The new gun I enjoyed shooting most this year

The new gun I enjoyed shooting most this year

…and you’re going to be surprised!

By Dennis Adler

When you write 144 articles a year just on air pistols, you shoot a lot of air pistols and you do it every week. As much as I like shooting (air pistols, air rifles, and centerfire guns), it is a job and you approach each new test gun as a blank sheet of paper. Some new models this year practically wrote their own story; others were not so much disappointing as they were not what I had expected. You start with un-boxing a new gun, going over the instruction book, looking at the gun and all its features, and the occasional lack of features, and go forth with objectivity. This was essential for 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year and the set of categories and points system established to rate each gun as fairly as possible. You do the test, take the pictures, write the article and move on. That’s just the hard truth of writing a column three days a week. Most of the test guns go back to the manufacturer, some are inventoried for follow-up articles and comparisons that eventually lead to picking the best examples to evaluate for the year’s top honor. The boxes either sit all nicely stacked waiting for their second turn, or when they have no chance of a second review they go back after the article is done. I’d like to say I enjoy shooting every air pistol I test, I’d really like to say that, but some I’d just as soon never shoot again; I have a low threshold for inadequate designs. But every year there are a few new guns that even after the article is done and I have moved on to the next, that still sit out on a special table waiting for a free hour so I can shoot them again, just for fun. read more


Why the Sig Sauer M17 ASP Won

Why the Sig Sauer M17 ASP Won

M17 4.5mm vs. M17 9mm – The Real World Test

By Dennis Adler

Yes, the final choice was mine, but it was the best choice among a field of excellent competitors and one of the rare instances where the CO2 model could actually go up against its centerfire counterpart. For a comparison test with the 9mm Sig Sauer M17, I wore a UTG tactical vest to carry one of the guns. Here I have the centerfire pistol in my right hand and the CO2 model in my left. A spare CO2 pellet magazine is also in the holster’s mag pouch. This is currently the only way to securely carry a spare CO2 pellet magazine for the M17.

Of all the new CO2 models introduced this year, why did the Sig Sauer M17 ASP rise to the top to be chosen as 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year? The five distinct categories of comparison and the points system used left it tied with the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 and Umarex Heckler & Koch USP, a solid three-way that was broken by the extra one point given to the M17 for Technology of Design. But there is more to the technology side than just a CO2 pellet magazine, which is definitely a game changer for blowback action pellet firing pistols; there is also the capability of the M17 to be an honest real world training substitute for the 9mm centerfire pistol. read more


Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

If you don’t think this was a good year for new CO2 pistols, (and I know some of you have been disappointed by guns that didn’t come out or did and are not yet available), but this trio makes 2018 a pretty good year for new blowback action CO2 models that meet up to the standard of training guns. The Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE, Sig Sauer P320 M17 and Umarex HK USP deliver everything you expect and some things you didn’t. All three are winners in my book.

We find ourselves with three CO2 models tied for the title of Replica Air Pistol of the Year and it is as diverse and well defined a representation of three distinctly different types of blowback action semi-auto pistols as possible, spanning more than a century of firearms design. First, a very traditional SAO (single action only) Colt-style Model 1911, with a few modern improvements such as white dot combat sights, ambidextrous thumb safeties, and a custom finish. But the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE is also the most authentic 1911 CO2 model made, an exact copy of Sig Sauer’s .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE 1911. It is our standard bearer for design integrity. read more


Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

The Sig experience is an emersion in technology as much as it is one of authenticity, accuracy, and performance. Sig Sauer’s up-and-coming Airgun Division has devoted several years to evolving their designs to arrive at two superb pellet-firing, blowback action CO2 models that are designed for different purposes, target pistol accuracy and training pistol superiority. The 2018 X-Five ASP delivers on 10 meter accuracy and high 20-round capacity for a pellet-firing model, while the P320 M17 ASP delivers not only the same high capacity but groundbreaking new features in the 4.5mm semi-auto pellet pistol market. 

We have come down to the two guns that some readers have predicted would be this year’s winner. But we have learned from the preceding eight guns that the point system allows very little latitude. Some favorites have fallen by the wayside on the simple fact that they cannot be field stripped. If you are looking at authenticity as a guideline for the best overall model, it needs to be capable of duplicating as many features of its centerfire counterpart as possible, field stripping is one of them, it is among the most basic of skills learned in handgun training. Even though it is not an essential part of a quality CO2 blowback action pistol (which can be cleared of a stuck BB or pellet without full disassembly) it is a feature that says “this gun has been built to the highest standards of authenticity.” Only a handful of the 10 guns for 2018 meet that standard, but it is not the sole defining quality for being chosen as Replica Air Pistol of the Year. read more


Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 5

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 5

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

Once again a very interesting pairing of guns, both polymer frames, one a DA/SA hammer-fired pistol with a safety/decocker, the other a DAO striker-fired design with an integral trigger safety. Both blowback action pistols are almost 100 percent accurately matched to their centerfire counterparts. Only one has a solid chance of becoming this year’s Top Gun.

