Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2 Part 1
Just for kicks
By Dennis Adler
Readers have already raised the question of building CO2 powered blowback action air pistols with increased recoil. While this contradicts the goals of centerfire pistol manufacturers who look for ways to reduce recoil, for CO2 pistols, if you want more authenticity, you need more felt recoil. This is, in part, what will be a result of Sig Sauer’s current venture into building new models that generate higher velocities with self-contained drop free CO2 BB magazines. Higher velocity should mean more recoil from the blowback action (if everything is kept proportionate); action, reaction.
Muzzle rise (recoil) is a natural result of firing a pistol, rifle or shotgun. Adding a sound suppressor not only lowers the decibel rating of the gun but mitigates a good portion of its recoil as well; action and reaction with a little less of the reaction. But right now you’re not gong to see much in the way of muzzle rise with a blowback action CO2 pistol. What we are looking for instead is the degree of felt recoil from the action of the slide being driven back by the CO2 charge. Where you can physically see muzzle rise with a .22 caliber target pistol, a blowback action air pistol will not generate enough force to cause the muzzle to rise in proportion to a .22, with the exception of the aforementioned Mauser M712 and Beretta 92A1 on full auto. Fired one-handed either of these two will rise up as the shot count increases, just like firing any full auto pistol.
With a CO2 semi-auto the sensation of light recoil can, however, be simulated by the varying degrees of force (energy) created by the slide being driven back to re-cock the hammer or internal striker. Those with the most force will come close to the recoil of a .22 caliber target pistol. There is also the factor of declining velocity and blowback action to be considered as power in the CO2 cartridge begins to drop (or becomes super cooled from rapid firing), so the tests for this article will only be based on a maximum of one full BB magazine (with varying capacities from 15 to 21 rounds) to achieve maximum velocity and force from the slide with a new CO2 cartridge.
This will be much harder to capture with the camera, but will be evident to some degree by the way I hold the gun. High speed video cameras have quite successfully captured this with centerfire and rimfire pistols, and Ransom rests have also been used to measure recoil, although I am not aware of it having been done with a blowback action CO2 pistol.
The airguns I have selected for the comparisons are the four models from Part 1, plus the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, Sig Sauer 1911, and Umarex Colt Commander. These are all blowback action models with self-contained drop free CO2 BB magazines and all very close in size, weight, balance, and operation to their centerfire counterparts. All of them have been reviewed before and you can look back in Airgun Experience articles for the specifics on each gun. Only one, however, will come out on top in this comparison.
Shooting tests for the first four examples will leave one winner today; in Part 3 the second group of guns will be evaluated and the two winners fired to see which one is best. I can tell you from the initial test with the Walther P22 target model that recoil (using Federal Auto Match 40 gr. Target Grade .22 LR ammo) is very light and muzzle rise is about 1-1/2 inches fired one-handed. I did a second test with the Walther fired from a Hyskore pistol rest and muzzle rise was about 1 inch as shown in the photos.
The first CO2 model to be tested was the Umarex Beretta 92A1 and there is virtually no appreciable muzzle rise but there is a fairly noticeable recoil bump from the slide as it comes back to re-cock the hammer. This was the same for the Umarex S&W M&P40. Between the two it is almost a tossup, but the overall feel of the slide’s action is slightly more pronounced with the M&P. Half way there.
Everyone knows I am a big fan of the Tanfoglio Limited Custom. It is by design a target pistol with a target trigger, and should have reduced muzzle lift (on centerfire models). The CO2 version is a hefty pistol and like the 9mm models it is a CZ-75 based design which uses a slide that runs inside the frame, rather than over it. As a result it has a lower slide profile and lighter recoil. Although the CO2 model still has some felt recoil, it is about as smooth as a pistol slide can get and thus has less felt recoil than either the Beretta 92A1 or S&W M&P40.
For target shooting this is a plus, for the purpose of this article, not so much. We are down to the CZ-75 which has the same slide design as the Tanfoglio, but the CZ-75 airgun by ASG uses an entirely different drop free magazine design, and different internal operating system than the Tanfoglio. Nevertheless it shoots as smoothly with about the same degree of felt recoil. Winner in part 2 is the Umarex S&W M&P40 for most felt recoil. Not quite as much as a .22 target pistol, but enough to benefit training with air over any of the other three in this first performance evaluation.