Pocket Pistol Roundup Part 2

Pocket Pistol Roundup Part 2

The lesser of two

By Dennis Adler

Compact and Subcompact CO2 models are in the minority of blowback action models available, but these five (actually six major examples if you count the two versions of the Makarov), are the most authentic in overall styling and brand name recognition, i.e. Walther, Makarov, Beretta, and Sig Sauer. This combination of models has not been tested in series, so the approach for Part 2 is going to follow the outline for Replica Air Pistol of the Year, and begin with a one-on-one elimination process beginning with the two most obvious guns, the Umarex Walther PPK/S and Gletcher Makarov PM 1951 (basically a Soviet PPK).

The Gletcher Makarov PM 1951 is based on the 1951 model Pistolet Makarova which was designed as Russia’s answer to the famous Walther PPK. The Gletcher model comes close to duplicating the design of the original centerfire pistol but requires a deeper grip to house the CO2 in the self-contained CO2 BB magazine.
The Umarex version (left) is actually a bit closer to the design of the Makarov pistol in smaller details but takes a design hit for the correct size grip frame by needing an external seating screw.

Makarov and Walther features

The Makarov or PM 1951 (Pistolet Makarova 1951) was a new design for the Soviet Union, but in fact a Russian variation (knock off is another word) of the circa 1930’s Walther PPK. In fact, both guns are very much alike, not only in general appearances but internal design and operation. Nikolay Makarov made a very nice Walther. The Gletcher Russian Legends CO2 model makes a very nice Makarov copy.

The Gletcher version is accurate in design with nice grips (although a longer grip frame, necessary for the length of the self contained CO2 and BB magazine), lanyard loop at the base of the left grip, muzzle shape and general Makarov contours, including the inconvenient but correct magazine release at the heel of the grip. The trigger is slightly different in shape, but there is a big plus in that minor detail. In overall appearances it is much closer to the Makarov than the Umarex version which has a .177 caliber muzzle opening, whereas the muzzle of the Gletcher is recessed so the opening is closer in size to the actual gun. Conversely, the Umarex Makarov Ultra (now just Umarex Makarov) has a more accurate slide release, serrated hammer shape and more accurate trigger shape; it also has a proper length grip frame but in exchange for that has an exposed seating screw for the self contained CO2 and BB magazine. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, the Umarex, however, would be a slightly more authentic looking gun if it had a proper CO2 BB magazine like the Gletcher.  

Parts isn’t parts…the original 2000 series Umarex Walther PPK/S was easy to disassemble like an actual .380 Walther. One issue was the bright metal lever insider the frame which can easily fall off along with the small wire spring behind it. The Gletcher design, top, disassembles the same way but has no parts that can fall off. Both use an actual fixed barrel surrounded by the recoil spring like the centerfire blowback models. The Gletcher has the advantage of a self-contained CO2 BB magazine while the older Walther pistol uses a separate CO2 in the grip frame and a stick magazine.

What really distinguishes the two Makarov pistols is the trigger pull, which in turn, can affect accuracy. Average trigger pull for the Umarex Makarov is a hefty 11 pounds, 4 ounces, with a long 0.75 inches of low resistance travel followed by 0.25 inches of heavy stacking to a clean break. The Umarex has brisk recoil for a blowback action air pistol, which lends a feel for shooting a handgun. The Gletcher, with a lighter and smoother 4 pound, 5.7 ounce trigger pull, feels more like a target pistol with a mere 0.25 inches of travel to drop the hammer. It also has very snappy recoil. Both guns only fire single action after either racking the slide or cocking the hammer if it has been lowered. Both also use the thumb safety as the actual safety for the air pistol, and this is where we begin to understand, that unlike in a Bond film where 007 usually gets the upper hand, the Russian Legends PM 1951 has many advantages over the disadvantaged Umarex Walther PPK/S. “Goodbye Mr. Bond…”

The early PPK/S CO2 models (top) had an external seating screw. The newer versions have a recessed screw and a seating tool. There is a second cross pin in the newer airguns that passes through the frame and top of the triggerguard inside the frame and prevents the gun from being disassembled.

The Walther’s shortcomings

With the debut of the PPK/S in 2000, Umarex and Walther wrote a new chapter in the design and manufacturing of air pistols, a chapter that is continually being revised, even by the original author, Umarex.

