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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!