Decades of change

Decades of change

What lies behind could be in the future

By Dennis Adler

I had a chance to test the Umarex Colt Commander at the Umarex factory in Germany six months before it was introduced to the U.S. market in 2014, leading a revolution in blowback action air pistols that changed the very face of the CO2 air pistol market in five years.

Here we are at the beginning of a new decade, a very special one to me. When I was young I had remarkable expectations for the far, far distant 21st century and the year 2020, which had seemed to me, would be something momentous, it was so far away in the future. When I was 20, I saw Arthur C. Clarke and Stanly Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey with wide-eyed optimism for a world that was still more than 50 years away from the mesmerizing images on the screen. As far off as 2001 seemed at the time, I believed Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of the future, at least from a standpoint of technology. I shared his vision of incredible possibilities; it was not implausible, we could do this, and a year later Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; it was a beginning, and that was 51 years ago this coming July 20. We have not reached Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions of the 21st century, but in spite of the difficulties, setbacks and politics, we are treading on the periphery of that future, stalled perhaps, by a world that is far different than Clarke envisioned so many decades ago. How does this relate to air pistols? read more


Wild West Airguns

Wild West Airguns

What Cowboy Air Gunners Really Want

By Dennis Adler

At one point in history, firearms evolved from rudimentary, though often quite elegant, single and double shot pistols and long guns, to more affordable and efficient revolvers, revolving rifles and shotguns. It wasn’t until the Civil War that further developments came to the forefront, like the Henry and Spencer lever action rifles. War was a driving force, but in the period from the late 19th century to the early 20th, armsmakers made remarkable strides in the development of semi-automatic handguns and rifles. While the American West was still very much a dynamic in this country, from the mid west to the pacific coast, and along our borders with Canada and Mexico, firearms designs literally surpassed the needs of the times. Imagine the Texas Rangers, who had been created in an era of flintlock pistols and rifles moving into the new century armed with semiautomatic Colt Model 1911s. (The gun pictured is a customized Swiss Arms CO2 model along with a copy of an early 20th century western drop loop holster made for the Colt semi-auto.)

I can’t speak for everyone who likes western guns, I can only speak for myself and the handful of people I know who shoot CO2 powered Single Actions and Lever Action Rifles, and among that group there is a need for more new guns in this category. But what exactly is a western gun? And when did the Old West really come to an end? Certainly not when the calendar flipped over to January 1900; it might have been a new century but the wild and often untamed American West of the 1870s and 1880s held fast to its ways well into the early 1900s. read more


Top vintage military arms

Top vintage military arms

CO2 in War and Peace

By Dennis Adler

When we are talking about copies of legendary military arms as CO2 models, it is not just a gun based on a design, it is a gun copied in detail from an original design like the Umarex Luger P.08 Parabellum and Mauser Broomhandle Model 712. Pictured are the limited edition WWII models. Only the P.08 is currently available.

In the past several years the world of CO2 pistols and rifles has been exposed to military history in ways that airgun enthusiasts could only have dreamed about as little as five years ago. Sure, there have been BB and pellet guns in the past that were based on military arms, like the Crosman Model M-1 Carbine built from 1968 to 1976, as well as a number of military training air rifles manufactured during WWI and WWII (very rare finds today), and more recently the Winchester Model M14 CO2 BB and pellet rifle, introduced in 2012, and of course, the excellent Diana K98 Mauser (under lever cocking) pneumatic pellet rifle. But in the world of blowback action CO2 pistols, rifles, and CO2 BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers, the period from 2015 to 2019 has been a remarkable one for military arms enthusiasts. read more


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