The Umarex Walther PPK/S was the first of its kind in two categories, the first Umarex replica airgun for .177 caliber steel BBs, and the first replica airgun with a blowback system. In that, it was the first air pistol to use the basic fundamentals of the original cartridge-firing model in a CO2 design, right down to the disassembly of the Walther PPK/S.

The CO2-powered model managed to stick around through a couple of iterations, including one version with a faux suppressor, (very James Bond), and though not a particularly accurate, nor powerful airgun, its legacy was that of being the first commercially successful CO2-blowback action air pistol in the world. That makes it worth having in your airgun collection even if you never shoot it.

The one thing the Makarov does not have that the PPK/S does, is the Walther’s legendary ties to the James Bond films. Here you can also see the none-to-subtle manual safety added to the air pistol, rather than having a functional safety on the slide like the centerfire models. The only explanation is that this must have been a more affordable way to build the gun, though the Gletcher PM 1951 would suggest otherwise as it has a correctly made working safety on the left side of the slide.

Things that are right and things that are so wrong abound on the PPK/S beginning with the original models that field stripped like an actual .380 ACP Walther by pulling down on the triggerguard, and then pulling the slide all the way to the rear and lifting it up and then forward off the barrel which is permanently affixed to the frame like an actual centerfire blowback Walther PPK/S. The CO2 model also has recoil spring wound around the barrel. Nikolay Makarov duplicated it precisely in the PM 1951. Walther also used a left side thumb safety as did the Makarov, but Umarex took a shortcut making it a molded in part of the slide and adding a trigger finger safety on the right side of the frame, just behind the triggerguard. Technically it works very well; aesthetically it is an abomination on a PPK or PPK/S. The slide only racks correctly if the stick magazine (did I mention it has a stick magazine and not a self-contained CO2 BB magazine like the PM 1951?) is loaded. But it will lock back on an empty magazine.

The current PPK/S model, has replaced that awkward telltale exposed seating screw handle with an internal seating screw and a separate hex head tool to tighten it. This gives the new PPK/S airgun cleaner, more authentic lines. Unlike the .32 ACP and .380 ACP models, the Umarex uses a single action trigger that looks like a DA/SA, and thus to fire the first round the slide either has to be racked or the hammer manually cocked. The grip contour is slightly different and longer, but close in size and shape to the cartridge model with the finger extension base plate on the stick magazine.

There is one disconcerting change in the later PPK/S CO2 models, a locking pin has been added in the frame just above the front of the triggerguard which prevents the gun from being field stripped (as shown in the photo using a earlier gun), without using a drift to push the pin out. There was a problem when taking the early models apart, a wire spring and an actuation lever pressed into the side of the frame easily fell out. Not a lot of fun to get back in, Umarex made disassembly more difficult on subsequent models and since there is really no reason to take the CO2 model apart for cleaning, it is not a big deal, but it was a big deal that you once could, like the Gletcher PM 1951. That gun comes apart easily and effortlessly reassembles; just another notch in the Makarov’s grips.

A bit more sinister than the PPK/S, the Makarov PM 1951 has a Cold War allure of its own that also appeals to handgun enthusiasts.

Air and steel

The PPK/S test gun firing Umarex .177 steel BBs clocked an average velocity of 286 fps. Surprisingly, the Gletcher PM 1951 ran steel through the chronograph at exactly the same average of 286 fps. In my original tests of the Makarov PM 1951 when it came out a few years ago, this same gun had averaged 302 fps. It is factory rated at 328 fps. Even with the same velocity as the PPK/S both guns were consistent with standard deviations of only 2 fps, and just below the 300 fps threshold. The average sub 300 fps velocity for the Walther and PM 1951 are their worst failings, but hey, the new Sig Sauer P365 can’t do much better; so don’t hate the Walther or the Makarov for their velocity. It seems to come with the territory. Ah, but wait. The Umarex Makarov easily breaks the 320 fps threshold (it is factory rated at up to 350 fps), so size alone isn’t the only stumbling block. The Gletcher Makarov and Umarex Walther PPK/S (and yes, the new little Sig), just are not as powerful. If you are looking for velocity first, you need to look at the Umarex Makarov.

