What makes a winner?
Last year’s Top 10 Selling air pistols
By Dennis Adler
Umarex and Glock walked away with 2019’s largest number of sales and guns from Pyramyd Air, with the Third Gen Glock 17 CO2 model (right) taking the number 1 spot in sales, the non-blowback Model 19 (back) taking the number 2 position, and the new Gen4 model placing 7th out of the Top 10 for the year’s sales leaders.
For what it’s worth, I picked and reviewed six of the Top 10 selling air pistols for 2019, and of the six I had written up over the last couple of years (yes, they were not all 2019 models), my top guns reviewed in Airgun Experience were in the first three places as well as 5th, 6th and 7th place as the most purchased air pistols of 2019. What is interesting, and perhaps a bit telling, is that they are all based on semi-auto pistols. I wasn’t so much surprised by that, as I was with the number 1 selling air pistol of the year for Pyramyd Air, the Umarex Glock 17 Third Gen. I would have expected the newer Gen4 to be the best seller, then the Third Gen or the G19X, which didn’t even make the list as a best seller! Instead, the first Umarex Glock Model, the G19 non-blowback slipped into the number 2 position ahead of the Sig Sauer M17, Beretta 92A1, and Sig Sauer P365, which came in an impressive 6th place for sales over the 7th place Umarex Glock 17 Gen4!
The first Umarex Glock model laid the groundwork for the three blowback action pistols that would follow in 2018 and 2019. Glock and Umarex went with an entry-level, non-blowback action model at a retail price point that placed the new CO2 pistol on big box store sales racks as well as at the forefront of internet retailers like Pyramyd Air. The exemplary fit and finish and details of the G19 set the standards for the blowback action models that would follow.
There is an interesting parallel here, which also plays out exactly in the centerfire handgun market with Glock and Sig Sauer being among the top selling handguns globally, and in the U.S. with civilian, law enforcement and military (in other words just about everyone). The Micro Compact 9mm Sig Sauer P365 is a double Gun of the Year award winner for 2018 and 2019, the Sig M17 is the new U.S. military sidearm, while Glock pistols still have a solid role in the U.S. military and law enforcement. Comparatively, Sig and Glock air pistols hold five of the top seven sales positions for 2019. The 8th, 9th, and 10th places are held, respectively, by the Crosman 2240, Crosman Vigilante CO2 revolver, and the old-style ASG Dan Wesson revolver with 6-inch barrel. That last one surprised the heck out of me, too. I would have bet on the correctly designed 2-1/2 inch pellet cartridge ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 to be among the year’s Top 10 sellers. But, sales figures are the real bottom line.
Another older CO2 model that certainly surprised me by being in the Top 10, albeit number 10, is the old-style ASG Dan Wesson. It was an impressive gun when it came out in 2016 as both a pellet loading cartridge model with rifled barrel and a BB cartridge loading version with smoothbore barrel. Nicely done but not authentic to the Dan Wesson design, it has been up against its own stiff competition from the newer ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 pistols with 6-inch and 2-1/2 inch barrels, which are dead ringers for the centerfire revolvers. This is also the most expensive of the Top 10 guns at a discounted price of $139.95.
What we have learned from 2019’s best selling air pistols is that improved design features like interchangeable backstrap panels and field stripping capability (in other words the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4), did not win out over the much higher velocities of the top two Umarex Glock models. Here’s something else, the only semi-auto pellet pistol to make the Top 10 was 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year, the Sig Sauer M17. If you’re counting, Sig Sauer holds only two spots on the list (whither thou WE THE PEOPLE, or any 1911 design for that matter?) while Glock holds three.
The second Glock model was the full size G17, introduced as a Third Gen design (while Glock already had the Gen4 and Gen5 models in production as centerfire pistols), making the first blowback action Glock air pistol released in the U.S. an unusual choice. Nevertheless, the airgun’s design allowed it to achieve an impressive average velocity of over 350 fps and accuracy out to 10 meters and beyond for training use. Selling for around $100 it became a hit despite the older Glock design and not being able to fieldstrip the pistol. (It also became the internal platform for the 2019 Umarex Glock 19X).
