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

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 Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 semi-auto in both black and bi-tone versions, vs. the actual 9mm XDM 3.8 models!

DPMS vs. MP40

DPMS vs. MP40

Can an historic automatic subgun rival a modern AR-based SBR?

By Dennis Adler

With almost 80 years separating these two designs it is impressive that they still bear so much in common. The German MP40 was one of the most successful submachine guns of its time and remained in use for decades after WWII. The DPMS is among the more recent SBR designs based on the Vietnam-era M16, but in a modernized M14 version with collapsible stock, short barrel, and quad rails. However, when you get down to the skin and bones, they are both the same fundamental idea. Choosing one over the other in CO2 is really a matter of preferences for vintage or modern military designs.

Recreating the MP40 as a blowback action CO2 model with full auto firing capability gave the Umarex Legends series a second superstar for vintage military arms enthusiasts to enjoy. An original WWII-era MP40 would be cost prohibitive for most firearms enthusiasts, as well requiring a Class III firearms license to own, while the CO2 model, which joined the Umarex Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 as a second vintage select-fire airgun design, provides as much authenticity as possible at a mere fraction of the cost for an original. The Crosman DPMS Panther SBR is a modern counterpart to the MP40 and like original WWII guns, a new centerfire DPMS SBR is also expensive and requires special permissions and expenses to own. But these two have more in common than ownership restrictions for their centerfire counterparts, even as CO2 models they are counterparts in the theory of their design and operation. Like the DPMS compared to the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine, there is that same generation gap that makes the vintage arms so much more appealing. Only here, these guns are on a truly equal footing.

Sizing up past and present

The Umarex MP40 looks very close to the 9x19mm models but there are a few quick visual tells, particularly with the open bolt which does not travel as far back nor allow the bolt to lock up into the rear notch as a manual safety like the originals. The CO2 model’s bolt channel is also shorter, although the notch for the bolt lock is still there. The other quick tell is the added selector and safety switch, on the underside of the foregrip, since the WWII guns were not select fire, only full auto. Beyond that, at a glance the Umarex looks very much like a real 9x19mm WWII era MP40, particularly the WWII version’s weathered finish (currently not available). And since the Bakelite pistol grip and foregrip of the original guns were molded plastic, the polymer pistol grip and foregrip on the Umarex look authentic enough.

In overall length the MP40 measured 32.8 inches with the stock extended, 24.8 inches with the metal stock folded, and weighed in at 8 pounds 13.8 ounces empty. Barrel length measured 9.9 inches. The Umarex is very accurate in these details and no lightweight at 7 pounds, 14 ounces empty. The air rifle’s overall length with the stock extended is 32.75 inches and 24.5 with the stock folded. The smoothbore .177 caliber barrel is 9.0 inches and recessed inside a correct length 9.9 inch outer barrel with a full size muzzle. Overall, more than close enough considering the number of different factories that built MP40s during WWII.

Means to an end, the stock on the MP40 folds under the receiver when stowed, the stock on the DPMS collapses and can be set in three lengths of pull for user preferences. As CO2 models the MP40 has a significant advantage over the DPMS with a 52 shot magazine versus the Panther SBR’s 25 rounds. Both are very easy to load with large loading ports and followers you can easily pull down and hold.

The DPMS is a very modern counterpart to the WWII MP40, especially in size.  With an overall length 30.4 inches with the stock extended, and 26.6 inches in length collapsed, the DPMS is a little over 2 inches longer than the MP40 with stock folded and 2 inches shorter with the stock extended. The big difference is in length of pull (distance from the back of the shoulder stock to the trigger) since the trigger and pistol grip is further to the rear on the MP40. With the stocks extended it is 15.125 inches for the DPMS (which is adjustable) while the MP40 is a much shorter 12.375 inches. And last is the weight difference with the polymer and alloy DPMS tipping the scale at 6 pounds, 8 ounces, versus the all metal (alloy) MP40 at 8 pounds, 13 ounces.

Since both CO2 BB magazines use two 12 gr. CO2 cartridges, magazine weight and capacity are also a factor. The MP40 has a massive capacity of 52 rounds due to its overall length of 10 inches, versus 25 rounds in the DPMS mag which is 7-inches long. The magazines weigh 1 pound, 5.5 ounces and 1 pound, 9 ounces, respectively.

The CO2 designs are totally different with the MP40 using two CO2 cartridges inserted back to back in a polished stainless air chamber that holds the CO2 charge after both cartridges are pierced and all of the air released into the magazine chamber. The DPMS seats the pair of CO2 cartridges side by side with separate seating screws and a small air chamber above to feed CO2. It is easier to load CO2 into the MP40 magazine.

CO2 Operation

The Umarex Legends MP40 is a ground breaking design in several ways, one of which is boosting power for this blowback action open bolt design by using a dual sealed CO2 chamber inside the magazine, which is similar to the inside the shoulder stock CO2 loading system for the Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action and new Ruger 10/22 semi-auto. The elongated seating screw in the base of the magazine has its own piercing pin and O-Ring seal, so when the screw is tightened down, the entire polished chamber inside the magazine is pressurized to operate the gun. The twin CO2 chambers on the DPMS are a different design with separate seating screws for each CO2 feeding into a combined air chamber inside the magazine.

Velocity is the next comparison, with the MP40’s dual CO2 driving steel BBs down the 9-inch smoothbore internal barrel at an average 455 fps, versus the DPMS which shoots its steel rounds at 419 fps through a 10.25 inch smoothbore barrel.

Historically, the 9mm MP40 was full auto and the only way to shoot fewer rounds was to learn how to feather the trigger. The CO2 model offers the option of a selector switch hidden on the underside of the receiver. With two red dots exposed the gun is on full auto. Push it forward to one dot and the mechanism sets to semi-auto, push it all the way forward and the gun is on SAFE. The DPMS uses an M16 style selector that rotates from full auto, as shown, up to semi-auto, and around to SAFE (facing opposite of full auto). The DPMS selector is faster to operate, though the selector on the MP40 is easy to set in one of its three click stop positions.

