Retrospect Series Part 9 – M&P 45

Retrospect Series Part 9 – M&P 45

The display rack gun takes on the Uber-pistols

By Dennis Adler

Its crunch time, time for the Umarex S&W M&P 45 to go head to head with the two higher-priced Umarex German-built models, the Walther CP99 and Heckler & Koch HK P30. It is a comparison of equals in terms of design and capabilities. All three CO2 models are based on centerfire, duty-size (law enforcement and military) use handguns, with the Walther and S&W being polymer frame pistols with striker-fired systems and the HK being a polymer frame pistol with a hammer-fired system. All three are individual design benchmarks as centerfire handguns, all among the first to utilize a polymer frame like Glock. Historically, H&K was the first, actually more than a decade before Glock’s G17 in 1982, then Walther in 1999, and S&W with the M&P (Military & Police) series beginning in 2006 (2007 for the .45 ACP model). There are of course, other gunmakers who have moved to polymer frames, like Sig Sauer, but these three are our topic.

There is a pretty good span of time separating these three CO2 pellet models, yet they share very much the same internal designs and quality of construction. The Umarex S&W M&P 45 is the lightweight of the trio, literally in carry weight, and in price. Interestingly, though all three have rifled steel barrels, the M&P is the only one with a correct muzzle opening (.45 ACP) and a recessed 3.3 inch .177 caliber barrel. Aside from a molded plastic slide, molded-in disassembly lever and magazine release, and loading CO2 in the grip rather than in a CO2 magazine like the CP99 and HK P30, the M&P is pretty much an equal to the German-made models when it comes to shooting and accuracy. It is a lot of air pistol for $80.
When you look at what comes with the German-made pellet models, a hard case and some accessories, compared to the S&W in its plastic blister pack and one each of the BB and pellet rotary magazines, you can see where some of the price difference comes from, that and the origin of the manufacturer, Taiwan vs. Germany. But when you take the guns out of their cases (and break open the blister pack), the playing field begins to level out and the difference in prices become a little harder to justify because the M&P doesn’t handle or shoot like a cheap air pistol! (And boy you can make that argument over and over just with Umarex Glock CO2 models!)

As I explained in Part 2 of the M&P 45 articles, there are two different designs being compared here, the hammer-fired HK, which provides much easier single action shooting of the pellet pistol by simply cocking the hammer, like any hammer-fired semi-auto. With the CO2 firing system developed by Umarex back in the late 1990s using a rotary pellet magazine loaded at the breech, the semi-autos are all revolvers internally, even the HK P30 when firing pellets. As a BB pistol it uses a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, but that is not the HK’s strong suit. Shooting BBs was not designed into the old Walther CP99, and the S&W M&P 45 bridges the gap with a plastic rotary magazine for loading eight steel BBs. And before we get into the direct competition between these three as pellet pistols, let’s address the plastic rotary BB magazine with the S&W M&P 45, and how well that rifled barrel pistol handles steel BBs.

BBs downrange

I have never been a big fan of shooting BBs through an air pistol intended for shooting lead or alloy pellets, especially hardened steel BBs down a rifled barrel. You can do it, but I always ask the same question, “Why would you?” Pellet guns are designed for pellets, and bridging the distance between BBs, which have a smaller diameter, and lead pellets that take the rifling and attain greater accuracy seems like a waste of BBs and not taking full advantage of the pistol’s capabilities. BBs are cheaper, but you can find bargain lead pellets, too. For my money I want the best pellet for the gun to get the best shooting results. But, the M&P 45 comes with an 8-shot rotary BB magazine and we might as well see what the S&W has to offer. We already know the HK P30 with Umarex steel BBs can clock velocities of up to 450 fps (the highest velocity clocked with the HK P30 on a fresh CO2) and an average of 430 fps. So the BB bar has been set fairly high.  

As shown in the M&P’s instruction book, the BBs are loaded into the plastic magazine from the front (the side that does not have the ratchet). This is the opposite of loading pellets into the cast alloy rotary magazine, and something to remember. The average velocity with Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs clocked an impressive 370 fps, with a high of 380 fps, and a low of 361 fps. Compared to the HK P30, the difference in velocity with steel is 60 fps; advantage HK. Clearly, both guns shoot BBs at much higher velocities than most blowback action CO2 models, but where the S&W M&P 45 is likely to accelerate past or hold it its own against the more expensive HK and CP99 is with lead pellets. The HK and M&P’s BB bonus aside, these are intended to be pellet-firing pistols and that is where the serious competition begins. Anyone wagering on the $80 airgun, place your bets.

