Retrospect Series Part 8 – M&P 45

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.

This is an interesting retrospect piece for me because I never tested the Umarex S&W M&P 45. It was one of those guns that came along when I wasn’t doing much with airguns and by the time I was the M&P 45 was an old gun along with models I had written about years earlier. This is as much a retro piece for me as a writer as it is for you as readers. Am I am thus far pleasantly surprised by the one that got away.
The technology for the Umarex M&P 45 comes from the earlier Walther CP99, another polymer frame pistol with a very similar CO2 firing system. As a hammerless DA/SA pistol, the M&P 45 is at the same disadvantage as the older Walther CP99, which is usually shot as a double action pistol, unless one is willing to manually cock the action by pulling the rear half of the slide back (middle image). This rotates the 8-shot magazine to the next chamber and cocks the hammer for a single action shot (bottom image). As a non-blowback DA/SA air pistol, the time to cock the action for each shot slows things down compared to just cocking the hammer on the HK P30, but it is worth it for a lighter, smoother trigger pull and better on target accuracy with the striker-fired (hammerless) models.

First velocity

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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 line separating the Umarex Walther CP99, S&W M&P 45 and HK P30 is what can be fired from each pistol and how. For the M&P you have the option to fire pellets from an 8-shot cast alloy rotary magazine or BBs from a molded plastic rotary magazine. The CP99 is designed for pellets only, and the HK P30 takes another approach by combining the CO2 magazine from the CP99 with a more modern self-contained CO2 BB magazine. It is hard to say which design is better from a shooting standpoint, but the M&P is easy to load with either steel or lead (or alloy).

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.

While both the CP99 and HK P30 use an actual magazine to load CO2 the M&P relies on loading CO2 into the grip frame. It is not as “authentic” for handling because you can have several CO2 mags for the other two pistols and at least practice magazine reloading or tactical reloads for training (part of what made the CP99 a success as an early training gun) while the M&P is a different (less expensive) approach. Beyond that, the M&P can give the CP99 and HK P30 a run for their much more money.

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.

So at the end of day two comparing the three guns for handling and velocity, much to my surprise and satisfaction is the realization that this so-called entry-level pistol that comes in a blister pack, can not only keep up with the more expensive German-built air pistols, but possibly beat them at a mere $80 retail.

In Part 3 we sort them all out and shoot for best accuracy.

2 thoughts on “Retrospect Series Part 8 – M&P 45”

  1. Ok, now you have more than my full attention. I feel like it’s more than two days until Saturday…
    Thanks for mentioning country of manufacture.
    (Is it too much to ask for a hint regarding trigger pull compared to the 99?)

    • That’s for Saturday Bill. Can’t give away too much, it’s got to last all week! But yes, I will do trigger pull comparison between the expensive German models and the $80 Made in Taiwan M&P 45. If this trend of quality at a low price continues, I expect some additional parity in trigger pull.


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