Last best semi-auto showdown Part 1

Last best semi-auto showdown Part 1

Three blowback action models that wowed us

By Dennis Adler

There are a lot of choices in blowback action CO2 models, but this trio represents air pistols that have raised the bar. The Smith & Wesson licensed Umarex S&W M&P40 helped establish the standard against which most other blowback action models are judged. The 2018 (well…2019) Umarex Glock 17 has delivered on as much practical authenticity as possible given the limitations imposed by its design; not quite up to the M&P40 across the board but a new standard bearer in its own right. The Umarex HK USP blowback is really the first gun to rival the M&P40 in every way and do so as the only hammer fired model of the three.

Now that the Umarex Glock 17 is available and ready to ship, (so get your gun before they end up on backorder), it is fair to make some hard comparisons between a trio of blowback action models that simply leave you asking, “If they can get all this right, why can’t they get other things right?” Perhaps they do and we fail to recognize it. Let’s start a few years back with what I consider the one semi-auto CO2 air pistol everyone who likes modern pistols should own, the Umarex S&W M&P40. It just doesn’t get any more authentic than this. Or does it?

All the boxes are checked with these three air pistols; blowback action, self-contained CO2 BB magazines, slides that lock open on an empty magazine and can be manually locked back, accurate to the centerfire model dimensions and grip designs, basic handling, trigger types, and all equipped with white dot sights. As affordable CO2 BB pistols, they leave nothing wanting from airgun enthusiasts.

Last year Umarex came out with two new models that rival the M&P40, well one that simply is its equal hands down, the Heckler & Koch USP blowback action. The Umarex Glock 17 is the other, not quite as elaborate on the inner details as the other two, but impressive in its exterior design and operation. They are what comes when manufacturers step up and put quality and authenticity ahead of mass marketing and price point. Of course, there have to be lesser guns (with less expensive prices) like the Umarex Glock 19 and non-blowback USP to keep a balance. We might say they did them wrong or poorly because of a stick magazine or non-blowback action, but they have a market share as well, we just expect more because a lot of Airgun Experience readers are gun enthusiasts as well, and with air pistols like the G17, HK USP blowback and M&P40 we are getting more.

The Umarex S&W M&P40, with the manual ambidextrous thumb safeties found on many law enforcement versions of this gun in 9mm and .40 S&W, was the benchmark for building an authentic air pistol that can interchange with the same duty gear and accessories as the centerfire pistols, and thus making it an ideal training gun, yet still simple and affordable enough to be a backyard BB pistol.

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Authenticity has its value

TV and movie studio prop departments like these 100 percent authentic looking CO2 models (and others) because they can stand in for the live action guns in scenes where cartridge-firing models would be appropriate for a character in a modern drama. The use of special effects can make them appear even more realistic. But I’m really digressing here (unless you’re making a movie…), the point is these three air pistols in particular have scored high with consumers and with yours truly as, “must have” CO2 models for any air pistol collection. With the G17, which was “all hat and no cattle” as the expression goes until this past week and the appearance of a green ADD TO CART bar, all three of these favorite contemporary blowback action models can now be your favorites as well.

A number of models introduced over the past several years have approached the same level of authenticity as the M&P40, but none so well as the new Umarex HK USP blowback action model, which delivers on features traditionalists prefer such as a hammer fired action, a decocker safety, and DSA/SA trigger. And like the M&P40 it is fully interchangeable with centerfire model holsters and accessories. This one has really taken up the mantle of most authentic blowback action CO2 model in this pistol classification (modern, polymer frame, semi-auto).

Why do I like the G17, M&P40, and HK USP so much? The answer needs context. If, for example, I lived in the U.K.or other less gun friendly parts of the world where firearms regulations greatly restricted ownership of centerfire and rimfire handguns, and many rifles and shotguns as well (with exceptions for sportsmen’s clubs, hunting clubs, etc., which also have restrictions), the answer would be obvious; it is as close as you can get to enjoying the ownership and pleasure of firing a real handgun. Wow. A lot of red flags would go up with that statement on some forums, because so many people believe that guns are made for one thing and one thing only. But not everyone everywhere falls into that pigeonhole belief. Target shooting for sport is a centuries old and gentlemanly pursuit, and in modern times a well proven womanly pursuit as well! But even in countries that restrict firearms ownership (some with exceptions for the purposes of hunting) you will find competitive shooters who are allowed to step onto the world stage in Olympic competition and other sanctioned international shooting events. Often this is with airguns. The Chinese do extremely well in 10 meter air pistol and air rifle competitions, as do Russian, Italian, French, German, South Korean, Japanese, Austrian, British and American shooters, among others, which is curious because all those nations, many with very restrictive private gun ownership laws, manufacture centerfire and rimfire guns that are exported to other countries. Airguns, on the other hand, with few exceptions, are viewed differently.

