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 reminded every time I put a montage of CO2 models like this together, that we have at hand a remarkable variety of firearms designs. Some, like the early 20th century Mauser M712 would be almost out of reach for the majority of collectors as a centerfire pistol, first because of the value, and second in still being a Class III weapon after almost 90 years. Others have simply gone up in value exponentially because of their rarity, like original Colt Peacemakers and WWII pistols like the P.08 Luger, while most of what you see here remain the mainstream guns of the 21st century, such as the latest Ruger 10/22 carbine,the Glock 17, S&W M&P40, and Sig Sauer P320/M17. As real firearms this would be quite an expensive group of guns.

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

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

Lessons from the professionals

By Dennis Adler

Full-size guns vary in dimensions, take the Glock 17 Gen4 at left and the Model 1911 at right, the Glock is a much smaller footprint. All three guns pictured are CO2 models in the holsters used for their centerfire counterparts. The little Sig P365 at the bottom gives you a comparative relationship between a full-size handgun and a Micro-Compact.

“One gun, one carry and master it” is the principle taught by John Bianchi, the master of concealed carry and the world’s most famous holster maker. I wrote John’s Biography in 2009 (John Bianchi – An American Legend) and he taught me his rules for concealed carry, the first of which was to find one gun and master it from holster, to drawing, aiming, shooting and concealment. If your are in law enforcement, as Bianchi was early in his career when he first began designing and making holsters for fellow police officers, this is easier to achieve. For civilians it is a precept that is easier to embrace than actually accomplish, at least it has been for me, because I have made a profession out of testing guns, and aside from a few favorites, have never had one gun long enough to consider mastering it for CCW use. Over the years I have gone from one to another, from DA/SA revolvers to semi-autos, full-size duty guns to subcompacts, and as for reviewing guns, it is hundreds of guns in and out of my hands for more than 20 years. So for me, mastering one gun is still a personal goal because my carry guns have changed a dozen times over the years (one of the benefits and pitfalls of having so many options from testing new models). There’s a handful I am proficient with to the point that I have total confidence in carrying them, but to be totally honest, the older I get the smaller my EDC gun gets. Still, I have never narrowed it down to one gun or even one holster. But I’m getting closer; more about that later.   read more

Greater Expectations

Greater Expectations

A serious look at air pistols and practicality

By Dennis Adler

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.

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. 

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

Decades of change

Decades of change

What lies behind could be in the future

By Dennis Adler

I had a chance to test the Umarex Colt Commander at the Umarex factory in Germany six months before it was introduced to the U.S. market in 2014, leading a revolution in blowback action air pistols that changed the very face of the CO2 air pistol market in five years.

Here we are at the beginning of a new decade, a very special one to me. When I was young I had remarkable expectations for the far, far distant 21st century and the year 2020, which had seemed to me, would be something momentous, it was so far away in the future. When I was 20, I saw Arthur C. Clarke and Stanly Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey with wide-eyed optimism for a world that was still more than 50 years away from the mesmerizing images on the screen. As far off as 2001 seemed at the time, I believed Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of the future, at least from a standpoint of technology. I shared his vision of incredible possibilities; it was not implausible, we could do this, and a year later Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; it was a beginning, and that was 51 years ago this coming July 20. We have not reached Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions of the 21st century, but in spite of the difficulties, setbacks and politics, we are treading on the periphery of that future, stalled perhaps, by a world that is far different than Clarke envisioned so many decades ago. How does this relate to air pistols?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And boldly going  

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 10

The Final Four and 2019’s Winner

By Dennis Adler

The final four top guns for 2019 are (from left to right) the Umarex Beretta M9A3, Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 and Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 models. Each is a worthy contender for 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

If there is a dark horse candidate among the final four, all with a least 50 points, it is the Umarex Beretta M9A3, because for all of its very authentic features, it has an “extra” feature that actually takes away from its exceptional value as a 1:1 CO2 version of the 9mm model. As much as I enjoy shooting BBs on full auto (with blowback action models that actually have select fire counterparts), this fun feature has done nothing for the M9A3 or the 92A1 before it in respect to it being an excellent training gun for its centerfire counterparts. If we disregard the selector switch, which is so small that it’s not hard to do, the M9A3 is just as accurate in its design as the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two new Springfield XDM models. It is a solid 50 point gun and any other year would have walked away with the win. But this year we have four guns that are equally worthy, but, only one can win.

The Glock 17 Gen4 CO2 model is a near perfect match for the 9mm model. It represents the very best of what is possible with a blowback action air pistol for fit, finish, and authenticity.

