My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3

And what makes it special

By Dennis Adler

Out of the two dozen CO2 models I talked about this week that have been developed over the last four years, there are five that have become my absolute favorites, well seven if you count the Mini Uzi and MP40, but for practical purposes, I’m limiting this final five to handguns. The choices are obvious to those who have read Airgun Experience over the past three years, and one of these is my absolute favorite among the Colt Peacemaker, Sig WE THE PEOPLE, CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow (Blue), Tanfoglio Gold Custom and Umarex Legends Mauser M712 Broomhandle.

Having a favorite anything means you have had it for awhile, unless something comes along that is so overwhelming it surpasses everything before it. In the world of firearms that only happens once in a great while. With blowback action CO2 models based on actual centerfire guns, it can happen more often because air pistols not only have ties to the latest guns, but can just as easily be based on guns from the past; with air pistols a new gun is always interesting, but it isn’t always new. One of the best examples of this was last year’s Umarex HK USP, a gun that has been around for some time but as a new blowback action CO2 pistol really hit it out of the park. The next closest was the Umarex Glock 17, a design that has been around as a 9mm pistol since 1982. Both are great and maybe in a few years one of them will become a favorite for me, but what I consider a favorite gun has a deeper meaning.

Five Keepers

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There are five CO2 pistols I consider my “absolute keepers.” These are models that I would not want to part with. Every one of them is a gun that readers picked to be my favorite of all time. Of course, “of all time” in this context is only a period of about four years, prior to that none of them existed as air pistols. But they did exist as centerfire guns, and that’s what makes these five very special.

I don’t think there is a better revolver, single or double action reproduced as a CO2 model that can outshoot an old fashioned Peacemaker. The 7-1/2 inch nickel pellet models are my favorites, and the engraved version the best of them all. My Adams & Adams hand engraved model was the prototype but every one is exactly the same. It is a lot of money to put into a CO2 Peacemaker, but those of you who purchased them know it was money well spent. (Holster by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

More people picked the Peacemaker than any other and it was a logical choice given my background. The 7-1/2 inch engraved nickel model is one of my very personal favorites because I was the one who suggested having these very authentic Umarex Colts given the same engraving treatment as the centerfire models. My 7-1/2 inch Umarex is the actual engraving prototype for the limited series of guns done for Pyramyd Air by Adams & Adams. If not for one other CO2 model that came along, the Peacemaker would be my all time favorite, but it is only one of five.

The Tanfoglio Gold Custom was among the first CO2 models I purchased and over the last few years it has never been outdone for overall features and accuracy by newer air pistols. If you are into target shooting, this is the CO2 pistol to own.

The gun that is my favorite has been my favorite since it came out. But first, the gun that almost knocked it out, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. I have had this model since it was introduced. It has proven to be the most accurate blowback action CO2 pistol there is. Even though a few newer guns may be more appealing, they can’t outshoot it, and that makes this very authentic copy of a championship competition pistol another of my five favorites.

A touch of blue and black makes the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow a better looking gun. These three pieces, grips and magwell, are available from Pyramyd Air as well. Fully equipped with the optics bridge the Shadow Blue was almost as accurate as another of my favorites.

The closest I came to finding a better gun than the Tanfoglio was the aftermarket customized CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow Blue. From a purely visual perspective it is one of the best-looking blowback action CO2 target pistols there is (and if you don’t like it in blue it can be done in CZ’s competition orange or red versions, but I like the almost turquoise blue anodized aluminum accessories best). It can’t quite outshoot the Tanfoglio, but it does give it a run for looks.

That leaves me with two great air pistols that I consider among the best ever. To understand my interest in these two you have to understand my motivations for selecting them. My first semi-auto handgun was a Colt Model 1911. It was an awful gun to shoot. I got rid of it after a couple of years but found myself drawn to the Model 1911’s better self, and got into customized models, the first of which I still have over 30 years later. The 1911 is the very image of the 20th century American handgun, just as the Peacemaker is for the 19th. The Sig Sauer 1911 CO2 WE THE PEOPLE represents one company’s view of that image, albeit a German company now rooted in the U.S. As 1911 CO2 models go, there simply isn’t a better 1911 than the Sig Sauer. Is this my all time favorite?

