Young Gun, Old Gun

Young Gun, Old Gun

The design of a firearm

is still based around a simple principle

By Dennis Adler

I am paraphrasing the legendary William B. Ruger, Sr., when I say that all gun designs serve the same purpose, to fire a projectile, but what the gun fires and how it fires it, will dictate the design of the gun. Case in point, John M. Browning designed .32 ACP and .380 ACP cartridges and he designed the guns to fire them in 1903 and 1908, respectively. Bill Ruger, Sr. was something of a modern day J.M. Browning and what I learned from my time around him in the 1990s, while I was writing a short biography of his life, visiting his factories, talking with his engineers and staff, and having quiet, introspective dinners with him discussing firearms history, was that great design, and the fundamental breakthroughs that come with them, become the paradigm for all that follows. I understood than as I do now, that with few exceptions, every single action revolver, regardless of manufacturer (including the c. 1953 Ruger Single Six and c. 1955 Ruger Blackhawk), is descended from Samuel Colt’s original revolver designs, even though Colt had died years before the Peacemaker was designed. Ruger’s point being that no matter how different, regardless of the ammunition it fires; however large or small the pistol may be, the fundamentals of its design began with Colt. Bill knew this when he designed the original “Old Model” Single Six .22 revolver, and all the Ruger-designed and built single actions that followed. Were it not for Sam Colt… read more

Retrospect Series Part 9 – M&P 45

Retrospect Series Part 9 – M&P 45

The display rack gun takes on the Uber-pistols

By Dennis Adler

Its crunch time, time for the Umarex S&W M&P 45 to go head to head with the two higher-priced Umarex German-built models, the Walther CP99 and Heckler & Koch HK P30. It is a comparison of equals in terms of design and capabilities. All three CO2 models are based on centerfire, duty-size (law enforcement and military) use handguns, with the Walther and S&W being polymer frame pistols with striker-fired systems and the HK being a polymer frame pistol with a hammer-fired system. All three are individual design benchmarks as centerfire handguns, all among the first to utilize a polymer frame like Glock. Historically, H&K was the first, actually more than a decade before Glock’s G17 in 1982, then Walther in 1999, and S&W with the M&P (Military & Police) series beginning in 2006 (2007 for the .45 ACP model). There are of course, other gunmakers who have moved to polymer frames, like Sig Sauer, but these three are our topic. read more

Retrospect Series Part 8 – M&P 45

Retrospect Series Part 8 – M&P 45

The classic S&W pellet model

By Dennis Adler

I recall writing about the Umarex Walter PPS when it came out, that “you have to wonder how they can build an air pistol this good and sell it for $90.” I feel that I can reuse those words for the M&P 45, because up to this point it is right at the top of the entry-level price range (like the PPS was) and delivering the same sense of quality in build of more expensive CO2 models. Yes, Umarex has taken the shortcuts mentioned in Part One by molding in a few parts (that wouldn’t function if they were separate pieces), and they have cut manufacturing costs by making the slide an injection molded piece rather than an alloy casting. But even those two things do not equal the disparity in retail price between the Umarex HK P30 and the Umarex S&W M&P 45. The big price difference comes from where the M&P and P30 are manufactured. The HK is made in Germany by Umarex; the M&P is manufactured in Taiwan for Umarex. Those three words, Made in Germany, stamped into the side of an air pistol are what make the greatest difference in price. To explain that, I am reminded of one of Germany’s and the world’s oldest airgun manufacturers, Diana (Dianawerk) Mayer & Grammelspacher, which has been building superb air rifles and air pistols since 1895, and their not to distant venture into China to build the new Diana Chaser, which despite its Made in China stamping on the receiver, proved an impressive CO2 model that lives up to the Diana name. My point being that a German company can have a high quality airgun made outside of Germany, if it lives up to a certain standard. The Umarex S&W M&P 45 is as good an air pistol as the HK P30, it just benefits from more cost effective manufacturing. The upshot is that for under $100 one can get a gun that is capable of living up to the standards of one that costs $249. read more

