“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

“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

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. 

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.

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.

Highest Velocity CO2 pistol Part 2

Highest Velocity CO2 pistol Part 2

And the fastest BB

By Dennis Adler

Among the advantages with the G19X over the Third Gen G17 and Gen4 Glock versions is the improved white dot sights, which for the CO2 model, are very well regulated for POA without excessive aiming corrections often needed for fixed sights on CO2 pistols.

Can velocity carry the day? It depends upon the gun, the distance from the target, the ammo and the individual pulling the trigger. Certainly with long guns, the answer is yes, velocity can carry the day as it did back in the American West with rifles like the Sharps. Handguns played an entirely different role, then and now. Even in the military, the weapon of choice has always been a rifle or carbine, a handgun was more of a defensive weapon, a “sidearm” for use in close quarters, and that is still the role of the handgun in today’s military. Less so for law enforcement, where the handgun is the primary weapon both for defensive and offensive uses, and almost always at close distance. Putting this in terms of air pistols (as training guns) higher velocity means a straighter trajectory downrange with a .177 caliber steel BB fired from a smoothbore barrel at 21 feet. This, however, isn’t always enough.

Velocity is a very big part of how well a gun performs, but even a faster BB from a gun with so-so sights and a heavy trigger isn’t going to be that impressive. It’s just a fast miss. Holding over, holding under, correcting POA for windage with fixed sights is a constant issue, so when a model comes along that presents fewer or none of these problems, you have to applaud the manufacturer for doing the best possible job. We still criticize them for other things, like molded-in, non-functional parts and not being able to fieldstrip the gun like its centerfire counterpart, but with the G19X a lot of that pales in comparison to accuracy and performance. The Umarex Glock CO2 model has not disappointed. Then again, I’m right handed, and field stripping is great after you’re done shooting, so the G19X is done well enough in my book to make it worthwhile owning as both a training gun and a decent target pistol.

Both the new Gen5-based G19X and Gen4 G17 CO2 models fit the same holsters like this ASG Strike Force locking paddle holster. However, the G19X and Gen4 will not fit in injection molded holsters made for older style Third Gen models.

Pushing the limits  

To bring this two-parter to a conclusion, the facts of the G19X are already established from the original test reviews and the 2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year competition. It is a good example of higher than normal performance with a modest tradeoff. I think most of us can live with the gun’s few failings in order to have a BB pistol that consistently delivers tight groups at 21 feet. One reason for this is that the G19X is closing the distance from the muzzle to the target at a greater velocity than the overwhelming majority of comparable models which only have velocities between 310 fps and 320 fps. That extra 50 fps with a blowback action BB pistol is a lot, especially at only 21 feet from the target. Combine this with the right BBs and you have a tack driver. Picking the right tack is what will make this test worthwhile. Up to now, I have done my best work with the Umarex brand of polished steel BBs. Now, with equal velocity to the Umarex and a higher grade finish, the question at hand is will Daisy’s precision ground un-plated chromium steel Match Grade BBs deliver the best accuracy possible from the G19X?

The trigger on the G19X (and Third Gen G17) is a DA/SA design (not a Glock DAO) and always rests in the forward or ready to fire position. The Gen4 trigger is a Glock DAO (though some refer to it as an SAO) and when it is pulled and the gun is empty, it will sit further back in the triggerguard, as pictured, until the slide is cycled. In other words, if you load a magazine and do not rack the slide on the G19X and pull the trigger it still works because it is firing double action. After the first shot, what the slide action is doing is staging the trigger in a ready to fire condition (still forward) but with a slightly lighter pull and less stacking, but the same length of pull as fired double action. At 7 pounds, 2.5 ounces, it is a comparatively heavy pull, and with the narrow blade safety will tend to wear on your trigger finger after a few magazines. In my case after many more than that, and yes it will start to groove your finger tip. That is the one big advantage the Gen4 has over the G19X and Third Gen, a much smoother, lighter trigger pull.

