-design selective fire system, making it as close to a real existing gun as any air pistol up to that time.

By the summer of 2016 I had found one blowback action CO2 pistol that would be my very first “keeper” when I reviewed the Mini Uzi select fire pistol. Going from guns like the Umarex Commander to the Uzi was like stepping through the looking glass. I had tested 9mm Mini Uzi and .22 caliber Uzi models for Combat Handguns magazine and this was as close to a real Uzi pistol as possible. It showed me, and I hope those of you who read that article in the summer of 2016, that the future of CO2 blowback action pistols was about to change from the simplistic to the outrageous.

Much as I like Model 1911 Colts and 1911 variations for competition shooting, I have always had a preference for the CZ 75 based Tanfoglio Gold Custom 9mm competition pistols (which have been in the hands of world champion shooters for years) and when the CO2 version was introduced and actually fit the Safariland Tanfoglio Gold Custom competition rig, I was sold on the CO2 model as another keeper. Even the CO2 BB magazines work with the competition rig’s mag pouches. This remains the most accurate (properly fitted with optics) CO2 blowback action BB pistol on the market.
All of the essential features of the 9mm model have been perfectly duplicated from the slide serrations to grip profile and alloy grips, and thumb safeties making the Tanfoglio Gold Custom the best competition training gun made today.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was also reviewed that summer and as the top level 9mm CZ 75-based competition pistol it was an equally impressive and accurate blowback action CO2 BB model that has maintained its position as the most accurate blowback action BB pistol on the market. Given all that has come, that is quite an impressive accomplishment for one of the earlier CO2 models. The Tanfoglio Custom Limited with adjustable sights followed, but did not stay around long enough to do anything but whet a lot of appetites for a Tanfoglio that didn’t require optics. If that gun ever comes back, there is a waiting list of CO2 owners who missed out on what was one of the very best CO2 pistols of the last three years.

One thing I have never grown out of is dressing the part with western guns. Helps to have been doing Guns of the Old West magazine for over a decade, but when the CO2 Peacemakers came out, especially the nickel 7-1/2 inch pellet cartridge-loading models with rifled barrels, they quickly found their way not only into Airgun Experience but Guns of the Old West as well. The CO2 Peacemakers cut their own niche into the airgun world and despite no new models (like a proper 2-1/2 inch barrel Sheriff’s Model), they remain the best Single Action air pistols made.
In the very near future you will be able to custom order your own Peacemaker from Pyramyd Air with your personal choice of finishes, combinations of finishes, and barrel lengths (5-1/2 or 7-1/2 inch). Stay tuned for more on this one.

The summer of 2016 also saw the beginning of an evolution in wheelguns. With the 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch rifled barrel Peacemakers, Umarex had established the BB and pellet cartridge as a new standard for revolvers.

ASG and its licensed Dan Wesson models got off to a good but not entirely accurate beginning in 2016 with both BB and pellet-cartridge firing models with smoothbore and rifled barrels. The grip frame, however, was closer to the Umarex 327 TRR8 and used a S&W-style cylinder release.
Within a year’s time ASG had added a new and very proper DW Model 715 with the correct crane cylinder release and superior hard rubber combat grips. The unique finish changed colors from deep blue black (outdoors) to a silver grey under different lighting.

Umarex and ASG were leading the parade, the latter with its first Dan Wesson models, which were nice but not authentic to the original Daniel B. Wesson II designs. ASG would follow up in 2017 with a truly bona fide 6-inch Model 715 with the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch, a rifled barrel and pellet-loading cartridges. This became the all-time best CO2 double action revolver, along with the 2-inch snub nose version that, in the estimation of many Airgun Experience readers, is the best CO2 revolver ever. And it has not been surpassed thus far.

The hottest ASG Dan Wesson came almost a year after the 6-inch version with a 2-inch nickel snub nose, pellet-cartridge model that is not only the best looking of the DW CO2 models but the Number 1 revolver training gun on the market. Another absolute keeper.

By the end of summer 2016 I had found that Umarex was delivering more new guns than ever and each was a benchmark in its own right with the Beretta 92A1 select-fire pistol, which combined two actual Beretta models into one gun, making the CO2 92A1 a bit of an anomaly for authenticity but one heck of an exciting blowback action air pistol to shoot. The 92A1 had the look and feel of a 9mm pistol, a more robust blowback action and of course, semi-auto and full auto fire. It also matched the current Beretta 92 series design, making it a truly up-to-the-minute pistol in most respects. The other great new model of 2016 was really quite unexpected; but first the back story.

Authenticity of style, fit, and finish, were all combined in what remains the most exciting Beretta CO2 model you could own, the 92A1, a virtual 1:1 of the 9mm version with the added option of a Beretta 93R-based selective-fire system.

I had seen a plastic Broomhandle Mauser semi-auto air pistol in the Umarex booth at the 2015 Shot Show and I had remarked, “too bad they didn’t do it in metal.” There were some restrained smiles from the Umarex folks and a, well you never know. The next summer I knew, we all knew. Umarex had launched a new Legends model, the Mauser Model 712 select-fire Broomhandle, an all-metal blowback action pistol that again reset the mark for what is considered an impressive air pistol. With the M712 added, the select fire air pistol world was getter better and better. There were three options, the Mini Uzi, The Beretta 92A1 and the Mauser M712. Each was unique in its design and history and as authentic as any airguns available at the time.

