Pocket Pistol Roundup Part 3
The better of two – 84FS vs. PPS
By Dennis Adler
This is a paring of pocket pistols which are larger than most but still fall into the subcompact category and will conceal in a large enough pants pocket with just shirt tails for cover. Compared to smaller .380 autos and the 9mm Sig Sauer P365 they are much larger guns, the Walther PPS fairly equivalent to a .380 Glock 42 (also considered a pocket pistol), only the PPS is a little narrower and a 9mm. They are all better suited for close body carry with belt holsters, but when push comes to shove they will fit in a pocket. I didn’t say comfortably, but they will fit. As CO2 models the Umarex Walther PPS/PPS M2 and Beretta 84FS are an interesting match because the centerfire Beretta is a .380 and the PPS is a 9mm, but smaller!
We also have the interesting juxtaposition of another model with CO2 in the grip and a stick magazine compared to a model with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, but this one is hampered by an external seating screw key. First thought with the PPS/PPS M2 is, “Oh, another low performing Walther like the PPK/S, and you might rightly think so, but the PPS is not a PPK/S and it is designed to perform at the level of better blowback action models.
Striker-fired PPS/PPS M2
The Umarex Walther PPS is an amazing blowback action CO2 model. I first tested it in six years ago when visiting the Umarex factory in Ulm, Germany, and I have to say I came away more than impressed with what Umarex had accomplished. The production model is exactly the same and has not disappointed during its six years of manufacture. For an accurately built airgun, copying the Walther PPS (and PPS M2) polymer frame and metal slide, design, the weight, balance in the hand, sights, trigger pull, and general accuracy are good enough to make the PPS a first choice in training guns (if you want to carry a 9mm PPS/PPS M2).
For under $100 compared to the average retail of the PPS M2 in 9mm, the degree of detail Walther has put into this air pistol to make it look and feel “authentic” really pays off on the firing line. The PPS air pistol has the same operating features as the 9mm model with the exception of a blade safety in the trigger; this has been replaced on the air pistol by a cross bolt safety that can be set and released with the trigger finger. The trigger’s shape is the about the same and trigger pull a bit lighter at 5 lbs., 4.5 oz., compared to the 9mm’s average 7 lbs. 11 oz. It is still enough resistance at nearly 5.5 pounds to give the feel of pulling a real semi-auto trigger; a 9mm Glock 19 has a 5.5 pound trigger.
Among other important features duplicated on the PPS air pistol is the use of white dot sights to match those on the cartridge gun, the same slide and magazine release levers, an integrated under-muzzle Weaver rail for mounting a small tactical light or laser, having to pull the slide to the rear to chamber the first BB, and of course, the slide locks back after the last round is fired. Thus, every operation once the gun is loaded is identical to firing the 9mm, except for recoil and the sound of actual gunfire.
Between the older PPS CO2 model and newer PPS M2, which picks up styling cues from the PPQ M2, there are significant changes to the squared lines of the original PPS including the contour of the triggerguard, which no longer houses the ambidextrous magazine release paddles. This allows an undercut triggerguard on the M2 version providing a higher grip on the pistol and more relief for the middle finger, which was previously pressed into the side of the triggerguard magazine release. Bottom line, the M2 is more comfortable to hold. Both guns are still excellent CO2 models, although presently only the M2 version is available.
One could accurately describe the original PPS as having a flat, squared look with a very vertical pistol grip. The PPQ M2-inspired curves give the newer subcompact CO2 pistols a smoother, more rounded look. And from a purely aesthetic point, it is a good looking pistol. I don’t think anyone ever described the PPS as good looking; thin, practical, concealable, but not exactly pleasing to the eye. The M2 gets high marks just for appearances, though I still like the original design. The CO2 models have nearly exact length, height, and width of the centerfire models, and are within in 2-ounces of the 9mm Walther PPS. As for carry size, the centerfire pistol’s specs show an overall length 6.3 inches, barrel 3.18 inches, height (with 7-round capacity magazine) 4.9 inches, width 1.0 inches, and carry weight (empty) 21.1 ounces. Both the 9mm and CO2 models have polymer frames and metal slides (the air pistol’s being alloy not steel) so overall weight for the CO2 model is 20 ounces, overall length 6.3 inches, smoothbore inner barrel 3.34 inches (recessed 0.437 inches from 9mm muzzle opening), height 5.0 inches (base of magazine to top of rear sight), and width 1.0 inches. This is about as close as it gets, making the PPS a suitable training gun.