With pellet-firing CO2 pistols it is comparatively easy to find an ideal pellet for a gun, most often in my tests it is RWS Meisterkugeln or H&N Sport Match Green that delivers the best combination of velocity and accuracy (the H&N obviously with higher velocity being alloy rather than lead pellets), but with BBs shot from smoothbore barrels, things are less precise since most blowback action guns shoot at around the same velocity and BBs generally do not differ that much from one brand to another. Now with a blowback action pistol capable of 376 fps the slight variances in BB quality or manufacturing begin to appear. There are differences in velocity between BBs shot from the G19X by as much as 10 fps. Not an “oh wow” difference, but with a gun that is already pushing steel balls at 50 fps greater to start, it becomes really obvious that one is performing better than another. The added attention paid by Daisy to their Match Grade BBs does provide a little more velocity compared to most other BBs, and equal to within 1 fps of the Umarex Precision, which is one of the best BBs on the market. The higher grade finish on the chromium steel Daisy BBs may also enhance accuracy (or better, consistency) from shot to shot, and with the higher velocity of the G19X produce the best groups possible with this CO2 pistol.

The purpose of this latest test of the G19X was to see if accuracy would be increased with the more costly Daisy Match Grade precision ground, un-plated chromium steel BBs. The answer, after several targets, the best of which is shown here, is yes, but by a very small margin compared to Umarex Precision steel BBs. That margin is a best 5-shot group of 0.53 inches with the Daisy; a mere 0.15 inches better than the best 5-shot group with Umarex, measuring 0.68 inches. In a points match the Daisy had a tighter group, but the Umarex had more in the Bullseye. That’s a variable you have to attribute to the shooter more likely than the gun, which proved itself extremely accurate with either BB.

My best target fired off hand from 21 feet using a two-handed hold put 10 Daisy Match Grade in the bullseye and 10 ring measuring 0.75 inches, with a fest five rounds at 0.53 inches. That’s 0.15 inches better than the Umarex for best five shot group. It’s a small difference, and there were actually more hits inside the red with the Umarex at 0.68 inches, while the overall spread with Umarex was 0.875 inches. The beauty of the G19X and its 376 fps average velocity is that this BB pistol can shoot accurately out to 10 meters. The final test then is at that distance fired off hand, which would be equivalent to more serious training with the 9mm pistol at close combat range. My best 10-shot group spread through the 10 ring, with two cutting the edge of the 10 and two in the bullseye, measured 2.0625 inches with a best five rounds at 1.0625 inches with the Daisy Match Grade BBs. Fired off hand, I’d be happy to do that with the 9mm GTX at 10 yards.

The key takeaway is that the G19X can do quite well with the Daisy Match Grade all the way out to 10 meters fired off hand. At roughly 10 yards, a centerfire pistol close quarter training distance, the air pistol can substitute for low cost practice. Yes, there is no recoil, well, there is, and about as much as you are apt to get from any blowback action CO2 pistol on the market today, so you do have a modest sensation of firing a handgun, and everything else feels close to the 9mm model.

The Takeaway

For a Compact semi-auto blowback action CO2 pistol, I don’t see a better gun than the Glock 19X for this kind of practice. Yes, the Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 is a more authentic pistol and nearly as accurate at 21 feet, but beyond that anything shooting at less than 350 fps isn’t going to hold accuracy out to 10 meters. The G19X was still aiming at 6 o’clock and still with about a 2-inch hold under. Yes, you read that right, under. Even at 10 meters the rounds are traveling with a very flat trajectory and POA is almost the same as at 21 feet. Certainly 10-ring accuracy would no doubt suffer, the G19X CO2 model will shoot out to 15 yards and retain center mass hits on a B-27 silhouette target and you can’t do that a with pistol shooting at 300 fps, at least not with the accuracy of the G19X.

Most of the faults with the G19X are secondary to its overall performance. To the negative, the trigger pull is heavier than it should be by about 2-pounds (that’s a lot), and if you are left handed, the non-functional right side slide release is a big disappointment, as well as not having a magazine release on the right side, but overall, this is one of the best training guns to come along. At around $100 you cannot go wrong, and if you are a Compact Glock owner, this one is a must. For those interested in learning how to handle a Glock, I would probably go with the new Gen4 G17 simply because of the correct trigger pull weight and feel, and the interchangeable backstraps, but those are the only advantages over the G19X.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

Highest Velocity Blowback Action pistol Part 1

Highest Velocity Blowback Action pistol Part 1

And the fastest BB

By Dennis Adler

The fastest gun in the running for last year’s Replica Air Pistol is ready to find the best BB for velocity and accuracy. Keep reading, you might be surprised which of the steel BBs above delivered the highest velocity. As for the Gamo lead round BBs, they are there to make a point about the history of BBs and the use of lead shot.

