2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

The Final Four and 2019’s Winner

By Dennis Adler

The final four top guns for 2019 are (from left to right) the Umarex Beretta M9A3, Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 and Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 models. Each is a worthy contender for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

If there is a dark horse candidate among the final four, all with a least 50 points, it is the Umarex Beretta M9A3, because for all of its very authentic features, it has an “extra” feature that actually takes away from its exceptional value as a 1:1 CO2 version of the 9mm model. As much as I enjoy shooting BBs on full auto (with blowback action models that actually have select fire counterparts), this fun feature has done nothing for the M9A3 or the 92A1 before it in respect to it being an excellent training gun for its centerfire counterparts. If we disregard the selector switch, which is so small that it’s not hard to do, the M9A3 is just as accurate in its design as the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two new Springfield XDM models. It is a solid 50 point gun and any other year would have walked away with the win. But this year we have four guns that are equally worthy, but, only one can win.

The Glock 17 Gen4 CO2 model is a near perfect match for the 9mm model. It represents the very best of what is possible with a blowback action air pistol for fit, finish, and authenticity.

The little details that will make or break the winner

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The fatal flaw for the M9A3 is the select fire switch. Between the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two XDMs, finding fatal flaws is a great deal more difficult. Differences in velocity and accuracy are not significant enough to break this three-way tie, velocity is too close, and honestly, accuracy is purely subjective here, since it is based on my shooting skills, and while they remained fairly constant with all three guns, there are those of you who can shoot better than me even with the worst of them. So it must come down to how far Umarex and Glock, and Air Venturi and Springfield Armory, have gone to make these guns absolutely as authentic as possible for an air pistol.

All three fieldstrip exactly like their centerfire counterparts. They all have the correct fit and finish, correct sights, and operating controls that look, feel and function like those on the centerfire models. The Glock 17 Gen 4 was the only gun to break 50 points from the start, with the 1 bonus point for field stripping capability added to a perfect 50 point score. The two XDM each lost a point for velocity by being right at 300 fps, while the Glock got the full 10 points with an average velocity that was 317 fps; the small margin that was better than the XDM models. But it’s not enough to really make the Glock 17 Gen4 the immediate winner.

The Gen4 turned a few heads when it was first disassembled and reveled not only a accurate take down to the 9mm model but a dual recoil spring and guide rod like the centerfire model uses.

The Glock has just about everything down right. It has a fully functional Safe-Action trigger, it has an approximate trigger pull to the 9mm pistol, it has correct factory markings on the slide, except for the 9x19mm stamping, it has authentic markings on the right side of the slide and barrel lug, even the warnings are hidden on the underside of the triggerguard, and the mandatory added manual safety brilliantly disguised as the serial number plate on the underside of the dustcover. The not so simple tells are the brass finished .177 caliber muzzle recessed inside the 9mm muzzle and the aforementioned absence of the 9x19mm stamping on the left side of the slide. The gun has robust felt recoil for a blowback action CO2 pistol and even the inner details have been addressed with a Gen4-style dual recoil spring and guide rod assembly that can be removed when field stripping the gun. It is as close to perfect as you can get. But can it beat the XDM 4.5 and 3.8?

The XDM models also fully fieldstrip and the guns are as accurately duplicated from the centerfire models, but in even finer detail than the Glock, and with a few extra features. (Both the Glock Gen4 and XDM models have interchangeable backstraps). In this image, I have turned the barrel around so you can see the fine detail in the barrel lug, which bears the same design as the centerfire pistols with MATCH at the top, the serial number below, and for the CO2 models, .177 CAL (4.5mm). 

What sets these two new entries into the blowback action CO2 market apart from the rest, even from the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, is the complexity of their design. The XDM is a more intricately manufactured air pistol. And it is not simply the two slide finishes available, polished or black Melonite to match the centerfire models; it is the internal and external operating features of the centerfire XDM designs that have been so carefully reproduced for the air pistols.

The XDM is a double threat for this year’s title since there are two models, and two finishes for each model. Pictured is the XDM 4.5 in the excellent Bi-Tone finish and the XDM 3.8 in the black Nitron-like slide finish. Both the 4.5 and 3.8 have three interchangeable backstrap panel and are currently being offered with a free XDM paddle holster. The 3.8 also comes with three matching grip extensions for the magazine (as shown).

Is it safe?

The Glock has famously relied upon a single safety design, the Safe-Action trigger, which is combined with internal safety mechanisms (a drop safety for example) all immediately disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger is pulled. Springfield Armory and its manufacturing partner in Croatia, where the centerfire guns are built to Springfield’s exacting standards, utilized their version of the Glock-type trigger safety but backed it up with a 1911-inspired grip safety (and internal drop and striker safeties), all disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger pulled, but this only happens after the grip safety is depressed by fully the gripping the gun. It is a dual external failsafe. There’s more.

The XDM is a more complex design since it not only has the blade trigger safety, but a secondary grip safety that must be depressed when gripping the gun in order for it to fire. Yet even with the dual safety like the centerfire models, the CO2 version is still required to have a manually set safety. You can also see the striker status indicator on the XDM, which in this picture shows the gun is cocked. 

