A conversation about attraction

A conversation about attraction

The collector’s eye

By Dennis Adler

The answer to the question, “What got me into collecting replica air pistols,” would seem logical, the first replica air pistol I reviewed 19 years ago, the Walther CP99. It is in my opinion one of the finest multi-shot pellet firing CO2 pistols ever made, and I have purchased every one I ever tested, but it isn’t the gun that got me into collecting.

The other day a friend asked what got me into collecting replica air pistols? I thought the answer was obvious from my recent Retrospect articles on the Umarex Walther CP99, but as it turns out that really isn’t the case. At the time, 2001, when the First Edition Blue Book of Airguns was published, I wasn’t an airgun collector, I had a few but I was a gun collector; air pistols were not something I had developed an interest in acquiring; remember, this is almost 20 years ago.  

The First Edition Blue Book of Airguns was simply an editorial project for me as Special Projects Editor for Blue Book Publications. The book was, in fact, a collaborative effort between me, publisher Steve Fjestad, and the inspiration for the book in the first place, Dr. Robert D. Beeman. So to honestly answer the question, “What got me into collecting replica air pistols? I would have to look back at the actual centerfire guns I was collecting 20 years ago. read more


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?

A little over 50 years ago, the air pistols we have today were just as implausible as Clarke’s space station and spacecraft, and honestly, compared to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the far distant future in Star Trek, Clarke’s reality wasn’t science fiction so much as was yet un-obtained science fact, and that future is no longer so distant.

Variations of the Umarex Colt Commander design were used over the next five years by Swiss Arms, Air Venturi, Tanfoglio, and most notably by Sig Sauer, which built matching CO2 and .45 ACP models of the Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE model making the Colt Model 1911 still the most revered pistol in any caliber.

In 2001 when I wrote the First Edition Blue Book of Airguns (see, there is an analogy after all), back then we were treading on the periphery of the future of air pistols. I had used two words to describe the new models appearing in this first edition, “Authenticity” and “Performance” and everyone from Anschutz and Beretta to Daisy and Walther had something new for the dawning 21st century. At the top of my list in that book were Umarex models built in cooperation with Beretta and Walther, the 92FS and CP99 pellet pistols, which exuded authenticity and performance for the time, since blowback action models were all but non-existent, except for the then impressive (in concept) Walther PPK/S, an anemic but fun little pistol to shoot, because of the moving slide and some tangible sensation of recoil like a real handgun. But the important guns of that new decade were not blowback actions, they were the Beretta and Walther pellet models, and no other proof need be offered today, than that these guns are still being manufactured 20 years later.

A perspective on two decades of design, an Umarex Beretta 92FS pellet model, one of the earliest and most expensive of Umarex pellet models (and still being manufactured after 20 years) and the 2018 Sig Sauer P320 M17 blowback action pellet-firing model with self-contained CO2 pellet magazine. The groundbreaking Sig design won 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

By 2010 (coincidentally, the year of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey Two) the world of air pistols was advancing faster than Star Trek sequels and the very world of air pistols was about to change as new blowback action designs were being developed. I was fortunate to test the first of this new era of authentic blowback action pistols in Germany the summer before the Umarex Colt Commander was introduced. In 2014, the Combat Commander was the most realistic, mainstream brand name CO2 air pistol on the market (and it had coincided with .22 LR versions also manufactured for Colt by Umarex) putting the venerable Model 1911 center stage in two markets, entry-level .22 LR pistols and blowback action CO2 pistols. It was the CO2 pistols, however, that would capture an emerging audience of airgun enthusiasts who had grown up in the era of the 1911’s emergence as the most famous semi-auto pistol of an entire generation – postwar Baby boomers. I would have to say that a majority of Airgun Experience readers fall into that category of kids who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, and by the time the Umarex Colt Commander had been introduced, were well-familiarized with the real thing, either through first hand experience, or through the voyeuristic experiences of television and film. Air pistols built to duplicate their centerfire counterparts would become the touchstones to our youth, whether we had handled the real guns or not. And that is where the past decade of air pistol design and technology has finally taken us; back to our own futures.

In a handful of years over the past decade we saw the development and introduction of such impressive CO2 models as the Umarex Mauser Model 712 select-fire Broomhandle, the remarkably authentic ASG CZ75 SP-01 Shadow (and modified Shadow Blue shown) the Sig WTP and various models of the Colt Peacemaker built by Umarex. Deluxe models like the hand engraved 7-1/2 inch version were a very limited edition aimed at airgun collectors.

The technology confined in the brief period between 2014 (actually 2012 and 2013 in Europe) to 2020 has eclipsed almost all the designs from the previous 50 years. The latest technology for modern air pistol design, particularly as pioneered by Sig Sauer, Umarex, and most recently Air Venturi’s partnership with Springfield Armory, is still breaking new ground as we head into the second decade of the 21st century.

The modern manufacturing of Umarex not only brought us new contemporary models, but impressively built pre- and WWII German handguns, including WWII models with aged finishes, like the Luger P.08 and M712 Broomhandle. The WWII Mauser was a limited edition.

Interestingly, over that same short span of time, this technology has also taken us back in time, through the efforts of Umarex and its deeply rooted history in Germany. The stars of that back story are pre-WWII and WWII-era blowback action models like the 1932 Model 712 Broomhandle Mauser, Luger P.08 and MP40 submachine gun, each a groundbreaking design for CO2 powered airguns. Conversely, pushing the limitations of modern handgun design, as it translates to air pistols, we have seen the evolution of impressively authentic models like the Glock 17 Gen4 and Springfield Armory XDM series. Their success as air pistols, however, is based in the realization that late 20th and early 21st century technology, as applied to cartridge-firing handguns, also moved into the future with the use of plastics (polymers) for frames and other parts. Once, air pistols that used plastics were regarded as mere toys. Today plastics are being used to duplicate centerfire pistols that are themselves made with polymer frames! The only person I can think of from my youth, who would not have found this a strange turn of events, would have been Gene Roddenberry.

This past year was another groundbreaking one for 1:1 authenticity with the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, a CO2 pistol built to an almost uncompromising standard to match the 9mm model.

Stealing the Glock’s thunder for 2019, the Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 became the most authentic blowback action air pistol ever made and Replica Air Pistol of the Year, raising the bar even higher for any new blowback action models to come in 2020.

