Umarex Walther PPS
A quick look at comparing centerfire pistols to Blowback Action CO2 models
By Dennis Adler
Before I get into Part 2 of the 9mm Max Michel Max 1911 vs. the .177 caliber Sig Sauer Max Michel blowback action model, I want to step back to a test I first ran a little over a year ago with a pair of matching 9mm and CO2 pistols. It will make the comparison of the Sig Sauer models more clear and underscore the value of certain CO2 pistols as worthwhile for simple practice sessions that cost only a few dollars in CO2 and BBs but can help to strengthen shooting skills. This is particularly advantageous for those who live in parts of the country with severe winters which can make outdoor shooting practice difficult if not impossible and even a trip to an in door range taxing. There are only a handful of CO2 models that I personally regard as suitable for this kind of work and all but one are blowback action semi-autos. The most basic design, i.e. the easiest to shoot in terms of handling and carry are those pistols with the fewest features and most intuitive operation. That is the fundamental definition of a Glock. For CO2 models and centerfire counterparts I have one model that should be in every airgun collection and definitely used for indoor or backyard practice. It is not new, but rather well established and if you don’t have this air pistol and are serious about training with air, you should; the Umarex Walther PPS.
Walther PPS vs. Walther PPS
The Umarex Walther PPS is an amazing blowback action CO2 model. I first tested it in 2014 when visiting the Umarex factory in Ulm, Germany and I have to say I came away more than impressed with what Umarex had accomplished. For an accurately built airgun, copying the Walther PPS (and PPS M2) polymer frame and metal slide design, the weight, balance in the hand, sights, trigger pull, and general accuracy of the CO2 pistol are good enough to make the PPS a first choice in training guns, with one caveat, which I will cover shortly.
For well under $100 compared to the average retail of the PPS M2 in 9mm, the degree of detail Walther has put into this air pistol to make it look and feel “authentic” really pays off on the firing line. The PPS air pistol has the same operating features as the 9mm model with the exception of a blade safety in the trigger; this has been replaced on the air pistol by a cross bolt safety that can be set and released with the trigger finger. The trigger’s shape is the about the same and trigger pull a bit lighter at 5 lbs., 4.5 oz., compared to the 9mm or .40S&W model’s average 7 lbs. 11 oz. It is still enough resistance at nearly 5.5 pounds to give the feel of pulling a real semi-auto trigger; a 9mm Glock 19 has a 5.5 pound trigger.
Among other important features duplicated on the PPS air pistol is the use of white dot sights to match those on the cartridge gun, the same slide and magazine release levers, an integrated under-muzzle Weaver rail for mounting a small tactical light or laser, having to pull the slide to the rear to chamber the first BB, and of course, the slide locks back after the last round is fired. Thus, every operation once the gun is loaded is identical to firing the 9mm or .40 S&W models, except for recoil and the sound of actual gunfire, compared to a mild CO2 airburst.
Why this comparison first?
Why am I jumping to a different pair of guns before completing the Max Michel test? This is an almost perfect match up, second only to the Umarex S&W M&P40, but I have made that point well known. Spoiler alert here, the Max Michel CO2 model is not as accurate a match up to the 9mm Max 1911 model as the Umarex Walther PPS is to the 9mm PPS. What I want to illustrate here is how a near perfect match up can make a CO2 model well worth having, especially of you decide to purchase its cartridge-firing counterpart.
To make this head-to-head comparison as even as possible I used the same holster for both the 9mm and .177 caliber pistols (Galco Combat Master), and the target was set out at a combat distance of 21 feet, which is a standardized shooting distance for training with a subcompact 9mm (and as far back as 45 to 50 feet). This is also the ideal range for a blowback action CO2 pistol, so this is an even up match. In comparison, in Saturday’s conclusion of the Max Michel, the test ranges will not be the same; the 9mm Max Michel will be fired from 45 feet (a Stage 3 Classifier distance in IDPA competition) while the air pistol will be shot at 21 feet.
For the PPS comparison I fired five rounds for each target. In terms of draw, chambering, sighting and firing, the air pistol gives you the exact same handling with the exception of lighter resistance when chambering the first round, and naturally there is no appreciable recoil. The next part of the exercise was reloading and here is the caveat I mentioned earlier. The PPS air pistol uses a separate stick magazine that holds 18 steel BBs, rather than a self contained CO2 BB magazine (and thus why it comes in second to the S&W M&P40 air pistol) but it is still released from, and loaded into the grip, in the same fashion as a 9mm magazine. The practice is in actuating the ambidextrous magazine releases built into the triggerguard, reloading and releasing the slide to chamber the first round. Everything works the same way on both guns. You can practice every aspect of handling the cartridge-firing PPS model with the CO2 pistol.
As for accuracy, the best 5-rounds of Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ fired from 21 feet with the PPS 9mm measured 1.20 inches. The air pistol nearly matched it with a best five clustered at 1.22 inches. The 9mm rounds clocked 1,124 fps while the PPS air pistol sent its .177 caliber Umarex steel BBs downrange at an average of 350 fps. Sighting with both guns was virtually identical. The air pistol has a bit more creep in the trigger but it is close enough to the 9mm PPS.
Overall, for training purposes, this is one of the best choices in an air pistol to practice handling skills with a concealed carry-sized semi-auto. And if you own, or plan to purchase a 9mm or .40 S&W Walther PPS, it is a very small and smart investment to become familiarized with the gun, its carry options, (and how comfortably this very narrow pistol can be carried). For this Airgun Experience article the PPS CO2 model has established the baseline for Saturday’s match up of the 9mm and .177 caliber Max Michel Sig models.
A Word About Safety
Blowback action models provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. The Umarex Walther PPS a little more so than others. Most all blowback action airguns look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models like the Walther are hard to tell apart at a glance. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t distinguish an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.