Reality Check

Reality Check

Answering an obvious question

By Dennis Adler

It’s time for a reality check because we seem to be living in a surreal moment right now, one that appears to be unraveling daily, sometimes hourly, as our nation and the world faces a global health crisis. The reality check here, however, is not political or medical, it is airgun related. Why in a time of national crisis do we need a reality check on airguns? Because in times like these, when we become unsettled by events around us, events that can spiral out of control, people can do the wrong thing, seemingly for the right reason. read more


“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 3

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 3

Knowing what works

By Dennis Adler

You can carry a 1911, I have done it successfully. Cold weather makes it much easier and with a Galco Combat Master, which rides fairly high, I was able to conceal the 1911 under the pullover shirt and jacket.

There are a lot of videos, articles, and books on handgun training, shooting techniques and methods of carry, and most are well worth viewing or reading, but even armed with that knowledge, what works for you may not be the same. The purpose of this series is to offer the option of exploring different handguns and holsters that work for a majority of individuals interested in concealed carry. The process is to assist in making a good, practical choice in a gun and holster, and learning the fundamentals of gun handling. Starting with a CO2 pistol surrogate to a centerfire handgun will make the transition to an actual firearm much easier; total familiarization with how the gun holsters, carries, conceals, draws and aims, will take you up to the moment when you pull the trigger. No air pistol will take you past the last step. There is no substitute for the actual feel of recoil from a handgun, or the sound of gunfire (in reality you won’t be wearing hearing protection in a self defense situation, and the noise can be disorienting), and most importantly, even the best shooting experience with an air pistol will not equal the gratification of a bullseye hit with a .380, 9mm, or larger caliber round, or the immediate disappointment of finding out it is a lot harder with live ammo than BBs or pellets. Guns, too, can disappoint. The only thing air pistol training will achieve is a higher level of confidence going in, and afterward, if you have found the right gun and holster combination, the opportunity to practice handling skills with a matching air pistol. That is why air pistols (of various types) are being used in law enforcement training. The cost per session is a fraction of live fire training. read more


“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 2

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 2

Practical considerations

By Dennis Adler

Thin and thinner, injection molded holsters like this Galco Model CVS 226 barely add to the footprint of a gun like the Glock 17 Gen4, and have a curve to keep the rig close to the body. It is still a big gun but easier to conceal in a holster like this. At right, a very thin but well made leather belt holster. The MTR Leather belt rig it is made for a variety of small handguns. Holsters like the MTR are very comfortable but offer little in the way of pistol retention other than the soft leather contoured fit. Injection molded holsters like the Galco add some residual retention of the gun with the tight contoured fit around the triggerguard, and slide ejection port.

There are many considerations when you decide to carry concealed, aside from the moral and legal implications that each individual must address. The first of which is why? If this seems a bit intense for an airgun article, it is, because in this instance the airgun is substituting for a real gun and you have to have your priorities straight.  

I chose these two extremes to illustrate different needs of carry. Both guns are 9mm; the Glock has a 17+1 capacity, the Sig 10+1, still quite an advantage at almost half the size. Both CO2 models can be used for general training use and learning concealed carry with Micro-Compact and full-size semiautomatic pistols.

Making the decision to carry a gun goes beyond the visit to your local Police Chief or County Sheriff to request a carry permit, which, depending upon where you live, can vary from simple questions to providing more specific information and even having to attend and pass a handgun training class before a carry permit is issued. In some states, counties and cities, a carry permit is almost impossible to get, while in some states you don’t even need a permit. But we are putting the cart before the horse here. 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


Sig Sauer P365 Upgrade Part 1

Sig Sauer P365 Upgrade Part 1

Sig fine-tunes the smallest blowback action pistol

By Dennis Adler

Mirror, mirror, they’re both Sig Sauer P365 CO2 models, but the one on the right is the upgraded 2020 version, virtually indistinguishable from last year’s P365 blowback action CO2 pistol, until you shoot it! The few minor issues with the original design have been corrected and the action and trigger fine tuned.