And boldly going  

Of all the new models that were introduced in 2019, there is one that stands out in my mind as the air pistol that achieved the most technological breakthrough, and though it did not win 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year title, it opened a door to what is possible when every accepted norm of design limitation is upended and reinvented, when the bottom line is a line that can be crossed, allowing designers to work with a clean sheet of paper. We have seen it in the recent past with the M712 Broomhandle (still a unique design that is unmatched), and we see today with the Micro Compact Sig Sauer P365. What remains now, is to remember where we were 10 years ago, and where designs like the P365 can take us in the new decade. It’s a lot to think about on the subject of air pistols, in a world that is as unpredictable as ours.

Oh, and lest we forget what significant improvements were made in double action revolvers over the last decade. Certainly the best of the best was the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 snub nose revolver with rifled barrel and pellet loading cartridges.

Innovation and authenticity can take more than one form. The gun that broke the rules by becoming the first Micro Compact to be built as a 1:1 blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine came from Sig Sauer’s remarkable Sig Air division. For the 2020s, this one lays the groundwork for smaller air pistols with full operating features and self-conation CO2 BB magazines.

In terms of size, a pistol as small as the CO2 version of the 9mm Sig P365 was not possible until Sig Air designers figured out how to make a self-contained 12 gr. CO2 BB magazine and pistol firing system smaller than ever before. It may not have ended up being the Replica Air Pistol of the Year, but for technology, it is the air pistol of the decade.

If there is a message in my ramblings, it is that we, as air pistol and airgun (air rifle) enthusiasts and collectors, are the benefactors of technology that has not only given us a second chance at our past with CO2 air pistols and rifles that were simply unimaginable in our youth, but a present that is unrivaled in the history of airgun design with true 1:1 models for serious handgun training and the leisure of sports shooting. The subtext may appear to some to be on the wrong side of history at the moment, but history is what we make it.


Dennis’ Top 5 Picks

Dennis’ Top 5 Picks

A handful of Historic CO2 models

By Dennis Adler

Back in the 1970s and 1980s Crosman was already building some authentic looking CO2 air pistols based on the then very popular Colt Python models. While long before air pistols with swing out cylinders and BB or pellet loading cartridges, these early CO2 models helped set the wheels into motion for the impressive CO2 wheelguns and semi-autos we have today. (Photo courtesy Blue Book Publications)

It is a nice August afternoon, sunny but not abusively hot, a light breeze and the perfect day to set up some paper targets in the backyard and have some fun shooting an air pistol. If that sounds far and away from my usual “this is a must have training gun” style, it’s because some days you just want to have some fun with no agenda, in fact, this is what air pistols (and air rifles) were meant for. Thanks to a very industrious airgun industry that begins with some very intriguing CO2 air pistols developed in the 1970s and 1980s by Crosman, which were copies of Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Walther models, (with a really heavy emphasis on Colt), the wheels of industry were already in motion for what we see today from Umarex, ASG, Sig Sauer, and others, who build air pistols that not only look and feel authentic, but work in much the same way as the actual centerfire pistols they are based upon.

One of the longest lived semi-auto handguns in the world, (as in still being manufactured after more than 100 years) is the Colt Model 1911, offered today in its many versions as a CO2 model. This example, based on the pre WWII 1911A1 design introduced in 1925, is sold under the Swiss Arms and Tanfoglio names. The custom weathered blued finish was done by the author. (Western 1911 holster by Garcia Bros. Spain)

We have the best of the best today in blowback action semi-autos, and while authenticity is a driving force, most of these air pistols are just plain fun to shoot. On a day like today I can say I have five, what I call “default” air pistols to pick up and shoot just for fun, to target shoot and kick some soup cans around. Some of you may have the very same air pistols, (and even for the very same reason), so here are my top five, right up to the minute.

New isn’t always number 1

Among the earliest blowback action models developed was the Colt Model 1911A1. Umarex was first out of the chute with the Commander model, which is probably a staple of almost every contemporary airgun collection, but it is an updated combat design, and as most of you who have read Airgun Experience the last few years know, I lean toward older gun designs from the early to mid 20th century, and of course, Colt and other single action revolvers from the 19th century.

Crosman was among the first airgun manufacturers to have a CO2 model based on the Colt Peacemaker, but these 21st century models from Umarex, with custom hand engraving by Adams & Adams for Pyramyd Air, are truly as authentic as an air pistol can be. The standard nickel finished 5-1/2 inch models are readily available; while the hand engraved guns are a special order.

This may limit my appeal among some readers, but to diehard old gun enthusiasts like myself, the new stuff is interesting but there’s nothing like a classic old gun that has style, character and a look that is all its own. Yeah, you can tell a Glock from a Sig, and an H&K, but they are all variations on the same formula. The same can be said for old guns, too, I suppose, but it was a lot easier to tell a Colt Peacemaker from a Smith & Wesson No. 3 American, or an 1875 Remington, and when you hit the 20th century, even a Colt double action from an S&W, and certainly a Luger or Mauser Broomhandle from anything else (other than copies of Lugers or Mausers by other gunmakers).

The 5-1/2 inch nickel Umarex Colt Peacemaker pellet cartridge model has black Colt medallion grips and is also available in a John Wayne “Duke” edition. (Holster by Garcia Bros. Spain)

Not by any small coincidence, all of the guns I am talking about exist today as CO2 models. Classics inspire, because they become timeless. If that were not true, Colt (and other armsmakers) wouldn’t still be manufacturing Single Action Army pistols and 1911 semi-auto models, S&W would have shelved its revolver designs decades ago. It is not surprising then that my number one and number two “default” airguns are the Umarex Colt Peacemaker and a Colt-based 1911. I didn’t say Umarex Colt Commander because it’s too modern, instead my 1911 go-to pistol is the Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio branded model of the c.1925 Colt 1911A1.

In my series of articles on Defarbing a 1911, I showed all the steps I went through to take a standard Swiss Arms Model 1911A1 CO2 model and refinish it to look like a well worn WWII era pistol. While it is no more accurate than any other 1911 CO2 model of this design (they are all made in the same factories for different brand names like Swiss Arms, Tanfoglio and Air Venturi), refinishing makes it look so much more authentic than the standard matte look of CO2 versions, with the exception of more modern tactical models that have the look of a Cerakote finished gun. (1911 Tanker shoulder holster from World War Supply)

They are all made in the same factories in Taiwan (even the Umarex Commander and Air Venturi John Wayne 1911). Those who have been following Airgun Experience know I did a series of articles on defarbing the Swiss Arms model and refinishing it as a weathered, battlefield worn gun that looks much more like an actual old .45 ACP model than an air pistol. If you have the time and a little skill (and I have as little as possible), it is well worth the effort to do this with a 1911 because it will become a favorite just for the look of the gun.

