Stick magazines vs. CO2 BB magazines in Blowback Action Pistols
By Dennis Adler
Is the gun, in and of itself, more important than the magazine it uses? From your comments I’d have to say yes, if the gun is the Umarex Walther P.38. And to answer the other question, it seems unlikely we will see the battlefield finish version of this air pistol in the U.S. anytime soon. The European market is far more saturated with CO2 models than the U.S. because throughout much of Europe having actual centerfire models is a laborious endeavor. From visiting people I know in Germany, for example, gun ownership is very limited and it takes a long time to get a permit to own one. One. To own more takes even longer. As a reader from Europe noted, we here in the U.S “…live in paradise compared to us.” But for airguns, the paradise is over there. Umarex and other manufacturers build airguns for a global market; the U.S. only gets a portion of them, and unfortunately there are some that never make it to our shores. The internet has made it possible for us to not only see what we have, but also what we can’t.
To answer my original question about how important is the magazine to the gun itself, I feel it depends entirely upon the airgun’s desirability. Take the now potentially hard to get Gletcher Tokarev TT. I like that gun on so many levels that I don’t care if it has a stick magazine. Same for the Umarex Walther P.38; these are historic firearms that I am glad to see in any version. I can’t say the same for using a stick magazine in a Model 1911; it’s just a cheap way to build it when the technology is so solidly established to build them with self-contained magazines. But when you find yourself with an actual choice, like the Umarex P.08 Parabellum models both having blowback action and realistic features, fit and finish, it comes down to price and performance, and no two CO2 action pistols better personify this than the P.08. But first, let’s finish the comparison between two other exceptional airguns, the Umarex Walther PPS and Umarex S&W M&P40.
As we all know, there is no counterpart to the Umarex Walther P.38 which has the highest velocity for a blowback action CO2 pistol. What can the Walter PPS deliver in comparison to the 400 fps baseline of the P.38, and how does that stack up against the equally modern era M&P40? Let’s find out.
The M&P40 with a fresh CO2 loaded delivered a high of 300 fps, a low of 296 fps, and an average velocity of 298 fps with a standard deviation of 1 fps for six consecutive rounds. If nothing else, it is consistent and 300 fps is right about average for a blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine. The stick magazine fed Walther PPS clocked an impressive high of 375 fps, a low of 363 fps, and an average velocity of 368 fps, with a standard deviation of 6 fps for six consecutive rounds. Both guns have snappy blowback actions that give good felt recoil that falls just below that of a .22 rimfire pistol, and both have a medium decibel rating for loudness, especially when fired indoors. Both are excellent air pistols for training that are affordably priced; fit the same holsters, and use the same rail-mounted accessories as their centerfire counterparts.
The blowback action P.08, with self-contained CO2 and BB magazine, uses a lot of its air to operate the very authentic feeling toggle action and thus velocity pays the bill with a high of only 291 fps, a low of 275 fps, average velocity of 285 fps, with a standard deviation of 10 fps making it the lowest performer of the four CO2 models. As far as feel and that great toggle action, it’s probably worth 15 to 20 fps. But do you pay as dearly with the stick-fed magazine? You pay in different ways. The stick magazine version has a different trigger action, you can see that it sits further away from the back of the triggerguard, has a larger spring and thus a much longer and heavier trigger pull than the other P.08 model. In comparison to the higher-priced P.08, the trigger pull on the stick magazine model is its worst feature. On the velocity end of the scale the stick magazine P.08 slammed its .177 caliber rounds downrange at a high of 378 fps, a low of 354 fps, and an average of 360 fps with a standard deviation of 10 fps. Overall, it is the most significant difference between stick and self-contained magazine models with a 5 fps higher average than the PPS over the M&P40. In both cases, the stick magazine models well outperformed their self-contained magazine counterparts by 70 to 75 fps. That’s a fairly big difference if you’re shooting for fun and accuracy vs. training with a correctly designed magazine.
As for accuracy at 21 feet, the PPS and M&P40 are hard to beat with their white dot sights. The P.08s with hard to see rear notches on the back of the toggle and narrow front blades never made it easy in 9mm, so they are no better in .177 caliber, but at 21 feet you can still manage pretty tight groups with the Luger CO2 models.
If I were a Luger fan, I would want the self-contained magazine version just to have a historically proper gun. It also has the better trigger and thus is the more accurate of the two versions. The Walther PPS and S&W M&P40 are mostly equals, but for the money it is just about impossible to get a better blowback action pistol than the Walther PPS. I like the M&P40 for its spot-on authenticity, but the PPS is easier to load, faster to handle, and just as accurate. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!