Why tan guns have great appeal

Why tan guns have great appeal

Because guns used to be blue

By Dennis Adler

If you collect old guns, 19th century guns, most will be blued (or were at one time), others might be nickel plated, but the vast majority, well into the 20th century were blued. It is an old process that Samuel Colt (among others) refined in the early to mid 19th century. Go back another century and you won’t find many blued guns, you will find instead browned guns, an even older process that was so common in the 1700s’s that the famous Revolutionary War British musket, the “Brown Bess,” was named after its finish (or so the story goes). Browned Damascus barrels on shotguns and pistols were revered for their beauty, but bluing became the dominant finish intended to prevent rust. Rust was and will always be the nemesis of gun barrels, frames (except of course, newer polymer frames), and parts made from steel, iron or other metals, except aluminum and aluminum alloys, and thus you will not often encounter rust with a modern air pistol, except those which use steel in their composition. Bluing is, in fact, a controlled rust process that is stopped and treated, creating a protective layer over the metal. But time wears everything down and bluing wears away. That is why old guns that have not been well cared for (or reblued) have faded worn finishes and the worst, have pitting from rust. read more

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

Out of the two dozen CO2 models I talked about this week that have been developed over the last four years, there are five that have become my absolute favorites, well seven if you count the Mini Uzi and MP40, but for practical purposes, I’m limiting this final five to handguns. The choices are obvious to those who have read Airgun Experience over the past three years, and one of these is my absolute favorite among the Colt Peacemaker, Sig WE THE PEOPLE, CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow (Blue), Tanfoglio Gold Custom and Umarex Legends Mauser M712 Broomhandle.

Having a favorite anything means you have had it for awhile, unless something comes along that is so overwhelming it surpasses everything before it. In the world of firearms that only happens once in a great while. With blowback action CO2 models based on actual centerfire guns, it can happen more often because air pistols not only have ties to the latest guns, but can just as easily be based on guns from the past; with air pistols a new gun is always interesting, but it isn’t always new. One of the best examples of this was last year’s Umarex HK USP, a gun that has been around for some time but as a new blowback action CO2 pistol really hit it out of the park. The next closest was the Umarex Glock 17, a design that has been around as a 9mm pistol since 1982. Both are great and maybe in a few years one of them will become a favorite for me, but what I consider a favorite gun has a deeper meaning.

Five Keepers

There are five CO2 pistols I consider my “absolute keepers.” These are models that I would not want to part with. Every one of them is a gun that readers picked to be my favorite of all time. Of course, “of all time” in this context is only a period of about four years, prior to that none of them existed as air pistols. But they did exist as centerfire guns, and that’s what makes these five very special.

I don’t think there is a better revolver, single or double action reproduced as a CO2 model that can outshoot an old fashioned Peacemaker. The 7-1/2 inch nickel pellet models are my favorites, and the engraved version the best of them all. My Adams & Adams hand engraved model was the prototype but every one is exactly the same. It is a lot of money to put into a CO2 Peacemaker, but those of you who purchased them know it was money well spent. (Holster by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

More people picked the Peacemaker than any other and it was a logical choice given my background. The 7-1/2 inch engraved nickel model is one of my very personal favorites because I was the one who suggested having these very authentic Umarex Colts given the same engraving treatment as the centerfire models. My 7-1/2 inch Umarex is the actual engraving prototype for the limited series of guns done for Pyramyd Air by Adams & Adams. If not for one other CO2 model that came along, the Peacemaker would be my all time favorite, but it is only one of five.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was among the first CO2 models I purchased and over the last few years it has never been outdone for overall features and accuracy by newer air pistols. If you are into target shooting, this is the CO2 pistol to own.

The gun that is my favorite has been my favorite since it came out. But first, the gun that almost knocked it out, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. I have had this model since it was introduced. It has proven to be the most accurate blowback action CO2 pistol there is. Even though a few newer guns may be more appealing, they can’t outshoot it, and that makes this very authentic copy of a championship competition pistol another of my five favorites.

A touch of blue and black makes the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow a better looking gun. These three pieces, grips and magwell, are available from Pyramyd Air as well. Fully equipped with the optics bridge the Shadow Blue was almost as accurate as another of my favorites.

The closest I came to finding a better gun than the Tanfoglio was the aftermarket customized CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow Blue. From a purely visual perspective it is one of the best-looking blowback action CO2 target pistols there is (and if you don’t like it in blue it can be done in CZ’s competition orange or red versions, but I like the almost turquoise blue anodized aluminum accessories best). It can’t quite outshoot the Tanfoglio, but it does give it a run for looks.

That leaves me with two great air pistols that I consider among the best ever. To understand my interest in these two you have to understand my motivations for selecting them. My first semi-auto handgun was a Colt Model 1911. It was an awful gun to shoot. I got rid of it after a couple of years but found myself drawn to the Model 1911’s better self, and got into customized models, the first of which I still have over 30 years later. The 1911 is the very image of the 20th century American handgun, just as the Peacemaker is for the 19th. The Sig Sauer 1911 CO2 WE THE PEOPLE represents one company’s view of that image, albeit a German company now rooted in the U.S. As 1911 CO2 models go, there simply isn’t a better 1911 than the Sig Sauer. Is this my all time favorite?

I have been a fan of the Model 1911 for decades, and Sig Sauer managed to develop a CO2 version of their WE THE PEOPLE .45 ACP that now stands as the very best blowback action 1911 model made. You need to have a taste for custom guns to appreciate the unusual finish, grips, and markings, but beyond that, it is a perfectly balanced and fully equipped 1911 with the best sights and ambidextrous thumb safeties of all CO2 1911 models.

The back story

Long before I started writing about guns I was writing about American and European Classic Cars. Over more than 30 years, beginning in 1977, I wrote thousands of magazine articles and took somewhere around 10,000 photographs, edited car magazines, and authored and photographed over 30 books on automobiles, including three very popular ones for Random House and HarperCollins. And it was the cars that got me into guns! Car collectors are also very often gun collectors and this is where it started.

Back in the late 1970s I was working as the assistant editor of Car Classics magazine for the legendary Dean Batchelor, former editor of Road & Track, and director of the Harrah Automobile Collection. I learned a lot about writing and automotive history from Dean and a few of his old friends. You might say I became there young protégé. I will always be thankful for what they taught me and for introducing me to other influential collectors. And there was one who was a gun collector.

I had an assignment to shoot a Lamborghini and it required a European looking estate for the background. One collector I had met had such a house. And after contacting him we set a day and time for me to arrive with the Lamborghini. I had previously shot a Porsche 550 Spyder there, so we weren’t strangers. Lighting is essential for outdoor photography and a bright sunny day really isn’t what you want. Light clouds to soften the sun, or just before sundown is better, and with a red Lamborghini the day’s harsh, bright sunlight put things on hold for awhile. (If I ever write a book on automotive photography, I’m calling it “Waiting for a cloud”). We decided to grab some lunch and somehow got on to the topic of guns. He collected all types of handguns but favored early (pre-war era) German pistols. When we got back to the house, the light was still not good, so I got a tour of his gun collection. What struck me first was a cabinet with guns I had only ever seen in movies. He put the very first Broomhandle Mauser I ever held into my hands. It was a Model 712, even then a very rare and expensive gun. That started me on collecting Broomhandle Mausers for the next 30 plus years. But the one I couldn’t get (did find a couple over the years and knew all the paperwork that would be involved) was a Model 712. I simply could never afford it. Every time I had enough disposable income and found another, the value had gone up proportionally and I still couldn’t afford it. I have photographed a few, handled a few, but never owned one. Then, one day Umarex introduced a CO2 version of the Model 712. I bought it, and have shot it countless times, written about it more than almost any other air pistol, and for all of the reasons I have explained, despite many newer and innovative CO2 models that I really like, the Model 712 was, is, and will always be my favorite CO2 air pistol of all time.