The place to start is with one of the most authentically designed blowback action CO2 models, like the Tanfoglio Witness 1911, which has correct c.1925 1911A1 features including the small thumb safety, spur hammer, military sights, and arched mainspring housing. Getting that finish down to the bare metal is a lot of work but when you have it done and apply an aged, hand rubbed blued finish, the end result really is worth the time and effort.

The Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio 1911A1 models also have the correct older style hammer, trigger, small thumb safety, sights, and arched mainspring housing of the 1911A1, and are all about equally accurate out to 21 feet. This is also so for CO2 models based on later designs and tactical versions of the 1911. Older is still better, if you like old.

The Peacemaker goes without saying and you can still get one in a variety of models, including an entire John Wayne series, for BBs or pellets with 5-1/2 inch barrels, (I am hoping the 7-1/2 nickel models will be back in the pipeline some day), and as a 21 foot target gun, the old fixed sights and that light, single action trigger will still have you punching bullseyes and flipping over cans Old West style.

The Peacemaker is by far one air pistol on everyone’s short list and the variety of special John Wayne “Duke” models includes this weathered finish BB cartridge model. (The classic Duke Holster and cartridge belt is by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

Even semi-autos are vintage guns when you look at their history. By the end of the 19th century German gunmakers were truly at the forefront of semiautomatic pistol design and one of the greatest semi-auto (and later select fire) pistols in history came from Mauser with the C96 Broomhandle (c.1896). There were multiple variations throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including the Model of 1932, or its more recognizable name, the Model 712, which offered an extended capacity (20-round) detachable magazine and a selective fire semi-auto/full auto switch. Of all the Broomhandle Mauser models produced, this was the gun Umarex chose to build as a CO2 powered blowback action (blowback bolt) air pistol in 2015, and since that time it has remained one of the most enjoyable airguns to shoot.

In the history of semiautomatic German firearms, which stretches back into the late 19th century, perhaps no handgun is better recognized the world over than the Broomhandle Mauser. The Umarex Legends Model 712 is one of the great modern blowback action CO2 models on the market with very authentic design, handling and operation.

While bullseye accuracy is not the 712’s strong suit, it is just pure fun to load and shoot at targets on semi-auto and with some degree of accuracy. On full auto, where you can send its total 18 rounds of .177 caliber BBs downrange in a little over a second if you don’t learn how to feather the trigger, accuracy suffers, but it is great fun to shoot. It is a masterful rework of an historic pistol and probably one of the best built CO2 pistols an enthusiast of vintage firearms could own. It will always be among my top five.

With a good hold on the magazine well you can get a sharp bead on the target and shoot some pretty tight groups with the M712 set to semi-auto. This remains my number 1 gun for summer fun target shooting outdoors. Might not be anywhere as accurate as modern-style CO2 semi-autos, but way more fun to shoot!

Revolvers have a way of making the best air pistols because they are fundamentally easier to build, can generate higher velocities, as all of the CO2 can be used for sending a BB or pellet downrange, while semi-autos have to proportion some of the CO2 for each shot to operate the slide’s blowback action; and revolvers fired single action, even if they are a double action/single action design, are inherently accurate target pistols.

Old guns, in my opinion, are more interesting to handle and shoot than modern ones, and considering that the original Webley & Scott MK VI (in .455 caliber) was designed in 1915 and remained in use through WWII, it is by far a British classic that really deserved to be made as a pellet cartridge firing CO2 model. It is also a darn accurate one at 10 meters!

There are quite a few popular models today but none as historic in its design and ease of handling and loading as the Webley MK VI, my fourth go-to gun for summer fun shooting outdoors. The Battlefield finish remains my number one choice with the Webley models for the best possible overall look of a real vintage WWI-era pistol.

And the fifth place belongs to a gun that has held a spot in my top five since it was introduced back in 2013, the CZ75 based Tanfoglio Gold Custom, which is not only still the most accurate blowback action CO2 pistol (it does require mounting optics but has the top rail included), but a remarkable bargain-priced air pistol with every possible feature, including a target trigger.

About as modern as it gets in my book for fun shooting is the best blowback action CO2 target pistol made, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. You can go overboard with a holster for this one, as I did, getting the Safariland competition rig used with the 9mm versions (which costs more than the air pistol), but for some, a really fulfilling target shooting experience is worth it. The Center Point Optics reflex sight completes the package.

These are CO2 models that I will always own. Each has its unique characteristics, abilities, weaknesses (the Tanfoglio only because you have to invest in an optical sight to complete the gun), and historic significance. Their designs span nearly 150 years of firearms manufacturing and technology, yet remain popular even to this day, and all but the Broomhandle Mauser are still manufactured as centerfire models. These five represent timeless designs that have inspired some of the best air pistols you can own, especially if you love old guns.

These are my top 5 CO2 models for summer fun shooting. They are priced from $100 to $150, great value for great shooting.


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.

The latest guns of the early 20th century were overlapping with the end of the American West as automobiles slowly began to replace horses, the electric light illuminated city streets at night, and telephones allowed the fastest means of communication. As a firearm, the Colt Model 1911 was the embodiment of those modern advancements for lawmen, the military, and civilians alike. That it overlapped the last two decades of the American West (which most historians will agree was still recognizable well into the mid 1920s), is evident in how such commonplace items as holsters adapted to the new guns without sacrificing their Western heritage. The original design of this holster dates back to 1915 and R.T. Frazier Saddlery in Pueblo, Colorado. The reproduction was made in Spain by Garcia Bros.

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, and parts of California, still had their share of rough and tumble cow towns. New Mexico and Arizona were still territories until 1912, becoming the 47th and 48th states, respectively. It took territorial legislators and a band of heroic U.S. Marshals operating out of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to bring law and order to the Oklahoma badlands before Oklahoma could achieve statehood. That took until 1907, and yet, the Oklahoma oil fields and surrounding towns were still as wild in the 1920s as they had been in 1880s and 1890s.

A similar design was worn by Texas Ranger Edwin DuBose around 1915. He was among the first Texas lawmen to begin carrying a Colt Model 1911.

