The White Letter Chronicles

The White Letter Chronicles

History of white lettering on handguns

By Dennis Adler

Oh those pesky white letters. Sometimes they’re OK, like the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five or the Umarex S&W M&P40, they’re not correct but they’re not unattractive. Then there are manufacturers who feel compelled to fill the slide with their name, but white lettering isn’t exclusive to CO2 air pistols!

We all hate that white lettering on CO2 pistols. Nothing says air pistol like white lettering…or does it? White lettering on centerfire pistols has actually been used for almost a century. It is much less common today but there are some very noteworthy historical precedents for seeing white!

This Bergmann Model 1910 dates back to the early 1920s. You often see examples of this model, and later versions also built under license in Belgium, with white lettering to embellish the name.

White lettering is most often seen on German firearms and among the oldest examples is the Bergmann Model 1910/21 semiautomatic pistol. Theodore Bergmann introduced his first autoloader a year after Paul Mauser patented his design for the Broomhandle in 1895. In 1897 Bergmann and arms designer Louis Schmeisser introduced a new pistol using a removable box magazine; the basic pistol configuration that would become characteristic of all future Bergmann designs. An improved version was developed after the turn of the century, and rather than manufacturing them in Germany, Bergmann moved production to Herstal, Belgium, under license to Societe Anonyme Anciens Establissments Pieper. That is the name you see stamped into the barrel extension on the 1910 Model pictured above. Mauser used white lettering as well, often to highlight the manufacturer’s name stamped into the frame. White lettering was also used for export models to denote the retailer, such as Von Lengerke & Detmold in New York, which began selling Broomhandle Mauser pistols in 1897. read more

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 3

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

The revolving Carbine-Pistol goes to work

By Dennis Adler

It is a totally different feel for a revolver when you mount a shoulder stock behind it. As a Carbine-Pistol you have a more secure hold and stable target picture.

Time has the effect of diminishing some things. Wear and age are not the same and most gun finishes wear unless meticulously stored, age is relative to the gun, what materials were used in its construction and the quality of the finish; some seem to be impervious to time, others can deteriorate whether they are used or not. Heavy use almost always brings about wear. Still we find 100 year old and even 150 year old pistols in excellent condition and similarly dated examples with worn finishes, broken, lost or replaced parts. This is not news to anyone who collects firearms or even follows the gun collecting hobby by looking at auction catalogs. Airguns have similar issues with the passing of time and most mechanical problems can be repaired. One of my original Umarex Walther CP99 pistols had to be sent in to have the seals replaced after 15 years. Another, now 18 years old, is as good as the day I got it. Both were stored the same and had about equal use. But, the diminishing effects of time on the finish and performance of a gun are not what I am most concerned with for this final chapter on the Umarex S&W Model 586-6; rather what happens to a model when it remains in production for an extended period of time. read more

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 2

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 2 Part 1

Lock, Stock, and Barrel

By Dennis Adler

When period era designs collide you can often get an interesting result. The idea of a shoulder stock on a revolver goes back to the Colt 3rd. Model Dragoon and 1851 Navy. Putting a shoulder stock on a contemporary revolver, however, is unusual, on a CO2 pellet-firing revolver, unique. The S&W combination is made in Germany by Umarex. MSRP for the 6-inch 586 is $269 and the shoulder stock $39.95 Total package MSRP comes to $308.95 but an “open box” gun and shoulder stock can cost as little as $240.

The S&W licensed Umarex S&W Model 586-6 is a hefty CO2 revolver based on S&W’s centerfire Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum, which was manufactured from 1981 to 1999. Just as the 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum was being phased out of the Smith & Wesson lineup, it was being introduced as an S&W licensed Umarex CO2 model. While this is counter to today’s manufacturing strategies which have centerfire and matching CO2 model at the same time for training purposes (or simply to make the airgun more desirable), this was seldom a driving force behind CO2 models back at the end of the 20th century. In fact, it was more common for a discontinued centerfire pistol to be resurrected as an airgun, but times change. And that occasionally leads to more interesting products. Such is the case with the Umarex S&W Model 586, a near 20 year-old design that is getting a new lease on life with the availability of an adjustable shoulder stock. read more

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 1

Umarex S&W 586 Stocked Part 1

The revolving Carbine-Pistol has a history

By Dennis Adler

In 1855 the U.S. Cavalry was issued a large caliber, single shot U.S. Springfield pistol with a detachable shoulder stock. It was intended for combat at longer ranges than pistols, but more efficiently than the Model 1855 U.S. Springfield rifles being carried by the infantry.

