Best entry-level CO2 pocket pistol Part 2

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 smallest blowback action air pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, the Sig Sauer P365 in not a high performer when it comes to velocity, but it delivers a more recoil and report than the slightly larger and higher velocity PPS M2 which is burdened with a separate CO2 in the pistol grip and a stick magazine. Each has its advantages and shortcomings. As entry level blowback action air pistols priced well below $100, either is a good choice for general shooting and CCW practice.

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.

It is the “Tale of the Tape” measuring up the size of each gun and its overall performance and handling. The size differential as shown is not significant but the advantage clearly goes to the Sig Sauer P365. As for handling, both guns have deeply undercut triggerguards to help lower the bore axis, three dot sights, and comparable triggers.

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.

The Sig Air design for the CO2 version of the P365 uses an innovative firing system and CO2 BB magazine interface that helps with the gun’s small size, robust recoil, and louder than normal report (high medium-loud). The Walther uses a blowback action found in several Umarex models that maximize velocity while still producing decent CO2-induced recoil and a medium loud report.

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.

There are some good aspects to the older designs like the PPS M2 which has an easy to load CO2 chamber in the grip frame and the seating screw built into the removable backstrap panel. The full size base pad on the 18-round stick magazine completely covers the seating screw to preserve the accurate lines of the gun. The self-contained CO2 BB magazine like the Sig uses is an improvement over this design, but it has its problems as well with ease of threading and turning down the seating screw. Innovation wins out with the Sig but the PPS M2 is still in the game!

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).

A few years ago I did a test of the 9mm PPS (original model) against the matching PPS CO2 model and as you can see, from a distance of 21 feet, the accuracy of the air pistol was comparable to the 9mm. The best 5-rounds of Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ fired from 21 feet with the PPS 9mm measured 1.20 inches. The air pistol nearly matched it with a best five clustered at 1.22 inches.

CombatRange Test

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.

About a year ago I did a similar test with the P365 CO2 model (then brand new) against the 9mm Sig P365, and the BB pistol held its own at 21 feet. As this test was originally for Combat Handguns magazine I also shot the 9mm and CO2 pistols out to 45 feet, and the airgun still acquitted itself nicely. Both guns kept their shots inside the 9, 10 and X rings at both distances.

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.

Today the P365 also managed tight groups at 21 feet keeping all 11 rounds in the X of this Birchwood-Casey Shoot-N-C silhouette target.

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.

The PPS M2 with its higher velocity and longer sight radius delivered a tighter 9-shot group from 21 feet than the P365. Both air pistols make excellent understudies for their centerfire counterparts, as well as good, entry-level CO2-powered air pistols well worth the money.

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.

5 thoughts on “Best entry-level CO2 pocket pistol Part 2

  1. I look at these two pistols the way I look at a S&W j frame compared to a Colt d frame 2 inch 38. The j frame is smaller and more concealable, but feels like an up close and personal revolver. The d frame , feels like a full size fighting revolver. I own several of each , and that has been my experience. With a little care in grip selection, You can carry the Colts just as easily. More importantly, I can shoot the Colt as well as a 3 or 4 inch medium frame revolver. The Sig , and I have fired the air pistol, and the firearm, feels small , like the S&W j frame. Adequate but not great. My buddy transitioned to one for ccw, and raves about the 10 plus 1 mag capacity. Important if you plan on missing a lot. For plainclothes or under cover it makes sense, but for the average person , not so much so.. If I were to go to a polymer ccw pistol, I would look at the Walther. It, like a Colt d frame looks and feels like a better fit. Slim, trim, with a 6 round mag it can be pocket carried, and backed up by a pr of 7 or 8 round mags. I would like to see a finger rest mag pad for the 6 rounder. That is what I used on my Ppk, which basically is now relegated to obsolete historical status by pistols like the PPS. As your airgun test reveal, the Walther is just a little more accurate, and that is the deal closer

  2. Encouraged by your article came back to this pistol. I had bought an extra mag but despite all efforts could not get them to retain gas. So this month bought another and lo and behold it works!! Can see no difference but it works and am having great fun with this. Maybe get another.
    Another thing Dennis did you try to take down the the slide? Videos show the slide easily taken down without disassembly but mine (about a year old ) will not . I assume the MK11 version allows this?

  3. It would be interesting if you you used your contacts to see if Sig intend us to take down the 365.

    In YouTube some people can take them down easily some cannot and one actually cuts the end of the slide rail to reassemble.

    It is useful if you can lubricate the slide and hunt for strays in the mechanism!!


    • Derek

      I have discussed this with Sig Air and they do not recommend disassembling the gun. It can be disassembled but not the same way as the centerfire pistol, and there is no reason to do it with the air pistol. Since it does not disassembly like the 9mm, it would not be regarded as an “authentic” field stripping feature.


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