Retrospect Series Part 7 – M&P 45

Retrospect Series Part 7 – M&P 45

The classic S&W pellet model

By Dennis Adler

In the 1970s, Smith & Wesson developed its own Air Gun Division (Sig Sauer wasn’t the first), and began manufacturing air rifles and a series of target pistols based on its own .22 caliber Model 41 semi-auto. Smith & Wesson’s venture into airguns was not entirely successful, and in 1980 the Air Gun Division was sold to Daisy, which renamed the S&W Models 78G and 79G (S&W’s CO2 versions of the Model 41) the Daisy Power Line 41, giving a tip of the hat to the original S&W .22 target pistol. The single shot .22 caliber pellet model remained in the Daisy line until 1984. The S&W models have since become something of a collectible air pistol. read more

S&W M&P40 vs. G17 Gen4 Part 2

S&W M&P40 vs. G17 Gen4 Part 2

Authenticity, Velocity and Accuracy

By Dennis Adler

Over the past several years there have been small gains in velocity with blowback action models, and with the M&P40 and Glock 17 Gen4 we have examples of earlier and current CO2 designs. We should expect some differences in velocity, and accuracy as well. Despite the same basic internal designs, the evolution of the designs over several years should result in improved manufacturing combined with the different internal designs between the M&P and Glock Gen4. This is particularly true of the guide rod and recoil spring differences between the S&W and Glock, the latter copied as exactly as possible for an air pistol. This could give the G17 an advantage over the M&P40, at least that is the theory at work for this comparison. Let’s begin with how well the two guns fit holsters and their magazines in pouches made for the centerfire guns.

Two contemporary sidearms used by civilians and law enforcement alike, the perfect CO2 understudies by Umarex, the S&W M&P40 and Glock 17 Gen4 can deliver reasonable velocities and training level accuracy at the 7 yard (21 foot) defensive combat distance. Both guns have equivalent weight and features to their centerfire counterparts. What separates them is that the M&P40 has been out since 2016 and the G17 Gen4 came out this past summer. They share many of the same features, which beg the question, “How far have we come?”

If you have read any of the original tests I wrote on these guns you know that both fit holsters made for centerfire models, particularly the S&W M&P40 which I have watched be switched out with law enforcement holsters and mag pouches for training. It is a perfect fit for any holster, leather, or injection molded that is made for the centerfire models. The G17 Gen4 is more holster specific because a Gen4 will not fit molded holsters made for Third Gen and earlier models, only Gen4 and Gen5 holsters. The magazines, however, are not changed and the CO2 BB mags will slip into any G17 mag pouch, and work extremely well with injection molded pouches, like the example shown.

Among the most important qualifications for a training gun in the blowback action CO2 category is exact dimensions. Both the older M&P40 and new G17 Gen4 fit the holsters used by their centerfire counterparts. The M&P is holstered in a Safariland Model 7379 Level 1 locking injection molded holster. The G17 Gen4 is being carried in a Galco injection molded Model CVS 226 belt holster. If the air pistols can fit in these contour molded holsters, they will fit in any holster made for the centerfire guns.

Size, balance, and weight (approximate for the centerfire guns) is so close that any training done with these two CO2 models is the same as working with the centerfire guns. Obviously once you pull the trigger (which is a little light on the M&P40 CO2 pistol) everything changes because it is significantly quieter and there is no comparable recoil, two things you can only experience with a centerfire gun. But the M&P40 was designed by Umarex to deliver fairly robust slide recoil, enough that you have to reacquire the sights after firing. That was one of the air pistol’s exemplary features, and this is also true of the newer G17 Gen4, which has even more felt recoil.

Another important training aspect for a good blowback action CO2 model, are the magazines the same size as the centerfire guns, or close enough that they will fit in magazine pouches made for the 9mm magazines? Both the Glock 17 Gen4 and the M&P40 are a solid yes.

