Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2

Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2 Part 1

The age old debate and 1911 magazine swaps

By Dennis Adler 

There was an overlap between the Peacemaker and the 1911 in the early 20th century, even in the military where the Single Action Colts were still being used, and this combination remained practical for southwest lawmen well into the 1950s. This match up of CO2 models is a factual portrait of a time in the American West when old and new worked hand in hand. (Single Action holster is a copy of Billy the Kid’s handcrafted by Chisholm’s Trail. The military 1911 flap holster is a reproduction of the U.S. Model JT&L 1942 from World War Supply)

It has been said that if you do something right the first time, you never have to do it over. At the turn of the last century there were a lot of armsmakers doing things over, especially for the U.S. military, which was in the rather unique position of having to find a large caliber replacement for the Colt Peacemaker and discovering that nothing was really working. The military began to abandon the .45 Colt Single Action Army in 1889 when the U.S. Navy purchased Colt’s new .38 caliber Model 1889 Navy double action revolver. With a swing out cylinder it was much faster to reload than a Peacemaker. But the 1889 was short-lived. It was replaced within the Colt’s lineup and in the U.S. military by the Models 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901 and 1903 New Army and Navy Revolvers in calibers ranging from .38 Colt to .41 Long and Short Colt. But none offered the stopping power of a .45 caliber Peacemaker. In 1905 the Marines Corps adopted another Colt revolver chambered in .38 Colt (or .38 S&W) aptly named the Model 1905 Marine Corps Revolver. This one saw only 926 guns produced before it was discontinued. By 1907 most of the earlier double action models were replaced by the Army Special model in either .38 or .41 caliber. read more


Swiss Arms 1911 Tactical

Swiss Arms 1911 Tactical

The totally tricked out rail gun Part 1 Part 2

By Dennis Adler

This is about as close to a realistically-sized, suppressor-equipped Model 1911 as you can get in a blowback action CO2 pistol. The Swiss Arms Tactical Rail System (TRS) pistol closely resembles the .45 ACP Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun in finish and features. The air pistols threaded barrel also makes it possible to equip it with the JBU faux suppressor. The finishing touch is the Tanfoglio extended capacity 27-round magazine which also works with Swiss Arms models.

When it comes to accessorizing a blowback action Model 1911 CO2 pistol, the Swiss Arms TRS (Tactical Rail System) pistol has the two most desirable add-on features, a JBU threaded faux suppressor and a 27-round extended capacity long magazine. In the “looks” department, a 1911 just doesn’t get any better, and there are actual .45 ACP, 9x19mm, .38 Super and 10mm models in existence that have been similarly equipped, so this CO2 model is not an exaggeration.

Think of this as a “kit” gun. You can buy the TRS by itself or as a Blowback Kit from Pyramyd Air, which includes the JBU threaded faux suppressor. The Tanfoglio extended capacity magazine is sold separately. Put them all together and you have one very remarkable looking CO2 pistol.

The Swiss Arms difference

The success of dustcover rail-equipped 1911s has become almost standardized as a model variation for U.S. and foreign manufacturers of the Colt M1911 and M1911A1 platform. The Colt 1911A1 Rail Gun, a 21st century tactical version of the most successful semi-auto pistol in history, was first built by Colt for the Marine Corps in 2013, which led to other manufactures (the Colt patent is long expired) to produce similar rail gun designs. Today both full size Government Models and Compact 1911s are available with accessory rails. In 2016, Colt’s introduced the Combat Unit Rail Gun with a blackened stainless steel receiver and frame. The Swiss Arms 1911 TRS is very similar to this model using anodized black all-metal (alloy) construction. The blowback action pistol has the Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun-style integral dustcover rail and uses correctly sized, self-contained CO2 BB magazines. The extended capacity magazine shown is actually made by Tanfoglio for their 1911 CO2 models, but is completely interchangeable with the Swiss Arms semi-autos. read more


Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2

Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2 Part 1

Just for kicks

By Dennis Adler

For this series on recoil I have chosen eight different blowback action semi-auto models, most with different characteristics, several with true short-recoil operating designs where the back of the barrel lug and slide lock together in battery and disengage with the barrel tilting slightly downward and unlocking from the slide interface when fired. Pictured from top to bottom, Tanfoglio Limited Custom, Umarex S&W M&P40, Umarex Beretta 92A1, ASG CZ-75, Swiss Arms 1911 TRS, Sig Sauer 1911, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, and Umarex Colt Commander. They all work about the same way, but only one will deliver the most felt recoil for training purposes.