Automobiles, telephones and electric lights brought conveniences, they didn’t bring civility or change the ways of men and women who had been born in the West of the late 19th century. Most of the senior lawmen of the day had honed their skills in the 1880s, and much the same could be said for the outlaws, ruffians, and miscreants of the era.

One other thing had changed, not for everyone, but for most, the types of guns that were being used. So by the 1920s, what exactly was a Western gun? The lead photo for this article answers that question to some extent.

The idea was simply to allow a modern weapon to work within the confines of contemporary gunleather. Lawmen that carried the 1911 in the early part of the century often carried a Colt Single Action revolver as well as a lever action Winchester.

We consider Tom Horn a figure of the American West, yet when he escaped from the Laramie County, Wyoming, jail in 1902 (where he was being held on a murder charge), he took Deputy Sheriff Richard Proctor’s pistol, a .32 ACP FN Model 1900 semiautomatic, and found himself essentially unarmed against his pursuers, because Horn had no idea how to work the Browning pistol, which Proctor carried with the safety set.

On the subject of Winchester lever action rifles, we are fortunate enough to have a very accurate copy of the Model 1894 from Umarex to round out late 19th and early 20th century Western guns. The model pictured is a sample of a proposed special edition with a polished and hand engraved receiver, that would be in an edition of 100 in the tradition of the famous Winchester One of One Hundred models. If this piques your interest, please write a comment.

Due to the design and manufacturing of the Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action, the only part of the gun that can be worked on is the receiver and Adams & Adams have proposed a polished finish with period Winchester engraving and borders. You can find pictures of original guns with this very same design.

When legendary 19th century frontier lawman, Bill Tilghman, was shot and killed on November 1, 1924, while serving as City Marshal of Cromwell, Oklahoma, a wild and almost lawless oil town, he was carrying a Colt Model 1908 semi-auto. His killer, Wiley Lynn, is reputed to have shot the Marshal at point blank range with a .25 ACP Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket Model semi-auto, while Tilghman was trying to arrest him. The times hadn’t changed, just the guns. Had Tilghman been carrying his Colt Peacemaker he probably would have buffaloed Lynn with the barrel of the gun, and things might have turned out differently.

This early 20th century Western lawman actually has a 9mm Luger strapped to his hip in a modified Mexican drop loop holster. Not exactly what you think of when you talk about Western guns, but sure enough, in the early 1900s lawmen were using them.

It is surprising how well a Luger fits in some types of soft leather holsters like this old style whip stitch design. The gun is an Umarex CO2 model.

By the early 1900s, even though the majority of lawmen and law breakers still carried Colt Single Actions, there were Colt and Smith & Wesson double action revolvers in use, and Colt and various European semi-autos being carried, either as a primary sidearm or a backup. One early 20th century lawman in the Southwest carried a new 9mm German Luger in a western-style holster; the Sheriff of Anadarko Oklahoma (still a territory) had among his guns a shoulder stocked Model 1896 Broomhandle Mauser semi-auto.

In the early 1900s, lawmen from Oklahoma to the Mexican border were arming themselves with the latest weaponry. Mingled with this posse’s lever action rifles and single action revolvers is a shoulder stocked Broomhandle Mauser. Look closely, it is between the top cartridge belt and one of the lever action rifles.

Like the drop loop holsters made to fit the Luger, holsters were also made to accommodate the shape of the Broomhandle Mauser. The Umarex models are so accurate in their dimensions that with the magazine removed, they will fit a holster made for a C96 model.

Of course, with the magazine removed the gun doesn’t work but it only takes a moment to insert it and make the Umarex Model 712 functional. (Pyramyd Air also sells a holster that fits the gun with the magazine attached).

And lest we forget the Single Actions that are available in CO2 like the deluxe Nimschke hand engraved model from Adams & Adams. These are much pricier than the standard 5-1/2 inch nickel models, but they make a handsome CO2 pistol.

Engraved versions of the Bear River Schofield are also offered by Pyramyd Air, making this one of the most original looking of all CO2 models.

There are four different CO2 single actions offered in authentic Colt, S&W Schofield, and Remington Model 1875 designs, including limited edition engraved guns, and both 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch Colts, the latter in several versions including John Wayne commemorative models.

So, when we say we need more western guns as CO2 models, we actually have a few more than we realize! This is not to say we still don’t need a couple of new Schofield designs from Bear River, or a 4-3/4 inch Peacemaker or 2-1/2 inch barrel Sheriff’s model from Umarex, but you might think about finding a western rig for an Umarex P.08 Luger or Model 712 Broomhandle. They, too, have histories well rooted in the American West.


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.

Getting it right and wrong at the same time, the Tanfoglio Witness 1911 is an accurate copy of the WWII era 1911A1 c. 1926 design, but with a modern matte finish and overwhelming branding on one side and warnings and manufacturer’s marks on the other. Aside from that, the Tanfoglio (which is the same gun as the Swiss Arms 1911A1 currently not available), has it almost completely right including the small thumb safety, spur hammer and lanyard loop.

More than a century compressed into four years 

CO2 models copied, not based on but actually copied, from WWI and WWII era arms, are virtually a separate category of airguns today. I have covered all of them in Airgun Experience over the last several years but here is a recap of what is available and some links to the original articles to look back for specs and performance.

Right finish, but only sold as a commemorative, the John Wayne WWII 1911A1 is a fine-looking gun with just enough weathering in the finish to appear like a 1911 that has seen some action. Commemorative 1911s are not uncommon in the centerfire world, so this John Wayne CO2 model is right as it can be.

American military arms in CO2 are the scarcest, since the two primary field weapons were the M1 Carbine and Model 1911A1 pistol. The M1 is new to the game and really rounds out the best combination of rifle and pistol. For the 1911A1, there are a couple of period designs, all but the John Wayne Commemorative, however, have modern finishes. The JW has a weathered or battlefield finish that gives the gun a little character. The Swiss Arms 1911A1 version is currently unavailable but the Tanfoglio 1911A1 is the same exact gun with the same issues of modern finish and over embellishment of makers brand and safety warnings (Another is the Remington 1911 RAC with even bigger branding and warning issues). My solution to this was covered in a series of articles on Defarbing a 1911, which gives you a lot of work to do, but ends with a very war worn 1911A1 that is good for a second look when you un-holster it.