One of the most physically impressive CO2 models ever built, the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 hit the U.S. market with all the right stuff, correct Gen4 features, interchangeable backstraps, and full field stripping capability, but sacrificed the Third Gen’s impressive velocity to do it. Shooting at an average of 317 fps was the gun’s only disappointing feature. Going on sale in the summer of 2019 gave the gun less than six months to compete against the earlier Glock CO2 models that had been out over a year. Still, the Gen4 earned 7th place in sales against guns that had all been on sale for a longer period.
The most noteworthy absence for 2019 is any single action CO2 revolver from the Top 10. Umarex, which, for reasons unknown, has let the Peacemaker stall after an impressive start with 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch models in BB and pellet versions; Bear River, under new ownership, is waiting in the wings with new models, and the (Crosman) Remington Model 1875, well, it just failed to challenge the Colt and Schofield (history repeats itself).
In 2020, my hope is for some new Schofields via Bear River, and for Umarex to awake from its Glock euphoria (though with the forthcoming M1A1 “Tommy gun” probably not), and remember how important the Peacemaker is to American firearms history.
Speaking of guns that had been on sale longer, in this instance, much longer, the Umarex Beretta 92A1 has been selling strong since 2016 and managed to hold on to the 5th place in 2019 sales. The newer M9A3, which has proven to be a better gun, wasn’t on sale until spring 2019 and didn’t sell enough guns to earn a spot in 2019’s Top 10 sellers.
There are two other interesting lessons to be learned from 2019’s Top 10. First, is that price matters more than we (hardcore airgun enthusiasts) realize because the number 2 gun of the year, the Glock 19, was also the least expensive CO2 pistol (at $69.95 discounted), and the easiest to handle, because aside from loading CO2 in the grip frame and BBs in the stick magazine, the only other thing on the gun that moves is the trigger (and its crossbolt safety). It hit the market with ease of use, striking authenticity in its attention to details, even if they didn’t have to work, and a quality of fit and finish that excels over any other entry-level BB pistol on the market. It was also the very first ever Glock licensed air pistol, so even as inexpensive as it is, it has a certain panache as the “first” to ever bear the Glock name. Were it not for the blowback action G17 Third Gen’s success, it would have been the best selling air pistol of 2019! One can live with loosing to one’s self.
Sig Sauer grabbed the 3rd place for sales in 2019 with 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year winner, the M17. The solitary blowback action pellet pistol to end up in the Top 10, the Sig remains the only model with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, but that may change soon when Umarex introduces its first blowback action pellet models with self-contained CO2 pellet magazines. As they say, fame is fleeting.
The second thing that 2019’s sales figures tell us is that innovation has appeal, not just features like interchangeable backstrap panels and being able to fieldstrip the gun type innovations, but innovation through technology; the Sig Sauer M17 being the first blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, and the Sig Sauer P365 being the smallest blowback action air pistol ever to have a self-contained 12 gram CO2 BB magazine, as prime examples.
The new Sig Sauer P365, which only came out this past summer, managed to come in right behind the old Beretta 92A1 in 6th place with only six months on sale. The P365 actually blew past the M9A3, which was out at least three months before the new Sig! A 1:1 gun for training with the popular 9mm P365, the CO2 pistol fell short of velocity expectations, but has still managed to attract a lot of sales.
The two oldest designs that made the Top 10 epitomize popular longevity, the Crosman 2240, which has been around since 1999, and the very inexpensive ($30) Beeman P17, which copies the original German-made P3 design ($230) introduced in 1999 (and still in production), and brings it down to a very affordable entry-level price with the famous Beeman name.
Entry level airguns may not be the big topic for Airgun Experience readers, but every airgun enthusiast needs to get experience. The popularity of low-price leaders, like those among 2019’s Top 10 sales list, means that more people are discovering the world of airguns.