Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 2
What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun
By Dennis Adler
As might be expected, a revolver up against nine semi-autos of varying design would have little chance of prevailing, unless it was a 4-3/4 inch, rifled barrel Umarex Colt Peacemaker, (just a hint to Umarex about the standards and expectations we have here at Airgun Experience), so the first of the 10 to go is the Ruger Superhawk, but not without a good run at the title. While it is a blatant re-branding of the S&W 327 TRR8, the Ruger name, logo in the grips and shorter bull barrel are neat touches that set it apart from the S&W DA/SA model. The real surprise for me came with the improved trigger having a smoother 6 pound, 7.0 ounce DA and 5 pound, 11.0 ounce SA average pull and a solid staging of the hammer firing double action.
In keeping with differentiating the Ruger from the S&W, the Superhawk comes with a more traditional windage and elevation adjustable rear notch sight and a pinned (via the muzzle retainer ring) front blade sight. No white outline on the rear or white dot front, just good old fashioned black on black sights, unlike the fiber optic sights on the 327 TRR8. The Ruger also looks better after you remove the top rail. As they say, “cleans up real nice.” With the shorter 4-1/2 inch barrel (the internal smoothbore barrel is recessed from the muzzle by 0.375 inches and measures 4.125 inches to the back of the spring-loaded forcing cone) the Superhawk delivered fine accuracy both with steel BBs and alloy wadcutter pellets (actually more accurate with the rear loading pellet cartridges than front loading BB rounds).
The Ruger clocked an average velocity of 396 fps with steel BBs delivering a high of 410 fps, a low of 388 fps and a standard deviation of 7 fps for 12 rounds, and an impressive 445 fps, a high of 464 fps, low of 435 fps and standard deviation of 8 fps with H&N Sport Match Green alloy wadcutters. Best groups for six rounds with steel BBs averaged 0.75 inches with five shots at 0.625 inches (center hole-to-center hole) from 21 feet. With factory specs for velocity at 390 fps, the lone wheelgun for 2018 acquitted itself quite well and earned its shot at this year’s Top Gun honors.
Model: Umarex Ruger Superhawk
Authenticity 1 to 10: 1 (A Ruger in name only)
Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 5 (based on S&W Model 327 TRR8)
Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (excellent trigger and action)
Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 10 (Revolver is easy to clean and maintain)
Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 9 (based on higher than factory spec velocity with BBs and pellet loading cartridges, and 0.625 inch groups with pellets at 21 feet)
Total Points: 35
The next gun to be judged is one of two non-blowback action models that made the overall cut and the only pellet-firing non-blowback pistol, the ASG Dan Wesson Valor/Hatsan H-1911. The Hatsan and Dan Wesson models are the same gun with different brand names, and for comparison, since the Hatsan has already been evaluated, I am going to stay with the H-1911version for scoring points.
In general, non-blowback action pistols are made simply for entry level sales. The Hatsan and Dan Wesson models, however, are anything but simple. That they are non-blowback pistols is really the most unusual feature since so much effort has gone into the fine details of both guns. The great disappointment is a long pull DAO trigger that belies everything the gun offers visually, blowback action or not. However, the DAO trigger easily stages the hammer for every shot once you get a feel for it. Like any DAO, it is a heavy pull because it has to cock the hammer. Average resistance measured 9 pounds, 8.5 ounces with a short take up of 0.44 inches. The trigger stacks heavy all the way up until the hammer is staged and then pulls cleanly the rest of the way. If you stage the hammer for every shot the heavy trigger pull really isn’t that much of an issue. Both guns compare to a full-sized Government Model, so they’re big enough to get a solid two-handed hold and keep on target.
The fit, finish, somewhat innovative self contained rotary pellet and CO2 magazine and design aesthetics are almost at cross purposes with the non-blowback function of the pistols. The slide is fixed but not a molded-in component, it is a slide sitting on the frame rails. The raised mainspring housing is a separate component. The barrel bushing is fixed, and the slide release is fixed, but again not molded-in parts. The magazine release is also designed just like an original 1911A1 and lets the drop free magazine fall from the grip frame. The Hatsan and Dan Wesson have a working thumb safety that feels like a centerfire pistols and even though you cannot cock the hammer, you can put the gun on safe.
The other noteworthy feature is the one-piece 1911-sized pellet magazine that you can pull from a mag pouch and load just like a centerfire pistol. And you need to remember this later on in the Top Gun competition. What this design has done is improve upon the rotary pellet-firing stick magazine by utilizing a 6+6 rotary magazine that is incorporated into the CO2 magazine. If you want to switch from an empty to a full 6-shot rotary clip all you do is drop the mag, hit the release on the front of the housing, rotate the clip 180 degrees with your finger and push the magazine back into the grip; it is faster than turning over a stick magazine, not much, but it is the entire magazine with all of the critical components. If this gun had a blowback action, a working grip safety and a single action trigger it would have been the achievement of the year. This is still a big step forward, a different step than Sig Sauer’s approach with the P320 M17 ASP, but an interesting step nevertheless. And for its suggested retail of under $90 the Hatsan and Dan Wesson models certainly qualify as entry level pellet-firing CO2 semi-autos with a lot of extra quality and detail built in.
Shooting tests were done using H&N Sport Match Green. The German-made alloy pellets are factory rated in the Hatsan and Dan Wesson at a smoking 425 fps. Through the screens on our ProChrono chronograph the Hatsan only clocked a high of 398 fps and an average of 380 fps, not quite as high a velocity as the factory specs. As for accuracy at 10 meters the Hatsan delivered six shots into a best group of 0.81 inches. Not a stunning performance. But for an entry-level, non-blowback action pellet pistol, both the Hatsan and Dan Wesson earned a decent total score on design.
Model: Hatsan H-1911/ASG Dan Wesson Valor
Authenticity 1 to 10: 6 (DAO trigger and non-blowback action cost the guns points)
Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 8 (extreme detail in design for non-blowback)
Ease of use 1 to 10: 8 (innovative pellet magazine design)
Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 0
Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 8 (sub 1-inch groups offhand from 10 meters)
Total Points: 30
Saturday, the last new and possibly best ever non-blowback action semi-auto design, the Umarex Glock 19, takes on the latest Umarex Walther PPS, the M2. It’s a BB shootout for a place in the finals.