“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 3

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 3

Knowing what works

By Dennis Adler

You can carry a 1911, I have done it successfully. Cold weather makes it much easier and with a Galco Combat Master, which rides fairly high, I was able to conceal the 1911 under the pullover shirt and jacket.

There are a lot of videos, articles, and books on handgun training, shooting techniques and methods of carry, and most are well worth viewing or reading, but even armed with that knowledge, what works for you may not be the same. The purpose of this series is to offer the option of exploring different handguns and holsters that work for a majority of individuals interested in concealed carry. The process is to assist in making a good, practical choice in a gun and holster, and learning the fundamentals of gun handling. Starting with a CO2 pistol surrogate to a centerfire handgun will make the transition to an actual firearm much easier; total familiarization with how the gun holsters, carries, conceals, draws and aims, will take you up to the moment when you pull the trigger. No air pistol will take you past the last step. There is no substitute for the actual feel of recoil from a handgun, or the sound of gunfire (in reality you won’t be wearing hearing protection in a self defense situation, and the noise can be disorienting), and most importantly, even the best shooting experience with an air pistol will not equal the gratification of a bullseye hit with a .380, 9mm, or larger caliber round, or the immediate disappointment of finding out it is a lot harder with live ammo than BBs or pellets. Guns, too, can disappoint. The only thing air pistol training will achieve is a higher level of confidence going in, and afterward, if you have found the right gun and holster combination, the opportunity to practice handling skills with a matching air pistol. That is why air pistols (of various types) are being used in law enforcement training. The cost per session is a fraction of live fire training. read more


“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 2

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 2

Practical considerations

By Dennis Adler

Thin and thinner, injection molded holsters like this Galco Model CVS 226 barely add to the footprint of a gun like the Glock 17 Gen4, and have a curve to keep the rig close to the body. It is still a big gun but easier to conceal in a holster like this. At right, a very thin but well made leather belt holster. The MTR Leather belt rig it is made for a variety of small handguns. Holsters like the MTR are very comfortable but offer little in the way of pistol retention other than the soft leather contoured fit. Injection molded holsters like the Galco add some residual retention of the gun with the tight contoured fit around the triggerguard, and slide ejection port.

There are many considerations when you decide to carry concealed, aside from the moral and legal implications that each individual must address. The first of which is why? If this seems a bit intense for an airgun article, it is, because in this instance the airgun is substituting for a real gun and you have to have your priorities straight.  

I chose these two extremes to illustrate different needs of carry. Both guns are 9mm; the Glock has a 17+1 capacity, the Sig 10+1, still quite an advantage at almost half the size. Both CO2 models can be used for general training use and learning concealed carry with Micro-Compact and full-size semiautomatic pistols.

Making the decision to carry a gun goes beyond the visit to your local Police Chief or County Sheriff to request a carry permit, which, depending upon where you live, can vary from simple questions to providing more specific information and even having to attend and pass a handgun training class before a carry permit is issued. In some states, counties and cities, a carry permit is almost impossible to get, while in some states you don’t even need a permit. But we are putting the cart before the horse here. read more


“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

Lessons from the professionals

By Dennis Adler

Full-size guns vary in dimensions, take the Glock 17 Gen4 at left and the Model 1911 at right, the Glock is a much smaller footprint. All three guns pictured are CO2 models in the holsters used for their centerfire counterparts. The little Sig P365 at the bottom gives you a comparative relationship between a full-size handgun and a Micro-Compact.

“One gun, one carry and master it” is the principle taught by John Bianchi, the master of concealed carry and the world’s most famous holster maker. I wrote John’s Biography in 2009 (John Bianchi – An American Legend) and he taught me his rules for concealed carry, the first of which was to find one gun and master it from holster, to drawing, aiming, shooting and concealment. If your are in law enforcement, as Bianchi was early in his career when he first began designing and making holsters for fellow police officers, this is easier to achieve. For civilians it is a precept that is easier to embrace than actually accomplish, at least it has been for me, because I have made a profession out of testing guns, and aside from a few favorites, have never had one gun long enough to consider mastering it for CCW use. Over the years I have gone from one to another, from DA/SA revolvers to semi-autos, full-size duty guns to subcompacts, and as for reviewing guns, it is hundreds of guns in and out of my hands for more than 20 years. So for me, mastering one gun is still a personal goal because my carry guns have changed a dozen times over the years (one of the benefits and pitfalls of having so many options from testing new models). There’s a handful I am proficient with to the point that I have total confidence in carrying them, but to be totally honest, the older I get the smaller my EDC gun gets. Still, I have never narrowed it down to one gun or even one holster. But I’m getting closer; more about that later.   read more


Small Guns

Small Guns

Air pistols of a certain type

By Dennis Adler

Small guns date back to pre-Revolutionary War flintlocks, but became a staple of handgun manufacture beginning in the 1840s with Henry Deringer’s small, percussion lock pistols. Deringer’s designs got hijacked by other armsmakers who called their guns Derringers, using a double “r” to make the name into a class of small gun. Colt had small pistols as well including the Root Sidehammer .32 caliber cap-and-ball revolver. By the time of the Civil War, Smith & Wesson had developed the first self-contained metallic cartridge, the .22 Short and a small revolver to use them, the No. 1 S&W (bottom right), which were often hand engraved like this New York style. Little guns took on a new look by the early 1900s after American arms designer John M. Browning developed the .25 caliber centerfire cartridge (among others) and the design for the Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket Hammerless pistol. It was also built in Belgium by FN and known later as the Baby Browning.

