Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

The Sig experience is an emersion in technology as much as it is one of authenticity, accuracy, and performance. Sig Sauer’s up-and-coming Airgun Division has devoted several years to evolving their designs to arrive at two superb pellet-firing, blowback action CO2 models that are designed for different purposes, target pistol accuracy and training pistol superiority. The 2018 X-Five ASP delivers on 10 meter accuracy and high 20-round capacity for a pellet-firing model, while the P320 M17 ASP delivers not only the same high capacity but groundbreaking new features in the 4.5mm semi-auto pellet pistol market. 

We have come down to the two guns that some readers have predicted would be this year’s winner. But we have learned from the preceding eight guns that the point system allows very little latitude. Some favorites have fallen by the wayside on the simple fact that they cannot be field stripped. If you are looking at authenticity as a guideline for the best overall model, it needs to be capable of duplicating as many features of its centerfire counterpart as possible, field stripping is one of them, it is among the most basic of skills learned in handgun training. Even though it is not an essential part of a quality CO2 blowback action pistol (which can be cleared of a stuck BB or pellet without full disassembly) it is a feature that says “this gun has been built to the highest standards of authenticity.” Only a handful of the 10 guns for 2018 meet that standard, but it is not the sole defining quality for being chosen as Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

There are great similarities between the 9mm X-Five Match (top) and the X-Five ASP. While Sig has delivered a visually stunning pistol for 10 meter target shooting, including a target trigger, X-Five X pattern grips, flared magazine well and adjustable rear sight, the economies of Sig Sauer air pistol design, at least for this new model, still follow the principle of not putting extra expense into unnecessary parts. This leaves the P226 X-Five ASP with the same molded-in slide and barrel lug interface used for the earlier P226 and P320 ASP models. The slide release and disassembly lever are also well finished but non-functioning parts, and there are no corresponding cutouts in the slide for these levers since the slide cannot lock open and the pistol cannot be field stripped. Aside from those concessions the X-Five ASP carries the lines of its centerfire counterparts quite well and delivers the expected accuracy of a target pistol.

This next to last installment is a Sig vs. Sig showdown against two very different yet similar CO2 blowback action pellet-firing semi-autos, the P226-based X-Five ASP Competition, a finely tuned target pistol, up against a modern military sidearm in CO2, the P320-based M17 ASP. Before a single shot is fired the reality of this test is that the X-Five ASP cannot possibly win. It cannot be field stripped. So what does this second place finisher to the M17 ASP have to offer that makes it so worth owning?

From the right side you can see the ambidextrous thumb safety which is a fully functional piece. This view also shows the handsome checkered X style grip design and the quality fit using Torx head star pattern screws. In these areas Sig Sauer has spared no expense to make this an appealing CO2 pistol.

Let us for a moment set aside the competition and ask what is more important in a CO2 pistol for the average airgun enthusiast. Authenticity is important but unless you are intent on using the airgun as a training aid or a stepping stone to the actual centerfire model, authenticity is not the deciding factor. If you are not learning how to disassemble a pistol for cleaning, and CO2 pistols need only minimal cleaning which can be done without disassembly, field stripping capability is not the deciding factor. Ease of use and Performance & Accuracy are the deciding factors. Having a pellet-firing CO2 pistol that is fun to shoot, easy to load, easy to handle, and is accurate enough that you have a feeling of accomplishment and pride when you walk away from a shooting session is something that authenticity and field stripping cannot afford; they are added benefits but not the sole reason for owning a CO2 pistol. The points system was set up to remove this emotional equation from making the final decision. So, here is what Sig Sauer offers in the X-Five ASP as opposed to the M17.

The almost vertical SAO trigger used on this model changes the dynamics of trigger pull to make the gun easier to shoot and hold on target. Another feature of the X-Five ASP models is a quality adjustable rear sight with windage and click adjustable elevation screws.

The X-Five ASP is copied from the X-Five Match pistols designed for IPSC shooting and is combined with the hammer and SAO trigger design of the X-Five Tactical. This almost vertical trigger was originally used on the centerfire X-Five competition pistols. By almost flattening out the trigger the trigger finger interface is changed to create more leverage. While this does not noticeably change the weight of the trigger pull it changes the way it feels; stacking becomes less evident, the trigger feels lighter and the pull seems shorter. Average trigger pull on the X-Five ASP Silver measured 5 pounds, 10 ounces with 0.625 inches of take up, very light resistance and a final pull of 0.187 inches with light resistance and a clean break.

