Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 4
The improved Sig M17 with optics deserves a shot
By Dennis Adler
I know I said this would be throwing a ringer into the mix but with rebooted Schofields and Peacemakersit seems a little hypocritical to block the Sig Sauer M17 ASP with Sig Air reflex sight from this year’s somewhat limited competition, especially when the most accurate pellet-firing pistol so far is a 5-inch smoothbore Single Action revolver!
If you have the M17 ASP and don’t have the Sig Air reflex sight it is a game changer for this otherwise not overly accurate blowback action CO2 pistol. The M17 was never intended to be a target pistol just one capable of getting hits in center mass on a silhouette target, and it has proven very good at that, even from 15 yards out. The addition of the Sig Air red dot reflex sight gave the M17 the added accuracy that could not be readily achieved with its fixed sights, so this is like the Airgun Builder Peacemakers; you have to put it together. Unlike getting a complete custom Single Action from Pyramyd Air though, you have to do the assembly yourself as I outlined it in the October 2020 Airgun Experience articles on the M17.
Sig Sauer’s design for the M17 ASP air pistol remains as unique as its approach to the modular centerfire P320/M17 models though a lot simpler since it only comes in one configuration as a dedicated 4.5mm pellet firing duty-sized pistol equal in dimensions to the M17 military pistol with extended capacity magazine. The 9mm magazine holds 21 rounds, for the ASP model the extended capacity rotary magazine holds 20 pellets and, of course, the CO2, which is still as of this writing unique to the M17 ASP. This is the engineering marvel of the M17, a first-of-it-s-kind self-contained CO2 magazine with the 20-round rotary fed clip. This is locked into the magazine making it one piece. I know we no longer call magazines clips, but in M17’s case the 20 pellets are loaded into a rotary clip which is the official term Sig Sauer has given to the modular pellet-loading device.
(Hopefully Umarex and Walther will get the PPQ M2 into the early 2021 pipeline as another much anticipated and long delayed new model with a design similar to the M17 ASP).
The M17 ASP is one the most authentic looking CO2 versions of a modern military pistol on the market and as a pellet-firing pistol much more interesting to shoot than a BB-firing pistol. Hey, I know, BBs are cheaper and the guns have better self-contained CO2 BB magazines, but the M17 has earned its place and with the Sig Air reflex sight deserves its chance at becoming the first CO2 pistol to win Replica Air Pistol of the Year twice.
In 2019 Sig Sauer’s Sig Air Division embarked on the next step of the M17 ASP’s evolution with the mystery of the removable rear sight plate answered. It was built just like its centerfire counterparts, which have a removable optics base built into the slide. As we know, the plans got delayed and what was going to be an early 2020 introduction turned into late fall.
The rebuild of the M17 ASP to mount the optics is a fairly quick procedure as I outlined in the Sig Air reflex sight articles in October. But to recap in case you’re just finding out about this, everything you need comes with the Sig Air reflex sight in a foam rubber container form fit for the sight with dust cover attached, a screw driver to use for adjusting windage and elevation, a hex head wrench for locking the seating screws, two mounting plates M17/M18 (the latter for Sig’s Airsoft model), a battery, lens cloth and instructions. These are very straightforward but assume you know how to do it. Actually, once you get started it does become easy but look back at my October article to avoid any pitfalls. You are essentially removing the rear sight panel from the slide (done from inside the slide after removing it from the frame b y removing two screws), taking it off, and the rear sight, which is a separate piece and essential to reassembly, then following the battery insertion instructions, mounting the reflex sight to the new base and the base to the gun. It should take more than half an hour. I did run into one slight problem with the early production sight sent to me, I had to lightly deburr the front two pins to fit into the corresponding holes in the mounting base, and then retouch the finish with some aluminum black. No big deal. With the battery inserted as instructed, it was hand in glove from there on; the base clicked into place and easily secured with the two hex head locking screws provided. Once mounted on the slide and reassembled to the frame the M17 ASP takes on a new and imposing look (like its centerfire counterparts) and enhanced accuracy. It is like a new gun.
