Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler


Each year since I began writing the Airgun Experience I have selected one new model as my Air Pistol of the Year. For 2018, given the variety of new air pistols and satisfying, though not overwhelming number of models introduced, the focus has specifically turned to CO2 air pistols that are based on actual centerfire handgun models, whether new (like the Sig Sauer M17) or older (like the HK USP) so long as the air pistol is new. I am also establishing an updated point system based on five comparative categories with values from 1 to 10 points for each. This is going to separate out a number of guns simply because of their various features, or lack thereof. The gun chosen as Replica Air Pistol of the Year will be based solely on total points earned.

Authenticity is defined by exterior design and one of the best examples of that paradigm is the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 which duplicates its .45 ACP counterpart in almost every feature. The CO2 model is on the right. This is a 10 point example.

Shop New Products

The Catagories

The first is, in my mind, the most important for a replica, Authenticity; how close is the CO2 model in physical appearance to its centerfire counterpart? Aesthetics of the design will also have a bearing, such as the air pistol’s finish compared to the centerfire model.

Ingenuity of the design can be accounted for in several ways but most dramatically as an extension of Authenticity and how that is achieved with a CO2 model. To create a pellet-firing version of a semi-automatic pistol like the Sig Sauer M17, designers must use a great deal of ingenuity to work around the pitfalls that pellet pistols present. Different approaches will render results that can come very close to centerfire pistol designs. Sig Sauer’s approach to this problem proved unique.

Second is the Ingenuity of the design; how has the manufacturer achieved its pistol’s status as a replica? This can come down to the type of firing system used and how close it is to the centerfire design.

Third is Ease of use; simply how exact is the handling, placement of operating controls, or addition of non-authentic components like a manual safety not found on the centerfire model. This is going to be a tough one because most air pistol manufacturers adhere to the requirement for an air pistol to have a manual safety, even if its centerfire counterpart does not have one. We will allow some latitude here for how cleverly or unobtrusively this is achieved.

Ease of use can present itself in various ways depending upon the design of the pistol. Here you see a centerfire S&W M&P40 with the slide being drawn back to chamber a round. Note that as the slide is pulled to the rear the barrel lug disengages from its lockup with the slide ejection port and tilts down…this is the same action that occurs with the CO2 model of the pistol. This design is present in a number of CO2 models based on centerfire pistols, but not all. A blowback action CO2 pistol that functions like its centerfire counterpart would earn 10 points.
There are other ways in which Ease of use can be judged including the type of magazine (self-contained CO2 BB magazine), its ease of release to change out, and whether the slide locks back on an empty magazine. This is where points can be easily gained and lost due to the design of the air pistol.

Next, comes Field stripping capability; and this is going to make or break a few of the guns in contention for top honors, but this is certainly one of the most noteworthy features of a replica CO2 pistol, and a direct attribute of the first category.

Field stripping capability is not essential with an air pistol but as it relates to Authenticity and Ingenuity of the design can give one air pistol a significant advantage over another. If the airgun uses the basic design and operating method of its centerfire counterpart and is constructed in the same way, it will more than likely disassemble the same as this Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 CO2 model, at right, compared to the .45 ACP model, at left. This can be an essential training tool for using a CO2 pistol as a centerfire understudy. Field stripping is more important to knowledge about the gun than it is to disassembling and cleaning the air pistol, which actually requires very little maintenance. An air pistol that completely fieldstrips like a centerfire model will earn 10 points.

Last is probably as important as the first, Performance & Accuracy; this will be determined by accuracy at competitive distances of 21 feet for BB (smoothbore) models, 10 meters for pellet (rifled barrel) models, and the feel of the gun as it fires. Blowback action guns will obviously have a great advantage here, but perceptible recoil (the more the better) and average velocity will count, as will sight design and ease of target acquisition. A gun that accumulates 50 points wins.

Performance & Accuracy comes down to how well the pistol shoots, its trigger pull, sights and how well they get the gun on target, it also takes into account felt recoil with blowback action or muzzle rise with non-blowback designs, and of course how close to POA and high score accuracy it can achieve. This is an aggregate of multiple features and achieving 10 points here is perhaps the hardest test of all.

The Contenders for 2018

There is only one new wheelgun for this year’s competition, the Umarex Ruger Superhawk, which is a Ruger-ized version of the Umarex S&W 327 TRR8. This is a good looking BB cartridge firing revolver that offers an appealing alternative to the S&W.

Umarex Ruger Superhawk

The remaining nine air pistols are all semi-autos. Three are pellet-firing models, the new ASG Dan Wesson Valor 1911 (which is a variation of the Hatsan H-1911 reviewed earlier this year), the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five ASP, which is a blowback action model, and the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP based on the current U.S. Army standard issue sidearm.

ASG Dan Wesson Valor 1911
Sig Sauer P226 X-Five ASP
Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP

Sig Sauer also holds another spot in the lineup with the blowback action WE THE PEOPLE 1911 BB model, which runs up against the ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow (and Shadow Blue), two new Glock models from Umarex, the Glock 19 Compact (which is a non-blowback model) and the blowback action Glock 17 (which should be available late December). Umarex holds two additional seats at the table with the updated Walther PPS M2, and what I consider the dark horse candidate for Top Gun, the excellent Heckler & Koch USP blowback action model.

Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911
ASG CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow and Shadow Blue
Umarex Glock 19 Compact (non-blowback)
Umarex Glock 17 (blowback action)

It is an impressive lineup of new CO2 pistols, and while we may not have gotten everything we wanted in 2018, there are nonetheless some superstars in both the BB and pellet firing categories, which is going to make for a very competitive rundown to December 25th and the announcement of 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

Umarex Walther PPS M2
Umarex HK USP (blowback action)

While total points will ultimately determine the overall winner, all of these guns have been reviewed in Airgun Experience this year (in one form or another) and many of you have already purchased one or more of them. So, your opinions are going to count, too. Let the comments begin and weigh in with your choice for this year’s Top Gun.

In Part 2 we begin with the first round of elimination with revolvers and non-blowback action models, and how well they fare against some superior designs.

14 thoughts on “Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 1”

  1. Dennis,

    It’s an interesting coincidence today, your talking about the value of airgun disassembly as a training tool, and Tom Gaylord making the following statement in his blog for the Sig Sauer M17 pellet pistol.

    “Sig asked me why anyone would want to disassemble the gun for any reason other than clearing a jam.” Source: Pyramyd Air Blog, Sig Sauer P320 M17 CO2 pellet pistol: Part 3.

    Tom’s comment seems to suggest that there is still some corporate disregard for the value of airgun disassembly as a training tool, despite what Sig Sauer did with the We The People 1911.

    • I think Tom and I are pretty much in agreement on this that a top quality CO2 model should fieldstrip and not just in case a pellet gets jammed up. I have had a couple of blowback action BB models choke on a double feed and being able to lock the slide back, remove the magazine and push the offending BB or pellet out into the breech is ideal. In some cases field stripping the gun is also an option. For me it is looking for authenticity of the design and when a pistol can be disassembled just as its centerfire counterpart I feel the manufacturer has done a good job. This costs more to do, and price point is always a consideration, but when you look at a gun like the WE THE PEOLE the price is not too great for that level of design. I believe Sig Sauer realizes this since they have continually advanced their designs. Those who want the better gun, the better design, will spend a little more. An airgun doesn’t have to be a training tool, but when it is, it should be as close to the centerfire design as possible. There are a lot of good guns now that fall into that category and none are really price prohibitive for air pistols.

  2. For absolutely dead on replication of the actual inspiring firearm, the Sig We the People nails it. It also brings up a new category. Compatibility of magazines, which none of the other pistols has.

    • There is that wonderful symitry of design that allows most 1911 magazines to interchange between guns even of different manufacture in both centerfire and CO2 models alike. There is something to be said for that, it is shared by too few others. You can swap some CZ magazines and Tanfoglio models between guns, but in CO2 there is no match for swapping out 1911 CO2 BB magazines. Not sure that is the defining characteristic for this year’s Top Gun, but it certainly goes into thr plus column.

      • May not get the We thePeople into top gun of the year but may enter into creating an airgun armory. Of the other new pistols I liked the H&K USP blowback. The Glock 17 looked interesting but is not yet in US consumers hands for evaluation

        • I would expect it very soon, certainly in January at the very latest from what I have been told by Umarex. This is an exceptional gun being Glocks first blowback action model with a self contained CO2 BB magazine. It is going to sell well and once it hits the Pyramyd Air website I would think the first run will be gone quickly. It is not everything it could have been, but serves its purpose well as both an affordable air pistol and a good G17 understudy for training use. Would I have preferred to see this much effort put into the G19, most certainly, but from Glock’s point of view, and you have to think a little like the Austrians here, the G17 is the gun that made Glock famous, it should be the flagship CO2 model as well.

  3. I would add the new Dan Wesson 715 6″ Revolver in Black…also the Schofield Nr3 revolver otherwise I like your criteria for determining Best Authentic Replica handgun for 2018…I cannot find your Dan Wesson 1911 Valor for sale anywhere on PA has it been discontinued ? Chuck

    • The Dan Wesson 6-inch model came out in 2017 so it has already had its shot at Gun of the Year, same for the Schofield. This is only for guns introduced in calendar year 2018, which has been pointed out, can be a little problematic since the Glock 17 isn’t available yet, nor the Dan Wesson Valor. Both new for 2018 but not in stock yet. As for the Valor, it is identical to the Hatsan H-1911 except for the name on the gun and a little different color to the Cerakote-type finish. If you are a Dan Wesson fan, worth the wait, the Valor is a little sharper looking to my eye.

  4. I am a Lifelong shooter and have within the last 2 years have converted to Airgun handguns, Authentic Replicas and Old Westerns all through PA and I always read your reviews for conformation and guidance, you do an Outstanding job Thank You…BTW I own 3 Dan Wesson revolvers and consider them, DW, the Top of the Line in Replica and Quality…Chuck

    • Chuck:
      Thanks for the kind words about the column, always much appreciated! I too am an ASG Dan Wesson fan, and agree there is nothing better in a CO2 powered DA/SA revolver. I’d like to see a 4-inch without the accessory rail and the 6-inch in bright nickel like the 2-1/2 inch. If you can’t have interchangeable barrels, then three matching guns in 2-1/2, 4- and 6-inch barrel lengths would be nice. There’s always 2019!

  5. Would like to see some new offerings from ASG in 2019. The aforementioned finish options and wood grip options for the715 series . I really don’t like the rubber grips, InEurope ASG is marketing the Schofield. Would like to see them offered here, and with a rifled barrel, not just pellet shells stuffed into the smoothbore revolver. I had seen prototypes of Wells Fargo Schofield revolvers , and they would be winners in the US for sure.

      • Another great one, that should be done. It is merely a variation of an existing model. Still surprised there have been no Artillery variations of the P08. Except for the Webley and Nagant, Military da revolvers have been ignored. S&W 1917 to start. OldWest,Colt 1872 Open Top? Only question is why not?

Leave a Comment