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


Five top blowback action semi-autos

Five top blowback action semi-autos…

with the easiest to load magazines!

By Dennis Adler

Five different guns all with one thing in common, a self-contained CO2 BB magazine that is easy to load. Clockwise from bottom left, Umarex P.08 Parabellum, Umarex Beretta M92A1, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, Tanfoglio Limited Custom and Swiss Arms SA 1911 TRS.

Blowback action semi autos burn through .177 caliber rounds almost as fast as a selective fire model on full auto. That’s a great part of their appeal; a realistic airgun experience that simulates the cartridge-firing model’s operation. A semi-auto is a fast gun to shoot and reload, which is why they are generally preferred over revolvers. But even with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, like all five of the airguns featured here, the reloading experience can vary from slow to excruciatingly slow. Not with loading the magazine into the gun, that’s 100 percent accurate in every respect, but rather with loading the BBs into the magazine! Pressing anywhere from 8 to 15 rounds of 9mm, .40 S&W or .45ACP into a cartridge magazine is no picnic either, but each round goes on top of the other and gets pushed down into the magazine compressing the follower spring as you go. If CO2 BB magazines worked the same way, loading would be pretty straightforward. But that isn’t the way BBs load into a self-contained CO2 BB magazine. read more


Sig Sauer P226 X-Five Open Part 2

Sig Sauer P226 X-Five Open Part 2 Part 1 Part 3

Going head-to-head with Tanfoglio’s Limited Custom

The DA/SA vs. the SAO target pistol

By Dennis Adler

Top guns in .177 caliber CO2 blowback action models are the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five Open and Tanfoglio Limited Custom. The Sig is a slightly larger gun with a longer barrel (not counting the ported compensator), and longer sight radius. Their MSRP’s are within $20 of each other, the Tanfoglio having the higher retail price. Both are currently on sale.

When you are faced with two excellent guns the only way to make a choice is to shoot them both and see which one is best for you. After a lot of testing over the past few years I narrowed down my “Best Guns” list for blowback action semi-autos to about five, and of those, two proved best for target shooting, the Tanfoglio Limited Custom with open sights and Tanfoglio Gold Custom for use with optics. But there is also the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, which even in its standard configuration can give the best semi-auto CO2 models a run for their money when it comes to features, handling and accuracy. The Sig’s Open model actually rivals either Tanfoglio and it is only one gun vs. two! So, here we go with the first runoff between the P226 X-Five Open and Tanfoglio Custom Limited. read more


Tanfoglio Limited Custom Part 2

Tanfoglio Limited Custom .177 caliber semi-auto

What it takes to make a winner Part 2

By Dennis Adler

The Tanfoglio Limited Custom is a full size copy of the 9mm competition model with a weight of 2 pounds, 12 ounces. The CO2 model has an identical slide release, ambidextrous thumb rest safeties, and oversize magazine release. The only noteworthy visual difference between the CO2 model and the 9mm Tanfoglio is the absence of a ported slide and the two-tone finish.

The Tanfoglio Limited Custom is a full size copy of the 9mm competition model with a weight of 2 pounds, 12 ounces. The CO2 model has an identical slide release, ambidextrous thumb rest safeties, and oversize magazine release. The only noteworthy visual difference between the CO2 model and the 9mm Tanfoglio is the absence of a ported slide and the two-tone finish.

The Tanfoglio Limited Custom is by far one of the best blowback action CO2 models I have ever tested, and as a competition practice gun, it is second only to the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. However, if your shooting preference is open sights, then the Limited Custom exceeds just about every other blowback action CO2 model you can own. High praise, but having tested all of the major blowback action airguns produced in the last 16 years, if I had to pick one for target shooting it would be the Tanfoglio models. Since I have not yet tested the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five with Bomar-style competition sights, I will reserve that one as a possible equal to the Tanfoglio. But we’ll get back to the Sig vs. the Tanfoglio next month. read more