Loading and shooting on full auto

The MP40 has a follower that is easy to hold down and a loading port that allows you to easily pour Bs into the channel. The same is true for the DPMS, which also has a speed loader that holds the follower down if you want to run the BBs in even quicker. Once the magazines are inserted in the mag wells, pull the bolt on the MP40 to chamber the first round and the charging handle on the DPMS.

While the DPMS uses an AR-style safety and selector on the left side of the lower receiver, the MP40 CO2 model is fitted with a discretely hidden manual safety and selector on the underside of the receiver. (The WWII guns had a bolt locking safety and were full auto only, so no selector switch was required). The added safety/selector on the CO2 model is large enough to easily operate without have to search for it or turn the gun over, but still completely out of sight. The large checkered magazine release button on the left side of the receiver is pushed in firmly to release the drop free CO2 BB magazine for a reload (extra magazines are a must). Same for the DPMS which has a right side mag release only (centerfire guns are ambidextrous).

The MP40’s reciprocating bolt action imparts a slight sense of recoil, but has zero effect on shooting accuracy, much like the DPMS which actually runs a little quieter than the MP40.

The MP40 at 21 feet shoots pretty much to POA with the front sight at the bottom of the red dot. Total spread for 25 rounds (to be equal to what the DPMS can shoot) was 2.437 inches.

The sights on the MP40 are large, easy to pick up and get on target at 25 feet, which with the 9-inch barrel will keep rounds pretty tightly grouped on target. Trigger pull on the test gun averaged a modest 7 pounds, 5.2 ounces with 0.25 inches of travel, light stacking toward the end and a clean break. It takes a full let off to reset on semi-auto. On full auto, pull the trigger and keep the gun on target. With its overall weight, very light recoil, and barrel length, you can maintain a remarkably tight pattern with burst firing. The folding iron sights on the DPMS are also easy to get on target, but as noted in the DPMS review, the gun has a very heavy trigger pull at 10 pounds, 6 ounces. It is, however, a very consistent, single stage trigger and as you pull through, about one third of the way, there is a definite felt and audible click, then heavy pull until it breaks. It isn’t progressive (stacking) it is just a long, hard, single stage pull that has almost no change from shot to shot. On full auto there are two distinctive clicks as you pull through, then the same resistance and pull through to auto fire that allows you to easily shoot short bursts, release, and fire again with absolute consistency. It is heavy, but nonetheless a very good trigger for this type of blowback action, select-fire air rifle. The MP40 is just a little less demanding of your trigger finger.

For the shoot off, selectors were set to full auto and tests done with stocks extended and firing from the shoulder in short bursts 21 feet out from the target. The weight of the MP40 combined with the short length of pull, keeps the gun close to the body yet the sight radius is long enough (16 inches, compared to 13.5 inches on the DPMS with a longer length of pull) to give you a sharp sight picture downrange. With the lighter trigger pull and smooth reciprocating bolt action, the MP40 is pretty easy to hold on target with short bursts of five (6 to 10 rounds).

At 21 feet, I loaded the MP40 with only 25 rounds to keep it even with the DPMS. My series of short bursts put all 25 shots into a spread of 2.437 inches aiming at a red dot I placed below the A in the A-Zone of an IPCS silhouette target. My first shot group (about five or six rounds) hit at the bottom of the red dot measuring 0.45 inches and burst fire spread out from there as I held my POA. There is another 5-shot group that hit below POA at 0.5 inches, so groups of individual bursts were all pretty tight. I think this is about as good as this gun can get from the shoulder on auto fire.

The DPMS shot a little low at 21 feet and POA had to be corrected up 2-inches. Then I came in a little high but the gun put its 25 shots into the A-Zone with a spread of 2.375 inches, just slightly better than the MP40, and with one impressive solid burst of at least 10 rounds that punched into 0.625 inches.

I repeated the test with the DPMS unloading 25 rounds into another IPSC target from 21 feet, and it gave me a spread of 2.375 inches with one solid burst of at least 10 rounds that punched into a concentrated circle measuring 0.625 inches.

Round for round, the tightness of the groups between the MP40 and DPMS are pretty close, with a slight edge toward the modern DPMS AR design, which snugs up as firmly as the old WWII subgun, but doesn’t have as crisp a sight picture, nor does it shoot to POA as well, actually hitting a little low, requiring a 2-inch hold over above the red dot to keep shots close to the A in the A-Zone.

For me, I like the feel of the old war horse over the modern AR design, and the accuracy is not much of a trade off, though it is hard to beat a shot group on full auto that punches out a section of the target. I give the overall win to the DPMS, but I’m still keeping the MP40.

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.




My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was one of the big hits from Umarex in 2017.
The CO2 version of the full auto 9mm WWII submachine gun allows semi-auto fire as well as full auto, making it much more CO2 and BB friendly. The self-contained CO2 BB magazines use a pair of 12 gram CO2 cartridges. It doesn’t hurt accuracy, either.

When you have a veritable history of American and European firearms recreated today in .177 caliber BB and 4.5mm pellet firing airguns, everything from selective fire pistols like the Mini Uzi, Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and WWII German MP40, to state-of-the-art semi-autos like the Glock 17 and legendary guns from the American West, like the Colt Peacemaker, finding one gun that raises the bar or hits your “must have” list, is like going to a premier firearms auction with the determination that no matter how many guns catch your eye, you are only going home with one. And so we begin Part 2 back in 2017.

The MP40 is also pretty accurate at 25 feet fired semi-auto or even full auto.

If there was one model that raised eyebrows and opened wallets that year, it was the Umarex Legends MP40 submachine gun. This was as much of a surprise as the M712 Mauser; Umarex was digging deeply into German gun making history once again and coming up with another out of the chute winner for military arms enthusiasts. The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was a reworked version of the MP38 designed to be less expensive and time consuming to manufacture for wartime use. Its pioneering construction relied on welded and sheetmetal stamped parts compared to its more precision-built MP38 predecessor, which utilized mostly machined parts. Welded and stamped parts became the foundation for many later military weapons, including the Uzi, which used a similar manufacturing technique. With the select-fire CO2 MP40 (the actual WWII guns were full auto only), the CO2 Mauser M712 had a worthy WWII companion and military airgun enthusiasts another big choice. The MP40 was later followed up with a weathered WWII version which looks even more realistic and made an interesting counterpart not only to the WWII edition M712 (now out of production) but the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI, the only one of the three still currently available.

