Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2

Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2 Part 1

Just for kicks

By Dennis Adler

For this series on recoil I have chosen eight different blowback action semi-auto models, most with different characteristics, several with true short-recoil operating designs where the back of the barrel lug and slide lock together in battery and disengage with the barrel tilting slightly downward and unlocking from the slide interface when fired. Pictured from top to bottom, Tanfoglio Limited Custom, Umarex S&W M&P40, Umarex Beretta 92A1, ASG CZ-75, Swiss Arms 1911 TRS, Sig Sauer 1911, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, and Umarex Colt Commander. They all work about the same way, but only one will deliver the most felt recoil for training purposes.

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.

The first baseline for this CO2 comparison is to establish the felt recoil from a .22 LR rimfire pistol. The first test gun is a Walther P22 target model. The test was done with Federal Auto Match 40 gr. Target Grade .22 LR ammo.

Muzzle rise

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.

Fired one-handed using a target shooting stance you can see both a trace of smoke from the fired cartridge, and that the pistol has about 1-1/2 inches of muzzle rise and a modest felt recoil as the slide comes back to eject the spent shell case and re-cock the hammer. Aside from a spent shell case the action of a CO2 blowback semi-auto is identical, with the absence of muzzle rise and a loud bang. Note that for this test I am wearing both eye and ear protection. Depending upon the sensitivity of the shooter’s hearing, ear protection should be worn when firing medium to loud CO2 pistols as well.

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.

A second .22 LR test was done with the Walther P22 on a Hyskore pistol rest. You will note that the muzzle rise will be just a little less than shooting offhand.

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 Walther kicks up about 1-inch from the pad in the Hyskore pistol rest V-channel with my hand still firmly set on the rear support.

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.

First up for the CO2 models was the Umarex Beretta 92A1. This is a pretty accurate copy of the 9mm model with approximate weight, balance and trigger pull.

Caught with the slide all the way back, you can see that there is nominal muzzle rise from the CO2 powered Beretta, but the force of the slide coming back is clearly felt in the hand.

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.

Second gun to be evaluated was the Umarex S&W M&P40. This is a smaller gun than the Beretta and has a heavier recoil and loudness level in comparison.

Again there is negligible muzzle rise but the force of the slide is greater than the Beretta and comes closer to the Walther .22 caliber target pistol.

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.

The balance of the test was done with the Tanfoglio Limited Custom and ASG CZ-75 (top left and right, respectively), which have different slide designs that produce less felt recoil (in both cartridge firing and CO2 models). Both CZ-75 designs had lighter felt recoil than the Beretta 92A1 and S&W M&P40 airguns.

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.

First gun standing at the end of Part 2 is the Umarex S&W M&P40 with a felt recoil greater than the Beretta, Tanfoglio, or CZ-75.

6 thoughts on “Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2

  1. I can understand why you have selected the BB repeaters to be amongst the pistols which you want to test for felt recoil; but I must mention that my Gamo PT-85 Tactical has a huge amount of felt recoil – so much that with the wrong rotary mags it was shaking the pellets out so much that it was not even functioning!
    I had to find compatible rotary mags so as to get reliable pellet feeding and reliable shooting out of mine.
    But it doesn’t lock back on the last shot – although I really like the drop out 2 x 8 shot rotary mags…


  2. When using gunpowder , you have some leeway in velocity and recoil for a given bullet weight . For example 115 gr 9mm driven at 1100 fps gives less recoil than a plus p with more powder or a different burning powder to give higher velocity of say 1250 fps with the same wt bullet , but with more recoil . A lot of co2 is wasted in shots that barely move the slide and result in dribbling velocity. It would be interesting to change the valve metering of co2 in say a M&P 40 to give 3 magazines of optimum power, and velocity of 400 fps plus.


    • An interesting theory which I will discuss with the folks at Umarex. Greater velocity in a centerfire cartridge gun most always increases recoil, so it could do the same with a blowback action CO2 model. This may also prove itself when I test the Sig Sauer pellet-firing pistols for blowback action felt recoil against models like the PX4 Storm and Gamo PT-85.


  3. I had a Old Crosman repaired and recalled awhile back . It picked up around 50-60 fps and I feel a difference in recoil as well as shocking power and penetration of targets like and. Would be worth pursuing



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