The only way to tell if a Glock action has been cycled is the position of the trigger. Springfield wanted more than that, so they added a striker status indicator (like the Walther P99 among others) which protrudes from the rear of the slide when the action has been cycled. Of course, this does not guarantee a loaded chamber, so the XDMs have a loaded chamber indicator that sticks up from the top of the slide (the Glock’s protrudes from the right side of the slide extractor behind the ejection port). These are the working features of the centerfire guns. On the XDM CO2 models, the loaded chamber indicator is always in the up (loaded) position as an additional reminder to shooters, whether beginners or seasoned pros, (i.e., always regard every gun as loaded), while the Gen4 CO2 model’s indicator is a non-functional, molded-in piece that rests flush, and thus indicates an empty chamber. It’s a very small point, but one gun is obviously more instructive.

The little details are important right down to how the required manual safeties (not required on the centerfire guns) are cleverly disguised as the serial number plates on the Glock 17 Gen4 and XDM CO2 models. A slight touch of greater authenticity is seen in the XDMs which actually have serial numbers on the moving SAFE and FIRE selector.

The grip safety on the XDM CO2 models works; you cannot fire the gun unless the grip safety is depressed. With the grip safety depressed the gun still will not fire unless the trigger safety is pressed with the trigger. You can try this with an empty CO2 model (magazine removed and action cleared) by racking the slide and trying to pull the trigger without pressing in on the grip safety. The trigger will move back but the pistol will not fire. You can test the trigger safety the same way by depressing the grip safety and trying to pull the trigger from the edges but not depress the blade safety. The trigger won’t move at all. It design exactly like the centerfire model; both the grip and trigger safeties must be engaged in order for the gun to discharge. This is a far more complex firing system than any the Glock CO2 model. And there is the mandatory manual safety, which, like Umarex Glock 17, is hidden on the underside of the dustcover where the serial number plate goes. What has Springfield done differently to make it better? It actually has a serial number on it. Slide it back toward the triggerguard and the gun is locked. Push it forward and the action is released to function exactly like a centerfire XDM. That’s as good as a mandatory manual safety can look and function.

The bottom line with the XDMs is that they are as authentic as technically possible for a blowback action CO2 pistol, inside and out. But I can only give the 5-point bonus for Design Innovation to one gun and there are two XDMs, one of which takes things, just one step further.

It’s a package deal with the 3.8 which comes with one magazine, three interchangeable backstrap panels and three matching size grip extensions. At present, the guns also come with an XD holster as part of the purchase price.

When Springfield Armory decided to build a Compact version of the XDM, they developed a new, shorter frame, slide and barrel with a length of 3.8 inches. This smaller version of the XDM 4.5 had a shorter grip frame and thus a lower total capacity. As a pure Compact this was a necessity for concealed carry. However, the full size 4.5 magazines also fit the 3.8, so one could use the longer magazine in the smaller gun; it just stuck out the bottom of the grip like an extended capacity magazine on other pistols. Springfield wasn’t satisfied with that. Since the guns also had three sizes of interchangeable backstraps, it was decided that three size-matching grip extensions would be included with each XDM 3.8, so the longer 4.5 mags could blend in with the grip and backstrap, while also providing a better hold for the Compact pistol. This was also beneficial for those with larger hands. The shorter magazine could be used for concealed carry and the spare mag (or mags) the extended capacity version with the grip extension. Or, one could simply carry with the longer magazine, which was still shorter than some full size semi-autos.

No matter which finish you like the XDM 3.8 is the most authentic blowback action CO2 model currently being manufactured and the gun that has raised the bar to a new level this year.

The XDM CO2 model is exactly the same, except that there is only one magazine type, the 4.5 version, which is necessary to handle the CO2. So, the XDM 3.8 comes with the grip extensions used on the centerfire guns, making it the single most innovative and authentic blowback action CO2 pistol in every detail, and 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year. And now, the other winner.

The first person to answer all 9 questions correctly, and pick the Replica Air Pistol of the Year for 2019 is Cstoehr, who posted the correct answers and the XDM 3.8 as his choice on December 22nd at 1:42 PM. Congratulations and Merry Christmas!

Thanks to everyone for following the 2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year series this month. This article marks the 500th Airgun Experience article and a fititng end to the year. The Airgun Experience will return in January.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s to one and all!  

11 thoughts on “2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10”

  1. Ah!!! Darn my original pick to be honest was the XDM 3.8… but I was going back and forth in my mind from the 21st of December till I posted… my wife told me if I took to long this may happen and right before I posted my choice for pistol of the year I saw someone had already chosen the XDM 3.8 so I changed it to the next one in my mind which was the XDM 4.5- great job Cstoehr

  2. Thank you Dennis.

    Besides the overall features and scores of the various replica CO2 pistols, the one factor that convinced me the winner would be the XDM 3.8 was the following statement.

    “Of the two new XDM CO2 models, I like the 3.8 because it is better suited to practicing concealed carry with an air pistol.”

    In all of your reviews, the capability of the replica to be used for practicing concealed carry is a major focus of the review. Despite being smaller, I doubted you would pick the SIG because despite it’s design innovation it came up short with respect to features like field stripping.