Around the same time Webley introduced the Battlefield finish MK VI (pictured), Umarex added a weathered finish MP40 version, giving the gun an even more authentic look. Military airgun enthusiasts were having a field day. Presently, the weathered MP40 is not available, so if you purchased one, you have another keeper.

Early in 2017 Sig Sauer took its next big step forward with the P320 ASP, which, while still carrying forth the company’s same conservative approach to molding in features that would not serve any functional purpose on the CO2 model, did introduce an innovative rotary pellet firing mechanism that in itself revolutionized the blowback action pellet pistol market.

The Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the first semi-automatic .177 caliber air pistol to use a rotary belt-fed magazine. Designed to look and feel like the P320 centerfire pistol, the ASP’s weight and trigger pull were nearly identical offering recreational shooters, professionals and competitive shooters a training tool to easily hone their shooting skills at reduced costs.
The most interesting feature of the Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the 20-round rotary belt-fed magazine, giving it the highest capacity of any pellet-firing semi-auto CO2 pistol.

By early 2018 there was another rising star among CO2 blowback action pistols, the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow. This new blowback action version was based on the original centerfire CZ-75 Shadow model introduced in 2011 and variations of the Shadow through the SP-01 Shadow (built by the CZ Custom Shop) and the latest SP-01 Shadow II models.

The differences between the early CO2 CZ-75 design and SP-01 Shadow are quite evident when seen together. The newer frame has a completely different contour and integrated 1913 Picatinny rail and the later SP-01 triggerguard design. The pistol also has improved combat rear and red fiber optic front sights, skeletonized hammer, elongated ambidextrous thumb safeties and a larger slide release.
The 9mm version of this gun has a magazine with an 18 round capacity while the Shadow uses the same 17-round BB mags as the standard CZ-75. The gun fits the ASG Strike Systems holster, which is identical to Level 2 duty holsters for the 9mm CZ SP-01 Shadow.

ASG began offering updates to the CO2 model (an interesting first) with accessories based on the Shadow 2 competition “Black & Blue” (updated from the original SP-01 Shadow Blue and Shadow II), with the same alloy grips and an extended magwell, in the same anodized blue finish as the 9x19mm models. Pyramyd Air also began offering this first step upgrade. ASG also added matching alloy blue anodized base pads and a blue anodized aluminum optics mount, making the SP-01 a very close rival for the CZ 75 inspired Tanfoglio Gold Custom CO2 model in looks and in accuracy. This Blue version quickly became another keeper.

The Shadow Blue is an upgrade to the standard SP-01 by replacing the grips and adding the magwell. The parts are blue anodized aluminum and available from Pyramyd air.
Other upgrades for the SP-01 include blue anodized aluminum base pads and a matching Picatinny rail mounted optics platform (only available from Stampede Airsoft). This put the gun on an almost even footing with the Tanfoglio Gold Custom.
Fitted with optics, (the Shadow with a fairly pricey Styrka green dot and the Tanfoglio with a Walther MRS reflex sight) these are two of the most accurate blowback action BB pistols you can own. They’re not too bad to look at either!

The previous year had seen Sig Sauer stumble with two stick magazine fed 1911 models based on their specialized Sig 1911 models, the Spartan and Max Michel. Both were nice entry-level 1911-based CO2 blowback action models, but with separate CO2 compartments and stick magazines they fell flat with a lot of Airgun Experience readers who were expecting a great deal more from Sig Sauer. In 2018 they got it, with a new 1911 model that broke the mold for 1911 air pistols, the WE THE PEOPLE.

Sig went the distance for this one, an exact copy (except for white lettering to indicate caliber on the left and small letter warnings on the right) of the .45 ACP Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE pistol. The centerfire gun and CO2 model have the same weathered finishes, unique star grips, and stampings. By far, the most accurate to a centerfire model 1911 air pistol there is. I have to say “1911” because things went really over the top authentic by the end of 2018 for another blowback action CO2 model.

This was a 1911 model based on Sig’s own .45 ACP custom version, which was so detailed, that without close examination, seeing the small white lettering on the right side of the slide and frame, looking down the barrel, or being so versed in the design to notice the absence of an ejector hole on the back of the slide, was otherwise indistinguishable from the centerfire gun. The Sig WTP became just about everyone’s keeper if they wanted true authenticity to an actual cartridge-firing counterpart (if you like guns with wild custom finishes and grips), and one of the most accurate 1911 blowback action CO2 models on the market.

If Sig had not used white lettering, it would be almost impossible to tell one from the other.
Sig went so far as to duplicate all of the markings, sight design, lowered and flared ejection port and external extractor arm (rare on 1911s except custom models). They also kept the white lettering to a minimum on the frame.

The middle of 2018 was really beginning to look up and Sig Sauer was taking the lead in best new guns. Sig had previewed a new blowback action CO2 pellet-firing model in the summer, based on the U.S. military’s new standard issue sidearm, the P320/M17. That new M17 ASP CO2 model, with an improved rotary pellet firing mechanism and self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, an actual slide and barrel lug interface, ambidextrous thumb safeties, white dot sights, and field stripping capability, captured the spotlight and left air pistol enthusiasts waiting until almost the end of the year for first deliveries. However, the gun did not disappoint and went on to win the 2018 Replica Air Pistol of the Year title. Meanwhile, Umarex also weighed in with two new models late in the year that were simply going to be game changers.

Sig Sauer pretty much owned 2018 by the time the P320/M17 ASP came out late in the year. As close to the 9mm military M17 as possible, the new CO2 model pioneered the use of a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine for semiautomatic blowback action air pistols. Also note the absence of white lettering. 
To achieve this military-based design, the fact that the 9mm models for U.S. servicemen have extended capacity magazines, allowed Sig to use the longer magazine design to house the long CO2 and pellet magazine combination.

The first was a new blowback action CO2 model based on an older Heckler & Koch design, the USP. In terms of authenticity of design, this gun now rivaled the Sig Sauer WTP in every way, and was very close to edging the Sig M17 ASP out of the year’s number one spot, but the innovative self-contained CO2 pellet magazine pushed it just over the line.

