What makes a winner?
Last year’s Top 10 Selling air pistols
By Dennis Adler
For what it’s worth, I picked and reviewed six of the Top 10 selling air pistols for 2019, and of the six I had written up over the last couple of years (yes, they were not all 2019 models), my top guns reviewed in Airgun Experience were in the first three places as well as 5th, 6th and 7th place as the most purchased air pistols of 2019. What is interesting, and perhaps a bit telling, is that they are all based on semi-auto pistols. I wasn’t so much surprised by that, as I was with the number 1 selling air pistol of the year for Pyramyd Air, the Umarex Glock 17 Third Gen. I would have expected the newer Gen4 to be the best seller, then the Third Gen or the G19X, which didn’t even make the list as a best seller! Instead, the first Umarex Glock Model, the G19 non-blowback slipped into the number 2 position ahead of the Sig Sauer M17, Beretta 92A1, and Sig Sauer P365, which came in an impressive 6th place for sales over the 7th place Umarex Glock 17 Gen4!
There is an interesting parallel here, which also plays out exactly in the centerfire handgun market with Glock and Sig Sauer being among the top selling handguns globally, and in the U.S. with civilian, law enforcement and military (in other words just about everyone). The Micro Compact 9mm Sig Sauer P365 is a double Gun of the Year award winner for 2018 and 2019, the Sig M17 is the new U.S. military sidearm, while Glock pistols still have a solid role in the U.S. military and law enforcement. Comparatively, Sig and Glock air pistols hold five of the top seven sales positions for 2019. The 8th, 9th, and 10th places are held, respectively, by the Crosman 2240, Crosman Vigilante CO2 revolver, and the old-style ASG Dan Wesson revolver with 6-inch barrel. That last one surprised the heck out of me, too. I would have bet on the correctly designed 2-1/2 inch pellet cartridge ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 to be among the year’s Top 10 sellers. But, sales figures are the real bottom line.
What we have learned from 2019’s best selling air pistols is that improved design features like interchangeable backstrap panels and field stripping capability (in other words the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4), did not win out over the much higher velocities of the top two Umarex Glock models. Here’s something else, the only semi-auto pellet pistol to make the Top 10 was 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year, the Sig Sauer M17. If you’re counting, Sig Sauer holds only two spots on the list (whither thou WE THE PEOPLE, or any 1911 design for that matter?) while Glock holds three.
The most noteworthy absence for 2019 is any single action CO2 revolver from the Top 10. Umarex, which, for reasons unknown, has let the Peacemaker stall after an impressive start with 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inch models in BB and pellet versions; Bear River, under new ownership, is waiting in the wings with new models, and the (Crosman) Remington Model 1875, well, it just failed to challenge the Colt and Schofield (history repeats itself).
In 2020, my hope is for some new Schofields via Bear River, and for Umarex to awake from its Glock euphoria (though with the forthcoming M1A1 “Tommy gun” probably not), and remember how important the Peacemaker is to American firearms history.
There are two other interesting lessons to be learned from 2019’s Top 10. First, is that price matters more than we (hardcore airgun enthusiasts) realize because the number 2 gun of the year, the Glock 19, was also the least expensive CO2 pistol (at $69.95 discounted), and the easiest to handle, because aside from loading CO2 in the grip frame and BBs in the stick magazine, the only other thing on the gun that moves is the trigger (and its crossbolt safety). It hit the market with ease of use, striking authenticity in its attention to details, even if they didn’t have to work, and a quality of fit and finish that excels over any other entry-level BB pistol on the market. It was also the very first ever Glock licensed air pistol, so even as inexpensive as it is, it has a certain panache as the “first” to ever bear the Glock name. Were it not for the blowback action G17 Third Gen’s success, it would have been the best selling air pistol of 2019! One can live with loosing to one’s self.
The second thing that 2019’s sales figures tell us is that innovation has appeal, not just features like interchangeable backstrap panels and being able to fieldstrip the gun type innovations, but innovation through technology; the Sig Sauer M17 being the first blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine, and the Sig Sauer P365 being the smallest blowback action air pistol ever to have a self-contained 12 gram CO2 BB magazine, as prime examples.
The two oldest designs that made the Top 10 epitomize popular longevity, the Crosman 2240, which has been around since 1999, and the very inexpensive ($30) Beeman P17, which copies the original German-made P3 design ($230) introduced in 1999 (and still in production), and brings it down to a very affordable entry-level price with the famous Beeman name.
Entry level airguns may not be the big topic for Airgun Experience readers, but every airgun enthusiast needs to get experience. The popularity of low-price leaders, like those among 2019’s Top 10 sales list, means that more people are discovering the world of airguns.