The little details that will make or break the winner

The fatal flaw for the M9A3 is the select fire switch. Between the Glock 17 Gen4 and the two XDMs, finding fatal flaws is a great deal more difficult. Differences in velocity and accuracy are not significant enough to break this three-way tie, velocity is too close, and honestly, accuracy is purely subjective here, since it is based on my shooting skills, and while they remained fairly constant with all three guns, there are those of you who can shoot better than me even with the worst of them. So it must come down to how far Umarex and Glock, and Air Venturi and Springfield Armory, have gone to make these guns absolutely as authentic as possible for an air pistol.

All three fieldstrip exactly like their centerfire counterparts. They all have the correct fit and finish, correct sights, and operating controls that look, feel and function like those on the centerfire models. The Glock 17 Gen 4 was the only gun to break 50 points from the start, with the 1 bonus point for field stripping capability added to a perfect 50 point score. The two XDM each lost a point for velocity by being right at 300 fps, while the Glock got the full 10 points with an average velocity that was 317 fps; the small margin that was better than the XDM models. But it’s not enough to really make the Glock 17 Gen4 the immediate winner.

The Gen4 turned a few heads when it was first disassembled and reveled not only a accurate take down to the 9mm model but a dual recoil spring and guide rod like the centerfire model uses.

The Glock has just about everything down right. It has a fully functional Safe-Action trigger, it has an approximate trigger pull to the 9mm pistol, it has correct factory markings on the slide, except for the 9x19mm stamping, it has authentic markings on the right side of the slide and barrel lug, even the warnings are hidden on the underside of the triggerguard, and the mandatory added manual safety brilliantly disguised as the serial number plate on the underside of the dustcover. The not so simple tells are the brass finished .177 caliber muzzle recessed inside the 9mm muzzle and the aforementioned absence of the 9x19mm stamping on the left side of the slide. The gun has robust felt recoil for a blowback action CO2 pistol and even the inner details have been addressed with a Gen4-style dual recoil spring and guide rod assembly that can be removed when field stripping the gun. It is as close to perfect as you can get. But can it beat the XDM 4.5 and 3.8?

The XDM models also fully fieldstrip and the guns are as accurately duplicated from the centerfire models, but in even finer detail than the Glock, and with a few extra features. (Both the Glock Gen4 and XDM models have interchangeable backstraps). In this image, I have turned the barrel around so you can see the fine detail in the barrel lug, which bears the same design as the centerfire pistols with MATCH at the top, the serial number below, and for the CO2 models, .177 CAL (4.5mm). 

What sets these two new entries into the blowback action CO2 market apart from the rest, even from the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, is the complexity of their design. The XDM is a more intricately manufactured air pistol. And it is not simply the two slide finishes available, polished or black Melonite to match the centerfire models; it is the internal and external operating features of the centerfire XDM designs that have been so carefully reproduced for the air pistols.

The XDM is a double threat for this year’s title since there are two models, and two finishes for each model. Pictured is the XDM 4.5 in the excellent Bi-Tone finish and the XDM 3.8 in the black Nitron-like slide finish. Both the 4.5 and 3.8 have three interchangeable backstrap panel and are currently being offered with a free XDM paddle holster. The 3.8 also comes with three matching grip extensions for the magazine (as shown).

Is it safe?

The Glock has famously relied upon a single safety design, the Safe-Action trigger, which is combined with internal safety mechanisms (a drop safety for example) all immediately disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger is pulled. Springfield Armory and its manufacturing partner in Croatia, where the centerfire guns are built to Springfield’s exacting standards, utilized their version of the Glock-type trigger safety but backed it up with a 1911-inspired grip safety (and internal drop and striker safeties), all disengaged when the blade safety is pressed flush with the trigger shoe and the trigger pulled, but this only happens after the grip safety is depressed by fully the gripping the gun. It is a dual external failsafe. There’s more.

The XDM is a more complex design since it not only has the blade trigger safety, but a secondary grip safety that must be depressed when gripping the gun in order for it to fire. Yet even with the dual safety like the centerfire models, the CO2 version is still required to have a manually set safety. You can also see the striker status indicator on the XDM, which in this picture shows the gun is cocked. 

The only way to tell if a Glock action has been cycled is the position of the trigger. Springfield wanted more than that, so they added a striker status indicator (like the Walther P99 among others) which protrudes from the rear of the slide when the action has been cycled. Of course, this does not guarantee a loaded chamber, so the XDMs have a loaded chamber indicator that sticks up from the top of the slide (the Glock’s protrudes from the right side of the slide extractor behind the ejection port). These are the working features of the centerfire guns. On the XDM CO2 models, the loaded chamber indicator is always in the up (loaded) position as an additional reminder to shooters, whether beginners or seasoned pros, (i.e., always regard every gun as loaded), while the Gen4 CO2 model’s indicator is a non-functional, molded-in piece that rests flush, and thus indicates an empty chamber. It’s a very small point, but one gun is obviously more instructive.

