Colt WWII Commemorative CO2 BB pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right
Colt WWII Commemorative 1911 BB pistol.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

• I shoot BB pistols at 5 meters
• Preparing to shoot
• First group
• Second group
• Pistol not holding open after last shot
• Third group
• The voices in my head spoke to me
• Fourth and final group
• Final evaluation
Pyramyd Air Cup

Today is accuracy day for the Colt WWII Commemorative BB pistol. Since that version is no longer available, I’ve linked you to the Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol in this report, and that continues through today’s report.

I shoot BB pistols at 5 meters
I normally start shooting pellet guns that have rifled barrels at 10 meters, but I shoot BB guns at 5 meters. In the past, I’ve sometimes shot them at 15 feet, which is just over a foot closer. Unless I tell you different, all groups are 10 shots. And because this gun runs on CO2, I’ll wait at least 10 second between shots, even though it’s a semiautomatic that can be shot very rapidly.

I decided to run most of this test with Umarex Precision Steel BBs because this is an Umarex airgun and also because I have found them to be the equal of Daisy Premium Grade BBs in past tests.

Preparing to shoot
The gun was charged and loaded, and I sat down to fire 10 rested shots at a 10-meter rifle target that was placed 16 feet, 5 inches away (5 meters). I used a monopod to rest my hands, and I used a 2-hand hold that was very steady. I held the sights at 6 o’clock on the bull, and the BBs seemed to go to the right of the aim point.

First group
The first group turned out to be the best of the session. Ten BBs went into a group that measures 0.937 inches between centers. As you can see, it’s just to the right of the aim point. To correct this, the rear sight could be moved a little to the left, but I’m going to leave it where it is. I won’t be shooting the gun that much and it’s accurate enough to hit pop cans out to 25 feet or so.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right target 1
This first target was the best all day. Ten Umarex Steel BBs are in 0.937 inches at 5 meters.

Second group
The second group was larger, at 1.279 inches between centers for 10 shots. Still using the Umarex BBs for this one. I tried holding the monopod tighter to reduce any wobbling, but apparently it didn’t matter.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right target 2
Second target measures 1.279 inches at 5 meters. Though the hold was better, the group is larger.

Pistol not holding open after last shot
I’d loaded just 10 BBs for the second group, but the slide didn’t stay back after the final shot. When I checked the magazine, it was empty. Either the slide isn’t coming back far enough to stay open or the spring in the hold-open device is weak and not catching the slide.

Third group
My third group was a little smaller than the second group, at 1.217 inches for 10 shots. I was holding each shot perfectly, and it was disconcerting to see 2 of them rise up and to the right of the bull.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right target 3
This third target measures 1.217 inches at 5 meters. That’s slightly better than the second group but not as good as the first.

The voices in my head spoke to me
At this point, I was satisfied with the test. I figured I knew how good the pistol is and that was that. But then the programming from all you vocal readers kicked in and I could anticipate you asking me why I didn’t test the gun with other BBs. So I did.

Fourth and final group
For the last group I loaded the pistol with Avanti Precision Ground Shot — the stuff the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 shoots. If anything was going to do better in this pistol, this would be it.

However, these BBs didn’t improve accuracy. In fact, they produced the largest group of the session. Ten went into 1.684 inches between centers.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right target 4
This target was shot with Avanti Precision Ground Shot. Ten shots went into 1.684 inches at 5 meters. That’s the worst group of the session.

Final evaluation
This is one of the few times when accuracy isn’t what I’m considering when I evaluate this airgun. And that’s a good thing, too, because there are plenty of less expensive 1911-type pistols that will shoot better. I’ve already tested some of them for you.

What this air pistol has, that the others don’t, is character. It looks like a sidearm that’s been through a war. And that was always the attraction for me. If I want accuracy, I have other air pistols to use — this one is for the nostalgia.

Pyramyd Air Cup
The big event is rapidly coming! If you haven’t registered for the Pyramyd Air Cup shooting tournament and gun fun weekend, then get on it!

It’s October 24-26 and will be 3 great days of shooting. How much you participate is up to you. Shoot field target. Shoot silhouette. Shoot sample guns Pyramyd Air supplies at the sight-in range. Watch the matches. Chat with me, airgun hunter Jim Chapman and Airgun Reporter Paul Capello. Or do all of them!

It’s up to you what you want to do. Any way you slice it, you’ll have fun as you immerse yourself in airguns. All the info is on the special Pyramyd Air Cup website.

Pyramyd Air Cup

Colt WWII Commemorative CO2 BB pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right
Colt WWII Commemorative looks like it went through the war.