What exactly is a “small gun?” The answer to that not only depends upon whom you are asking, but in what century! Small guns have been around for hundreds of years. Back in the 1840s the answer was  Henry Deringer’s Philadelphia-built single shot percussion lock pistol, or a similarly designed gun (Deringer was blatantly copied by others who got around it by spelling his name with a double “r” as Derringer and using it to describe their gun as a type of pistol). By the 1860s, Smith & Wesson had redefined small pistol with its 5-shot, metallic cartridge loading No. 1 revolver chambered for .22 short rimfire and No. 1-1/2 for .32 rimfire. But a small gun could also be a.32 caliber Colt Root sidehammer cap and ball pistol, or Colt’s Model 1848 and 1849 cap and ball pistols. What they all shared in common was size; these were really small guns, even by today’s standards. By the 1880s, when medium to large caliber cartridge revolvers were the dominant sidearm, a small gun was bigger than before, if it was a revolver, and by the turn of the century, it was smaller, certainly flatter, if it was one of those newfangled, magazine-fed small caliber semiautomatic pistols designed for Colt by John M. Browning. Fabrique Nationale (FN) had similar guns to Colt, also designed by Browning, and built in Belgium for the European market.

By 1930, Walther had developed the PPK chambered in .25 ACP, .32 ACP or .380 ACP (all cartridges designed by John Browning). It was not as small as some of its predecessors but chambering the more effective 9mm Short (.380) cartridge. The PPK became the standard by which other small pistols would be compared for decades to come.

By simple definition, a “small gun” in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries was one that could be easily carried in a pocket, purse, or otherwise easily concealed on the person, whether it was a single-shot cap-and-ball pistol, a double barrel Remington Derringer, a 5-shot small caliber revolver, or magazine fed semi-auto. Today, there are still equally small revolvers in .22 LR and .22 WMR, Derringers in calibers up to .45 Colt (and .410 gauge), and semi autos in .25 and .32 caliber ACP, (as well as surviving originals like the .25 caliber Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket hammerless and FN Baby Browning), so these small pistols have never gone away, but they have been overshadowed in recent years by Micro Compact semi-autos in larger calibers.

Today, a small gun can be chambered in almost caliber imaginable from .22 LR up to .44 Magnum and even some rifle caliber cartridges. In .177 caliber, however, the number of small gun choices are few for CO2-powered pistols, each unique in their design and history, with some original designs dating back before WWII, and others dating no further back than the last year. So, let’s review several of the smallest blowback action CO2 pistols you can own, the first of which remains the oldest, not only as an original design but also as a CO2 pistol.

With a .380 ACP Walther (top left) for comparison, you can see four of the blowback action CO2 models based on actual centerfire guns inspired by the Walther; at top right, the Umarex Walther PPK/S, bottom left, the Umarex Makarov Ultra, bottom, the Gletcher PM 1951, and center, the Walther PPS. Both the PPS and PPK/S use a stick magazine and CO2 loaded into the pistol grip, while the Makarov models use self-contained CO2 BB magazines.

The Walther PPK/S from Umarex is based on the pre-WWII PPK and post-WWII (1968) Walther PPK/S designs and was the first blowback action CO2 pistol made by Umarex. It was and still is a fairly anemic little gun that shoots under 300 fps and is best suited for 15 foot distances for any degree of consistent accuracy. It isn’t an expensive CO2 model, which is good because it uses a stick magazine and has a fairly flat black finish, which is not what a PPK or PPK/S looks like, as you can see from the pictures of the .380 ACP model. The rest of the earlier CO2 pistols that fall into this category are all vastly superior to the PPK/S but they cost a little more.

The Gletcher PM 1951 (Makarov) was one of the very best blowback action small CO2 models. It’s hard to come by these days.

The PM 1951 had really authentic looks and operation with a full blowback action like its Soviet cartridge-firing counterpart.

There two really nice ones, the Gletcher PM 1951, which is hard to find now, and based on the Soviet Makarov. This air pistol has a proper self-contained CO2 BB magazine, a locking slide, correct-style thumb safety, and a really smooth SA trigger pull. It has also proven itself to be pretty accurate at 21 feet and it will consistently break 300 to 320 fps, which is right up to par with most blowback action models, only this one is in the Subcompact pistol category. With an average velocity for the test gun of 329 fps, trigger pull was an exceptional 4 pounds, 14 ounces average with a short take up and almost instantaneous reset. It is one of the best air pistol triggers I have tested, which adds to the PM 1951’s surprising accuracy. The safety clicks on and off with authority and the slide release feels exactly like one on a cartridge-firing handgun, not a copy of one. Even though the original-style sights are not the easiest to acquire, the gun is steady in the hand and the 3-1/2 inch smoothbore barrel delivers better accuracy than expected. At a test distance of 21 feet, my best 10 shot group, out of 16 shots, a full magazine, fired offhand using a two-handed hold, covered 1.125 inches. I had a trio of flyers that hit left but most were at POA in the 10 and X.