The little details are important right down to how the required manual safeties (not required on the centerfire guns) are cleverly disguised as the serial number plates on the Glock 17 Gen4 and XDM CO2 models. A slight touch of greater authenticity is seen in the XDMs which actually have serial numbers on the moving SAFE and FIRE selector.

The grip safety on the XDM CO2 models works; you cannot fire the gun unless the grip safety is depressed. With the grip safety depressed the gun still will not fire unless the trigger safety is pressed with the trigger. You can try this with an empty CO2 model (magazine removed and action cleared) by racking the slide and trying to pull the trigger without pressing in on the grip safety. The trigger will move back but the pistol will not fire. You can test the trigger safety the same way by depressing the grip safety and trying to pull the trigger from the edges but not depress the blade safety. The trigger won’t move at all. It design exactly like the centerfire model; both the grip and trigger safeties must be engaged in order for the gun to discharge. This is a far more complex firing system than any the Glock CO2 model. And there is the mandatory manual safety, which, like Umarex Glock 17, is hidden on the underside of the dustcover where the serial number plate goes. What has Springfield done differently to make it better? It actually has a serial number on it. Slide it back toward the triggerguard and the gun is locked. Push it forward and the action is released to function exactly like a centerfire XDM. That’s as good as a mandatory manual safety can look and function.

The bottom line with the XDMs is that they are as authentic as technically possible for a blowback action CO2 pistol, inside and out. But I can only give the 5-point bonus for Design Innovation to one gun and there are two XDMs, one of which takes things, just one step further.

It’s a package deal with the 3.8 which comes with one magazine, three interchangeable backstrap panels and three matching size grip extensions. At present, the guns also come with an XD holster as part of the purchase price.

When Springfield Armory decided to build a Compact version of the XDM, they developed a new, shorter frame, slide and barrel with a length of 3.8 inches. This smaller version of the XDM 4.5 had a shorter grip frame and thus a lower total capacity. As a pure Compact this was a necessity for concealed carry. However, the full size 4.5 magazines also fit the 3.8, so one could use the longer magazine in the smaller gun; it just stuck out the bottom of the grip like an extended capacity magazine on other pistols. Springfield wasn’t satisfied with that. Since the guns also had three sizes of interchangeable backstraps, it was decided that three size-matching grip extensions would be included with each XDM 3.8, so the longer 4.5 mags could blend in with the grip and backstrap, while also providing a better hold for the Compact pistol. This was also beneficial for those with larger hands. The shorter magazine could be used for concealed carry and the spare mag (or mags) the extended capacity version with the grip extension. Or, one could simply carry with the longer magazine, which was still shorter than some full size semi-autos.

No matter which finish you like the XDM 3.8 is the most authentic blowback action CO2 model currently being manufactured and the gun that has raised the bar to a new level this year.

The XDM CO2 model is exactly the same, except that there is only one magazine type, the 4.5 version, which is necessary to handle the CO2. So, the XDM 3.8 comes with the grip extensions used on the centerfire guns, making it the single most innovative and authentic blowback action CO2 pistol in every detail, and 2019’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year. And now, the other winner.

The first person to answer all 9 questions correctly, and pick the Replica Air Pistol of the Year for 2019 is Cstoehr, who posted the correct answers and the XDM 3.8 as his choice on December 22nd at 1:42 PM. Congratulations and Merry Christmas!

Thanks to everyone for following the 2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year series this month. This article marks the 500th Airgun Experience article and a fititng end to the year. The Airgun Experience will return in January.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s to one and all!   read more

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

2019 Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

Updating a timeless classic – Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC

By Dennis Adler

There’s a lot here to like that overrides what there is not to like, the white letter warning on the frame and the (Oh, is that how this works?”) S arrow F lettering on an otherwise very well designed early style 1911 thumb safety. Overlooking that, the slide with impressive MODEL 1911 – A1 and CAL 4.5 and matte Parkerized finish like the centerfire model, really sells the looks of this gun before you even get to the striking reproduction of Springfield’s crossed cannon diamond checkered grips.

There is no point in American firearms history since the 1911 was introduced that the Colt Model or some version of it has not been in production; it is an unbroken cycle that has lasted 108 years. Aside from the Colt Peacemaker (which actually did go out of production during WWII and until 1956) no American handgun has remained in production longer than the 1911. As an air pistol, the 1911 silhouette was the inspiration for classics old air pistols made by Marksman from the 1950s to the 1970s that shot BBs, pellets, or darts (in fact, they still make it). How many of you had one of those when your were a kid?