This report covers:

• Everything is in the drop-free magazine
• Loading
• Velocity
• Shot count
• The trigger
• Blowback is very realistic
• Both safeties work
• So far, so good

There was a of of interest in Part 1 of this report. Several of you were pleased to learn the differences between the 1911 and the 1911A1. I neglected to mention that the A1 has a larger ejection port on top of the slide, but it does. And 1911 custom builders have always enlarged that port even more, so the port size is important. It doesn’t show up in photos very well, though, which is why I didn’t mention it.

Today, we’ll look at the velocity of the Colt WWII Commemorative CO2 pistol, and you know that the Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol is a version you can purchase right now. The gun in this report was made in a limited edition of 500, and sold out at the 2014 SHOT Show. Pyramyd Air was able to purchase several of them and some lucky folks did manage to get one for themselves; but if you want one now, you’ll have to get the NRA version.

Everything is in the drop-free magazine
As one reader pointed out, this pistol puts both the BBs and the CO2 cartridge in the magazine, with a drop-free design that removes exactly like the firearm mag.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol left
When the magazine is in the gun, the floorplate is flush!

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol left
The large Allen wrench tightens the CO2 cartridge screw in the magazine floorplate so it’s flush. The BBs are loaded in this image.

The pistol is loaded one BB at a time through the top of the magazine. Pull the spring-loaded follower all the way down, and it automatically catches. That makes loading easier. Once I got the knack of loading, I found the job went smoothly, but it isn’t fast. I contacted Umarex USA Marketing Manager Justin Biddle and was told that their Universal Speedloader will work, but you don’t use one of the adapters for this gun. You simply hold the speedloader in place as you press the plunger. If you don’t want to use the speedloader, you could buy several extra magazines and have them pre-loaded. Each magazine you use will need its own CO2 cartridge installed.

Let’s test the pistol for velocity. I installed a fresh CO2 cartridge in the gun, and of course there was some Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip to keep the internal seals fresh and tight.

With the magazine loaded, I commenced firing. The first 10 shots averaged 299 f.p.s., with a spread from 291 to 309 f.p.s. I waited a minimum of 10 seconds (and sometimes longer) between shots.

Then, I conducted an experiment by firing 3 shots fast outside the skyscreens and the fourth shot through them. It went 288 f.p.s. Then 2 more quick shots outside, and another one through the screens at 282 f.p.s.

So, this pistol is no magnum, that’s for sure. But that may be good, because when a BB pistol shoots too fast it can start spraying the BBs like an airsoft gun without Hop-up.

Shot count
To get the total number of shots per CO2 cartridge, I installed a fresh cartridge and shot the gun faster than one round per second — not counting the time to reload. I got a total of 68 shots on that cartridge. However, on shot 65, the slide started coming back much slower. It was obvious the gas was running out. After shot 68, there wasn’t enough gas to blow back the slide far enough to hold it open, so I kept on shooting blanks for 5-10 more shots. Then, I stopped and manually lowered the hammer, exhausting the remaining gas.

The trigger
The first shot was through the skyscreens, so I had no idea what to expect from the trigger. I’m happy to report that it’s delightfully light. I was actually surprised when the first shot fired.

This is a 1911A1 pistol, so naturally the trigger is single-action only. The hammer must be cocked for the gun to fire. Because this pistol has blowback, the slide cocks the hammer for every shot after the first, so all you have to do is cock the hammer the first time. After that, you just pull the trigger.

Using the electronic trigger-pull gauge, I measured the trigger’s release at 2 lbs., 10 oz. That’s lighter than the trigger on my Wilson Combat CQB, and it feels lighter, too! Stage 1 is less than a pound and stage 2, while having some feeling of movement, is reasonably crisp. It is not creepy at all.

Blowback is very realistic
Both this pistol and the NRA pistol have blowback action: When the gun fires, the slide comes back in recoil, just as it would on a 1911 firearm. As it comes back, it cocks the hammer, so all you have to do is keep squeezing the trigger for each shot. The slide has some mass; so when it comes back, it imparts a realistic recoil to the pistol, not unlike that of a .22 rimfire firearm. It’s pleasant and also great for training, because a 1911 firearm does have some recoil.

Both safeties work
As I was shooting, I put the pistol on safe when reloading, and the gun could not be fired. I also attempted to fire the pistol with the grip safety not depressed, and it would not fire. So, both safeties work as they should.

So far, so good
This BB pistol is not just realistic-looking. It’s also very realistic to shoot. I hope it turns of to be accurate, as well, because this would be a wonderful trainer for the 1911.