At 21 feet it was none too shabby for accuracy, either.

The PM, Pistolet Makarova, was originally issued to Soviet officers during what we look back upon today as the “Cold War Era” when the U.S. and Russia began a chilly and dangerous game, the stuff of which spy novels, television series and movies have been based upon for decades. Until President Ronald Regan uttered those historic words, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” on June 12, 1987, the cat and mouse game of Cold War detente that America and Russia had played helped make guns like the Makarov legendary. It also became a popular handgun in the U.S. and as a CO2 model Gletcher steered clear of using plastics for the airgun’s construction. By using all metal components, this CO2 copy of the famous Soviet pistol provides greater durability, more accurate styling, proper weight, and method of operation. It’s also not too difficult to see that the Makarov is “inspired” by Germany’s Walther PP and PPK models.

Umarex weighed in with its Makarov Ultra with a correct grip length and some subtly more accurate features, all of which paled in comparison to the gun’s exposed CO2 seating key.

The next, shall we say, vintage entry, is the exact same model only as produced by Umarex in its Legends series as the Makarov Ultra. Not all of the good things I said about the Gletcher PM 1951 apply to the Ultra. It has a self-contained CO2 BB magazine but with an external seating screw. The Umarex has a more accurate slide release, serrated hammer shape and more accurate trigger shape; it also has a proper length grip frame, while the Gletcher is a bit too long, necessary to contain an integral seating screw. The Ultra’s external key makes the grips the right depth, but looks, well, it doesn’t look good, what can I say? The trigger pull is much heavier as well, but the gun has some advantages like an average velocity as tested of 358 fps. It’s about as accurate as the Gletcher, so no real advantage there. Overall, in my book, the Ultra is not quite as good of a gun in those respects and as for size it still falls into the small gun category.

The star of small pistols was the Walther PPS. Almost perfectly scaled to its 9mm counterpart, the PPS delivered accuracy and velocity, in exchange for its stick magazine and CO2 in the grip. As a small gun for CCW training with air pistols, this was the best of the lot despite the stick mag.

The next gun is just plain confounding, the Umarex Walther PPS. This has been the best darn little CO2 pistol for several years, It is no smaller than the post WWII Russian guns, but way narrower, a slide width of 0.75 inches, total width of 1.0 inches, a slide that locks back, excellent white dot sights, a wickedly light SA trigger and accuracy that matches its centerfire counterpart at 21 feet. What’s not to like about this little blowback action pistol? It has a stick magazine and loads CO2 in the grip frame by removing the backstrap. Still, I really like this very affordable airgun for practice with concealment holsters. My test of the PPS (and there is a newer PPS M2 CO2 model, but I like the older style gun better), clocked an average velocity of 365 fps with Umarex steel BBs and I shot a best 5-round group from 21 feet measuring 0.56 inches with two shots in one elongated hole at 3 o’clock across the bullseye and 10.

The PPS at 21 feet delivers dime-sized groups.

It’s hard not to give this gun a pass despite its stick mag. And until this year it remained my favorite small gun in CO2, and then Sig Sauer did this. They made a seriously small gun in 9mm and a matching one in .177 caliber, the P365.

How the P365 changes small gun thinking

Sig Sauer wanted the P365 to be as authentic in handling and size as possible for a blowback action CO2 pistol, and in order for the airgun to achieve that goal they had to make it smaller than any other blowback action model and incorporate a self-contained CO2 BB magazine. To achieve a compact CO2 system to fit within the framework of the 9mm pistol; the air pistol cannot be field stripped like the centerfire model, but it has the same measurements as its 9mm counterpart but with a groundbreaking CO2 BB magazine that takes up the same amount of space as the Micro Compact’s 9mm.

What the PPS lacked was a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and Sig Sauer figured out how to put one into a blowback action pistol even smaller than the Walther, with the groundbreaking P365.

One of the more interesting aspects of that, aside from being the smallest self-contained 12 gr. CO2 BB magazine ever devised for a blowback action air pistol, is that it loads very similarly to the 9mm. The Sig has what I would call a “zero aggravation” loading system for the 12 rounds of .177 caliber steel BBs. It has a very easily set locking follower but no loading port above it. Instead of having to pour BBs into the channel, you use your index finger to press the BB stop down (as the breech end of the barrel does when the magazine is inserted into the gun), and then load each BB into the channel one at a time. When all 12 rounds are loaded, you release the locking follower and the magazine is ready to load into the pistol.

The trigger pull on the test gun was 5 pounds, 6 ounces, with only 0.3125 inches of total take up to a crisp break. The trigger moves back 0.25 inches with almost zero resistance, and then there is a firm 0.125 inches until the trigger pull breaks the shot. There is no creeping with the CO2 model’s trigger, just a steady increase in resistance (stacking) common with a double action (or DAO) trigger. The pistol exhibits no over travel and the trigger has a quick reset. This all compares favorably with the centerfire pistol’s 6 pound average trigger pull.

Based on the 9mm Sig model, the SIG AIR Division of Sig Sauer built the P365 from the ground up to design and manufacture a 1:1 CO2 pistol that will, for the foreseeable future, be the new standard in Small Guns, and an accurate one, too.