Umarex came back late in 2018 with two new benchmark guns, first the Heckler & Koch USP, which is a 1:1 copy of the 9mm model that fits all HK USP holsters. The CO2 BB magazines are also correct in size and fit in the standard 9mm magazine pouches.
Full field stripping was the final touch to the USP that made it a leading candidate for 2018’s top gun of the year, and another absolute keeper.

During 2018 Umarex decided to enter a new market with an air pistol that had never been made by forging a relationship with Glock. But before the Umarex Glock 17 (3rd Model) was released, Umarex fired a shot across the bow of other airgun manufacturers with a lower-priced, non-blowback action, stick magazine version of the Glock 19 Compact.

The gun that impressed, although it did almost nothing, was the Umarex Glock 19, a non-blowback pistol with a cleverly disguised stick magazine. What it did do, was become the very first Glock air pistol from a company that doesn’t lend its name or image easily. The Umarex Glock arrangement was groundbreaking and the attention to the smallest details in this entry-level airgun was more than impressive. It also paved the way for the first Glock blowback action model that came at the very end of 2018.

To everyone this seemed to be a disappointing decision, but was actually a hint at what was coming a few months later. For a low-priced, non-blowback, the G19 CO2 was magnificently constructed with more detail than most blowback action pistols, the kind of detail that could only be achieved with individual parts, not molded-in pieces. In addition, Umarex had managed to preserve the look of a centerfire Glock pistol by eliminating any white lettering from the gun except the model designation tastefully placed on the right side of the barrel lug. It was priced for entry-level BB gun buyers who could not imagine Glock ever making or allowing to be made, a CO2 version. The company wouldn’t even build a .22 LR model. So the ice had been broken and at a very reasonable price leaving more gun savvy buyers to ask where the blowback action model was.

There is almost no way to fault the Umarex Glock 17, a blowback action CO2 model with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and no external compromises in fit or finish, no white lettering anywhere, and the only hint of not being a 9mm was the absence of the caliber stamping.

The Glock 17 blowback action CO2 pistol just got in under the wire for 2018 with a design that was, in a word often used by Glock, “Perfection.” A short recoil design that could not be field stripped, it traded that feature for providing an impressive average velocity of 376 fps with a high of 395 fps. Numbers you don’t normally see from a blowback action pistol. The Glock 17 would have been 2018’s top gun but lost out for its only design compromise, not being able to fieldstrip like the rest of the top blowback action models.

Everything was done right and the CO2 model copied the centerfire pistol’s dimensions perfectly, allowing it to work in the Blackhawk Serpa Level 2 concealment holster. It is a CO2 version of Glock Perfection with one small detail. The gun cannot be field stripped.
My proof of perfect dimensions was taking the Glock GTL tactical light and laser from my centerfire pistol and slipping on to the CO2 model. As they say at Glock, “Perfection.”

There were some other great models that came out including another Sig Sauer, the P226 ASP X-Five, which couldn’t quite outpace the P320/M17 for overall features, but proved to be a more accurate gun for target shooters. There was also the groundbreaking Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action Rifle with CO2 BB cartridges and about as realistic a lever gun that ever used CO2 instead of gun powder. A handful of other updates from Umarex filled out the calendar, but these were the best of the best. And that was how last year ended up.

Just when it seemed Umarex had done all it could to make 2018 a memorable year they added one more gun, a fully working, BB or pellet cartridge-loading lever action rifle based on the famous Winchester Model 1894 design, giving their superb Peacemaker models a real companion rifle that uses the same cartridges.

For 2019 the new models are coming more slowly but it will take something quite extraordinary to top the first completely new model of the year, the Springfield Armory XDM 4.5, simply the most perfect blowback action CO2 pistol made thus far. If it gets any better than that this year (and I think it very well might), 2019 will end up marking the greatest turning point in the short but extraordinary history of blowback action CO2 airguns.

How could you top 2018? Air Venturi and Springfield Armory found the way, with the first Springfield Armory CO2 air pistol, a 1:1 duplicate of their centerfire XDM 4.5 and like the Umarex Glock 17, there are no white letter tells. Better still, the XDM 4.5 is a fully field strippable blowback action model. At the moment, the most authentic to a centerfire model air pistol in the world. The gun at the bottom is the CO2 model.
Every detail of the air pistol is flawlessly matched, as much as a CO2 pistol design can allow, right down to what is the best looking CO2 BB magazine ever made.
This is the gun to beat in 2019.

All of this has transpired in a little more than three years, making it hard for airgun enthusiasts to buy everything that looks good when every next gun to come along has even more appeal, especially for those who want as much authenticity in their CO2 pistol as possible. The burning question, however, is “what among all of these great choices is the one gun that has become my all time favorite CO2 pistol?”  I’ll reveal that answer and the reasons why on Saturday.

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 midnight Friday. You can only enter once and you have to post your comment no later than 12 midnight this Friday. The first person to guess the gun I’ll pick wins the Beretta! I have to applaud those of you who boldly made your choices before reading Thursday’s Part 2, and some of you even guessed which guns would be in Part 2. But has anyone guessed the gun?  We’ll find out Saturday.

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!

In the “so well done” category are two WWII era CO2 models that look as authentic and as aged as their centerfire counterparts, the remarkably authentic Battlefield Finish Webley MKVI revolver, manufactured by Webley (about as real as it gets in vintage era airguns) and the equally impressive Umarex MP40 submachine gun with weathered finish. These two are the best weathered finish CO2 models made.

The weathered finished on current CO2 models became popular with the first Colt Peacemaker special editions like the John Wayne 5-1/2 inch and later John Wayne Model 1911. There were also some earlier limited models like the U.S. Marshall Colt Peacemaker. These caught the attention of airgun collectors and eventually led to a number of weathered finish models from Umarex, including current special edition Peacemakers. But when we get to WWI and WWII era guns, the choices are far more varied and once again that “fine” condition rating becomes appropriate for models like the Luger P.08 Parabellum, Mauser Model 712, the MP40 submachine gun, and Webley MKVI revolver, as well as the Model 1911, which all constitute a sub category of CO2 models just for weathered or Battlefield Finish guns.