Colt WWII Commemorative CO2 BB pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol right

Colt WWII Commemorative looks like it went through the war.

This report covers:

• Differences between 1911 and 1911A1
• Closer look at the Colt CO2 BB pistol
• No, you can’t disassemble it
• Why call them 1911s?

Today I have something special for you. I’m reviewing the Colt WWII Commemorative from Umarex that was sold at the 2014 SHOT Show. Only 500 of them were made and they all sold at the show. They’re all gone, and you can only find one on the used market now; but you can buy the very similar Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol that’s still available.

Here’s the funny thing. Neither of these pistols is a Colt 1911. Both are, in fact, 1911A1 pistols, so today I thought I’d explain the differences between these two closely related models.

Differences between 1911 and 1911A1
Right after the 1911 pistol was accepted by the Army, the world was plunged into war — and hundreds of thousands of new soldiers had to be trained to shoot the new service pistol. During and after the war, the Army discovered several things they felt they needed to change on the basic handgun, though the reliability and man-stopping power were exactly what they wanted. These changes were adopted in 1926, and the 1911A1 was born. It consisted of several changes.

Colt 1911 pistol
This is a Colt 1911 firearm.

The pistol shot too low for some soldiers, so an arched mainspring housing replaced the flat mainspring housing. This pushed the pistol up in the hand.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol arched housing
The arched mainspring housing on the left is a 1911A1 feature. The 1911 (right) has a flat housing.

The sights were too fine for most shooters. So the front sight was widened and the rear sight notch was opened to accommodate it.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol front sights
The 1911 front sight (right) was too thin to be of use. The 1911A1 changes widened it.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol rear sight
The 1911 rear sight notch (left) is narrow because of the narrow front sight blade. In the 1911A1, the notch was widened to work with the wider front sight blade.

Shooters with small hands complained the trigger was too far forward — so a new, shorter blade was installed. Also, two scallops — one on either side of the gun — were machined out of the frame behind the trigger, to give the trigger finger greater reach.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol trigger
The 1911A1 trigger (left) was shorter and has scallops cut on either side of the frame for better finger clearance.

A new hammer and grip safety were also installed. They protected shooters with large hands from getting pinched between these two parts when the slide came back to cock the gun. The grip frame was also made a little longer, but the spur on the grip safety sticks so far past it that it really makes little difference. It’s a slight difference that only a collector will notice.

Colt Limited Edition NRA 1911 BB Pistol grip safety
Here you can see the 1911 frame (left) doesn’t extend out as far as the 1911A1 frame on the right. Both pistols have a 1911A1 grip safety installed, which was an Army expedient to keep the 1911s operating in the field.

But here’s the important part. Most of these changes are parts that can be swapped by soldiers in the field, with the exception of the sights, which require some machine work to change. Only two changes are permanent and mark the absolute difference between the two models. The scallops in the frame behind the trigger and the extended grip frame (where the grip safety spur extends) are found only on 1911A1s, while 1911s do not have them.

Closer look at the Colt CO2 BB pistol
The airgun I’m reviewing for you is marked “Model of 1911 U.S. Army” though you can now see the frame scallops and know it’s really a 1911A1. It also has the arched mainspring housing and wide sights of the A1. So the labeling is misleading, though I suppose only a collector would notice.

Let’s not worry about that for now, because this is a very cool BB pistol and so is the NRA Special Edition that’s still available. Instead of producing a shiny new air pistol, Umarex has taken a page from the Cowboy Action Shooter’s book and produced a gun that appears to have suffered the ravages of war. I’ve had thousands of 1911 and 1911A1 firearms in my hands (Army service), and these two air pistols do justice to the distressed, yet completely functional look the sidearms have.

I’ll tell you how taken I am with the gun. When I saw it at the SHOT Show this past January, I didn’t need to think about it. It’s a BB pistol that’s also a connection with the history of our country. I have many lookalike airguns, but this is one of the most realistic.

This gun is a CO2-powered BB repeater. The cartridge fits in what would be the magazine on a firearm, and the BBs are in a single stack in the front of that magazine. Up to 18 BBs can be loaded at one time.

The trigger is single-action, only. In the firearm, the hammer is cocked by the slide recoiling rearward to eject the spent cartridge. Of course, the shooter has to cock the hammer the first time.

The air pistol has blowback action, meaning that the slide comes back with each shot. So, the hammer gets cocked this way and the trigger retains a light, crisp single-action pull.

The velocity is given as 325 f.p.s., but of course we’ll test this. Since some of the gas is used to operate the blowback action, I find this number reasonable.