The Umarex Glock 17 comes on the heels of the USP as a new gun based on the older but still manufactured 3rd Model Glock 17. It is a direct challenger to the M&P40 and HK USP, not only in the world of military and law enforcement sidearms, but as a CO2 model. The G17 brings almost the same elements as the other two to the game with complete interchangeably between centerfire model holsters and accessories.

In Europe they are not the understudies to their cartridge-firing counterparts, they are what one can own and enjoy shooting without a lot of paperwork, expense, time and limitations. Where we may own an M&P40, HK USP or Glock 17 in 9mm, .40 S&W (or other calibers) and the air pistols are considered as substitutes, training guns, or understudies before stepping up to gun ownership, not everyone looks at them that way. I know from readers that enjoy air pistols and air rifles and correspond with me through Airgun Experience, that a lot of them have never fired a real gun, nor do they plan to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like guns. No matter where you grew up, no matter what country you live in, guns are part of TV and movies, we see them, we read about them, and they are not for one purpose and one purpose only. Handguns, rifles, and shotguns are not by nature a military or law enforcement weapon, they are also for sports shooting, for the pleasure of it, to test your skills and abilities, whether it is shooting Sporting Clays, pistol or rifle shooting in sanctioned events like the Bianchi Cup, USPSA or IDPA, or wheeling a six-shooter, rifle and shotgun in Cowboy Action Shooting. Air pistols and air rifles allow that same interaction. And for those less inclined to the nature of those sports but still with an innate interest in guns as objects of mechanical art, history, and sport, air pistols like the M&P40, HK USP and Glock 17 fill a specific niche.

Ah, but here’s the rub, the G17 does not fieldstrip like the USP and M&P40, a considerable advantage for training guns. This may weigh heavily with some who are looking for as much realism as possible, and the S&W and H&K models do not disappoint.

These three, perhaps, an even more specific one, as they are versatile enough to fit into multiple categories from simple back yard target shooting, to entry level competitive shooting practice, and as training guns for their centerfire counterparts. And no I don’t live with blinders on, everything good can be corrupted in the wrong hands or when misused, but I like to think of Airgun Experience readers as members of a fraternity of responsible airgun owners who appreciate this choice in hobby and respect the opportunity it affords. I think these three examples, which all have counterparts used by law enforcement and military around the world, present the best of what is possible in a CO2 blowback action BB pistol, and Umarex has done an exceptional job of bringing these to market. As to which is the best, it is almost a comparison of equals in terms of handling and operation, just as past reviews have shown. Saturday, I’ll run a 21 foot competition shoot with all three and find out which one scores the most bullseyes but with the addition of the G17, this trio is worth owning as a whole and priced reasonably enough that it is not going to break the bank. All three sell for $99.99 each.

The hardest thing for an air pistol based on an actual centerfire handgun to do is totally duplicate its dimensions and holster fit. If an air pistol based on a specific handgun can fit in an injection molded, Kydex or form molded (leather/Kydex combination) Level 1 or Level 2 locking holster it has passed the hardest test for becoming a training gun. As an air pistol just for shooting paper targets, tin cans and plinking, you can’t get better than this. Saturday we’ll see if one holds an accuracy/velocity advantage over the others.

13 thoughts on “Last best semi-auto showdown Part 1”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and especially the Context involved for the Air Gun Market and Use around the World…
    The Accuracy of these Airgun’s is phenominal.
    I don’t think this Airgun Sport & collecting of Replica’s has yet reached it’s peak and continues to Improve and Impress each year.


    • I certainly hope so. There are a lot of great airguns out there to be enjoyed and I think this year will be impressive after things get into the pipeline. Going to be some exciting things from Sig Sauer and Air Venturi/Springfield Armory.