In overall length, height, and width, the .177 caliber M&P40 specs out at 7.5 inches, 5.25 inches, and 1.2 inches; an M&P40 measures 7.63 inches, 5.25 inches, and 1.2 inches. The centerfire M&P40 has a 4.25 inch barrel, the smoothbore barrel for the Umarex M&P40 comes up a little shorter at just under 4.0 inches. Trigger pull on a factory set M&P40 trigger averages 6 pounds 8 ounces, while the Umarex trigger, which is identical in design, is a lighter 4 pounds, 8.7 ounces average. The white dot sights on the Umarex are similar in appearance to the Novak sights used on the M&P series, and are easy to acquire, making the airgun equal under normal lighting conditions to sighting with an S&W M&P model.

The Gen4 CO2 pistol, with its heavier magazine, weighs 28 ounces (but feels better in the hand in terms of balance) while the 9x19mm Gen4 weighs 24.87 ounces. Overall length for the 9x19mm is 8.03 inches, width 1.18 inches and height 5.43 inches. Barrel length is 4.48 inches. The CO2 models stacks up at 7.75 inches in overall length (0.28 inches shorter), width of 1.18 inches, and height of 5.43 inches. Internal smoothbore barrel length is 3.875 inches. Trigger pull is 5.5 pounds average, the same as the 9mm. The white outline rear sight and white dot front duplicate the centerfire pistol’s sights.

One note of interest, the G17 Gen4 mag has a Glock logo base pad that covers the seating screw. I originally reported that you need a stylus to push in the release button on the base pad to slide if it off the magazine and access the seating screw. On the test gun and spare mags I have, there is a release at the bottom of the BB loading channel that you pull down; this retracts the locking button allowing the base pad to slip off for loading CO2. It automatically relocks when the base pad is replaced.

Training at 21 feet for defensive shooting with a CO2 model identical to a centerfire pistol is an ideal way to train affordably while still learning the fundamentals of the centerfire guns. The Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 is a perfect example of a CO2 training gun. Even though it is new this year, it shares many of the same features and operating systems as the older 2016 Umarex S&W M&P40.

Velocity 2016 vs. 2019

One of my minor disappointments with the M&P40 when I did my initial tests three years ago was velocity. Today, I am going to run a new test using Umarex Precision steel BBs and see what the M&P40 can deliver against the newer G17 Gen4 and its dual guide rod and recoil spring system. This requires the CO2 to deliver more power per shot to run the slide and send the .177 caliber steel BB downrange. Ten rounds through the ProChrono chronograph and the M&P40’s average is 300 fps (pretty much what blowback action pistols were averaging back in 2016) compared to the G17 Gen4’s 315 fps. (In previous tests with a different magazine average velocity was 317 fps). The newer guns has a higher average velocity of from 15 to 19 fps, it also has heavier slide recoil; all pluses for the Gen4 over the older M&P40. It is not a sweeping difference (for that you need to shoot the G19X CO2 model), but it is an improvement.

Accuracy at 21 feet – The combat test        

Air pistols can be fun to shoot, to plink at paper targets and tin cans, or they can be taken quite seriously as a training aid. The M&P40 and G17 Gen4 are designed for the latter (but are great for fun shooting as well), and each instructs on the specific handling of the model. For example, the S&W has ambidextrous manual thumb safeties (optional on the centerfire guns which also cover the mandatory safety for an air pistol), while the Gen4 uses a fully functioning Glock-style Safe Action trigger, (a manual safety necessary for air pistols is hidden under the dustcover, but not part of the original Glock design), so you learn a different skill set for operating a Glock vs. an M&P with manual safeties. (The standard M&P centerfire pistols do not have a manual safety).

First up is the M&P40 firing 10 rounds from 21 feet at a Law Enforcement Targets B27 silhouette. My total points for 10 rounds was 50 with 10 in the X. Total spread measured 1.5 inches with a best five shots grouped into 0.5 inches. At an average velocity hovering around 300 fps, at the 7-yard training distance, this gun allows a fairly accurate interpretation of firing 9mm rounds at 1-second intervals. As a CO2 pistol, the M&P40 still delivers a hand’s-on training experience and realistic accuracy at combat distance. The sights on this air pistol are among the best with POA and POI inside half an inch and requiring no aiming corrections at 21 feet.