I have been a fan of the Model 1911 for decades, and Sig Sauer managed to develop a CO2 version of their WE THE PEOPLE .45 ACP that now stands as the very best blowback action 1911 model made. You need to have a taste for custom guns to appreciate the unusual finish, grips, and markings, but beyond that, it is a perfectly balanced and fully equipped 1911 with the best sights and ambidextrous thumb safeties of all CO2 1911 models.

The back story

Long before I started writing about guns I was writing about American and European Classic Cars. Over more than 30 years, beginning in 1977, I wrote thousands of magazine articles and took somewhere around 10,000 photographs, edited car magazines, and authored and photographed over 30 books on automobiles, including three very popular ones for Random House and HarperCollins. And it was the cars that got me into guns! Car collectors are also very often gun collectors and this is where it started.

Back in the late 1970s I was working as the assistant editor of Car Classics magazine for the legendary Dean Batchelor, former editor of Road & Track, and director of the Harrah Automobile Collection. I learned a lot about writing and automotive history from Dean and a few of his old friends. You might say I became there young protégé. I will always be thankful for what they taught me and for introducing me to other influential collectors. And there was one who was a gun collector.

I had an assignment to shoot a Lamborghini and it required a European looking estate for the background. One collector I had met had such a house. And after contacting him we set a day and time for me to arrive with the Lamborghini. I had previously shot a Porsche 550 Spyder there, so we weren’t strangers. Lighting is essential for outdoor photography and a bright sunny day really isn’t what you want. Light clouds to soften the sun, or just before sundown is better, and with a red Lamborghini the day’s harsh, bright sunlight put things on hold for awhile. (If I ever write a book on automotive photography, I’m calling it “Waiting for a cloud”). We decided to grab some lunch and somehow got on to the topic of guns. He collected all types of handguns but favored early (pre-war era) German pistols. When we got back to the house, the light was still not good, so I got a tour of his gun collection. What struck me first was a cabinet with guns I had only ever seen in movies. He put the very first Broomhandle Mauser I ever held into my hands. It was a Model 712, even then a very rare and expensive gun. That started me on collecting Broomhandle Mausers for the next 30 plus years. But the one I couldn’t get (did find a couple over the years and knew all the paperwork that would be involved) was a Model 712. I simply could never afford it. Every time I had enough disposable income and found another, the value had gone up proportionally and I still couldn’t afford it. I have photographed a few, handled a few, but never owned one. Then, one day Umarex introduced a CO2 version of the Model 712. I bought it, and have shot it countless times, written about it more than almost any other air pistol, and for all of the reasons I have explained, despite many newer and innovative CO2 models that I really like, the Model 712 was, is, and will always be my favorite CO2 air pistol of all time.

My all time favorite is the one gun I was never able to own as a cartridge pistol, the Mauser Model of 1932 or M712. The original C96 Broomhandle (developed in 1896) is also one of a handful of semiautomatic pistols that overlapped with the last years of the American West. Used by lawmen and outlaws alike, it is a unique gun that has its roots planted in two different centuries. As an air pistol, this is about as good as it gets, at least for me.

Reader Adventurist summed it up best when he said this was the gun I would pick: “It’s a pistol that has a very diverse and colorful history including The Old West.” It does indeed, and for this adventure, you have won the M9A3.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

39 thoughts on “My favorite CO2 air pistol of all time Part 3”

  1. Great reading this personal story.
    Now if you could only suggest sources for wooden grips for the Mauser, it would be perfect. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    • Bill, I actually tried an extra pair of originals I had and they don’t line up right on the grip frame. I think a good wood worker could make a pair using the plastic grips as a guide, or rework an original pair to ft. They are not a complicated design.


  2. Congratulations Adventurist! You’re going to like that M9A3.

    Regarding the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow blowback pistol, Stampede Air also carries the colored replacement triggers. Do you know if the trigger in the BB pistol can be easily replaced? Or are those replacement triggers strictly for an airsoft model?

