Best entry-level CO2 pocket pistol Part 2
Another “Tale of the Tape”
By Dennis Adler
This is an interesting comparison for me because I have actually done this with the centerfire guns, so I have a somewhat unique perspective on how the PPS and P365 compare as personal defense handguns, and how well their CO2 counterparts can fill in as very affordable understudies for handling and CCW practice. In Combat Handguns we call this head-to-head type of comparison “The Tale of the Tape” and I am going to write this up in much the same way so that the guns speak for themselves and the best choice is clearly evident, though in CH articles I have had a couple of coin tosses over the years. You might want to have some pocket change ready.
The Sig Sauer P365
Size, firepower and capacity have always been defining characteristics for concealed carry pistols.Today there are many options when it comes to 9mm semi-autos suitable for concealed carry. The smallest and most innovative is the Sig Sauer P365 which manages to come in just a little larger than some .380 Autos and pack an impressive 11 rounds of 9mm into the gun. As a CO2 pistol the Sig Air version is 1:1 for size and can be loaded to the same capacity (accounting for one in the chamber, as well). Everything feels about the same and the gun handles very much like the centerfire model.
Sig began with a simple premise; make the gun as small as possible without compromising barrel length, recoil control or handling. The 9mm P365 measures 5.8 inches in length, 4.3 inches in height with the 10-round magazine, and is also a mere 1.0 inches in width. At approximately 17.8 ounces (empty with standard capacity magazine) it is also very light on the belt or in a pocket. The 9mm model has a barrel length of 3.1 inches. Trigger pull averages 5 pounds on the 9mm model.
In comparison, the CO2 model is also 5.8 inches in length, 4.5 inches in height with the extended magazine, and 1-inch wide, including the ambidextrous thumb safeties. Internal barrel length is 3.0 inches; external length to the 9mm muzzle opening and end of the slide is the same as the centerfire pistol. On my scale the empty air pistol weighs in at 13 ounces; with the CO2 and a full magazine, it comes in at 15.5 ounces, so just a little lighter than an empty 9mm P365. Even with the extended magazine it is still a pocket holster size pistol. One caveat for authenticity, because of its internal design and operation, the P365 cannot be field stripped.
Walther PPS M2
The 9mm PPS M2/LE has an overall length of 6.3 inches, 5.1 inches in height with the 8-round magazine, 1.0 inches at its widest point; the slide is actually 0.875 inches in width. At approximately 19.4 ounces (empty with standard capacity magazine) it is within 1.6 ounces of the P365, making it equally light on the belt or in a pocket but carrying two fewer rounds (8+1 chambered vs. 10+1 chambered). The 9mm model has a barrel length of 3.2 inches, so again quite comparable to the Sig. The difference is in a longer slide and grip profile which makes it a little harder for pocket holster carry (depending upon the pocket; traditional jeans, casual or dress trousers, or a cargo pocket). Factory rated trigger pull is 6.1 pounds.
The Umarex Walther PPS M2 model is a matching 6.3 inches in overall length, 5.1 inches in height, and with the 8-round size magazine needed to fit the CO2 into the grip frame and the stick magazine, weighs 20 ounces empty; so it is within 0.6 ounces of the centerfire gun. Like the Sig, because of its internal design and operation, the PPS M2 also cannot be field stripped.
Both centerfire and CO2 models (Sig and Walther) have three dot sights for quick target acquisition and they have comparatively easy triggers. The test Sig CO2 averaged 6 pounds, 14 ounces (somewhat heavier than the centerfire model), the Walther pull averaged 5 pounds, 0.5 ounces on the Lyman test gauge. As for trigger control, the Sig has a very short, crisp pull and is very consistent from shot to shot. The P365 also has very snappy CO2-induced recoil. It’s actually hard to believe the gun is not breaking 300 fps by the sound and feel of it. Sig is really putting a lot of CO2 into feedback over velocity. Since this is a close range pistol that in the real world would be drawn most likely in self defense, accuracy at 21 feet is all the CO2 model needs, and this gun can deliver it at sub 300 fps velocities even compared to its 9mm counterpart.
The Umarex Walther PPS M2 is similar in its concept of use and the 9mm is generally purchased for that purpose and as a backup gun, but for the CO2 model it is an ideal combination of features with the weight, balance, and solid, but not overwhelming feel of the gun in the hand, combined with a very efficient design. I like that the backstrap is integrated with the CO2 seating tool and that the CO2 is so easily inserted and the screw turned down with no sense of urgency like the Sig’s, which demands full attention and good dexterity to turn down without too much CO2 escaping. It is more demanding than the Walther, and for that ease you pay with having a stick magazine for the PPS, but once the gun is together, the look is seamless.
With this design Umarex has tried to provide much higher velocity and still deliver a palpable sense of recoil when you fire the gun. Average velocity with the PPS M2 was 370 fps (about 75 fps better than the little Sig) but the recoil compared to the P365 is noticeably less, more like an air pistol than the Sig, which borders on a .22 and is also considerably louder than the Walther (not anywhere as loud as a .22 LR cartridge, but loud for such a small air pistol).
Both CO2 models (actually the first generation PPS) and the P365 have been shot head-to-head with their 9mm counterparts and those test results were more than satisfactory at a combat distance of 7 yards (21 feet). Today I will use a Shoot-N-C silhouette-style target for the accuracy comparison firing each gun at its equivalent centerfire capacity from a Weaver stance using a two-handed hold. Shots will be fired at 1-second intervals so velocity will drop slightly as I shoot without giving the CO2 a longer rest between shots.
For the P365 the load is 11 Umarex Precision steel BBs, which is the equivalent of the 9mm’s 10 rounds plus 1 chambered. My 11-shot group hit inside the X with a spread measuring 2.0 inches (thanks to one flyer, otherwise 10 of 11 at 1.5 inches) and a best 5-shot group at 0.75 inches with four overlapping hits.
The centerfire Walther holds 8+1 so I loaded the CO2 pistol with only 9 Umarex Precision steel BBs, (maximum capacity for the PPS M2 BB magazine is 18 rounds). My 9 shot group hit inside the X with a total spread of 1.40 inches and a best 5-shot group all overlapping at 0.56 inches.
For total accuracy, the PPS M2 comes out ahead. Capacity goes to the P356, velocity to the PPS M2, and in the battle for size, the P356 is the hands down winner. Break out your coins.
A Word about Safety
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 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.