King among the blowback action WWII semi-auto pistols, the Umarex Legends Mauser M712 select-fire Broomhandle is almost as authentic as the Webley and MP40 but leans a little heavy on the black aged finish (rather than a faded blued finish) as does the Umarex WWII Edition Luger P.08 Parabellum. Even still, they are far more eye appealing in an historic sense with their weathered finishes than the standard models.

The court of appeal

What really draws us to old guns with worn finishes when they are reproductions and not the originals? Few would pick a 60 percent or less condition gun over an 80 to 95 percent condition gun, and the main reason is that condition is more than finish, it is also mechanical, and that is the appeal for CO2 models, they are perfectly functioning new guns that have the look of battle tested old guns without the mechanical infirmities that lesser condition actual WWI and WWII guns often suffer. Catalogs often state, “Mechanically fine” with comments about issues such as “cylinder doesn’t lock” or “trigger needs work” and other mechanical problems that may or not be repairable.

The Webley MKVI is so well done that at a glance it is almost hard to tell it from a real WWII era MKVI (top). The CO2 model’s construction is based on the original MKVI blueprints. If I were buying only one WWII era revolver as a CO2 model, this would have to be it. The Battlefield Finish MKVI also has a rifled barrel so it shoots 4.5mm pellets, not BBs.

Now here’s a little bit of finish trivia. The Civil War era Starr double action revolver pictured in the lead photo is not 158 years old. It is about 10 years old. It was originally a brand new Pietta Starr black powder revolver manufactured in Italy. This 100 percent authentic reproduction chambered in .44 caliber was completely stripped of its blued finish and antiqued to appear as an original Civil War era gun with a well worn and aged patina. The sample for this process was then proofed at an antique arms show, where it was inspected by a number of firearms appraisers and judged to be an actual old Starr revolver from the Civil War era. Of course, everyone was let in on the secret after the fact, but it had passed through the hands of some very credible firearms appraisers unscathed by its true identity. This speaks to the authenticity of the Pietta reproduction and the art of refinishing a new gun to look old and authentic.

So, this 158 year-old Starr double action revolver is actually a professionally defarbed and aged Italian copy manufactured in Italy by Pietta. This one has had many a gun collector shaking their heads over the years since it was hand-finished and aged by the great Robert L. Millington. Now retired, (so no point in asking how to get ahold of him), Millington recreated some of the finest 19th century Colt, Remington, and Civil War-era handguns both as new finish and antique models. Imagine what he could have done with the current crop of authentic CO2 models!

This gun had been antiqued by a professional, which is fine so long as it is never really passed off or sold as an original. It was even used in the Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale as an example of a 60 percent condition Civil War era revolver. What makes these so popular today is that one might be hesitant to load an actual 158 year-old gun and fire it, and that’s the beauty of this gun, and many others like it today, they are made of tougher stuff than the originals and they are only old on the outside. These are desirable for movies and television and to collectors who like authentic looking “holster stuffers.” The desirability of aged guns, however, has translated remarkably well to the airgun industry giving collectors a choice between a modern airgun finish and one with a worn, blotchy, faded patina.

Aging an air pistol can be hard work as I explained in my “Defarbing a 1911” series of articles using a Swiss Arms WWII era design 1911A1. The refinished gun (top) looks more realistic than the weathered finish on the John Wayne Signature Series 1911, but it certainly is a lot less work, since it comes this way!

The best part of that deal is that the price is usually the same or just slightly more for the Battlefield Finish. A professionally antiqued gun costs more to do than the gun is actually worth, so it is strictly for the satisfaction of the owner. Most are done for movies and usually in sets of three identical guns so there are backups if one gets damaged or broken during filming. There are companies that specialize in taking modern reproductions and defarbing them and ageing them to look as authentic as the Starr pistol in this article.

Back in the DIY category is the first CO2 pistol I ever tried to defarb and antique, a Gletcher TT33. The CO2 models are on the MIA list for now, but even with a separate CO2 chamber in the grip and a stick magazine, one of the best looking of all Russian handgun designs and a great shooting CO2 pistol. If you can find one, buy it. As for defarbing and refinishing, that’s a pretty intensive project as any of you who have tried it know. But done right, the results are worth the elbow grease, time and expense.

The aged CO2 models shown, are so much more affordable that for the sheer fun of having an authentic looking old pistol you can’t beat them for the money or for the looks. With these CO2 models age before beauty is the same thing!

Dennis’ Top New Airguns for 2017

Dennis’ Top New Airguns for 2017

And the winner is… Part 2 Part 1

By Dennis Adler

This year saw a number of new CO2 models, many based on guns from previous years, and a few that were first time models like the Umarex MP40 German submachine gun. The special John Wayne Edition Model 1911A1 was the first semi-auto in the John Wayne signature series, the odd but alluring Umarex Legends “Ace in the Hole” gave movie buffs a real taste of not being Expendable, ASG gave us a new 2-1/2 inch Dan Wesson Model 715, and Webley & Scott delivered its best MK VI CO2 model yet, the weathered and rugged Battlefield Finish.

Among the best CO2 models introduced in 2017 these five soared to the top of my “Best New Air Pistol or CO2-powered rifle” list. It is a fairly diversified group by gun types, but there is a dominant theme among the choices, vintage military arms with battle worn finishes. For arms collectors, condition is paramount but when condition becomes secondary to rarity, you look for a gun that has the most acceptable “patina” or as it is described in the Blue Book of Gun Values “…a good example of an older, used revolver in above average condition.” This is 70% condition which can show areas of wear, some discoloration and pitting. This also falls into the NRA Modern Good condition, which ranges from 60% to 80%. This is what most airgun makers are shooting for (pardon the pun) when weathering their CO2 military models. The weathering on the John Wayne 1911A1 is a bit more severe, closer to 60% condition, and the Webley MK VI is closer to 70%, while the “Ace in the Hole” falls somewhere in between, the MP40 is also around 70 percent finish in most areas. All four look very authentic, but the Webley and MP40 are just a little more realistic looking overall.

