One Year Anniversary of the Airgun Experience

One Year Anniversary of the Airgun Experience

12 months, 144 articles, and three “Top Guns”

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by Dennis Adler

The Umarex S&W M&P40 is the first blowback action CO2 semi-auto to be adopted for actual law enforcement training. It is a 100 percent accurate handling substitute for the M&P models.

Exactly one year ago today the first Airgun Experience column was posted with a tribute to the 40th Anniversary of John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist and this past Saturday we celebrated the Duke’s 110th birthday with a roundup of all the John Wayne Colt Commemorative airguns. It might seem that we have come full circle, but over this past year quite a few new and exceptional CO2-powered air pistols have been introduced. To commemorate the One Year Anniversary of the column we are going to look back at the best of the best and select one gun in each category; blowback action semi-autos, BB or pellet cartridge loading double action revolvers, and BB or pellet cartridge loading single action revolvers, to be Gun of the Year. All three of the Airgun Experience’s first annual “Top Guns” will be revealed at the end of the article, and be sure to call Pyramyd Air Customer Service at 888-262-4867 and mention the “Airgun Experience promotion” for a special offer on these Top Guns!

Setting new benchmarks in air pistol design

From 2016 through early 2017 the airgun market has exploded with new designs, innovative manufacturing, and BB and pellet-firing models that so closely match their cartridge-firing counterparts for size, weight, balance, and handling (and in some cases field stripping), that the bar has been raised higher than ever for 12 gr. CO2 powered .177 caliber Adult Air Pistols. Out of the new models I have selected the three best in each of the primary categories; the rapidly growing BB and pellet-cartridge firing Single Action Revolver class, the improved pellet cartridge firing Double Action Revolver class, and the most impressive of all for new technology and features, the BB and pellet firing Blowback Action Semi-Auto class.

One of the M&P40 air pistol’s more interesting training features is full field stripping capability. The gun has a functioning barrel hood that locks into the slide when the action closes, a guide rod and recoil spring, and locked breech tilting barrel design.

I am going to start with the latter as these three air pistols have singularly set the standards for blowback action semi-autos as practical personal, law enforcement, and military training guns. The cost effectiveness of these three airguns, all of which have centerfire counterparts in use today by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, military and Spec Ops, as well as civilians, makes training of basic handling skills possible. The CO2 models can duplicate every aspect from reloading, holstering, proper drawing and weapons presentation, safety precautions, working through duress scenarios, tactical reloads, and weak hand shooting practice. This is all possible for a fraction of the cost of using (and thus putting wear on) duty and service guns. In addition, firing with CO2 allows safe and relatively quiet indoor practice year round, important for smaller departments without their own shooting ranges and in areas where severe climates prohibit outdoor practice in winter.

The Umarex Beretta M92A1 is the latest Beretta CO2 model, and this long awaited fully-functional BB-firing model delivers accurate handling and operation commensurate with an actual 9mm model. Once again an excellent training gun for learning how to correctly and safely handle a semiautomatic pistol, especially a Beretta 92 Series handgun. The CO2 model also has the bonus feature of selective full auto operation!

The three most successful examples of this type of air pistol are the new Umarex Smith & Wesson M&P40, which has already been adopted as a training gun by several local law enforcement departments whose officers carry the M&P9, M&P40 and M&P45 models; the Umarex Beretta M92A1, the latest version of the U.S. military issue sidearm from 1985 to 2017; and the new Sig Sauer brand P320 CO2 pellet-firing blowback action semi-auto. The Beretta 92A1 has the added advantage (for airgun enthusiasts) of a select-fire mechanism based on the rare Beretta 93R variation that was built for Italian military and law enforcement.

Like the M&P40, the Umarex Beretta M92A1 can be completely field stripped like the centerfire models and uses a correctly sized self-contained CO2 BB magazine.
The newest blowback action model on the market is the Sig Sauer P320. Designed by Sig Sauer to be a hands-on training substitute as well as a fun-to-shoot pellet-firing CO2 pistol, the P320 is equipped with a rifled steel barrel and a 30-round belt-fed rotary magazine. The gun’s advantage is velocity, accuracy, and range.