With a large slot for elevation adjustment and click increments, the X-Five can be perfectly dialed in for specific ranges and pellets. The windage adjustment on the right side has the same click increments for consistent settings.

The Sig Sauer X-Five Match used a brushed stainless finish which is duplicated on the latest X-Five ASP Silver, as well as the polymer X pattern checkered grips. The Match pistols did not have the P226 decocking lever, nor does the X-Five ASP. The Match used an extended frame and slide and a 5-inch barrel, a flared magwell, deep undercut triggerguard, and adjustable rear sights. All of these features are duplicated on the P226 X-Five ASP, which has a 5-inch rifled steel barrel.

Internally this Sig Sauer air pistol is a combination of the P226 ASP and P320 ASP models, the latter relating to the X-Five ASP using a P320-style 20-shot rotary Rapid Pellet Magazine (RPM). This also means the CO2 is loaded into the pistol grip separately from the pellet magazine, making the X-Five a hybrid design combining features that were first developed in 2016 for the P226 ASP. With the X-Five there is also Sig Sauer’s efficiency of design which dictates non-functioning parts to the gun which serve no actual purpose to firing or handling. The molded-in slide and barrel lug interface that lacks any detail beyond an edge is carried over from the P226 and P320 ASP models. This will cost the gun points for authenticity. The X-Five ASP also has a non-functional slide release, which, while looking exactly as it should, is fixed in place since the slide cannot lock back with the rotary pellet magazine design and Sig sees no reason to manually lock the slide back as it serves no practical purpose on the air pistol. However, considering that target shooters come in right and left-handed versions, the ambidextrous thumb safeties are fully functional on the X-Five ASP.

The X-Five ASP is a true hybrid design combining elements of the P226 series ASP models with the magazine system developed for the P320 ASP series. This is a superb combination that makes loading CO2 and 4.5mm pellets faster than other pellet-firing semi-auto pistols (with the exception of the P320 and M17 ASP models).

The X-Five is a large handgun and just slightly wider than the P226 ASP by 0.0625 inches and 0.687 inches longer overall (it is also 0.375 inches taller). As a result it will not fit a standard P226 holster. The X-Five ASP weighs in at 44 ounces, just 2.7 ounces shy of the 9mm X Series pistol. In size, the X-Five ASP has an overall length of 8.7 inches, height of 5.94 inches (base of magwell to top of rear sight) and a slide width of 1.0 inches. Width at the edges of the ambidextrous safeties is 1.625 inches. Sight radius is a very lengthy 7.06 inches with a flat surface matte black rear sight and white dot blade front sight. While authenticity of design is a heavily weighted factor, consider that the X-Five ASP is a “dedicated target pistol” and the rifled steel barrel makes it one of the most accurate (perhaps the most accurate) blowback action 10 meter pellet pistols on the market. If you want precision and accuracy as a sports shooter, there’s little more you can ask for.

Ripping up the center of the 10-meter target, the X-Five ASP loaded with H&N Sport Match Green 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters punched 10 rounds into 0.74 inches with five at 0.375 inches.

In my 10-meter test with what I determined through shooting different brands of pellets to be the best match for the X-Five ASP, 10 rounds of H&N Match Green 5.25 gr. alloy pellets, gave me a best target with 10 rounds at 0.74 inches in the black and five shots at 0.375 inches. This is what the X-Five ASP is built to do. If you are a target shooter, this is your gun of the year, regardless of how many points it earns.

Model: Sig Sauer P226 X-Five ASP

Authenticity 1 to 10:  8 (molded-in and inert parts)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 10 (uses 20-round rotary pellet magazine)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (magazines are easy to load)

Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 0 (cannot be field stripped)

Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (best 5-shot group at 0.375 inches)

Total Points: 38

It’s a face off looking for details to separate the centerfire M17, left, from the CO2 pellet model on the right. The 9mm model’s barrel lug and slide interface are completely different; the steel slide has a slightly different Cerakote color than the alloy slide on the ASP and the polymer frames are also slightly different in color. After that you have to start looking harder.

Authenticity, combat accuracy, practical training with a variety of holsters, precise design interchangeability with a centerfire counterpart, weight, balance, fit and finish define the goals Sig Sauer set down for the P320 M17 ASP. All of these specific goals have been met. But there is one more aspect to the M17 that sets is apart from any other pellet-firing CO2 model that has come before. The role of the M17 as both a military pistol and as a blowback action CO2 pellet-firing model, is very different than that of the Sig Sauer P320 models they are based upon, and as a CO2 pistol quite different from the P226 X-Five ASP Competition.