With a lot of handwork, you can take a modern finish off a CO2 model (like this Swiss Arms 1911A1) and make it look like a well worn blued gun. All that is missing is the correct markings, which unfortunately are almost impossible to do without having them hand engraved on the gun, which is an expensive proposition. This is still a head turner even without markings, which could have been worn down over time.

The current star of WWII American military arms is the new Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. This is the standard wood grained plastic stock model. A hardwood stock is also offered.

Russian arms are a bit more plentiful in design since guns developed before WWI were still in use during WWI and even into WWII, which gives you a broadly dispersed choice in revolvers, semi-autos, and one major Russian military rifle, the Mosin-Nagant. I have covered all the variations of the Nagant Model 1895 pistols in BB and pellet-loading cartridge versions and two finishes, plus the now unavailable but beautifully built Tokarev TT-33 that was sold by Gletcher.

One of my favorite WWII Russian models is the Tokarev TT-33, which was (yes, past tense) built as a blowback action CO2 pistol by Gletcher. I didn’t care for the modern finish on the gun and this CO2 model became my first defarbing project in 2017.

I antiqued one, which has appeared in a several articles, along with the Makarov models like the PM 1951. Gletcher still has a Russian Legends line, and at the top of the order are two versions of the Mosin-Nagant, a circa 1891 cut down model with sawn off pistol grip, and the Model 1944 rifle. Both are excellent designs and have appeared in several articles over the last couple of years.

The WWII era Mosin-Nagant M1944 is manufactured by Gletcher and is a very close copy of the legendary Russian rifles. The bolt action air rifle is designed from original Mosin-Nagant plans but uses a removable box magazine (same style as the stripper clip fed integral magazine on the centerfire version) that holds CO2 and BBs. This is one of the better CO2 powered rifles made today and offers authentic operation. It is also accurate out to 10 meters.

Made by partisans during the Russian Revolution (1917) the Mosin-Nagant rifle was cut down into a concealable (under a long coat) bolt action pistol for close quarters use. The design was used in WWI and WWII as well. The Gletcher version is literally a cut down version of the 1944 model rifle. The shortened models were known in Russia as an Obrez.

Another pre-20th century design that remained in use by Russians in WWI and WWII was the Nagant revolver. A unique 7-shot design, it was one of the earliest military revolvers to be outfitted with a silencer because of its gas seal cylinder design. The Gletcher models are very authentic in design and offered in both smoothbore BB models (top) and rifled barrel pellet models (bottom). Both use cartridges. The guns also fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters.

It is the German military arms where airgun manufacturers have excelled, particularly Umarex, the parent company of Carl Walther. The Umarex Legends series has given us classic German pistols like the Walther P.38, Luger P.08, and the Mauser Broomhandle Model 712, perhaps the best blowback action pistol made for the sheer enjoyment of shooting CO2 airguns. To top off the German military line, the MP40 submachine gun allows realistic design and handling that is almost unrivaled by any modern CO2 design Carbine or select-fire arm. Umarex also has the Makarov Ultra version of the famous Russian semi-auto pistol.

Umarex has the P.08 in both the black grip (Black Widow) model and in a weathered WWII version.

Despite its stick magazine, the Umarex Walther P.38 (bottom) gets a pass for its fine polished blue black finish and accurate Walther banner markings.

If there is one masterpiece in German airgun design from Umarex it is the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712, pictured with an original C96 Broomhandle and shoulder stock holster.

Leather holsters were also made for the Broomhandle but the Model 712 demanded some extreme modifications for the extended capacity magazine. Pyramyd Air sells a reproduction of one such design to fit the CO2 version of the M712. (The Umarex Mauser is shown in the WWII finish, currently out of production.)

Fired from the shoulder, rather than this way like in the movies, the MP40 is surprisingly accurate even on full auto. Of course, recoil from .177 caliber steel BBs is a lot more manageable than 9mm cartridges!

Alas, the lofty British military arms are scarce in the CO2 world, in fact, presently there is only the Webley & Scott MK VI revolver, which is currently offered in the superior Battlefield Finish version with rifled steel barrel and pellet-loading cartridges, and the same model finished in bright polished nickel (which was not a traditional finish but was done back in the 1940s and later).

The best of the best in WWII weathered finish guns is the Webley & Scott MK VI which looks every bit as real as the actual WWII Webley at the top.

Of all the weathered finish CO2 military models, the Webley MK VI is the best for realism. There have been other weathered finishes offered as limited editions like the MP40 and M712 Broomhandle, both currently available only with standard matt finishes. We may see them again as WWII series guns, but likely not for awhile. The only weathered finish military guns remaining are the Webley, Luger P.08 and John Wayne 1911A1. When weathered finish guns come along that are appealing, buy them, because they often disappear from the market. The Umarex WWII Edition P.08 went out of production a couple of years back and is currently being offered again; this could be the last chance for that one.

The WWII period canvas holster, also sold by Pyramyd Air, adds the final touch of realism to the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI.

As you can see, there have been some impressive models in the last several years, specifically in the military arms category, which is now a real category. Hopefully this review and the links to Airgun Experience articles will allow a quick reference to finding the best of the best in CO2 models. Happy reading!

The Airgun Experience will be on a brief hiatus and return on June 11th with the first series on the new read more


My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

Out of the two dozen CO2 models I talked about this week that have been developed over the last four years, there are five that have become my absolute favorites, well seven if you count the Mini Uzi and MP40, but for practical purposes, I’m limiting this final five to handguns. The choices are obvious to those who have read Airgun Experience over the past three years, and one of these is my absolute favorite among the Colt Peacemaker, Sig WE THE PEOPLE, CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow (Blue), Tanfoglio Gold Custom and Umarex Legends Mauser M712 Broomhandle.

Having a favorite anything means you have had it for awhile, unless something comes along that is so overwhelming it surpasses everything before it. In the world of firearms that only happens once in a great while. With blowback action CO2 models based on actual centerfire guns, it can happen more often because air pistols not only have ties to the latest guns, but can just as easily be based on guns from the past; with air pistols a new gun is always interesting, but it isn’t always new. One of the best examples of this was last year’s Umarex HK USP, a gun that has been around for some time but as a new blowback action CO2 pistol really hit it out of the park. The next closest was the Umarex Glock 17, a design that has been around as a 9mm pistol since 1982. Both are great and maybe in a few years one of them will become a favorite for me, but what I consider a favorite gun has a deeper meaning.