I have often said that velocity isn’t everything in a blowback action CO2 pistol, but when you have a high velocity, blowback action CO2 pistol like the Umarex Glock G19X, why not make the most of it? The G19X was the one new model from 2019 that had no peers when it came to sending a steel BB downrange at well over 350 fps, actually an average of 376 fps with the highest velocity right around 380 fps, which is 20 fps over the factory rated 360 fps. The next highest speed clocked with Umarex Precision steel BBs was 379 fps, followed by 377 fps, 376 fps four times out of 10, and a low of 372 fps, which soundly beat any other new model from 2019, including the Replica Air Pistol of the Year which was sending steel BBs downrange at around 300 fps average. What kept the G19X from winning was the non-functional right side slide release, and no bonus point for field stripping. That was enough to keep it from earning 50 points and knock it out of contention. It was a small but tough crowd for last year’s top gun title.

Here’s the points recap from the G19X review:

Authenticity 1 to 10:  9 (Excellent copy of Gen5 9mm except for right side slide release)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 10 (Excellent fit and FDE finish to match 9mm model)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (Easy to load BBs and CO2 with new seating cap tool)

Performance 1 to 10: 10 (Highest velocity of any blowback action model)

Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (Shoots to POA with white dot sights, best group 0.625 inches)

Bonus points: 0

Total Points: 49

It is one good looking air pistol. The G19X (in either 9mm or .177 caliber) does a great job of giving production model Glocks a custom look with its re-contoured Gen5 slide and frame and distinctive coyote tan finish. This also makes it a standout as a CO2 model. The fact that it develops the highest velocity of any new blowback action model from last year, is just the unexpected bonus, and proof that you can have robust CO2-driven recoil, and still send shots downrange at well over 350 fps.

If we focus just on velocity, fit and finish, and accuracy, and overlook the key Gen5 features not offered on the G19X CO2 model, i.e., right side slide release and interchangeable backstrap panels, and the air pistol’s firing system design which precludes field stripping, you have a Glock understudy for a Compact Glock 19 pistol that is otherwise authentic to the design of the 9mm model, and ideal for learning the fundamentals of Glock handling. It is also, at the moment, (and the moment is fleeting with a new Gen5 CO2 model on the horizon for 2020), the best choice in a high-velocity blowback action air pistol. So, assuming you felt the same way and purchased a G19X, let’s see what the fastest blowback action pistol can deliver with the best .177 caliber (4.5mm) steel BBs.

One other advantage to the G19X is a new seating screw wrench that makes it easier to turn down the cap and pierce the CO2 cartridge. This shot also provides a clean view of the warning info that is placed on the bottom of the triggerguard with the caliber markings and proof mark on the dustcover.

BB variance

As those of you who follow BB gun history know, a “BB” was originally a measurement for lead shot used in shotguns (which ranged in 15 sizes from “F” which was .22 inches all the way down to “No.9” which was a scant .08 inches, “BB” being the fourth size down the scale with an average measurement of .18 inches or 4.57mm (later to become .177 or 4.5mm for airguns, so “BB” in name only as “BB” shot is still .18 inches, 4.57mm). For use in early spring piston air rifles, which were perfected between 1886 and 1888 by the Markham Air Rifle Company and Plymouth Air Rifle Company both located in Plymouth, Michigan, “BB” size birdshot was the chosen ammunition. Being a common size used in shot shells it was readily available. The Plymouth Air Rifle Co. changed its name to Daisy Manufacturing Co. in 1895, and in 1900 standardized the lead shot used for their air rifles to a bore diameter of 0.175 (4.4mm) and began using lead shot made exclusively for air rifles and sold by Daisy. Standard “BB” birdshot was (and is still available) but steel BBs wouldn’t come along until the 1920s, when Daisy (and other air rifle manufacturers) slowly began the transition. Steel BBs were originally manufactured by The American Ball Company of Minneapolis, which had started selling them under the Bulls Eye brand. However, this was a sideline for American Ball, which primarily manufactured ball bearings, not birdshot, and they were not keeping steel BB tolerances close enough. Very soon, the variance in sizes among Bulls Eye BBs were beginning to break Daisy air rifles. An oversized steel BB was not malleable like lead and it could jam in the Daisy, or worse, split the shot tube, which was not as hard a metal as the steel used for the BBs. Daisy solved the problem in 1928 by forging a relationship with American Ball to manufacture precision steel BBs that would be exclusively distributed by Daisy as Bulls Eye Air Rifle Shot. It worked out so well that Daisy bought the American Ball Company in 1939.