    Regarding my XDM 4.5, I did the test with the grip safety like you suggested. I did the test without CO2 or BBs in the magazine. I racked the slide and verified that the striker status indicator was pushed out the back of the slide. Without pressing the grip safety, I pulled back on the trigger blade safety and trigger. When I did that, I heard an audible click and saw that the striker status indicator had moved back into the slide. That audible click and movement of the striker status indicator suggest to me that my grip safety lever is non-functional. However, as I said, there was no CO2 loaded in the magazine, so my test did not verify if the CO2 valve would have been activated to release CO2. So if the grip safety really is working correctly, what am I missing?

  3. I thought the XD series deserved to win at the outset. While I am disappointed in velocity, the innovation of design, and authenticity with fully functioning parts that mirror the actual firearm carried the day.It was also a truly original design not a modification of an existing pistol. I have a Gen3 model 17, and I would not give the Gen4 pistol of the year , nor would I buy one. I resent the Umarex Glock strategy of putting out an interim design and then putting out what they should have done. Not so with the XD pistols. If Umarex would have simply introduced a blowback 19, or a 26, it could have been a contender. The 17 is also a duty pistol , and not often if ever carried for ccw, so it is also a less useful replica.I would have also deducted points for lack of innovation and non compatibility of magazines with the Gen 3. Thumbs up to Springfield, and thumbs down to Umarex

  4. I have to say that although I am not disappointed that the XDM is the Replica Air Pistol of the Year, I am on how the decision was made…

    All the features, Authenticity, Ingenuity of Design, Ease of Use, Performance and Accuracy where already graded… The extra points where all about Design Innovation and there was no other article where you talk more about the improvements and innovations on the design than the Beretta M9A3.

    It looks like the final decision was made fro an overall standpoint not just the design innovation points…

    Anyway, Merry Christmas guys… a wish you the best plinking for 2020 🙂

    • Gabriel:

      I reserved the 5-point bonus as a tie breaker and I knew there were going to be several 50 point guns. I gave it to the XDM 3.8 over the XDM 4.5 for several reasons. First it is a second model, not a copy of the 4.5 but a lot of different parts. No one has introduced two versions of the same series at one time before this. Secondly, it was a very innovative approach to use actual grip frame extensions for the centerfire guns. And last, being a Compact it was the most practical. All of that is part of the 5-point bonus consideration. Yes, it could have gone to the XDM 4.5 were it not for the 3.8’s grip extensions. When you are looking at multiple winners, and have to make a final choice, one thing makes the difference. I only gave the 5-point bonus to one other gun, the Sig Sauer P365 for its magazine design, but even with the extra 5 points it couldn’t make the cut. Hope that explains things.


  5. Dennis,

    Can you give us a hint of what reviews you may do in 2020? In particular, have you found a way to mount a scope or dot sight on the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine BB gun and will that report be coming soon?

    • Charles,

      I am looking into parts that are interchangeable between the centerfire M1 Carbine and the CO2 model from Springfield, and I will have a full article in the near future. As for what’s new in 2020, we known Umarex has a Thompson-style sub gun coming in 2020, beyond that my crystal ball remains cloudy but it tends to clear up mid January. Or as the Magic 8 Ball used to say, “Ask again later.”


      • In the meantime, I’d like to share what I have been working on with the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine BB gun.

        To be able to adjust the aim of the M1 for elevation, I succeeded in jerry rigging a laser mounting on the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine BB gun using a dovetail ring and the bayonet mount. I know that the bayonet mount is not a dovetail mounting, but the width of the bayonet mount is 7 mm which is close enough to the standard 11 mm dovetail that a dovetail ring can be fastened to the bayonet mount.

        The laser I used is a CenterPoint Quick-Acquisition Laser Sight, Model 74252, which comes with both 11 mm and Weaver mounting rings. Once the mounting screw is tightened, the 11 mm mounting ring does grip the bayonet mount tightly enough that the ring will not fall off due to gravity. However, if the ring is bumped, it will pop off. In an attempt to make the mounting ring grip more secure, I inserted a shim on one side of the mount. The material I used for the shim was piece of audio speaker wire that was readily available. Other materials may be used. The shim did improve the 11 mm mounting ring grip, but not enough to prevent the ring from popping off if bumped. In hindsight, it would have been better to shim both sides of the mount. The final thing I did to secure the laser to the M1 bayonet mount was to tightly wrap the laser mounting with black electrical tape.

        After adjusting the laser for elevation and windage, I just aim with the laser rather than the open sights. BBs hit the target within about 2″ of the laser dot on the target.

  6. Nothing leaked yet for 2020, but since we are interested in ccw practice pistols, here are my suggestions to the airgun manufacturers. Glock 19 and 26 blowback. S&W EZ9, Springfield Hellcat., Ruger Security 9 compact. From Ruger would like to see a PC9 takedown Carbine, 15 round with optional dual co2 33 round , taking same mags Security 9 pistol. Colt King Cobra 2and 3 inch barrel pellet revolver, using same cartridges as Umarex Peacemaker.

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