Cutting down this list from five to three bid goodbye to the JW 1911A1 (a fine but not truly new CO2 model) and the “Ace in the Hole” which was surely a favorite with the Single Action crowd, but not quite up to the remaining three for design authenticity and best handling features. The MP40 is in a class by itself and the Dan Wesson Model 715 with 2-1/2 inch rifled barrel vs. the 5-inch Webley MK VI rifled barrel model are divided by nearly half a century in design. It’s an interesting face off between two superior CO2 powered, pellet-cartridge firing revolvers.

Making the first cut

If all things were equal, BBs and pellets would rank the same, but they don’t and in this lineup of top models the one BB-firing pistol, the John Wayne 1911A1 has to bow out to the superior firepower of the 4.5mm Dan Wesson, “Ace in the Hole” and Webley MK VI Battlefield Finish pellet-firing models. The MP40, while also a BB gun, continues to hold its own by having selective fire full auto operation, and being based upon one of the preeminent submachine guns of its time.

The “Ace in the Hole” for all its coolness is the next to step out of the picture since it is based on a movie gun and not an actual Colt model. Had Umarex built it as a Sheriffs Model it would most likely have won the year’s top award, at least among western gun enthusiasts. It is still one of the top five but not the top gun.

This was a tough choice. Both guns have excellent accuracy, great double action/single action triggers and rifled steel barrels. Both have exceptional attention to detail in recreating the original firearms as CO2 models, but the edge finally went to the Webley MK VI for its historic significance.

Wheels of Fortune

In this battle of pistols, wheelguns have prevailed over the 1911A1 blowback action semi-auto (will someone please make a blowback action, pellet-firing Browning Hi-Power!), and it is down to the Webley MK VI and Dan Wesson 2-1/2 inch Model 715 for handguns. The Dan Wesson has excelled for authenticity and accuracy (for its barrel length) and ranks as one of the very best new CO2 models of the year hands down. The Webley & Scott MK VI Battlefield Finish pellet-firing model has also excelled for accuracy at 10 meters and has the added advantage (for military arms enthusiasts) of having an extremely long history dating back to the pre-WWI era. The MK VI is the most authentic military CO2 revolver currently available, a four star triumph, and the better of the two wheelguns up for the year’s top honor.

And then there were two…and two about as different from one another as possible, a WWII era German submachine gun and a WWI and WWII veteran of the British Empire, the c.1915 Webley & Scott MK VI. What finally separates these two is what they fire. The MP40 is a selective fire model with a high capacity BB magazine, while the Webley is a tried-and-true military sidearm, a six-shot double action/single action revolver. Both have exceptional finishes that look almost identical to the original 20th century firearms.

Germany and Great Britain     

The MP40 is without doubt the best CO2 powered blowback action, selective fire BB Subgun there is, and even with the Uzi as a counterpoint, the MP40 still can’t be touched. It has greater capacity, higher velocity, equal accuracy, performance handling, and unrivaled authenticity for an airgun based on a real WWII model.

The arbiter of victory is longevity, and like the British Empire, the Webley MK VI endured through two World Wars. It remained in service from 1915 to 1945 and for decades after, the MK VI was still being carried in the far flung corners of the world.

The Webley MK VI is its absolute equal in a military handgun also based on an original design. Choosing between these two is akin to the argument between Mustangs and Camaros (and please let’s not get into that off topic discussion, even though I know some of you just gritted your teeth), the choice has to be based on total authenticity to the original gun and both the MP40 and Webley MK VI are dead even on every point, and where they lack authenticity (manual safeties) again both have equal gigs for the thumb switches. The slightest edge goes to the Webley MK VI for the most consistently accurate working features and the greater overall accuracy as a pellet firing pistol vs. a BB firing subgun, albeit a selective fire one. The top honor for best new airgun of 2017 goes to the Webley & Scott MK VI Battlefield Finish model.

This year’s Airgun Experience Top Airgun Award goes to the gun that looks as real as it gets, the Webley & Scott MK VI Battlefield Finish Model. Here, here!

This has been a great year for new CO2 models. I’ll be back in January, until then keep getting Airgun Experience. My best wishes to all for a great Holiday Season and a Happy New Years.

Dennis Adler

Dennis’ Top New Airguns for 2017

Dennis’ Top New Airguns for 2017

The Best of the Best in .177 and 4.5mm Part 1 Part 2

By Dennis Adler

I know many of you were hoping for more new models this year, but there are several in the wings for 2018 that are going to fulfill a lot of wishes. Still, 2017 brought quite a few new and significant CO2 models to the .177 and 4.5mm class of air pistols and magazine-loading rifles, and today we are going to review my top picks for the year. Let’s start with one of the most interesting new rifles, well actually submachine guns, in the world of centerfire or CO2 arms, the WWII era MP40.

Is it real or is it Umarex? The MP40 at the top is an original WWII model rated in “fine condition” by Rock Island Auction Co. The estimated value is between $13,000 and $19,000. Makes the Umarex weathered CO2 model a real bargain! (MP40 photos courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

Umarex Legends MP40       

Preceded by the weathered finish Umarex Legends M712 Broomhandle selective fire pistol, and P.08 Luger Parabellum, the MP40 is the third leg in this unique series of Umarex WWII blowback action CO2 models with battle aged finishes. The actual centerfire WWII era M712 selective fire Broomhandle and MP40 subgun are both Class III firearms, very collectable and very expensive, (a 9mm MP40 can costs upwards of $15,000). The extraordinarily accurate Umarex Legends weathered MP40 retails for $229.99 which is quite a bargain, even for an airgun. In terms of collecting military arms as CO2 versions, the MP40 is number one in my book, followed by the weathered Model 712 Broomhandle as two of most significant recreations of historic German made firearms.

Almost identical in overall length, weight, and design, the Umarex Legends weathered model of the MP40 is one of the most authentic WWII reproductions you can purchase.

At 25 feet on semi auto, the MP40 CO2 model will punch groups of 10 rounds at about 1.25 inches firing from the shoulder. Wrapping your arm through the sling will tighten your hold further and keep you on target. My best 10-shot semi-auto group measured 1.18 inches with multiple overlapping hits. I switched to full auto and ran out the magazine in a series of short bursts keeping all 52 shots inside the red dot, bullseye and 10 rings. With an average factory rated velocity of 465 fps, the gun chronographed at 455 fps with a high of 460 fps, and a low of 440 fps.

