A conversation about attraction

A conversation about attraction

The collector’s eye

By Dennis Adler

The other day a friend asked what got me into collecting replica air pistols? I thought the answer was obvious from my recent Retrospect articles on the Umarex Walther CP99, but as it turns out that really isn’t the case. At the time, 2001, when the First Edition Blue Book of Airguns was published, I wasn’t an airgun collector, I had a few but I was a gun collector; air pistols were not something I had developed an interest in acquiring; remember, this is almost 20 years ago.  

The answer to the question, “What got me into collecting replica air pistols,” would seem logical, the first replica air pistol I reviewed 19 years ago, the Walther CP99. It is in my opinion one of the finest multi-shot pellet firing CO2 pistols ever made, and I have purchased every one I ever tested, but it isn’t the gun that got me into collecting.

The First Edition Blue Book of Airguns was simply an editorial project for me as Special Projects Editor for Blue Book Publications. The book was, in fact, a collaborative effort between me, publisher Steve Fjestad, and the inspiration for the book in the first place, Dr. Robert D. Beeman. So to honestly answer the question, “What got me into collecting replica air pistols? I would have to look back at the actual centerfire guns I was collecting 20 years ago.

Find a Hawke Scope

I already had a Walther P99 (and had been collecting Walther models for many years), so when I undertook the Blue Book of Airguns I immediately gravitated to the latest air pistol that was based on an existing handgun, the CP99. I ended up with three of them, but I hardly considered that a collection, or myself an airgun collector. I just like the CP99. I also liked the older Umarex Walther CP 88 which I had been attracted to a couple of years after it was introduced in 1996. I regarded it as a well made, German CO2 pellet pistol that raised the bar for this type of airgun. It had come to my attention prior to the First Edition Blue Book of Airguns, when I was working with Blue Book to put the airgun section together in the annual Blue Book of Gun Values. Airguns consumed a portion of each book every year, but by 1999 the airgun section had begun consuming too many pages, which is what led to the Blue Book of Airguns being conceived a year later. Obviously, the airgun market was growing exponentially by the early 2000s, enough so, that it demanded a Blue Book of its own. That’s one version of how I got into collecting replica air pistols but not what really got me to become a collector.

When Umarex introduced the Mauser Broomhandle Model 712 in 2015, it was right in my line of sight as a collector of original Broomhandles, like the model in the background. I had seen the first version, a semi-auto only with mostly plastic construction at the Shot Show in 2014, and had remarked that “Too bad you didn’t make it an all metal gun.” Everyone in the Umarex booth smiled at me. It was the kind of smile that says “Be patient, you may get what you want.” Less than a year later I got more than I had expected with a blowback action copy of the most desirable of all Broomhandles, the select fire Model 712. In 1932, it was the most formidable handgun in the world, a high-capacity, box magazine, semi-auto pistol with full-auto firing capability. Now, here it was as an accurate, CO2 model.

My interest in collecting airguns (CO2 air pistols to be specific), really didn’t begin until 2015, at which point I began writing up the newer replica airguns for a series of articles I had started in Combat Handguns magazine on training with air pistols. This began following my trip to the Umarex factory in Germany and a review and video on the new Umarex Colt Commander Model 1911. But I still wasn’t a collector, not until Umarex introduced the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712, which hit at the core of my gun collecting interests. I had been collecting Broomhandle Mausers since the late 1970s and regarded them as one of the most interesting handguns ever designed. The CO2 model so impressed me that I purchased it and began to look at all the other, then current, CO2 replicas of modern and early 20th century handguns.

The M712 was a gun that broke the mold for what in 2105 were elaborate but not complicated CO2 pistols. It was a Ferrari among Fords.

This led me to my next purchase, the first version of the Webley MK VI, which caught my attention with its superb authenticity and detail. It was also another CO2 version of a centerfire gun I collected.

While I was still infatuated with the Mauser, Webley & Scott, famous for manufacturing both handguns, rifles, and airguns, stunned the market with a MK VI revolver copied from the original 1915 Webley blueprints. As a CO2 revolver, it impressed military gun collectors with the same quality and authenticity as the Broomhandle. The later Battlefield Finish, pellet cartridge firing model sealed the deal for just about everyone, myself included.
As a Webley collector (are you beginning to see a trend developing in my collection?), the MK VI remains an absolute “must have” airgun. The model at top is an original civilian model which underscores how well the Webley is made. The one giveaway is the higher rear latch and sight.

Within months of that, Umarex introduced the first Colt Peacemaker model, quickly followed by some unique limited editions like the U.S Marshal Museum Commemorative.  