The Sig Sauer is a hardcore “minimalist design” training gun that allows essential skills to be practiced with an accurate size, weight and approximate trigger pull CO2 pellet-firing model using a rifled steel barrel. The 9mm Sig Sauer P320 was developed for the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) trials, and succeeded in becoming our nation’s newest standard issue military sidearm, replacing the Beretta M9 (92 Series models in use since 1985). So, all three of these semi-autos have exceptional engineering, performance, and accurate handling to simulate their centerfire counterparts. One will be this years “Top Gun” in the blowback action semi-auto category.

The one airgun that has it all right, right down to the fine details, is the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 line. The new models have the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch and one-piece Hogue rubber grips. CO2 loads through the bottom of the grip without having to remove the grips, which is another big plus. The rear-loading pellet cartridges give the guns maximum velocity and accuracy.

Semi-autos, as a design concept, are actually late 19th century guns, even though today’s 21st century models are very different in construction and appearance. The idea is very old, and so is the double action revolver, which in basic operating design dates back to the 1850s! From American manufacturers, cartridge firing double action revolvers go back to the Colt 1877 and 1878 models. Like semi-autos, today’s double action/single action and double action only (DAO) wheelguns have very little resemblance to those from the 19th century, but are still the same fundamental designs, a cylinder that is bored completely through allowing a metallic cartridge to be inserted at the rear of each chamber and fired either by pulling the trigger fully to the rear, which rotates the cylinder, cocks the hammer, and then discharges the gun, or by manually cocking the hammer (except on DAO models with internal or shrouded hammers) and firing single action.

One of the two new for 2017 models is the 4-inch version of the DW Model 715 which has an integral accessory rail as part of the barrel shroud. The 4-inch model is extremely well balanced and an accurate shooter at 10 meters.

There are presently a number of excellent CO2 powered wheelguns on the market, but the very latest have taken the airgun design to new levels of authenticity and downrange accuracy. The overall leader at present is one manufacturer with three versions of one gun, the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 pellet-cartridge firing model with 6 inch, 4-inch, or 2-1/2 inch barrel lengths.

The new 6-inch, 4-inch and 2-1/2-inch CO2-powered Dan Wesson Model 715 revolvers have the correct original Model 715 configuration with the crane-mounted cylinder latch. Regardless of barrel length or finish, the pellet cartridge firing models have rifled barrels for greater accuracy. The 6-inch has a distinctive, high polished gun metal grey finish and correct Hogue rubber combat style grips for a solid hold. The full length vent rib barrel shroud on the Model 715 (like the actual .357 Magnum version) is engraved with the Dan Wesson signature on the left side and .357 Magnum and the Dan Wesson signature on the right. It is a handsome looking gun that is not overdone with graphics, but rather looks more like the high end cartridge revolver it is based upon. The 4-inch pellet-cartridge model is offered in high polished nickel and has an integral accessory rail under the barrel shroud. Again this model has the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch and rubber combat style grips.

The second new model for 2017 was the much anticipated 2-1/2 inch snub nose, which is presently the most authentic snub nose CO2 revolver on the market. Like the other DW Model 715 revolvers the 2-1/2 inch comes with rear-loading pellet cartridges and a 6-round speed loader.

The 2-1/2 inch model is the most interesting being a snub nose, but shorter barrels usually mean less accuracy downrange. During the comparative range tests best 12-shot groups from 10 meters (33 feet) were 1.25 inches and 1.74 inches, respectively for the 6-inch and 4-inch models, and 2.98 inches for the snub nose. Actually, 1.74 inches is quite good for the 4-inch gun at that range. As a pellet cartridge-firing CO2 revolver, I not only like the overall authentic look of the new 4-inch ASG Dan Wesson Model 715, I like its weight, balance, and accuracy, and I particularly like the double action/single action trigger on this model. The obvious winner here is going to be ASG, but which barrel length and model will be the Top Gun?

