2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

The Candidates

By Dennis Adler


This has been a year of surprises and disappointments for air pistol enthusiasts but the surprises have far outweighed the let downs in some areas, notably the conspicuous absence of any new revolvers from ASG, Umarex, or Bear River, all of which were expected to continue the successful runs that had begun with the Dan Wesson double action pellet cartridge loading models, the Colt Peacemakers, and Schofield. In fact, there are fewer models overall this year, as some have been discontinued or are not currently available, like the nickel 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker (more about that in 2020!)

When this still from the last James Bond film first appeared in 2015, everyone was convinced that 007 was trading in his Walther PPK for a brand new H&K VP9. But that’s not quite the way it went; Bond picked up the VP9 fairly early in the film and used it on and off throughout the remainder of the movie. Craig had used H&K rifles in most of his previous outings as Bond, but this was a first for an H&K pistol. It was also reason enough to have a CO2 version in the works which was released this year by Umarex. Seems it takes as long to build a new blowback action CO2 pistol as it does to make another Bond film, which will be out this spring.

Shop Benjamin Rifles

What the coming year holds for western gun enthusiasts is under wraps awaiting the 2020 Shot Show, so the lapse this year in new models may well be the bellwether for new six-shooters to be unveiled next month and throughout the year. I remain an optimist. What’s fueling that optimism is the handful of impressive semi-auto models that have been introduced this year, all tough acts to follow, so perhaps some new wheelguns are next. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have heard a few things.

New Rules

I have had a very stringent set of qualifications awarding top honors for the replica air pistol of the year, and one of those has been field stripping capability. It’s a darn good rule, but it is also one that automatically kicks a lot of otherwise impressive guns to the curb with no chance of winning. To be fair, field stripping would knock a couple of new guns right out of contention this year, that in other ways greatly surpass some that can be taken down like their centerfire counterparts. This rule knocked the Umarex Glock 17 out of contention in 2018, and I really felt bad about that afterward because it was one of the first blowback action CO2 models, based on a current centerfire gun that could be used for training exercises beyond 10 yards. So, for this year field stripping capability is going to be a 1 point bonus for the total points, or as a tie breaker at the end of the competition. I am also adding a 5 point bonus for design innovation, which will be well spelled out.

With matching dimensions the CO2 model of the VP9 presents itself as a high value CO2 pistol at a price that comes in around $20 less then its historically older sibling the HK USP, which is built on a different platform as a CO2 pistol than the VP9, which is closer in its operation to the Third Gen Umarex Glock 17. The flipside of this pistol, however, reveals some of the budget cuts but doesn’t necessarily undercut the look and handling of the gun.

With fewer guns this year, the competition will be broken down into the following categories each with a possible total 10 points. Again, the first is, in my mind, the most important for a replica, Authenticity; how close is the CO2 model in physical appearance to its centerfire counterpart? Aesthetics of the design will also have a bearing, such as the air pistol’s finish and its weight and balance compared to the centerfire model.

As the latest addition to the lineup from Springfield Armory, the MIL SPEC is one of the best looking pistols with an extremely well done slide, and modest white letter warnings on the frame. Copied from the .45 ACP MIL SPEC model, the grips are a standout feature. And since the centerfire model has the same Parkerized finish, the matte black look on the CO2 model is as right as it can be, and the same for the white dot sights. It is a very authentic looking airgun.

Second is the Ingenuity of the design; (not to be confused with Design Innovation). This can come down to the type of firing system used and how close it is to the centerfire design. Guns that use essentially the same systems as earlier designs (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it), might garner fewer points than a gun improving on an older design.

Third is another very important qualification, Ease of use; because if a pistol is a chore to load it is not going to bode well for its popularity with some shooters. Another aspect of ease of use is how exact the handling is and placement of operating controls to the centerfire gun. When a manual safety is required on a gun that does not have one as a centerfire pistol, how well that is handled in the design of the CO2 model will have a bearing on awarded points.

