The Most Bang For Your Buck Part 1

The Most Bang For Your Buck Part 1

What can $100 buy?

By Dennis Adler

There are doctors, lawyers, biochemists, engineers, business professionals, retired and active law enforcement, military, and people in all fields of work who have always had an interest in firearms, either by profession, as a hobby, or a recreational sport. That describes a good percentage of Airgun Experience readers, and gun owners or “gun enthusiasts” as a group. Counted into that mix are gun collectors, and you would be surprised how many of them also collect air pistols.

Blowback action models are among the best buys in a quality CO2 pistol because so many of them sell for $100 or less including some of the top rated models like the new Umarex Glock 17, Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE, and Umarex HK USP, as well as established models like the Umarex S&W M&P40 and Swiss Arms P92. Each sells for just $100.

What this column has taught me over the years is that air pistols and actual cartridge-firing handguns (and rifles) are not mutually exclusive; a fairly high percentage of readers own both, and often choose duplicates of cartridge guns they own. But, there are also a fair percentage of airgun owners who do not own actual firearms, and they represent a group I call “airgun enthusiasts.” They were the intended core readership for Airgun Experience but as it turns out, they are not the core; the majority of readers own both. Still, it is the “airgun enthusiast” to whom I am writing most of the time.

A $100 bill gets you top rated features like full field stripping, fully operating features, and shot-recoil, locked-breech, tilting barrel designs on model like the M&P40 and Sig Sauer licensed P226 X-Five, and an accurate 1911A1 design on models like the Tanfoglio Witness 1911.

When I get into training with airguns and 1:1 comparisons, I am leaning more to one group than the other, but both can benefit from the information. And, as I have learned over this same three plus years writing the column, not all are willing or able to follow me down the path to BB gun obsession with open minds and wallets.

Total authenticity of features and interchangeability with the air pistol’s centerfire counterpart accessories and holsters is a hallmark of the very best blowback action CO2 models like the Umarex HK USP, one of the newest additions with 100 percent authenticity to its centerfire counterpart and an excellent example of a training gun.

I do this as a profession (it started out as a hobby, but let me tell you, once you make a hobby into a business, it’s not really a hobby anymore, it’s a job), so airguns come and go in and out of my life, to quote a poignant line from a movie, “…like busboys in a restaurant.” I don’t buy them, and I don’t usually keep them. The operative word there is “usually.” I think of it more like a restaurant I used to go to in San Francisco, where you had G-Scale (LGB I think it was) railroad engines pulling a line of flatcars around a great oval table. The flatcars had small plates of food on them and you picked what you wanted off the train as it went by. The cooks were in the center and continuously restocking the cars. It was great fun, like Benihana without the fire and smoke. At the end of your meal you were charged by the number and the color of the plates you had accumulated. It’s the color of the plate that I’m here to discuss.

The highest level of authenticity went into the design and manufacturing of the Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE, which is based on the matching .45 ACP model with identical weathered finish and details to the special edition Sig. The WTP, as a CO2 pistol, is the most accurate to an existing centerfire 1911 of all blowback action models. In terms of fit, finish, and working features, this is one of the best values on the market for $100.

I’m talking about a restaurant from back in the 1980s and you could get out of there for $15 or $20 including a drink. But if you really indulged, it could cost three times that amount. Buying airguns on line, like with Pyramyd Air, is like that train, you pick something off the flatcar. I like the restaurant reference because if you are reading Airgun Experience you’ve already decided to pass the fast food place (though there are some fine airguns in the big box stores).

What can you get for $100?

I’m using $100 as a purchase price cutoff (less sales tax and shipping), because many of the best blowback action CO2 pistols sell for $99.99 or less. Others will take you up to $129.99, a few $149.99 or more and this is for standard models. When you start adding extra features, like the hand engraved Peacemakers, you are into another level altogether.

The latest model in the $100 club is the Umarex Glock 17, a 100 percent exterior and handling match to the centerfire pistol. To gain a significant advantage in velocity over other blowback action CO2 models, the G17 uses a shorter recoil system and different magazine interlock and CO2 delivery. The tradeoff is being one of the two models that cannot be field stripped.

What falls under the $100 line? Here’s a sample of the best offering that I have reviewed in Airgun Experience. Remember MSRP is not the deciding factor because just about every air pistol is discounted from retail. We are talking $100 or less selling prices.

