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.