Top vintage military arms

Top vintage military arms

CO2 in War and Peace

By Dennis Adler

When we are talking about copies of legendary military arms as CO2 models, it is not just a gun based on a design, it is a gun copied in detail from an original design like the Umarex Luger P.08 Parabellum and Mauser Broomhandle Model 712. Pictured are the limited edition WWII models. Only the P.08 is currently available.

In the past several years the world of CO2 pistols and rifles has been exposed to military history in ways that airgun enthusiasts could only have dreamed about as little as five years ago. Sure, there have been BB and pellet guns in the past that were based on military arms, like the Crosman Model M-1 Carbine built from 1968 to 1976, as well as a number of military training air rifles manufactured during WWI and WWII (very rare finds today), and more recently the Winchester Model M14 CO2 BB and pellet rifle, introduced in 2012, and of course, the excellent Diana K98 Mauser (under lever cocking) pneumatic pellet rifle. But in the world of blowback action CO2 pistols, rifles, and CO2 BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers, the period from 2015 to 2019 has been a remarkable one for military arms enthusiasts.

Getting it right and wrong at the same time, the Tanfoglio Witness 1911 is an accurate copy of the WWII era 1911A1 c. 1926 design, but with a modern matte finish and overwhelming branding on one side and warnings and manufacturer’s marks on the other. Aside from that, the Tanfoglio (which is the same gun as the Swiss Arms 1911A1 currently not available), has it almost completely right including the small thumb safety, spur hammer and lanyard loop.

More than a century compressed into four years 

CO2 models copied, not based on but actually copied, from WWI and WWII era arms, are virtually a separate category of airguns today. I have covered all of them in Airgun Experience over the last several years but here is a recap of what is available and some links to the original articles to look back for specs and performance.

Right finish, but only sold as a commemorative, the John Wayne WWII 1911A1 is a fine-looking gun with just enough weathering in the finish to appear like a 1911 that has seen some action. Commemorative 1911s are not uncommon in the centerfire world, so this John Wayne CO2 model is right as it can be.

American military arms in CO2 are the scarcest, since the two primary field weapons were the M1 Carbine and Model 1911A1 pistol. The M1 is new to the game and really rounds out the best combination of rifle and pistol. For the 1911A1, there are a couple of period designs, all but the John Wayne Commemorative, however, have modern finishes. The JW has a weathered or battlefield finish that gives the gun a little character. The Swiss Arms 1911A1 version is currently unavailable but the Tanfoglio 1911A1 is the same exact gun with the same issues of modern finish and over embellishment of makers brand and safety warnings (Another is the Remington 1911 RAC with even bigger branding and warning issues). My solution to this was covered in a series of articles on Defarbing a 1911, which gives you a lot of work to do, but ends with a very war worn 1911A1 that is good for a second look when you un-holster it.

With a lot of handwork, you can take a modern finish off a CO2 model (like this Swiss Arms 1911A1) and make it look like a well worn blued gun. All that is missing is the correct markings, which unfortunately are almost impossible to do without having them hand engraved on the gun, which is an expensive proposition. This is still a head turner even without markings, which could have been worn down over time.

The current star of WWII American military arms is the new Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. This is the standard wood grained plastic stock model. A hardwood stock is also offered.

Russian arms are a bit more plentiful in design since guns developed before WWI were still in use during WWI and even into WWII, which gives you a broadly dispersed choice in revolvers, semi-autos, and one major Russian military rifle, the Mosin-Nagant. I have covered all the variations of the Nagant Model 1895 pistols in BB and pellet-loading cartridge versions and two finishes, plus the now unavailable but beautifully built Tokarev TT-33 that was sold by Gletcher.

One of my favorite WWII Russian models is the Tokarev TT-33, which was (yes, past tense) built as a blowback action CO2 pistol by Gletcher. I didn’t care for the modern finish on the gun and this CO2 model became my first defarbing project in 2017.

I antiqued one, which has appeared in a several articles, along with the Makarov models like the PM 1951. Gletcher still has a Russian Legends line, and at the top of the order are two versions of the Mosin-Nagant, a circa 1891 cut down model with sawn off pistol grip, and the Model 1944 rifle. Both are excellent designs and have appeared in several articles over the last couple of years.

The WWII era Mosin-Nagant M1944 is manufactured by Gletcher and is a very close copy of the legendary Russian rifles. The bolt action air rifle is designed from original Mosin-Nagant plans but uses a removable box magazine (same style as the stripper clip fed integral magazine on the centerfire version) that holds CO2 and BBs. This is one of the better CO2 powered rifles made today and offers authentic operation. It is also accurate out to 10 meters.

Made by partisans during the Russian Revolution (1917) the Mosin-Nagant rifle was cut down into a concealable (under a long coat) bolt action pistol for close quarters use. The design was used in WWI and WWII as well. The Gletcher version is literally a cut down version of the 1944 model rifle. The shortened models were known in Russia as an Obrez.