I began working with Pyramyd Air before my column started, by heading up a team to make a John Wayne CO2 Peacemaker to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Wayne’s last film, The Shootist. The gun was for an article in Guns of the Old West but it also landed me at Pyramyd Air writing Airgun Experience in May of 2016.
The limited edition Shootist was among the very first hand engraved CO2 Peacemakers built for Pyramyd Air and led to an entire series of hand engraved models, all of which were pricey but when seen in person, worth every penny.

It is safe to say, I was hooked from that point on, having already reviewed the CO2 Peacemakers in Guns of the Old West, and the new Sig Sauer P226 for Combat Handguns. Later in 2016 I began writing the Airgun Experience columns for Pyramyd Air and the rest, as they say, is history recreated in CO2.

There were also some early Umarex BB cartridge firing models that were sold as limited editions including a 5-1/2 inch model done in conjunction with the U.S. Marshal’s Museum. This was also among the first models to come from Umarex in a weathered finish, and featured exceptional wood grained plastic grips.
Umarex took the idea of limited editions to heart and even serial numbered each individual gun in the U.S. Marshal’s series. They sold out fast.
Pictured are two guns at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum, the very first hand engraved and nickel plated 7-1/2 inch CO2 Peacemaker done by Adams & Adams for Pyramyd Air, and my recent refinish of a weathered Peacemaker model. One is as elegant as any original hand engraved SAA from the period, the other as saddle worn as any old 1890’s model. I say 1890s because the CO2 models use the style of the later smokeless powder frames with a transverse cylinder pin latch, which wasn’t introduced by Colt until 1892 (although Colt didn’t officially state the guns were approved for smokeless powder cartridges until 1900).

Obviously my interest as an airgun collector has its roots in replicas of late 19th and early 20th century handguns and, after some thought, to answer the question, it would be the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712.

A year before I started writing Airgun Experience I had started seriously collecting CO2 pistols based on original centerfire models and it was the Umarex Legends Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 that really turned my interest into a passion. But I am still a little wanting…stay tuned.

What drew you in?

Now that I have given a summary of what got me into collecting replica air pistols, I would like to hear from readers, as I am sure you all have stories to tell about what brought you into collecting airguns and reading Airgun Experience. This article is a two-way street. And with city streets as empty as they are right now, this might give you a chance for a drive down Memory Lane! Let me hear from you.

6 thoughts on “A conversation about attraction”

  1. Two particular CO2 powered pellet pistols kept showing up in advertising materials I received in the mail. One of those, the Umarex Beretta PX4 was a genuine firearm replica. The other was not a genuine replica, but a generic revolver in the style of a Colt revolver, the Crosman 357-6.

    At the time I purchased these, I had very limited experience with guns that shot anything other than water. I thought (and later discovered) that shooting airguns might be fun. At the same time, I was considering a purchase of a firearm home defense pistol and decided to use the genuine replica pistols to familiarize myself with various makes and models to see which one I might prefer to try in the firearm.

    Over the last several years, I have very enthusiastically collected mostly the genuine replicas and limited edition replicas of Colt, Beretta, Walther, HK,, Dan Wesson, Smith & Wesson, CZ, and Tanfoglio semi-auto pistols and revolvers. I have also eagerly added the early 20TH Century war period replicas like the Mauser, Luger, Webley, MP40, Thompson M1A1, and others.

    It has been a fun hobby. When I started, I never thought I would become a collector of so many fine replicas. You may ask, ” why buy so many?” I bought so many for the variety. The limited edition replicas are truly collectibles. I don’t plan to shoot those again. I keep them stored in their original boxes to keep them in pristine condition.

    • As I have been told many times, “collecting” is a verb. When I started collecting guns over 40 years ago, I had different interests. When my interests changed, I assumed I would sell guns that I was no longer interested in, but I never lost interest, my interests just expanded. It has been the same with airguns, the more interesting they become the more you end up with. I have managed to shoot all of the various airguns I have, some not for years like your Walther lever action,(the Retrospect articles helped with that!) but even when you pull out an older model, it rekindles the interest that drew you to it in the first place, or at least that has been my experience. I do like to display the limited editions on a shelf rather than keep them in the boxes. I check then from time to time, dust them, etc., but seeing them is as much a joy as collecting them. Enjoy!


  2. I have a few mentioned above. The Webley and both John Wayne “Shootist” models. I haven’t fired the Webley(yet) but I can’t bring myself to shoot the engraved Shootist, just too pretty. The plain Shootist recieved a defarb makeover and is a nice stand in til I can get the Cimarron Rooster Shooter in .45 Colt. My brother has the Mauser with an attached shoulder stock, but I can’t hit a thing with that gun. A 1911A1 sights are match grade compared to that darn Broomhandle!

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