One magazine load of Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs from 25 feet with 10 fired on semi-auto and the rest on full auto with the MP40 shouldered and the support arm wrapped through the shoulder strap for added support. All of the shots are inside the center rings.

The MP40 with weathered finish is one that you should consider a must have because of its authentic style, lightly aged finish, great weight, balance and operating features, it is an astounding tribute to an old technology and the evolution of firearms design.

John Wayne Tribute Model 1911

No actor better personified American patriotism than John Wayne, whether playing a 19th century cattle rancher, a U.S. Marshal, or a WWII Army officer. Wayne embodied all of history’s great American heroes, and the Colt Model 1911 became his signature WWII handgun.

The John Wayne Model 1911A1 is the first John Wayne semi-auto in the series of John Wayne commemorative airguns. (Shown with a publicity photo of Wayne in The Longest Day, and a copy of a WWII era JT&L Model 1942 holster from World War Supply).

The special John Wayne edition CO2 model 1911 is very close to the Tanfoglio 1911A1 design but with a handsome weathered gray finish that has the look of an aged and battle tested handgun; there are worn edges, scuffs, and scratches, all the things that happen to a real gun on the filed of battle. Oddly, the grips are excellent, rather than equally worn, but have a nice wood grained, checkered finish.

The John Wayne 1911A1 fits all standard WWII era military 1911 holsters. Note the CO2 BB magazine with matching weathered finish.

The John Wayne model also has a correct 1911A1 military era small thumb safety, the correct front and rear military sights, checkered trigger shoe, checkered arched mainspring housing and old style hammer. However, the feature that sets this 1911A1 apart from others (including previous weathered finish editions like the WWII commemorative) is the embossed John Wayne signature and name on the left side of the slide, and 1911 Commemorative on the left side of the frame. It is one of the year’s most outstanding military tribute CO2 models.

At 21 feet the new John Wayne signature 1911A1 kept 15 shots inside the 9, 10 and X rings with a best 5 rounds at 0.5 inches in the X at 2 o’clock.

Webley MKVI Battlefield Finish

The Webley & Scott MK VI rifled barrel pellet-firing model was one of the most anticipated new airguns of 2017 and represents the greatest British military handgun of both WWI and WWII.

Remarkably accurate in detail, the only major visual difference is the telltale air pistol caliber markings on the right side of the frame and the mandated but really unnecessary manual thumb safety on the lower portion of the frame just above the triggerguard.

With a distinctive design the CO2 Battlefield Finish Model is the perfect representation of a weathered handgun that has “seen the elephant” (an old expression that implies having experienced combat). Copied in superb detail from the original 1915 Webley & Scott blueprints, the CO2 versions are as close to an original MK VI as you can get without firing .455 caliber cartridges, and the Battlefield Finish is the closest in appearance to a real military handgun of the three MK VI CO2 models.

Along with the latest MK VI model is the newest old MK VI period holster the famous Webley heavy canvas belt holster. (Vintage military belt and buckle by Chisholm’s Trail Leather)

Weighing in at 38 ounces, measuring an exact 11.25 inches in length and 5.75 inches in height, the MK VI air pistol is almost perfectly scaled to the original. Accuracy at 10 meters with the rifled barrel, pellet-firing Battlefield Finish Model excelled with just the right combination of trigger pull and front and rear sights that were easy to acquire and hold on target.

Accuracy at 10 meters with the rifled barrel Battlefield Finish Model was excellent with the right combination of trigger pull ease and sights that are easy to acquire and hold on target.

Sig Sauer P320 ASP

Another big release for 2017 was the new Sig Sauer P320 ASP, which has already become historically significant for several reasons; first, it was introduced on the heels of Sig Sauer having been awarded a U.S. government contract in January of this year to replace our nation’s aging Beretta Model 92 Series semiautomatic pistols. The P320 will become the standard issue U.S. sidearm for the U.S. Army and other branches of service and government. Sig Sauer has already established itself in arming U.S. soldiers and law enforcement agencies with the P226 (used by Navy SEALs) and the P228, among other Sig models. The adoption of the P320 gives Sig Sauer a pretty serious lock on U.S. government sidearms, making them even more desirable as CO2 models.

The Sig Sauer P320 ASP is the first semi-automatic 4.5mm air pistol to utilize a 30-round belt pellet magazine. Designed to look and feel like the P320 centerfire pistol, the ASP’s weight and trigger pull are virtually identical offering recreational shooters, professionals and competitive shooters another outstanding training tool to easily hone their shooting skills at greatly reduced costs.

The centerfire P320 models were introduced in 2014 for the civilian and law enforcement market and were Sig’s first polymer frame, striker fired semi-autos. When the U.S. military started searching for a handgun to replace the Beretta M9, it was determined that it would have to be a modular handgun system. The Sig Sauer P320 already had that advantage and met and, in some areas, even exceeded the Army Modular Handgun System (MHS) requirements. By the time Sig submitted the P320 for the MHS the company was already developing the P320 as its newest ASP (Advanced Sport Pellet) CO2-powered air pistol. The P320 ASP is intended as both a training and sport shooting pellet-firing semi-auto with blowback action and offers a first ever belt-fed 4.5mm pellet magazine with a capacity of up to 30 rounds.

The most interesting feature of the new Sig Sauer P320 ASP is the magazine which utilizes a belt-fed system to hold 30 rounds for the highest capacity of any pellet-firing semi-auto CO2 pistol.

The Sig Sauer ASP blowback action air pistols are built to the same standards as the company’s premium pistols and rifles (the latter being Sig Sauer’s MCX and MPX ASP semiautomatic pellet rifles), to ensure that professionals who train with these airguns experience exceptional performance and true hands on operation. Like the P226 ASP models, the new P320 is offered in black or Coyote Tan. The only drawback to the airgun design is that the rotary fed magazine means the P320 has to use a separate CO2 chamber in the grip; considering the advantages of a 30-round capacity pistol magazine, not such a bad tradeoff.

