What is it about battlefield weathered guns that is so appealing?
By Dennis Adler
Weathered finishes on new guns are intended to duplicate naturally aged finishes on actual handguns and longarms. The faded bluing and loss of finish and discoloration on the 1858 Starr double action revolver at top is about a 50 to 60 percent gun for finish. The weathered finishes on CO2 models like the John Wayne Signature Series Umarex Colt Peacemaker and Air Venturi Model 1911 are less severe but show fine edge wear and fading to give them a more historic appearance. A lot of airgun enthusiasts and collectors find this very appealing.
When you look through high end firearms auction catalogs, like the Rock Island Auction Co. Premier Auction catalogs, the first thing you want to see is the photo or photos of the gun for sale, then the item description, and at the very end, what is written after the word Condition:
What you want to see is “Excellent” or “Very Fine” or at the worst “Fine” which usually indicates a worn but attractive patina with 60 percent of the original finish remaining. The rarity of the gun is part of what makes “Fine” actually fine because the gun is either hard to come by in any condition, and this usually applies to guns that are over a century old, or to those used in battle where the finish has been worn or faded over time. When it comes to WWII firearms, gun collectors look to find Very Good and Excellent guns, Fine, once again, is only appealing if the gun is rare or has historical provenance, and that is what makes Battlefield Finish CO2 pistols particularly interesting, they have the look of a gun that has a story to tell!read more
When you fieldstrip all three of these Beretta 92FS-style CO2 pistols you end up with the same parts. The only difference is that the Crosman (far right) has a better magazine for loading, but the other mags work in the Crosman just as well. The full auto setting is selected by the safety when moved to the lowest position, allowing one pull of the trigger to fire the gun continuously until you let off. The select fire Umarex Beretta 92A1 has a different selector switch apart from the thumb safety.
The concept of parts interchangeability was pioneered by Samuel Colt in the 1850s to facilitate more efficient and precision manufacturing at his Hartford, Connecticut, South Meadows Armory. In a way, Colt even pioneered the moving assembly line with revolver and rifle components progressing along dedicated production lines, minimizing unnecessary movement. As noted in the book, Samuel Colt – Arms, Art, and Invention by Herbert G. Houze, within the Colt’s factory buildings there were “fifteen hundred machines, the majority of which were both invented and constructed on the premises. Every part of a pistol or rifle is made by machinery, and being made to gauge, is an exact counterpart of every other piece for the same purpose.” Every part was inspected for uniformity before going to assembly, and thus you had parts interchangeability. The efficiency of the Colt factory allowed guns to be built and assembled in large numbers, and for guns in the field (remember much of this occurred just prior to and during the Civil War) an armorer in a military unit or company could replace damaged or broken parts with spares that were identical and required very little hand fitting, if any. Henry Martyn Leland, the founder of both the Cadillac and the Lincoln Motor Car companies in the early 20th century, had worked for Colt’s during the Civil War where he learned the value of parts interchangeability. After Colt’s he took this skill to Springfield Armory and later Brown & Sharpe in Providence, Rhode Island, a precision tool making company, before setting off to Detroit and America’s emerging automobile industry. The significance of parts interchangeability has been realized globally by virtually all manufacturing, whether in the form of firearms, automobiles, hand tools, or appliances, and to the point of this article, air pistols.read more
There are no obvious compromises in the new Umarex HK VP9 when you look at it from the left side. All the key features and factory markings have been faithfully reproduced and the gun comes within fractions of an inch and a few ounces of matching the centerfire version. As a modern, polymer framed semi-auto, it is well presented as a blowback action CO2 model.