Looking over the top of the CO2 model from either the front or rear, the fine details of the M17 ASP are very evident in the fit and finish, the back of the slide, ambidextrous safeties, functioning disassembly lever, and the accurately designed white dot sights. As a training pistol for the centerfire M17 these features become essential. In terms of handling, sighting, and general operation, everything you learn with the airgun translates to the centerfire pistol.

Sig Sauer’s design for the M17 air pistol is almost as unique as its approach to the centerfire P320 M17 model. While the 9mm pistols are a modular design that allows moving the fire control housing (firing mechanism and trigger) from one frame to another to change the size of the gun from a full size duty pistol all the way down to a compact carry pistol, change magazine capacities, and even calibers, the M17 CO2 model is a dedicated 4.5mm pellet firing duty-sized pistol equal in dimensions to the M17 military issue pistol with extended capacity magazine. The 9mm magazine holds 21 rounds, the standard capacity magazine 17 rounds. For the CO2 model, the extended capacity magazine holds 20 pellets. The airgun’s dimensions are almost 100 percent matching to the centerfire pistol.

With a real barrel lug slide interface to the M17’s blowback action, the pistol not only has a very realistic look, but when the slide comes back there’s more felt recoil than other pellet-firing models, and a totally different sound. This is one of the gun’s most distinctive features.

A comparison of the 9mm M17 with the CO2 model shows an overall length of 8.0 inches, barrel length of 4.7 inches, and carry weight (with empty extended capacity magazine), of 29.6 ounces (1.85 pounds) for the centerfire pistol. The M17 ASP has an overall length of 8.0 inches, internal rifled barrel length of 4.68 inches, and a carry weight (with empty magazine) of 34.0 ounces (2.1 pounds). The heavier CO2 magazine adds most of the extra 4.4 ounces in carry weight. The centerfire and CO2 models have the same approximate height (with extended capacity magazine) and exact width, so the airgun can be used with any type of civilian or military holster or carry method. This is a significant training plus. Given the excellent blowback action on the CO2 model, which delivers a palpable sense of recoil, and a sound level, which I rate at medium loud, the single 12 gram CO2 cartridge is giving everything it’s got to run this gun and get the shots downrange. That means you will only get about two reloads (40 rounds) out of a CO2 to achieve the best possible performance.

The rear sight and slide meld on the ASP and centerfire M17 are very similar, as are the sights, though the 9mm models have SigLite night sights, while the air pistol’s are just white dots. But there is more to this design than meets the eye. The centerfire M17 sight plate is removable and can be switched for reflex sight optics mounting plates. The CO2 models have a different type of mounting plate (and please don’t try to remove it from your gun, just be patient). In 2019 there will be a retrofit for the ASP so optics can be mounted to the M17 CO2 models as well.

The M17’s construction allows a lot of looking into openings to see how things fit together and function in unison. It can be field stripped, a first for a blowback action pellet model. Where Sig Sauer has also excelled in Authenticity of design for the P320 M17 ASP is by having a blowback action pellet pistol with an actual slide and barrel lug interface (not the first but a first for Sig Sauer), and fully functional ambidextrous thumb safeties. Sig has not come up with a way to lock the slide back on an empty magazine nor to follow through on a functional slide release, which still remains unnecessary for the design, but they have instead achieved the highest goal for a pellet-firing blowback action pistol; a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine. This is the engineering marvel of the M17, a first-of-its-kind self-contained CO2 pellet magazine with a 20-round rotary fed “clip”. That’s the official term Sig Sauer has given to the modular pellet-loading device for the M17 magazine.

The M17 ASP fieldstrips down to two primary parts, slide and frame. The recoil spring assembly also slides forward but this is as far as you need go for typical cleaning and maintenance. The internal design of the M17 ASP is different from traditional blowback action CO2 models. It has a large integral fire control housing in the frame, and unique recoil spring guide rod design. You can also see that the M17 CO2 BB magazine is a two-piece design which means that spare pre-loaded 20-round pellet clips can be inserted if you do not want to change out the entire magazine. Spare magazines and clips will be available in 2019.