The pistol is all metal outside and feels like the genuine firearm. The grip panels are interchangeable with those from a firearm. All the controls work exactly as they do on the firearm, which weighs 38 oz. empty. The air pistol weighs 33 oz. without CO2 or BBs.

So, to recap, this air pistol is really a model 1911A1. It has the A1 frame, sights, trigger, grip safety, and high arched mainspring housing. But it does have the 1911-style hammer with the wide beavertail thumb piece.

No, you can’t disassemble it
I looked at the possibility of disassembling this pistol, like the firearm, but it appears not to be made for that. Yes, it comes apart, but you probably don’t want to try it.

Why call them 1911s?
The model number 1911 has become a more generic term for the entire class of pistol. This is similar to the AK47 title being used incorrectly on the far more numerous AKM rifles that number in the tens of millions. People still call them all AK47s, despite the fact that the true AK47 is a very specialized early design made from all milled parts and is rather rare.

I guess we have to live with the term, knowing that it isn’t entirely accurate; and we may need to switch gears when the conversation becomes more technical and specific.

Lookalike airguns: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

In Part 1, we saw seven airguns that copy firearms. Let’s look at some others, plus I’ll give you an appraisal of how one of them functions as a firearm.

This is such a fascinating part of airguns, and the time has never been better for collecting airguns that look like firearms. But lookalikes have been with us a lot longer than many suppose.

The Egyptian Hakim 8mm battle rifle was an adaptation of the Swedish Ljungman 6.5mm rifle. It’s a gas-operated semiautomatic that has close-fitted parts (the Swedish heritage) and an adjustable gas port to adapt the rifle to different ammunition. It’s been called the “poor man’s Garand” and the “Egyptian Garand,” but its operational history tells us it was anything but. Where the Garand operated well in a dirty environment, the Hakim jammed quickly when sand was introduced into the mechanism. Not a gun for use in the desert!

In 1954, Egypt contracted with both Anschütz and Beretta to make a number of training rifles. Anchütz made .22-caliber air rifles, and Beretta made a 10-shot .22 LR semiauto. Navy Arms wound up buying most of the air rifles and importing them to the U.S. in the 1970s. They ranged from a few that had apparently seen little use to the majority that looked like they had been stored in a sewage ditch.

I acquired a Hakim air rifle through a newspaper ad. After discovering what it was, I went on a buying spree that netted me more than a dozen rifles over the next few years. I’ve cleaned and rebuilt them exactly as they came from Egypt, and I’ve also seen a couple that others have cleaned up and tuned. The least I’ve paid for one was $60 and the most was about $150, but the price has risen considerably since those days a decade ago. Today, a good shooting specimen should sell for about $250-300, while a nice one will command considerably more. But beware of the ones that have been reworked, because they’re out there. I see one on Gun Broker that has parts missing, and the starting price is about twice what it’s worth, in my opinion.

The Hakim pellet rifle was made by Anscütz in 1954.

The 8mm Hakim battle rifle is closely fitted and not suited to a dirty battlefield.

The Hakim action is based on the Falke 90 air rifle that I showed you last year. And the Falke 90 is based on the BSA Airsporter. The rifle is an underlever spring-piston action that’s loaded through a tap. And like the Falke, the Hakim is doing very well to make it into the mid-500s with medium-weight, .22-caliber pellets. They can be tuned to shoot faster, but in doing so you lose the calm demeanor the rifle was designed to have and get a bucking, snorting headache machine in return. It isn’t worth it, in my opinion.

Because it’s a taploader, the Hakim will do best with oversized pellets and with those that have thin skirts. I’ve always found RWS Superpoints to be the most accurate in my rifles.

As far as accuracy goes, I had no problem putting 5 shots into a dime at 10 meters. I never really shot the rifle at longer distances, but I think the accuracy would hold together out to 25 yards or so.

Ruger Mark II — Crosman Mark I
I don’t know very much about airguns, but I’ve been shooting and collecting them long enough that, to a newcomer, I can sometimes sound knowledgeable. Several times each year, I’m asked why no one has ever thought about copying the Ruger Mark I and II target pistols. Well, the fact is, they have! But not recently.

You have to go back to 1966 to see the first Crosman Mark I (.22 caliber) and Mark II (.177 and BB caliber) target pistols. They were single-shots and had the lines of the Ruger pistols down pat, as you can see in the photo. Both airguns were powered by CO2 and had remarkable triggers–but also high-quality, rifled barrels. With modern pellets, these guns can hold their own with a firearm Mark I or II out to 20 yards with no problem.

Ruger Mark II above the Crosman Mark I Target pistol. Both are wonderful target sidearms.