    • No they are for the CO2 model as well. Easy to replace? I have one and I haven’t quite figured out how to make the trigger swap. There are no directions with the trigger. I talked to ASG and they don’t have installation directions. (Mind boggling). They did send me a parts schematic. Just a bit above my skill set. There are videos on changing the trigger in the centerfire pistol but it is not the same arrangement as the air pistol, and one video on the air pistol, but the guy in the video doesn’t show what he is doing! No help. On the surface, it looks easy, but you have to remove the trigger assembly from the frame, with the gun field stripped, and there are some springs that will come out and have to be replaced. A gunsmith could do it. I’m not that good at removing parts and putting them back. I’m accomplished at dropping them or not being able to get them back in, so my blue trigger waits for me to learn how to do it, so I can show it step-by-step in an article. Soon, I hope.

      • I’m really looking forward to that because I will probably buy the SP01 Shadow when it gets back in stock. I think I will get the orange accessories for it. Instead of the rail mount, I think I will mount the LaserMax Spartan Green laser on it.

  3. Dennis,

    Take a close look at the picture below. As I was writing my M9A3 customer review to submit to Pyramyd Air, I saw what appears to be a possible hop up adjustment in the barrel assembly. The manual doesn’t say anything about it. Steel BB pistols typically don’t have hop up. Does this one have working hop up?

    • I covered this in my December 6, 2016 article on the hop up feature of the 92A1 CO2 model. The new M9A3 uses the same barrel assembly except for the faux threaded muzzle. The hop-up in the Beretta 92A1 BB model works and functions almost the same as an Airsoft gun, but since it is difficult to see the flight path of a steel BB it is much harder to make adjustments. The biggest issue is that blowback action .177 caliber air pistols have an optimum range of 21 feet for pinpoint accuracy. A steel BB would have to travel almost 100 feet to show any effects of backspin, at which point blowback action pistol accuracy is no longer a constant. The hop-up works but is not very practical for a .177 caliber (4.5mm) BB pistol, which begs the question, “Why is it in the Beretta 92A1 .177 caliber blowback action semi-auto air pistol?”

      For this answer I queried Umarex and here is the official word. “…the hop-up is not effective in achieving close or long range accuracy [with the Beretta 92A1 BB model]. The Airsoft variant [of the Beretta 92 blowback action model] was developed first, which is why the hop-up is present in the barrel’s design. It was originally requested that the hop-up be removed from the .177 caliber 92A1 version but it was decided to leave the hop-up for efficiency and to prevent an unnecessary [manufacturing] change since it did not have a negative effect on the pistol’s performance.”

  4. I own three of the five finalists. I ranked the Peacemaker number one , the Mauser 712 due to its historical allure and select fire capability, ranked number two. It was a amazing feat of airgun engineering. I added a repro shoulder stock and that really increased its full auto accuracy. I could see why you chose it , but I just couldn’t .

  5. I am so glad I found this site just a few days ago. In fact, despite owning a few real guns; I had no real knowledge or even interest in BB or pellet guns less than two weeks ago. But then I ran across a Crosman C11 and it piqued my interest… So after many hours of reading reviews, I decided I wanted a cheap/great bang for the buck, replica with an emphasis on high fps and decent accuracy. So I bought an SW MP 40 Dark Earth Brown and I really like it. Being a mechanical engineer it’s often all about design efficiency. So the ability to buy even more realistic, metal gun replicas of real guns I can’t actually afford and can also shoot anytime in my back yard hits that sweet spot for me and I am now HOOKED!

