Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7

What it takes to become 2018’s Top Gun

By Dennis Adler

If you don’t think this was a good year for new CO2 pistols, (and I know some of you have been disappointed by guns that didn’t come out or did and are not yet available), but this trio makes 2018 a pretty good year for new blowback action CO2 models that meet up to the standard of training guns. The Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE, Sig Sauer P320 M17 and Umarex HK USP deliver everything you expect and some things you didn’t. All three are winners in my book.

We find ourselves with three CO2 models tied for the title of Replica Air Pistol of the Year and it is as diverse and well defined a representation of three distinctly different types of blowback action semi-auto pistols as possible, spanning more than a century of firearms design. First, a very traditional SAO (single action only) Colt-style Model 1911, with a few modern improvements such as white dot combat sights, ambidextrous thumb safeties, and a custom finish. But the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE is also the most authentic 1911 CO2 model made, an exact copy of Sig Sauer’s .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE 1911. It is our standard bearer for design integrity.

The new Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 is the best SAO CO2 pistol of its kind.

Almost as far as possible from a traditional semiautomatic pistol design, like a 1911, is the second model tied for Top Gun, the Umarex Heckler & Koch USP, a blowback action CO2 model just as authentic to its centerfire counterpart as the Sig, only the USP is a modern DA/SA (double action/single action) hammer-fired pistol with a polymer frame, a safety/decocker, ambidextrous magazine release, and white dot sights.

The new Umarex Heckler & Koch HK USP brings 100 percent authenticity to this legendary brand with a true short-recoil, locked-breech, tilting barrel design and an accurate to the centerfire model DA/SA trigger. In this category of DA/SA the USP is now the number one gun.

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Both the Sig and HK are smoothbore air pistols with self-contained CO2 BB magazines and state of the art construction, fit and finish, and both can be completely field stripped corresponding to their centerfire counterparts. The Sig and HK represent two of the very best blowback action air pistols, not only of this year, but any year. Choosing between them is about as difficult as it gets.

The fact that there two Sig Sauer models up for Replica Air Pistol of the Year says a great deal about how far this company has come within the airgun industry in just a few short years. The P320 M17 ASP is the training surrogate for the U.S. Army’s new M17 and M18 standard issue sidearms. It is also the first blowback action pellet-firing pistol to employ a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine loading system, making it the most innovative new model of the year.

Into this very interesting tie between early 20th (1911) and late 20th (1989) century handgun design comes a 21st century pistol that is completely different from its two competitors; a DAO (double action only) striker fired (on the centerfire model and internal hammer fired on the CO2 model), blowback action pistol with ambidextrous thumb safeties, a polymer frame, extended capacity magazine, and white dot sights. The only thing it has directly in common with both the HK USP and Sig 1911 is white dot sights! The greatest difference, however, is that the Sig Sauer P320 M17 is a rifled barrel pellet pistol with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine.

The diversity of designs within these three CO2 models covers two different types of firing systems, three different types of blowback action/short-recoil, locked-breech designs, and three different trigger designs.

Finding common ground

Putting aside the M17’s pellet-firing advantage, how do you choose between SAO, DA/SA and DAO pistols? These are three different types of guns, a modern day equivalent of the choices late 19th century shooters had to make between a Single Action or Double Action revolver, or semiautomatic pistol. Each presented its own advantages and disadvantages. Considering that SAO, DA/SA, and DAO pistols are all still manufactured today, no one has actually ever had to make the choice beyond a personal or military/law enforcement mandate, and even then there are exceptions and variations to accommodate specific needs. For example, the centerfire HK USP is made as a DA/SA with and without the decocker, and as a DAO pistol to meet the demands of specific end users whether law enforcement, military or civilian. The M17 is based on the Sig Sauer P320 which does not have ambidextrous thumb safeties (or a thumb safety at all) and 1911’s have been built in a variety of configurations including DA/SA versions. At least here, with these three CO2 models, there is only one version of each, and each pistol is a different design from the other. There is no common ground here, other than being the latest CO2 pistols, and each inspired by the design of an actual centerfire model that has become popular or significant enough to warrant a reproduction air pistol.