Not your father’s BB gun

Since 2014, we have been treated to an array of Model 1911 air pistols that duplicate the design and operation of the centerfire model in its many variations, from original pre-WWI designs to the pre-WWII 1911-A1, through today’s modern tactical and competition versions made by Colt’s (licensed through Umarex), Remington, Sig Sauer, Tanfoglio, and Swiss Arms, among others, and now by Springfield Armory, which built its reputation on .45 ACP Colt Model 1911 designs starting in the early 1980s. Today, Springfield has one of the largest and most popular lines of 1911 pistols that span the needs of law enforcement, civilian and competition shooting. This year they added a blowback action CO2 model to the Springfield Armory line (licensed through Air Venturi) that is solidly based on the company’s 1911-A1 MIL-SPEC .45 Auto series.

Take away the white lettering and Springfield Armory has done with the MIL-SPEC what Sig Sauer did with the WE THE PEOPLE 1911, made a near perfect centerfire understudy right down to the polished muzzle, barrel bushing and trademark grips.

This is Springfield Armory’s modestly updated version of the original Colt Model 1911-A1 they began selling in 1984. Today there are two centerfire versions; the standard model with a matte Parkerized-like finish and the Stainless Steel MIL-SPEC with stainless steel construction and a polished finish on the flat surfaces and bead-blasted matte finish on the rounded areas. The mainspring housing on both models is the arched style found on GI issue 1911-A1s beginning in the mid 1920s, but they have an added safety design with Springfield Armory’s I.L.S. Internal Locking System (used on centerfire models, but not the CO2 version). Springfield models have a standard spur hammer, grip safety, left-side, non-extended thumb safety, and short military combat trigger true to the original 1911-A1. Springfield made exterior improvements to the original design as well, which include 3-dot fixed sights and a lowered and flared ejection port (again on the centerfire models). The MIL-SPEC centerfire models come with Springfield’s cross-cannon emblem on the checkered walnut grips. The grips for the CO2 model are duplicated with quality injection molded panels that have the same checkering and cross-cannon Springfield Armory logo. As plastic 1911 grips go, these are exceptional looking. The same can be said of the Parkerized-look finish on the CO2 model, and all of the Springfield Armory stampings on the slide. The only quick tell that instantly distinguishes the MIL-SPEC as an air pistol is the use of the same S F (SAFE FIRE) white lettering and a directional arrow on the thumb safety that is  used on the Umarex Colt Commander, and white lettering for the Springfield name and caliber stamping. Some of this is more than forgivable, as white lettering is occasionally used on centerfire guns. What is unforgivable for a brand new CO2 model, is that the typical white letter warnings are on the frame. Considering how far we have come with other new models, including Springfield Armory’s XDM CO2 models, it is unfortunate to see this step back, when the warnings could all be placed on the underside of the frame. In light of some of the competition this year, this has to be a 1 point deduction from Authenticity of Design.

Again the slide is a perfect copy of the centerfire gun, and the white lettering on the right side of the frame with the correct manufacturer’s info, serial number, and caliber, is almost all but forgivable. It’s really the left side of the frame that disappoints. Quite different from most CO2 models that use the right side for white letter warnings.

Facts on the ground

However nice this new model is, aside from the white lettering, and even with an authentically based Parkerized finish, this new gun is not unique, but rather the latest in a series of blowback action 1911 CO2 models that began in 2014 with the Umarex Colt Commander. They all share nearly identical internal designs and operation and the same self-contained CO2 BB magazines, and that’s the best part of this story, because all of the magazines are interchangeable even though Springfield now has spare MIL-SPEC mags for sale. The only distinct features that separate these guns are exterior aesthetics; the design of the trigger, hammer, thumb safeties, sights, grips, and finish. Otherwise, they are one and the same, and with very few exceptions, that’s pretty much the way it is in the world of centerfire 1911 models. Individual manufacturers and retailers, companies like Colt, Sig Sauer, Kimber, Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Springfield Armory and others, have their own sets of standards and features for their 1911 models, all based on the original John M. Browning design, but improved upon with time and technology. With the CO2 models, no matter what name is on the slide, they are no different except for finishes and features like sights and safeties, yet some do perform better than others.