    But honestly, while I’ve always appreciated 911’s but never really desired one until I read about the WE THE PEOPLE .45 ACP on here (and virtually everywhere else I could) and it has put a shot right into my heart over the last few days! All that glorious American mechanical gun artistry for only $100?!! I was SO close to buying one today despite my other BB related purchases (it all really adds up!) and already knowing this will be a really $$ tight end of the month. But realizing I still have a $25 Cabelas gift card from Christmas, a $20 ammo rebate VISA card (that’s not really bill paying money now is it?) had I also been able to find something like a 20% off Cabela’s coupon I’d already be back from the store with one prior to even reading your Part 3. So just now I read you saying “there simply isn’t a better 1911 than this Sig Sauer” and that it almost made your favorite CO2 air pistol of all time that tells me I was right in my “need” to own one! And now maybe next month the Tanfoglio Gold Custom to round out my newly found accuracy “need”… So thank you!

    • Glad you are hooked on the replica airguns. You will have plenty of articles to read to catch up. One airgun pistol that didnt make the article was the P08 pistol, accurate historical pistol

    • James, welcome to the club. The more you read the more interesting guns you will find. Depends on your taste and what your real guns are and what interests you. Can’t go wrong with the WE THE PEOPLE or the Tanfoglio. Pick a good optic for it, too. You’ll get hours of great target practice in. The Peacemakers are also great shooting fun.


      • Thanks Dennis. I wish they made a S&W M&P Compact 9mm (thin single stack mag) with laser as that’s my cc gun and practicing that would be very valuable. BTW I am also working on a design for an easy to make, dual shooter, multi-target with timers that stop when each shooter completes their target set to see who’s fastest I’d be happy to share if anyone is interested. The neighbors and I BBQ almost every weekend and it seems that shooting practice is now going to be a very occurrence… 🙂

          • Yeah just wider so no big deal. It was going to be my next purchase… For right now I already had a rail mount laser lying around that fits my existing gun and looks pretty good too. It obvioisly doesn’t replicate the blowback but will still help for now.

  6. I’ll say. And hopefully also detailing mods to extract maximum performance as we can often do work on stuff that they can’t justify doing in production. Thanks I’ll definitely have to look into that one.
    – Jim
    PS Sorry for the long post. I wasn’t even drinking! 😉 Just pure enthusiasm.

  7. What other holster rigs can be used with the Tangfoglio Gold Custom with the mounted CenterPoint Reflex Dot Sight (similar to the Walther sight in your picture)? The Safariland Tanfoglio Gold Custom competition rig you mentioned is rather pricey at about $200 and a long delay for custom manufacturing.

    • I haven’t looked for any others since I have the Safariland to begin with. I would recommend looking up Tanfoglio Gold Custom competition holsters (for the centerfire guns) and see what is most affordable. The CO2 model will fit.

  8. One lesson from your survey is to buy the classic weapons as they become available as they seem to go out of production. In the UK the lack of full auto makes the MP 40 and the Broomhandle less attractive. We the people in my eye carries the curse of the KCW magazine with its leaking problems.
    I therefore stick with choice of the Peacemaker. Internally its inferior to the Webley Mk6 but for 72 years I have had a daily dose of cowboys;gun belts and Colt 45s

    • Derek:

      I have found that the Sig Sauer magazine, though interchangeable with other 1911 CO2 BB mags, is of a superior design. I do not believe you will experience the same issues with the WTP. Of course, nothing beats a Peacemaker for getting around the CO2 BB magazine issue!

  9. The manual seems to say anyhing about maintenance and in particular oiling and what type of oil to use. Is RWS chamber lube ok and for what areas?

    • Sorry for the double post. Weird I also posted this on another site and it seemed auto-post here. And with a pic I did not intend to attach… Oh well.

  10. The Sig Sauer WTP manual doesn’t seem to say anyhing about maintenance and in particular oiling and what type of oil to use. Is RWS chamber lube ok and for what areas?

    • James

      Primarily use either Pellgun Oil or RWS Chamber Lube on the tip of the CO2 cartridge before putting the cartridge into the gun / magazine. I have also on occasion seen instructions to put a drop of Chamber Lube on certain moving parts of the gun, but I don’t recall which ones.