Old hammer-fired Beretta weighs in
The Umarex Beretta Model 84FS airgun has that “cool” factor for its styling because the original .32 ACP and .380 ACP models truly were scaled down versions of the 9mm Model 92. The original .32 ACP version was introduced in 1976 and designed for discrete concealed carry use, and as a backup gun. The .380 joined the line in 1980 as the Model 84 B.
The small caliber Beretta series included the Model 81 and 82 in .32 ACP and Models 84 and 85 chambered in .380 ACP. The Model 84 variations were 13+1 double stack magazine designs, while the Model 85 used a single column 8-round magazine. I have used past tense when referring to these guns since Beretta discontinued U.S. importation in 2013. They are, however, still manufactured for European sales, along with the .22 caliber Model 87BB, which brings us to this “BB” gun.
Like the Beretta Model 92 A1 air pistol, the 84FS is also an all-metal gun that duplicates the external appearance of its cartridge-firing Beretta counterpart, including original marking on the left side of the slide, the handsome plastic Beretta emblem pistol grips, and a good looking finish similar to the matte black Bruniton finished Model 84 F. The only quick tell on the airgun is the CO2 key (used to raise the cylinder and pierce the capsule), which unfortunately hangs below the bottom of the magazine. It is, however, a self contained CO2 and BB magazine, which makes loading this airgun an authentic experience. The other noteworthy difference is the trigger, which though appearing to be the correct double action design, is actually a single action trigger.
With a proper blowback action and a slide that locks open after the last round is fired, the 84FS has a maximum capacity of 17 steel BBs, and fits all existing Beretta Model 84 holsters. This is a handsome pistol that can be used for CCW training and learning basic pistol skills and safety. The slide release is functional, as are the ambidextrous thumb safeties making this about as close as it gets to operating the Beretta 84FS .380 Auto. The blowback action also gives the little Beretta airgun a more realistic feel, a very modest kick, and with a weight of 23 ounces, overall length of 7-inches, and all-metal construction (slide and frame), the heft and balance of a real .380 ACP pistol.
Beretta was one of the first armsmakers to build a “pocket pistol” although by today’s standards it is larger than most .380s. The Model 84FS was discontinued from the U.S. market to make room for the smaller, lighter, Beretta Pico, which, while being an excellent .380 pocket pistol, lacks the character and ease of handling that the old 84FS offered. Fortunately the Beretta air pistol is still around, and there is an aftermarket abundant with original .380 ACP models. The .177 caliber version makes the .380s even more interesting to own today, since you can train very affordably on air and still carry the same design handgun.
Head to head
Old school vs. new school, the striker fired PPS handles differently than the old hammer-fired Beretta, which has the advantage of ambidextrous manual safeties, and a hammer that can be manually de-cocked. The polymer frame Walther PPS relies solely on the trigger as a safety (Glock-type blade centerfire model) and a crossbolt safety (CO2 pistol). The Beretta CO2 model has black sights, the PPS excellent white dot rear and front for clear target acquisition, and a slight advantage over aiming the 84FS.
First up are the velocity tests which will be impressive for both of these CO2 blowback action pistols. The Beretta sent 10 rounds through the chronograph at an average velocity of 356 fps, while the Walther also impressed with a 370 fps average for 10 shots. The PPS with essentially the same basic firing system as the PPK/S greatly surpasses the old Walther CO2 pistol’s performance while still using a stick magazine and separate CO2. The PPS also has a fairly brisk recoil to match the CO2-induced kick in the Beretta 84FS. Both guns deliver on speed and feedback. Which is the more accurate at 21 feet?
To give the Beretta a little help, I added a white dot to the front sight, which stands out against the rather small rear notch and gives the 84FS a little better chance against the white dot sights on the PPS. My best target with the Walther had a 10 shot spread of 1.5 inches inside the 10-ring and bullseye, with a best 5-shots measuring 0.875 inches. I have done a little better with this gun in the past, but five rounds under an inch with a BB pistol at 21 feet isn’t bad. The Beretta 84FS delivered a load of 10 .177 caliber Umarex steel BBs into a group measuring 1.625 inches with a best 5-shots measuring 0.75 inches. Figuring the aggregate between both guns for total spread and best 5-shot group, they tie at 0.125 inches. Two very equal guns overall, despite two different internal designs and fixed sights that require POA corrections.
To wrap up the Pocket Pistols Roundup on Thursday, I am going to run the PPS and 84FS against the Sig Sauer P365 to determine the best overall CO2 pocket pistol. This is where the Sig will have to deliver accuracy over velocity to beat the older guns.