Photo Finishes

Photo Finishes

What is it about battlefield weathered guns that is so appealing?

By Dennis Adler

Weathered finishes on new guns are intended to duplicate naturally aged finishes on actual handguns and longarms. The faded bluing and loss of finish and discoloration on the 1858 Starr double action revolver at top is about a 50 to 60 percent gun for finish. The weathered finishes on CO2 models like the John Wayne Signature Series Umarex Colt Peacemaker and Air Venturi Model 1911 are less severe but show fine edge wear and fading to give them a more historic appearance. A lot of airgun enthusiasts and collectors find this very appealing.

When you look through high end firearms auction catalogs, like the Rock Island Auction Co. Premier Auction catalogs, the first thing you want to see is the photo or photos of the gun for sale, then the item description, and at the very end, what is written after the word Condition:

What you want to see is “Excellent” or “Very Fine” or at the worst “Fine” which usually indicates a worn but attractive patina with 60 percent of the original finish remaining. The rarity of the gun is part of what makes “Fine” actually fine because the gun is either hard to come by in any condition, and this usually applies to guns that are over a century old, or to those used in battle where the finish has been worn or faded over time. When it comes to WWII firearms, gun collectors look to find Very Good and Excellent guns, Fine, once again, is only appealing if the gun is rare or has historical provenance, and that is what makes Battlefield Finish CO2 pistols particularly interesting, they have the look of a gun that has a story to tell! read more


Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 2

Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 2 Part 1

An airgun with a history older than almost any other

By Dennis Adler

Among blowback action CO2 models the Umarex Legends Luger P.08 Parabellum ranks as one of the most authentic in design and operation. The guns also duplicate actual Luger parts stampings and manufacturer’s marks, though not for any one particular Luger manufacturer. The weathered finish gives the gun a well worn but more authentic appearance. In the Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale, a pistol in this condition would be rated at between 60 to 70 percent.

It is easy to forget just how old the Luger design is because most everyone, except Luger collectors and firearms historians, think of it as a WWII handgun. You can thank the movies for that, for the most part, but George Luger’s innovative semiautomatic pistol design was patented before the turn of the last century and already in the hands of Americans as early as the 1900s.

We sometimes forget how old some gun designs are. The Luger is a late 19th century design that lasted well into the 20th century as a viable military, law enforcement and civilian handgun. This c.1908 photograph of an Arizona Sheriff shows that the German pistol was already finding a home in the holsters of U.S. lawmen. The holster is a modified Mexican double drop loop design on a narrow belt.

Around 1908, an Arizona lawman was photographed carrying a Luger as his sidearm in a modified western holster. Imagine someone with a Colt Peacemaker coming up against a Sheriff packing a Luger! There were actually a lot of lawmen carrying semi-auto pistols both of European and American design in the very early 1900s including Colt’s Model 1903 Hammerless, the FN Model 1900, Broomhandle Mausers, and Lugers among others. It is not as strange as one might think, so looking at the P.08 in that context makes it a very old gun and an excellent choice for an air pistol. read more


Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 1

Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 1

An airgun with a history older than almost any other

By Dennis Adler

The highly authentic Umarex Legends P.08 Luger models with fully functioning toggle link operated blowback action, are as physically close to an actual P.08 as possible with the exception of finish. The WWII model takes it down a notch to looking like a well worn WWII era pistol. The grips on both models, the standard P.08 (top) and WWII are both correct for the gun. The P.08 with black plastic grips was known as the “Black Widow” model. 

We take a lot for granted these days with so many excellent CO2 air pistols on the market, and new models arriving every year to expand the scope of firearms history available to airgun enthusiasts, some of who might otherwise never pick up a handgun because they have no desire to own an actual cartridge-firing pistol. Others live in countries where it is not a choice, or ownership demands extensive paperwork, time and limitations to the types of guns and where and how they must be stored. We have a very centric view of gun ownership in the U.S. because we have the Constitutional right, for others who do not share that great privilege airguns are of far more significance, the only practical means to indulge, hands on, in the history and design of firearms, if for no other reason than the appreciation of the gunmaker’s craft. In the U.S., airguns are a window into a world of firearms from past and present that can be enjoyed as a hobby or recreational shooting sport; in other nations it is more than a window, it is a door that opens into a world of firearms history that can otherwise only be seen (as in a museum) or read about. Air pistols become a tangible object one can experience first hand (or second hand if you use a two-handed hold). That is one reason (actually the reason) there are so many more airguns and model variations abroad than reach our shores, though we are getting an increasing share. But it is firearms history that I am most interested in sharing with you in this Airgun Experience because among the many excellent and authentic looking and handling air pistols available today is one of European (German) origin that is old enough to have become so collectible, that original examples in fine to excellent condition are almost out of reach for many; gun laws, government regulations and constitutions notwithstanding. It is the Luger, an arguably antiquated concept that in its time was nothing short of revolutionary. read more


