by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today we start testing another BB pistol in the form of a Colt M1911A1. I’ve already tested several of these Colt airgun clones over the years, but Edith has recently noticed a trend of shooters who are using these airguns to maintain proficiency with their firearms between trips to the range. Of course everybody has talked about doing just that for years, but now it seems it is actually happening. I guess there is a large crop of new airgunners coming over from the firearms side of the house, and they see the value in the training these inexpensive airguns can offer.
At $90, the Winchester 16-shot semiautomatic BB pistol is sitting toward the high end of BB pistols made in the style of the 1911A1 Colt. It has blowback, which means the slide comes to the rear at every shot and cocks the hammer for the next shot. So, the trigger is single-stage, which bodes well for a good trigger-pull. And blowback gives you a feeling of recoil that many shooters enjoy.
The gun also has a realistic spring-loaded grip safety that feels great but has no effect on the trigger. You can shoot the gun with or without the grip safety being depressed. That’s not such a bad thing because 1911 firearms often have problems with their grip safeties if the grip is not grasped correctly. Various things are done to fix this problem, such as speed bumps (protrusions) on the grip safety that assist the hand to depress the safety, pinned grip safeties that have been inactivated so the gun will shoot without them being depressed, weakened grip safety springs and even certain models of 1911 clones like the Ballister Molina that don’t even have a grip safety. All of this is done in the hopes of making the gun a more reliable shooter.
You may be surprised to see the Winchester name on a handgun, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. At the end of the 19th century, the company built one prototype revolver that was very advanced for the time. It was taken to Colt and shown to senior management, ostensibly for their feelings about the design, but actually to give notice that if Colt persisted in the manufacture of lever-action rifles, Winchester could enter the market with a highly competitive revolver. Nothing formal was said, but Colt stopped the production of their Burgess lever-action rifles within the year and Winchester never put the handgun into production.
This gun isn’t actually made by Winchester, of course. It’s made in Japan and imported by Daisy under the Winchester label. The pistol is remarkably well-scaled to the firearm, and the finish is quite similar to a military finish. The one drawback I see is that both sides of the slide and frame have been used to print out the most important parts of the owner’s manual — sort of like a Ruger pistol carried to absurdity! And whoever checked the words was not a shooter, because the magazine release (and this gun does have a spring-loaded 16-shot stick magazine) is labeled “clip release.” This is what happens when the uneducated are given a task for which they are not qualified.
More words on the left side of the gun. Maybe the next version of the gun will have the words “Trigger — press here” printed on the front of the trigger and “Don’t look into this end” printed around the muzzle!
In truth, however, the words on the gun seem to vanish as the viewer steps back, so it isn’t as obnoxious as it first appears. The gun’s finish is matte black, which hides the lettering well.
Do the controls work?
The magazine release works exactly the same as the firearm, and the stick mag drops away freely. The slide release also works the same and holds the slide open after the last BB has been fired. The hammer is real and does act upon the firing valve as you expect it to.
The safety has been modified to require two hands, which I find to be a serious design flaw because it defeats the training value of drawing a cocked-and-locked gun (condition one) and flipping off the safety when you’re on target. To remove the safety on this pistol, you must press in on a small button located in the middle of the safety lever while simultaneously pushing the lever down the conventional way. I’m sure it looks good to the lawyers, but it’s a serious disruption to an otherwise fine air pistol.
This pistol cannot be disassembled. The barrel bushing and spring guide are simply very accurate casting details, and the slide release is captive. The grips look like they’re removable, but the left one is really a complex casting that forms part of the CO2 cartridge containment. The mainspring arch pulls out and down as part of a complex articulated lever, releasing the left grip and giving access to load the CO2 cartridge.
I installed a CO2 cartridge to weigh the pistol and discovered that the process is not like other CO2 pistols. It works well, but you probably should read the owner’s manual before you try to do it. The pistol weighs 33 oz. with a CO2 cartridge installed, against 39 oz. for a government M1911A1 empty with a magazine.
The sights are fixed, just as they are on a conventional M1911A1. The rear sight is about as high as the one on the firearm, but the notch is square and sharp as opposed to vague and narrow on the firearm. The front sight looks like a 1911A1 front sight from the side, but it’s wider and appears square when viewed from the rear. These will be easy sights to use. If this pistol is accurate, it should be easy to obtain a good score.
This is an interesting and apparently well-made air pistol. But they picked a part of the market that has a lot of competition, so it’s really going to have to perform on target.