Max Michel 1911s Part 2 Part 1
Sig Sauer’s custom competition .45 ACP model and .177 caliber version
By Dennis Adler
Up until this week it had been awhile since I put an air pistol up against its cartridge firing counterpart, but the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 models are worthy of a comparison for the sake of training purposes, despite the differences between the 9mm and .177 caliber pistols. Sig has gone to some length to produce its own personal line of CO2 models based on their cartridge firing versions (there are also Sig Sauer licensed CO2 models like the Sig Sauer 1911 and P226 X-Five, but they are not made for or marketed by Sig Sauer).
The Max Michel Sig 1911 CO2 model has been referred to by some as just a different version of the Sig Sauer 1911 Spartan CO2 model, (actually it is the other way around, the Max came first), and the similarities of design are undeniable. The Spartan 1911, however, is based on a combat handgun, a broadsword if you will, whereas the Max Michel is more of a scalpel, a precision oriented target pistol, and the main differences begin with the trigger design which is duplicated from the Max 1911 centerfire Sig model.
I recently spoke with Joe Huston, Vice President and General Manager for the Sig Sauer Airgun Division, and he explained several reasons why current Sig CO2 models are built as they are. Huston is the former CEO of Cybergun (and the Sig licensed 1911 with drop free magazine was one of his projects), so he knows the technology quite well. The primary reason Sig Sauer decided to use the separate CO2 loading system and a stick magazine, explained Huston, was to achieve higher velocities with .177 caliber steel BBs, which the Sig models do. Average velocity is up around 400 fps, and that exceeds blowback action models with self contained (drop free) CO2 BB magazines by around 100 fps average. Secondly, the drop free magazines can be more easily damaged and the CO2 seating screw over tightened. The advanced CO2 seating system in the Max Michel and Spartan is more reliable. Sig is, however, also pursuing new technology to achieve higher velocities (360 fps to 380 fps) with blowback action pistols using self contained CO2 BB magazines. New products with more authentic and fully operating features are also presently under development in Sig’s R&D department in New Hampshire, so they are taking airguns very seriously as training aids, especially with the P320 having been selected as the U.S. Army’s new standard issue sidearm. But Sig Sauer also has an eye on the vast retail market for air pistols through some 2,000 retail stores, plus specialty airgun retailers like Pyramyd Air. Current models like the Max Michel and Spartan 1911s are also designed for the entry level airgun consumer and have to be priced commensurately. This accounts for some of the molded in features such as right hand ambidextrous safeties and the redundant button safety used on the Max and Spartan. “[Through Sig Sauer] we’re bringing new customers to the airgun world, and that was my goal as CEO of Cybergun and it is my goal at Sig,” said Huston.
While we may not all agree on Sig’s occasionally minimalist approach to working features and correct magazine designs, they do adhere to a very strict tenet on fit, finish, quality, and durability. Their airguns and cartridge guns all bear the Sig Sauer name, and within the world of firearms they are two of the most famous names in history.
Sig (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) has been manufacturing firearms since 1853, and J. P. Sauer & Sohn since 1751, independently, and jointly as Sig Sauer beginning in the 1970s as a partnership. They expanded to the U.S., first as Sig Arms in 1985, and since 2007 as Sig Sauer, with manufacturing now located in New Hampshire. Sig Sauer’s parent companies in Europe include J.P. Sauer & Sohn, which manufactures rifles, Blaser GmbH in Germany, and (Sig) Swiss Arms AG in Switzerland. So, you can imagine the weight that the Sig Sauer CO2 models carry in bringing the Sig name officially to airguns with the slogan “Shoots like a Sig – Because it is one.” Well, here is the question for the Max Michel CO2 model; does it shoot like a Sig? With the 9mm Max Michel in hand and the CO2 model loaded and ready, I am about to find out.
The Max CO2 delivered pretty well on the promise of higher velocities than 1911s with drop free CO2 BB magazines with a high of 376 fps (34 fps below the estimated “up to 410 fps”) and an average velocity for 10 rounds of 360 fps with a standard deviation of 10 fps. At 21 feet the gun hits 2.0 inches above POA, which was a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. The initial test group fired through the chronograph screens measured 0.85 inches.
The range test for the CO2 model was fired using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance. Out of three consecutive IPSC silhouette competition targets, the best total group for 10 rounds measured 0.81 inches with a best 5-shots grouped at 0.5 inches. The trigger pull feels heavier than 5.5 pounds but it is solid all the way through. This is not as good a trigger as some other blowback action CO2 target pistols but it is about as consistent from shot to shot as you could ask for. That is one plus for the Sig that few other CO2 blowback action pistols can claim.
How does it stack up with the 9mm Max Michel? At 45 feet using Sig Sauer 115 gr. FMJ Elite Performance ammunition my best 8 rounds (one magazine) on the IPSC silhouette target measured 1.6 inches. For me, not being a competition shooter, that is a decent target fired offhand at 45 feet. The Max 1911 is an inherently accurate pistol by design. The Sig Max Michel CO2 model has that same quality, stick magazine, separate CO2 channel and all.
A Word About Safety
Blowback action models provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. Most all blowback action airguns look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models like the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 are hard to tell apart at a glance. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t distinguish an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.