My all time favorite is the one gun I was never able to own as a cartridge pistol, the Mauser Model of 1932 or M712. The original C96 Broomhandle (developed in 1896) is also one of a handful of semiautomatic pistols that overlapped with the last years of the American West. Used by lawmen and outlaws alike, it is a unique gun that has its roots planted in two different centuries. As an air pistol, this is about as good as it gets, at least for me.

Reader Adventurist summed it up best when he said this was the gun I would pick: “It’s a pistol that has a very diverse and colorful history including The Old West.” It does indeed, and for this adventure, you have won the M9A3.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was one of the big hits from Umarex in 2017.
The CO2 version of the full auto 9mm WWII submachine gun allows semi-auto fire as well as full auto, making it much more CO2 and BB friendly. The self-contained CO2 BB magazines use a pair of 12 gram CO2 cartridges. It doesn’t hurt accuracy, either.

When you have a veritable history of American and European firearms recreated today in .177 caliber BB and 4.5mm pellet firing airguns, everything from selective fire pistols like the Mini Uzi, Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and WWII German MP40, to state-of-the-art semi-autos like the Glock 17 and legendary guns from the American West, like the Colt Peacemaker, finding one gun that raises the bar or hits your “must have” list, is like going to a premier firearms auction with the determination that no matter how many guns catch your eye, you are only going home with one. And so we begin Part 2 back in 2017.

The MP40 is also pretty accurate at 25 feet fired semi-auto or even full auto.

If there was one model that raised eyebrows and opened wallets that year, it was the Umarex Legends MP40 submachine gun. This was as much of a surprise as the M712 Mauser; Umarex was digging deeply into German gun making history once again and coming up with another out of the chute winner for military arms enthusiasts. The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was a reworked version of the MP38 designed to be less expensive and time consuming to manufacture for wartime use. Its pioneering construction relied on welded and sheetmetal stamped parts compared to its more precision-built MP38 predecessor, which utilized mostly machined parts. Welded and stamped parts became the foundation for many later military weapons, including the Uzi, which used a similar manufacturing technique. With the select-fire CO2 MP40 (the actual WWII guns were full auto only), the CO2 Mauser M712 had a worthy WWII companion and military airgun enthusiasts another big choice. The MP40 was later followed up with a weathered WWII version which looks even more realistic and made an interesting counterpart not only to the WWII edition M712 (now out of production) but the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI, the only one of the three still currently available.

Around the same time Webley introduced the Battlefield finish MK VI (pictured), Umarex added a weathered finish MP40 version, giving the gun an even more authentic look. Military airgun enthusiasts were having a field day. Presently, the weathered MP40 is not available, so if you purchased one, you have another keeper.

Early in 2017 Sig Sauer took its next big step forward with the P320 ASP, which, while still carrying forth the company’s same conservative approach to molding in features that would not serve any functional purpose on the CO2 model, did introduce an innovative rotary pellet firing mechanism that in itself revolutionized the blowback action pellet pistol market.

The Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the first semi-automatic .177 caliber air pistol to use a rotary belt-fed magazine. Designed to look and feel like the P320 centerfire pistol, the ASP’s weight and trigger pull were nearly identical offering recreational shooters, professionals and competitive shooters a training tool to easily hone their shooting skills at reduced costs.
The most interesting feature of the Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the 20-round rotary belt-fed magazine, giving it the highest capacity of any pellet-firing semi-auto CO2 pistol.

By early 2018 there was another rising star among CO2 blowback action pistols, the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow. This new blowback action version was based on the original centerfire CZ-75 Shadow model introduced in 2011 and variations of the Shadow through the SP-01 Shadow (built by the CZ Custom Shop) and the latest SP-01 Shadow II models.

The differences between the early CO2 CZ-75 design and SP-01 Shadow are quite evident when seen together. The newer frame has a completely different contour and integrated 1913 Picatinny rail and the later SP-01 triggerguard design. The pistol also has improved combat rear and red fiber optic front sights, skeletonized hammer, elongated ambidextrous thumb safeties and a larger slide release.
The 9mm version of this gun has a magazine with an 18 round capacity while the Shadow uses the same 17-round BB mags as the standard CZ-75. The gun fits the ASG Strike Systems holster, which is identical to Level 2 duty holsters for the 9mm CZ SP-01 Shadow.

ASG began offering updates to the CO2 model (an interesting first) with accessories based on the Shadow 2 competition “Black & Blue” (updated from the original SP-01 Shadow Blue and Shadow II), with the same alloy grips and an extended magwell, in the same anodized blue finish as the 9x19mm models. Pyramyd Air also began offering this first step upgrade. ASG also added matching alloy blue anodized base pads and a blue anodized aluminum optics mount, making the SP-01 a very close rival for the CZ 75 inspired Tanfoglio Gold Custom CO2 model in looks and in accuracy. This Blue version quickly became another keeper.

The Shadow Blue is an upgrade to the standard SP-01 by replacing the grips and adding the magwell. The parts are blue anodized aluminum and available from Pyramyd air.
Other upgrades for the SP-01 include blue anodized aluminum base pads and a matching Picatinny rail mounted optics platform (only available from Stampede Airsoft). This put the gun on an almost even footing with the Tanfoglio Gold Custom.
Fitted with optics, (the Shadow with a fairly pricey Styrka green dot and the Tanfoglio with a Walther MRS reflex sight) these are two of the most accurate blowback action BB pistols you can own. They’re not too bad to look at either!

The previous year had seen Sig Sauer stumble with two stick magazine fed 1911 models based on their specialized Sig 1911 models, the Spartan and Max Michel. Both were nice entry-level 1911-based CO2 blowback action models, but with separate CO2 compartments and stick magazines they fell flat with a lot of Airgun Experience readers who were expecting a great deal more from Sig Sauer. In 2018 they got it, with a new 1911 model that broke the mold for 1911 air pistols, the WE THE PEOPLE.

Sig went the distance for this one, an exact copy (except for white lettering to indicate caliber on the left and small letter warnings on the right) of the .45 ACP Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE pistol. The centerfire gun and CO2 model have the same weathered finishes, unique star grips, and stampings. By far, the most accurate to a centerfire model 1911 air pistol there is. I have to say “1911” because things went really over the top authentic by the end of 2018 for another blowback action CO2 model.

This was a 1911 model based on Sig’s own .45 ACP custom version, which was so detailed, that without close examination, seeing the small white lettering on the right side of the slide and frame, looking down the barrel, or being so versed in the design to notice the absence of an ejector hole on the back of the slide, was otherwise indistinguishable from the centerfire gun. The Sig WTP became just about everyone’s keeper if they wanted true authenticity to an actual cartridge-firing counterpart (if you like guns with wild custom finishes and grips), and one of the most accurate 1911 blowback action CO2 models on the market.

If Sig had not used white lettering, it would be almost impossible to tell one from the other.
Sig went so far as to duplicate all of the markings, sight design, lowered and flared ejection port and external extractor arm (rare on 1911s except custom models). They also kept the white lettering to a minimum on the frame.

The middle of 2018 was really beginning to look up and Sig Sauer was taking the lead in best new guns. Sig had previewed a new blowback action CO2 pellet-firing model in the summer, based on the U.S. military’s new standard issue sidearm, the P320/M17. That new M17 ASP CO2 model, with an improved rotary pellet firing mechanism and self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, an actual slide and barrel lug interface, ambidextrous thumb safeties, white dot sights, and field stripping capability, captured the spotlight and left air pistol enthusiasts waiting until almost the end of the year for first deliveries. However, the gun did not disappoint and went on to win the 2018 Replica Air Pistol of the Year title. Meanwhile, Umarex also weighed in with two new models late in the year that were simply going to be game changers.

Sig Sauer pretty much owned 2018 by the time the P320/M17 ASP came out late in the year. As close to the 9mm military M17 as possible, the new CO2 model pioneered the use of a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine for semiautomatic blowback action air pistols. Also note the absence of white lettering. 
To achieve this military-based design, the fact that the 9mm models for U.S. servicemen have extended capacity magazines, allowed Sig to use the longer magazine design to house the long CO2 and pellet magazine combination.

