Barra 1911 Part 3

Barra 1911 Part 3

What makes a good 1911 CO2 model?

By Dennis Adler

The new Barra 1911, top right, fits into the category of more modern designs along with the older Swiss Arms TRS, top left. For fit, finish, and handling (with one reservation that I will explain), the Barra is in a class shared by the Colt Commander, new (2020) Springfield Armory model, center, and the best 1911 blowback action pistol on the market, the Sig Sauer We The People.

That’s a question I ask every time a new CO2 version of the Colt Model 1911, 1911A1, or 1911 variant comes out. What manufacturers want to do is make air pistols that will sell. Umarex recognized that in 2014 with the Colt licensed Commander model, which wasn’t actually a Commander but a Government Model 1911 with a couple of upgrades to the sights. Back in 2014 it was the only game in town but the components to manufacture it in Taiwan were not exclusive. Others came (and went) but the designs rarely upped the game until Swiss Arms started having Rail Guns built. They have been few in number and now the Barra picks up the mantle with a gun that is more authentic than the Swiss Arms model. But is it any better? Is it a good 1911?

To answer that question for readers who might be considering another 1911 CO2 model, especially one that looks like the current Colt centerfire model Rail Gun, you have to shoot it. We know from Parts 1 and 2 that the Barra has the looks, the build, and the potential to be a very good CO2 model. As good as the Sig Sauer, which is also based on a .45 ACP centerfire model in the Sig line? It all comes down to likes and dislikes. Some people do not like the look of the Sig Sauer We The People, others do not like Rail Guns, so the competition for the Barra is pretty much the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS, which is a pretty good gun.

What is my reservation? It is the CO2 BB magazine that comes with the Barra. Combined with the gun it is on the anemic side with a best velocity of 300 fps. Compared to the Sig at well into the 330 fps plus range, it is no match even though it shares many of the same features. But there is much more to this because the Barra works differently with magazines from the other guns!

A direct 1:1 comparison is not necessary because the Swiss Arms model is already a proven design and the Barra wins out for total authenticity, even though the Swiss Arms TRS is a nicer looking gun. Where the new gun has initially faltered is in velocity and accuracy, but we have also discovered that changing to a different magazine can change that. Is the Barra CO2 BB magazine inferior? No, it’s just not exactly the same as some of the others which have proven to provide a little more velocity when the hammer hits the valve release. Since all 1911 CO2 BB mags are the same size they generally all work in every gun. Here’s a brief performance recap of earlier 1911 CO2 model performance: The Umarex Colt Commanders average is 300 to 312 fps, average velocity for the Swiss Arms TRS is 304 to 309 fps; pretty close but under the advertised up to 314 to 320 fps claims (TRS is listed as 314 fps). Currently the Sig Sauer WTP has consistently shot steel BBs at between 329 and 338 fps making it the highest velocity 1911 CO2 model with a factory claimed up to velocity of 340 fps. The Springfield Armory has a factory rating of 320 fps and tested at an average of 314 fps. Even switching to the Sig Sauer mag, the Springfield still averaged the same velocity.

There are significant advantages to some of the other CO2 mags on the market, not just in velocity but ease of loading. Case in point, the Sig mag (left) and Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio 27 round extended capacity magazine (center) have locking followers that set below a nice round loading port (red arrows) that makes inserting BBs much easer. The Colt Commander magazine, (right) like the Barra magazine, has a locking follower (red arrow), but to insert BBs you have to manually pull it down below the catch to load. Not as easy or as quick.

Knowing that the Barra increased velocity with the Umarex Colt Commander magazine, I am going to test it next with a Sig Sauer WTP magazine. First off, this is a superior magazine design compared to the Barra’s and the Umarex because it has a locking follower plus a loading port above it. With the other two magazines you have to hold the follower down, and load BBs into the wider section of the channel below the follower catch. It is a lot easier with the Sig magazine. This, by the way, is the same design used on the Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio 27-round extended capacity magazines.

With the Sig mag in the Barra, felt recoil from the blowback action increased by about 10 percent and the noise level went up slightly as well. Ah, but this superior magazine does not help to significantly increase the Barra’s velocity. Average was 304 fps for 10 shots on a fresh CO2. Not as good as the Umarex magazine did in the Barra, which hit 314 fps. (I put the Sig mag back in the WTP and it clocked from 327 fps to 333 fps for 10 shots). I then ran the Umarex mag through the Barra again (with the CO2 having already fired three magazines) and it clocked 305 fps.

The last comparison is with the extended capacity Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio magazine and a fresh CO2. Average velocity was 310 fps to 315 fps, the highest average of all the magazines in the Barra. Word of advice, buy a Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio magazine if you like the Barra, it looks good, too with the long mag.

This is a cut to the chase photo because after testing several different magazines in the Barra, the one that delivered the most velocity, an average of 314 fps (and yes 14 fps makes a difference!) was the Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio extended capacity mag. With this magazine the gun shot better, had brisk recoil (as it did with the Sig and Colt mags), but very predictable accuracy and POA at a proper 6 o’clock hold with no appreciable windage correction.

Downrange

Can a better magazine make the gun more accurate? Velocity helps and at 310 fps and up, accuracy improved. With a smooth, 0.21 inch take up and average trigger pull of 5 pounds, 3.0 ounces, combined with the well regulated to POA white dot sights, the Barra is easy enough to handle with just enough kick in the slide to deliver a decent amount of recoil for an air pistol, and just about equal to the Sig Sauer.

Shooting through the chronograph screens during the velocity checks, the Barra and extended capacity Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio magazine punched two tight 5-shot groups, the top group about dime-sized in the 10 and bullseye. POA was just below the black covering the 6 ring. Shots hit lower in the second group but again very tight and all almost dead to center.

The best 10 shot group with the Barra magazine was 2.0 inches with a best five shots at 1.0 inches and a high of 300 fps. No bragging rights there. I used the highest performing magazine for the Barra’s last accuracy test; the Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio extended capacity mag but with only 10 rounds loaded. The Barra punched all 10 into the black on a 10 meter pistol target at 21 feet distance. POA was 6 o’clock under the black. My 10-shot group had a spread of 1.25 inches with a best five shots at 0.625 inches in the 9, 10, and bullseye. My Shoot-N-C target from 21 feet had 10 shots at 1.43 inches in the 10 and bullseye, and a best five measuring 0.75 inches with two overlapping in the bullseye. Both targets were better than the average 1911 CO2 pistol can deliver.

One last test of the Barra gave a slight wider group using a Shoot-N-C target but again for 10 rounds out of 1911 blowback action smoothbore, the Barra is holding its own with other 1911 models while bringing a fresh, very authentic look to the field.

Overall, with the right magazine, the Barra 1911 can hold its own against all of the other 1911 CO2 models except the Sig Sauer, which is a tough act to follow. For a new 2021 model, it is just different enough to be worth adding to a collection of 1911 air pistols. 

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