The best comparisons for the Springfield MIL-SPEC come down to one of these four other variations of the 1911 as a CO2 model. From back to front, the first blowback action 1911, the Umarex Colt Commander, next the WWII-style of 1911 used for the Air Venturi John Wayne model, the most modern of the 1911 CO2 designs, the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS (Rail Gun), and the reigning top 1911 model, Sig Sauer’s 1911 WE THE PEOPLE, which, like the new Springfield, is directly copied from the brand’s centerfire model.

Like their centerfire counterparts, where certain manufacturers of frames, slides, barrels and other components that make up a 1911, offer different levels of quality and features to meet a specific price range, the airgun manufacturers also build like guns to meet a specific standard of performance, fit and finish for each individual retailer, be it Umarex, Sig Sauer or Springfield Armory. And in that, there are small differences because Springfield Armory set its standards high, Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 high.

Internally, the same design parts are used for the CO2 firing systems but there are subtle differences in the air nozzles and air nozzle restrictors, magazine valve releases and other parts. While barrel length has a lot to do with velocity, all of the 1911 CO2 models have approximately the same length smoothbore barrels.

A closer look at the trigger on the Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC shows the fine detail in the checkered trigger shoe just like the .45 ACP model. The Springfield Inc. address and the guns serial number are in white. This is sometimes done on centerfire guns as well, so not a big deal on this CO2 model.

The Springfield’s 1911 A-1 military-style short trigger has an average pull of 5 pounds, 9 ounces, which is in the ballpark for a centerfire 1911 A-1 and in keeping with Springfield’s claimed trigger resistance for the centerfire MIL-SPEC of 5 to 6 pounds.

The otherwise very traditionally-styled Springfield MIL-SPEC totally surpasses the fixed, low profile military sights on other 1911 A-1 CO2 models, and clearly challenges those with fixed combat style white dot sights. The difference with the Springfield is that the style of white dot sights is not a modern combat sight (most of which are based on Novak designs) but rather the older, more upright U-notch rear with white dots facing a white dot blade front sight found on the original Colt Series 70 Government models built in the 1970s and 1980s. What this translates too when shooting the air pistol is a difference in POA and POI from some other blowback action models. While the majority of CO2 pistols tend to hit low, requiring a hold over at 21 feet, the MIL-SPEC shoots high, about 3 inches over POA with a fresh CO2, and then settles down after the first 10 to 15 shots to hitting about 2-1/2 inches high; velocity with this gun is very consistent from shot to shot (unless you rapid fire the gun). You need to hold under the bullseye, more akin to a 6 o’clock hold but about an inch lower than normal.

Plastic never looked so good, the grips on the CO2 model are exceptional, the S F arrow, not so much. Some upgrades to Springfield’s centerfire models are also on the CO2 version of the MIL-SPEC, including the more upright U-notch rear sight with white dots facing a white dot blade front like those used on the original Colt Series 70 Government models (c.1970s-1980s).

Except for the Sig Sauer WTP, the Springfield has the highest average velocity. The Sig has consistently hit between 329 and 338 fps. The Springfield has a factory rating of 320 fps and tested at an average of 314 fps, but within a very tight variance of between 313 to 317 fps for 10 shots. Once you have your POA dialed in, the gun will hit just about dead center from there.

The Springfield CO2 models have the early standard Colt spur hammer, and 1911-A1 grip safety with arched mainspring, a left-side, non-extended thumb safety, and short military combat trigger based on the original 1911-A1 design.

With a fresh CO2 and Umarex steel BBs, my best 10-shot group with the Springfield MIL-SPEC measured 1.41 inches with a best 5-shot group at 0.68 inches, including three overlapping in the bullseye and the rest of the group a little high and right. It comes in as just about equal for accuracy (accounting for POA corrections) with the Sig WTP. Not as good, but still well in the ballpark for a 1911 with fixed sights.

The Springfield Armory MIL-SPEC, for its combination of features, fit and finish (and impressive grips), comes in second overall to the Sig. As a gun combing original Colt design, an upgrade in sights from military to white dot but still within Colt standards, and being a duplicate of a .45 ACP production gun (again just like the Sig Sauer WTP), the MIL-SPEC is as close to being all that it can be.

The next most accurate 1911 model to the Sig WTP, the MIL-SPEC shot a tight group in the bullseye with the rest a little high and right. Best 5-shot group from 21 feet measured 0.68 inches aiming just above the 7 ring at 6 o’clock.


Model: Air Venturi Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC

Authenticity 1 to 10:  9 (Excellent except white letter warnings on side and S F safety)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 9 (Superior fit and finish but old established design)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (Easy to load BBs and CO2)

Performance 1 to 10: 10 (Average velocity better than most 1911 CO2 models)

Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (Shoots tight groups, best group 0.68 inches)

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