Rarely can you look at the right side of a blowback action CO2 pistol and not know that it is an airgun due to the white letter safety warnings and manufacturer’s marks. With the centerfire Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 models having a black polymer frame and flat black finish slide, correctly duplicating it for the Air Venturi .177 caliber models guaranteed an air pistol with totally authentic looking fit and finish. Even with the small details. The XDM models are also available in an authentic matte black finish.

Next would have been field stripping but that is now awarded as a 1 point bonus point, since it is not crucial to handing and accuracy when training, but is itself more of a bonus for the gun’s design authenticity.

Last is probably as important as the first, Performance & Accuracy; this will be determined by accuracy at competitive distances of 21 feet since all of this years guns are BB pistols and there are no new semi-auto pellet-firing models. (The only breakout design this year is the Sig Sauer Super Target single shot pneumatic, which is in a different class of air pistol.) Perceptible recoil (the more the better) and average velocity will count, as will sight design and ease of target acquisition. A gun that accumulates 50 points wins the Replica Air Pistol of the Year for 2019.

Bi-tones look better to some, and the 3.8 is available in matte black as well, but the Compact 3.8 CO2 model (left), with its correctly-sized extended capacity magazine (same as used in the 4.5 model), utilizes the same XD Gear grip extensions as the centerfire pistols! Does it get any closer than this?

This year’s contenders

Within the CO2 group of handguns you either have revolvers or semiautomatic pistols, and of course, there are CO2 powered rifles and pistols in other categories, the pistols not being replicas, and the rifles based on semi-auto tactical rifle and carbine designs or lever actions. Paring down a list of handguns for this year was not a problem, because it wasn’t even possible to compile a list of 10, and so for 2019 there are only nine guns in contention, all semi-autos, three brand new entries from another well known firearms manufacturer stepping into the airgun arena, Springfield Armory. Teaming with Air Venturi, Springfield has put itself right up against Umarex and Sig Sauer.

A slightly larger 92FS, the Crosman P1 will still fit most leather holsters made for the Beretta. The finish on the Crosman has a gloss, so it doesn’t come off with that matte black look like so many air pistols. With the laser mounted, the P1 is a pretty sharp looking CO2 pistol. It is easy to reach the sliding switch with your right hand trigger finger to turn it on, and the support hand thumb to turn it off.

Sig Sauer, though its Sig Air division, has had an impressive run of significant semi-autos the past three years, and for 2019 has only added one new model, but they made it a jaw dropper, the Sig Sauer P365, a micro compact 9mm, which, as a CO2 model, demanded a whole new design paradigm for blowback action air pistols.

The new Sig Sauer model is a masterpiece of design like its 9mm counterpart that manages to squeeze 10 rounds into a narrow grip frame that traditionally uses a single stack. Sig Air’s blowback action P365 is the smallest air pistol in its class, utilizing a groundbreaking CO2 BB magazine and firing system design.

Umarex is like a quiet giant, and except for its penchant to introduce new models in Europe before the U.S. has not held back this year introducing three significant new blowback action models, the military style Beretta M9A3 with some impressive design updates over the 92A1, and the third and fourth new Glock models in two years, the G17 Gen4 and a dark horse that rode in almost unannounced, the military style Glock 19X. That makes up eight of the nine; with the last spot going to an updated version of Crosman’s Beretta 92FS clone and 93R-style select fire mechanism, reintroduced this year as the Full Auto P1.

The new M9A3 gives up little to hint at its air pistol interior. The grips and slide are shades of FDE, while the frame and exposed section of the barrel are almost the same contrasting colors as the 9mm model. The M9A3 also still offers the select-fire system used on the 92A1.

All nine have been covered this year in Airgun Experience articles, and I recommend taking the time to look back and review these articles by linking to the Articles header on the individual product pages at Pyramyd Air. Thursday I will begin the breakdown of guns and how they will be paired up for comparison tests. I welcome any opinions from readers on these individual guns, (especially if you own them and have found things you like or dislike strengths and weaknesses), so I have a broader sense of the guns beyond my own experiences with them. You will find links to the articles below.

The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 is the most refined of the Glock CO2 designs, and except for the absence of a caliber stamping on the left side of the slide (for the U.S. market) the Gen4 looks exactly like the 9mm model right down to the interchangeable backstrap panels.