The first was a new blowback action CO2 model based on an older Heckler & Koch design, the USP. In terms of authenticity of design, this gun now rivaled the Sig Sauer WTP in every way, and was very close to edging the Sig M17 ASP out of the year’s number one spot, but the innovative self-contained CO2 pellet magazine pushed it just over the line.

Umarex came back late in 2018 with two new benchmark guns, first the Heckler & Koch USP, which is a 1:1 copy of the 9mm model that fits all HK USP holsters. The CO2 BB magazines are also correct in size and fit in the standard 9mm magazine pouches.
Full field stripping was the final touch to the USP that made it a leading candidate for 2018’s top gun of the year, and another absolute keeper.

During 2018 Umarex decided to enter a new market with an air pistol that had never been made by forging a relationship with Glock. But before the Umarex Glock 17 (3rd Model) was released, Umarex fired a shot across the bow of other airgun manufacturers with a lower-priced, non-blowback action, stick magazine version of the Glock 19 Compact.

The gun that impressed, although it did almost nothing, was the Umarex Glock 19, a non-blowback pistol with a cleverly disguised stick magazine. What it did do, was become the very first Glock air pistol from a company that doesn’t lend its name or image easily. The Umarex Glock arrangement was groundbreaking and the attention to the smallest details in this entry-level airgun was more than impressive. It also paved the way for the first Glock blowback action model that came at the very end of 2018.

To everyone this seemed to be a disappointing decision, but was actually a hint at what was coming a few months later. For a low-priced, non-blowback, the G19 CO2 was magnificently constructed with more detail than most blowback action pistols, the kind of detail that could only be achieved with individual parts, not molded-in pieces. In addition, Umarex had managed to preserve the look of a centerfire Glock pistol by eliminating any white lettering from the gun except the model designation tastefully placed on the right side of the barrel lug. It was priced for entry-level BB gun buyers who could not imagine Glock ever making or allowing to be made, a CO2 version. The company wouldn’t even build a .22 LR model. So the ice had been broken and at a very reasonable price leaving more gun savvy buyers to ask where the blowback action model was.

There is almost no way to fault the Umarex Glock 17, a blowback action CO2 model with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and no external compromises in fit or finish, no white lettering anywhere, and the only hint of not being a 9mm was the absence of the caliber stamping.

The Glock 17 blowback action CO2 pistol just got in under the wire for 2018 with a design that was, in a word often used by Glock, “Perfection.” A short recoil design that could not be field stripped, it traded that feature for providing an impressive average velocity of 376 fps with a high of 395 fps. Numbers you don’t normally see from a blowback action pistol. The Glock 17 would have been 2018’s top gun but lost out for its only design compromise, not being able to fieldstrip like the rest of the top blowback action models.

Everything was done right and the CO2 model copied the centerfire pistol’s dimensions perfectly, allowing it to work in the Blackhawk Serpa Level 2 concealment holster. It is a CO2 version of Glock Perfection with one small detail. The gun cannot be field stripped.
My proof of perfect dimensions was taking the Glock GTL tactical light and laser from my centerfire pistol and slipping on to the CO2 model. As they say at Glock, “Perfection.”

There were some other great models that came out including another Sig Sauer, the P226 ASP X-Five, which couldn’t quite outpace the P320/M17 for overall features, but proved to be a more accurate gun for target shooters. There was also the groundbreaking Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action Rifle with CO2 BB cartridges and about as realistic a lever gun that ever used CO2 instead of gun powder. A handful of other updates from Umarex filled out the calendar, but these were the best of the best. And that was how last year ended up.

Just when it seemed Umarex had done all it could to make 2018 a memorable year they added one more gun, a fully working, BB or pellet cartridge-loading lever action rifle based on the famous Winchester Model 1894 design, giving their superb Peacemaker models a real companion rifle that uses the same cartridges.

For 2019 the new models are coming more slowly but it will take something quite extraordinary to top the first completely new model of the year, the Springfield Armory XDM 4.5, simply the most perfect blowback action CO2 pistol made thus far. If it gets any better than that this year (and I think it very well might), 2019 will end up marking the greatest turning point in the short but extraordinary history of blowback action CO2 airguns.

How could you top 2018? Air Venturi and Springfield Armory found the way, with the first Springfield Armory CO2 air pistol, a 1:1 duplicate of their centerfire XDM 4.5 and like the Umarex Glock 17, there are no white letter tells. Better still, the XDM 4.5 is a fully field strippable blowback action model. At the moment, the most authentic to a centerfire model air pistol in the world. The gun at the bottom is the CO2 model.
Every detail of the air pistol is flawlessly matched, as much as a CO2 pistol design can allow, right down to what is the best looking CO2 BB magazine ever made.
This is the gun to beat in 2019.

All of this has transpired in a little more than three years, making it hard for airgun enthusiasts to buy everything that looks good when every next gun to come along has even more appeal, especially for those who want as much authenticity in their CO2 pistol as possible. The burning question, however, is “what among all of these great choices is the one gun that has become my all time favorite CO2 pistol?”  I’ll reveal that answer and the reasons why on Saturday.

Everyone who reads Airgun Experience on Tuesday and Thursday has a chance to win a brand new Umarex Beretta M9A3 by posting a comment with the gun they think I will pick on Saturday. This needs to be in the comments section before midnight Friday. You can only enter once and you have to post your comment no later than 12 midnight this Friday. The first person to guess the gun I’ll pick wins the Beretta! I have to applaud those of you who boldly made your choices before reading Thursday’s Part 2, and some of you even guessed which guns would be in Part 2. But has anyone guessed the gun?  We’ll find out Saturday.

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The very first Airgun Experience was a tribute to John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist, and the limited edition Umarex Colt Peacemaker hand engraved and custom finished Shootist CO2 model. This was the beginning of an entire series of hand engraved CO2 Peacemakers in 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch barrel lengths that would be introduced in Airgun Experience articles.

This marks the 400th Airgun Experience article and over the period from No. 1 to No. 400 so many new CO2 air pistols and rifles have been introduced it becomes difficult to keep them all in comparative categories. The only real defining characteristics are magazine types, blowback or non-blowback actions (and that has to include revolvers), sights, though most are fixed sights of one type or another, and lastly, the quality of the build, fit, and finish. In most cases the differences between blowback and non-blowback semi autos covers all the rest, but not in every case and with today’s choices, that really doesn’t pare down the list all that much. So to start, let’s look back at new models introduced since Airgun Experience No. 1, which started with a new model.

The nickel finished 5-1/2 inch Peacemakers were the first fancy models, aside from early commemorative BB models like the U.S. Marshal’s Single Action. The western guns have always had a special place in Airgun Experience.

That air pistol, developed in 2016 from the 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemakers introduced the year before, was a hand-finished and engraved copy of John Wayne’s Single Actions from his final film, The Shootist and only 100 were made. They are gone now and forever in the “collectible” airgun category. But that gun did set the pace for the standards of Airgun Experience both for readers to expect and for me to live up to. With 399 articles under my belt I hope I have delivered what you have come to expect in an Airgun Experience review. And that you have come to know what it is that I like and expect in an air pistol or the occasional air rifle I might review. I’m a handgun guy and there’s no separating that from what I write and how I write it.

Sig Sauer jumped into the airgun market with rifled barrel pellet models like the P226 ASP, based on the P226 models that were made famous in the hands of U.S. Navy Seals. It was an authentic looking air pistol designed by Sig with the intention of its use as both a recreational shooting air pistol and as a training gun.
While the Sig lacked some very basic operating features for a blowback action pistol, like a slide and barrel lug interface (it was just molded into the slide), and functioning slide release (the slide could not lock back), the ruggedly built pellet model did offer a working safety decocker as one of its training features. It was a step forward in blowback action pellet pistol design and a portent of greater things to come from Sig Sauer by 2018.