Sighting in and accuracy tests
Like most reflex sights the Sig is simple to activate, this design with one button on the front of the housing. Some reflex sights have a separate On/Off button or switch and +/– buttons to adjust brightness, the Sig does it all with one. To turn it on press the button momentarily, press again momentarily to increase brightness settings (there are 6 levels), and hold for 2-seconds to turn off, (or cycle though the brightness setting and it will turn off after the highest setting). Battery life is 4000 plus hours (the lower the brightness the longer the battery life, and of course, time in use. As a failsafe the sight will automatically turn off after 1 hour. If you end up exhausting the battery, Sig says you do not have to remove the entire sight and mounting plate from the gun (pairing them up was only part of the initial installation), and a battery change only requires removing the two locking screws in the sight that secure it to the base, lifting it off, changing the battery and screwing it back down on the mounting plate. This also means if you want to go back to the fixed sights all you need to do is removed the optic, not the entire base because the rear sight is still there. I’m hard pressed as to why you would want to use open sights when the gun shoots so much better with the optics.
For the Replica Air Pistol of the Year comparison I am going to run a new velocity test with the H&N Sport Match Green alloy pellets to be consistent with all of the pellet tests thus far, and then likely readjust the sight for the new load.
Again to keep things even across the board, the tests will be shot from 21 feet rather than 10 meters, which is usual for pellet pistols with rifled barrels. This is the same advantage the 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker had. Since this is a DAO pistol, it is important to mention the trigger pull on this gun with a lengthy take up of 0.94 inches (but very smooth) and an average trigger press of 7 pounds, 4.0 ounces, almost all of which is within the total pull, so very light stacking before breaking the shot.
Since the slide cannot lock back on an empty magazine this is going to cost the M17 ASP 1 point on authenticity, and to be fair, since it requires an added optical sight (an added expense) 1 point off accuracy no matter how well the gun does.
A minor elevation correction and the M17 ASP and Sig Air reflex sight were dialed in. Average velocity with the H&N Sport Match Green 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters and a fresh CO2 was brisk 401 fps with a high of 432 fps and a low of 389 fps for 10 rounds. Even the low velocity is better than the previous high velocity result of 372 fps back in 2018 (with a different M17 ASP test gun). Without delving further into past velocity tests with the M17 ASP, I believe this is the highest velocity I have clocked with the gun. Still, the Barra Schofield has clocked the highest velocity with the H&N Sport Match Green alloy pellets of 482 fps average! (Of course, a blowback action pistol is never going to have a velocity the same as a revolver, where all of the CO2 is used to send the pellet downrange). With an average hovering around 400 fps though, the M17 ASP is going to have plenty of punch to hit accurately at 10 meters and as previously mentioned, in the center mass of a silhouette target out to 15 yards (45 feet). Shooting at 21 feet is almost cheating with this gun.
Using a Birchwood-Casey Shoot-N-C target and firing from 21 feet at 1-second intervals with a two-handed hold, I put 10 rounds into 0.937 inches in the 10 and bullseye, almost all overlapping, with the best 5-round group at 0.50 inches all overlapping. I was hitting just a hair right so I made one minor windage adjustment and shot another 10 rounds and this time all 10 were center in the 10-ring and bullseye for a best group at 21 feet measuring 1.12 inches with a best 5-rounds all overlapping in the bullseye at 0.5 inches. Remember, the circumference of a dime is 0.6875 inches (0.705 inches according to U.S. Mint coin specifications). Done and done.
OK, so I put a ringer in the test with a low profile red dot reflex sight, but I have also leveled the field by deducting a point from accuracy because of that advantage over the other guns with open sights. And we still have two more blowback action CO2 models to go. Right now we have a questionable 1 point spread between the first three guns. Questionable? See below.
Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP with Reflex Sight
Authenticity 1 to 10 9 (matched to centerfire model for fit and finish)
Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10 10 (optics mount, self-contained CO2 pellet mag)
Ease of use 1 to 10 10 (easy CO2 loading and pellet clip)
Performance 1 to 10 10 (high velocity, good DAO trigger pull)
Accuracy 1 to 10 9 (1 point off for using optics, best 5 at 0.5 inches)
Field stripping capability bonus 1 1 (dicey, only takes down to slide and frame)
Adjustable Sights bonus 1
Total points 49