Building new guns is always a balancing act between design, production cost, and marketing, which was pointed out in detail by Walther designer, engineer and author Dr. Peter Dallhammer in his 2018 book The Textbook of Pistol Technology and Design. In it he writes, “From a manufacturer’s point of view…consumers are more cost-conscious than ever and competition among the market is fierce. It isn’t enough to try to differentiate a product based on performance alone, so manufacturers utilize special promotions, persuasion and sale price.” Dr. Dallhammer underscores in terms of cartridge-firing handguns the same balance I have been writing about in Airgun Experience with comparable CO2 models. The same forces are at work whether it is a new H&K 9mm pistol or a CO2 model. He also notes in his chapter on Production Technologies that the use of polymer parts “is widespread in gun manufacturing. Plastic parts are ideal for both integral designs and functional integration, and are beneficial in the construction of pistols.” It is easy to apply this to CO2 models based on centerfire guns that have polymer frames and parts. Guns like the Umarex HK VP9 and Glock 17, for example, are easier, faster, and more authentic to manufacture because the centerfire guns they copy have the same polymer frames. This makes it possible to sell blowback action CO2 models like the VP9 for only around $80 (discounted by retailers) because the primary components can be more affordably manufactured compared to metal frames. And of course, this applies to centerfire guns in comparison to those with steel frames.read more
It’s not that unusual for the bad guy’s gun to become the good guy’s gun in a movie, but certain guns have more infamous histories (mostly tied to their use during wars) that have led to them being typecast as a villain’s gun, or in more literary terms, the antagonist’s weapon. With German guns, the Broomhandle Mauser is often found in that role, along with Lugers, and Walther P.38s; however, there are occasions where a gun long associated with bad guys is suddenly recast by placing it into the hands of the story’s hero. A P.38 briefly ended up in Bond’s shoulder holster in Goldfinger but only in a few scenes, and in nearly all the Bond films 007 has ended up shooting guns other than the PPK.read more
When this still shot from Spectre first appeared everyone was convinced that 007 was trading in his 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. Daniel Craig had used H&K rifles in most of his previous outings as Bond, but this was a first for an H&K pistol.
James Bond and Heckler & Koch; there’s two names that don’t roll easily off the tongue, butH&K has had a supportive role in a number of the James Bond films over the years, but never quite so blatantly as in the latest adventures of 007 with Daniel Craig, starting with Casino Royale where 007 introduced himself to Specter’s Mr. White at the end of the film holding the HK UMP-9 he has just used to shoot him in the leg. Bond had the HK again in the opening of Quantum of Solace, which literally picks up moments after the end sequence in Casino Royale.read more
Oddly, while the Glock 17 is the newest blowback action CO2 model, it is the oldest of the three designs dating back to 1982. The M&P40 was introduced by S&W back in 2006 and as a CO2 model in 2016. The Heckler & Koch is an older design that evolved out of the U.S. Army SOCOM project (United States Special Operation Command) in 1989 and has been in production by HK ever since. As a CO2 model it barely beat the G17 to market.
I’m not sure what air pistol manufacturers can do in 2019 that will outshine the HK USP and G17, though Glock and Umarex will be adding a G17 Gen4 model this year, which will offer the improved Gen4 design modifications (but does not appear to have Gen4 interchangeable backstrap panels). While we wait to see what Sig Sauer will unveil or announce this coming week as well as the latest announcement of the Air Venturi/Springfield Armory models, let’s wrap up this week by drilling bullseyes with these three impressive blowback action models, starting with the Umarex Glock 3rd Model G17. This one delivers on the promise of striking authenticity of fit and finish hinted at by the non-blowback action entry-level G19 Compact model earlier in 2018. The G17 has made good on everything developed for the G19 with the addition of a blowback action and self-contained CO2 BB magazine, all of which were praised in last December’s rundown to Replica Air Pistol of the Year. The Glock lost 10 points and a solid shot at the top honors because it cannot be field stripped. I can’t say that field stripping is the be all and end all of what a CO2 semi-auto should encompass in its design, but it is a sticking point for many, myself included, but as you will see, there is so much more to the G17 (and hopefully the Gen4) than one facet of design authenticity.read more
There are a lot of choices in blowback action CO2 models, but this trio represents air pistols that have raised the bar. The Smith & Wesson licensed Umarex S&W M&P40 helped establish the standard against which most other blowback action models are judged. The 2018 (well…2019) Umarex Glock 17 has delivered on as much practical authenticity as possible given the limitations imposed by its design; not quite up to the M&P40 across the board but a new standard bearer in its own right. The Umarex HK USP blowback is really the first gun to rival the M&P40 in every way and do so as the only hammer fired model of the three.
Now that the Umarex Glock 17 is available and ready to ship, (so get your gun before they endup on backorder), it is fair to make some hard comparisons between a trio of blowback action models that simply leave you asking, “If they can get all this right, why can’t they get other things right?” Perhaps they do and we fail to recognize it. Let’s start a few years back with what I consider the one semi-auto CO2 air pistol everyone who likes modern pistols should own, the Umarex S&W M&P40. It just doesn’t get any more authentic than this. Or does it?read more