Shooting BBs is not the best aspect of the S&W, but it can send the steel balls downrange at impressive velocities and decent accuracy if you just want to use the gun for cheap plinking. BBs load from the front side of the plastic rotary magazine which is opposite of loading pellets in the cast alloy magazine.

Trigger pulls and triggerguards

The design of the three triggerguards is similar; all are built to allow a gloved trigger finger ample space to stay clear of the trigger until ready to commit. The Walther and HK have similar designs with a squared and textured front, a slight rise in the base to provide a rest for the trigger finger within the triggerguard, the Walther’s being more pronounced, and both guns have active ambidextrous magazine releases built into the back of the triggerguard. The designs are copied from the centerfire models and serve to release the CO2 and CO2 BB magazines, respectively. The M&P has a more rounded triggerguard but still with ample clearance, and a molded-in, frame-mounted magazine release, non-functional because there is no magazine to release with this model.

All three are based on DA/SA firing systems, but being non blowback designs do not function as DA/SA guns unless they are manually cocked for each shot; the HK by cocking the hammer, the CP99 and M&P by pulling the back half of the slide to the rear and then closing it. This rotates the internal magazine and moves the trigger into single action; it is here that the DA/SA trigger designs begin to reveal their characteristics.

The CP99 trigger pull with the action cocked (firing single action) averages 3 pounds, 12.1 ounces with a short 0.25 inch take up and a clean break with almost no perceptible stacking. Fired double action, trigger pull averages 8 pounds, 10.5 ounces with a 1.0 inch take up and heavy but consistent stacking all the way through as the pull rotates the magazine and cocks the internal hammer before breaking the shot.

The HK P30 has a solid advantage with its external hammer, and fired single action averages 5 pounds, 6.5 ounces with a 0.43 inch take up and mild stacking until the shot breaks. Fired double action the P30 averages 11 pounds, 4.0 ounces with 1.1 inches of take up and heavy stacking. It is a gun best shot single action.

Here again there is an interesting parallel between the gun’s triggerguard designs and DA/SA triggers. The H&K (center) holds a solid advantage as a hammer-fired gun, making it much easier to shoot single action for a lighter trigger pull, better trigger control and downrange accuracy. The CP99 and M&P have to be manually cocked by pulling back on the back half of the slide as shown in Part 2. Here they are shown ready to fire double action. Trigger pulls on all three are heavy, but the M&P is the smoothest overall when fired DA.
By pulling the slides back on the CP99 and M&P you rotate the internal magazine and cock the action, which brings the trigger back to the single action position (shown) you would have with the centerfire guns after the first DA shot. The HK only needs the hammer cocked to achieve the same result. (On the centerfire models, a de-cocked P99 can be made ready by pulling the slide back 0.25 inches and a similar step with an M&P that has been manually de-cocked). In single action all three air pistols handle better but the M&P still outshines the more expensive Heckler & Koch CO2 model with a short, crisp pull of 5 pounds, 10 ounces, 0.43 inches of take up and almost no stacking to a crisp break. Only the more expensive CP99 has a smoother feeling SA trigger pull than the M&P.

Now we have the wild card, the S&W M&P 45. Like the CP99, it requires pulling the back half of the slide to the rear to cock the action. It requires slightly more effort than the CP99. Average single action trigger pull is 5 pounds, 10 ounces with 0.43 inches of take up and almost no stacking to a crisp break. It is third for trigger pull resistance fired single action, but with a much smoother single action pull than the HK P30 and about equal to the Walther CP99. The big difference is how the double action on the M&P 45 works. Take up is 0.93 inches, resistance 10 pounds, 2.5 ounces average, but the trigger cleanly stages 0.75 inches back leaving the remainder of the pull through lighter, with a short pull and a clean break of the shot. It is easier to hold the M&P on target fired double action than either the Walther or HK models. As simple a design as the entry-level S&W CO2 pistol is, the gun handles easier than the more expensive German-built guns fired double action. For anyone who wants to shoot DA, the S&W M&P 45 offers distinct advantages in trigger pull and trigger control. So far, this is the biggest surprise to come from the all plastic pellet pistol.