This little air pistol is loud when its goes off and BBs slap into the target with more force than the velocity would suggest, a velocity that is just under 300 fps, right back where we started years ago with the Umarex Walther PPK/S, but with a much, much more accurate pistol, and a slide that comes back with the force of a small .22 LR handgun. You know this gun is working hard to deliver as much tactile feedback as any CO2 pistol, regardless of velocity. And despite its sub 300 fps averages the P365 is accurate at 21 feet, delivering its 12 round charge of .177 caliber steel BBs into 1.75 inches with a best 5-shot group measuring 0.68 inches.

Small conclusions

We have classic small WWII and post WWII pistols, and modern small pistols, and in terms of CO2 powered handguns, I don’t think you can surpass the Sig Sauer P365 when you compare it to the other airguns in its class. Yes, I still like my old Umarex Walther PPS a lot, but I think it has to move over and make room for a Sig!

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. read more


The XDM 3.8 Part 4

The XDM 3.8 Part 4

The 1:1 Shooting Test conclusion

By Dennis Adler

If you had to pick which one is an air pistol at a glance, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the .177 Springfield XDM 3.8 in my right hand (larger .45 ACP muzzle) from the 9mm XDM 3.8 in my left. For authenticity, the XDM’s with Melonite-type black and Bi-Tone polished slides are a perfect match for their centerfire counterparts in both the looks and handling department. But how does the CO2 model stand up against the 9mm for defensive shooting practice?

This last installment is really what practical shooting with a CO2 understudy is all about. What we learn from these shooting drills is the fundamental handling of the centerfire model, and in a 1:1 shooting test at practical defensive distances the lessens are almost entirely interchangeable from holster draw, aiming, and firing. What the photos don’t show is the difference in felt recoil and the sound of a 9mm pistol discharging. Otherwise, what you see with one gun is the same as the other, and that is the bottom line value in training with air. Even if you’re not training to carry concealed, or even considering a 9mm pistol for home protection, the total equivalence of the XDM 3.8 CO2 and centerfire models is beneficial for basic handgun skills, even for shooting air pistols.

The 3.8 in .177 is an exact match in dimensions to the 9mm, so everything you do with the air pistol mimics handling the centerfire gun.

The right fit

One of the features of the XDM models is the ability to change backstraps to fit specific hand sizes and this is duplicated on the CO2 models. The backstrap change is the same on the 4.5 and 3.8, with the addition of magazine grip extensions for the 3.8, although you do not have to use them, you could just have the lower portion of the magazine exposed from the bottom of the 3.8 magwell. The reason for changing backstraps is to either increase or decrease the distance from the palm of the shooting hand to the trigger. Both hand size and length of fingers are reasons to make the backstrap swaps. All three backstraps are marked S, M, or L (with corresponding magazine grip extensions for the 3.8) and the guns come with the M panel installed as this fits the majority of users. Determining which backstrap panel best suits your hands is a matter of personal preference, unless there is an obvious problem with properly gripping the gun, such as your trigger finger over extending or coming up short of the trigger shoe. Ideally, the first joint of your trigger finger from the tip to the fold should cover the trigger. My guideline for the grip size from the palm of the hand to the trigger is to end up with the middle finger wrapping around the grip far enough for the tip of the shooting hand thumb to rest on top of it. If your thumb extends well past or comes up short, you need to consider changing backstraps. Here’s how it is done with the XDM models.

Hand sizes and finger lengths vary, so the XDM models in centerfire and CO2 have fully interchangeable backstrap panels, and the 3.8 has added magazine grip extensions. They are easy to change and fit to one’s individual needs.

You will find the steps outlined on page 9 of the excellent XDM instruction book. You do not need to remove the magazine to do this on the 4.5, but you do on the 3.8. Also, be certain you have cleared the gun and dropped the slide. There is a locking pin in the lower portion of the grip that passes from one side to the other and through a channel inside the grip frame to lock it down. Using a small hex head Allen tool (not included), push the pin through from left to right and remove it. With the pin removed, grip the base of the backstrap and lift it away from the grip frame. Insert the smaller or larger backstrap into the top lip of the grip frame, lower into place and reinsert the retention pin.

This is a setup I learned from my local Sheriff, who carries a 1911 in a belt rig with a spare mag pouch in front. This is one way to carry (more open than concealed since he is wearing a badge!) but it does work well for CCW if you want the gun and a spare mag on the strong side. Shown with Galco Combat Master XDM belt holster and Galco mag pouch, the CO2 pistol and magazine are a perfect fit.

The XDM CO2 models are an exact fit for XD Gear holsters and magazine pouches as well as aftermarket holsters and pouches like the Galco Combat Master belt holster and SMC (single magazine case) belt mag pouch worn by the author.

So how does this set up work as opposed to carrying an extra mag on the off side hip? As I release the empty magazine from the XDM 3.8 CO2 model, I begin pulling the spare mag from the pouch. It is turned in the pouch with rounds facing in, so as I pull it out and bring it up to load, the magazine is facing the correct way…

…as the spent mag falls I am pulling the reload and will rotate it up and into the magwell in one move.

