Stick it to me Part 1

Stick it to me Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Stick magazines vs. CO2 BB magazines in Blowback Action Pistols

By Dennis Adler

Despite having stick magazines, these three Umarex blowback action CO2 models, the Luger P.08, Walther P.38 and Walther PPS excel in authentic styling and features. No molded-in pieces here, and they fit original holsters. There’s a lot to be said for these three, especially at their retail price point. (WWII holsters courtesy World War Supply, PPS holster by Galco)

During my recent comparison between CO2 and Nitrogen for cold weather shooting I ended up using one blowback action pistol with a stick magazine and another with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, and there proved to be a definite difference in overall performance. Was this a coincidence in my choice of guns? Perhaps, but this question led me to look at the motivations behind building otherwise new CO2 pistols that use older-style stick magazines as possibly being more than a manufacturing convenience, or an effort to build a lower price-point blowback action pistol. Maybe there is a more sporting notion behind it, too.

Stick magazines and CO2 that loads into the grip frame is old school by 2018 standards but the idea still works and is still being used even with brand new models. Some self-contained CO2 BB magazine pistols still use exposed seating screws, so that isn’t always the best way to go, especially with small frame models like the Walther PPS.

Three excellent blowback models 

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There are many blowback action models that use stick magazines and separate CO2 loading channels in the grip frame, including some of the latest models like the Umarex Beretta APX (Airgun Experience No. 137 and No. 138), but there are three very significant models that, despite using stick magazines, are well worth owning, and only one of which has a self-contained CO2 BB counterpart. The three examples I have selected to examine are the well established Umarex Walther P.38, Walther PPS, and Luger P.08, which is also offered in a self-contained CO2 BB magazine version that is slightly superior in detail and functioning.

Stick magazines also serve another purpose, to give the guns authentic-looking base pads like self-contained CO2 BB magazines. This is particularly purposeful with the Luger P.08 and Walther PPS, which have distinctive magazine designs. The flat base on the P.38 stick magazine gives the gun the exact look of a centerfire model when inserted.
Another great feature of almost all stick magazines is a large follower that locks securely into a notch for reloading, allowing both hands to be free and not having to worry about holding down the follow with one finger or pulling it down an extra fraction of an inch to insert a BB. This is an issue with several otherwise excellent self-contained CO2 BB magazines.

Aside from lower MSRPs than most self-contained CO2 BB magazine models (the P.38 retails for $120, The Luger P.08 for $99.95 and the Walther PPS for $89.95), these three have a couple of handling advantages, one of which is ease of loading, since each has a securely locking follower and load through the same port that the BB is fired from. All you need to do is hold your finger behind the opening in the back of the port (so the BBs don’t fall straight through) and then using a speed loader, drop each round into the port with the magazine angled so the BBs fall down into the channel. And in a few seconds you’re done.

Loading BBs into the stick magazines is easy; you put the BB into the same port that it is fired from. This port is open on both sides, and with the follower locked down, the BBs fall straight through unless you place a finger on the backside to make sure they go in and drop down into the channel. Using a speed loader makes quick work of it.

The second feature, aside from having fairly brisk blowback actions, is that the P.38 and PPS have slides that lock back on an empty magazine. The P.08’s toggle doesn’t lock open with the stick magazine but does lock open on the self contained CO2 BB magazine version, which is priced slightly higher.

The big feature on blowback action CO2 models is a slide that locks back. On the Umarex Walther P.38 and PPS models that is part of their operation along with a working slide release and thumb safety (on the P.38). The P.08 toggle doesn’t lock open on an empty stick magazine like the other two. I’m not sure why, other than a difference in design from the self-contained CO2 BB magazine model of the P.08, which does have a locking toggle. Both P.08 versions have functioning toggle actions and manual safety levers. Of the three Umarex models, the PPS scores highest for overall authenticity of design and handling.

The one feature that all three lack is that very desirable self-contained CO2 BB magazine, but in place of that you have two guns, the P.38 and PPS that are otherwise extraordinarily accurate in design and are not available in any other CO2 version. This makes them desirable for airgun collectors who like authentic features such as operating slide releases, correct manual safeties (excluding the Walther PPS, which in its centerfire version does not have one) and slides that lock back. Correct sights are another plus, albeit military sights on the P.38 and P.08. There is one other aspect to most blowback action models using stick magazines that gives them a slight edge in performance and accuracy, higher velocities than blowback action models with self-contained CO2 BB magazines. How much of an edge, is what we will determine in Part 2.

3 thoughts on “Stick it to me Part 1”

  1. I can see the appeal of the stick mags on some pistols. Cheaper mags , and usually higher velocity , on some pistols like the Po8 blowback and theP38. Then again the turtle of all time in blowback pistols is the Walther Ppk/s. Another issue , and one Ihad with my first P38 , if it leaks the whole pustolis rendered useless . Luckily mine was covered under warranty and replaced. When I had an issue with aco2 mag pistol only the magazine needed to be replaced.The other problem with stick mags is that for practicing reloads from a mag pouch they don’t work well . The best of the bunch are the 1911 pistols and mags. I personally would give up a little velocity for a co2 mag P 38.

    • I agree, a self-contained CO2 BB magazine makes more sense for overall training drills, and if the seals fail in the magazine you get another magazine. If they fail in the gun you have a repair to send in. I have not experienced any failures with the P.38 and I have had mine since 2012. As to the PPK/S I don’t think Umarex is going to do anything more with that model. They need to redesign the entire pistol and introduce a new generation and I have not heard anything about that in the works. The same would apply to a P.38 with self-contained magazine. I’d love to see Umarex do both because I am a big Walther fan. I just don’t see it coming. The current ones have sold well enough, for long enough to make change unlikely.

  2. It seems Umarex has become more of a status quo company regarding handguns . They seem more interested at present in their pcp rifles . No new heritage handguns . This year the big news will be from Sig and Air Venturi

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