My own Mark I air pistol is a delight to shoot; and until I tested it against a Crosman 2240 a couple years ago for a Shotgun News article, I thought it was just about the most accurate pellet pistol I owned — other than an outright competition model. But the 2240 beat it fair and square, so I have to concede that.

Of course, many readers own the Ruger pistol and can tell you what a joy it is to shoot. For less than half what some .22 target pistols cost, the Ruger will keep up with all but the specialty Olympic models. In fact, I’ve gotten rid of Colt Woodsman and High Standard Victor pistols because my Mark II Ruger is everything I need.

Desert Eagle
Several years ago, I got the Magnum Research Desert Eagle .177 pellet pistol to test and ultimately kept it. I was impressed with the accuracy and the blowback action, though this air pistol does use a lot of gas when it shoots. But the thing that impressed me the most was the huge grip. I wondered for years what the actual firearm would be like.

Edith joined me in this curiosity, because she could see how large the grip is. It’s incredibly long front to back, so even though the magazine (of the firearm) is a single-stack design, the grip is still very large.

The Magnum Research Desert Eagle pellet pistol (top) is larger but lighter than the .357 Magnum Research Desert Eagle. The air pistol copies the current Mark XIX pistol, but my .357 is the earlier Mark VII, which accounts for the lack of accessory rails.

Then we happened to see not one but three Desert Eagles in a local pawn shop about six months ago. Edith got to hold the .357 (the other two were .44s), which was the only one I thought we might be interested in, and the salesman was surprised to see her one-hand the gun. Unfortunately, the price was too high and although we made an offer, they declined to accept.

Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago. We happened to stop by the same pawn shop and looked around, but saw nothing. When the salesman asked if we had found what we were looking for, I told him we were looking for a Desert Eagle but none were in the case. He asked us to wait a moment and brought out the very .357 that Edith had looked at previously. Someone had started buying it and didn’t finish paying for it, so it was for sale again.

This information gave us a tremendous bargaining position, because the gun had already earned the store some money. So I lowered my offer from several months earlier (they didn’t remember it) and stood firm. We got this gun!

Now, we have the firearm to compare to the airgun. This is the third firearm we’ve bought on the basis of seeing the airguns first. There was the Walther PPK/S BB pistol that turned into a .22 LR pistol and the Walther Lever Action rifle that became a Winchester 1894 .30-30.

Now that we had the .357 Magnum, I had the opportunity to dispel a rumor that’s very common — namely that a Desert Eagle pistol soaks up so much recoil because of its gas operation and its weight that shooting a .44 Magnum feels just like shooting a .45 ACP. Bull! Our .357 Magnum, which has considerably less recoil than a .44 Magnum, still has at least twice the recoil of a .45 ACP in a 1911 pistol! It’s true that it recoils less than any other .357 Magnum I’ve fired, but that’s not the point. The point is that the gun still kicks hard, and shooters need to know that going in. I did find it very pleasant to shoot about 30 rounds of full-power magnum ammo, which usually starts me flinching if I do the same in a revolver.

As for accuracy, that’ll have to wait for another day. The ammo I was shooting was not what is recommended for the firearm, and the best I could do was an 8-inch group at 50 yards. I know I can do much better than that when the gun does its part. We’ll have to return to this sometime in the future.

Cleaning firearms
I don’t have any place else to put this, so I’m adding it in to today’s post. If you dislike firearms talk, now is the time to stop reading.

For decades, I’ve stayed away from shooting genuine black powder because of the mess involved in cleanup afterwards. Just this past week, as I was reading Ned Robert’s The Muzzle-loading Cap Lock Rifle for the umpteenth time, I happened to pay attention to how he said to clean a rifle that’s been shot with black powder.

When you return home from shooting, boil water and remove the nipple of your rifle. If you have a patent breech, remove the barrel from the stock and stand it in a pail. Pour two quarts of boiling water down the muzzle while holding the barrel with a towel wrapped around it. It does get very hot! You will see particles of black soot coming out of the nipple hole.

Then, let the rifle stand until the barrel cools down to just warm. When it is cool enough to hold, run an oil-soaked swab down the bore several times. I used Ballistol on a wool mop, and it worked perfectly.

This entire process took about 10 minutes start to finish. The next day, I ran a dry patch down the bore and removed the excess Ballistol. No dirt came out! The rifle is sparkling clean. I even looked down the bore with a tactical flashlight, and all I see is clean rifling.