Shooting it out in 9mm and .177 calibers

I shot two 10-round strings with the 9mm XDM, one at 7 yards (21 feet) aiming at the bullseye, and one from 10 yards (30 feet) aiming high at the 8 ring. I used Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ rounds, which produce lower recoil than higher velocity jacketed hollow point ammunition. The Federal American Eagle is also less expensive per box of 50 rounds vs. 20 rounds of the Federal 147 gr. Hydra -Shok Personal Defense ammo.

Care to guess which gun I am about to shoot? This is the 9mm XDM 3.8 being test fired 21 feet from the B-27 cardboard silhouette target. After 10 rounds, I’ll move back to 30 feet and fire my second 9mm test.

Here is the final B-27 target with 20 rounds of Federal American Eagle 9mm ammo into tight groups at 21 feet around the bullseye, and at 30 feet in the area around the 8 ring at 12 o’clock. Best group measured 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches from 21 feet and 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches from 30 feet.

My 10-shot X ring group at 21 feet, placed all shots within 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches. Moving back to 10 yards (30 feet) and again firing using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance, I put my 10 rounds aimed at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock into 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches. All shots were fired at 1-second intervals. Just for comparison, muzzle velocity with the Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ is 1180 fps against 300 fps for the XDM 3.8 CO2 model. The 21 foot test with the air pistol should be a fair comparison, while pushing the .177 caliber rounds to 10 yards at that velocity may see a slight drop in accuracy.

Nothing changes but the decibel rating and recoil when I switch to the 3.8 CO2 model. Handing, aiming and trigger pull are virtually identical.

Using the same type Law Enforcement Targets cardboard B-27 silhouette target, same shooting stance and the CO2 model at 21 feet, my 10-round group aimed at the X ring gave me a total spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping hits. At 10 yards, the spread opened up a little and shots hit low, around the 9 rather than at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock which was POA. That group had a spread of 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches. Without the recoil of a 9mm, the XDM 3.8 CO2 is easier to hold on target and shot commensurate groups with the 9mm XDM.

At 21 feet, I put 10 rounds aimed at the X ring into a spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping. Stepping back to 10 yards the spread opened up a little and shots hit low around the 9 at 12 o’clock rather than at the 8 ring, which was POA. That group measured 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches.

As a training aid, the CO2 model fills in perfectly and every lesson learned with air using this gun will benefit shooting its 9mm counterpart. As for accuracy with the 3.8, the same laws apply, aim small, miss small. The Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 blowback action CO2 pistol misses small and delivers big.

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. read more


Crazy for holsters

Crazy for holsters

If the gun fits, buy it!

By Dennis Adler

In the Old West not everyone who carried a gun wore a holster. Some men just tucked the pistol into their pant’s waist. Others who wore a cartridge belt and holster often tucked a second gun behind the belt. The rig I am wearing in this photo is an exact copy of the holster and belt worn by Tom Horn. It was copied from the original by Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather. It was originally used for a feature on Tom Horn in Guns of the Old West. Here it plays host to a pair of 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemakers.

I hesitate to tell you how many holsters I have. Let’s just say that if I ever end up on an episode of Hoarders it is going to be because of holsters. I am not alone in this, there are, and this is the truth, people who collect holsters, not guns, just holsters. They buy guns, but only to put in the holsters, that’s where the term “holster stuffer” comes from.

I have purchased holsters, off the rack, as it were, and I have had holsters custom made to fit specific guns, I have commissioned reproductions of original western holsters to be made for articles (which is altogether different because I got paid to do that), but I have also done this just for my own satisfaction. I would dare say that there are some holsters out there today from certain makers that would not exist if I hadn’t been the instigator of its design and manufacturing. There is even one out there today surreptitiously named after me. But before this becomes a holsters anonymous meeting, there is a point to this as it relates to CO2 air pistols.

This is a custom-built holster for a 7-1/2 inch Colt Peacemaker made by TrailRider Products in Colorado. It is a 100 percent accurate reproduction of a Miller-Fachet holster which was designed in the period between 1878 and1881 by Capt. Edward G. Fachet, Company Commander, Co. G 8th U.S. Cavalry. Capt. Fachet wanted an open top holster for use by the company troopers. This was a butt rear design and the U.S. military still favored a butt forward holster. It was never officially adopted by the U.S. Cavalry but many of its features appeared in several other holsters of the 1880s favored by civilians. It was a perfect fit for the 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker and the cartridge loops also worked with the pellet-loading cartridges.

Authentic air pistols should fit authentic holsters

And this is the thing, when a company builds a reproduction of an actual firearm, it should be an exact copy with the same dimensions so it can fit the same holsters as the original gun. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. The slide is a little wider, or the triggerguard, or the frame is an 1/8th of an inch taller because of the CO2 system, it’s one thing or another and that’s all it takes for the gun not to fit the holster. Historic guns like the Umarex Colt Peacemaker are so close and leather just forgiving enough that they will fit any western holster, old or new, which is probably a windfall for holster collectors; CO2 holster stuffers now exist!

Another interesting pair of western holsters, also made by TrailRider Products is based on the holsters worn by Jesse James. The double holster rig has one holster for crossdraw and one for strong side draw. Holsters like these cost much more than the CO2 pistols they can hold but add a far more realistic look to your guns than contemporary western holsters made of thinner leather and with stamped rather than carved details. Pictured are an Adams & Adams hand engraved Umarex Colt Peacemaker and the prototype for the Schofield Texas Jack CO2 model.