What has surprised me most over the last three years has been the number of new CO2 models and the continual improvements in the authenticity of design, number 1 on my checklist, the quality of fit (“does this gun sound like it’s rattling to you?”), and finishes that don’t scream “air pistol” from 10 feet away. Of course, when it all comes together you end up with some very impressive looking CO2 models that bring a new level of responsibility with them, and that boldfaced paragraph I sometimes place at the end of an article about treating these highly authentic looking and handling air pistols with the same respect as their centerfire counterparts. That started early in the column with a couple of new Sig Sauer models in 2016, the first of which was featured in the second and third Airgun Experience articles covering the P226 ASP, a new Sig Sauer marketed blowback action, pellet-firing air pistol, the first of the ASP models, that both excited and disappointed. As a blowback action CO2 pistol it had several very neat features including a rifled barrel, working safety decocker, white dot sights, a fairly authentic trigger pull and a threaded barrel. But Sig used an economy of features to keep the price down and make the P226 ASP a basic hands-on training gun that was only good for familiarizing how the gun sighted, learning trigger control and safe handing with the safety decocker. Basic. It was a small step forward for pellet-firing CO2 pistols but functionally behind then current CO2 blowback action BB models like the Umarex Colt Commander. But it proved that Sig Sauer was in the game.

Aside from the Umarex Colt Peacemakers, the first new CO2 model that really rocked me back on my heels was the Air Venturi version of the Umarex Uzi pistol. Unlike the semi-auto only Umarex Uzi, this special version offered a real Mini Uzi-design selective fire system, making it as close to a real existing gun as any air pistol up to that time.

By the summer of 2016 I had found one blowback action CO2 pistol that would be my very first “keeper” when I reviewed the Mini Uzi select fire pistol. Going from guns like the Umarex Commander to the Uzi was like stepping through the looking glass. I had tested 9mm Mini Uzi and .22 caliber Uzi models for Combat Handguns magazine and this was as close to a real Uzi pistol as possible. It showed me, and I hope those of you who read that article in the summer of 2016, that the future of CO2 blowback action pistols was about to change from the simplistic to the outrageous.

Much as I like Model 1911 Colts and 1911 variations for competition shooting, I have always had a preference for the CZ 75 based Tanfoglio Gold Custom 9mm competition pistols (which have been in the hands of world champion shooters for years) and when the CO2 version was introduced and actually fit the Safariland Tanfoglio Gold Custom competition rig, I was sold on the CO2 model as another keeper. Even the CO2 BB magazines work with the competition rig’s mag pouches. This remains the most accurate (properly fitted with optics) CO2 blowback action BB pistol on the market.
All of the essential features of the 9mm model have been perfectly duplicated from the slide serrations to grip profile and alloy grips, and thumb safeties making the Tanfoglio Gold Custom the best competition training gun made today.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was also reviewed that summer and as the top level 9mm CZ 75-based competition pistol it was an equally impressive and accurate blowback action CO2 BB model that has maintained its position as the most accurate blowback action BB pistol on the market. Given all that has come, that is quite an impressive accomplishment for one of the earlier CO2 models. The Tanfoglio Custom Limited with adjustable sights followed, but did not stay around long enough to do anything but whet a lot of appetites for a Tanfoglio that didn’t require optics. If that gun ever comes back, there is a waiting list of CO2 owners who missed out on what was one of the very best CO2 pistols of the last three years.

One thing I have never grown out of is dressing the part with western guns. Helps to have been doing Guns of the Old West magazine for over a decade, but when the CO2 Peacemakers came out, especially the nickel 7-1/2 inch pellet cartridge-loading models with rifled barrels, they quickly found their way not only into Airgun Experience but Guns of the Old West as well. The CO2 Peacemakers cut their own niche into the airgun world and despite no new models (like a proper 2-1/2 inch barrel Sheriff’s Model), they remain the best Single Action air pistols made.
In the very near future you will be able to custom order your own Peacemaker from Pyramyd Air with your personal choice of finishes, combinations of finishes, and barrel lengths (5-1/2 or 7-1/2 inch). Stay tuned for more on this one.

The summer of 2016 also saw the beginning of an evolution in wheelguns. With the 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch rifled barrel Peacemakers, Umarex had established the BB and pellet cartridge as a new standard for revolvers.

ASG and its licensed Dan Wesson models got off to a good but not entirely accurate beginning in 2016 with both BB and pellet-cartridge firing models with smoothbore and rifled barrels. The grip frame, however, was closer to the Umarex 327 TRR8 and used a S&W-style cylinder release.
Within a year’s time ASG had added a new and very proper DW Model 715 with the correct crane cylinder release and superior hard rubber combat grips. The unique finish changed colors from deep blue black (outdoors) to a silver grey under different lighting.

Umarex and ASG were leading the parade, the latter with its first Dan Wesson models, which were nice but not authentic to the original Daniel B. Wesson II designs. ASG would follow up in 2017 with a truly bona fide 6-inch Model 715 with the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch, a rifled barrel and pellet-loading cartridges. This became the all-time best CO2 double action revolver, along with the 2-inch snub nose version that, in the estimation of many Airgun Experience readers, is the best CO2 revolver ever. And it has not been surpassed thus far.

The hottest ASG Dan Wesson came almost a year after the 6-inch version with a 2-inch nickel snub nose, pellet-cartridge model that is not only the best looking of the DW CO2 models but the Number 1 revolver training gun on the market. Another absolute keeper.

By the end of summer 2016 I had found that Umarex was delivering more new guns than ever and each was a benchmark in its own right with the Beretta 92A1 select-fire pistol, which combined two actual Beretta models into one gun, making the CO2 92A1 a bit of an anomaly for authenticity but one heck of an exciting blowback action air pistol to shoot. The 92A1 had the look and feel of a 9mm pistol, a more robust blowback action and of course, semi-auto and full auto fire. It also matched the current Beretta 92 series design, making it a truly up-to-the-minute pistol in most respects. The other great new model of 2016 was really quite unexpected; but first the back story.

Authenticity of style, fit, and finish, were all combined in what remains the most exciting Beretta CO2 model you could own, the 92A1, a virtual 1:1 of the 9mm version with the added option of a Beretta 93R-based selective-fire system.

I had seen a plastic Broomhandle Mauser semi-auto air pistol in the Umarex booth at the 2015 Shot Show and I had remarked, “too bad they didn’t do it in metal.” There were some restrained smiles from the Umarex folks and a, well you never know. The next summer I knew, we all knew. Umarex had launched a new Legends model, the Mauser Model 712 select-fire Broomhandle, an all-metal blowback action pistol that again reset the mark for what is considered an impressive air pistol. With the M712 added, the select fire air pistol world was getter better and better. There were three options, the Mini Uzi, The Beretta 92A1 and the Mauser M712. Each was unique in its design and history and as authentic as any airguns available at the time.

I have always had a passion for the legendary Mauser Broomhandle pistols, most of which, while expensive, are not hard to obtain in very good to excellent condition, despite most being 100 years old. The one that is hard to find and harder still to afford, is the Model 1932 select-fire pistol, or as it is also known, the Model 712.
When Umarex introduced the M712 select-fire Broomhandle they did it about as right as they could, making it so authentic that original Broomhandle shoulder stocks fit the air pistol!

Umarex also had another ace up its sleeve (and no, not the Legends Ace Single Action, with all due respect to Expendables fans) but rather a semi-auto so authentic in design that by the end of 2016 a few law enforcement agencies were trying them out for recruit and remedial training exercises, the S&W M&P40. It has been around just long enough to be an established benchmark that other CO2 models try to beat, and in fact by 2018 that was accomplished by three new semi-autos, which we will discuss a little later.