For a quality 1911 CO2 model, the Sig Sauer WTP is not alone in the $100 price class. Swiss Arms, a part of the companies that comprise Sig Sauer, and Sig Arms AG, does not make centerfire 1911 models but the licensed Swiss Arms brand does offering several variations including modern Rail Guns like the SA 1911 TRS. The Swiss Arms models offer a variety of finishes and range from standard 1911A1-style models to the latest tactical pistol designs.

The military finish MRP Swiss Arms Rail Gun is another version that sells for just $100. All Swiss Arms models have fully functioning features and field strip like centerfire models.

At the $99.99 price point you have the Umarex S&W M&P40, Umarex H&K USP blowback, Umarex Glock 17, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five (BB model), Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911, (it takes another $10 to get into the discounted Umarex Colt Commander), but $99.99 will get you a Tanfoglio Witness 1911, you can also get a Swiss Arms SA92 or P92 (Beretta 92FS), and one of several Swiss Arms 1911 models, like the MRP, SSP, and Tactical. With a higher MSRP and greatly reduced selling price, there is one top gun, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom (but you have to buy a reflex sight for it, so the complete gun will take you over $100). The last entry is the Umarex H&K VP9 which is the lowest priced gun selling for $79.99. This list is limited to blowback action pistols with self-contained CO2 BB magazines, i.e., the most gun you can get for $100.

Another new comer to the market in 2018 was the Umarex HK VP9 which uses a firing system similar to the Umarex Glock 17 but is the lowest-priced blowback action model with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine selling for just $79.99.

Next Tuesday, we’ll find out what CO2 blowback action pistol gives you the best features, best quality, and best accuracy for the money.

8 thoughts on “The Most Bang For Your Buck Part 1

  1. These are all good choices and I own several of them . Two forgotten pistols that are Best Buys are pocket pistols . The Beretta 84 and the Makarov blowback. Both under$100 , and are accurate powerful blowback pistols. The li actual firearms are fading from use, being replaced by polymer striker fired9 mm pistols. This is not as important for an airgun where they are historical collectibles.


    • They are worthy of mention but I only wanted to talk about models with fully authentic features, the Beretta 84 and Makarov, while excellent pistols, have that pesky turn key hanging under the magazine. That kicked them out of the match up. Funny, one minor change in the CO2 BB magazine designs and they would be darn near perfect. You have to wonder.


  2. Dennis,
    First time poster on your site. I have been a regular reader of your work through Guns of the Old West, all of your gun books, and Airgun Experience. I definetly fall into your firearm/airgun enthusiast category. In fact your reviews have inspired many of my PA purchases.(just recieved my Cowboy Lever Action on Thursday) I wanted to put a couple photos in, but they’re too big to upload.

    In relevance to this article I do have the SIG “We the People” 1911. Also thinking about the GLOCK Gen3.

    Keep up the good work!


    • Thanks Hawkeye! It is great to see crossover readers from Guns of the Old West to Airgun Experience. I do wish there were more CO2 Single Actions to write about. While you’re thinking about that Glock 17 CO2 make sure you read the Airgun Experience review on the new Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 which is even better than the Glock 17 for fine detail and authentic handling. There’s more to come from Springfield and Glock in CO2 models.


      • Glock should offer a Gen 5 blowback 19, which I just picked up in 9 mm, and a model 26 , which is a very popular ccw pistol that would have a built in airgun market


      • Just saw that Colt is offering a 380 1908. One area that has never been fully developed is the historical replica airgun pistol and revolver .After theP08,1911, and Mauser 712, things quieted down. A period correct pre war 1911, Beretta 1934, Mauser HSC, and the Colt 1903/08 pistols. In revolvers, Colt Lightning, 1872 Open Top, S&W 1917, Colt New Service, S&;W29, 19, to start


  3. As one of those “airgun enthusiasts”, I appreciate and enjoy everyone of your Airgun Experience articles. Several of them have even persuaded me to buy pistols that I had initially passed on. I had originally passed on the Tangfoglio Gold Custom, but after your recent series on your favorite airguns, I finally bought one. It arrived last week. The downside is that the CenterPoint reflex sight didn’t work, and I had to return the sight. The replacement should be here next Tuesday.

    Do you know yet if the forthcoming Glock 17 Gen 4 BB pistol will be field strippable?


    • I don’t know for sure, but it has been said it will have more features than the Gen3 Glock 17 CO2 model. That would be a logical feature and a more conventional blowback action using a short-recoil, locked-breech operating system like Umarex S&W M&P40. We’ll have to wait until summer to find out.


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