Five Keepers

There are five CO2 pistols I consider my “absolute keepers.” These are models that I would not want to part with. Every one of them is a gun that readers picked to be my favorite of all time. Of course, “of all time” in this context is only a period of about four years, prior to that none of them existed as air pistols. But they did exist as centerfire guns, and that’s what makes these five very special.

I don’t think there is a better revolver, single or double action reproduced as a CO2 model that can outshoot an old fashioned Peacemaker. The 7-1/2 inch nickel pellet models are my favorites, and the engraved version the best of them all. My Adams & Adams hand engraved model was the prototype but every one is exactly the same. It is a lot of money to put into a CO2 Peacemaker, but those of you who purchased them know it was money well spent. (Holster by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

More people picked the Peacemaker than any other and it was a logical choice given my background. The 7-1/2 inch engraved nickel model is one of my very personal favorites because I was the one who suggested having these very authentic Umarex Colts given the same engraving treatment as the centerfire models. My 7-1/2 inch Umarex is the actual engraving prototype for the limited series of guns done for Pyramyd Air by Adams & Adams. If not for one other CO2 model that came along, the Peacemaker would be my all time favorite, but it is only one of five.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was among the first CO2 models I purchased and over the last few years it has never been outdone for overall features and accuracy by newer air pistols. If you are into target shooting, this is the CO2 pistol to own.

The gun that is my favorite has been my favorite since it came out. But first, the gun that almost knocked it out, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. I have had this model since it was introduced. It has proven to be the most accurate blowback action CO2 pistol there is. Even though a few newer guns may be more appealing, they can’t outshoot it, and that makes this very authentic copy of a championship competition pistol another of my five favorites.

A touch of blue and black makes the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow a better looking gun. These three pieces, grips and magwell, are available from Pyramyd Air as well. Fully equipped with the optics bridge the Shadow Blue was almost as accurate as another of my favorites.

The closest I came to finding a better gun than the Tanfoglio was the aftermarket customized CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow Blue. From a purely visual perspective it is one of the best-looking blowback action CO2 target pistols there is (and if you don’t like it in blue it can be done in CZ’s competition orange or red versions, but I like the almost turquoise blue anodized aluminum accessories best). It can’t quite outshoot the Tanfoglio, but it does give it a run for looks.

That leaves me with two great air pistols that I consider among the best ever. To understand my interest in these two you have to understand my motivations for selecting them. My first semi-auto handgun was a Colt Model 1911. It was an awful gun to shoot. I got rid of it after a couple of years but found myself drawn to the Model 1911’s better self, and got into customized models, the first of which I still have over 30 years later. The 1911 is the very image of the 20th century American handgun, just as the Peacemaker is for the 19th. The Sig Sauer 1911 CO2 WE THE PEOPLE represents one company’s view of that image, albeit a German company now rooted in the U.S. As 1911 CO2 models go, there simply isn’t a better 1911 than the Sig Sauer. Is this my all time favorite?

I have been a fan of the Model 1911 for decades, and Sig Sauer managed to develop a CO2 version of their WE THE PEOPLE .45 ACP that now stands as the very best blowback action 1911 model made. You need to have a taste for custom guns to appreciate the unusual finish, grips, and markings, but beyond that, it is a perfectly balanced and fully equipped 1911 with the best sights and ambidextrous thumb safeties of all CO2 1911 models.

The back story

Long before I started writing about guns I was writing about American and European Classic Cars. Over more than 30 years, beginning in 1977, I wrote thousands of magazine articles and took somewhere around 10,000 photographs, edited car magazines, and authored and photographed over 30 books on automobiles, including three very popular ones for Random House and HarperCollins. And it was the cars that got me into guns! Car collectors are also very often gun collectors and this is where it started.

Back in the late 1970s I was working as the assistant editor of Car Classics magazine for the legendary Dean Batchelor, former editor of Road & Track, and director of the Harrah Automobile Collection. I learned a lot about writing and automotive history from Dean and a few of his old friends. You might say I became there young protégé. I will always be thankful for what they taught me and for introducing me to other influential collectors. And there was one who was a gun collector.

I had an assignment to shoot a Lamborghini and it required a European looking estate for the background. One collector I had met had such a house. And after contacting him we set a day and time for me to arrive with the Lamborghini. I had previously shot a Porsche 550 Spyder there, so we weren’t strangers. Lighting is essential for outdoor photography and a bright sunny day really isn’t what you want. Light clouds to soften the sun, or just before sundown is better, and with a red Lamborghini the day’s harsh, bright sunlight put things on hold for awhile. (If I ever write a book on automotive photography, I’m calling it “Waiting for a cloud”). We decided to grab some lunch and somehow got on to the topic of guns. He collected all types of handguns but favored early (pre-war era) German pistols. When we got back to the house, the light was still not good, so I got a tour of his gun collection. What struck me first was a cabinet with guns I had only ever seen in movies. He put the very first Broomhandle Mauser I ever held into my hands. It was a Model 712, even then a very rare and expensive gun. That started me on collecting Broomhandle Mausers for the next 30 plus years. But the one I couldn’t get (did find a couple over the years and knew all the paperwork that would be involved) was a Model 712. I simply could never afford it. Every time I had enough disposable income and found another, the value had gone up proportionally and I still couldn’t afford it. I have photographed a few, handled a few, but never owned one. Then, one day Umarex introduced a CO2 version of the Model 712. I bought it, and have shot it countless times, written about it more than almost any other air pistol, and for all of the reasons I have explained, despite many newer and innovative CO2 models that I really like, the Model 712 was, is, and will always be my favorite CO2 air pistol of all time.

My all time favorite is the one gun I was never able to own as a cartridge pistol, the Mauser Model of 1932 or M712. The original C96 Broomhandle (developed in 1896) is also one of a handful of semiautomatic pistols that overlapped with the last years of the American West. Used by lawmen and outlaws alike, it is a unique gun that has its roots planted in two different centuries. As an air pistol, this is about as good as it gets, at least for me.

Reader Adventurist summed it up best when he said this was the gun I would pick: “It’s a pistol that has a very diverse and colorful history including The Old West.” It does indeed, and for this adventure, you have won the M9A3.

Thanks to everyone who participated.