In 2019 Sig did what no airgun manufacturer had done before, they designed a Micro Compact blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine. That in itself, sold a lot of guns, but in order to make a CO2 pistol this small, one that could use a 12 gram CO2 cartridge, meant that there were some big hurdles for the Sig Sauer’s Sig Air Division engineers to clear. Back in the summer of 2019, Sig Air’s Product Manager Dani Navickas, said that “Sig likes to challenge their R&D engineers, so it was actually a challenge to the R&D team to completely replicate the [9mm] P365 in 1:1 scale so it would be a great training tool. It had to be an equal.” In all of those respects the CO2 model achieved its goals, as I proved in my comparison between the CO2 model and the 9mm pistol last year, but the air pistol nevertheless fell a little short of (consumer) expectations in velocity, and its small size had some unforeseen complications. The first series of P365 models were nevertheless impressive for their authenticity to the 9mm Sig and accuracy with .177 caliber BBs out to 21 feet. For such a small air pistol the precision handling all but made up for the gun’s minor shortcomings. read more


The XDM 3.8 Part 4

The XDM 3.8 Part 4

The 1:1 Shooting Test conclusion

By Dennis Adler

If you had to pick which one is an air pistol at a glance, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the .177 Springfield XDM 3.8 in my right hand (larger .45 ACP muzzle) from the 9mm XDM 3.8 in my left. For authenticity, the XDM’s with Melonite-type black and Bi-Tone polished slides are a perfect match for their centerfire counterparts in both the looks and handling department. But how does the CO2 model stand up against the 9mm for defensive shooting practice?

This last installment is really what practical shooting with a CO2 understudy is all about. What we learn from these shooting drills is the fundamental handling of the centerfire model, and in a 1:1 shooting test at practical defensive distances the lessens are almost entirely interchangeable from holster draw, aiming, and firing. What the photos don’t show is the difference in felt recoil and the sound of a 9mm pistol discharging. Otherwise, what you see with one gun is the same as the other, and that is the bottom line value in training with air. Even if you’re not training to carry concealed, or even considering a 9mm pistol for home protection, the total equivalence of the XDM 3.8 CO2 and centerfire models is beneficial for basic handgun skills, even for shooting air pistols.

The 3.8 in .177 is an exact match in dimensions to the 9mm, so everything you do with the air pistol mimics handling the centerfire gun.

The right fit

One of the features of the XDM models is the ability to change backstraps to fit specific hand sizes and this is duplicated on the CO2 models. The backstrap change is the same on the 4.5 and 3.8, with the addition of magazine grip extensions for the 3.8, although you do not have to use them, you could just have the lower portion of the magazine exposed from the bottom of the 3.8 magwell. The reason for changing backstraps is to either increase or decrease the distance from the palm of the shooting hand to the trigger. Both hand size and length of fingers are reasons to make the backstrap swaps. All three backstraps are marked S, M, or L (with corresponding magazine grip extensions for the 3.8) and the guns come with the M panel installed as this fits the majority of users. Determining which backstrap panel best suits your hands is a matter of personal preference, unless there is an obvious problem with properly gripping the gun, such as your trigger finger over extending or coming up short of the trigger shoe. Ideally, the first joint of your trigger finger from the tip to the fold should cover the trigger. My guideline for the grip size from the palm of the hand to the trigger is to end up with the middle finger wrapping around the grip far enough for the tip of the shooting hand thumb to rest on top of it. If your thumb extends well past or comes up short, you need to consider changing backstraps. Here’s how it is done with the XDM models.

Hand sizes and finger lengths vary, so the XDM models in centerfire and CO2 have fully interchangeable backstrap panels, and the 3.8 has added magazine grip extensions. They are easy to change and fit to one’s individual needs.

