Re-experiencing the first blowback action in .177 caliber
A little over 17 years ago, Umarex stunned the world of airgun with the introduction of the first ever blowback action semiautomatic air pistol. Up until that time air pistols that looked like semi-auto handguns did not have slides that moved, or in any way actually functioned like a cartridge-firing pistol. With the debut of the PPK/S in 1999, Umarex and Walther wrote a new chapter in the design and manufacturing of air pistols, a chapter that is continually being revised, even by the original author, Umarex.
The Umarex Walther PPK/S was the first of its kind in two categories, the first Umarex replica airgun for .177 caliber steel BBs, and the first replica airgun with a blowback system. Not only was this the first airgun of its type, it was the first that used the basic fundamentals of the original cartridge-firing model in its design, right down to the disassembly of the Walther PPK/S.
The CO2-powered model managed to stick around through a couple of iterations, including one version with a faux suppressor, (very James Bond), and though not a particularly accurate, nor powerful airgun, its legacy was that of being the first commercially successful CO2-blowback action air pistol in the world. If you didn’t buy one the first year it came out, or the version with the threaded muzzle and faux silencer, this is your next chance to get your hands on a classic, no matter how you feel about its under powered velocities, and still not modern methods of loading the CO2 and BBs.
The very latest model to come from Umarex is a reprise of the same PPK/S model with one very important feature “deleted,” the exposed seating screw handle for the CO2 cartridge. This was a necessary design 17 years ago, but not today. The latest PPK/S which will be available within the month has replaced that awkward telltale handle with an internal seating screw and a separate hex head tool to tighten it. This gives the new PPK/S airgun cleaner lines, and that makes it worth owning all over again!
The majority of original PPK/S air pistol design features have been retained in the new model, including the use of 15-round BB stick magazines which are easy to load and remove from the grip well, using the PPK/S-type magazine release on the frame. The stick magazines are still slow to load since the follower does not lock at the bottom and you have to hold it down while loading BBs into the port at the top; it’s best to stock up and have several ready to go.
The .177 Caliber PPK/S
The Umarex Walther PPK/S uses a 3.5 inch smoothbore barrel, which, like the PPK/S cartridge model is affixed to the frame and surrounded by the recoil spring, thus making the blowback action airgun and cartridge guns identical in operation.
The slide also locks back after the last round is fired so the hammer is cocked when reloading and the gun ready to fire when the slide is released. Unlike the .32 and .380 ACP models, however, the Umarex uses a single action trigger, thus to fire the first round the slide either has to be racked or the hammer manually cocked. The grip contour is just slightly different but very close in size and shape to the cartridge model with the finger extension base plate on the stick magazine. What the airgun lacks is the white dots on the sights (which would be a nice addition), along with a functioning thumb safety on the slide (still cosmetic only on the PPK/S air pistol). In its place the CO2 model uses a frame-mounted safety on the right side, which is easily worked with the trigger finger. These are small compromises for the overall detail and blowback action operation.
To test the new PPK/S air pistol, Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs were used and a target set out at a distance of 15 feet. With the fixed sights and no white dots, target acquisition on a black background like the B-27 silhouette target used for the test is a little more challenging but at that distance it’s more point shooting than precision target sighting.
That said, my first 15 shots all hit in the 9, 10 and X rings with the majority pulling to the left. With a minor correction I put the next 15 across the 10 and X rings with a center-to-center spread of 3.01 inches and a best five rounds inside the X.
Stepping back to 21 feet, the maximum distance for any degree of accuracy with this blowback action air pistol, I put 10 of 15 shots around POA (the 8 and 9 rings at 2 o’clock) inside 4.0 inches, with five flyers going high and low.
Overall, at 21 feet with a 3.5 inch, smoothbore barrel and blowback action, accuracy with the PPK/S was not disappointing but it is more fun to shoot than for accuracy alone. This is simply the latest version of a very cool and significant air pistol in the lineage of blowback action designs; and still worth every penny of the price!
A word about safety
Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.