Why tan guns have great appeal

Why tan guns have great appeal

Because guns used to be blue

By Dennis Adler

Fifty shades of tan…the color is not the same on every gun that is listed as FDE, coyote tan, or desert tan, or just tan. Tan often isn’t even the same shade on the same gun. And that is part of what makes them interesting.

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


Reality Check

Reality Check

Answering an obvious question

By Dennis Adler

It’s time for a reality check because we seem to be living in a surreal moment right now, one that appears to be unraveling daily, sometimes hourly, as our nation and the world faces a global health crisis. The reality check here, however, is not political or medical, it is airgun related. Why in a time of national crisis do we need a reality check on airguns? Because in times like these, when we become unsettled by events around us, events that can spiral out of control, people can do the wrong thing, seemingly for the right reason. read more


Balance of power – Hammer and Hammerless guns

Balance of power – Hammer and Hammerless guns

Is one better than the other? It’s complicated

By Dennis Adler

From left to right are technology changes spanning 71 years from the Colt Model 1911 to 1982 when the Glock 17 design was first introduced. Prior to semi-autos, there was no such thing as a manual safety for revolvers other than the Old West wisdom of carrying the gun with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. For all intents, other than dropping a gun with a chambered round, the hammer was the safety. When semi-autos came about some form of manual safety was a priority from the start and the 1911 became the standard bearer for that idea, which was a requirement of the Ordnance Department during the gun’s developmental testing. In addition, the gun had the grip safety. Still, the early manual of arms stated that the gun should be carried without a round chambered. More modern guns like the H&K USP with a DA/SA trigger system, external hammer, and both a manual safety and decocker, make it one of the safest semi-auto designs. Glock rewrote the book with the G17 by designing the safety into the trigger and using a striker rather than either an external or internal (hammerless) design. There is no manual method for making a Glock safe (outside of carrying it without a chambered round) other than the Safe Action Trigger and internal firing mechanisms to prevent accidental discharge if the gun is dropped with a chambered round. All the safety and operating features are duplicated in the CO2 models pictured; however, the Umarex Glock actually uses a small internal hammer to strike the CO2 release valve, rather than an actual Glock-type striker.

Believe it or not, this question of hammers vs. hammerless has been a topic of debate among gunmakers since the Civil War! For me, it is a more complicated question. I am a self-confessed bag of complexities, and as I get older the bag has to hold more because I view handguns a little differently than the public at large. I look at them with an eye toward the art of gun-making and aesthetics of design. The gun is more than the sum of its parts for me, or its purpose. This ideal was true back in the 1700s and 1800s when guns were also regarded as symbols of appreciation and respect, as gestures of treaty or a means to open a political dialogue. The profuse embellishment of flintlocks, percussion pistols of all types, and cartridge-loading revolvers and rifles was an art form; the presentation pistol was a work of art. Today there are wings in museums dedicated just to the eloquence of firearms designs, engraving, and history. Those values still exist in the artistry of engraving older-style handguns based on 19th and early 20th century models.    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


Greater Expectations

Greater Expectations

A serious look at air pistols and practicality

By Dennis Adler

Back in 2000 when I was preparing the First Edition Blue Book of Airguns these were the latest designs. They were all pellet-firing pistols that had excellent velocity, authentic styling and fundamental handling, guns that could be used for target shooting and handgun training (like the Walther CP99), but they were not blowback action pistols, and they were not actually semi-autos. Internally they worked like a DA/SA revolver with the cast alloy pellet magazine inside the action, rotating like a cylinder with each pull of the trigger (or by cocking the hammer). Look at the guns pictured in my feature from the 2001 book, and you will see the finest CO2 air pistols on the market at the time.

Rarely do I use this forum to write an editorial opinion, but it seems that the time has come to compare the market, marketing and manufacturing of air pistols to the expectations of consumers, and these are seldom shared objectives. It does happen, but not as often as most of us would like. We expect new guns every year, and that means we are sometimes thrilled, but more often easily disappointed. 

When I came into the airgun/air pistol market as an author almost 20 years ago, most of the airguns I write about today not only didn’t exist, they were not even imagined as being possible (Glocks for example). BB guns were as basic in 2001 as they were a decade or more before. When I looked for superstars that would be the topic for my first book on airguns (published by my late friend Steve Fjestad at Blue Book Publications), the field was small but well focused on two fronts. There was adult sport shooting with BB and pellet guns, and secondly a handful of guns (some the same) aimed at use for fundamental handgun training. This was nothing new, airguns had been implemented in the past for military training in times of war. read more


What makes a winner?

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.