This view of the locked open slides shows how the G19X CO2 nozzle literally rests against the back of a chambered BB. This is part of the design that helps optimize CO2 use and increase velocity by more than 50 fps over other blowback action models including the new Umarex Glock Gen4 CO2 model. The loss of field stripping capability and full slide retraction is the biggest tradeoff to get more performance out of the G19X.

Today, just about every airgun manufacturer has its own line (or brand) of steel BBs, however, lead BBs are still manufactured for airguns, by Gamo, for exampe, but mostly for guns with rifled barrels. There is also H&N Smart Shot, which is a copper coated lead BB safe for use in blowback action smoothbore pistols, but the majority of BBs used in smoothbore airguns today are steel, which brings us to the choice of BBs to be sent down the barrel of the G19X in our search for the highest velocity and accuracy combination.

Match, Precision, Anodized and Coated      

What sets some of the top rated steel BBs apart is the quality of the finish. Daisy Match Grade are precision ground un-plated chromium steel with a mirror like finish, and are generally more consistent in weight and size. Daisy Match Grade 5.1 gr. steel BBs are also more expensive at $7.99 for 1050 vs. Daisy Premium Grade Precision Max, offering 4000 zinc plated BBs for the same price. Comparatively, Umarex Precision 5.1 gr. steel BBs (which are close in finish to the Daisy Match Grade) cost $5.00 for 1500. (All prices are MSRP and are usually discounted).

Plating plays a role even though Daisy does not plate its Match Grade BBs. Hornady Black Diamond, for example, retails for $6.99 and gives you 1500 high quality black anodized steel BBs which, with some blowback action pistols, will give you a little extra velocity even though they are also 5.1 gr. Of course, you can go for quantity like Remington, which supplies 6000 solid plated steel BBs in a heavy plastic bottle (also good for use to exercise your wrists) for $9.99, but the point is, how much difference does a more expensive Match Grade steel BB, like the Daisy, make against Umarex and Hornady BBs?

Getting back to the H&N Smart Shot with 7.4 gr. copper coated lead BBs, you sacrifice a chunk of velocity because of the extra 2.3 grains in weight, but gain the capability to shoot at reactive steel targets. For use in the G19X, which is shooting faster than factory specs with steel, you’re still going to get 300 fps with the lead rounds.

This is the target to beat, the G19X with Umarex Precision steel BBs fired off hand from 21 feet. Best 5-shot group measured 0.68 inches.

Through the chronograph   

The Umarex steel BBs have already been tested and proven to deliver velocity and accuracy with the G19X clocking an average of 376 fps and delivering a best group fired off hand from 21 feet of 0.68 inches.

Today, we are just going for comparative speed with Hornady Black Diamond black anodized, Remington plated, Daisy Precision Max zinc coated, and Daisy Match Grade.

As is sometimes the case, the Hornady Black Diamond does not give you any higher velocity and the G19X averaged 370 fps, with most at 365 fps and one at 378 fps, still just a hair slower than Umarex in the G19X. The Remington faired just slightly better at 372 fps average, and again with most in the 365 to 370 fps range, so the Umarex steel BBs are still the best match thus far for the Glock. Breaking into the Daisy Precision zinc coated, the average went down to 368 fps, with most between 360 and 365 fps and a high of 370 fps. Now, going to the more costly Match Grade Daisy, which is un-plated chromium steel with a high polish, the average velocity clocked in at an impressive 375 fps (15 fps faster than factory specs for the G19X), with the majority of shots flip flopping between 374 and 376 fps, but no better than the Umarex on overall speed.

The top average velocity from this first BB test was within 1 fps between the Umarex Steel BBs and the more costly Daisy Match Grade. The question is, can the Match Grade outshoot the Umarex Precision from the same gun at virtually the same velocity?