As beautiful as a Single Action Colt can get, the hand engraved 7-1/2 inch Umarex pellet firing Peacemaker has a rifled barrel to deliver accurate 4.5mm shots out to 10 meters. It is a gun that shoots as good as it looks! (Holster courtesy John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

Going back to the Old West, my favorite topic and my favorite guns, brings us to the best new Single Action revolvers, and this is the hardest group to judge because every one of the guns is not only new but impressive in every possible way. We begin with the oldest (first out of the three guns), which is the Umarex Colt Peacemaker, now offered in a nickel plated pellet-cartridge firing version with a 7-1/2 inch barrel and as a limited edition hand engraved model. This is and remains the gun to beat for accuracy and speed from 21 feet to 10 meters. It is the fastest handling and quickest shooting gun but not entirely the most exciting of the trio when it comes to elegant styling; blasphemy you say! But what about Smith & Wesson’s equally legendary No. 3 American and the Schofield version, the latter originally built for the U.S. Cavalry in 1875? Here was a gun that changed the way revolvers were loaded, that offered a new grip angle and sighting design for more accurate shooting when carefully aimed. S&W didn’t reinvent the six-shooter here but they most decidedly left a lasting impression and built a legacy that ultimately eclipsed even Colt in the late 20th century.

Colt’s greatest rival has always been Smith & Wesson all the way back to the 1870s when the No. 3 American beat Colt to the draw with the first all-new cartridge firing revolver of the post Civil War era. Introduced in 1872, it was followed by several variations including the Schofield, adopted by the U.S. Cavalry in 1875 and used at the same time as the Colt Single Action Army. The Bear River .177 caliber model is available in bright nickel and in a fully hand engraved version. The smoothbore six-gun shoots BB or pellet loading cartridges. (Holster custom made by 45Maker)

The Bear River Schofield CO2 model came on the scene a little rough around the edges but was swiftly refined with a beautifully polished nickel model, and through Pyramyd Air, another historically accurate hand engraved limited edition to rival even the 7-1/2 inch Colt Peacemaker. A smoothbore sadly, even with its new rear-loading pellet firing cartridges, the Schofield can’t quite beat the Colt for accuracy, but comes so close that it is almost a coin toss as to which gun is the more desirable among Western aficionados. Actually the answer is both.

The new kid on the trail is the Crosman Remington Model 1875, the Ilion, New York, gunmakers challenge to the established Colt Model 1873 Peacemaker. Just as it did in 1875, the Remington delivers a lot of gun and handles just like a Colt. (Holsters by TrailRider Products)

There was always a page missing from this Old West airgun revival because there were three iconic cartridge-loading six-guns that became the most famous among lawmen and outlaws alike from the 1870s to early 1900s. The last gun to round out the tale of the American West was the Remington Model 1875, the third new CO2 powered, rear-loading, pellet cartridge firing model. Right out of the chute Remington offered the gun exclusively in polished nickel and with both BB and pellet loading cartridges. Again, they opted for a smoothbore barrel, which leaves the 1875 just short of standing up to the Peacemaker, pretty much as it was back in the Old West, when the Remington was a solid number three among cartridge revolvers, eventually leading Remington to abandon the market in 1894 and concentrate on semi-autos. The history of the Old West, however, would not be complete for Single Action air pistols without it!

The Top Guns

First the Semi-Auto group, which has three superb models in contention, the Umarex S&W M&P40, Umarex Beretta 92A1, and Sig Sauer P320 ASP. The win is not only based on features, authenticity, and handling, but all around practicality for shooting and training. You might expect the M&P40 to be the best choice, but it is still a BB-firing gun with a smoothbore barrel, which limits its operating distance to 21 feet. The same goes for the Beretta 92A1, even with its extra selective fire control. For pure state-of-the-art hands on training and accuracy, the Top Gun honor has to go to the new Sig Sauer P320. It lacks some of the operating features of the other two guns, but at the end of the day (or the training session) it fits every basic requirement for learning how to draw, fire, and shoot accurately with a P320, even minus recoil. The edge comes from a rifled steel barrel, firing 4.5mm pellets, and having an effective range out to 45 feet, better than double that of the M&P40 and 92A1 air pistols. As a close quarter battle handgun the P320 won the U.S. Army’s nod as its new standard issue sidearm, and the CO2 models earn ours for best new Blowback Action Semi-Auto pistol.

The big reveal. The three “Top Guns” from the first 144 Airgun Experience articles include the new Sig Sauer P320, Crosman Remington Model 1875 and ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 with 4-inch barrel. The special Airgun Experience Promotional offer on these three “Top Guns” expires June 16th so don’t hesitate to add one or all three of these great new models to your airgun collection, or start your collection. Just call Pyramyd Air Customer Service at 888-262-4867 and mention the “Airgun Experience promotion.” 