This process won’t work as well for a flintlock because of the small flash hole not draining water fast enough. But with a cap lock, this is the easiest way I’ve even seer to clean a rifle. My centerfire rifles take longer and are messier and more involved than this charcoal burner, which is a .32-caliber by Thompson Center! I’m going to stop shooting black powder substitutes and return to the genuine product, now that I know how to clean my gun so fast.

Marinate the barrel
The black powder process reminded me of another great cleaning tip I learned. If you don’t want to clean your gun right away, coat the bore liberally with Ballistol and let it sit and “marinate” for several days. Using this process, Mac and I have cleaned dozens of guns that hadn’t been cleaned in many years. Ballistol softens the residue and makes it come out with minimal effort when you finally get around to cleaning.

Get the rust out
Earlier this year, Mac acquired a Ruger Mini-30, which is a Mini-14 chambered for 7.62×39. The rifle appeared to be in excellent condition until you looked down the barrel. It was coated with red rust that even repeated soakings of Ballistol could not remove. What happened is that an owner unknowingly shot military surplus ammo in his rifle without appreciating that it is corrosive. It then rusts the bore within a couple of days.

So, I fired three rounds through the gun and then cleaned it. The bore came out sparkling — with no trace of pitting or frosting from the rust. When I finished cleaning the gun this time, you could not tell that it had ever been abused.

The reason I knew this would work is that I used to encounter a lot of GI 1911A1 guns back in the 1960s that had the same problem. Uncle Sam used some corrosive pistol primers in WWII, and that ammo was still available in quantity in the 1960s. The guns that shot it often had rusted bores. But shoot a couple rounds of FMJ through them, and they cleaned up just like it never happened.

Lookalike airguns: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Aliabas Abas is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card.

Aliabas’ winning photo. Looks like he’s got a Gamo.

I had a different blog prepared for today, but I can’t use it because the products haven’t arrived at Pyramyd Air yet, and I don’t want to talk about something that you can’t get.

Yesterday’s blog got me thinking about lookalike airguns. I mentioned that Crosman had made the M1 Carbine BB gun that I love so much, and they made a host of others like the SA-6 that resembles a Colt SAA revolver, and the 38-T and 38-C revolvers that look something like Smith & Wessons.

Today, I want to talk about many airguns that are lookalikes. Some of these are airguns that are seldom seen, though they exist in quantity, while others are very unique. Let’s go!

I owned a Makarov BB pistol before I ever bought the actual firearm. And the pistol I owned was made on a genuine Makarov firearm frame. Then, I got a Bulgarian Mak in 9x18mm that hasn’t jammed or failed to feed one time in close to a thousand rounds. It’s accurate and has a soft recoil.What a great gun it is!

Then to my surprise, Umarex brought out their Makarov BB pistol, and it turned out to be a superior airgun. If you ever saw the American Airgunner TV show, it was the Makarov that I used to teach Crystal Ackley to shoot. And after a single lesson, she started out-shooting Paul Capello, me and even a national silhouette champion — WITH HIS OWN AIRGUN!

Mak firearm at top, then the first BB gun Mak that was made on a firearm frame and the Umarex Mak on the bottom. When I put these away, I got confused and put the Umarex gun in my nightstand, where the firearm should be!

M1911 A1
I was a 1911 fan long before Umarex brought out their CO2 version of the Colt M1911 A1, which is why I got one to keep forever. The realism is astounding. Of course, today I could say the same about many new BB pistols, because the 1911 is one of the most-copied firearms of all time.

Taurus PT 1911 on top, genuine World War I 1911 in the center and Umarex Colt 1911 A1 CO2 pistol at the bottom.

The Walther PPK/S is the airgun that got me interested in lookalikes. I owned the Crosman M1 Carbine; but when I got the WaltherPPK/S, I decided that I also had to own the firearm, as well. So I got a .22-caliber PPK/S that’s a bit of a rarity on its own.

Both are genuine Walther PPK/S pistols. Top is a .22 rimfire. Bottom is a BB pistol.

M1 Carbine
I’ve owned three Crosman M1 Carbines. The first had a wood stock, which was only made in the first two years of production (1966-1967). Then I owned one with a Croswood (plastic) stock, but I let it get away. Then Mac gifted me the one I own today, which also has the Croswood stock and the original box.

I would own this even if it weren’t any good as an airgun because of the association with the military rifle, but the irony is that this is also one heck of a BB gun! It’s powerful and accurate and has fully adjustable sights. What’s not to love?

The M1 Carbine is so very popular that besides the 6 million that were produced during World War II, there have been millions more made commercially after the war. They’re still being made today! And some of these commercial guns are in calibers other than .30 Carbine. My .22 Long Rifle German-made Erma made for Iver Johnson is one such gun. So, here were have an original firearm, a copy that is also a firearm, as well as an airgun copy.

