Sometimes failures lead to success

Sometimes failures lead to success

History does repeat itself; you just have to watch for the signs

Find a Hawke Scope

By Dennis Adler

About 17 years ago all three of these CO2 powered air pistols were new and all very innovative. At far left the Umarex Walther PPK/S BB pistol, the first production airgun with authentic blowback action, center, the Umarex Walther CP99, an 8-shot semi-auto using a cast alloy rotary pellet magazine loaded at the breech, and the somewhat obscure Anics A-3000 Skif, a 28-round pellet-firing semi-auto with an SA/DA trigger, hammer-fired action, working slide (but not blowback), thumb safety and fully adjustable white dot target sights. The PPK/S and CP99 are still being manufactured 17 years later. The Anics A-3000 Skif is long forgotten, but not its magazine design.

This is a story about failure and success, a story that has a lot to do with one of the latest advancements in air pistol designs. It begins 17 years ago at the SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas, where, to paraphrase Kate McKinnon playing Jeff Sessions on SNL, “I talked to a Russian.” Turned out that he was Russian on account of he was the vice president of a Russian arms manufacturing company that was displaying a brand new type of air pistol, and I was writing a book about air pistols, so we kind of needed to talk to each other. His name was Andrey Kapustin, and he was a really nice guy; he even had one of the new airguns sent to me.

More than 17 years later I still have it, and it was called the Anics A-3000 Skif. Many of you have probably heard of it but few Americans own one. Being a Russian-made gun it was ruggedly built but a little rough around the edges, like you could cut yourself on the rough edges. I only mention the A-3000 Skif because this very unusual Russian-designed and built air pistol actually helped pioneer two important advances in modern airgun design, first, and I use the term loosely, “blowback action” because the A-3000 Skif’s slide locked open, had a slide release, and had a full cutout ejection port, but did not rebound when the gun was fired; so, technically, not a blowback action, and one other very unusual feature, it used a 28-round, belt fed, rotary pellet magazine!

With a full 17 years between them, the Anics A-3000 Skif (right) was the first CO2 air pistol to offer a high capacity 4.5mm pellet magazine using a unique belt-fed rotary design. The new 2017 Sig Sauer P320 uses a modernized and more efficient 30-round variation of the design.

The Anics A-3000 may not have been a long lasting success as a CO2 powered semi-auto air pistol but the Anics Group in Moscow had definitely put a great deal of thought into designing an airgun that looked and functioned like a real cartridge firing handgun. And it has nearly as many parts.

The A-3000 Skif’s best feature, the 28-round rotary belt-fed pellet magazine, is handsomely survived today by the latest Sig Sauer pellet magazine for the P320.

Today the A-3000 Skif is somewhat in the shadows of airgun history but was actually one step ahead at the turn of the last century by being a high-velocity, high-capacity 4.5mm pellet firing pistol, yes pellet firing, and at a time when they barely existed. It is, however, the magazine mechanism more than any other aspect of the Anics design that needs to be looked at in today’s light.

Anics Group “invented” the rotary pellet-firing magazine in the late 1990s and introduced the Skif to the U.S. market in 2000. The clear plastic magazines used individual rubber loops locked in a channel inside the sealed (screwed together) magazine, loading pellets or BBs through a long open slot on the back side that exposed three loops at a time. The slide on the air pistol worked, locked back, and had a slide release but was not a functioning blowback action design.

This was an interesting airgun for the time, far more realistic than almost any other CO2 powered semi-auto, and you have to commend the Anics Group for that achievement. The A-3000 was pretty much a contemporary of the then innovative Umarex Walther CP99 pellet pistol and thus you have one gun using a cast alloy 8-shot rotary magazine inserted at the breech, and one with a 28-shot rotary belt magazine inserted into the grip like an actual semi-auto pistol. The Anics magazine design was much larger than a stick magazine for a BB gun, like the Umarex Walther PPK/S for example, another contemporary of the A-3000 Skif. To put this all into perspective, back in 2000, when all three were available in the U.S. market, you had a trio of  very diverse technologies at work for CO2 powered semi-auto air pistols; the latest semi-auto pellet-firing pistol from Umarex, the CP99, using an 8-shot rotary magazine, the first blowback action semi-auto, also from Umarex, the Walther PPK/S, using a stick BB magazine with a full-sized PPK/S base, and the strange-looking airgun from Moscow with its even stranger rotary belt-fed pellet magazine. The A-3000 Skif could also load steel or lead BBs, just like the new Sig Sauer P320. It was extremely innovative when it hit the American market 17 years ago but hardly anyone noticed it. You might wonder if other airgun manufacturers did, and it wasn’t apparent, when pellet-firing blowback action airguns finally arrived from manufacturers like Umarex, they were using narrow stick-type dual 8-shot rotary magazines, not the belt fed design introduced by Sig Sauer in 2017.