This pairing is another ideal match, two polymer frame semi-autos, the Umarex Heckler & Koch USP and Umarex Glock 17, and while they both take different approaches to the same end, one is vastly superior, both as a centerfire pistol and as a CO2 model. But superiority, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder!

Both blowback action designs have slides that lock back on an empty magazine but the Umarex HK USP and Umarex Glock 17 take two very different approaches to their internal designs, the USP follows the centerfire pistol as closely as possible with a short-recoil, locked-breech, tilting barrel design like the actual 9mm model, while the G17 employs a closed system that is designed to optimize CO2 by using a shorter blowback stroke while increasing velocity.

We begin with the H&K USP, a centerfire pistol design that has been in use since 1993 but only this year has become available as a blowback action CO2 model. Waiting a quarter of a century for a gun to be developed into a CO2 model is not unusual (the Mauser Model 712 Broomhandle was developed in 1932, so we waited more than 80 years for that one). Over the decades since WWII, Heckler & Koch has not introduced as many pistols as some of their competitors, but when they do, the design and design variants generally stay around for a long time. H&K moves at its own pace, seldom influenced by trends, but also has a penchant for surprising the firearms world with innovative designs, and that is why the USP makes a good match for the Glock 17. To Gaston Glock’s chagrin, the Glock 17 was not the first polymer-framed semiautomatic pistol; the first was developed in 1970 by Heckler & Koch, the VP70. read more


Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 4

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 4

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

The mettle of their metal, the alloy construction of both the new Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 (left) and ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow makes them a little lighter than their centerfire counterparts, but the accuracy of design, fit and finish (particularly with the unique weathered finish on the Sig Sauer), and authentic short-recoil, locked-breech designs make them two of the most authentic CO2 blowback action models on the market.

This has been an impressive year for new blowback action models and this is where the toughest competition for Replica Air Pistol of the Year emerges with guns like the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 and ASG’s CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow; air pistols that not only visually correspond to their centerfire counterparts but match handling, operation and ability to be field stripped. These are two examples (but not the only two this year) where manufacturers went the distance to get everything as accurate as possible. Why do this for a CO2 BB pistol? Like the highly regarded Umarex S&W M&P40, the new Shadow SP-01 and Sig Sauer 1911 are more than great air pistols, they are so well matched to their centerfire counterparts that they are perfect training guns that allow total familiarization with the firearm right up to pulling the trigger. And there, all that is lacking is heavy recoil from the velocity of a centerfire cartridge, the high dB rating of a live round vs. the low dB rating of a CO2 pistol, and accuracy beyond the optimal 21 to 25 foot range of a .177 caliber steel BB. Thus the CZ Shadow (and competition-style Shadow Blue) and Sig’s custom 1911 WE THE PEOPLE are the first to square off against each other. read more


Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 3

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 3

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

Two entry-level CO2 models with great features, authentic designs and shared handicaps based on retail price point (actually selling for just $69.95), the new Umarex Glock 19 and updated Umarex Walther PPS M2, have the looks down pat, good performance, and make the issue of separate CO2 and stick magazines much easier to live with. Note that the stick mags in both pistols have full size base pads so the guns look right from the top down!

It’s the best new non-blowback action BB model vs. the latest update to an unseated champion in entry-level blowback action semi-autos, the Umarex Glock 19 against the Umarex Walther PPS M2. No two CO2 models could be better pitted against each other despite the fact that the Glock is a non-blowback pistol…it’s just that good!

It is a masterpiece of external design that does the best job of looking like its centerfire counterpart of any air pistol on the market. The Umarex Glock 19 is almost indistinguishable from the 9mm model, and Glock being aware of that subtly made one obvious change to the gun by eliminating the caliber markings on the slide. There is also the equally subtle crossbolt safety at the top rear of the trigger, even though the air pistol has a working Safe Action style blade trigger. Attention to details in the grip panel pattern, front strap grooves, checkering and every functional feature, such as the slide release are perfect, even though it is a non-blowback action pistol.

What Umarex and Glock have delivered with an entry-level model of the G19 is about as much fine detail as it is possible to get into a CO2 pistol’s exterior design. And you can say the same for the Walther PPS M2. Both the new Glock and updated Walther look like their centerfire counterparts in almost every important detail. Neither has a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, both use separate CO2 chambers in their grip frames and easy to load stick magazines. Overall, they are pretty much equals in the air and BB loading department and are priced the same selling discounted for $69.95. They are very affordable entry-level pistols with exceptional performance and design. read more