CO2 training guns are not new, but Umarex began perfecting the concept for law enforcement with the S&W licensed M&P40. The Military & Police model is so authentic that it can interchange with M&P40 duty gear and accessories. It also field strips exactly the same making it a total training gun for law enforcement agencies that carry the M&P pistols. And Umarex and S&W didn’t miss a thing, the CO2 model comes with three backstraps so it can be adapted to various hand sizes, essential for serious training with an air pistol.
These Pennsylvania Sheriffs carry the M&P 40 and train indoors with the CO2 models to keep up handling proficiency and lower the cost of live ammo (.40 S&W) range training, while still seeing accuracy results on paper 21 feet downrange. The CO2 model and its magazines fit the officer’s centerfire Level 3 duty holsters and spare magazine pouches.

We still have another 2016 introduction to revel in. While Umarex was asserting itself, Sig Sauer was testing the waters, ASG was belting out an authentic CZ 75 semi-auto and multiple Dan Wesson models one of the oldest airgun manufacturers in the world was revisiting its own history, Webley & Scott Ltd.

Remember the Tanfoglio Gold Custom? This is where it comes from, the CZ 75. ASG introduced a very realistic CO2 version of the classic DA/SA hammer-fired 9mm pistol that uses identical self-contained CO2 BB magazines with the 9mm model’s extended base pad. This is one of the most overlooked and underrated CO2 models on the market and one that every serious air pistol collector should own.
Rule Britannia. England has produced some of the finest and most rugged handguns in history and one of the longest lived and famous is the Webley MK VI. Webley & Scott entered the airgun market decades ago but in the past few years have brought forth something uniquely their own, the MK VI CO2 models. The current offerings have rifled steel barrels, pellet-loading cartridges, and either nickel or weathered Battlefield finishes.

Webley started out by introducing a BB cartridge loading model of the famous WWI and WWII British .455 caliber sidearm, the MK VI. While as authentic as any military copy could be (since they used the blueprints from the cartridge guns to design the air pistol) the MK VI was another check in an amazing year for CO2 models. What was missing was a rifled barrel version (which was already on sale in Europe) and the U.S market got that in doubles with nickel finish and weathered Battlefield finish rifled barrel pellet-firing models in late 2017.

The Battlefield finish MK VI is the most authentic looking of the current models. Nickel guns were rarely made and most were plated after the fact. The Battlefield adds just enough wear to look like a pistol that has seen the elephant.

In Part 2 we continue looking at the best new CO2 models, but first, something you all need to know! Thursday’s Part 2 will conclude my review of all the best guns I have tested since 2016, and in Saturday’s Part 3 conclusion, I will reveal my all-time favorite. Everyone who reads Airgun Experience on Tuesday and Thursday has a chance to win a brand new Umarex Beretta M9A3 by posting a comment with the gun they think I will pick on Saturday. This needs to be in the comments section before midnight Friday. You can only enter once and remember you have to post your comment no later than 12 midnight on Friday. The first person to guess the gun I’ll pick wins the Beretta!

Keep reading Airgun Experience and win this Beretta M9A3!

The new gun I enjoyed shooting most this year

The new gun I enjoyed shooting most this year

…and you’re going to be surprised!

By Dennis Adler

When you write 144 articles a year just on air pistols, you shoot a lot of air pistols and you do it every week. As much as I like shooting (air pistols, air rifles, and centerfire guns), it is a job and you approach each new test gun as a blank sheet of paper. Some new models this year practically wrote their own story; others were not so much disappointing as they were not what I had expected. You start with un-boxing a new gun, going over the instruction book, looking at the gun and all its features, and the occasional lack of features, and go forth with objectivity. This was essential for 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year and the set of categories and points system established to rate each gun as fairly as possible. You do the test, take the pictures, write the article and move on. That’s just the hard truth of writing a column three days a week. Most of the test guns go back to the manufacturer, some are inventoried for follow-up articles and comparisons that eventually lead to picking the best examples to evaluate for the year’s top honor. The boxes either sit all nicely stacked waiting for their second turn, or when they have no chance of a second review they go back after the article is done. I’d like to say I enjoy shooting every air pistol I test, I’d really like to say that, but some I’d just as soon never shoot again; I have a low threshold for inadequate designs. But every year there are a few new guns that even after the article is done and I have moved on to the next, that still sit out on a special table waiting for a free hour so I can shoot them again, just for fun.

This year there were two guns that I kept around just to shoot for the pleasure of shooting them, finding matching holsters and accessories to put together with each, and getting shot a lot. You all may recall my favorite from a couple of years ago, the Umarex Broomhandle Mauser Model 712. It is still sitting out! This year’s irresistible air pistol was actually two, one very obvious; the other even surprised me.

I know some of you are not fond of customized guns, air pistols pretending to be their target pistol counterparts, but ASG has done such a fine job of making the SP-01 Shadow a virtual twin to its expensive Shadow Black & Blue competition pistol (and CZ pistols win a lot of shooting competitions every year), that I was hopelessly drawn to the anodized blue grips, mag funnel and magazine base pad. Some of these pieces you can get from Pyramyd Air, others you will have to search Stampede Airsoft, because the Airsoft guys are still having a lot more fun than us hard steel and lead shooters when it comes to, shall we say, more exotic looking guns. This isn’t even the exotic version of the SP-01.

I have a penchant for embellishments on guns; that’s why I was so interested in the Adams & Adams hand-engraved Umarex Colt Peacemakers over the last two years, and the hand-engraved Schofields. They are works of functional fine art. And I’ll give you a little hint, there are more engraved Western airguns coming in 2019. But engraving isn’t the only way to embellish an air pistol, if the manufacturer has a little insight into the gun or guns that inspired the CO2 version. ASG launched the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow this year, a fine looking pistol (as all CZ guns are) but they also, very quietly, launched a series of accessories for the Shadow which were not highly publicized because they were (are) comparatively expensive for a blowback action CO2 pistol. Of course, you know I am talking about the Shadow Blue, one of two guns I kept going back to this year, the Shadow because it could be so handsomely upgraded, not only for appearance sake, but also to make it a more a accurate pistol. It is everything that makes a CO2 pistol desirable.

This is the exotic version, the version that can punch .177 caliber BBs into tiny groups. The Blue accessories and quality red dot (or green dot) optics like the high end Styrka S3 Series scope, all cost more than the ASG SP-01 Shadow. This is truly the definition of a gun being more than the sum of its parts, or the cost of those parts. All of the SP-01 Shadow Airsoft anodized aluminum parts, based on the 9mm CZ Shadow competition models, fit the CO2 models. This is the air pistol you can upgrade to your heart’s content.
With the Styrka sight mounted on the Shadow Blue optics bridge you not only have a distinctive looking pistol but a darn accurate one. The duality of purpose, target pistol, or tactical pistol, makes the ASG SP-01 Shadow one of the best buys of the year for me.

And if blue isn’t your color, look around, you’ll find the same accessories in CZ Shadow Red and Shadow Yellow; alloy grips, mag funnel, magazine base pad and rail mount optics bridge. And for the mechanically adept, there is even a matching SAO trigger conversion for the Shadow.

The Shadow Blue and the pricey Styrka green dot team delivered a best 10 round total from 21 feet measuring 0.81 inches with a best 5-shot group at 0.56 inches during the article tests of the Shadow Blue earlier this year.

But I said you would be surprised, and that is the second gun I have adopted as a personal favorite shooter. And I sadly have to admit it is one none of you have had a chance to shoot yet, because even though it is new for 2018, it won’t be available for sale until this coming month, at best.

Of all the fine blowback action models of 2018, the Sig Sauer M17 was anticipated to be a groundbreaking gun, the Glock 17, on the other hand, was an unknown, and to all of you it still is except for my reports, since Umarex has still not delivered inventory. This will end up being the first “in your hands” new gun of 2019 even though it is a 2018 model. I have been deeply impressed with what Umarex and Glock did in designing a CO2 version of the Austrian armsmaker’s legendary G17, and if you get your hands on one you will be, too. That fact that it cannot fieldstrip cost it a serious shot at Airgun of the Year, but it remains a top gun in my book regardless, and I’m not even a big Glock fan…
…but that doesn’t mean I don’t own one, and Glock accessories like the superb GTL 24 tactical light and red laser. I was sold on the Umarex Glock model the second I slipped the GTL off my .45 ACP Glock 21 and it fit right on to the G17 CO2 model’s rail like it had always been there. This is what a training gun is all about. Seriously, if you own a centerfire Glock, are thinking about getting a centerfire Glock, you have to have the CO2 version.