The A-3000 Skif is a hefty pistol, built like a Soviet T-90 battle tank. Even after 17 years it still works and has withstood the passing of years with no appreciable wear.
So here we are 17 years later and technology has caught up to the A-3000 Skif which was not a great gun, but had some great ideas. As they say, nothing is ever really new.

Did Sig’s airgun designers come across the Anics design, if so, they greatly improved upon it with easier to load loops made of higher grade materials and also linked together with a metal chain. They added an opening loading cover, as opposed to the Russian design with a fully enclosed transparent plastic housing requiring pellets or BBs to be loaded through a narrow channel on the back of the magazine. When you look at the basic concept, though, there is no doubt that one manufacturer’s failure led to another’s success.

10 thoughts on “Sometimes failures lead to success”

  1. What an awesome looking gun, and very innovative. Brought to you by the same country that designed the Lada, I’m somewhat incredulous. How does the co2 cartridge load btw.

    • You always ask the right questions! The A-3000 Skif loaded the CO2 conventionally through the grip frame but did so with a release on the lower rear of the gripstrap that allowed a door to drop open in the base of the grip revealing the CO2 channel. The CO2 was inserted into the grip, a small threaded base screw dialed up, and upon closing the door it automatically seated and pierced the CO2. It was a different approach to loading the air but essentially with the same result as other models at the time. It was, however, a cleaner line that blended in with the grip contours and did away with the exposed turnkeys and other devices then being used on air pistols. It was as innovative as some of the pistol’s other features.

    • Tom and I were working together on the 1st Edition Blue Book of Airguns back in 1999 and 2000 and we both spoke to the same Russian at the Shot Show and saw the A-3000 Skif. Tom was not impressed then or in his 2006 review of the A-3000, though his review was more favorable than some! His point about the barrel moving forward is also interesting because in my review back in 2000 I think I called it a blow forward action (which actually existed in some early semi-auto pistol designs of the late 19th and early 20th century). As a concept the Skif was probably more noteworthy than it was as an actual product, but it is still one tough little air pistol.

      • I was thinking there was a more recent non-blowback BB pistol that also had a barrel that moved forward and then sprung back to fire the shot. I just can’t remember which one with any certainty. Perhaps it was the original non-blowback Parabellum P.08?

        • You’ve got me there. Anyone know the answer to that question? I never had the old non-blowback P.08 so I can’t say, and I have not tested any non-blowback models with barrels that moved forward when fired. Doesn’t mean there aren’t any, other than the A-3000 Skif, I just have never run across them.

          • I was right. The non – blowback Umarex Legends Parabellum Pistole P.08 has a moving barrel. As the trigger is pulled back, the barrel moves forward toward the muzzle. When the sear breaks, a spring forces the barrel back to its home position, and the shot is fired. You can see it in action in Paul Capelo’s Airgun Reporter review at this link.


            Watch the barrel muzzle closely during the Chrony Test segment. The camera was positioned forward of the muzzle giving a clear view of the barrel moving forward and then snapping back as the shot is fired. What I don’t know is if the backward movement of the barrel activates the CO2 gas valve. It’s possible that it does because the Parabellum doesn’t have an external hammer, but again, I don’t know.

            I’ll leave it for you to decide if you think the mechanism of the Parabellum P.08 warrants further investigation and comparison to the A-3000 Skif. If you decide to do nothing further, I’m fine with that.

            One other thing that you and others might find interesting in Paul’s video review. Paul presents his procedure for giving the Parabellum P.08 a “weathered” finish. Those of you who like to customize the finish of your airguns might find that worth watching.

  2. Well done, thanks for finding that out and answering the question. Looking at the video I would have to think the mechanism is somewhat similar since the inner barrel moves forward with the trigger pull just like the A-3000 Skif. I’ve never been a big fan of non-blowback action BB pistols, I can accept it with pellet-firing semi-autos due to the design, but once all metal and metal/polymer blowback action BB guns hit the market I feel like the non-blowback models should have been phased out. They do address a slightly lower price point, but the difference isn’t that significant compared to the great increase in shooting enjoyment from blowback action models. I did like the customizing portion of Paul’s video. Lots of really good tips on weathering finishes.

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