Old is still good, not that 2016 is that long ago, but in terms of the angst that airgunners have with each passing year and their demand for newer and better air pistols, it’s a long time. Still, the M&P40 fits right in with the latest models for 2019, and will still be a solid contender as a great pistol in 2020 and for years to come. This gun was done right from the start. At 21 feet I put 10 shots into 1.5 inches with a best five shots grouped into 0.5 inches with all hits in the X of a Law Enforcement Targets B-27 silhouette.

Can the newer G17 Gen4 follow up with an equally accurate group pushing rounds downrange at about 15 fps faster and with traditional Glock 17 sights? More importantly, at 21 feet is the Glock’s POA and POI equal to the older S&W model?

As to POA and POI, the Glock shot close to POA (past tests with a Gen4 have been almost the same) and my 10 rounds hit in the X for a total of 50 points and a spread of 1.18 inches with one hit a little low, and a best five at 0.5 inches.

Still right on the money, the new Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 can shoot tight groups at 21 feet to keep it at the head of the list for new blowback action training guns and a serious contender for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year title.

This is the first time I have compared the S&W M&P40 and G17 Gen4 CO2 models and I have to admit to having become comfortable with the Glock models I have been testing this year. I forgot how nice the M&P40 is to shoot, too (it’s been awhile), and it was both refreshing and surprising to find the S&W could keep pace with the Glock. Just like in the real world.

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.

S&W M&P40 vs. G17 Gen4 Part 1

S&W M&P40 vs. G17 Gen4 Part 1

The first great CO2 training gun and the latest

By Dennis Adler

What separates the 2016 Umarex S&W M&P40 from the 2019 Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 other than exterior design and finish?

 How far have we come? I ask that question often in the world of blowback action CO2 pistols and the answer is always the same, “things keep getting better.” But since the first blowback action air pistol, the Umarex Walther PPK/S (the Model T of BBA CO2 BB pistols, sorry 007 fans, this gun needs a reboot), and the Umarex Colt Commander (2014), the art of making blowback action air pistols that duplicate their centerfire counterparts, “appears” to have increased continually over last few years.

Realism is everything for a good blowback action pistol and again, it “appears” we have only been getting this the last few years. It would, however, be far more accurate to say we have been getting a lot more of it because it actually began back in 2012 with the Tanfoglio Limited Custom and Gold Custom (yes, they predate the Umarex Colt Commander by two years in development and the S&W M&P40 by four years).

They were not practical training guns in a traditional sense, but rather more dedicated target pistols. Why am I throwing out this distinction after recently lamenting the loss of the Tanfoglio-branded lineup of blowback action target models? The answer is that for awhile there was only one really practical training gun, a CO2 model that was an honest 1:1 understudy to its centerfire counterpart; the Umarex S&W M&P40. A gun so accurate in its details, handling, and disassembly it became the first full function CO2 pistol to be used as a training gun for law enforcement, where either the 9mm or .40 S&W M&P was a standard duty sidearm.

In 2016, the most authentic blowback action pistol based on a law enforcement design then in use was the Umarex S&W M&P40. The .40 S&W model at top is also equipped with the optional ambidextrous thumb safeties required by some police departments. The big giveaway is the use of white outlines on the M&P and Smith & Wesson lettering. The flip side of the CO2 model also has the safety warning and manufacturer marks in white.

There was no absolute equal to the M&P40 blowback action model until the latest and most impressive guns of 2019 were introduced, the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 and Springfield Armory XDM models. With all due respect to the XDMs, Glocks are used my more law enforcement agencies than any other handgun. And as a gun used by law enforcement, the Umarex G17 Gen4 is the perfect training gun. Then again, so is the Umarex S&W M&P40 (and M&P models), also used by various local and state law enforcement agencies across the country. I could say that for the H&K USP as well, but not that many U.S. law enforcement agencies carry the USP, same for the CZ 75, another excellent CO2 version of a well respected centerfire pistol. But, for a real hand’s on airgun experience, no two guns are more closely matched than the 2016 M&P40 and 2019 Glock Gen4, and this is where I personally feel we can find the answer to the question, “How far have we come?”