Loading the CO2 into the main section of the magazine uses a long lever that folds down away from the back of the housing similar to the loading system Sig Sauer developed for the P226 ASP (which has a folding backstrap panel to accomplish the loading and seating of the CO2 cartridge). With the M17 magazine, once the lever is lowered the CO2 is inserted, raise the lever and squeeze it closed against the back of the magazine. In one move the CO2 is locked, raised into place, pierced and sealed with the housing that fits into the pistol’s grip frame. The pellets load into a compact version of the X-Five ASP’s rotary magazine; once loaded, the clip drops into a channel and locks into place. The CO2 and pellet clip are now one piece within the magazine and ready to load into the M17. This is what serious military air pistol enthusiasts have been waiting for. Forget that the slide doesn’t lock back, you can change magazines after 20 rounds like an actual M17, you can practice tactical reloads, you can do just about everything with the CO2 model you can do with the centerfire pistol for training and shooting at distances out to 45 feet, well beyond the 10-meter competition range and into the world of practical close quarter combat and defensive shooting practice.

The CO2 loading system is one step to lower the magazine’s back plate, then insert the CO2 and close the back plate. In one motion the 12 gr. CO2 cartridge is raised into position and pierced. This is another innovative M17 design. A loaded 20-round pellet clip then fits in the front of the magazine.

There is one notable internal difference with the CO2 model (other than being a CO2 model and having a unique firing system), unlike the striker-fired P320 M17 centerfire pistol, the M17 ASP uses an internal hammer. Trigger pull on the blowback action pistol averages 6 pounds, 6 ounces with 1.0 inches of take up and it needs a full release of the trigger for each shot.

The pellet clip in the magazine locks into place inside the fire control housing along with the CO2 connection sealing the magazine to the gun. When the magazine is removed the CO2 connection separates from the fire control housing and a small amount of CO2 is lost. During my tests the CO2, which has a big job, lasted for two 20-round clips before there was any appreciable loss of average velocity, but 50 shots is about average. Compared to the cost of centerfire ammunition it is pennies to dollars, which again makes the M17 ASP a worthwhile training gun.

The use of alloy pellets in this gun is advantageous to achieve maximum velocity for shooting at greater distances. Average velocity with Sig Sauer 5.25 gr. Match Ballistic Alloy wadcutters delivered an average of 358 fps for 20 shots. Changing to H&N Sport 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters, the M17 delivered a high of 372 fps, a low of 352 fps, and average velocity of 358 fps for 20 consecutive shots. H&N Sport delivered identical average velocity to the Sig Sauer alloy pellets, but slightly better low velocity averages. I chose the H&N for the final 10-meter test evaluation against the X-Five ASP.

Not the target pistol the X-Five ASP is at 10 meters, the M17 is no slouch in accuracy and for training, 10 meters is the “close range.” The pistol is effectively accurate out to close quarter combat distances of nearly 50 feet.

The final evaluation of the M17 led me to two conclusions, one that you have to master the trigger on this gun for accuracy, it is a DAO and you need to have the full weight of the first joint of the trigger finger against the trigger (as when firing a double action pistol vs. a single action where one often uses the tip of the trigger finger) to keep shots consistent, and even then it is going to take time to keep shot groups tight. The M17 is not a target pistol in this configuration (and if that hints at some future Sig Sauer accessories, it does), still, the M17 is not going to be as accurate at the X-Five ASP Competition. But it is does have commensurate accuracy with the centerfire M17 military pistol; much more about this later in the postscript to Replica Air Pistol of the Year. For this evaluation, my best 10-shot group at 10 meters with the M17 ASP had a total spread of 0.875 inches with the best 5-rounds clustered  into 0.56 inches. No match for the X-Five Competition, but rather a match for the M17 military pistol.

Model: Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP

Authenticity 1 to 10:  9 (as matched to the centerfire model for fit and finish)

Ingenuity of the design 1 to 10: 10 (self-contained CO2 pellet magazine)

Ease of use 1 to 10: 10 (magazines are easy to load)

Field stripping capability 1 to 10: 10 (can be field stripped)

Performance & Accuracy 1 to 10: 10 (best 5-shot group at 0.56 inches)

Total Points: 49

With three guns tied at 49 points each, the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE, Umarex HK USP and Sig Sauer M17 ASP will go up against each other for the Replica Airgun of the Year title on December 25th. 

