Best blowback action airgun sights Part 3

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Best blowback action airgun sights Part 3

The Top Guns

By Dennis Adler

These four blowback action CO2 models have the best overall authenticity, operating features, balance in the hand, triggers, and sights of the air pistols tested. In price, the Tanfoglio is the most expensive with a $189 MSRP but the lowest at a discounted price of $80; the Sig is the next with an MSRP of $149 and a discounted price of $110, both the Colt 1911 and M&P40 have MSRPs of $120 and discounted prices of $100 and $90, respectively.

These four blowback action CO2 models have the best overall authenticity, operating features, balance in the hand, triggers, and sights of the air pistols tested. In price, the Tanfoglio is the most expensive with a $189 MSRP but the lowest at a discounted price of $80; the Sig is the next with an MSRP of $149 and a discounted price of $110, both the Colt 1911 and M&P40 have MSRPs of $120 and discounted prices of $100 and $90, respectively.

The four contenders for best blowback action airgun sights are the Umarex Colt Commander, Umarex S&W M&P40, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five and Tanfoglio Limited Custom. What pushed the Beretta 92A1, Sig Sauer 1911 and Max Michel 1911 out of contention? Little details, some almost negligible, others noteworthy when brought face to face with the four guns that came out on top. First the excellent Beretta M92A1; it could just as easily have been a top five with all of its authentic features and best-in-class handling, but it also has small, military-style sights, white dots yes, but smaller and just a step down from the excellent white dot sights on the Colt Commander and S&W M&P40 for rapid target acquisition. However, these are the actual sights used on the 9mm Berettas. In other respects the Beretta is hands down a better gun to shoot than the Colt Commander (isn’t that how Beretta got the U.S. Government contract in the first place back in 1985?), but this is about sights, and the M92A1 doesn’t make the cut.

The new Sig Sauer Max Michel is a lower price-point blowback action model (that uses a stick magazine), and while handsomely built, it does not have the quality of white dot sights found on the Umarex Colt Commander or S&W M&P40. The other Sig Sauer that drops out of contention is the 1911, which is a physically superior looking gun overall to the Umarex Colt Commander, but does not have quite as good a sight design. On the basis of sights alone, the Colt Commander edges out the Sig 1911.

Of the four top guns three have white dot front sights, two have black rear sights, and one has a black front sight.

Of the four top guns, three have white dot front sights, two have black rear sights, and one has a black front sight.

The Contenders

We end up with four different types of blowback action CO2 powered .177 caliber handguns; a Colt 1911, a Tanfoglio CZ75-based semi-auto, an S&W M&P, and a Sig Sauer P-Series, three hammer-fired models and one striker fired design (based on their cartridge-firing counterparts), and three distinctively different sight designs, the popular trio of white dots on the M&P40 and Colt Commander, a single front white dot paired with a wide notch black rear sight on the Sig, and a fully adjustable competition-type Dawson Precision Bomar-style sight on the Tanfoglio Limited Custom. The question is which combination will deliver the best on-target results in a 21 foot competition shootout in bright daylight?

Four different rear sight designs are compared in this final evaluation. From left to right, the Umarex S&W M&P40 uses a shallow, wide recessed U notch bordered with deeply inset white dots. The Umarex Colt Commander uses a dovetailed combat (Novak) style rear sight with a recessed U channel and deeply inset bright white dots on either side. The Tanfoglio Limited Custom is equipped with a windage and elevation adjustable dovetailed rear sight similar to a Dawson Precision Bomar-style using a black horizontally serrated wide U notch. The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five has a tall black rear sight that has an inward V-angled notch. The sides reflect light to slightly illuminate the rear notch and quickly frame the white dot front sight.

Four different rear sight designs are compared in this final evaluation. From left to right, the Umarex S&W M&P40 uses a shallow, wide recessed U notch bordered with deeply inset white dots. The Umarex Colt Commander uses a dovetailed combat (Novak) style rear sight with a recessed U channel and deeply inset bright white dots on either side. The Tanfoglio Limited Custom is equipped with a windage and elevation adjustable dovetailed rear sight similar to a Dawson Precision Bomar-style using a black horizontally serrated wide U notch. The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five has a tall black rear sight that has an inward V-angled notch. The sides reflect light to slightly illuminate the rear notch and quickly frame the white dot front sight.