When a CO2 pistol fits the same holster as its centerfire counterpart I give it extra points in my book because that is one of the essentials of using a CO2 pistol for training, not so much with Colt Peacemakers as say the HK USP, Glock 17 Gen3 and S&W M&P40, but even with the Single Actions for honing your fast draw and shooting from the hip skills. But the holster has to fit.

This is a one-of-a-kind holster copied from an original one-of-a-kind holster featured in the number one book on western holsters, Packing Iron by Richard C. Rattenbury. The handcrafted reproduction was made in Spain by Garcia Brothers/45Maker which specializes in historic western holsters. This extraordinary leather fringed rig has been featured multiple times in Guns of the Old West as well as in Airgun Experience. It also fits the 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker.

Sometimes recreating a famous gunbelt and holster has nothing to do with Old West history and more to do with cinematic history. The famous Duke rig worn by John Wayne in numerous films is duplicated today by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather. It is a perfect match for any of the John Wayne Special Edition CO2 Peacemakers sold by Pyramyd Air. (The Red River D belt buckle was recreated by Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather)

One of the secrets of a good holster design is a proper fit. For the Umarex Colt Peacemakers, the Schofield and Remington CO2 models, Chisholm’s Trail Leather makes an exclusive line just for Pyramyd Air.

Breaking new ground

You don’t have to be a holster collector to appreciate the extra effort that goes into making a CO2 model a perfect match for its centerfire counterpart, and when that comes down to holsters, especially with either very modern handguns like the Glock and HK models or very old style European, Russian, and British pistols, like the Webley, the German Walther, and Russian Tokarev, Nagant and Makarov pistols, holsters are actually abundant. That these air pistols are accurately scaled to fit original and reproduction holsters makes them all that more enjoyable.

There is an interesting carryover in the American West, the period from the turn of the century to the early 1900s when Single Action revolvers were sharing holsters with new double action revolvers and the Colt Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol. Before 1911 military style flap holsters became common, western saddlers fabricated single action style holsters to accommodate the .45 ACP Colt semi-autos. This is another rare one-of-a-kind design taken from the pages of Packing Iron and handcrafted in Spain by Garcia Bros.

A striking contrast from handcrafted leather to stitched canvas but it is appropriate for one of the most talked about WWI and WWII handguns, the British Webley MK VI, which is among the best selling CO2 models today. A gun of this exacting quality (built by Webley and based on the original 1915 blueprints) deserves a proper period holster. Pyramyd Air offers two, an original leather style belt holster and the often favored canvas field holster (shown). A MK VI CO2 model needs a holster to complete the historic look.

Other famous German firearms not only hold a place in history but in the world of CO2 models, and the Umarex Luger P.08 Parabellum is crafted well enough to fit in original and reproduction WWII design holsters like this P.08 model from World War Supply.

Even the majority of airgun enthusiasts who don’t have the matching centerfire models can enjoy the full airgun experience by having the correct holster. While I doubt that holsters are a placebo for better packaging (the horrid blister packs that too many nice air pistols have been relegated to), a holster is a great alternative, especially if you have a small collection you want to display. Even if you have a decent box with your air pistol, like the Webley MK VI, having it in a Webley holster looks a lot better!

The military flap holster used in WWI and WWII was an adaptation of Single Action military flap holsters from the 19th century. Superb reproduction like this example sold by World War Supply are made to fit .45 ACP models but also perfectly hold the more accurate to the original 1911 CO2 models like the Air Venturi John Wayne Commemorative 1911A1. (Holster shown has an altered antique finish to match the gun)

While I can only speak to my own passions, I know they are shared with a lot of Airgun Experience readers, and holsters can honestly be 50 percent of the enjoyment of owning an authentically-made air pistol. When Umarex unknowingly built one of my all time favorite handguns as a CO2 model, (I haven’t yet convinced them to build guns that appeal specifically to me) the Mauser Broomhandle M712 presented an unusual problem when it came to holsters.

If one CO2 model defines building legendary WWII handguns it is the c.1932 Mauser Model 712 Broomhandle, the singularly most valued German handgun of its time with a detachable box magazine. The Umarex select-fire model is a 100 percent match, making it imperative that a proper period correct holster be made for it. That task fell to Chisholm’s Trail Leather which reproduces an M712 holster for Pyramyd Air.

The gun was perfectly sized to fit original and reproduction leather holsters and the wooden shoulder stock, but not with the magazine inserted. All commonly built holsters and stocks (original and new) were based on the standard fixed magazine Broomhandle design. The M712 presented the same problem for Mauser in 1932 as it did when the M712 CO2 model came out a couple of years ago. Mauser made special wooden shoulder stock holsters with deep magazine wells, a handful of leather rigs were made with everything from a cut away section with a removable magazine cover, to open bottom rigs and awkward looking holsters to fit. There really wasn’t much of a standard. All of the original M712 holsters that can be found are very expensive, as are original 20-shot Broomhandles and the M712 models which are still classified by the ATF as a Class III weapon. Just keep adding dollar signs as you read.