Glock Safe Action trigger designs aside, the most common trigger and firing systems are the traditional Colt 1911 single action only (SAO) used on the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911, double action/single action (DA/SA) on the Umarex HK USP, and double action only (DAO) on the innovative Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP. An SAO is usually the lightest and easiest trigger, but a high quality DA/SA like the USP can give you an equally manageable single action trigger press after the first double action shot, or right away if you cock the hammer or rack the slide. The DAO is always going to be the heaviest trigger (with very few exceptions) because it does the most work to fire the gun. All three types can be experienced with these highly accurate CO2 models and their respective trigger designs.

Breaking down the advantages and disadvantages

This is where personal preferences can sway choices in handguns whether for law enforcement, the military or personal use. We have a generation in this country that grew up in an era when the most popular handgun was the Colt Model 1911, the sidearm of the U.S. military. There was the 1911 and then there was everything else. Everything else mostly referred to Colt and S&W revolvers and a handful of popular foreign guns like the F.N. Browning Hi-Power and Walther PPK. To put that in context, when choosing an automobile most Americans drove a Ford, General Motors, Chrysler or American Motors product, and there were three national television networks to watch, CBS, NBC and ABC. Life was simple. Thus we have the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 as the historic gun of choice based on the American Colt 1911; a simple, SAO semi-auto pistol that everyone is familiar with.

Blowback action CO2 models are the most desirable, especially those which use self-contained CO2 BB magazines like the Sig 1911 and HK USP models. Both guns also have slides that lock open on an empty magazine. Blowback action pellet pistols cannot lock back due to the design of their magazines, however, the Sig P320 M17 compensates nicely for that deficiency by using a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine with a 20-round capacity.

If the 1911 is the simple solution, it is to semi-autos what the Colt Peacemaker is to revolvers. From there forward the DA/SA design begins to muddy the waters. As a CO2 pistol that embodies the features most old gun hands are comfortable with, i.e. a hammer and a safety, the HK USP, a pistol that can be cocked, de-cocked, fired single action or double action for the first shot, and has within its design the advantage of a lighter weight and remarkably durable polymer frame, simple, straightforward operation, and large, easy to see sights, the Heckler & Koch in its CO2 form is the next best gun for the average firearms enthusiast. A fine representation of late 20th century semi-auto pistol technology, even if we had to wait until 2018 for it to arrive as a blowback action air pistol!

There is both a training advantage and an ease of use advantage to these three designs which allow users to practice loading and reloading a semi-auto, as well as practicing tactical reloads. This is one of the key features that make all three highly desirable air pistols for sport shooting and very affordable hands-on training substitutes for their centerfire counterparts. Any one of these guns could be the Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

But then here we are living in the 21st century and firearms technology has moved forward in remarkable strides, and within the blowback action CO2 airgun world, almost every significant stride has been taken since 2014. And what has that technology given us in just four years time? The best handgun gun designs in history all recreated as CO2 models, BB/pellet cartridge loading revolvers and blowback action semi-autos with self-contained CO2 BB magazines, in just four years!

The Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP is the culmination of that technological surge, the first blowback action, semi-auto pistol with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, the perfect 21st century training gun for what will be, for the foreseeable future, the 1911 of its time; the gun carried by the U.S. military.

The Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP has a significant technical advantage.

All three of these airguns are winners for their design, quality of fit and finish, and authenticity to the centerfire pistols that inspired them, but the 1-point margin I have to offer can only go to one gun, and here I must choose to acknowledge technology of design over everything else and name the Sig Sauer P320 M17 the 2018 Replica Air Pistol of the Year.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

3 thoughts on “Replica Air Pistol of the Year Part 7”

  1. Short, sweet and to the point, ….

    “The Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP is the culmination of that technological surge, the first blowback action, semi-auto pistol with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, the perfect 21st century training gun for what will be, for the foreseeable future, the 1911 of its time; the gun carried by the U.S. military.”

  2. I think Air Sig is very much a 2018++++Company and has a lot to be proud of and I am anxiously waiting to see what they come up with next….
    In 2010 Sig Sauer came out with a remake & updated P210A in CF, I would like to see a Replica CO2 of that Pistol…

    Dennis what’s next on your agenda ?

  3. In a close race ,who dared , won. Innovation and a significant advance in airgun technology grabbed the gold. Next smart move would be to adapt this technology to a dual co2 select fire select fire Carbine.

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