Going for absolute authenticity the M&P40 CO2 model has the three interchangeable backstrap panels, so the gun can be fitted to different hand sizes. This was a popular feature for police departments using the air pistol for remedial or indoor training exercises, allowing an officer to have a CO2 model with the exact same grip size as his duty gun.

If you look at the number of civilian gun owners who have (centerfire) Glocks and S&W M&P models (M&P models as a whole not just the M&P40), compared to other guns like CZ 75 and H&K models, the statistics are apt to be very close to law enforcement use (in the U.S.). You will also find a large number of Sig Sauer models among major U.S. law enforcement agencies and certainly the military, but for our purposes, the M&P40 and Glock 17 Gen4 designs compare favorably to one another as centerfire and CO2 models, feature for feature.

As a CO2 model the M&P40 was a perfect fit for all duty holsters and dustcover rail tactical lights or laser sights. The white lettering had one advantage as a training gun, easily distinguishing the air pistol from the cartridge gun when training.

The three-year span between these two blowback action CO2 models is packed with other new guns that came out in 2017 and 2018, as well as a new designs introduced this year, like the Gen4 and XDM. But looking all the way back over the seven years from 2012 to 2019, the CO2 air pistol market has not evolved as much as we think. In 2016, the M&P40 was clearly surpassing the competition as a more modern and realistic understudy for a centerfire handgun. It was a groundbreaking design that, in fact, has not been surpassed in technology, even by the new Glock 17 Gen4. Here’s why.

Serious air pistol consumers (particularly those who also have centerfire handgun) want a blowback action pistol that exactly duplicated the design, handling, and operation of a centerfire pistol, thus making the air pistol suitable for training purposes. This requires that the air pistol feel like the centerfire gun in the hand, and fit the same holsters and use the same accessories for training. And this is nothing new; almost 20 years ago in Germany, that role for law enforcement (and to a much lesser degree in the U.S.) was being fulfilled by the pellet-firing, rotary magazine loading, non-blowback action Umarex Walther CP99. Across the U.S., local and state law enforcement was adopting the Walther P99 and S&W99 (Smith & Wesson’s version built during the period when S&W and Walther were partnering for the U.S. market and the PPK was being manufactured for sale in the U.S. by S&W from 2001 to 2012).

Umarex and Glock agreed to make the distinction between a centerfire pistol and the air pistol as close to non-existent as possible. The CO2 model of the G17 Gen4 also comes with the interchangeable backstrap panels. The only subtle tell on U.S. sold Gen4 CO2 models is the absence of the caliber stamping on the slide. In Europe the slide is correct in that detail.

BB vs. pellet gun development

Getting pellets into a blowback action CO2 model wouldn’t become a reality until the mediocre Beretta PX4 Storm in 2007, and wound not be improved upon significantly until Sig Sauer entered the market with the P320 ASP a decade later, and further-improved late in 2018 with the blowback action M17 ASP. Thus the onus for building true 1:1 CO2 training guns has rested squarely on the shoulders of BB-firing pistols with self-contained CO2 BB magazines that are 1:1 counterparts to centerfire models.

Interestingly, even though the grip panels are attached identically on the CO2 model, there is just enough difference between the air pistol and the centerfire model that the backstrap panels are not interchangeable between guns. This is the CO2 model.

1:1 G17 and M&P40

Let’s begin with the older M&P40 (older in terms of being a CO2 model). Both the centerfire M&P40 and Umarex have matching polymer frames, and metal slides. The visual differences are minimal and confined almost solely to the white outline lettering around the M&P40 and Smith & Wesson names on the left side of the slide, and the telltale manufacturer’s information and safety warnings on the right side. Except from a straight on view that reveals the recessed .177 caliber muzzle, the variances in fit, finish and details of the M&P40 airgun and the .40 S&W and 9mm models are minimal. The Umarex model of the M&P40 also duplicates the optional ambidextrous manual thumb safeties on centerfire models, so that is not an immediate giveaway that the Umarex is an air pistol.

