My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was one of the big hits from Umarex in 2017.
The CO2 version of the full auto 9mm WWII submachine gun allows semi-auto fire as well as full auto, making it much more CO2 and BB friendly. The self-contained CO2 BB magazines use a pair of 12 gram CO2 cartridges. It doesn’t hurt accuracy, either.

When you have a veritable history of American and European firearms recreated today in .177 caliber BB and 4.5mm pellet firing airguns, everything from selective fire pistols like the Mini Uzi, Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and WWII German MP40, to state-of-the-art semi-autos like the Glock 17 and legendary guns from the American West, like the Colt Peacemaker, finding one gun that raises the bar or hits your “must have” list, is like going to a premier firearms auction with the determination that no matter how many guns catch your eye, you are only going home with one. And so we begin Part 2 back in 2017.

The MP40 is also pretty accurate at 25 feet fired semi-auto or even full auto.

If there was one model that raised eyebrows and opened wallets that year, it was the Umarex Legends MP40 submachine gun. This was as much of a surprise as the M712 Mauser; Umarex was digging deeply into German gun making history once again and coming up with another out of the chute winner for military arms enthusiasts. The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was a reworked version of the MP38 designed to be less expensive and time consuming to manufacture for wartime use. Its pioneering construction relied on welded and sheetmetal stamped parts compared to its more precision-built MP38 predecessor, which utilized mostly machined parts. Welded and stamped parts became the foundation for many later military weapons, including the Uzi, which used a similar manufacturing technique. With the select-fire CO2 MP40 (the actual WWII guns were full auto only), the CO2 Mauser M712 had a worthy WWII companion and military airgun enthusiasts another big choice. The MP40 was later followed up with a weathered WWII version which looks even more realistic and made an interesting counterpart not only to the WWII edition M712 (now out of production) but the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI, the only one of the three still currently available.

Around the same time Webley introduced the Battlefield finish MK VI (pictured), Umarex added a weathered finish MP40 version, giving the gun an even more authentic look. Military airgun enthusiasts were having a field day. Presently, the weathered MP40 is not available, so if you purchased one, you have another keeper.

Early in 2017 Sig Sauer took its next big step forward with the P320 ASP, which, while still carrying forth the company’s same conservative approach to molding in features that would not serve any functional purpose on the CO2 model, did introduce an innovative rotary pellet firing mechanism that in itself revolutionized the blowback action pellet pistol market.

The Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the first semi-automatic .177 caliber air pistol to use a rotary belt-fed magazine. Designed to look and feel like the P320 centerfire pistol, the ASP’s weight and trigger pull were nearly identical offering recreational shooters, professionals and competitive shooters a training tool to easily hone their shooting skills at reduced costs.

The most interesting feature of the Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the 20-round rotary belt-fed magazine, giving it the highest capacity of any pellet-firing semi-auto CO2 pistol.

By early 2018 there was another rising star among CO2 blowback action pistols, the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow. This new blowback action version was based on the original centerfire CZ-75 Shadow model introduced in 2011 and variations of the Shadow through the SP-01 Shadow (built by the CZ Custom Shop) and the latest SP-01 Shadow II models.

The differences between the early CO2 CZ-75 design and SP-01 Shadow are quite evident when seen together. The newer frame has a completely different contour and integrated 1913 Picatinny rail and the later SP-01 triggerguard design. The pistol also has improved combat rear and red fiber optic front sights, skeletonized hammer, elongated ambidextrous thumb safeties and a larger slide release.

The 9mm version of this gun has a magazine with an 18 round capacity while the Shadow uses the same 17-round BB mags as the standard CZ-75. The gun fits the ASG Strike Systems holster, which is identical to Level 2 duty holsters for the 9mm CZ SP-01 Shadow.