The P320 ASP at 10 meters (33 feet) delivered a total of 20 Sig Sauer alloy pellet rounds at an average of 388 fps and grouping in the A-Zone of an IPSC silhouette target with a best 5-shots clustered on top of the “A” at 0.75 inches, and a 10-round spread of 1.25 inches.

In terms of weight, balance, trigger design, sights, and operation, the only thing missing is a few minor operating features found on the centerfire models, leaving the ASP as a basic training gun with benefits.

The 2017 ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 snub nose has a 2-1/2 inch barrel with full shroud and a single vent in the rib. It uses the same Hogue-style rubber grip design and sights as the 6-inch model 715 and new 4-inch version.

ASG Dan Wesson 2-1/2-inch rifled barrel Model 715 Revolver

The ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 snub nose pellet model comes with a 2-1/2 inch barrel like the original .357 magnum Model 15-2, and later Model 715 series (produced from 2002-2004), which was offered with a four barrel set that included the 2-1/2 inch shrouded barrel. Unfortunately, the new ASG BB and pellet cartridge firing CO2 models do not have interchangeable barrels like the Dan Wesson .357 magnums, and are sold as individual guns in 2-1/2 inch, 4-inch and 6-inch models. All three are exceptional but the allure of a snub nose, rifled barrel, pellet-cartridge firing CO2 model is hard to resist!

The manual safety shows most from the right side but the airgun has really clean, uncluttered lines, and .357 Magnum engraved on the side of the barrel.

The new 2-1/2 inch model is based on the same frame, double action/single action trigger and Hogue-style rubber grip design as the 4-inch and 6-inch Model 715 CO2 versions. Like the other two, the 2-1/2 inch snub nose has the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch. This design was used by Dan Wesson for added strength, and to work with the pistol’s cylinder design, which rotates clockwise (to the right) with each double action trigger pull, or by cocking the hammer.

The 2-1/2 inch Model 715 comes with a speed loader and six pellet-loading cartridges, which seat the pellet at the back of the shell (three are shown loaded) where the primer goes on a real centerfire pistol or rifle cartridge. Extra shells are available in a box of 25.

The ASG Dan Wesson 2-1/2 inch model is offered in a blued smoothbore BB model and nickel pellet model with rifled barrel (pictured). Both have full length barrel shrouds and a single vent in the rib. The pistols have windage and elevation adjustable rear sights and an easily acquired serrated ramped front sight that is dovetailed and pined. The 2-1/2 inch model actually looks more like a real Dan Wesson Model 715 than the other two.

Tight groups with a 2.2 inch (internal length) rifled barrel from 10 meters (33 feet) fired offhand are hard but four in one tight cluster (9 ring at 3 o’clock) makes this a pretty accurate snub nose CO2 pistol with the lightweight Sig Sauer alloy wadcutters.
Best 6-shot group with the Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. wadcutters measured 1.75 inches all in the 10 and bull’s eye with one double in the 10 at 3 o’clock.

Umarex Legends “Ace in the Hole”

The fifth new model for 2017 is a shooter for shooters who love single action Colts. Although this Umarex Peacemaker doesn’t bear the Colt name, it is a CO2 Peacemaker design just the same. The “Ace” is actually part of the Umarex Legends line which includes models like the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and Luger P.08 Parabellum. The Legends brand is dedicated to recreating historic guns, and the Colt Peacemaker Sheriff’s Model is nothing if not legendary. The “Ace” itself is sort of a made up gun based on the Sylvester Stallone Expendables movie series.

Compared to a 3-1/2 inch Colt Sheriff’s Model the Umarex “Ace in the Hole” has all the correct dimensions. Even the use of larger Army-sized grips was available on the actual Colt Models.

It’s a Sheriff’s model with an altered 3-1/2 inch barrel featuring faux Mag-na-ported cuts and no front blade sight. The porting, which is only cosmetic (does not cut all the way into the top of the barrel), also accommodates an unusual drop in front sight. The other wild card for the “Ace” is a rounded fanning hammer. There were a handful of hammer modifications made in the Old West, but nothing quite this extensive. On the plus side, it really works! The round hammer spur makes fanning much faster and easier on the palm of the hand, but in turn it makes thumb cocking the gun a little slower, since the angle of the thumb has to change to reach the top of the rounded hammer spur.

The round knob hammer makes the gun faster to fan without roughing up the hand like traditional grooved Colt hammers would do. Without front sights the Umarex is really designed for instinctive rather than aimed shooting at close range. It is a very quick gun to shoot, just like most custom built snub nose Colts prior to the Sheriff’s Models. The 3-1/2 inch Sheriff’s models could be had with or without an ejector.

One of the reasons the pellet cartridge-firing Umarex Colt Single Action models are inherently accurate is the front sight, which when compared to an actual Colt Peacemaker, is lower. This is a plus since the front sight (either by design or inadvertently) takes into account the lower velocity of pellets and BBs and the tendency for Colt’s to aim low. The even lower front sight on the drop-in blade supplied with the “Ace in the Hole” is actually more akin to Tom Horn’s Colt Single Action which had the sight shaved by more than half. The rifled barrel for the “Ace” is recessed 1/4-inch from the muzzle for an internal barrel length of 3-1/4 inches.

I shot a total of 24 rounds on this target from 10 feet to 21 feet, two sets aimed with the drop-in front sight, one set cross draw single action, and one set fanning. The smaller circle at the 8 is 1.0 inches for six rounds fired aimed and using a two-handed hold at 21 feet. The larger circle is six rounds from 21 feet shot using a one-handed hold as in the opening photo. The spread is 1.75 inches. The widest spread of remaining shots was fanned from 10 feet and measures about 5-inches across the center mass of the target. The tighter set, just above the gun, were cross draw single action point shooting for each shot. This group measures about 3-inches.

I found the “Ace” to be excellent using a cross draw holster and fanning the hammer. Even a strong side draw is faster if you fan cock the hammer. This is one of those rare cases where the end definitely justifies the means.

Tomorrow we will find out which of these five new airguns earns my top gun award as the “Best New Air Pistol or CO2-powered rifle of 2017.