In Part 2 we will find out if the higher-priced Daisy Match Grade BBs can beat 0.68 inches at 21 feet established with the G19X and Umarex Precision steel BBs.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

The Final Four and 2019’s Winner

By Dennis Adler

The final four top guns for 2019 are (from left to right) the Umarex Beretta M9A3, Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 and Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 models. Each is a worthy contender for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

If there is a dark horse candidate among the final four, all with a least 50 points, it is the Umarex Beretta M9A3, because for all of its very authentic features, it has an “extra” feature that actually takes away from its exceptional value as a 1:1 CO2 version of the 9mm model. As much as I enjoy shooting BBs on full auto (with blowback action models that actually have select fire counterparts), this fun feature has done nothing for the M9A3 or the 92A1 before it in respect to it being an excellent training gun for its centerfire counterparts. If we disregard the selector switch, which is so small that it’s not hard to do, the M9A3 is just as accurate in its design as the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two new Springfield XDM models. It is a solid 50 point gun and any other year would have walked away with the win. But this year we have four guns that are equally worthy, but, only one can win.

The Glock 17 Gen4 CO2 model is a near perfect match for the 9mm model. It represents the very best of what is possible with a blowback action air pistol for fit, finish, and authenticity.

The little details that will make or break the winner

The fatal flaw for the M9A3 is the select fire switch. Between the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two XDMs, finding fatal flaws is a great deal more difficult. Differences in velocity and accuracy are not significant enough to break this three-way tie, velocity is too close, and honestly, accuracy is purely subjective here, since it is based on my shooting skills, and while they remained fairly constant with all three guns, there are those of you who can shoot better than me even with the worst of them. So it must come down to how far Umarex and Glock, and Air Venturi and Springfield Armory, have gone to make these guns absolutely as authentic as possible for an air pistol.

All three fieldstrip exactly like their centerfire counterparts. They all have the correct fit and finish, correct sights, and operating controls that look, feel and function like those on the centerfire models. The Glock 17 Gen 4 was the only gun to break 50 points from the start, with the 1 bonus point for field stripping capability added to a perfect 50 point score. The two XDM each lost a point for velocity by being right at 300 fps, while the Glock got the full 10 points with an average velocity that was 317 fps; the small margin that was better than the XDM models. But it’s not enough to really make the Glock 17 Gen4 the immediate winner.

The Gen4 turned a few heads when it was first disassembled and reveled not only a accurate take down to the 9mm model but a dual recoil spring and guide rod like the centerfire model uses.

The Glock has just about everything down right. It has a fully functional Safe-Action trigger, it has an approximate trigger pull to the 9mm pistol, it has correct factory markings on the slide, except for the 9x19mm stamping, it has authentic markings on the right side of the slide and barrel lug, even the warnings are hidden on the underside of the triggerguard, and the mandatory added manual safety brilliantly disguised as the serial number plate on the underside of the dustcover. The not so simple tells are the brass finished .177 caliber muzzle recessed inside the 9mm muzzle and the aforementioned absence of the 9x19mm stamping on the left side of the slide. The gun has robust felt recoil for a blowback action CO2 pistol and even the inner details have been addressed with a Gen4-style dual recoil spring and guide rod assembly that can be removed when field stripping the gun. It is as close to perfect as you can get. But can it beat the XDM 4.5 and 3.8?

The XDM models also fully fieldstrip and the guns are as accurately duplicated from the centerfire models, but in even finer detail than the Glock, and with a few extra features. (Both the Glock Gen4 and XDM models have interchangeable backstraps). In this image, I have turned the barrel around so you can see the fine detail in the barrel lug, which bears the same design as the centerfire pistols with MATCH at the top, the serial number below, and for the CO2 models, .177 CAL (4.5mm). 

What sets these two new entries into the blowback action CO2 market apart from the rest, even from the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, is the complexity of their design. The XDM is a more intricately manufactured air pistol. And it is not simply the two slide finishes available, polished or black Melonite to match the centerfire models; it is the internal and external operating features of the centerfire XDM designs that have been so carefully reproduced for the air pistols.

