by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Umarex P98 CO2 BB pistol
The new Umarex P-08 BB pistol is a stunning copy of the firearm.

When I first saw this gun at the 2013 SHOT Show, it changed my outlook on the show altogether. Up to that point, I was angry because the show had changed so much. Media Day, the day before the show opens and where members of the media are invited to shoot all the new firearms (and airguns!) at a public range in Boulder City, had tightened up because of past abuses, and it now took an invite from a booth holder to attend. Media credentials, alone, were not enough.

Besides that, the show planners did away with the gold carpet in the two large display halls that I have used for reference and navigation for the past 17 years. Now, the show resembled a bazaar in Mumbai, with crowded aisles and tall structures that limit the view of the surrounding countryside. Suddenly, you’re 5 years old and everything around you is tall, confusing and moving too fast.

Then I saw IT in the Umarex booth. I was being shown the new products by one of their reps and the guy said, “Oh, yeah. They also have a new replica of some vintage gun.” My heart leapt within my chest. Would this be the year that they built IT? Would this be the year of the German Luger?

Sure enough, there it was — displayed for all to see. Only it’s NOT a German Luger — or a Luger of any kind. Because, you see, Stoeger purchased the rights to the Luger name back in the 1920s, so the only pistol that can bear that name legally has to be sold by them.

That’s okay, though, because what we know as the Luger was never called that, anyway — except by us. What the Germans called it was the Pistol ’08, or P-08. It was standardized (not invented) in 1908 for the German army; and because they were preparing for war at that time, they also nicknamed it the para bellum, which is Latin for “prepare for war.” Hence, the name Parabellum that’s come down to us through history. The firearm is chambered for many different pistol rounds, including a 7.63mm bottlenecked cartridge the Swiss favored and also the .45 ACP for American trials. But by far the most popular chambering is the 9x19mm cartridge that’s also called the 9mm Parabellum (and, yes, the 9mm Luger). Is this all beginning to make some sense?

This iconic German selbstlader (self-loader or autoloader) is as recognizable throughout the world by its very shape as the Broomhandle Mauser and the Colt Single Action Army revolver. It’s the one handgun that, when anyone picks it up for the first time, makes them paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, “Now, THAT’S a gun!”

The P-08 is arguably the most ergonomic handgun ever made. Many companies, like Ruger, copied it for their own guns. And, because it’s chambered for the soft-recoiling 9x19mm cartridge, it’s extremely mild to shoot. Even though the gun is designed for ammunition that’s loaded well above today’s standard 9x19mm loads, its toggle-link bolt and recoiling barrel extension absorb so much recoil that it’s a thoroughly enjoyable handgun to shoot. I know, because I owned one and shot hundreds of hot rounds in it!

But I’m not alone in admiring the P-08. Thousands of shooters around the world feel exactly as I do about the gun. Which is why, when Umarex began making their incredible replica pellet pistols and BB guns years ago, the cry went up to build a P-08. The demand was there from the beginning, but, alas, the dream went unfulfilled. Gun after replica gun came out of Amberg, but no P-08. And people wrote me, asking why. The two handguns I’m asked for more than any others are this one and the Single Action Army.

Well, the wait is over. The Umarex P-08 BB pistol is finally here!

The gun
The P-08 BB pistol is all metal on the outside and is pleasingly cold to the touch when you pick it up. A 29.3-oz. unloaded weight gives good heft in the hand without being heavy. The power comes from a standard 12-gram CO2 cartridge stored in the grip. The spring-loaded BB magazine holds 21 Umarex Precision steel BBs. The stick magazine drops free by pressing the contoured round button on the left sight of the grip.

Umarex P-08 CO2 BB pistol magazine
The 21-shot stick magazine drops free of the gun with the push of a button.

I’m testing serial number 12A00004, which tells you it’s an early production gun and you probably have zero chance of buying this one after I’m finished because it’s on loan directly from Umarex. In other words, the production guns aren’t quite here yet. I think this may even be the same gun I saw at the SHOT Show.

The grip panels are black plastic, which is in keeping with later P-08 “Black Widow” firearms. Nothing looks or feels out-of-place. The right grip panel pops off to reveal the CO2 chamber, and the tensioning screw is hidden by the bottom of the magazine that’s molded to appear like the bottom of the firearm mag.

Umarex P-08 CO2 BB pistol CO2 compartment
The right grip panel pops off to install the CO2 cartridge. The cap of the magazine covers the piercing screw.

Let’s talk about that molding for a minute. Umarex has been perfecting their casting processes over the years, and they have arrived at the point where I found it difficult to believe that the toggle link did not move when I examined the gun at SHOT. The pieces are so well-defined and appear to be awaiting a pull upwards on the toggle “ears” (the two large round knobs at the top rear of the pistol) that I fiddled with the gun for several minutes — trying to get it to “work.” It fooled me completely.

I heard disparaging remarks from some readers that if the toggle doesn’t work, the gun is worthless, or words to that effect, but do you think we’re asking too much? This is a not a $250 pellet replica pistol. It’s a $60 BB gun — or at least it will be somewhere near that number. It has the weight and balance of the firearm, as well as the ergonomics and wide trigger blade. Isn’t that enough for what they’re asking? Right now, I have to say that it is for me.

The controls that do work are the mag release, as already described, and the safety, which is identical to the one on the firearm. Even the word secured (gesichert) is written in German, as on the prototype firearm it copies.

Umarex P-O8 CO2 BB pistol safety
The safety is in the same place and has the same German word as on the firearm.

The sights on a short-barreled P-08 firearm are fixed, and the rear notch is integral with the rear part of the toggle link. So, when the gun fires, the rear sight moves as the toggle moves. On the firearm, the front sight, which is attached to the barrel, also moves, because the barrel extension does move back when the toggle link breech is opened. But on the BB pistol, neither sight moves because both the barrel and the toggle link are fixed in place.

The trigger is not adjustable and operates in the double-action mode, only. You’ll have to learn how to control a longer, heavier trigger-pull.

Velocity is supposed to be around 410 f.p.s., which is quite brisk for a BB gun. You’ll definitely want a good backstop when you shoot this air pistol, and everyone in the vicinity will have to wear safety glasses for protection from rebounds.

Other than that, this pistol is what it is — a super ergonomic BB pistol (by copying the P-08 profile exactly) with a lot of realism. I hope it shoots accurately because this is definitely an interesting BB gun.

Umarex P-O8 CO2 BB pistol
This is the first P-08 BB pistol to hit the market. The realism is remarkable.

When can we expect to see it?
I don’t know just when the P-08 will hit the U.S. market, but I would hope it will be by early summer. I will keep an eye out for it.