We already know ASG wins the double action category, but it is not the 6-inch model that gets the top honors, but rather the newer 4-inch model which is a more practical size for training, and it delivers pinpoint accuracy out to 10 meters. It is just a little better than the 2-1/2 inch snub nose, which could just as easily be the Top Gun in the Double Action Revolver category. But the slightly longer barrel carries the day.

For everyone with a rifled barrel, pellet cartridge firing Colt Peacemaker, you have already purchased the best gun on the market, but we also have to look at future potential. The Colt has reached its best gun status leaving only shorter and longer barrel lengths to be added. The Schofield has all of its potential in the original design which is hard to improve upon, even with the CO2 model, save for adding a rifled barrel and a Wells Fargo version. It is the Remington Model 1875, the late comer to the game, both in the 1870s and in 2017, that holds the most promise for becoming one of the very best single action CO2 revolvers on the market. Right from the day of its release it came with both BB and rear loading pellet cartridges, an excellent fit and finish and a quality that leaves little to be desired. It has the potential to be improved upon with a rifled barrel that would put it on an even footing with the Peacemaker for accuracy. And it is already nearly as fast a gun to handle (where the Schofield is slower, but definitely more deliberate). It joins the Colt and Schofield as the third link in an unbreakable chain of legendary six-shooters, and this year’s Top Gun in the Single Action category.

The Airgun Experience will return in one week with a three-part review of the gun you have all been waiting for, the Umarex Legends MP40.

25 thoughts on “One Year Anniversary of the Airgun Experience”

  1. Hi all, we had a few typos in this first draft when it went live at 8 AM, so please forgive the oversight, they have been corrected, hopefully you read through them just like me! Spell check for all it is worth, still will not catch a typo if the incorrect spelling makes another correctly spelled word.


  2. Good choices all but not mine . For most closely duplicating an actual service pistol as a training understudy theS&W gets the nod . TheSig is a facsimile, but not a functioning understudy . I have all three Dan Wessons and they definitely get the nod for best replica air revolvers, eclipsing revolvers like the Python . The two outstanding da revolvers currently are the DanWesson 715 series and the Webley Mark VI. I would have picked the 4 incher , but the rail ruined it . Would also have preferred the metallic blue gray finish like the 6 incher.Mychoice since I carry a 2 inch revolver is the 2.5 incher. In the single action category I would still give first place to my trusty tried and true friend the Colt SAA . Except for not having a free spin cylinder that is removable, it gets first place. . Rifled barrel and dead on accuracyand speed of handling . More barrel lengths complete the options , but it still has more than the competition . The Schofield needs a rifled barrel and Wells Fargo version. Can’t say much about the winner since it is still not available. From the review and the pictures it loses points on the grip frame and grips , and smoothbore barrel.

    • I also had to consider potential and the 1875 has a lot of it. Unlike the Colt and Schofield which came out with smoothbore models first and pellet models later, Remington went to school on their education coming out with a nicely polished nickel finish and dual calibers (BB and pellets) right away, leaving room for a rifled barrel, even a shorter barrel length option. The Colt has won all the accolades, the Schofield has come a long way in a short time, so the Remington deserves a shot at the winner’s circle for getting out in record time. As soon as they start filling orders there are going to be a lot of happy buckaroos! As for the 2-1/2 inch vs. the 4-inch DW, it all came down to accuracy but either is a fine choice. And the Sig, boy there is a lot of pushback on that gun, but I have to tell you, when you shoot it and see how well it performs, you begin to give this one a lot of latitude.

  3. The Remington still has potential. If I were King , I would offer lanyard ring options , 5 1/2 inch barrel versions, and the short lived 1890 version sans barrel web. I would also offer a bright blue finish and a weathered finish , add grip screws and grip options like wood , and black hard rubber looking grips with RA logo .Rifled barrel , a must , then offer engraved models.

  4. One area of replica airguns that needs more options is the pocket pistol category. Guns like the Mauser HSC, Colt 1903, a vastly improved Walther Ppk , the Remington 51, even modern like a Sig 232 380 , CZ83

  5. Dennis – congrats on your one year anniversary!
    I always look forward to your reviews as they mainly involve my favorite subject – pistols!
    Keep up the good work and looking forward to all of your future reviews….

  6. I too would like to say congratulations on reaching the Airgun Experience one year anniversary! May Airgun Experience have many anniversaries. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading all the reviews yet to come, especially the reviews of the new Legends MP40 next week.

