Retrospect Series Part 8 – M&P 45
The classic S&W pellet model
By Dennis Adler
I recall writing about the Umarex Walter PPS when it came out, that “you have to wonder how they can build an air pistol this good and sell it for $90.” I feel that I can reuse those words for the M&P 45, because up to this point it is right at the top of the entry-level price range (like the PPS was) and delivering the same sense of quality in build of more expensive CO2 models. Yes, Umarex has taken the shortcuts mentioned in Part One by molding in a few parts (that wouldn’t function if they were separate pieces), and they have cut manufacturing costs by making the slide an injection molded piece rather than an alloy casting. But even those two things do not equal the disparity in retail price between the Umarex HK P30 and the Umarex S&W M&P 45. The big price difference comes from where the M&P and P30 are manufactured. The HK is made in Germany by Umarex; the M&P is manufactured in Taiwan for Umarex. Those three words, Made in Germany, stamped into the side of an air pistol are what make the greatest difference in price. To explain that, I am reminded of one of Germany’s and the world’s oldest airgun manufacturers, Diana (Dianawerk) Mayer & Grammelspacher, which has been building superb air rifles and air pistols since 1895, and their not to distant venture into China to build the new Diana Chaser, which despite its Made in China stamping on the receiver, proved an impressive CO2 model that lives up to the Diana name. My point being that a German company can have a high quality airgun made outside of Germany, if it lives up to a certain standard. The Umarex S&W M&P 45 is as good an air pistol as the HK P30, it just benefits from more cost effective manufacturing. The upshot is that for under $100 one can get a gun that is capable of living up to the standards of one that costs $249.
From a manufacturing standpoint the M&P 45 is an inexpensive gun built to a standard that is equal to more expensive air pistols like the Walther CP99 and HK P30, two very comparable designs that use 8-shot rotary pellet magazines, and the standard that the M&P 45 will have to live up to in this series of articles, is those two very guns. We begin with velocity.
The HK P30 averaged a mediocre 328 fps with Meisterkugeln lead wadcutters and a far more impressive 372 fps with H&N Sport Match Green alloy wadcutters. The gun is factory at up to 360 fps. The old CP99 is consistently faster with either lead or alloy than the HK P30 as past tests have shown, so where does the M&P 45 fall with the same choice of pellets? With Meisterkugeln the M&P delivered eight shots at an average of 352 fps, a high of 355 fps and a low of 347 fps. Better than the HK P30. Switching to alloy, the average increased to an impressive 405 fps with a high of 415 fps and a low of 403 fps. The M&P obviously has some serious CP99 mojo going for it. With the H&N alloy wadcutters the CP99 averaged 382 fps, which was faster then the HK P30. You may already see where this is going, the less expensive S&W M&P 45 is putting both German made CO2 models into overtime.
Bottom line thus far
The Umarex S&W is just a little newer (2011) than the HK P30 (2009) but the heart of both guns is still in the Walther CP88 (1996) and CP99 (2000), so the lessons from the German manufactured pistols have been well learned by the Taiwan manufacturer of the S&W M&P 45. Or maybe Smith & Wesson demands more in their S&W banded airguns, since they were once in the CO2 pistol game, too. Either way, the M&P is shaping up to be a competitor to both the HK P30 and CP99 at a fraction of the price.
In Part 3 we sort them all out and shoot for best accuracy.