I can say with certainty that had Umarex and Glock gone a little further with the G17’s construction by using a short-recoil, locked-breech design that could be field stripped, the Glock would have given me a four-way tie for Replica Airgun of the Year. The Sig M17 would still have won, but the Glock 17 would have been number two instead of the HK USP.

Like I said, I was impressed with the Umarex Glock 17 as soon as the test gun arrived. I got a Blackhawk Level 2 Serpa holster and the CO2 model fit the holster as perfectly as my GTL 24 had fit the air pistol. This is a 100 percent fit gun for every aspect of training with an air pistol.

How many times have I gone back to the G17 and shot it just for fun, for its accuracy and ability to shoot decent groups at pellet pistol distances, for its perfect fit in a Level 2 injection molded Serpa holster? More than any other air pistol this year and I have only had it for a couple of months. And while I am not a really big fan of Glock pistols, what Umarex and Glock achieved with the G17 could make a lot of people come around to Austrian thinking. Remember, Sig Sauer’s early benchmark designs, the P226 ASP and P320 ASP couldn’t be field stripped either and were less authentic in design than the Glock, which, aside from field stripping, is a nearly perfect CO2 version of the Third Model G17.

I set up a large Birchwood Casey silhouette target and fired a series of combat drills similar to what I did with the Sig Sauer P320 M17, drawing from the holster and firing double taps at 15 feet to 21 feet, single weak hand shooting at 21 feet, dropping and kneeling shots, rolling sideways and firing from floor level shots, 10 meter shots two-handed, drawing and rapid firing while moving toward the target from 21 feet to 15 feet, and two barricade shots single handed right and left hands. Everything hit inside the 9, 10 and X rings with multiple overlapping hits. This proved that the Umarex Glock could work for basic training drills with immediate feedback from the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target to gauge accuracy from different shooting positions. This is also when I began shooting it for fun and realizing this is what a good CO2 pistol should be.

This is the one gun, that when it becomes available, you will want to own and shoot, and shoot a lot. It is that good. It wasn’t good enough to be Replica Air Pistol of the Year, but it’s good enough to earn a place on my table of favorite air pistols.

Have a great and safe New Year’s celebration. The Airgun Experience will be on a brief hiatus and return in early January. Thanks for sharing the experience for another year!

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 4

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 4

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

The mettle of their metal, the alloy construction of both the new Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 (left) and ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow makes them a little lighter than their centerfire counterparts, but the accuracy of design, fit and finish (particularly with the unique weathered finish on the Sig Sauer), and authentic short-recoil, locked-breech designs make them two of the most authentic CO2 blowback action models on the market.

This has been an impressive year for new blowback action models and this is where the toughest competition for Replica Air Pistol of the Year emerges with guns like the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 and ASG’s CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow; air pistols that not only visually correspond to their centerfire counterparts but match handling, operation and ability to be field stripped. These are two examples (but not the only two this year) where manufacturers went the distance to get everything as accurate as possible. Why do this for a CO2 BB pistol? Like the highly regarded Umarex S&W M&P40, the new Shadow SP-01 and Sig Sauer 1911 are more than great air pistols, they are so well matched to their centerfire counterparts that they are perfect training guns that allow total familiarization with the firearm right up to pulling the trigger. And there, all that is lacking is heavy recoil from the velocity of a centerfire cartridge, the high dB rating of a live round vs. the low dB rating of a CO2 pistol, and accuracy beyond the optimal 21 to 25 foot range of a .177 caliber steel BB. Thus the CZ Shadow (and competition-style Shadow Blue) and Sig’s custom 1911 WE THE PEOPLE are the first to square off against each other.

Introduced this year, the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow is based on the original CZ Shadow model and Shadow II. The design of the CO2 pistol is virtually identical to the SP-01 and as shown (top) uses the rubberized SP-01 grips, and has the larger ambidextrous thumb safeties and slide release of the SP-01 Shadow. The Shadow Blue with added anodized blue aluminum grips and magwell, give the gun an even more impressive look and improved handling.

These two are an interesting juxtaposition of semi-auto pistol designs, an SAO trigger system vs. a DA/SA design. Both are hammer fired, both (in this instance) have ambidextrous thumb safeties, use self contained CO2 BB magazines, have excellent sights, approximate weight and balance in the hand compared to their centerfire counterparts, have slides that lock back on an empty magazine and impart a definite feeling of recoil through their slide action and firing operation. Were there fewer models to consider this year, the run off would be between these two guns. Both are excellent. What then separates them beyond the obvious technical differences of design?

It is just a change of grips and addition of the mag funnel that makes an SP-01 into a Shadow Blue and you can get the parts from Pyramyd Air. Beyond looks, the grip profile changes your hold on the pistol, as does the support for the bottom of the hand with the flared mag funnel. It’s all very subtle but effective. The first test gun (top) shot low and required a significant hold over. Not endemic to all the guns, the second Shadow converted into a Shadow Blue needed only a slight adjustment to POA to keep shots in the bullseye. The red fiber optic front sight makes this gun easy to get on target, a real plus under different lighting conditions.

We begin by looking back at the initial introduction of ASG’s CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow last spring. The gun had but one failing, it shot low at 21 feet, and the hold over was around 2 inches. A second sample was tested and this gun also shot just “slightly” below POA requiring a minor correction by aiming dead center for the bullseye or slightly above depending upon how shots were hitting. But the important thing is, the gun kept tight groups. Pistols with fixed sights often require aiming corrections so this is nothing unusual.

Shadow Blue accessories for the basic upgrade are now available from Pyramyd Air and include the anodized blue aluminum grip panels, flared magazine funnel with set screws for the mag funnel and silver screws for the grips.

The SP-01 brought a lot to the blowback action air pistol market in quality of design, fit, finish, and handling in comparison to centerfire models. It also brought a new option to CO2 pistols that is rarely seen; the ability to upgrade the gun. Not only is the Shadow exceptionally authentic to the 9mm pistol, it is possible to alter it to match models upgraded by the Česká zbrojovka Custom Shop, in this case the Shadow 2 Black & Blue. With a couple of replacement parts the CO2 model from ASG can be modified to look like the original Shadow competition version, Shadow 2 and CZ 75 Tactical Sport models. This is a unique aspect to the gun which earns it a sold 10 points for authenticity. Making the SP-01 Shadow into the Shadow Blue (currently the only option available from Pyramyd Air) takes the CZ up a level in handling as a target pistol by adding anodized aluminum grips and a flared mag funnel. A matching blue CZ magazine base pad is also available from Stampede Airsoft (along with Shadow Red and Shadow Orange color options). The mag funnel helps speed up reloading by channeling the magazine into the magwell. The flared design also provides more surface area for the support hand when using a two-handed hold, and with the Shadow being an ambidextrous design, this works equally well for left-handed shooters.

The large ambidextrous thumb safeties on the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow make this gun a real gem for left-handed shooters.

CZ pistols are incredibly well made (centerfire and ASG CO2 models alike) and both the centerfire and CO2 versions utilize a short-recoil, locked-breech design common among the majority of modern semi-autos. The .177 caliber pistol uses a modified blowback action but with a separate recoil spring, guide rod and linkless barrel, like the centerfire pistols. This is also among the easiest semi-auto pistols to fieldstrip and that process is translated to the air pistol’s construction though it does not completely fieldstrip without using a screwdriver to remove a screw that holds the lug to the barrel.

The proof, of course, is not only in looks and function (where this gun earns the most points), it is in overall accuracy. The Shadow Blue delivered an average velocity of 319 fps, a high of 324 fps, a low of 317 fps, and a standard deviation of just 2 fps for 10 consecutive rounds. The SP-01 Shadow is factory rated at 312 fps.

