Sometimes failures lead to success
History does repeat itself; you just have to watch for the signs
By Dennis Adler
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.