The XDM is a double threat for this year’s title since there are two models, and two finishes for each model. Pictured is the XDM 4.5 in the excellent Bi-Tone finish and the XDM 3.8 in the black Nitron-like slide finish. Both the 4.5 and 3.8 have three interchangeable backstrap panel and are currently being offered with a free XDM paddle holster. The 3.8 also comes with three matching grip extensions for the magazine (as shown).

Is it safe?

The Glock has famously relied upon a single safety design, the Safe-Action trigger, which is combined with internal safety mechanisms (a drop safety for example) all immediately disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger is pulled. Springfield Armory and its manufacturing partner in Croatia, where the centerfire guns are built to Springfield’s exacting standards, utilized their version of the Glock-type trigger safety but backed it up with a 1911-inspired grip safety (and internal drop and striker safeties), all disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger pulled, but this only happens after the grip safety is depressed by fully the gripping the gun. It is a dual external failsafe. There’s more.

The XDM is a more complex design since it not only has the blade trigger safety, but a secondary grip safety that must be depressed when gripping the gun in order for it to fire. Yet even with the dual safety like the centerfire models, the CO2 version is still required to have a manually set safety. You can also see the striker status indicator on the XDM, which in this picture shows the gun is cocked. 

The only way to tell if a Glock action has been cycled is the position of the trigger. Springfield wanted more than that, so they added a striker status indicator (like the Walther P99 among others) which protrudes from the rear of the slide when the action has been cycled. Of course, this does not guarantee a loaded chamber, so the XDMs have a loaded chamber indicator that sticks up from the top of the slide (the Glock’s protrudes from the right side of the slide extractor behind the ejection port). These are the working features of the centerfire guns. On the XDM CO2 models, the loaded chamber indicator is always in the up (loaded) position as an additional reminder to shooters, whether beginners or seasoned pros, (i.e., always regard every gun as loaded), while the Gen4 CO2 model’s indicator is a non-functional, molded-in piece that rests flush, and thus indicates an empty chamber. It’s a very small point, but one gun is obviously more instructive.

The little details are important right down to how the required manual safeties (not required on the centerfire guns) are cleverly disguised as the serial number plates on the Glock 17 Gen4 and XDM CO2 models. A slight touch of greater authenticity is seen in the XDMs which actually have serial numbers on the moving SAFE and FIRE selector.

The grip safety on the XDM CO2 models works; you cannot fire the gun unless the grip safety is depressed. With the grip safety depressed the gun still will not fire unless the trigger safety is pressed with the trigger. You can try this with an empty CO2 model (magazine removed and action cleared) by racking the slide and trying to pull the trigger without pressing in on the grip safety. The trigger will move back but the pistol will not fire. You can test the trigger safety the same way by depressing the grip safety and trying to pull the trigger from the edges but not depress the blade safety. The trigger won’t move at all. It design exactly like the centerfire model; both the grip and trigger safeties must be engaged in order for the gun to discharge. This is a far more complex firing system than any the Glock CO2 model. And there is the mandatory manual safety, which, like Umarex Glock 17, is hidden on the underside of the dustcover where the serial number plate goes. What has Springfield done differently to make it better? It actually has a serial number on it. Slide it back toward the triggerguard and the gun is locked. Push it forward and the action is released to function exactly like a centerfire XDM. That’s as good as a mandatory manual safety can look and function.

The bottom line with the XDMs is that they are as authentic as technically possible for a blowback action CO2 pistol, inside and out. But I can only give the 5-point bonus for Design Innovation to one gun and there are two XDMs, one of which takes things, just one step further.

It’s a package deal with the 3.8 which comes with one magazine, three interchangeable backstrap panels and three matching size grip extensions. At present, the guns also come with an XD holster as part of the purchase price.

When Springfield Armory decided to build a Compact version of the XDM, they developed a new, shorter frame, slide and barrel with a length of 3.8 inches. This smaller version of the XDM 4.5 had a shorter grip frame and thus a lower total capacity. As a pure Compact this was a necessity for concealed carry. However, the full size 4.5 magazines also fit the 3.8, so one could use the longer magazine in the smaller gun; it just stuck out the bottom of the grip like an extended capacity magazine on other pistols. Springfield wasn’t satisfied with that. Since the guns also had three sizes of interchangeable backstraps, it was decided that three size-matching grip extensions would be included with each XDM 3.8, so the longer 4.5 mags could blend in with the grip and backstrap, while also providing a better hold for the Compact pistol. This was also beneficial for those with larger hands. The shorter magazine could be used for concealed carry and the spare mag (or mags) the extended capacity version with the grip extension. Or, one could simply carry with the longer magazine, which was still shorter than some full size semi-autos.