The ASG CZ 75 SP-01 has more than a little in common with the Umarex S&W M&P40. Both have magazines with small followers, no follower lock, and small loading ports. Field stripping capability, while very authentic, leaves the barrel in the slide unless you remove a single screw that locks the lug to the underside.

Trigger pull on a 9x19mm SP-01 Shadow averages 8 pounds 7.5 ounces double action, and 2 pounds 11.5 ounces single action. This Shadow has a heavier but very smooth double action pull of 9 pounds, 15 ounces, and a slick single action trigger press of just 1 pound, 15.4 ounces average. Considering only the first round is fired double action (if you have de-cocked the pistol after chambering the first BB), the overall advantage is the single action trigger on the SP-01 for its smooth, light pull and clean break shot after shot. The slide also delivers a pretty decent kick when it comes back so you know you are firing a blowback action pistol.

On the negative side, SP-01 magazines are hard to load. The magazine base pad has to be removed to access the seating screw. After CO2 is inserted and tightened down with the enclosed hex head wrench, the base pad has to be slipped back onto the bottom groove of the magazine. Next the CZ magazines do not have locking followers, so you need to hold the follower and compress the spring while loading 17 steel BBs into the just slightly larger than BB circumference loading port, very similar to the S&W M&P40 CO2 magazines.

The Shadow Blue as shown was the second test gun and shot better than the first gun reviewed. Aiming for the red bullseye, or just above, put shots right on target. From 21 feet this is 10 rounds at 1.56 inches with a best five in the red at 0.75 inches.

Looking downrange, the red fiber optic front sight on the Shadow SP-01 is very easy to see and sight alignment on target is quick. The trigger pull being as smooth as it is on this gun made consistent shots in and around the bullseye for a best 10 shot target with a spread of 1.56 inches and best five rounds measuring 0.75 inches from 21 feet. For accuracy the gun does not quite measure up to some of the competition with open sights, and that is going to cost some points, but the Shadow Blue (or black Shadow SP-01) are outstanding new models and add significantly to the pleasure of shooting CO2 pistols.

Model: ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow/Shadow Blue

Authenticity 1 to 10:  10 (based on fit and finish)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 9 (short-recoil, locked-breech based design)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 8 (slow loading magazines, tends to shoot low)

Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 8 (requires screw driver for complete fieldstrip)

Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 9 (best 5- shot groups at 0.75 inches)

Total Points: 44

The new Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 is nothing short of a reckoning for blowback action CO2 models, delivering top performance, high velocity, superior fit and finish, fully operating features, and superb accuracy; it is everything you could want in a 1911 training gun and a precision blowback action CO2 pistol.

Sig Sauer being comparatively new to the air pistol market has continually upped its game for the last three years from one air pistol to the next, and for the blowback action BB firing class, hit its stride this summer with the introduction of the WE THE PEOPLE Model 1911. Sig Sauer went so far as to deliver its uniquely designed and finished WE THE PEOPLE Model in .45 ACP and 4.5mm (.177 caliber) as a matching pair, making this absolutely the most authentic blowback action CO2 pistol you can own. The Sig Sauer model is a breakthrough design that exemplifies forward thinking within the airgun industry. The CO2 WE THE PEOPLE is so close, that unless you take note of the caliber stamped on the left side of the frame, or see the recessed 4.5mm barrel inside the rifled .45 ACP muzzle, the two guns are almost indistinguishable. From the right side the same is true physically, but the white lettering for the air pistol Warnings are on the frame. Even so, the attention to detail is evident in the pistol’s construction, and there is only one other minor visual tell, the absence of an extractor hole at the back of the slide. In its overall presentation, the Sig Sauer 1911 earns 10 points right out of the box.

One and the same at a glance but the Sig Sauer 1911 at the left is the .45 ACP model. The matching blowback action CO2 version of the WE THE PEOPLE is a remarkable duplicate. The distinctive weathered finish is unique to both the .45 ACP and 4.5mm Sig models. The two semi-autos also share every working feature in common.

The WE THE PEOPLE air pistol is true to the centerfire version in all its operating features, including ambidextrous thumb safeties. The .45 ACP and 4.5mm also have the early flat checkered mainspring housing preferred on competition and tactical models, and matching skeletonized hammers and competition-style triggers. Both share low profile white dot sights (the .45 ACP model with tritium night sights), and the Sig model’s uniquely distressed finish and special engraving on the slide flats and top. The guns also share the same grip panel design with 25 stars on each aluminum panel.

With slides locked open (the CO2 model slide locks back on an empty magazine) the fine detail in the air pistol is remarkably evident. 

On the range Sig’s 1911 CO2 model is not a quiet air pistol, probably a little louder than most blowback action models and it delivers a decent kick when the slide comes back. Like the Sig Sauer .45 ACP 1911, the air pistol uses the John M. Browning-designed platform of frame, slide, barrel, and recoil system using a recoil spring guide, single recoil spring, recoil spring plug and barrel bushing. The CO2 model follows the same design with internal modifications to accommodate the CO2 firing system which includes an additional lightly wound recoil spring around the barrel, like a blowback action semi-auto. The gun completely fieldstrips like the .45 ACP model. A solid 10 points earned.

However different the WE THE PEOPLE 1911 may be on the outside this final disassembly of the slide, barrel and guide rod shows that inside the Sig Sauer is very much like its 1911 counterparts. Sig Sauer even goes to the extent of showing the complete field stripping of the airgun in the instruction book noting that, “Field stripping an Airgun is great for muscle memory relating to one’s own every day or range carry firearms counterpart. It is also a useful tool in easily removing jammed BBs.” Thus the essence of this CO2 model is truly in the fine details, something that Sig Sauer has mastered in a very short time.

A loaded (full magazine and one round chambered) Sig 1911 will average 46.5 ounces (2.9 pounds). The CO2 model with CO2 loaded in the magazine and 17 steel BBs (though for training you should load 8 BBs to equal the centerfire pistols 7+1 capacity) weighs 36.5 ounces (2.28 pounds). The self-contained CO2 BB magazine for the Sig is one of the easiest I have found thus far to load with a locking follower and a heavy follower spring to keep the .177 caliber steel rounds running as fast as you can pull the trigger.

The Sig Sauer 1911 magazine has a heavy follower spring (shown compressed) and a locking follower that leaves the loading port wide open to pour BBs right in without having to hold the follower back. This is one of the easiest 1911-style magazines there is for loading BBs and CO2.

The CO2 model specs out with an overall length of 8.5 inches and weight of 35.2 ounces (empty). The .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE has an overall length of 8.7 inches and weight of 41.6 ounces (empty). Frame size (and 6.5 inch sight radius), grip type, and low profile sight design are identical. The air pistol’s trigger has an average pull of 5.7 pounds with 0.187 inches of take up, moderate stacking and a crisp break. Trigger reset takes 0.175 inches, so a full release of the trigger is not necessary to fire again; another plus for the Sig CO2 model. Average trigger pull on the .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE is 6 pounds 4.5 ounces as set by the factory. Take up is a shorter 0.125 inches with light stacking and a crisp break. Trigger reset takes 0.125 inches, so again a full release of the trigger is not necessary to fire. This shared feature between the .45 ACP and CO2 model is another training plus. Where they differ is in resistance; manually cocking the hammer on the centerfire model requires more effort than the air pistol, same with racking the slide, but these are both to be expected since the hammer for the airgun is going to be lighter than a centerfire pistol’s, as is the recoil spring resistance, since the CO2 has to generate the recoil effect, while the centerfire model needs a heavy recoil spring to slow the reward motion of the slide after firing.

The Sig Sauer CO2 model (bottom) has the caliber, proof mark and serial number on the lower front of the frame. The most noteworthy feature is the use of finely molded-in engraving for SIG SAUER 1911 and 1776 on the left side of the slide, which is identical to the engraving on the .45 ACP model. These things can be done with a CO2 pistol and it doesn’t have to make the retail price prohibitive. Sig Sauer has proven this.