Accuracy PPK/S vs. PM 1951

Since neither gun can break 300 fps, 21 feet is about as far as you want to be from the target for any degree of accuracy. I started with the PPK/S and 10 rounds of Umarex steel BBs, using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance. This is about as steady as you can get shooting off hand with this gun. The PPK/S is at a disadvantage for accuracy compared to more powerful and more accurate blowback models, which is any blowback model built after the PPK/S was introduced 20 years ago. At 21 feet I put 10 shots at 2.25 inches, thanks to one high flyer and one far right, with the remaining eight rounds clustered into 1.5 inches. This is about as good as it gets with the PPK/S unless you cut your distance to 15 feet. Generally at that distance the gun will shoot tighter groups.

Not a good day for Mr. Bond, the Umarex Walther PPK/S leaves much to be desired when it comes to velocity and accuracy. This is 10 shots off hand from 21 feet. The sights are hard to see against the back background of the target.

The old and newer PPK/S models are true blister pack, entry-level BB pistols that without their Walther heritage would barely be worth mentioning, but it is one of those air pistols that most airgun collectors feel a little compelled to own, even if it doesn’t get shot much.

No better on fps than the PPK/S CO2 model, the Gletcher has a better trigger, and consistently shoots a little tighter than the Walther at 21 feet. (I added some white paint to the tiny front sight so I could see it against the black target. I also added a white dot to the PPK/S. It helps a little but the guns are not that accurate).

The PM 1951 put 10 rounds into 2.125 inches, a little better than the Walther, with a best group of five tightly clustered at 0.75 inches, to give the Gletcher Makarov a dubious but clear win at 21 feet over the lesser PPK/S. The result is quite the opposite of the real Cold War guns.

So far, small guns, small prices, small rewards, but still fun to shoot.

In Part 3 the Umarex Walther PPS and Beretta 84FS square off. Neither has to do too much to beat the last two CO2 models. Any bets?

14 thoughts on “Pocket Pistol Roundup Part 2”

    • Bill:

      I have one and while the faux silencer has a small center channel it is much larger than .177 caliber. It may have some channeling effect as the BB leaves the barrel, and I will take some time and run it through the chronograph to see if there is any difference, but it isn’t a hidden long barrel on the PPK/S CO2 model. There is a least one CO2 model, not an Umarex or a PPK/S, where the faux silencer actually shrouds a long .177 caliber barrel, so you are not wrong that such a thing exists, it is just not this gun.


  1. I remember seeing a review on the Beretta 84 and the Umarex Makarov with velocities over 350 fps. Both are accurate and fun to shoot with snappy recoil

    • Yes, the Umarex Makarov is a much more powerful gun than the Gletcher PM 1951. I will be doing the Umarex Beretta 84FS this coming week. It will be on the higher end for velocity as well. I have always felt that were it nor for the exposed CO2 seating screw key that the 84FS would be one of the very best blowback action CO2 models. If you can get past the exposed key, it actually is.

  2. I put the Umarex PPK laser on my PPK/S CO2 pistol. It helps a little with hitting center of target, but the group size is still really spread out.

    I noticed that Pyramyd Air, Gletcher, and Umarex report the Makarov replicas as out of stock. Most airguns made in Taiwan appear to be out of stock for several months now. Is that due to the corona virus or due to trade restrictions any anything not “made in America.”

    • Charles:

      My sources at Umarex tell me that shipments from Taiwan are running about a month behind, though they did not directly attribute that to Covid 19. It would be a reasonable assumption that the pandemic is contributing to global delays on imports and distribution of many items manufactured abroad, and airguns made in Taiwan are no exception. I think you will also see that some airguns made in Germany are also out of stock.


    • Gletcher appeared to be on life support before the pandemic. They seem to be selling off inventory. The excellent TT33 is still produced, in Taiwan ,the Nagant revolvers and pretty much everything else are unavailable from Pyramid
      and have been for months .A shame

    • It is not due to anything “ not made in America “, Taiwan is not affected by trade negotiations. By the way who stopped the importation of Chinese made firearms into the US? Hint it is not the current President.

  3. The grip on the Walther is too long, maybe a better option would be a P 38 k with co2 mag option . Would probably still have fps in the low to mid 300 s.

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