Another pre-20th century design that remained in use by Russians in WWI and WWII was the Nagant revolver. A unique 7-shot design, it was one of the earliest military revolvers to be outfitted with a silencer because of its gas seal cylinder design. The Gletcher models are very authentic in design and offered in both smoothbore BB models (top) and rifled barrel pellet models (bottom). Both use cartridges. The guns also fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters.

It is the German military arms where airgun manufacturers have excelled, particularly Umarex, the parent company of Carl Walther. The Umarex Legends series has given us classic German pistols like the Walther P.38, Luger P.08, and the Mauser Broomhandle Model 712, perhaps the best blowback action pistol made for the sheer enjoyment of shooting CO2 airguns. To top off the German military line, the MP40 submachine gun allows realistic design and handling that is almost unrivaled by any modern CO2 design Carbine or select-fire arm. Umarex also has the Makarov Ultra version of the famous Russian semi-auto pistol.

Umarex has the P.08 in both the black grip (Black Widow) model and in a weathered WWII version.

Despite its stick magazine, the Umarex Walther P.38 (bottom) gets a pass for its fine polished blue black finish and accurate Walther banner markings.

If there is one masterpiece in German airgun design from Umarex it is the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712, pictured with an original C96 Broomhandle and shoulder stock holster.

Leather holsters were also made for the Broomhandle but the Model 712 demanded some extreme modifications for the extended capacity magazine. Pyramyd Air sells a reproduction of one such design to fit the CO2 version of the M712. (The Umarex Mauser is shown in the WWII finish, currently out of production.)

Fired from the shoulder, rather than this way like in the movies, the MP40 is surprisingly accurate even on full auto. Of course, recoil from .177 caliber steel BBs is a lot more manageable than 9mm cartridges!

Alas, the lofty British military arms are scarce in the CO2 world, in fact, presently there is only the Webley & Scott MK VI revolver, which is currently offered in the superior Battlefield Finish version with rifled steel barrel and pellet-loading cartridges, and the same model finished in bright polished nickel (which was not a traditional finish but was done back in the 1940s and later).

The best of the best in WWII weathered finish guns is the Webley & Scott MK VI which looks every bit as real as the actual WWII Webley at the top.

Of all the weathered finish CO2 military models, the Webley MK VI is the best for realism. There have been other weathered finishes offered as limited editions like the MP40 and M712 Broomhandle, both currently available only with standard matt finishes. We may see them again as WWII series guns, but likely not for awhile. The only weathered finish military guns remaining are the Webley, Luger P.08 and John Wayne 1911A1. When weathered finish guns come along that are appealing, buy them, because they often disappear from the market. The Umarex WWII Edition P.08 went out of production a couple of years back and is currently being offered again; this could be the last chance for that one.

The WWII period canvas holster, also sold by Pyramyd Air, adds the final touch of realism to the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI.

As you can see, there have been some impressive models in the last several years, specifically in the military arms category, which is now a real category. Hopefully this review and the links to Airgun Experience articles will allow a quick reference to finding the best of the best in CO2 models. Happy reading!

The Airgun Experience will be on a brief hiatus and return on June 11th with the first series on the new Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 semi-auto in both black and bi-tone versions, vs. the actual 9mm XDM 3.8 models!

5 thoughts on “Top vintage military arms

  1. Most of these go back just a few years when replica airguns , especially military replicas were exploding on the scene. Still some good ones , especially revolvers that would be welcomed


  2. The vintage replica’s are my favourites, I have two of the above airguns – the Nagant (Pellet Version) and the Luger (KWC blowback). Would like to get my hands on the Gletcher T33 blowback too but have yet to find one.

    Both very enjoyable, the Nagant my favourite of the two. I bought an original post war holster for it and the extra shells and really looks the part….


    • …although the grips are very nice on the Nagant they don’t really look like the original finely checkered Walnut grips or the later coarsely checkered Birch/Oak grips that were on the firearms. I quite like the look of the post war red-brown Bakelite coarsely checkered grips and will probably make a set for my airgun as they’ll go well with the post war holster. Here’s a pic of the later bakelite grips…


  3. Too bad Gletcher isn’t offering theTT33. They seem to be fading out. Maybe another importer will bring in the airguns they are not marketing anymore.The Nagant pellet revolver is one of the best replicas ever.


  4. Just recieved my Webley Battlefield finish today. With the exception of the M712, P38, and Nagant I have them all. And all weathered finishes! I defarbed the legalese off the right side of the pistol. Now it looks like it could have fought both World Wars.(I also picked up a box of the Winchester WWII commemorative .45 ammo, and a dummy frag grenade to round out the set)

    As for the other guns, I consider the P38 a fail and won’t be buying one. If Umarex would utilize a full size magazine like the Luger or M1911, and offer a weatherd finish, I’d snatch one up. The blued finish is very attractive however. The PPK is another that could use an redesign for the same reasons.


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