You will find the steps outlined on page 9 of the excellent XDM instruction book. You do not need to remove the magazine to do this on the 4.5, but you do on the 3.8. Also, be certain you have cleared the gun and dropped the slide. There is a locking pin in the lower portion of the grip that passes from one side to the other and through a channel inside the grip frame to lock it down. Using a small hex head Allen tool (not included), push the pin through from left to right and remove it. With the pin removed, grip the base of the backstrap and lift it away from the grip frame. Insert the smaller or larger backstrap into the top lip of the grip frame, lower into place and reinsert the retention pin.

This is a setup I learned from my local Sheriff, who carries a 1911 in a belt rig with a spare mag pouch in front. This is one way to carry (more open than concealed since he is wearing a badge!) but it does work well for CCW if you want the gun and a spare mag on the strong side. Shown with Galco Combat Master XDM belt holster and Galco mag pouch, the CO2 pistol and magazine are a perfect fit.

The XDM CO2 models are an exact fit for XD Gear holsters and magazine pouches as well as aftermarket holsters and pouches like the Galco Combat Master belt holster and SMC (single magazine case) belt mag pouch worn by the author.

So how does this set up work as opposed to carrying an extra mag on the off side hip? As I release the empty magazine from the XDM 3.8 CO2 model, I begin pulling the spare mag from the pouch. It is turned in the pouch with rounds facing in, so as I pull it out and bring it up to load, the magazine is facing the correct way…

…as the spent mag falls I am pulling the reload and will rotate it up and into the magwell in one move.

Shooting it out in 9mm and .177 calibers

I shot two 10-round strings with the 9mm XDM, one at 7 yards (21 feet) aiming at the bullseye, and one from 10 yards (30 feet) aiming high at the 8 ring. I used Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ rounds, which produce lower recoil than higher velocity jacketed hollow point ammunition. The Federal American Eagle is also less expensive per box of 50 rounds vs. 20 rounds of the Federal 147 gr. Hydra -Shok Personal Defense ammo.

Care to guess which gun I am about to shoot? This is the 9mm XDM 3.8 being test fired 21 feet from the B-27 cardboard silhouette target. After 10 rounds, I’ll move back to 30 feet and fire my second 9mm test.

Here is the final B-27 target with 20 rounds of Federal American Eagle 9mm ammo into tight groups at 21 feet around the bullseye, and at 30 feet in the area around the 8 ring at 12 o’clock. Best group measured 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches from 21 feet and 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches from 30 feet.

My 10-shot X ring group at 21 feet, placed all shots within 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches. Moving back to 10 yards (30 feet) and again firing using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance, I put my 10 rounds aimed at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock into 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches. All shots were fired at 1-second intervals. Just for comparison, muzzle velocity with the Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ is 1180 fps against 300 fps for the XDM 3.8 CO2 model. The 21 foot test with the air pistol should be a fair comparison, while pushing the .177 caliber rounds to 10 yards at that velocity may see a slight drop in accuracy.

Nothing changes but the decibel rating and recoil when I switch to the 3.8 CO2 model. Handing, aiming and trigger pull are virtually identical.

Using the same type Law Enforcement Targets cardboard B-27 silhouette target, same shooting stance and the CO2 model at 21 feet, my 10-round group aimed at the X ring gave me a total spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping hits. At 10 yards, the spread opened up a little and shots hit low, around the 9 rather than at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock which was POA. That group had a spread of 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches. Without the recoil of a 9mm, the XDM 3.8 CO2 is easier to hold on target and shot commensurate groups with the 9mm XDM.

At 21 feet, I put 10 rounds aimed at the X ring into a spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping. Stepping back to 10 yards the spread opened up a little and shots hit low around the 9 at 12 o’clock rather than at the 8 ring, which was POA. That group measured 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches.

As a training aid, the CO2 model fills in perfectly and every lesson learned with air using this gun will benefit shooting its 9mm counterpart. As for accuracy with the 3.8, the same laws apply, aim small, miss small. The Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 blowback action CO2 pistol misses small and delivers big.

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. read more