The Sig CO2 model sends its 4.5mm (.177 caliber steel BB) rounds downrange at an average velocity of 329 fps which is decent for a blowback action pistol. My best offhand 5-shot groups shooting at a full size B-27 cardboard silhouette target from 25 feet (during a live fire comparison with the .45 ACP pistol) measured 0.51 inches (a second group of four measured 0.68 inches with a flyer that opened up my entire 10-shot group to 1.56 inches. The .45 ACP model, by the way, punched its best 5-shot group into 2.25 inches at 50 feet, and 2.75 inches at 25 yards. At 21 feet on the indoor range the WE THE PEOPLE CO2 model landed 10 consecutive rounds into 1.25 inches with a best five rounds almost overlapping at 2 o’clock and measuring 0.437 inches. It has the accuracy downrange to match its looks and operation.

From 21 feet using a Weaver stance and two-handed hold, the Sig Sauer CO2 model punched 10 rounds at just over an inch with the best five, almost all overlapping, to score a new best group from a blowback action 1911 of 0.437 inches. I shot POA at the 6 o’clock position with no corrections and the gun hit just right of center.
In a regulation B-27 silhouette target comparison with the .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE model, the CO2 pistol delivered 10 rounds from 25 feet inside the 10 and X with a best 5-shots closely grouped to the right of the bullseye at 0.51 inches (I added a red dot over the X on the air pistol target) and another group of four rounds also tightly clustered below the red dot and one flyer that blew out my 10-shot total to 1.56 inches.

Model: Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911

Authenticity 1 to 10:  10 (based on unique finish)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 9 (short-recoil, locked-breech design)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (easy loading magazines)

Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 10 (fieldstrips like a 1911)

Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (best 5-shot group under 0.5 inches)

Total Points: 49

Thursday the match up between Austrian design and German precision, the Umarex Glock 17 vs. the Umarex Heckler & Koch USP.

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler


Each year since I began writing the Airgun Experience I have selected one new model as my Air Pistol of the Year. For 2018, given the variety of new air pistols and satisfying, though not overwhelming number of models introduced, the focus has specifically turned to CO2 air pistols that are based on actual centerfire handgun models, whether new (like the Sig Sauer M17) or older (like the HK USP) so long as the air pistol is new. I am also establishing an updated point system based on five comparative categories with values from 1 to 10 points for each. This is going to separate out a number of guns simply because of their various features, or lack thereof. The gun chosen as Replica Air Pistol of the Year will be based solely on total points earned.

Authenticity is defined by exterior design and one of the best examples of that paradigm is the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 which duplicates its .45 ACP counterpart in almost every feature. The CO2 model is on the right. This is a 10 point example.

The Catagories

The first is, in my mind, the most important for a replica, Authenticity; how close is the CO2 model in physical appearance to its centerfire counterpart? Aesthetics of the design will also have a bearing, such as the air pistol’s finish compared to the centerfire model.

Ingenuity of the design can be accounted for in several ways but most dramatically as an extension of Authenticity and how that is achieved with a CO2 model. To create a pellet-firing version of a semi-automatic pistol like the Sig Sauer M17, designers must use a great deal of ingenuity to work around the pitfalls that pellet pistols present. Different approaches will render results that can come very close to centerfire pistol designs. Sig Sauer’s approach to this problem proved unique.

Second is the Ingenuity of the design; how has the manufacturer achieved its pistol’s status as a replica? This can come down to the type of firing system used and how close it is to the centerfire design.

Third is Ease of use; simply how exact is the handling, placement of operating controls, or addition of non-authentic components like a manual safety not found on the centerfire model. This is going to be a tough one because most air pistol manufacturers adhere to the requirement for an air pistol to have a manual safety, even if its centerfire counterpart does not have one. We will allow some latitude here for how cleverly or unobtrusively this is achieved.

Ease of use can present itself in various ways depending upon the design of the pistol. Here you see a centerfire S&W M&P40 with the slide being drawn back to chamber a round. Note that as the slide is pulled to the rear the barrel lug disengages from its lockup with the slide ejection port and tilts down…this is the same action that occurs with the CO2 model of the pistol. This design is present in a number of CO2 models based on centerfire pistols, but not all. A blowback action CO2 pistol that functions like its centerfire counterpart would earn 10 points.
There are other ways in which Ease of use can be judged including the type of magazine (self-contained CO2 BB magazine), its ease of release to change out, and whether the slide locks back on an empty magazine. This is where points can be easily gained and lost due to the design of the air pistol.

Next, comes Field stripping capability; and this is going to make or break a few of the guns in contention for top honors, but this is certainly one of the most noteworthy features of a replica CO2 pistol, and a direct attribute of the first category.

Field stripping capability is not essential with an air pistol but as it relates to Authenticity and Ingenuity of the design can give one air pistol a significant advantage over another. If the airgun uses the basic design and operating method of its centerfire counterpart and is constructed in the same way, it will more than likely disassemble the same as this Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 CO2 model, at right, compared to the .45 ACP model, at left. This can be an essential training tool for using a CO2 pistol as a centerfire understudy. Field stripping is more important to knowledge about the gun than it is to disassembling and cleaning the air pistol, which actually requires very little maintenance. An air pistol that completely fieldstrips like a centerfire model will earn 10 points.

Last is probably as important as the first, Performance & Accuracy; this will be determined by accuracy at competitive distances of 21 feet for BB (smoothbore) models, 10 meters for pellet (rifled barrel) models, and the feel of the gun as it fires. Blowback action guns will obviously have a great advantage here, but perceptible recoil (the more the better) and average velocity will count, as will sight design and ease of target acquisition. A gun that accumulates 50 points wins.

Performance & Accuracy comes down to how well the pistol shoots, its trigger pull, sights and how well they get the gun on target, it also takes into account felt recoil with blowback action or muzzle rise with non-blowback designs, and of course how close to POA and high score accuracy it can achieve. This is an aggregate of multiple features and achieving 10 points here is perhaps the hardest test of all.

The Contenders for 2018

There is only one new wheelgun for this year’s competition, the Umarex Ruger Superhawk, which is a Ruger-ized version of the Umarex S&W 327 TRR8. This is a good looking BB cartridge firing revolver that offers an appealing alternative to the S&W.

Umarex Ruger Superhawk

The remaining nine air pistols are all semi-autos. Three are pellet-firing models, the new ASG Dan Wesson Valor 1911 (which is a variation of the Hatsan H-1911 reviewed earlier this year), the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five ASP, which is a blowback action model, and the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP based on the current U.S. Army standard issue sidearm.

ASG Dan Wesson Valor 1911
Sig Sauer P226 X-Five ASP
Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP

Sig Sauer also holds another spot in the lineup with the blowback action WE THE PEOPLE 1911 BB model, which runs up against the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow (and Shadow Blue), two new Glock models from Umarex, the Glock 19 Compact (which is a non-blowback model) and the blowback action Glock 17 (which should be available late December). Umarex holds two additional seats at the table with the updated Walther PPS M2, and what I consider the dark horse candidate for Top Gun, the excellent Heckler & Koch USP blowback action model.

Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911
ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow and Shadow Blue
Umarex Glock 19 Compact (non-blowback)
Umarex Glock 17 (blowback action)

It is an impressive lineup of new CO2 pistols, and while we may not have gotten everything we wanted in 2018, there are nonetheless some superstars in both the BB and pellet firing categories, which is going to make for a very competitive rundown to December 25th and the announcement of 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

Umarex Walther PPS M2
Umarex HK USP (blowback action)

While total points will ultimately determine the overall winner, all of these guns have been reviewed in Airgun Experience this year (in one form or another) and many of you have already purchased one or more of them. So, your opinions are going to count, too. Let the comments begin and weigh in with your choice for this year’s Top Gun.

In Part 2 we begin with the first round of elimination with revolvers and non-blowback action models, and how well they fare against some superior designs.