No matter which finish you like the XDM 3.8 is the most authentic blowback action CO2 model currently being manufactured and the gun that has raised the bar to a new level this year.

The XDM CO2 model is exactly the same, except that there is only one magazine type, the 4.5 version, which is necessary to handle the CO2. So, the XDM 3.8 comes with the grip extensions used on the centerfire guns, making it the single most innovative and authentic blowback action CO2 pistol in every detail, and 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year. And now, the other winner.

The first person to answer all 9 questions correctly, and pick the Replica Air Pistol of the Year for 2019 is Cstoehr, who posted the correct answers and the XDM 3.8 as his choice on December 22nd at 1:42 PM. Congratulations and Merry Christmas!

Thanks to everyone for following the 2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year series this month. This article marks the 500th Airgun Experience article and a fititng end to the year. The Airgun Experience will return in January.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s to one and all!  

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

How good can it get? – The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4

By Dennis Adler

An experienced eye will note the absence of a caliber stamping on this Glock 17 Gen4, the vast majority of people familiar with handguns and even Glocks might miss this small detail at first. There are no white letter warnings, and no markings other than would be found on the actual 9mm pistol, until you start looking very closely.

When serious air pistol enthusiasts said what they wanted, it seemed no one was really listening. Sure, airgun manufacturers were introducing new guns that were more and more authentic looking, but they still were not crossing the line drawn in the sand by consumers who wanted a 100 percent duplicate of an established centerfire pistol for training use, and to have the best possible air pistol for authenticity of design. They wanted a CO2 model entirely indistinguishable from its centerfire counterpart in appearance and handling, the kind of air pistol that could have corporate lawyers wringing their hands and airgun enthusiasts applauding with theirs. This is what Umarex and Glock finally arrived at this year with the Glock 17 Gen4. This is more than an impressive new blowback action CO2 air pistol. It is 20 years of air pistol evolution, from look-alike air pistols that were good, but not so perfect that you didn’t know they were air pistols in a matter of seconds, to one that you had darn well better remember almost no one can tell from an air pistol. This is the one above all others that you have to respect and treat as you would the 9mm because the Glock 17 design is the definition of ubiquitous, and easily the most recognized handgun in the world today.

Authenticity of design is more than looks; it’s an absolute standard that few CO2 pistols totally meet. Close won’t get you 1:1, and for holsters, especially injection molded and Kydex carry rigs, it has to be exactly 1:1. The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 fits all Gen4 rigs. The magazines, though just a bit longer than a 9mm mag, fit in molded carriers like this paddle rig from Galco.

There are only two ways to know at a glance that the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 is an air pistol. You have to be looking down the barrel and see the brass muzzle of the inner .177 caliber barrel, or are so familiar with Glock design that you instantly recognize there is something wrong with this Glock; it has no caliber stamping on the slide. It fits every Gen4 holster; the CO2 BB magazines fit Glock mag pouches, and all Glock and aftermarket light and laser accessories mount on the perfectly duplicated dustcover rail.

How exact is 1:1 when it comes to injection molded holsters? The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 is a match to this contoured fit Galco 1199 belt rig, (shown from the back side), right down to the triggerguard fit and indents for the serrations on the slide.

As a 1:1 training gun this is almost everything airgun enthusiasts have asked for. I say almost because the design is limited to the same lower velocity range average of 317 fps as other blowback action models that run in the 300 to 320 fps range. It is, however, consistently on the upper end with a high of 319 fps, low of 316 fps, and standard deviation of only 2 fps for 10 rounds.

A 1:1 copy has to fit centerfire accessories too, which, in this case, is limited to Glock or aftermarket light and light/laser combinations. 