Test conditions were almost ideal for outdoor shooting, an ambient temperature of 58 degrees, calm wind, and a full size IPSC cardboard silhouette target. The guns spec out as follows: Three with SAO triggers, the Sig P226 X-Five being a DA/SA was fired single action from the first shot (it becomes a DA if de-cocked); barrel lengths of 4.5 inches for the Colt Commander, 4.24 inches for the M&P40, 4.75 inches for the Sig and 4.25 inches for the Tanfoglio. All four have smoothbore barrels. Manufacture’s velocity ratings are 325 fps for the Colt Commander, 310 fps for the S&W M&P, 300 fps for the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, and 320 fps for the Tanfoglio Limited Custom.

The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five was the best overall shooter for ease of handling, size, weight, and balance in the hand. It produced nearly identical accuracy to the Tanfoglio target model and came in a very close second.

The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five was the best overall shooter for ease of handling, size, weight, and balance in the hand. It produced nearly identical accuracy to the Tanfoglio target model and came in a very close second.

One final comparison between the four test guns was average trigger pull. The Colt Commander averaged the lightest at 2 pounds, 12 ounces, The M&P40 measured 4 pounds, 4 ounces, Sig Sauer (single action) 3 pounds, 5.7 ounces, and the Tanfoglio 3 pounds, 8.7 ounces. The Tanfoglio trigger had the cleanest break of all four, as well it should being a target trigger. The quickest reset was the M&P40 closely followed by the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five.

The Sig Sauer has a single action trigger pull of 3 pounds, 5.7 ounces, a slightly longer pull than the others (by virtue of being a DA/SA trigger) but has a clean break and quick reset. At 21 feet the single white dot front sight framed by the V-shaped black U notch rear put one 5-shot group just below the A in the A-Zone with a edge to edge measurement of 0.562 inches, identical to the Tanfoglio. The second 5-shot group measured 0.875 inches inside and above the A.

The Sig Sauer has a single action trigger pull of 3 pounds, 5.7 ounces, a slightly longer pull than the others (by virtue of being a DA/SA trigger) but has a clean break and quick reset. At 21 feet the single white dot front sight framed by the V-shaped black U notch rear put one 5-shot group just below the A in the A-Zone with an edge-to-edge measurement of 0.562 inches, identical to the Tanfoglio. The second 5-shot group measured 0.875 inches inside and above the A.

At a measured distance of 21 feet, shooting offhand using a Weaver stance and two-handed hold, two 5-shot groups were fired at each IPSC target. The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five delivered two excellent 5-shot groups, one measuring 0.875 inches, the second 0.562 inches. Both center in the IPSC target’s A-Zone.

The Tanfoglio has the best overall trigger with an average resistance of 3 pounds, 8.7 ounces, a clean break and quick reset. The fully adjustable rear competition sight gives the blowback action air pistol precision accuracy at 21 feet.

The Tanfoglio has the best overall trigger with an average resistance of 3 pounds, 8.7 ounces, a clean break and quick reset. The fully adjustable rear competition sight gives the blowback action air pistol precision accuracy at 21 feet.

The Tanfoglio Limited delivered a best 5-shot group with multiple overlapping hits around the A in the A-Zone measuring 0.562 inches, and the second 5-shot group at 0.625 inches. The Tanfoglio shot just slightly better than the Sig P226 X-Five.

Best group of all four guns tested, the Tanfoglio placed 5-shots with multiple overlapping hits around the A in the A-Zone at 0.562 inches, and a second 5-shots grouped at 0.625 inches.

Best group of all four guns tested, the Tanfoglio placed 5-shots with multiple overlapping hits around the A in the A-Zone at 0.562 inches, and a second 5-shots grouped at 0.625 inches.