My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 1

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The very first Airgun Experience was a tribute to John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist, and the limited edition Umarex Colt Peacemaker hand engraved and custom finished Shootist CO2 model. This was the beginning of an entire series of hand engraved CO2 Peacemakers in 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch barrel lengths that would be introduced in Airgun Experience articles.

This marks the 400th Airgun Experience article and over the period from No. 1 to No. 400 so many new CO2 air pistols and rifles have been introduced it becomes difficult to keep them all in comparative categories. The only real defining characteristics are magazine types, blowback or non-blowback actions (and that has to include revolvers), sights, though most are fixed sights of one type or another, and lastly, the quality of the build, fit, and finish. In most cases the differences between blowback and non-blowback semi autos covers all the rest, but not in every case and with today’s choices, that really doesn’t pare down the list all that much. So to start, let’s look back at new models introduced since Airgun Experience No. 1, which started with a new model.

The nickel finished 5-1/2 inch Peacemakers were the first fancy models, aside from early commemorative BB models like the U.S. Marshal’s Single Action. The western guns have always had a special place in Airgun Experience.

That air pistol, developed in 2016 from the 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemakers introduced the year before, was a hand-finished and engraved copy of John Wayne’s Single Actions from his final film, The Shootist and only 100 were made. They are gone now and forever in the “collectible” airgun category. But that gun did set the pace for the standards of Airgun Experience both for readers to expect and for me to live up to. With 399 articles under my belt I hope I have delivered what you have come to expect in an Airgun Experience review. And that you have come to know what it is that I like and expect in an air pistol or the occasional air rifle I might review. I’m a handgun guy and there’s no separating that from what I write and how I write it.

Sig Sauer jumped into the airgun market with rifled barrel pellet models like the P226 ASP, based on the P226 models that were made famous in the hands of U.S. Navy Seals. It was an authentic looking air pistol designed by Sig with the intention of its use as both a recreational shooting air pistol and as a training gun.

While the Sig lacked some very basic operating features for a blowback action pistol, like a slide and barrel lug interface (it was just molded into the slide), and functioning slide release (the slide could not lock back), the ruggedly built pellet model did offer a working safety decocker as one of its training features. It was a step forward in blowback action pellet pistol design and a portent of greater things to come from Sig Sauer by 2018.

What has surprised me most over the last three years has been the number of new CO2 models and the continual improvements in the authenticity of design, number 1 on my checklist, the quality of fit (“does this gun sound like it’s rattling to you?”), and finishes that don’t scream “air pistol” from 10 feet away. Of course, when it all comes together you end up with some very impressive looking CO2 models that bring a new level of responsibility with them, and that boldfaced paragraph I sometimes place at the end of an article about treating these highly authentic looking and handling air pistols with the same respect as their centerfire counterparts. That started early in the column with a couple of new Sig Sauer models in 2016, the first of which was featured in the second and third Airgun Experience articles covering the P226 ASP, a new Sig Sauer marketed blowback action, pellet-firing air pistol, the first of the ASP models, that both excited and disappointed. As a blowback action CO2 pistol it had several very neat features including a rifled barrel, working safety decocker, white dot sights, a fairly authentic trigger pull and a threaded barrel. But Sig used an economy of features to keep the price down and make the P226 ASP a basic hands-on training gun that was only good for familiarizing how the gun sighted, learning trigger control and safe handing with the safety decocker. Basic. It was a small step forward for pellet-firing CO2 pistols but functionally behind then current CO2 blowback action BB models like the Umarex Colt Commander. But it proved that Sig Sauer was in the game.

Aside from the Umarex Colt Peacemakers, the first new CO2 model that really rocked me back on my heels was the Air Venturi version of the Umarex Uzi pistol. Unlike the semi-auto only Umarex Uzi, this special version offered a real Mini Uzi-design selective fire system, making it as close to a real existing gun as any air pistol up to that time.

By the summer of 2016 I had found one blowback action CO2 pistol that would be my very first “keeper” when I reviewed the Mini Uzi select fire pistol. Going from guns like the Umarex Commander to the Uzi was like stepping through the looking glass. I had tested 9mm Mini Uzi and .22 caliber Uzi models for Combat Handguns magazine and this was as close to a real Uzi pistol as possible. It showed me, and I hope those of you who read that article in the summer of 2016, that the future of CO2 blowback action pistols was about to change from the simplistic to the outrageous.

Much as I like Model 1911 Colts and 1911 variations for competition shooting, I have always had a preference for the CZ 75 based Tanfoglio Gold Custom 9mm competition pistols (which have been in the hands of world champion shooters for years) and when the CO2 version was introduced and actually fit the Safariland Tanfoglio Gold Custom competition rig, I was sold on the CO2 model as another keeper. Even the CO2 BB magazines work with the competition rig’s mag pouches. This remains the most accurate (properly fitted with optics) CO2 blowback action BB pistol on the market.

All of the essential features of the 9mm model have been perfectly duplicated from the slide serrations to grip profile and alloy grips, and thumb safeties making the Tanfoglio Gold Custom the best competition training gun made today.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was also reviewed that summer and as the top level 9mm CZ 75-based competition pistol it was an equally impressive and accurate blowback action CO2 BB model that has maintained its position as the most accurate blowback action BB pistol on the market. Given all that has come, that is quite an impressive accomplishment for one of the earlier CO2 models. The Tanfoglio Custom Limited with adjustable sights followed, but did not stay around long enough to do anything but whet a lot of appetites for a Tanfoglio that didn’t require optics. If that gun ever comes back, there is a waiting list of CO2 owners who missed out on what was one of the very best CO2 pistols of the last three years.

One thing I have never grown out of is dressing the part with western guns. Helps to have been doing Guns of the Old West magazine for over a decade, but when the CO2 Peacemakers came out, especially the nickel 7-1/2 inch pellet cartridge-loading models with rifled barrels, they quickly found their way not only into Airgun Experience but Guns of the Old West as well. The CO2 Peacemakers cut their own niche into the airgun world and despite no new models (like a proper 2-1/2 inch barrel Sheriff’s Model), they remain the best Single Action air pistols made.

In the very near future you will be able to custom order your own Peacemaker from Pyramyd Air with your personal choice of finishes, combinations of finishes, and barrel lengths (5-1/2 or 7-1/2 inch). Stay tuned for more on this one.

The summer of 2016 also saw the beginning of an evolution in wheelguns. With the 5-1/2 inch and 7-1/2 inch rifled barrel Peacemakers, Umarex had established the BB and pellet cartridge as a new standard for revolvers.