I have always had a passion for the legendary Mauser Broomhandle pistols, most of which, while expensive, are not hard to obtain in very good to excellent condition, despite most being 100 years old. The one that is hard to find and harder still to afford, is the Model 1932 select-fire pistol, or as it is also known, the Model 712.
When Umarex introduced the M712 select-fire Broomhandle they did it about as right as they could, making it so authentic that original Broomhandle shoulder stocks fit the air pistol!

Umarex also had another ace up its sleeve (and no, not the Legends Ace Single Action, with all due respect to Expendables fans) but rather a semi-auto so authentic in design that by the end of 2016 a few law enforcement agencies were trying them out for recruit and remedial training exercises, the S&W M&P40. It has been around just long enough to be an established benchmark that other CO2 models try to beat, and in fact by 2018 that was accomplished by three new semi-autos, which we will discuss a little later.

CO2 training guns are not new, but Umarex began perfecting the concept for law enforcement with the S&W licensed M&P40. The Military & Police model is so authentic that it can interchange with M&P40 duty gear and accessories. It also field strips exactly the same making it a total training gun for law enforcement agencies that carry the M&P pistols. And Umarex and S&W didn’t miss a thing, the CO2 model comes with three backstraps so it can be adapted to various hand sizes, essential for serious training with an air pistol.
These Pennsylvania Sheriffs carry the M&P 40 and train indoors with the CO2 models to keep up handling proficiency and lower the cost of live ammo (.40 S&W) range training, while still seeing accuracy results on paper 21 feet downrange. The CO2 model and its magazines fit the officer’s centerfire Level 3 duty holsters and spare magazine pouches.

We still have another 2016 introduction to revel in. While Umarex was asserting itself, Sig Sauer was testing the waters, ASG was belting out an authentic CZ 75 semi-auto and multiple Dan Wesson models one of the oldest airgun manufacturers in the world was revisiting its own history, Webley & Scott Ltd.

Remember the Tanfoglio Gold Custom? This is where it comes from, the CZ 75. ASG introduced a very realistic CO2 version of the classic DA/SA hammer-fired 9mm pistol that uses identical self-contained CO2 BB magazines with the 9mm model’s extended base pad. This is one of the most overlooked and underrated CO2 models on the market and one that every serious air pistol collector should own.
Rule Britannia. England has produced some of the finest and most rugged handguns in history and one of the longest lived and famous is the Webley MK VI. Webley & Scott entered the airgun market decades ago but in the past few years have brought forth something uniquely their own, the MK VI CO2 models. The current offerings have rifled steel barrels, pellet-loading cartridges, and either nickel or weathered Battlefield finishes.

Webley started out by introducing a BB cartridge loading model of the famous WWI and WWII British .455 caliber sidearm, the MK VI. While as authentic as any military copy could be (since they used the blueprints from the cartridge guns to design the air pistol) the MK VI was another check in an amazing year for CO2 models. What was missing was a rifled barrel version (which was already on sale in Europe) and the U.S market got that in doubles with nickel finish and weathered Battlefield finish rifled barrel pellet-firing models in late 2017.

The Battlefield finish MK VI is the most authentic looking of the current models. Nickel guns were rarely made and most were plated after the fact. The Battlefield adds just enough wear to look like a pistol that has seen the elephant.

In Part 2 we continue looking at the best new CO2 models, but first, something you all need to know! Thursday’s Part 2 will conclude my review of all the best guns I have tested since 2016, and in Saturday’s Part 3 conclusion, I will reveal my all-time favorite. Everyone who reads Airgun Experience on Tuesday and Thursday has a chance to win a brand new Umarex Beretta M9A3 by posting a comment with the gun they think I will pick on Saturday. This needs to be in the comments section before midnight Friday. You can only enter once and remember you have to post your comment no later than 12 midnight on Friday. The first person to guess the gun I’ll pick wins the Beretta!

Keep reading Airgun Experience and win this Beretta M9A3!

18 thoughts on “My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1”

  1. Although I will pass my winning right to the next candidate (being a European I couldn’t receive the prize) I think in your heart you will always be a pioneer.
    Colt Peacemaker

  2. The Peacemaker is my favorite. Why? It is available in bb and pellet versions, different barrel lengths and finishes, including engraved, can easily be fit with different grips,and fits original Peacemaker holsters. It is superbly accurate , fast handling and naturally points. 4 3/4 and 3 1/2 barrel lengths , a case colored finish and black horse and eagle grips complete the package.Still it is the first true groundbreaking airgun, it was and always will be the King.

  3. I am definitely choosing the Mauser M712 Broomhandle Machine pistol, the WWII commemorative edition. The ability to attach an original type stock, and the wide verity of leather holsters available makes this pistol both unique and adaptable. It’s a pistol that has a very diverse, and colorful history including The Old West. Not to mention it also being, to me at least, one of the most recognizable handguns. From WWII movies to multiple James Bond films it remains a timeless classic.

  4. My favourite is the pellet Colt Peacemaker. I liked it so much I went out and got a second one.

    Since the Colt has been said several times already I will go out on a limb and say that you will choose the S&W M&P 40.

    My next purchase is going to be the Legends Cowboy rifle. It looks like so much fun!

  5. Favorite of all time? Probably the same as mine, Crosman 2240 – simple, accurate, fun and limitless modifications possible. Definitely a pistol that can quickly become the most expensive (and fun) one in your collection.

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