Target Pistols and Target Shooters Part 5
Match Pistols – Shooting the Beeman P3
By Dennis Adler
I know that over the last 18 months we have focused on blowback action air pistols and rifles, training guns matched to their centerfire counterparts, and classic single action revolvers, which is the primary objective of the Airgun Experience, but this little sidestep into single stroke pneumatics and 10-Meter pistols is also an integral part of handgun (and rifle) training. This is an approach established more than four decades ago by Dr. Robert D. Beeman with his first “Adult Airguns” imported from Germany. Thus the P3 plays a very important role in this story of improving one’s shooting abilities. The P3 breaks down the basics of target shooting by providing simple operation, exemplary accuracy at 10 meters, and the benefits of modern fiber optic sights (also used on many compact and full-size cartridge firing handguns). Like the Air Venturi V10 for 10-Meter training, this is also a short course compared to getting into comparable centerfire handgun and blowback action understudies, like the S&W M&P40. With single shot pneumatics the greater emphasis is placed on sighting accuracy and trigger control than on learning all of the handling skills such as slide and safety operation, magazine changes, tactical reloads, holstering, drawing, etc. The singular focus with models like the Beeman P3 is on learning to hit the bullseye with repeatable accuracy. No rushing from shot to shot; just timing and consistency.
Cocking, Loading, and Shooting
The P3 is a big gun, somewhere between a Government size Colt Model 1911 and a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle in overall dimensions. The P3 is, however, light, and weighs in at 1.72 pounds. With a height of 5.8 inches (base of grip to top of rear sight), width of 1.3 inches and an overall length of 9.6 inches, the P3 provides a long sight radius of 7.3 inches. Trigger pull on the test gun averaged 1.47 pounds with 0.25 inches of take up, and a crisp target trigger break.
With the P3, the action is opened by simply half cocking the hammer, which releases the barrel assembly to lift up and pull forward. The Beeman has a 6.69 inch rifled steel barrel which can be loaded after fully extending the barrel assembly. Then close the assembly. This demands around 25 pounds of force (a little heavier than the Air Venturi V10 10-Meter pistol), and again you should use the palm of your support hand to close the action.
The safety, located on the left side of the frame, automatically engages when the barrel assembly is first opened. This is a good feature. Unfortunately, because of the gun’s design the safety is too far forward on the frame to release with your shooting hand thumb when you are ready to shoot, but a quick push forward with the support hand thumb easily disengages it. If you are shooting one-handed, you still have to use the off hand thumb to release the safety. But, since Match Pistols do not have 10-Meter protocols a two-handed hold is permissible and the P3 is otherwise ambidextrous, so left-handed shooters can not only rejoice in that, but an extra advantage; they can release the safety with their trigger finger!
Pellets and the P3
For the shooting test I used the same two brands of pellets as the Air Venturi V10 test, Meisterkugeln lead wadcutters and Sig Sauer cast alloy wadcutters. The Beeman has a heavier piston and it takes more effort to close the barrel assembly. Again, I used my leg as a rest for the frame and was able to put more body weight behind the palm of my left hand to close the action. This is much safer with the Beeman since the safety automatically engages when you open the barrel assembly. Still, in the photos you will note that my trigger finger is firmly pressed against the side of the frame and well away from the trigger.
When I was ready to shoot I released the safety with my support hand thumb. For the next test shot I switched to a left-handed hold and was able to release the safety with my trigger finger. What the P3 needs is an ambidextrous safety for right-handed shooters!
The Beeman is a single pump pneumatic and chronographed at an average velocity of 380 fps with the Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. lead pellets. With the lighter weight 5.25 gr. Sig Match Ballistic alloy wadcutters average velocity increased to 430 fps with a high of 434 fps, and a low of 428 fps. For the 10-meter shooting test I decided to get the most out of the P3 and shot the Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy wadcutters.
The bi-tone (yellow rear and red front) fiber optic sights on the P3 are very easy to get on target and with the pistol’s zero recoil design and light trigger it proved to be very accurate. The test was shot using a two-handed hold and the same Federal 10 Meter Pistol Targets as before, and once again I managed to preserve the bullseye hitting everywhere around it and blowing out one section of the target. My best 10-shot group measured 1.24 inches, with a best 5-shot group, all overlapping and stringing along a 0.375 inch line. Compared to the Air Venturi V10 the Beeman P3 isn’t quite as easy to shoot consistently and requires more effort to cock, but it is still a great understudy for 10 meter Match Pistol shooting, and at a very reasonable price.
Next up, the King of the Hill in single shot pneumatic Match Pistols; the legendary Weihrauch HW 75.