      • Thank you. My manual for my Umarex S&W M&P40 (earth brown non-blowback) says specifically to use the RWS for the cartridge and moving parts (and that it “sprits” from the cartridge tip into the internals and automatically coats them over time?) and I believe its a silicone based oil. And I believe the widely used Pellgun oil is petroleum based.(?) I know petroleum is bad for some types of o-rings by making them swell. So I’m perplexed when I see so many reviews for the M&P 40 complaining about functioning/sealing problems while stating they also use the Pellgun oil. Seems to be expected if you don’t follow the manufacturer recommendations in this regard… But I’m new to BB guns…

    • James, I have become partial to the RWS chamber lube for most maintenance, i.e., a little lubrication on the slide rails (not much and not often), same for the trigger pivot, and you can use it on the tip of the CO2 cartridge, and this does get dispersed into the gun when it is fired. Pellgun works well, but I find it messy and mostly why I prefer the RWS. Airguns need very little maintenance and with BB pistols even less than pellet pistols, since steel BBs do not leave lead residue in the barrel. I do run a small patch down the barrels once in awhile (after about 500 shots, with just a drop of RWS). Not required, but I like to keep things clean. This is really more important with rifled barrel pellet pistols than smoothbore BB models.


        • Take a mirror with you, so you can see the smile on your face! The needle tip is great for getting the lube into places like the trigger pivot and running a thin layer along the inside of the slide rails. You don’t need to do that very often, but if you field strip the gun and wipe it down you might want to put a little RWS where the slide rails run on the frame. Moving parts like the hammer pivot can also benefit from a little RWS TLC as the gun gets broken in and you start putting hundreds of rounds through it.



        • Dennis’ advice is right and good to follow, but if you read Tom Gaylord’s Pyramyd Air Blog (in which he calls himself B.B. Pelletier), be aware Tom often recommends Pellgun Oil for CO2 guns, especially on the CO2 cartridge. As I understand it from reading comments by both Dennis and Tom, for CO2 guns, it’s not that critical which oil is used and it becomes a matter of preference to the airgunner.

          I think where it is most important to use a silicon base oil and avoid anything petroleum base oil in the springer, and maybe also the gas piston, airguns. From the things Tom has written in the Pyramyd Air blog, I think the concern is that the high compression spring based air guns can generate enough internal heat from spring piston seal friction in the air tube to cause ignition of petroleum base oils.

          • James, you are right that there is nothing on maintenance in the WTP instruction book, but it has something most don’t, how to field strip the gun. As for lubrication, the geneal rule of thumb for blowback action air pistols that I follow is after 500 shots (some books say 1000), use RWS Spring Cylinder oil on all moving parts such as the BB follower, gas capsule piercing knob (threads on the seating screw), and on the trigger hinge (I refer to it as the pivot, take your pick). I also like to hit the hammer hinge on hammer-fired guns just as you would with a centerfire or rimfire semi-auto. On guns that totally field strip like the WTP this is much easier to do, but out of the box you’re good for awhile just as is.

          • Thanks Cstoehr and Dennis. I did look and read a lot. Sounds like I can use either for my Co2’s with no worries.

  11. Well not sure what everyone will think about it but while I appreciate that Taiwan is a democracy and fighting for its independence against communist China; I wasn’t thrilled about Made in Taiwan, the .177 cal. and all of the other legalese writing that’s not on the real gun being on mine.

    So I tried removing the lettering with acetone like someone suggested only to find that by the time I got the letters off so did the weathering!

    So I took a broad, dull, semi-dry, sharpie and “restored” it and then used it to cover the remaining lettering using at lot of time and finger dab blending. While I could probably do better a second time (as it will surely wash off) I think it looks pretty good and much better than the white lettering…

    • No, you’re good. Everyone hates the white lettering. Taiwan is pretty much the center of air pistol manufacturing for global manufacturers, and not everyone puts the white lettering on their guns, Glock 17 and Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 for example, or the Webley MK VI Battlefield Finish model. The warnings are generally required (sometimes brilliantly hidden on the underside of the triggerguard). The manual safety on guns that don’t actually have them as part of their design is another issue but one of the small compromises we have to live with for such otherwise authentic-looking CO2 models.


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