Winning the Cold War

Winning the Cold War

The battle between CO2 and the thermometer Part 2 Part 1

By Dennis Adler

If you find yourself on a winter day with a need to shoot a CO2 powered air pistol in 28 degrees, it will work for a short time. How short? Depends upon the air pistol, its internal design, and how soon the CO2 loses PSI and velocity drops to the point where the pistol won’t function. With the Gletcher Tokarev TT-33 it turned out to be 90 shots with the first four of five 18-round magazines maintaining at least 346 fps velocity and 1.25 inch accuracy at 21 feet. This is what you would definitely call a best case scenario.

Over the years I have had varying results with CO2 in cold weather, particularly with blowback action pistols, but also with single and double action revolvers. My most disappointing test was two winters ago with a Peacemaker that got about two reloads from a CO2 cylinder before the BBs (this was before the pellet models were introduced) almost rolled out of the barrel. With a couple of semi-autos I managed two magazines before the CO2 failed to power the slide. The temperatures were almost always in the 30s. For this most recent test it was 28 degrees with a light wind and the test gun was a Gletcher Tokarev TT-33 blowback action [1], which completely surprised me by performing exceptionally well in below freezing temperatures. With the ProChrono chronograph using infrared screens plugged into an outside power source, I was able to clock velocity for each magazine I shot. After only a few minutes exposure to the outside weather, having come from a 70 degree room where the CO2 had been loaded into the pistol grip, the first 9 shots fired clocked from 355 fps to 327 fps with an average velocity of 346 fps. I went through five 18-round stick magazines before the gun clocked a low of 276 fps and then was unable to continue firing. That’s a total of 90 shots over a period of 15 minutes outdoors in 28 degree weather. This is the best result I have ever had with a CO2 pistol in below freezing temperatures. The Gletcher Tokarev TT-33 has been an exceptional gun since it was introduced, but I would have to say it is an all around performer despite having a stick magazine and separate CO2 channel in the grip frame. The blowback action is snappy, even at 28 degrees. The bottom line here is that I picked a gun that happens to perform well in cold weather.

Among my first 18 shots with CO2 uisng a ProChrono chronograph with infrared screens, the high speed camera caught this shot of the CO2 pushing a .177 caliber BB at over 340 fps and driving the slide back with more than ample force despite below freezing temperatures.
I continued to shoot until failure which came with the 5th magazine and a velocity of 276 fps. This was the last time the slide locked back. What amazed me was shooting five 18-round magazines before the CO2 was unable to keep the gun going. When I took the Sig Sauer CO2 cartridge out of the gun there was still enough pressure to give a hefty rush of remaining air.

Leland Gas Technologies had noted that performance depends upon the design of the airgun and this seems to be a positive with the TT and CO2. On any normal day I’d have called this a success and packed it in for a warm cup of coffee.  Instead I switched to the Leland N2 cylinder. The chronograph test was another surprise for the day. With Nitrogen the TT clocked a high of 405 fps but began to level out to an average of 371 fps for the 9 shot comparison test. It was equally accurate to the CO2 at 21 feet (more about that later) but as the folks at Leland said, you will get fewer shots with 1.8 grams of Nitrogen, and the gun ran out of power after two 18 round magazines. If you do the math, that’s a $2.50 Nitrogen cylinder for 36 shots or about 7-cents every time you pull the trigger.

Switching to the Leland Nitrogen cartridges, the TT delivered some impressive velocities with a high of 405 fps, which gave the slide a pretty good jolt.

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The N2 was punching the shots harder from the TT, which had a noticeable increase in recoil with the blowback action slide for the first 15 to 18 shots. Overall accuracy was about average for the Gletcher blowback model, so outside of higher velocity and fewer overall shots per cylinder, the Nitrogen was not a great advantage. I have to add that this has not been my usual experience with CO2 at below freezing temperatures and somewhere during the third magazine with the Gletcher running on CO2 I began to wonder what the heck was happening. This is obviously not the result I was expecting from this first CO2 vs. Nitrogen evaluation.

The Nitrogen averaged 360 fps for 18 shots. The second 18 saw a decline to 300 fps. By shot 36 the gun simply stopped working; the 1.8 grams of Nitrogen was exhausted. That comes out to 7 cents every time you pull the trigger. If I had decided to go shoot at zero degrees (although I can’t think of a reason why unless I was on some sort of military training exercise), the Nitrogen would have kept the gun working for at least 36 shots. I doubt CO2 would have held up as well with the mercury at 0, though I certainly can’t complain at 28 degrees!

With the Gletcher Tokarev TT-33’s performance in the same weather, switching to Nitrogen doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t go the other way with a different air pistol. In the Part 3 conclusion, I’ll run this test one more time at the extreme end of the scale using a 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker and Model 715 select fire Broomhandle Mauser and see what happens with CO2 and Nitrogen on another cold winter’s day.

Dressed to keep warm at 28 degrees (should have worn my hat!) I shot this target from 21 feet, first with CO2 (10 shots circled in red), and then (after finishing out the CO2 on the chronograph) I switched to the Leland Nitrogen (gold colored cartridge) and punched another 10 shots into a slightly wider group, but with three close hits in the bullseye. The slide on the TT was slamming back with every shot, and I would speculate that continued shooting with Nitrogen would eventually begin to take its toll on the mechanism. Nonetheless, it is impressive if you want to run a couple of magazines in the cold. Is it worth the cost? With the Gletcher I would have to say no. We’ll find out how this works with a revolver and a select fire blowback action pistol on Saturday.

[1] Much as I like the Gletcher TT-33, it is not a shared sentiment with enough air gun enthusiasts to convince Gletcher to continue importing it and this model is currently not available. If you have one, enjoy it. We may not see them again for some time.

6 thoughts on “Winning the Cold War”

  1. kind or surprising the N2 fueled pistol didn’t out perform the co2 version. The fact that the co2 version did as well as it did is surprising. Wonder if there would be a difference in a pistol like the Makarov with its’ short blowback and efficient use of co2? Anything happening with Gletcher? It would be a shame if the Nagant pellet revolver is no longer available, it is a really great ,accurate ,compact revolver

    • I am equally surprised by the results with CO2 in the Gletcher blowback action TT. We’ll find out if that holds true with a revolver and a different semi-auto on Saturday. I’m willing to be surprised again. As to the future of Gletcher in the U.S. it seems to be uncertain at present. They are a European based company and their representation in the U.S. is small. I have no idea what they plan for future importation. Hopefully their best sellers will keep coming. They have a relatively small product footprint here with only a handful of BB and pellet models but they are well made airguns. I have beat the tar out of the TT and it still works like a champ, same for the other Russian Legends models. My advice, if there is one you like, buy it now.

  2. After your article on the Nagant pellet revolver, I decided to buy one . I got the last one in stock on Pyramid , and there have been none since. Maybe a more aggressive company like ASG will take over the importation.

  3. My prediction for the revolver in the cold weather is that it will not work well at all. Maybe a dozen shots before they start either getting jammed or rolling out of the barrel.

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