Smith & Wesson M&P R8 BB revolver: Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and test by Earl “Mac” McDonald, unless otherwise indicated
Mac’s back! As we enter the end of year season and approach the Christmas holidays, I want to review as many new guns as possible, while continuing to address my ongoing tests, so I asked Mac to give me a hand. Today, he starts with the S&W M&P R8 BB revolver.
I’m conservative, so whenever a company starts to use a model name inappropriately (in my opinion) it bothers me. When Benjamin used the name Super Streak for a breakbarrel spring rifle — where the name Streak has always been used only for Sheridan multi-pumps — it bothered me. When Smith & Wesson used their time-honored Military & Police (M&P) title to designate a semiautomatic pistol instead of a revolver, I was deeply concerned.
It seems the people in the marketing department that select these product names either don’t know the fine history of the company they work for, or they think the established name brings a lot of fetch with it. Of course it does, but look at what happened to the Weihrauch HW50 when the configuration of the gun was changed. Remember the lengthy conversations we’ve had on this blog and the lengths some people have to go to differentiate between the older HW50 and the one that’s now produced?
There’s still an M&P revolver, and today we’ll start looking at a CO2-powered BB gun by the same name. So, now you know what the M&P means, what about the R8? Well, it’s pretty simple. It’s code for a revolver that holds eight shots.
Mac was very impressed by this handgun. Even though it comes in a blister pack, it has many interesting features that are worthy of note. The first is that the cylinder is released from the frame to swing out to the left side of the gun just like the firearm it copies.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of this BB revolver is the length to which the designers went to control gas. The pistol is powered by a conventional 12-gram CO2 cartridge that fits inside the Hogue-like grip. Normally a gun like this might give 50-60 good shots on a single cartridge. But this one has several features that more than double that number without sacrificing power.
Like a Nagant firearm revolver, this CO2 BB revolver mates the cylinder to the rear of the barrel to reduce gas loss when firing. The 7.62 Nagant moves the cylinder forward to seal with the rear of the barrel. The M&P R8 has a spring-loaded barrel (a soft, weak spring) with a rounded rear that rides over the mouth of the cylinder, popping into each chamber in turn when the gun locks up.
The rear of the barrel is rounded to move over the mouth of the cylinder as it revolves. The barrel is held in place by a weak spring, so it always pops back to this position, yet doesn’t hinder operation of the mechanism.
Of course, revolvers don’t have safeties, except in cheap novels and the one exception that nobody ever hears about, but these days the transfer bar that connects the hammer to the firing pin only when it’s safe to fire is considered a safety. And this gas pistol has one! It’s not a bar at all, but rather a piece of thick wire that moves up when everything is right to fire the gun. It won’t prevent a fool from shooting himself or someone else, but they better not get me on the stand if that happens, because shooting this airgun requires a deliberate act!
This photo shows the transfer bar in position to connect the hammer to the valve stem that is analogous to the firing pin. You can also see the V-shaped rear sight notch that ought to be changed to a square one.
The M&P R8 has a decent front post and a ridiculous rear V-notch that’s better-suited to a .22 autoloading rifle. That kind of front sight needs a square rear notch, and I am surprised by its lack — especially given all the thought that went into the rest of the revolver! However, it IS entirely accurate, because the firearm has the identical rear sight. The front sight has an unnecessary white bead, but it goes away in the right lighting conditions and the post appears square against the target.
The manual says the sights are fixed, but Mac found that they are, indeed, adjustable. The rear notch can be slid sideways after the locking screw is loosened and actually be shimmed with paper for up and down adjustment. Had the makers put a spring under the sight, there’s even a screw that would allow vertical adjustment; so they’re selling themselves short by excluding it.
It uses a clip
Besides the cylinder swinging out to the side, this revolver also uses a circular BB clip. Only one clip comes with the gun; but as Mac reports, you could carry loaded clips easily and use them like a firearm revolver speedloader if you wanted. He noted while loading the one clip that one chamber always seemed looser than the others. We’ll see if that had any effect in the accuracy test.
Mac was particularly impressed by the robust appearance of the revolver’s action. The hand (lever connected to the cocking mechanism) that advances the cylinder with each pull of the trigger is metal. Mac noted that it didn’t appear to wear from his shooting test. He ended up firing well over 100 shots. Not showing even a shiny spot means the part is correctly hardened for the task it’s been given. While you shouldn’t expect a BB gun at this price to last forever, this is a good sign that it will shoot well for a long time.
I guess Mac really likes this one. We’re going to be looking at a lot of new guns in the coming weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out!