ASG began offering updates to the CO2 model (an interesting first) with accessories based on the Shadow 2 competition “Black & Blue” (updated from the original SP-01 Shadow Blue and Shadow II), with the same alloy grips and an extended magwell, in the same anodized blue finish as the 9x19mm models. Pyramyd Air also began offering this first step upgrade. ASG also added matching alloy blue anodized base pads and a blue anodized aluminum optics mount, making the SP-01 a very close rival for the CZ 75 inspired Tanfoglio Gold Custom CO2 model in looks and in accuracy. This Blue version quickly became another keeper.

The Shadow Blue is an upgrade to the standard SP-01 by replacing the grips and adding the magwell. The parts are blue anodized aluminum and available from Pyramyd air.

Other upgrades for the SP-01 include blue anodized aluminum base pads and a matching Picatinny rail mounted optics platform (only available from Stampede Airsoft). This put the gun on an almost even footing with the Tanfoglio Gold Custom.

Fitted with optics, (the Shadow with a fairly pricey Styrka green dot and the Tanfoglio with a Walther MRS reflex sight) these are two of the most accurate blowback action BB pistols you can own. They’re not too bad to look at either!

The previous year had seen Sig Sauer stumble with two stick magazine fed 1911 models based on their specialized Sig 1911 models, the Spartan and Max Michel. Both were nice entry-level 1911-based CO2 blowback action models, but with separate CO2 compartments and stick magazines they fell flat with a lot of Airgun Experience readers who were expecting a great deal more from Sig Sauer. In 2018 they got it, with a new 1911 model that broke the mold for 1911 air pistols, the WE THE PEOPLE.

Sig went the distance for this one, an exact copy (except for white lettering to indicate caliber on the left and small letter warnings on the right) of the .45 ACP Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE pistol. The centerfire gun and CO2 model have the same weathered finishes, unique star grips, and stampings. By far, the most accurate to a centerfire model 1911 air pistol there is. I have to say “1911” because things went really over the top authentic by the end of 2018 for another blowback action CO2 model.

This was a 1911 model based on Sig’s own .45 ACP custom version, which was so detailed, that without close examination, seeing the small white lettering on the right side of the slide and frame, looking down the barrel, or being so versed in the design to notice the absence of an ejector hole on the back of the slide, was otherwise indistinguishable from the centerfire gun. The Sig WTP became just about everyone’s keeper if they wanted true authenticity to an actual cartridge-firing counterpart (if you like guns with wild custom finishes and grips), and one of the most accurate 1911 blowback action CO2 models on the market.

If Sig had not used white lettering, it would be almost impossible to tell one from the other.

Sig went so far as to duplicate all of the markings, sight design, lowered and flared ejection port and external extractor arm (rare on 1911s except custom models). They also kept the white lettering to a minimum on the frame.

The middle of 2018 was really beginning to look up and Sig Sauer was taking the lead in best new guns. Sig had previewed a new blowback action CO2 pellet-firing model in the summer, based on the U.S. military’s new standard issue sidearm, the P320/M17. That new M17 ASP CO2 model, with an improved rotary pellet firing mechanism and self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, an actual slide and barrel lug interface, ambidextrous thumb safeties, white dot sights, and field stripping capability, captured the spotlight and left air pistol enthusiasts waiting until almost the end of the year for first deliveries. However, the gun did not disappoint and went on to win the 2018 Replica Air Pistol of the Year title. Meanwhile, Umarex also weighed in with two new models late in the year that were simply going to be game changers.

Sig Sauer pretty much owned 2018 by the time the P320/M17 ASP came out late in the year. As close to the 9mm military M17 as possible, the new CO2 model pioneered the use of a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine for semiautomatic blowback action air pistols. Also note the absence of white lettering. 

To achieve this military-based design, the fact that the 9mm models for U.S. servicemen have extended capacity magazines, allowed Sig to use the longer magazine design to house the long CO2 and pellet magazine combination.

The first was a new blowback action CO2 model based on an older Heckler & Koch design, the USP. In terms of authenticity of design, this gun now rivaled the Sig Sauer WTP in every way, and was very close to edging the Sig M17 ASP out of the year’s number one spot, but the innovative self-contained CO2 pellet magazine pushed it just over the line.

