Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 3

Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 3

From perfection to perfection

By Dennis Adler

Take 10 paces, turn and fire. The very modern Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP brings the highest level of blowback action CO2 pellet-firing pistol technology to the table, while the Umarex Beretta 92FS retains the look and feel of a classic pistol.

In the end, this review comes down to technology either improving an operating system or simply technology creating something newer and more appealing, but with the old, established platform of the Umarex Beretta 92FS against the outwardly advanced design of the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP, the truth of the comparison is, that outside of shooting accuracy, there is no comparison. For handling and authentic to the centerfire pistol design, the M17 cannot be touched by any other “pellet-firing” CO2 pistol. I have to unapologetically emphasize “pellet-firing” because even Sig Sauer’s own BB-firing Model 1911 WE THE PEOPLE blows the doors off the M17 for true authentic operation, construction and field-stripping capability. It is closer to the real centerfire gun because there are limits to what a pellet-firing semi-auto design CO2 pistol can do, and how it can do it. In that single respect, the 92FS and M17, though almost two decades apart in design and manufacturing technologies, are on common ground. With these pellet pistols, trigger pull, sighting, and accuracy are the only things that count from this point forward.

If it’s all about the trigger, the M17 makes its case with an easily worked DAO that handles the dual task of actuating the pellet magazine’s belt-fed chamber rotation, cocking the internal hammer and firing the gun. It does this with a smooth 7.0 pound trigger press. The Beretta also has a fine trigger but the double action work for the old-style 8-shot rotary pellet magazine and external hammer takes a robust 8 pounds, 14 ounces. What it can do that the M17 can’t, is be cocked for each shot, which makes the Beretta almost equal in feel to the M17’s DAO.

Triggers  

We know from Thursday’s Part 2 that the trigger pull on the 92FS when fired double action is heavy and stacks like most double action firearms, but it still has a very consistent, clean break. And the gun has virtually no movement in the hand when it fires. A trigger press of 8 pounds, 14 ounces (average) is no bargain for a semi-auto, but pretty good for a double action revolver, which, as we know, is how the 92FS works internally.

The Sig Sauer’s trigger being a DAO only puts the Beretta on an equal footing when fired double action, but, if you cock the hammer on the Beretta, the trigger pull is lighter and shorter than the Sig, which has a 0.875 inch pull with 7.0 pounds average resistance, light stacking and a crisp break. This is also, technically, a revolver in operation as the first stage of the trigger pull effortlessly rotates the belt-fed rotary clip to the next pellet and that is a big distinction between the two guns. The Beretta and Sig’s internal operating systems have almost nothing in common. (You can read the back and forth on this in the comments at the end of Part 1).

Sights are essentially much the same in design, though you can adjust the Beretta’s rear sight for windage. The Sig’s advantage is having white dots which are based on the 9mm model’s SigLite night sights (only these don’t glow in the dark).

Which trigger performs the best? The Sig Sauer M17’s DAO trigger delivers the lightest and most consistent pull compared to the Beretta fired double action. But, as previously noted the Beretta has an external hammer and can be manually cocked for each shot. That changes the dynamics because the cocked Beretta hammer stages the trigger as a single action, and trigger pull becomes nearly as smooth as the Sig fired DAO. But, head-to-head, fired double action, the Sig wins hands down.

One advantage the 92FS pellet models have picked up over the years is adaptability to modern accessories like the optics bridge mount and dedicated 92FS red laser. The Sig can mount a laser but it will be a little while yet until the CO2 version of the 9mm M17’s optics mounting plate (which replaces the rear sight plate) will be available. Then all bets are off.

Sighting

This is a mixed bag of tricks because the Beretta can be heavily modified for target shooting and fitted with a special 92FS red laser; the M17 has an integral accessory rail for a laser, and by this summer will be equally capable of mounting optics when Sig releases the M17’s rear optics mounting base. Like the centerfire Sig this will replace the rear sight section of the slide, but that’s another article somewhere down the line. Fixed sights for fixed sights, the Beretta has a wide U notch rear facing a flat black blade front; the Sig has the same but with nicely sized white dots. This is shooter’s preference, as some dislike white dots, but there is an advantage to white dots when shooting those black bullseyes on 10-meter targets.

The M17 CO2 model is a big gun with its extended capacity 20-round CO2 pellet magazine. With the fixed white dot sights, a bit of POA compensation as needed and the right combination of pellets, the M17 can punch holes in paper targets accurately enough at 10 meters and do it a faster than an 8-shot rotary pellet magazine in the 92FS.

Velocity & Accuracy

This is the end game for any quality CO2 pistol and the Beretta 92FS has been winning this game for almost 20 years. To get the highest velocity from the Beretta and the Sig I am using Sig Sauer Match Ballistic and H&N Sport Match Green alloy wadcutters. At 5.25 gr. they will get a little more speed downrange over 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters. I’m also going to run the test with Meisterkugeln lead wadcutters for comparison and to see if they have better accuracy. This has happened with some guns in the past, where the alloy may be faster but the lead shoots tighter groups.

