Best blowback action airgun sights Part 3
The Top Guns
By Dennis Adler
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.