Umarex came back late in 2018 with two new benchmark guns, first the Heckler & Koch USP, which is a 1:1 copy of the 9mm model that fits all HK USP holsters. The CO2 BB magazines are also correct in size and fit in the standard 9mm magazine pouches.

Full field stripping was the final touch to the USP that made it a leading candidate for 2018’s top gun of the year, and another absolute keeper.

During 2018 Umarex decided to enter a new market with an air pistol that had never been made by forging a relationship with Glock. But before the Umarex Glock 17 (3rd Model) was released, Umarex fired a shot across the bow of other airgun manufacturers with a lower-priced, non-blowback action, stick magazine version of the Glock 19 Compact.

The gun that impressed, although it did almost nothing, was the Umarex Glock 19, a non-blowback pistol with a cleverly disguised stick magazine. What it did do, was become the very first Glock air pistol from a company that doesn’t lend its name or image easily. The Umarex Glock arrangement was groundbreaking and the attention to the smallest details in this entry-level airgun was more than impressive. It also paved the way for the first Glock blowback action model that came at the very end of 2018.

To everyone this seemed to be a disappointing decision, but was actually a hint at what was coming a few months later. For a low-priced, non-blowback, the G19 CO2 was magnificently constructed with more detail than most blowback action pistols, the kind of detail that could only be achieved with individual parts, not molded-in pieces. In addition, Umarex had managed to preserve the look of a centerfire Glock pistol by eliminating any white lettering from the gun except the model designation tastefully placed on the right side of the barrel lug. It was priced for entry-level BB gun buyers who could not imagine Glock ever making or allowing to be made, a CO2 version. The company wouldn’t even build a .22 LR model. So the ice had been broken and at a very reasonable price leaving more gun savvy buyers to ask where the blowback action model was.

There is almost no way to fault the Umarex Glock 17, a blowback action CO2 model with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and no external compromises in fit or finish, no white lettering anywhere, and the only hint of not being a 9mm was the absence of the caliber stamping.

The Glock 17 blowback action CO2 pistol just got in under the wire for 2018 with a design that was, in a word often used by Glock, “Perfection.” A short recoil design that could not be field stripped, it traded that feature for providing an impressive average velocity of 376 fps with a high of 395 fps. Numbers you don’t normally see from a blowback action pistol. The Glock 17 would have been 2018’s top gun but lost out for its only design compromise, not being able to fieldstrip like the rest of the top blowback action models.

Everything was done right and the CO2 model copied the centerfire pistol’s dimensions perfectly, allowing it to work in the Blackhawk Serpa Level 2 concealment holster. It is a CO2 version of Glock Perfection with one small detail. The gun cannot be field stripped.

My proof of perfect dimensions was taking the Glock GTL tactical light and laser from my centerfire pistol and slipping on to the CO2 model. As they say at Glock, “Perfection.”

There were some other great models that came out including another Sig Sauer, the P226 ASP X-Five, which couldn’t quite outpace the P320/M17 for overall features, but proved to be a more accurate gun for target shooters. There was also the groundbreaking Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action Rifle with CO2 BB cartridges and about as realistic a lever gun that ever used CO2 instead of gun powder. A handful of other updates from Umarex filled out the calendar, but these were the best of the best. And that was how last year ended up.

Just when it seemed Umarex had done all it could to make 2018 a memorable year they added one more gun, a fully working, BB or pellet cartridge-loading lever action rifle based on the famous Winchester Model 1894 design, giving their superb Peacemaker models a real companion rifle that uses the same cartridges.

For 2019 the new models are coming more slowly but it will take something quite extraordinary to top the first completely new model of the year, the Springfield Armory XDM 4.5, simply the most perfect blowback action CO2 pistol made thus far. If it gets any better than that this year (and I think it very well might), 2019 will end up marking the greatest turning point in the short but extraordinary history of blowback action CO2 airguns.