    With respect to the guns of the year, I agree only regarding the Dan Wesson Model 715 4 inch model. Although I usually prefer pellet shooters over BB shooters, I think either the S&W M&P 40 or the Beretta M9A1 top the Sig Sauer P320 because of full functionality. I have both of the M&P 40 and M9A1 BB pistols and am very impressed with the quality and functionality of each. I would like to have seen you choose the Schofield for top single action, but that’s mostly because I’m now thinking to buy one. I still don’t have any interest in the Remington.

    • All I can say in further defense of my choice of the Sig Sauer P320 is you have to buy one and shoot it to appreciate it. It is not as “authentic” in operating features as the M&P40, but how it handles and shoots gives the P320 a decided advantage for 10 meter shooting and even beyond. You just can’t do that with the M&P40 and M92A1 models. I’d pick either first but certainly would not disregard owning the P320 for more serious shooting practice at real combat distances.

      As for the Remington Model 1875 wait until you see how far that gun can go in design options, finishes, etc. in the year to come. Still love the Peacemaker and Schofield, but there’s room for more.

      • I am planning on buying the Sig Sauer P320 pellet pistol if only for the unique belt magazine, but I want the tan version instead of the black one. If Pyramyd Air gets the tan version in stock this week, I will probably place an order this weekend.

        Have you heard any estimates on a release date for accessory magazines for the P320?

      • Here is my advice to Sig. Add fully functioning controls ,make a 22 version with a 15 -16 round mag, get velocity up to upper 300fps range or more even if each co2 cartridge only gets 45 shots or so in that power range

  7. Congratulations on a very successful, educational on multiple levels, and most importantly entertaining blog! I’m amazed at how much I have learned from you and your readers, thank you and keep them coming!

  8. Hi Dennis and the group . Thanks for a wonderful year of your excellent photography and real fire arm history. I am not knowledge enough to make my own list, just owning a few of the pistols you listed,
    Among my favorite semi automatics is the Tanfoglio Limited Custom and the Colt Commander. I do need to get a pellet firing semi automatic.
    If they ever introduce the Schofield in a pellet firing version that will be on my short list. I have yet to get the Webley MK VI.
    Finally I do need to try again the blow back P08 . I had 3 of them and they all failed in a short time, but a lot of fun to shoot. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they would make a pellet firing version of it.

    .Congratulations on your first year and am looking forward to many more years.
    Best wishes

    • Thanks Harvey. I have had pretty good luck with the blowback action P.O8 but I don’t shoot the same guns all that often, except the Peacemaker, I shoot the heck out of that one and it is the engraved model. The MKVI is coming back, and you can now order pellet firing cartridges for the Schofield. It does well with pellets even with its smoothbore barrel. If you have the money for it, the hand engraved Schofield is absolutely magnificent! Makes all the difference in the world.

    • That is a new Umarex SAA model for sale in the U.S called the Ace in the Hole. It is not a Colt Peacemaker (as in Colt branded) model but a Single Action-style design with a 3-1/2 inch barrel, an unorthodox hammer spur and front sight. It is based on the customized Colt used by Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables. The front of the barrel is supposed to be ported to reduce muzzle lift for the short barrel. This is what gives the airgun its unusual front sight design. It is not geared to the “authentic” Old West guns we are now used to as CO2 models but rather to movie guns. Will be interesting to see how folks here react to it. The good news is that it provides a platform for Umarex to build a correct Colt model with a shorter barrel at some point.

  9. the short barrel Peacemaker marketed in Europe was a custom shop version of the revolver used in an Expendables movie. The pellet version advertised by Sportsmans Guide in the US has ,a weathered finish and a front blade sight added, a fanning hammer . Called the ACE in the Hole, it is already sold out before delivery. I would like to see a nickel version with a better barrel, and poly ivory or stag grips. Since they have the parts it can be done

    • Glad you are enjoying the articles and getting more involved in the hobby. The revolvers, to me, are the most fascinating, especially the western guns, because they have so much authenticity. Depends on where and when you were born, but Western Cowboy guns have a special place in the hearts of most of us born in the 1950s and 1960s growing up watching TV westerns. Colts, Schofields, and Remington are truly iconic guns, and to have them as CO2 models is terrific. Enjoy the Airgun Experience.

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