Lead downrange

For this I am doing a new velocity test starting with the HK P30 and Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters. Today the P30 averaged 331 fps, a rather low bar for the M&P to clear. I might add that shooting through the chronograph at 21 feet and firing “single action” (cocking the hammer for each shot), the eight rounds of lead wadcutters had a spread of 1.5 inches with a best five at just under an inch, with three overlapping. In the last part of this article the M&P delivered eight shots at an average velocity of 352 fps, a high of 355 fps and a low of 347 fps using Meisterkugeln. Today’s test returned an average of 355 fps with a high of 365 fps and a low of 330 fps. And the 8-shot group fired “double action” from 21 feet had a spread of 1.75 inches with a best five at 0.687 inches; advantage M&P.

For the 10 yard test, shots were fired off hand using a Weaver stance and two-handed hold. All tests were fired double action only to get a feel for the gun’s general accuracy. With the smoothest DA trigger pull, the M&P delivered eight rounds into 1.625 inches with a best five shots at 0.625 inches.

Last is the old guard, the Walther CP99 with Meisterkugeln clocking an average (on a fresh CO2), of 356 fps, with a high of 363 fps, and a low of 341 fps. The eight shots fired “double action” from 21 feet through the chronograph measured 1.5 inches with a best five at 0.93 inches. For velocity, it is almost a dead heat between the M&P and CP99, the HK P30 a distant third on lead pellets. Remember, the M&P is an $80 gun currently on sale for $64.99; the CP99 sells for $179.99 and that’s a cool $115 more at the sale price. MSRP is still $200 for the CP99 and the HK P30 is the most expensive with an MSRP of $249.99 and a sale price of $209.99. The advantage is leaning in the Umarex S&W M&P 45 across the board. But there is more to reveal.

The HK P30 delivered eight wadcutters into a spread of 1.93 inches with a best five shots at 1.0 inches. Of the three, the HK was the least accurate fired double action.

Downrange revelations

The proof is always in the shooting and to wrap this up, it is Meisterkugeln at 10 yards, fired off hand double action at a Shoot-N-C target. First up is the M&P 45. Eight shots punched into 1.625 inches with a best five shots at 0.625 inches. The HK P30 delivered eight into a spread of 1.93 inches with a best five shots at 1.0 inches. The HK really needs to be fired single action (cocking the hammer) if you want better accuracy. Once again, advantage M&P. To wrap it up, the CP99 fired double action sent eight lead wadcutters into 1.51 inches with a best five shot spread of 1.25 inches.

The Walther put eight lead wadcutters into 1.51 inches with a best five shot spread measuring 1.25 inches, making the low-priced S&W M&P 45 the winner with the tightest 5-shot group, the HK second for five and the CP99 third. For total 8-shot spreads, the Walther came in first, S&W second, and HK third.

The Takeaway

We end up with eight shots in 1.625 inches and best five shots at 0.625 inches with the S&W M&P 45; eight into a spread of 1.93 inches with a best five shots at 1.0 inches with the HK P30, and eight at 1.51 inches with a best five shot spread of 1.25 inches from the CP99. Tightest five shot group goes to the M&P, tightest eight shots to the CP99. All thee had eight-shot spreads under 2 inches and best five shot groups at 1-inch or less. The trigger pull on the M&P delivered the best feel, the CP99 next, and then HK P30. They are all close in handling, sighting, and accuracy; close enough that the clear winner with a significant price advantage is the S&W M&P 45.

For the money, the lower-priced Umarex S&W M&P 45 outshines its more costly German-made counterparts delivering a solid design (within the limitations of the rotary pellet firing system that all three pistols utilize in one form or another), authenticity of external appearance, ease of handling and accuracy as a multi-shot pellet pistol. This is one worth owning.

The S&W may not have everything, like the slightly better finish and alloy slide found on the significantly more expensive Heckler & Koch and Walther, but they honestly don’t offer that much more than the S&W where it counts. Even being an all plastic gun doesn’t come close to making the S&W a second rate air pistol in comparison. In fact, considering what the S&W brings to the table, it turns out to be an absolute “best buy” at an entry-level gun price. You don’t get one like that very often; if you don’t have the Umarex S&W M&P 45, you should. It’s an absolute Airgun Experience!

1 thought on “Retrospect Series Part 9 – M&P 45”

  1. With the best DA, a red dot on an ASG sight adapter which caches the rail, and a unf threaded adapter in the recess…
    Plus a case to accommodate the whole system.
    Dennis you are going to make my wife angry, once again, but you already put a smile on my face.
    Thanks for addressing all my comments.

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