All things being equal, the mechanical design for the M&P40 CO2 model and the Glock 17 Gen4 are very much the same. Both guns handle like their centerfire counterparts and the slides lock open on an empty magazine. They are as true to the actual gun as an air pistol can be. Aside from the obvious different external configurations and trigger designs, the most significant improvements between 2016 and 2019 are how these guns are finished.

The 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP models are a fraction of an inch longer, and the rear sights are slightly different is shape and a fraction of an inch taller than the white dot sights on the cartridge-firing models. The most telling feature of the airgun’s handling is the lighter trigger pull.

As a training gun the handling characteristics are identical including field stripping and cleaning. Every working feature of the M&P40 is duplicated, so all training regimens can be taught and practiced with the airgun creating duplicate responses right up to the moment you pull the trigger. The M&P40 CO2 also has correct ambidextrous slide releases, left side magazine release, three interchangeable palmswell grip panels, full blowback operation with a slide that locks open on a empty magazine, and a correct two-piece trigger design with over travel stop. The airgun also has a matching 3-slot Picatinny rail on the dustcover so it can be equipped with the same tactical lights or light/laser combinations used on centerfire models.

In terms of authentic handling, both use a version of the J.M. Browning short-recoil, locked-breech design and have correct centerfire model white dot (M&P) and white outline white rear sights and white dot front sights. Internally both guns use the same basic CO2 firing systems and CO2 BB magazine designs.

The airgun uses drop free, self contained CO2 BB magazines with a capacity of 15 rounds, making the airgun ideal for practicing reloading and tactical reloads. Like the cartridge models. This is literally as close to handing a cartridge-firing S&W M&P40 as you can get.

Most of the applicable attributes of the M&P40 are also found on the new for 2019 Umarex Glock 17 Gen4. In fact, mechanically they are almost identical. Oh, and that applies equally to the centerfire models. As an air pistol, the G17 Gen4 surpasses the M&P40 by eliminating the telltale white lettering and hiding the safety warnings on the underside of the triggerguard. But, mechanical feature for mechanical feature, the G17 Gen4 is no more advanced than the older M&P40 CO2 pistol. It fieldstrips just as easily and identically to the 9mm pistol. One plus, the Glock CO2 BB magazines are vastly easier to load, but before you applaud that improvement in design, the new Springfield Armory XDM CO2 BB magazines are just as hard to load as the older M&P40 mags, so the improvements are not across the board.

The last touch is authentic field stripping capability. The Glock shows one advantage (we will call it an improvement because it is more authentic) using a correct Gen4 dual recoil spring guide rod assembly. The Glock CO2 BB magazine is also much easier to load. And that is how far we have come since 2016. It is all about new models, more than new manufacturing technology. Is the G17 Gen4 better than the M&P40? We will find out in Part 2.

In all the important respects, the Umarex S&W M&P40 and Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 share almost the exact same manufacturing technology with visual differences in pistol design and the Glock’s superior finish. How far have we come? In terms of new models, we have advanced in leaps and bounds in the last few years, but new technology is not as prescient, unless one looks to Sig Sauer. And this sets the stage for December’s selection of the top new models competing for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year title. Innovation needs to be on an equal plane with technology that keeps being reused to adapt newer designs that are only new on the outside!

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.

The Most Bang For Your Buck Part 2

The Most Bang For Your Buck Part 2

What can $100 buy?

By Dennis Adler

All blowback action models with self contained CO2 BB magazines, but not all exactly equal in design, fit, finish, or performance, yet they all sell for $99.99.