Genuine military carbine on top, then an Erma .22 carbine and the Crosman BB gun at the bottiom.

Walther Lever Action
The Walther Lever Action is a copy of the iconic Winchester 1894 lever action rifle that ushered in the era of smokeless powder for the maker. Except for the butt that is larger to house the 88-gram CO2 cartridge, it’s very similar to the firearm. Not only is this air rifle a close copy of the firearm, it’s also very accurate and a fun gun in its own right! While pricy, it’s worth it if you value the similarity to both the look and operation of the firearm it mimics.

A Winchester 1894 30-30 on top and a Walther Lever Action at the bottom. The firearm has a side-mounted scope, because it ejects empty cartridge cases straight up.

Daisy model 26
Not to be outdone, Daisy had its own lookalikes — starting with the 1894 lever-action and progressing to a copy of the BB gun you’re about to see. They copied the Remington Fieldmaster 572 — a slide-action (pump) — .22. Why they chose that particular model, I don’t think we’ll ever know. When I asked at Daisy, they told me that firearm was such a classic! Yeah! Like a Hudson Hornet is a classic car! Anyhow, they made a beautiful lookalike BB gun that was first marketed as the model 26 for reasons no one seems to know, and then as the model 572, which is understandable. The guns are identical, but the model change allows collectors to date their guns to a certain degree.

Daisy’s model 26 was the first copy of the Remington Fieldmaster 572. Daisy later changed their model number to 572.

Something really odd
Up to this point, you could buy any of these airguns or firearms within a couple of months of diligent searching here in the United States. Now I want to show you something that I bet you’ve never seen and were not even aware that it existed. Even advanced airgun collectors do not know about what you’re about to see.

In 1976, this country celebrated its 200th anniversary and the party was huge. I was in Germany at the time, so I missed it, but I see the reruns on TV all the time.

One gun manufacturer — called Ultra-Hi — had been manufacturing black powder guns in Japan and decided to make an airgun to commemorate the bicentennial. An underlever BB gun was made that looked very much like an 1840s caplock rifle. Airgun collectors know about the Pioneer ’76 and consider it very collectible.

What they don’t know is that Ultra-Hi copied one of their own black powder rifles when designing this BB gun. Here, for the first time, you’ll see both the BB gun and the muzzleloading rifle it copied.

Here’s an airgun and firearm pair nobody knows about. The Ultra-Hi Pioneer ’76 on top is a BB gun that is well-known among collectors. The Ultra-Hi .45-caliber percussion rifle underneath is the gun nobody knows about. Both guns have fake brass-colored plates where there should be patchboxes, and both rifles have stocks made from two separate pieces of wood to save money. The brass strip on both stocks hides that fact.

What comes next?
I made this Part 1 in case this is a subject that interests you readers. This is an area of airgun collecting that’s nearly ignored, because airgun collectors often don’t like firearms and firearm collectors don’t care for airguns, as a rule.

I’ll watch your reactions to what I’ve shown today to determine if it’s worth pursuing this subject any farther, but from the response to yesterday’s report on the Crosman M4-177 Multi-Pump Air Rifle, it looks like it might be.

Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

Today is accuracy day; before we begin, I’d like to share a Beeman P1 anecdote with you. I interviewed Robert Beeman for the podcast that will go live in the near future. After we were finished, he told me some stories about the old days, when Beeman Precision Airguns was getting started. This one relates to the P1 and the gun that was never designed.

After the success of the R1, Robert and his wife, Toshiko, embarked immediately on the design of the P1 pistol. They wanted a powerful spring-piston pistol made with the handling characteristics of the M1911A1 pistol. They also wanted dual power levels. They had sketches drawn and took their ideas to Hans Weihrauch for implementation.

Several months passed, and the Weihrauchs called the Beemans to Europe to see the new gun. When they arrived, they were ushered into a conference room where both Hans and his wife, Christa, were waiting along with both their sons. Everybody was hopeful that the design would blow away the Beemans.

When they showed the gun to Robert, he said, “What is this?” This is a single-stroke pneumatic. We wanted a powerful spring-piston pistol with dual power.”

“But you left the firing mechanism blank on the sketch!” was the reply.

“Yes. Because we aren’t airgun designers. We figured you would know what to put in that space to make the gun we wanted.”

“We thought you left it blank to indicate an air reservoir!”

Needless to say, the meeting did not go the way the Weihrauchs had hoped, but they asked for a few more months and would deliver the Beemans exactly what they wanted.