The only way to significantly exceed that velocity is to sacrifice two of this air pistol’s most authentic features; field stripping, which is done exactly the same way as the 9mm model, and the dual recoil spring and guide rod design. And there would be the possibility of loosing a third feature, Glock’s Gen4 interchangeable backstraps. Part or all of this would be sacrificed to use a closed system like the Glock 19X, to achieve an average velocity of 378 fps. With all that has gone into the Glock 17 Gen4, it would be a high price to pay, and you can get that same performance from the Third Gen-based Umarex Glock 17, which uses the same firing system as the G19 X.

Considering the number of Glock 17 Gen4 models in use today for law enforcement, as well as for civilian use as a personal protection gun, a 1:1 CO2 model for training skills, from holstering, reloading, trigger control, proper aiming techniques, even backstrap changes, can be duplicated without the cost of expensive ammunition, or even wear on a centerfire model. This is particularly advantageous with Glocks because no matter what caliber or frame size, they all operate the same way. The gun at top is a centerfire Glock 17 Gen4.

The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 shares two unique features with its centerfire counterpart, the use of an accurate dual recoil spring and guide rod design, copied from the 9mm Gen4 model, and interchangeable backstraps making this air pistol suitable for training use by a greater variety of individuals depending upon hand size. It is as close to the 9mm model as possible for an air pistol.

Yes, a lot of blowback action CO2 models can be field stripped like their centerfire counterparts but the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 went so far as to duplicate the duel recoil spring guide rod design from the centerfire guns. This increases the effort to rack the slide on the air pistol, imparting a more realistic sensation, and also giving the slide a more robust feeling when it closes.

Absolute authenticity of design goes for the Gen4’s trigger, which operates like the centerfire pistol’s, with a functioning Safe-Action blade safety and a precise, matching take up and average pull of 5 pounds, 5 ounces. This is also seen in the almost perfectly matching matte (Parkerized-look) over a Melonite treated slide and the overall fit and finish. There is only one other CO2 pistol that can even touch the Glock 17 Gen4.

Umarex and Glock didn’t ignore the rules, they just adapted them to Glock thinking and the warnings and other details are discretely placed on the underside of the triggerguard. The caliber markings and air pistol’s serial number and proofs are on the underside of the dustcover. And despite having a working Safe-Action trigger safety, to meet all of the safety requirements, a sliding manual safety is made out of the serial number plate that would be on a 9mm model. This is as low key as air pistols get!

Downrange proof

At 21 feet the Gen4 needs a correct 6 o’clock hold under the bullseye, and with a consistent velocity around 317 fps, it can punch 10 rounds under an inch using a solid two-handed hold. I put 10 rounds a little right of center into an overlapping cluster that spread 0.93 inches with a best five (at least five with overlapping hits) measuring 0.5 inches. With accuracy to equal its authenticity of design, this CO2 model has it all together. This is your second 50 point gun, and the first to claim a possible tie-breaking 1 point bonus for field stripping. This year’s winner may seem obvious with the G17 Gen4 totaling 51 points, but it is not a lock just yet!

While I hit a little low and right, my first few shots were so close together I just kept going and ended up with 10 rounds inside 0.93 inches with at least five at 0.5 inches. The G17 Gen4 can pack them in.


Model: Umarex Glock 17 Gen4

Authenticity 1 to 10:  10 (1:1 match to the 9mm model)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 10 (Superior fit and finish, Gen4 design dual recoil spring and guide rod for more authentic slide response)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (Easy to load BBs and CO2)

Performance 1 to 10: 10 (Average velocity better than 300 fps)

Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (Consistently shoots tight groups, best 5-shots at 0.5 inches)

Bonus points: 1 (Can be filed stripped)

Total Points: 51

How to win 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year

On December 24th, one lucky reader will win 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year to commemorate the 500th Airgun Experience article. To enter, all you have to do is be signed up to post comments on Pyramyd Air’s website and read this year’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year articles leading up to the announcement on December 24th.

The rules are simple; you need to post your choice for Top Gun by midnight Monday, December 23rd and answer one question about each of the nine guns from the Replica Airgun of the Year articles published between December 5th and December 21st. The nine questions will only be available at the end of the December 21st article, and you will have had to read the articles on each gun to find the answers. Because there will be several guns reaching 50 points, there will be a tie-breaker decision on December 24th. You will have to make that decision, too, and the first person to post the correct answers to all nine questions and name this year’s winner by midnight December 23rd wins the Replica Air Pistol of Year on Christmas Eve.