For those of you who own and shoot centerfire pistols, the cost of a day’s ammo at the shooting range can often reach $100, and after you are done, all you have is a lot of empty brass (if you police your brass and reload to save money on ammo) and the satisfaction of honing your target shooting skills and bringing home targets that reflect your day’s efforts. What the blowback action CO2 models in this article do is duplicate that range time, and if you have a safe backyard shooting area or a basement set up with an air pistol range, you don’t even need to leave the comforts of your own home. Dedicated airgun enthusiasts know this and gain the same benefits and satisfaction from target shooting with BBs or pellets as their centerfire handgun counterparts, only at a fraction of the cost. Skills learned with air almost entirely translate to shooting range experience with centerfire and rimfire pistols, more so the latter. A good blowback action CO2 pistol can come close to firing a .22, only with somewhat less recoil and much less noise. A .22 pistol with a sound suppressor is very close to a high performance blowback action CO2 pistol in feel and noise level. Blowback action CO2 models are good for practice, especially all of the models in this article, since they duplicate the look, feel, and operation of their centerfire counterparts.

Early equals and very successful designs, the Umarex S&W M&P40 was among the very first 1:1 CO2 models that could be interchanged with actual M&P holsters, magazine pouches and law enforcement duty gear. The Sig Sauer licensed P226 S X-Five remains one of the most accurate (downrange and in design) blowback action models with realistic weight, balance, and handling. Like the M&P, it is fully field strippable, and uses a working short-recoil, locked-breech, tilting barrel design. One of the absolute must have CO2 models produced in the last five years. It is an honest bargain at under $100.

There is still no way to learn about recoil from a large caliber pistol by shooting its CO2 counterpart, and that is always a big surprise the first time you do it. For me it has always been the opposite since I started with centerfire guns and worked into air pistols, but that has also given me the experience to write about both the differences and similarities. Moreover, this article allows me to tell you through my experience which among these well-built blowback action pistols delivers the most accurate feel and handling to its cartridge-firing counterpart.

New to the scene in 2018, both the HK USP and Glock 17 are significant Umarex designs that again are 1:1 with their centerfire counterparts.

The learning curve with CO2 pistols (and I should include the better wheelguns here as well, like the Dan Wesson Model 715 and Colt Peacemaker pellet cartridge firing models) is about the same as with centerfire and rimfire guns. The better the air pistol in its overall weight, construction, operation and authenticity, the more value it gives for the dollar.

Outside of airgun enthusiast circles and those who use airguns for actual training surrogates, the majority of people think of BB guns, even pellet pistols, as toys. Perception is one reason even the blister packed, low-dollar BB pistols sold in the big box stores come marked THIS IS NOT A TOY. And Adult airguns, like the majority sold by Pyramyd Air, and every one of the CO2 models in this roundup, also bear the same warning. Even if you are strictly an airgun enthusiast, the line that separates these top blowback action models from their cartridge-firing counterparts is as thin as air.

The Glock uses a different operating system, and cannot be field stripped, but is otherwise the most advanced of the new blowback action models with a design, fit and finish that are the equal of the 9mm model. The HK comes close but surrenders its authenticity with the usual white warnings and maker’s marks, while the Glock retains its mirror like image by hiding the warnings and marks on the bottom of the triggerguard and in a subdued grey tone lettering that does not stand out but gets all the legalize covered. The Glock’s even greater advantage is significantly higher velocity that allows accuracy with BBs out to 10 meters.

Less isn’t more unless it is

The first gun to be considered as the most for the money is the object of that line; it is the Umarex Glock 17. Flat out, regardless of the packaging, the Glock 17 is as authentic in appearance as you can get for $100. Only the most trained eye could pick up the one obvious tell on the slide, the absence of a caliber marking. The safety warning and manual safety are so well placed on the Umarex Glock model that they do not intrude on the authentic look of the gun. It is both wonderful and unsettling. On face value, the G17 is everything airgun enthusiasts have been asking for, a blowback action CO2 model that looks exactly like its centerfire counterpart. As a training gun this is the optimum combination as it interchanges with centerfire model accessories.

The full authenticity of design nod has to go to the Umarex Glock 17 which delivers the cleanest, most accurate lines and best overall finish. It is almost impossible to tell the CO2 model from the Gen3 9mm pistol it is based upon.