How could you top 2018? Air Venturi and Springfield Armory found the way, with the first Springfield Armory CO2 air pistol, a 1:1 duplicate of their centerfire XDM 4.5 and like the Umarex Glock 17, there are no white letter tells. Better still, the XDM 4.5 is a fully field strippable blowback action model. At the moment, the most authentic to a centerfire model air pistol in the world. The gun at the bottom is the CO2 model.

Every detail of the air pistol is flawlessly matched, as much as a CO2 pistol design can allow, right down to what is the best looking CO2 BB magazine ever made.

This is the gun to beat in 2019.

All of this has transpired in a little more than three years, making it hard for airgun enthusiasts to buy everything that looks good when every next gun to come along has even more appeal, especially for those who want as much authenticity in their CO2 pistol as possible. The burning question, however, is “what among all of these great choices is the one gun that has become my all time favorite CO2 pistol?”  I’ll reveal that answer and the reasons why on Saturday.

Everyone who reads Airgun Experience on Tuesday and Thursday has a chance to win a brand new Umarex Beretta M9A3 by posting a comment with the gun they think I will pick on Saturday. This needs to be in the comments section before midnight Friday. You can only enter once and you have to post your comment no later than 12 midnight this Friday. The first person to guess the gun I’ll pick wins the Beretta! I have to applaud those of you who boldly made your choices before reading Thursday’s Part 2, and some of you even guessed which guns would be in Part 2. But has anyone guessed the gun?  We’ll find out Saturday.

10 thoughts on “My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 2

  1. Editorial comment:

    “The most interesting feature of the Sig Sauer P320 ASP was the 20-round rotary belt-fed magazine, giving it the highest capacity of any pellet-firing semi-auto CO2 pistol.”

    The above caption is placed on a picture of a Sig Sauer P226 with the 2×8 rotary pellet magazine. Was that intentional or did you pick the wrong picture?

    Regarding the Beretta M9A3, I did some off hand shooting with it yesterday afternoon using the LaserMax Spartan to aim at center of target. My groups widened out a little versus my bench rested shots. The blowback on a new CO2 is really strong and lightens as the CO2 is consumed. I could see that reflected in the size of my semi-auto ten shot groups from start to finish: (1) 2.94″, (2) 2.37″, (3) 1.88″, (4) 1.75″, and (5) 1.81″ at 18 feet to target. The final ten shots widened out even more due to the CO2 being totally exhausted. On all six groups, 7 to 9 shots out of 10 were 1″ to 1.5″. I found the full auto mode to be easier to control than I had thought. At about 10 feet to target I was able to control the muzzle rise well enough to keep all the shots on target in the BB trap. Total shot count semi-auto was about 60 to 64. Total shot count full-auto was about 57. I really like this M9A3.


    • Thanks Charles, that was a mistake. There were two shots showing the earlier 8+8 and new rotary and rather than using both I grabbed the wrong one. It has been corrected. Good catch as always! Your shot groups with the M9A3 sound pretty good. Thought you would like that gun. You made an interesting choice for my all time favorite air pistol.

      Thanks again for the photo catch.

      Dennis





  2. I bought and returned TWO Sig M17. Both were not accurate and had feed problems with the belt mag. After more research including Dennis’ reviews I bought the Tangfolio Gold Custom. This is a very accurate and reliable gun that is way fun to shoot. Then I bought the Webley Battlefield finish MK VI. This is surprisingly accurate and powerful, it even shoots BBs accurately. These are 2 fabulous CO2 guns…jim




  3. The Peacemaker still stands head and shoulders above all the other airguns. The closest contender is the Webley revolver, but it pales in accuracy potential to the Peacemaker. All the semiautos are interesting and I own most of them, but they are variations on a theme. It was the Peacemaker that was a true ground breaking design. A near exact replica of the iconic Colt revolver , with cartridge loading ability in bb and pellet versions . Now partnered with a cartridge sharing lever rifle , there is not much that can beat that setup.



Leave a Reply