  2. Just to show the contradictions round the world regarding weapons note that although my Country is quite oplophobic we have a lady shooter on top of the world and our history teaches the term “come and get them”, as it’s written on the Sig 1911 slide. Go figure…

    • While i was reading the article, amd specifically the part with the countries listing of renowned shooters,
      i was tempted to note in the comments that Anna is a Greek Olympic medalist, then saw fellow coutryman Bill’s comment!

  3. FWIW Info….
    My new Crosman 2300T, CO2, Single shot, Bolt Action, Adjustments as follows
    Shooting at 21 Ft, One Handed & Sitting…
    2 1/2 lb Trigger Pull, Lowest it will go…
    OverTravel screw stopped out to the trigger…
    Trijicon USA Red Dot Clone, smallest dot…
    Crosman .177 Premium Grade Pointed Pellets…

    I am very satisfied with this Target Pistol…

    I’m certain the gun will shoo tighter groups than I am showing, looking for one ragged hole…

    • Chuck:

      You’re doing pertty darn good. Optics are a great equalizer. I’ll have to do another series on optics this year and the best guns for accuracy with red and green dot reflective sights and scopes. This year may give us some new guns to put all of that to the test.

  4. Dennis all 6 of my handguns are using a Laser or a Red Dot, I personally prefer Red Dots with the variable sized Dots, the newer Red Dots are smallish and sleek looking and average around $40 to $50 dollars, no need to go with the expensive ones, the Green Dots are usually a couple bucks more have better visibility in Sunlight…I buy mine on either Ebay or Pyramyd…all Reds Dots mount on Barrel tops and Lasers under Barrel…
    One advantage to a Laser is that they leave the open sighting available for use…
    Yes looking forward to new 2019 Airguns and accessories and your commentary…

  5. I’m pleased to see that you’re going to do this direct accuracy comparison. There’s considerable accuracy data available in various reviews, but a direct comparison is much easier to interpret.

    When you do this, it would be very useful if you could include accuracy (both grouping and point-of aim) and function results comparing standard steel BBs with the frangible Air Venturi Dust Devils and lead H&N Excite Smart Shot. You did this for the M&P40 in your useful BB Conundrum report last spring ( ), and found some significant differences.

    I’m shooting pellet pistols indoors at 15 and 21 feet, but at present no pellet pistols match the realistic function of the best BB pistols. (Based on reviews, the Sig Sauer M17 ASP comes closest.) I’m considering getting one of these top-rated BB pistols, but I worry about ricochets; therefore the interest in frangible and lead BBs.

    Reviews suggest that the Dust Devils and Smart Shot shoot well in some pistols, but have function or accuracy problems in other guns. Since I suspect other people have the same interest I do, you might consider including a steel/lead/frangible comparison as a routine part of your reviews.

    Guy Carden (Pullman, Washington)

    • Guy:

      Smart Shot can be problematic with some magazines, especially those with heavy follower springs. I have found a similar issue with Dust Devils but not as often. One trick that works most of the time is to only load 10 rounds and with magazines that have large loading ports be sure to keep it at 10 until you find out if the lighter weight Dust Devils and especially the heavier but oddly easily pushed down Smart Shot is being forced into the loading port when the gun fires, its a kind of internal recoil that drives the BBs downward in the magazine. This is what jams most of the guns when a BB is pushed into the loading port which jams the follower and that stops everything. Between Smart Shot and Dust Devils, I prefer the frangible Air Venturi composite BBs; they even fragment against hard cardboard. You also get higher velocity and accuracy doesn’t suffer too much (the Dust Devils are a little smaller than a .177 caliber BB). I have had great results with them. Every gun is going to work a little differently with Dust Devils depending upon the magazine design but I haven’t had too many that failed. By the way, I went back and ran Dust Devils through all three guns and they functioned perfectly. I only loaded 10 rounds. The HK was a little rough on chambering the first round but after that it ran right through the rest.


  6. Guy, I have a Sig P226 X5 ASP with a UTG Red Laser mounted under barrel, Original box, Manuel, Zippered case, 3 -20 Round Magazines…purchased in Oct. 2018, Pyramyd Air, Approx. 100 rounds fired so As New condition, I have $220.00 invested will sell for $120.00 shipped no FFL reqd…..Listed this AM on RimFire Central email me for pictures….. reason for selling is I am switching to 10meter single shot guns. Gun will shoot Pellets or BB’s


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