The Colt Commander delivered duplicate 0.625 inch groups in the A-Zone but to the left of POA. Last the M&P40 punched 10 rounds into a pair of 5-shot groups measuring 0.74 inches, all in the A of the A-Zone, and a second 5-shot group just a little wider and an inch and a half higher at 0.94 inches.

The Colt 1911 has the lightest trigger pull at just 2 pounds, 12 ounces. The Umarex model has the easiest to align white dot sights.

The Colt 1911 has the lightest trigger pull at just 2 pounds, 12 ounces. The Umarex model’s white dot sights are also the easiest to align.

Best IPSC target with the Colt Commander placed two identical 5-shot groups at 0.625 inch measurements in the A-Zone.

Best IPSC target with the Colt Commander placed two identical 5-shot groups at 0.625 inch measurements in the A-Zone.

All four pistols delivered sub 1-inch groups shooting slow fire, but I went through several IPSC targets for each gun to get the best groups shown. None of the targets, however, were over 1.25 inches for any 5-shot group, and the most consistent ended up being the Tanfoglio, which was dialed in to almost pinpoint accuracy. The greatest variable was my own movement as I shot. From a pistol rest at 21 feet all of these air pistols could have put 10 shots well under an inch.

The Umarex S&W M&P is a military and law enforcement design with white dot sights that are easy to acquire. The air gun’s trigger pull averaged 4 pounds, 4 ounces.

The Umarex S&W M&P is a military and law enforcement design with white dot sights that are easy to acquire. The air gun’s trigger pull averaged 4 pounds, 4 ounces.

At 21 feet, the M&P40 can punch its shots into tight groups, the best groups on the IPSC targets put 5-shots right in the A-Zone measuring 0.74 inches. A second 5-shot group above the A put all rounds into 0.94 inches.

At 21 feet, the M&P40 can punch its shots into tight groups, the best groups on the IPSC targets put 5-shots right in the A-Zone measuring 0.74 inches. A second 5-shot group above the A put all rounds into 0.94 inches.

With the good light and calm wind during the shooting session, all four guns delivered tight groups, with the Sig Sauer matching the Tanfoglio for best group of 5-shots at 0.562 inches. The Tanfoglio got the edge with the most overlapping hits. Between the Colt Commander and the M&P40, the 1911 just slightly edged out the S&W by 0.115 inches. By a very small margin, the Tanfoglio Limited Custom is the winner over the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, due to the Tanfoglio’s click adjustable sights and excellent target trigger.

All four of these guns are winners for accuracy, but white dot sights, as good as they are, did not prevail over the Tanfoglio’s target sights or the Sig’s single white dot front sight.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

8 thoughts on “Best blowback action airgun sights Part 3

  1. Tanff I had to pick one set of sights , it would be the Bomar style sights of the Tanfoglio. If I could build my own co2 custom semiauto , it would be a 1911 with ambi safety, and the Bomar sights. just putting them on the Commander with its’ excellent trigger ,would be a winner if not the winner.Overdue is a Colt Gold Cup with these sights. If that is not a typo and the MP40 is now hitting over 400fps , sign me up


    • Unfortunately 480 fps was a typo, the velocity for the M&P40 is 310 fps and it has been corrected in the article. If only it were 480 fps! I can’t agree more with your wish for a Gold Gup version of the Umarex Colt 1911. I think everyone would agree on that. There are a couple of other blowback action airguns that have Bomar style sights and we will be testing those in upcoming Airgun Experience articles.


  2. Would like to see a Colt lineup that offers actual replicas of Colt models, Gold Cup, Commander that actually has a 4 1/4 inch Commander barrel, a blowback version of the Defender , stock WW2 parkerized and prewar Commercial 1911., to start. A Woodsman 22 blowback pistol. We may start seeing some more fps in the new Sig 320 belt mag pistols, that will be interesting, as would a belt fed Browning High Power blowback 177 pellet pistol


    • You have wonderful aspirations. Hope Umarex can fulfill a few of those in the next year or so. All good ideas, all legendary guns that should be offered as blowback action CO2 models with accurate details, marking, and self contained CO2/BB magazines.


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