Even the .177 caliber muzzle is so far recessed inside the surrounding 9mm barrel muzzle (and also blacked out making it even harder to see looking head on) that you can’t tell it from a 9mm Glock 17. What is unsettling is the possibility for someone mistaking the CO2 model for an actual Glock. That’s why Glock chose to leave the 9x19mm caliber stamping off the slide. This is the kind of air pistol that my A Word About Safety warning at the end of some articles is meant for. On face value the Glock 17 should be the best CO2 model for $100. And if you are satisfied with it on face value, it is. But the Umarex Glock design gives up one feature to attain an advantage over the rest of the models in this article. It uses an enclosed blowback action design (some might call it cheaper, but they would be wrong) that increases velocity by better than 50 fps average over the other blowback action models. We are talking a high of 395 fps and an average of 376 fps compared to comparable CO2 models (some costing more) that average 310 to 330 fps. We are also talking about extending effective shooting accuracy with BBs from 21 feet to 10 meters.

Above all, this is what you want in a high-performance blowback action CO2 pistol, full interchangeability with holsters (even Kydex and injection molded form fit holsters like those shown) and magazine pouches. If a CO2 model is going to be used for training no less can be expected and for under $100, less spare magazines, these three, the Glock 17, HK USP and Sig WTP, deliver the most gun for the money.

As those of you who followed my Replica Air Pistol of the Year series for 2018 know, the Glock lost out in the final comparison of features because in order to achieve its unrivaled performance, Umarex had to make a compromise, the gun cannot be field stripped. That has no bearing on its outward authenticity, handling, use of tactical lights and lasers, correctly sized CO2 BB magazines that fit centerfire mag pouches, or the gun itself, which fits all holsters for the centerfire pistol. If field stripping is a box that must be checked on your list, the Glock 17 is not the most gun for the money. As particular as I am with blowback action CO2 pistols, I am willing to give the gun a pass for everything else it brings to the game. It is only outdone by one other new pistol, which costs more than $100, the Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 which checks every box on every list but is priced out of this comparison.

What is next best?

That $100 bill can buy any of the air pistols shown, but none of them will out shoot the Glock 17 for velocity. All but one other (the VP9) are fully field strippable, and while a couple can match it for accuracy, a best 5-shots at 0.56 inches, only one air pistol in this price category can beat it, the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911, with a best 5-shot group measuring 0.437 inches. The Glock is tied with the HK USP and Sig Sauer P226 S X-Five for accuracy.

The gun that wowed the market when it came out opposite a matching .45 ACP Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1776 model still holds its allure for over the top design that mirrors the centerfire pistol. The most feature laden of the current models, it is most impressive that this gun can sell for $99.99.

Except for the Glock, the other guns have the telltale white lettering on their slides or frames, though the Sig WTP is the least obtrusive due to the antiqued finish on the gun. The WTP’s finish is another plus and minus situation depending upon how one feels about customized guns. The WTP is spot on for its WTP .45 ACP counterpart, but a far cry from a conventional 1911 finish. In many ways the real individual choice comes down to favorite guns. If you like Smith & Wesson, the M&P40 is a great choice and aside from the white letters, looks and handles exactly like the 9mm and .40S&W models and has the same great interchangeability with actual centerfire accessories and gear. The Swiss Arms Beretta 92FS-style pistol and Sig Sauer licensed (not Sig Sauer produced) P226 S X-Five BB model are also authentic to the centerfire models, but do not have the fit and finish of the Glock, Sig WTP and HK USP. These three are the best guns for the money, but if you are looking for one gun that stands out as having the best combination of velocity, accuracy, fit and finish, the Glock 17 is where your $100 should be invested.

All that you can want in a CO2 pistol for authentic looks and fit (save for field stripping) can be found in the Glock 17. In terms of pure performance, accuracy, and design, it is my choice as “the most gun for the money” at $100.

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.

The Airgun Experience will return in one week. Cross your fingers for something new!