The holster is based on original designs (there were several types) to accommodate both the 20-shot Broomhandle with fixed magazine and the improved M712.

After over 20 years writing about western guns and holsters and quite a few modern handguns, I developed working relationships with some of the top holster makers in the world, so when the quandary of the Umarex Mauser Model 712 presented itself, I turned to Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather in Georgia, because Alan has recreated some of the greatest western holsters in American history, and he had begun dabbling in WWI and WWII era holsters around the same time the M712 CO2 model came out.

The cutaway side allows the pistol with magazine inserted to be safely holstered. It can be worn with a shoulder harness (as shown) or using the heavy duty double stitched belt loop.

With an M712 in hand and a lot of research, he came up with the holster pictured, which is offered today in a black finish version through Pyramyd Air, and yes, if you happen to have a Class III license and own a real M712 or 20-shot fixed magazine Broomhandle, the holster fits the original guns, too. You’ll also find a few custom-made Chisholm’s Trail western holsters on the Pyramyd Air website for 7-1/2 inch and 5-1/2 inch Peacemakers, the Schofield and Remington Single Actions, which again are interchangeable with the actual centerfire pistols.

The 1911 is a 108 year-old design still built today and as good as ever. Proof of authentic build is evident in this Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE which is a perfect fit in an original John Bianchi Speed Scabbard designed in the 1960s. If a 1911 fits this holster, it fits every 1911 Government Model holster. That being said, leather is forgiving, injection molded holsters, like the Blade-Tech are not. The Sig 1911 is a perfect fit, assuring this CO2 model is 100 percent correct!

Modern CO2 pistols that are well made and copied in fine detail from their centerfire counterparts fit the real holsters. Shown at top left the Umarex M92 A1 with a Galco Beretta holster, at top right the Umarex S&W M&P40 with a Safariland injection molded Level 2 locking holster, at bottom left a Sig Sauer licensed P226 X-Five BB model with a Galco P226 holster, and bottom right a Swiss Arms TRS 1911 with a Galco 1911 Fletch thumb break belt holster. If the guns fit (and they do) you have lots of holster options.

The same can be said for the new Sig Sauer M17 CO2 model which is a 100 percent fit to actual M17/P320 rigs like this belt holster and shoulder holster made by Galco.

The ultimate statement in authenticity for training is a competition pistol like the well established Tanfoglio Gold Custom. The CO2 model perfectly fits into this actual Safariland Gold Custom competition rig. The CO2 magazines also fit perfectly into the magazine carriers. As good as it gets!

This is what great holster making is about, especially with today’s ever expanding assortment of CO2 pistols. Fortunately, most of the guns are only new to the world of air pistols, and the holsters have, for the most part, preceded them by years, if not decades. When the manufacturer does it right, as so many are at present, the gun and holster combinations are just as authentic, adding a whole new level to enjoying the Airgun Experience. See you on Hoarders…


Accessorizing the Umarex Glock G19

Accessorizing the Umarex Glock G19

Best options for an entry level air pistol

By Dennis Adler

This is the Umarex Glock 19 air pistol, not an actual 3rd generation model, but it is hard to tell because there are only two obvious differences, first the crossbolt safety at the top of the trigger (if you see it) and the absence of the caliber marking 9×19 after the GLOCK logo, the model number 19, and AUSTRIA all in capital letters on the left side of the slide.

I like to think of myself as a “the CO2 cartridge is half full” kind of guy and hope that airgun manufacturers eventually get everything right. But I have learned that sometimes you just have to be overly optimistic. It’s like major league sports; you hope your team is going to win the championship every year even though you know from experience they’ll probably never make it to the semi-finals. But it does happen once in a great while, so there is always a glimmer of hope. I was disappointed with the first Umarex HK USP when it came out as a non-blowback model some years ago. After a long wait, in 2018 they hit it out of the park with the new blowback action USP, currently a serious contender for my Air Pistol of the Year. So, let’s take a second look at another non-blowback with the promise of greater things to come, the Umarex Glock 19, a pistol that was actually less disappointing than it appeared. This mid 2018 offering was a big surprise in ways that other non-blowback models have disappointed. For one thing there is the potential versatility of this entry level air pistol to lay the groundwork for a follow up blowback action model, very much like the first HK USP. When that will happen is a little uncertain, hopefully not as long as the USP, but what can the current G19 model accomplish in the interim?

The obligatory airgun reading matter is well disposed of on the bottom of the G19 triggerguard. The authentic dustcover serial number plate is used for a serial number, and the caliber and proof mark to eliminate them from the right side of the polymer frame. This keeps the look of the CO2 model as close to the centerfire pistol as possible from either side.

As stick magazines go the G19 is a gem with a locking follower and a large loading port on the back of the channel that makes pouring BBs into the magazine easier than almost as any other stick magazine design. It also has a correct size base pad with the Glock logo to assure a clean G19 profile when inserted.