Stick it to me Part 3

Stick it to me Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Stick magazines vs. CO2 BB magazines in Blowback Action Pistols

By Dennis Adler

We may not get every CO2 model that is sold in Europe but the U.S. gets some excellent choices including the well-established Umarex Walther P.38 (upper right), Umarex Luger P.08 (upper left) in both self-contained and stick magazine versions, the best overall CO2 training gun on the market, the Umarex S&W M&P40 (bottom right) and best pocket-sized CO2 model, the Umarex Walther PPS (lower left). All of these guns are accurate in their designs and fit the same holsters as their centerfire counterparts. (Holsters by World War Supply for the P.38 and P.08, Galco for the PPS, and Safariland for the M&P40)

Is the gun, in and of itself, more important than the magazine it uses? From your comments I’d have to say yes, if the gun is the Umarex Walther P.38. And to answer the other question, it seems unlikely we will see the battlefield finish version of this air pistol in the U.S. anytime soon. The European market is far more saturated with CO2 models than the U.S. because throughout much of Europe having actual centerfire models is a laborious endeavor. From visiting people I know in Germany, for example, gun ownership is very limited and it takes a long time to get a permit to own one. One. To own more takes even longer. As a reader from Europe noted, we here in the U.S “…live in paradise compared to us.” But for airguns, the paradise is over there. Umarex and other manufacturers build airguns for a global market; the U.S. only gets a portion of them, and unfortunately there are some that never make it to our shores. The internet has made it possible for us to not only see what we have, but also what we can’t. read more


Stick it to me Part 2

Stick it to me Part 2 Part 3

Stick magazines vs. CO2 BB magazines in Blowback Action Pistols

By Dennis Adler

Comparable guns and an incomparable gun; the two versions of the Umarex P.08 Parabellum with stick and self-contained magazines, the Walther PPS and S&W M&P 40 with stick and self-contained magazines, respectively, and a pistol that has to equal, the Walther P.38.

Consider that the P.38 blowback action CO2 model has been around since 2012 and the Walther PPS since 2014, and neither has suffered in sales or popularity because they have stick magazines; maybe there is a reason why Umarex hasn’t made a change. I can’t speak for Umarex or the company’s marketing strategy, but they did update the PPK/S with an internal seating screw and clean up that gun’s exterior lines last year. I guess that’s something, but the PPK/S has never been a performance gun, its only claim to fame is its name and having been the very first blowback action CO2 air pistol 18 years ago. The newer Walther PPS, however, was in many ways a game changer in 2014. I saw it before its U.S. introduction when I visited the Umarex factory in Germany and tested a pre-production prototype (along with many other CO2 models and new Walther centerfire pistols that have since come to market). I knew then, despite its stick magazine that it was going to be a success on every other level, just like the P.38 that had preceded it two years earlier. read more


Stick it to me Part 1

Stick it to me Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Stick magazines vs. CO2 BB magazines in Blowback Action Pistols

By Dennis Adler

Despite having stick magazines, these three Umarex blowback action CO2 models, the Luger P.08, Walther P.38 and Walther PPS excel in authentic styling and features. No molded-in pieces here, and they fit original holsters. There’s a lot to be said for these three, especially at their retail price point. (WWII holsters courtesy World War Supply, PPS holster by Galco)

During my recent comparison between CO2 and Nitrogen for cold weather shooting I ended up using one blowback action pistol with a stick magazine and another with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and there proved to be a definite difference in overall performance. Was this a coincidence in my choice of guns? Perhaps, but this question led me to look at the motivations behind building otherwise new CO2 pistols that use older-style stick magazines as possibly being more than a manufacturing convenience, or an effort to build a lower price-point blowback action pistol. Maybe there is a more sporting notion behind it, too. read more


War Dogs – The Classic German Luger and Mauser Part 3

War Dogs – The Classic German Luger and Mauser Part 3 Part 2  Part 1

Downrange with the WWII Mauser Broomhandle Model 712 and Luger P.08

By Dennis Adler

Both the Luger and Mauser designs date back to the late 19th century, the Broomhandle going through numerous changes from 1896 to 1937 but remaining very similar in design, even the Model 712 with its removable box magazine. The 712 is the basis for the latest Umarex WWII version of the Broomhandle. The WWII Umarex Luger P.08 is also a solid representation of the 1908 version of the Luger, which eliminated the grip strap safety.

The idea of a selective fire machine pistol (a fully auto handgun as opposed to a fully auto submachine gun) dates back to the very early 1900s. There had been several German models, like the Steyr M1912, offering selective fire mechanisms long before the Broomhandle Mauser in 1932. The Model 712 came with a standard 10 round magazine allowing the pistol to fit inside the wooden shoulder stock and an extended capacity 20 round magazine, which was advantageous when discharging the gun on full auto. read more