8 thoughts on “Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 6


    • Chuck, I know you were rooting for the X-Five ASP and in its own way it has won by being the most accurate of all the air pistols tested. If accuracy is the end goal of shooting a CO2 pistol, the X-Five stands on its own. Glad you are enjoying the reviews, some more twists and turns to come on Christmas day.

      Dennis


  1. Thanks for getting back to me on the P226….
    What I look for these days in an Air Pistol is:::
    Replica Detail
    Blowback
    All Metal
    Accuracy
    Rifled Barrel
    Pellet///BB
    Trigger Movement
    Magazine Capacity
    Lower Optics Rail
    DA/SA
    My favorite right now is my CZ P9 Duty…

    Like you I like, appreciate and enjoy them all….

    Really looking forward to a Sig P210

    Chuck


  2. Since I began this airgun hobby, there are three semi-auto models I like that I have multiple copies of: P226 X-Five (2 BB, 1 pellet), Beretta / Taurus 92 (3 BB, 1 pellet), and 1911 (7 BB, 1 pellet). This summary includes the new Sig Sauer We The People 1911 that I received just yesterday evening. I haven’t shot the Sig Sauer 1911 yet, but I have shot the Sig Sauer X-Five and M17 pellet pistols.

    My shooting skills are not yet good enough for me to shoot the Sig Sauer X-Five and M17 pistols at 10 meters with confidence that I won’t miss the pellet trap, so I’m still shooting these two at 18 feet from a bench rest. Between these two, I have gotten better results from the M17.

    A 6 o’clock aim with the M17 had my shots hitting well below the bulls eye. A 12 o’clock aim with the M17 got my shots on a level with the lower half of the 2″ shot spot. Using the 12 o’clock with Meisterkugeln Pistol pellets from a bench rest at 18 feet gave me a 10 shot group of 1 9/16″ with 9 shots within 1″.

    Shifting my 12 o’clock aim left to a point 1″ above 9 o’clock resulted in shots hitting on the 2″ shot spot. Shooting Meisterkugeln Rifle with the M17 produced another 10 shot group of 1 9/16″ with another 9 shots within 1″. Shooting R10 Match with the M17 produced a 10 shot group of 1 13/16″ with 8 shots within 11/16″.

    I shot Crosman Premier Super Match with the M17 (not pictured) and got a 10 shot group of 1 5/8″ with 9 shots within 1″. I also tried Hobby pellets with the M17 and got a 10 shot group of 2 9/16″ with 9 shots within 1 9/16″. I don’t think that group was the fault of the Hobby pellets because I was also experimenting with the aim point by putting the front sight at 9 o’clock with the rear sight lowered to the level of 6 o’clock to see if I could get shots on the shot spot without using a 12 o’clock level aim.


  3. OK I’ll bite…why do you have Multiple copies of these Airguns ??? Are you a Gun store and they ae Rentals ?
    Your target shooting seems to be really good at 18 ft…How long have you been shooting Airgun ?? Which do you prefer BB or Pellet ??

    Chuck


    • I have multiple copies because each one has some features that the other don’t have. Having more than one also prevents any one from being overused and wearing out too soon. Some of them are also limited edition collectibles which I will probably not be used much at all. Like any other limited collectible, there is always the hope that by being limited in number made they might accrue in value over time. No, I am not a gun store or a rental service. I am just an individual that likes to collect a variety of airguns, especially if they are affordable historic replicas or limited edition collectibles.

      I started shooting airguns in 2012. I don’t shoot as often as I would like because of my work schedule and other obligations, but when I retire in a few years, I plan to shoot more. That’s when having a large collection of a variety of airguns will keep me from getting bored if I had only one or a very few airguns. As for a preference of BBs over pellets, I would prefer pellets for their greater accuracy generally, but some airguns are only available as BB shooters. So I get both.


  4. Wow… thank you for the detailed explanation of your having multiple copies of your Airguns…I understand now…
    I like what you say,,, Affordable, Historic Replica and Collectible Limited Edition, all outstanding reasons to buy & collect…
    I am trying to limit myself in the number of Airguns I posses, I presently have 7, 4 Revolvers and 3 Pistols and seriously looking at anther Pistol or 2 or 3….
    I shoot almost exclusively at 18 to 21 ft…Basement… Garage in warm weather.
    I’m retired from being Self-Employed for 50 years and have used CF hand guns all that time.

    I am now an avid Airgunner…

    A pleasure talking with you…

    Chuck

    p



Leave a Reply