Later this month, Pyramyd Air will be announcing a Replica Airgun of the Year Contest that will award the Top Gun for 2019 to one reader on Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the 500th Airgun Experience article this December 24th.

The most significant differences between the Glock 19X CO2 model and the Gen4 Glock 17, aside from the Gen4 being field-strippable, and the G19X having the FDE color scheme of its centerfire counterpart, is the trigger and the sights. The Gen4 trigger is identical to a Glock centerfire pistol in that it is a SAO design. The G19X trigger is a simpler DA/SA style, which Glock does not use on centerfire guns. The other big difference is in how well the white dot sights are regulated to POA accuracy on the G19X, and the exceptional velocity it achieves over the G17 Gen4 CO2 model.

And the contenders for 2019 are, in alphabetical order:


Air Venturi Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC


Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 bi-tone


Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 black


Crosman Full Auto P1


Sig Sauer P365


Umarex Beretta M9A3


Umarex Glock 17 Gen4


Umarex Glock 19X


Umarex HK VP9


A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

9 thoughts on “2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1”

  1. I will go out in a limb and predict the XD pistols will be the winners . For authenticity and closest to an actual firearm, for a completely new pistol not another variation attempting to get closer to an actual pistol like the Glocks. Most disappointing to me is the Sig 365. Some work , mine didn’t, underpowered and erratic. Hoping for a better year in 2020 for Western Revolvers, double action revolvers and historic replicas. When I first got interested in the Replica semiauto s it began with the P08, P38, Makarov, Beretta 84, Colt 1911Mauser 712,in revolvers the Nagant and the Webley. . No new pocket models in years,TT33 pistol gone.

    • I still look at the Sig P365 as an important new gun because of its size, proof that it can be done with only small compromise, and I guess that is the velocity. Your gun not working is unusual for a Sig Air product and if you didn’t get it replaced instead of returning it, you might give it another try. As for velocity, I have to be pragmatic about that because short barrel centerfire (and rimfire) guns always have lower velocities than longer barreled guns and that translates to air pistols as well. Could Sig Air have gotten the P365 to shoot at 320 fps I think no one would be complaining? Its high average of 300 fps is not impressive but it has a great feel in the hand, a good felt recoil and hits the target with decent accuracy. As a Micro Compact training gun, it is in a class of its own right now. Much as you might dislike its anemic power and short effective range, I’ll bet you still have an early Umarex Walther PPK/S in your collection. I have two and they’re awful beyond 15 feet. You can’t say that about the P365.

      • As for the PpK/s mine are gone. I once shot a bug with one and last I heard he is retired in Florida. I saw several reviews with identical problem that I had with the Sig after I returned it, and chose not to get s replacement. Granted it is innovative , but for actual shooting I prefer the Makarov and the Beretta 84. I was considering a 9 mm Sig 365, but decided to stick with my 2 inch Colt D frame for ccw, and also picked up a gen 5 Glock 19 . Have the Gen 3 Umarex 17 and it is fine as an understudy although I would have preferred a blowback 19.

  2. This annual blog for the replica of the year gives me the opportunity to present some older favorites of U.S. airgun shooters still found in Europe, just as Dennis assigned.
    First my beloved Baikal products. MP654 in chrome, nickel, camo and blue versions. Generation 1_4 plus the rare 5, but at a very high price.
    The AK 47s, co2 also, can be found in different versions like AK 105, 104. All these from the Izmash plant but there are cheaper versions from Cybergun.
    Umarex older models are still available. From the Desert Eagle to the XXtreme…
    S&W models with any barrel length. There is also a model called Racegun, equivalent to, Dennis this one for you, the KWC or Tanfoglio models, which are also available.
    I think it’s enough for the moment. If there’s any interest, I will be happy to continue.

  3. Regardless how faithful a copy, the bigger question for me is: How much do you covet the real firearm? Thus in 2016, I would have wanted a CO2 Python over any Dan Wesson (even if the 715 models were available back then). Pythons still rule the cool double action police guns! And so ditto in the airgun experience!

    Anyways, that’s how I would have voted in a 2016 election.

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