The Sig alloy from the Sig Sauer M17 ASP clocked an average velocity of 357 fps for 10 shots, with a high of 401 fps, and a low of 336 fps (a fairly large spread) with multiple shots between 357 and 361 fps. The H&N cleared the ProChrono traps at 356 fps average, with a high of 379 fps and a low of 349 fps, with multiple shots at 356 fps making the H&N more reliable for consistent velocity. The heavier 7.0 gr. RWS Meisterkugeln lead wadcutters ran at an average of 320 fps, with a high 339 fps, and low of 309 fps, with multiple shots between 311 fps and 316 fps. On average, the lead clocks about 37 fps slower than alloy pellets. Not as significant a difference as one might expect.

The old gun hasn’t aged in style, but perhaps the technology of the M17 has caught up to it not only in the centerfire world but in the world of air pistols as well.

Switching to the Beretta, I started with the Meisterkugeln (since alloy wadcutter pellets didn’t even exist when the 92FS was introduced) and the good old lead clocked 361 fps average, with a high of 381 fps and a low of 358 fps. You end up with the lead pellets from the non-blowback action Beretta bettering the same rounds in the blowback action Sig by 41 fps average.

With alloy wadcutters, H&N raised the Beretta’s velocity to an impressive 474 fps average, with a high of 498 fps and a low of 462 fps for eight shots, and better than 100 fps better than the Sig M17. Last, the Sig Sauer Match Ballistic alloy ran a little slower than the H&N, delivering an average of 455 fps, a high of 485 fps and a low of 440 fps for eight consecutive shots. The Beretta putting all of its CO2 behind the pellets can’t help but send rounds downrange faster than the blowback action Sig. No surprise there.

Starting out with the well recognized German-made H&N Sport Match Green alloy wadcutters the M17 delivered 10 shots at 0.84 inches (combining all circled hits).

At 10 meters I started the Sig M17 off with the higher velocity H&N Sport alloy wadcutters. I was using the same backer board behind the 10-meter pistol target from the velocity tests and rather than making nice round holes in the target, my wadcutters tore ragged making it harder to measure. My 10-round group had a total spread of 0.84 inches edge to edge, with four shots in and right of the bullseye measuring 0.56 inches (this was torn ragged and I folded the edge of the paper back to show the space of the overlapped rounds), and the remainder tearing ragged through the target and backer at 0.687 inches.

My favorite lead wadcutters, RWS Meisterkugeln didn’t shoot as accurately (or I didn’t) as the H&N. With two flyers the best 10-shot group measured 1.5 inches.

With a new backer board, I shot another target using Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters. My 10-shot group was more spread out and measured 1.5 inches with two flyers in the upper right leaving the remaining eight at 0.875 inches.

Lots of shots overlapping but the Sig loaded with Sig pellets still had 10 shots spread over 1.18 inches.

I completed the M17 test with Sig Sauer Match Ballistic alloy wadcutters which gave me a 10-shot group measuring 1.187 inches but with a tight 5-shot group through the red X, 10 and 9 rings measuring 0.56 inches, just one shot better than the H&N out of five but a wider total overall group. None of it was target pistol quality shooting, but good enough to make the M17 an accurate enough blowback action pellet pistol at 10 meters.

Loaded with Meisterkugeln the 8-shot 92FS punched a trio into the bullseye, two in the 10, and three below for a spread of 0.93 inches.

The 92FS was designed for lead wadcutter pellets and that is where I started at 10 meters. I took the advantage over the M17 by shooting the Beretta with the hammer cocked for each shot and firing single action which almost equals out the triggers. With Meisterkugeln my best 10-shot group measured 0.93 inches with five rounds at 0.468 inches in the 9, 10 and X, and three sweeping under the 9 ring at 9, 8 and 6 o’clock.

Updating a 20 year-old design can be effected by updating what it shoots. Loaded with H&N Sport the Beretta put its eight into 0.84 inches.

Of the alloy wadcutters I decided to run the 92FS with H&N and I shot a best 10-round group measuring 0.84 inches with a best five at 0.5 inches.

Comparison Shooting Results

Umarex Beretta 92FS                                                Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP

Best 10 shot group: 0.84 in. H&N                        Best 10 shot group: 0.84 in. H&N

Best 10 shot group: 0.93 in. Meisterkugeln        Best 10 shot group: 1.18 in. Sig Sauer

Looking at the overall results, the Sig Sauer can match the 92FS with the right pellets, and where the Beretta beats the M17, the differences are not that great unless you’re shooting for points and bragging rights. Overall, the Sig Sauer is more enjoyable to shoot, has a slightly easier trigger to work (compared to the 92FS fired double action and fairly even when the Beretta is manually cocked and fired single action), the sights are easier to see (if you like white dots, and I do), and when it comes to capacity and reloading there is no comparison. Overall, technology and time have relegated the Beretta 92FS pellet model to second place, not a bad position after 20 years. I guess you could say the same for the 9mm Beretta M9 being replaced by the Sig Sauer M17.

One thought on “Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 3

  1. Hard Air Magazine has a link to the Airgun Gear Show report on the 2019 British Shooting Show. The report highlighted several interesting products that may or may not reach the U.S. market. The new products include:

    Winchester 8 shot CO2 powered pellet revolver called the “Six Shooter”, all metal with plastic grips and a disk pellet magazine much like the disk magazine on the Gamo PR-776 revolver.

    Umarex Reign PCP Bullpup rifle

    Umarex Hammerli 850M2 CO2 (88 / 90 g) pellet rifle with additional mounting rails on the foregrip and an adjustable cheek rest on the stock


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