Readers have already raised the question of building CO2 powered blowback action air pistols with increased recoil. While this contradicts the goals of centerfire pistol manufacturers who look for ways to reduce recoil, for CO2 pistols, if you want more authenticity, you need more felt recoil. This is, in part, what will be a result of Sig Sauer’s current venture into building new models that generate higher velocities with self-contained drop free CO2 BB magazines. Higher velocity should mean more recoil from the blowback action (if everything is kept proportionate); action, reaction. read more


Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 1

Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 1

Or as Sir Isaac Newton put it in 1687,

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

By Dennis Adler

Four ideal candidates for blowback action CO2 models with just enough felt recoil to give shooters a better sense of the gun firing in addition to slide motion. This small “kick” is less than a .22 target pistol, but enough to give some degree of feedback. Pictured are the Umarex S&W M&P40 (left and moving clockwise), the Tanfoglio Limited Custom, Umarex Beretta 92A1 and ASG CZ-75. All four have similar barrel and slide designs but only the Tanfoglio and M&P40 have barrels and slides that lock and disengage like a cartridge firing pistol.

Newton’s third law of motion is still the best explanation of recoil from a firearm, even though when he postulated his three theories of motion 330 years ago it is unlikely he was thinking about firing a handgun (unless he was familiar with Wheelock pistols), but his theory of action and equal and opposite reaction is perfectly suited to defining recoil in a handgun. Heavy recoil has never been a desirable characteristic, but it comes with the territory. This is, of course, relative to the handgun design and other mitigating circumstances, but Newton’s theory applies in proportion whenever a bullet, BB, or pellet, is fired from a handgun. What are those mitigating circumstances? With handguns it is design. The maximum example would be firing a .500 S&W magnum revolver, the most powerful production revolver in the world (sorry Harry you’ve been replaced), in which the full action of firing the revolver distributes the recoil back through the gun and into the shooter’s body. The weight of the gun itself, barrel length, as well as porting of the barrel to allow gasses to escape upward and reduce muzzle lift, and even grip design are factors to mitigating felt recoil. (Different bullet grain weights, type of gunpowder, and even bullet designs will also have a bearing on recoil). The opposite end of that extreme would be a silenced .22 caliber semi-auto which would exert almost no appreciable recoil. So why are we looking for recoil in a CO2 powered blowback action air pistol? read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 2

Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 2 Part 1 Part 3

Honing your shooting skills the old fashioned way

By Dennis Adler

As far apart as two (original) cartridge-firing handguns could be the CO2 versions of the Colt Peacemaker and Tanfoglio CZ-75 based semi-auto pistols make an interesting match up for shooting accuracy at 21 feet. The Colt has a slight advantage with its longer rifled barrel and firing 4.5mm pellets vs. the semi-auto’s smoothbore barrel and .177 caliber steel BB load.

How can a handgun with fixed sights equal the accuracy of a handgun with adjustable sights? For that matter how can a 145 year-old handgun design like the Colt Peacemaker shoot as accurately as a 21st century version of the Colt 1911 equipped with target sights (or any other semi-auto equally outfitted)? At some point it probably can’t, but at a fighting distance, say out to 25 yards, you would be amazed what a practiced shooter can do with a Single Action Army revolver. There is even a well documented commentary about one of the Old West’s greatest pistoleros, Wild Bill Hickok, by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Commenting on his friends abilities with a pistol, Cody said, “Bill was a pretty good shot, but he could not shoot as quick as half a dozen men we all knew in those days, nor as straight, either. But Bill was cool, and the men he went up against were rattled, I guess. Bill would just quietly pull his gun and give it to him…he was never in a hurry about it.”  Hickok’s most famous gunfight took place just after the Civil War in Springfield, Missouri. Embroiled in a quarrel with an ex-Confederate soldier named David Tutt, the two men were at opposite sides of the town square when Tutt drew and fired at Hickok. His first and only shot missed. Hickok rested an 1851 Navy over his left arm and, took careful aim, and shot Tutt dead where he stood nearly 200 feet away! There was much to be said for the simple sights on a Colt revolver. Another famous lawman perhaps said it best. In one of his 1907 Human Life Magazine articles Bat Masterson wrote, “…looking through the sights is a very essential thing to do when shooting at an adversary who is returning your fire.” read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 1

Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Honing your shooting skills the old fashioned way

By Dennis Adler

A lot happed to firearms between 1873 and 1911 and the biggest change of all was the advent of semiautomatic handguns. A lot has also happened with airguns since 2014 when the Umarex Colt Commander blowback action CO2 semi-auto was introduced and 2015 when Umarex and Colt unveiled the first CO2 Peacemaker. Now the age old debate between revolvers and semi-autos has been reignited with BB and pellet firing copies of some of the greatest single action and semi-auto pistols in history being manufactured. And with those old debates also come the same old misconceptions about shooting and accuracy. We’re going to sort it out.

One of the more interesting discussions I have seen in recent articles, has been about the accuracy of revolvers vs. semiautomatic pistols, and in particular the 7-1/2 inch Colt Peacemaker compared to other airguns, including semi-autos. While this is truly an “apples and oranges” comparison, as one reader put it, it is a valid comparison in the light of how different handgun designs and systems of operation affect accuracy and, more importantly, one’s own confidence with a handgun. Testing handguns for as many years as I have, I’ve experienced every imaginable level of contentment and disappointment, either in myself or the firearm being tested. It is possible to have a bad or somehow flawed gun, or to have a bad day at the range shooting poorly because of weather, distractions, or just being off your game. Occasionally it can be both, which makes things seem even worse. But more often than not, the gun is unlikely to be at fault. When it is, things go south quickly. I have had single action revolvers with bad barrels and sights that were so off, I’d had a better chance hitting the target by throwing the gun at it! I’ve had semi-autos jam on every round, magazines that wouldn’t feed, sights that were impossible to adjust, and worse, random failures making the gun totally unreliable. And every one of these issues can be duplicated with an air pistol. However, just like cartridge-firing revolvers vs. semiautomatic pistols, the odds of a revolver having a failure are far less likely, which brings me to the question of revolvers vs. semi-autos for accuracy. read more


What are we looking for in a blowback action CO2 pistol?

What are we looking for in a blowback action CO2 pistol?

Reality Checks

By Dennis Adler

Blowback action airgun enthusiasts are a relatively new breed in terms of airgun history. Blowback semi-autos have only been around since Umarex and Walther developed the first PPK/S .177 caliber model in 1999. Prior to that Umarex and Walther had developed the non-blowback action CP88 pellet-firing models with a DA/SA trigger, but without blowback action the Walther’s hammer had to be manually cocked each time to fire single action.

This article is more of an open forum for debate than it is about any one specific airgun model. The development of new blowback action air pistol designs over the past several years has almost kept pace with centerfire and rimfire semiautomatic handguns, and in most cases, model for model, leading air gun enthusiasts down a very interesting path, yours truly included.

A little over 17 years ago the groundbreaking Walther CP99 (right) took the CP88 concept one step further with a P99-based polymer frame. The 8-shot, 4.5mm pellet firing, non-blowback action, striker fired air pistol became a training gun for German police using the P99. The concept of learning basic skills and firing without the cost of live ammo (9mm) made the CP99 one of the world’s most popular 12 gr. CO2 pistols. The PPK/S, however, remained the only blowback action CO2 pistol for many years.

When I began writing about air pistols I was already involved with cartridge-firing handguns and, by the nature of my work, reviewing new makes and models for Guns & Ammo, American Rifleman, Combat Handguns, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement, Pocket Pistols, and Guns of the Old West, I had access to the very latest firearms. read more