When is a handgun not a handgun? When it is a Pistol-Carbine. The idea of taking a handgun and attaching a shoulder stock to the butt, thus making it more suitable for shooting accurately at greater distances goes as far back as the mid 1800s. One of the earliest and most successful designs was the .58 caliber, single shot, U.S. Springfield Model 1855 Pistol-Carbine, which was derived from the 1855 U.S. Springfield Rifled Musket. The Pistol-Carbine was designed by the U.S. Ordnance Department specifically for use by the cavalry, as it provided both a saddle pistol and, with the detachable stock, a carbine that was reasonably effective, both on horseback, or for dismounted cavalry. read more

The BB Conundrum Part 3

The BB Conundrum Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Smart Shot, lead, steel and dust

By Dennis Adler

The generally underpowered Umarex Walther PPK/S gets an impressive boost from using lightweight Dust Devils which work perfectly in the stick magazine and blowback action of the PPK/S.

A pound of lead or a pound of Dust Devils will fall at the same rate of speed according to Galileo, but a 7.4 gr. lead BB will have a slower velocity than a 4.34 gr. Dust Devil. Galileo never had to deal with such problems. To begin our final installment let’s review the velocities with the test guns fired using Smart Shot and Dust Devils.

The first gun up was the latest Umarex Walther PPK/S which sent the heavy copper plated lead shots downrange at a marginal average velocity of 228 fps, and even with .177 caliber steel BBs the PPK/S can barley do better than 290 fps. But loading the Walther with Dust Devil BBs gave the CO2 pistol a competitive average velocity of 315 fps. So, let’s see what the PPK/S delivers in accuracy at that velocity, and not from 15 feet but a full 21 feet like other blowback action BB models that shoot in the 300 fps range. read more

The BB Conundrum Part 2

The BB Conundrum Part 2 Part 1

Smart Shot, lead, steel and dust

By Dennis Adler

The best all around choice for a CO2-powered, blowback action air pistol, the Umarex S&W M&P40 proved to function flawlessly on Smart Shot copper plated lead BBs. These make the training experience that much better since Smart Shot can be used on reactive metal targets.

The number one choice in blowback action CO2 pistols for training with a reactive or metal target has to be the Umarex S&W M&P40. So this is where we begin the search for a blowback action pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine that will function correctly with Smart Shot. For whatever reason, the copper plated lead rounds, although heavier than steel BBs, get driven down into the magazine channel when the pistol fires. This compresses the follower spring and can force one round out of the loading port and jam the magazine. If there is no loading port nothing happens, and the Smart Shot functions perfectly. In semi-auto designs where jamming happens, it becomes continual making it impossible to use Smart Shot. But do all blowback action (or non-blowback action) semi-autos with self-contained CO2 BB magazines have loading ports that allow this to occur? The answer is not all, and the first and best example is the M&P40 which has one of the smallest loading ports and heaviest follower springs of any self-contained CO2 BB magazine. read more

Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 3

Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

One gun, one holster…

By Dennis Adler

Four guns, four holsters, combinations that work well with either centerfire or CO2 models (for training) but not all are as easy to carry concealed due to holster design, the size of the gun, and how the holster fits around the waist. Pictured are the Umarex Beretta 92A1 (top left) Umarex S&W M&P40 (top right) Sig Sauer P226 X-Five (bottom left) and Swiss Arms 1911 TRS.

From a purely technical evaluation of each gun and holster combination, there’s one clear choice, but it comes from weighing the specific advantages and disadvantages of each. The first consideration, since this is not a law enforcement or military open carry evaluation, is ease of concealment with a duty-sized handgun. All four CO2 models accurately duplicate the size and approximate weight of their centerfire counterparts, so for training purposes they all work and work well with the holsters shown. read more