ASG and its licensed Dan Wesson models got off to a good but not entirely accurate beginning in 2016 with both BB and pellet-cartridge firing models with smoothbore and rifled barrels. The grip frame, however, was closer to the Umarex 327 TRR8 and used a S&W-style cylinder release.

Within a year’s time ASG had added a new and very proper DW Model 715 with the correct crane cylinder release and superior hard rubber combat grips. The unique finish changed colors from deep blue black (outdoors) to a silver grey under different lighting.

Umarex and ASG were leading the parade, the latter with its first Dan Wesson models, which were nice but not authentic to the original Daniel B. Wesson II designs. ASG would follow up in 2017 with a truly bona fide 6-inch Model 715 with the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch, a rifled barrel and pellet-loading cartridges. This became the all-time best CO2 double action revolver, along with the 2-inch snub nose version that, in the estimation of many Airgun Experience readers, is the best CO2 revolver ever. And it has not been surpassed thus far.

The hottest ASG Dan Wesson came almost a year after the 6-inch version with a 2-inch nickel snub nose, pellet-cartridge model that is not only the best looking of the DW CO2 models but the Number 1 revolver training gun on the market. Another absolute keeper.

By the end of summer 2016 I had found that Umarex was delivering more new guns than ever and each was a benchmark in its own right with the Beretta 92A1 select-fire pistol, which combined two actual Beretta models into one gun, making the CO2 92A1 a bit of an anomaly for authenticity but one heck of an exciting blowback action air pistol to shoot. The 92A1 had the look and feel of a 9mm pistol, a more robust blowback action and of course, semi-auto and full auto fire. It also matched the current Beretta 92 series design, making it a truly up-to-the-minute pistol in most respects. The other great new model of 2016 was really quite unexpected; but first the back story.

Authenticity of style, fit, and finish, were all combined in what remains the most exciting Beretta CO2 model you could own, the 92A1, a virtual 1:1 of the 9mm version with the added option of a Beretta 93R-based selective-fire system.

I had seen a plastic Broomhandle Mauser semi-auto air pistol in the Umarex booth at the 2015 Shot Show and I had remarked, “too bad they didn’t do it in metal.” There were some restrained smiles from the Umarex folks and a, well you never know. The next summer I knew, we all knew. Umarex had launched a new Legends model, the Mauser Model 712 select-fire Broomhandle, an all-metal blowback action pistol that again reset the mark for what is considered an impressive air pistol. With the M712 added, the select fire air pistol world was getter better and better. There were three options, the Mini Uzi, The Beretta 92A1 and the Mauser M712. Each was unique in its design and history and as authentic as any airguns available at the time.

I have always had a passion for the legendary Mauser Broomhandle pistols, most of which, while expensive, are not hard to obtain in very good to excellent condition, despite most being 100 years old. The one that is hard to find and harder still to afford, is the Model 1932 select-fire pistol, or as it is also known, the Model 712.

When Umarex introduced the M712 select-fire Broomhandle they did it about as right as they could, making it so authentic that original Broomhandle shoulder stocks fit the air pistol!

Umarex also had another ace up its sleeve (and no, not the Legends Ace Single Action, with all due respect to Expendables fans) but rather a semi-auto so authentic in design that by the end of 2016 a few law enforcement agencies were trying them out for recruit and remedial training exercises, the S&W M&P40. It has been around just long enough to be an established benchmark that other CO2 models try to beat, and in fact by 2018 that was accomplished by three new semi-autos, which we will discuss a little later.

CO2 training guns are not new, but Umarex began perfecting the concept for law enforcement with the S&W licensed M&P40. The Military & Police model is so authentic that it can interchange with M&P40 duty gear and accessories. It also field strips exactly the same making it a total training gun for law enforcement agencies that carry the M&P pistols. And Umarex and S&W didn’t miss a thing, the CO2 model comes with three backstraps so it can be adapted to various hand sizes, essential for serious training with an air pistol.

These Pennsylvania Sheriffs carry the M&P 40 and train indoors with the CO2 models to keep up handling proficiency and lower the cost of live ammo (.40 S&W) range training, while still seeing accuracy results on paper 21 feet downrange. The CO2 model and its magazines fit the officer’s centerfire Level 3 duty holsters and spare magazine pouches.

We still have another 2016 introduction to revel in. While Umarex was asserting itself, Sig Sauer was testing the waters, ASG was belting out an authentic CZ 75 semi-auto and multiple Dan Wesson models one of the oldest airgun manufacturers in the world was revisiting its own history, Webley & Scott Ltd.

Remember the Tanfoglio Gold Custom? This is where it comes from, the CZ 75. ASG introduced a very realistic CO2 version of the classic DA/SA hammer-fired 9mm pistol that uses identical self-contained CO2 BB magazines with the 9mm model’s extended base pad. This is one of the most overlooked and underrated CO2 models on the market and one that every serious air pistol collector should own.

Rule Britannia. England has produced some of the finest and most rugged handguns in history and one of the longest lived and famous is the Webley MK VI. Webley & Scott entered the airgun market decades ago but in the past few years have brought forth something uniquely their own, the MK VI CO2 models. The current offerings have rifled steel barrels, pellet-loading cartridges, and either nickel or weathered Battlefield finishes.

Webley started out by introducing a BB cartridge loading model of the famous WWI and WWII British .455 caliber sidearm, the MK VI. While as authentic as any military copy could be (since they used the blueprints from the cartridge guns to design the air pistol) the MK VI was another check in an amazing year for CO2 models. What was missing was a rifled barrel version (which was already on sale in Europe) and the U.S market got that in doubles with nickel finish and weathered Battlefield finish rifled barrel pellet-firing models in late 2017.

The Battlefield finish MK VI is the most authentic looking of the current models. Nickel guns were rarely made and most were plated after the fact. The Battlefield adds just enough wear to look like a pistol that has seen the elephant.

In Part 2 we continue looking at the best new CO2 models, but first, something you all need to know! Thursday’s Part 2 will conclude my review of all the best guns I have tested since 2016, and in Saturday’s Part 3 conclusion, I will reveal my all-time favorite. Everyone who reads Airgun Experience on Tuesday and Thursday has a chance to win a brand new Umarex Beretta M9A3 by posting a comment with the gun they think I will pick on Saturday. This needs to be in the comments section before  read more