by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Well, here’s something different! I’m testing an airsoft gun — actually the Tanfoglio Gold Custom Eric Grauffel CO2 blowback airsoft kit — which the distributor calls a softair gun. Many of you don’t remember this, but years ago I used to test airsoft guns for this blog from time to time. Then Pyramyd AIR got a dedicated blogger for airsoft and I stopped reviewing them. Well, that blog is no longer active, so I told Edith I wanted to start testing them again, now and then. I don’t skirmish and I don’t shoot guns at people. So, my interest in airsoft guns is in their realism and how well they shoot. That’s how I’ll be looking at this one. Since realism was the original impetus behind the creation of airsoft guns, I don’t think my views are out of line.
This test is actually the first part of a twofer because there’s also a Tanfoglio Gold Custom CO2 blowback BB pistol that I have. I’ll test that one after I finish this test, but I won’t link the 2 reports to keep the confusion down. The gun I’m looking at is serial number 12021442.
Today’s test isn’t just a gun — it’s an entire shooting kit that comes with a Swiss Arms red dot holographic sight. The pistol comes with a Picatinny sight base attached to the gun but no dot sight in the package, so this dot sight completes the ensemble. And it’s an all-metal gun that weighs 3 lbs., 4.4 oz. without sights, ammo or CO2! That makes it 2.5 oz. heavier than my Wilson Combat .45 ACP when it’s fully loaded! Nothing but metal touches your hand. Although the gun resembles a 1911 somewhat, it’s also clearly different. The grip frame reminds me of a Llama Max II 45L/F hi-cap pistol because it ‘s wider, more rounded and softer than a slabsided 1911.
This firearm is purpose-built as an IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) competition gun. It’s endorsed by 5-time IPSC world champion Eric Grauffel and is a copy of the gun he uses. Its purpose is to place as many shots as possible into the highest-scoring kill zone of silhouette targets in the shortest possible time. The slide has a cocking knob located on the right rear, so you don’t rack the slide to start the gun — you pull back on the cocking knob. Even though the trigger appears to be double-action, this pistol is single-action only. And the trigger-pull is to die for! I’ll get to that in a moment.
A knob on the right rear of the pistol retracts the slide to cock the hammer. Blowback continues to cock the hammer after the first shot until the magazine is out of ammo, then the slide remains open.
With this gun, we have a dilemma. It has blowback action that drives the slide to the rear with each shot, cocking the hammer for the next shot. With most airsoft guns with blowback, you get the feel of recoil that a firearm would have. It isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a good simulation, which is the primary reason these guns have it. However, with this pistol, we want to recover from each shot as fast as possible, so any movement caused by blowback runs counter to the purpose of the gun. We have it and it works, but we don’t really want it — except to cock the hammer. Fortunately, the makers understood that, and the blowback of this pistol does not make the gun bounce in your hand. Throw in the safety, which is wide enough so you can rest your thumb on it, and you’ve got an action pistol that’s still very controllable.
I don’t know how they did it, but the makers of this pistol gave it one of the finest 2-stage trigger-pulls it has ever been my good fortune to try. It’s not a glass-crisp release; stage 2 does have movement. You can feel the blade as it moves, but there isn’t even a hint of creep. I’ll test the trigger for you in Part 2 and give you the numbers. But I’m telling you now — this one is very good!
The gun has an ambidextrous thumb safety that can be used as a thumb rest for your shooting hand. The reason to do this is to reduce the amount of muzzle flip with each shot, allowing you to get on the next target faster. Since IPSC is a timed competition, everything that saves time is a benefit.
The forward part of the grip frame and backstrap are both finely checkered for a better grip. I would want even more checkering, but the gun still grabs your hand well. The backstrap is a full beavertail that goes way back over your shooting hand. The hammer is both bobbed and skeletonized for speed. This pistol showcases the type of race gun features competitors would spend thousands of dollars to get.
The magazine holds both the single CO2 cartridge and 17 6mm airsoft BBs arranged in a vertical double-stack column. The specs say this is an 18-shot magazine, so I will be checking that during this test. The extended magazine release on the left side of the frame cleanly releases the drop-free magazine, and the next loaded mag installs easily in the funnel-shaped butt…because, once again, time is the issue.
Of course, the gun’s caliber is 6mm. The lithographed box indicates the pistol does best with 0.20-gram BBs that are supposed to leave the muzzle at 350 f.p.s. Velocity is also given for 0.12-gram BBs that are supposed to go out at 450 f.p.s. Naturally, I’ll test both claims.
This pistol has a proprietary version of Hop-Up called the BAXS shooting system. It puts a controlled backspin on the plastic ball, giving straighter flight over a longer distance. It’s adjustable and requires partial disassembly of the gun to access the adjustment. The slide has to come off. It’s held on by a disassembly pin, similar to the one found on a Beretta 92FS. I’ll test the efficacy of this for you when I write the accuracy test.
There are no open sights on this gun, as it’s a competition model. But it does come with a Picatinny rail for optical sights. The rail is attached to the left side of the gun’s frame by 4 Allen screws, and there are 4 more threaded holes on the right side of the frame, although the base isn’t symmetrical and cannot be switched over to the other side. The slide is free to cycle beneath the rail and is the reason there’s a cocking knob on the gun.
These days, dot sights reign supreme in IPSC competition, so that’s what’s provided in the kit. The Swiss Arms dot sight is a holographic-type red dot that has 11 levels of brightness and the off position. Naturally, the dot is adjustable for both windage and elevation. I see that the dot is very fat, which helps with rapid target acquisition more than precision; again, time is the crucial factor. So the choice of this particular sight was well thought out.
Yes, there’s a blaze orange muzzle to comply with U.S. import regulations. And, no, it’s not okay to take it off or cover it up. If you get in trouble with this gun and have altered the muzzle, you bear the full brunt of liability for the problems it causes.
There’s also a compensator on the muzzle of the gun. It would work if the gun had the volume of gas that’s generated by a .45 ACP cartridge. But with CO2, it’s just there for looks.
I know handguns, and this KWC (Taiwan) airsoft pistol blows me away. It isn’t just good — it’s great, and you can tell it was purposely made that way. There’s no luck involved here — this pistol is intentionally meant to be wonderful.
I know it isn’t a precision target pistol; but it’s made for a type of target shooting, so it has to be accurate. Right? I’ll try to test it in the way it was intended to be shot.
I didn’t select this pistol on my own. I asked Pyramyd Air’s airsoft expert, Sergey, to send me the best gun he has. And this was his choice. I haven’t fired one BB through it, yet I’m already inclined to agree with him!