Everything is right but…

There is a simple Glock mantra; if you know how to handle one Glock pistol, you know how to handle every Glock pistol (unless, of course, you happen to get your hands on a select-fire G18). It is that consistency since 1982 that finally led to the much anticipated licensing agreement with Umarex to produce Glock’s first CO2 training model. As basic as this non-blowback, stick magazine-fed offering is, it is so close in design and “basic” handling to an actual G19 that it is almost indistinguishable except for not bearing the caliber markings on the left side of the slide and having a slightly wider Picatinny rail and triggerguard, which makes it unsuitable to fit some Glock 19 holsters. That, more than anything else, is the most disappointing feature of the air pistol, it is only a fraction of an inch off but sometimes that’s all it takes. What the entry level, (i.e. very affordable) new model delivers is a CO2 pistol that makes no other compromises in size and shape, sighting, trigger design or balance, with the exception of the mandatory manual safety, which is truly redundant given that the air pistol has a Glock-type Safe Action trigger. It even has an impressively clean right side free of bold faced white warnings and maker’s marks. It is all discretely hidden on the underside of the triggerguard and dustcover in magnifying glass sized type.

It is a masterpiece of external design that does the best job of looking like its centerfire counterpart of any air pistol on the market regardless of being a non-blowback model. The Umarex nicely duplicates Glock’s signature Tenifer finish and black top coat used on the Gen3 centerfire models. Glock has since switched to a new process and a slightly lighter shade top coat, but this is a Gen3 design gun, so it is right on the money.

The fine attention to details in the CO2 model is evident in the slide which has the fit of a separate barrel, slide and extractor, and a slide lock (for disassembly of centerfire pistols). While none of these features function, they look correct. Same for the slide release on the left side. The air pistol even has the manufacturers mark panel above the right grip that reads: Officially Licensed Product of GLOCK. And the finish on the air pistol is about as close to the finish on a Glock as you can get. As a training gun it fulfills all of the entry level requirements at a price (around $70) usually associated with CO2 pistols of either generic design or lacking in the fine details of the gun they are based upon. The Umarex Glock succeeds in delivering the look and feel of a much more expensive CO2 pistol.

We know the CO2 model can work with existing Glock GTL light and light laser combos, like this GTL 22 on the Umarex, but it also accommodates any Mil.-Std. 1913 or Weaver mounting units.

Another example is this Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro green laser and tactical light combo, which is adaptable to a variety of rails and another perfect, albeit expensive, fit for the $70 airgun. Of course, not every laser has to set you back a couple of hundred dollars.

Dressing the Glock 19

As I pointed out in the original June review of the Umarex G19, it is accurate enough in design to mount the actual Glock tactical light and laser (GTL 22) from the centerfire pistols. Of course, unless you already have an actual centerfire Glock, odds are you’re not going to spend $285 to put a GTL 22 on a $70 air pistol! However, there are more affordable tactical lights and lasers that can work on either a centerfire or CO2 model. For this review I am using a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro (which also sells for over $200 but I happen to have one on hand), and a much more affordable LaserMax Spartan red laser which sells for about the same as the Glock CO2 pistol, and is available from Pyramyd Air.

This $90 LaserMax Spartan red laser is also a perfect match up for the G19 CO2 model and can deliver dead on accuracy at the optimum 21 foot range for a CO2 BB pistol.

Using the Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro, the G19 CO2 model, which has already proven itself to be quite accurate at 21 feet, delivered 10 rounds, fired at 1 second intervals, into 1.56 inches with a best 5-shot group measuring 0.75 inches. Switching to the more affordable LaserMax Spartan the G19 put 10 shots at 1.06 inches with the best five steel BBs clustered into 0.56 inches. For training and affordability the G19 and LaserMax are a good team, and at a reasonable $160 for both.

The Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro guided 10 rounds into tight groups at 21 feet. This is an expensive unit for the CO2 pistol but for practicing low light accuracy with a laser it pairs up nicely with the Umarex Glock 19.

The LaserMax Spartan actually out shot the more expensive Rail Master at 21 feet delivering slightly tighter 10-shot groups. At $90 from Pyramyd Air it is the best choice to match up with the current G19 CO2 model. It will also be a best choice when the blowback action version finally arrives. If you are going to eventually own both models, might as well start practicing with the LaserMax now. It also fits any other rail gun.

Packing a G19   

The Glock 19 was designed as the compact version of the G17 and better suited for concealed carry use by law enforcement, military and civilians. As I noted, the air pistol is off a fraction in width, enough so that it won’t fit some injection molded tactical holsters. One that it will fit is the ASG Strike Systems Tactical Gear Holster G. This rig is a Level 1 locking holster with about a $20 price from Pyramyd Air. Toss this into the mix with the gun and you are under $100. A spare magazine for the G19 is about $10. See where I’m going with this? You can put a decent Glock 19 training gun package together for about $190; gun, ASG holster, Spartan red laser and spare 16-round magazine. That’s an airgun experience just about anyone can afford.

Holstering the Umarex G19 is a little harder than I would like since the dimensions are just a little larger (we’re talking a fraction of an inch) but enough to make it a hard fit in most Kydex or injection molded Glock 19 rigs. The ASG Holster G for the Glock 19 is also a little tight but it works and the Level 1 locking system functions as well. In an affordable ($20) paddle rig it’s the best bet for the G19 airgun. Also notice the correct Glock markings on the bottom of the air pistol’s full size stick magazine base pad. The devil is in the details and Glock made certain Umarex delivered on every possible one of them. The forthcoming blowback action version should be an even more exciting example of Glock Perfection.