When the Beemans returned home, they had an artist sculpt a chalk model of the pistol to better guide the effort. It was darkened with finish and sent to Germany. A couple months later, they flew back to view what we now know as the P1.

A year after that, Hans Weihrauch caught Robert and said, “Herr Beeman, would you like to see the pistol you designed?”

Beeman knew he hadn’t designed any other air pistol, but he said yes out of curiosity. The Weihrauchs brought him the single-stroke pistol we now know as the P2. It was nearly an exact copy of the P1, but of course it operated entirely different. Beeman was so impressed that he added it to his growing line of airguns.

Pyramyd Air no longer imports the Beeman P2 pistol, but they still carry the Weihrauch HW 75, which is the same gun.

Accuracy test
I’m still not strong enough to hold the pistol properly, so I shot off a rest with my shooting arm rested on a sandbag and the pistol extended out in front of the bag. I held the gun as I described in the last report, and it made a huge difference. The distance was 10 meters.

My eyesight has improved to the point that I was able to shoot with my prescription shooting glasses. With a 500-watt light on the target, the bull was very sharp, and with concentration I could bring the front sight blade into sharp focus, too.

These shooting glasses have my prescription lens in the sighting eye. I used them when I competed in 10-meter pistol, and they still do the job.

Not surprisingly, the gun shot to a different point of aim, so it had to be resighted for this rested hold. I used a conventional 6 o’clock hold on the target.

I shot 5-shot groups instead of 10-shot groups, for reasons you will soon see. In a match, a competitor only shoots one pellet per bull because of the difficulty of scoring multiple hits stacked so close to each other.

RWS R 10 Match Pistol pellets
The first pellet I tried was the RWS R 10 Match Pistol pellet. It’s always been good in this P1.

The sight-in target was five RWS R 10 pellets. It showed promise, but the sights needed adjustment.

The sights needed to come down and to the right, which was easy to do since the P1 sights are so adjustable. All it takes is a thin-bladed screwdriver. It took several more targets to get the sights dead on, but that was good practice for this unconventional hold I was using.

Five R 10 pellets score a perfect 50. This is why I don’t shoot 10 pellets at the same target. When they clump together like this, it’s difficult to see the individual holes. Back when I was competing, I could sometimes do this with my target pistol in a conventional one-hand hold, though I don’t think I ever did it with a P1.

The best target really is a great one. Ask any 10-meter pistol shooter how hard it is to shoot five 10s in a row like that. Of course, my arm was resting on a bag in this test, so this wasn’t that difficult.

H&N Match Pistol pellets
Next, I tried some H&N Match Pistol pellets. They do well in P1s, though in the past I’ve used the Finale Match Pistol pellets that are a little more expensive.

Five H&N Match Pistol pellets also produced a good target, though not quite as tight as the R 10s.

The bottom line
The Beeman P1 is an exceptional air pistol. If you don’t believe me, just read all the comments from other owners who have had the same experience.

The one thing I wish I hadn’t done was lighten the trigger-pull, because now the pistol is too sensitive. Air pistols need triggers that have at least 1 lb. of resistance, and this one now breaks at just 11 oz., making it too sensitive. You can control that in a rifle, but not in a pistol.

I’ve tried this gun with both red dot sights and scopes. It works fine with both, but being a veteran handgunner, I do not care for optical sights. As long as my eyes can still see the front sight, I’m not going to use them.

The power of this pistol is legendary. And I’ve shown you in this report that the power doesn’t diminish over time. The lube tune I did was probably unnecessary and cost me some velocity, so I would just start shooting a P1 as it comes from the box and leave it alone. Remember to dry-fire the gun two times on high power if it ever starts detonating.

Dr. Beeman said this is one of the four airguns he would rather not do without, and I can see why. It’s an heirloom airgun that will perform well throughout the years for both you and those to whom you pass it when you are through.

Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Here’s this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 gift card.

A departure from the usual camo-wearing players we see in airsoft skirmishes, Joey Demonti is wearing a suit and overcoat. I don’t know which scenario he’s playing out, but the Thompson should take care of it. Wonder where he put his violin case?

Part 1
Part 2

The Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

Today’s report is a special one, requested by several readers who want to learn how to hold their Beeman P1s for best accuracy. I wrote about this originally in the January 1996 issue of The Airgun Letter.

It started with the 1911
Like most of you, I grew up thinking the Colt 1911 semiautomatic pistol (and its many variants) was a hard-kicking, inaccurate sidearm. I was very familiar with wheelguns in the early 1970s, but not so much with pistols. I even owned two 1911s by the time I went into the Army as a second lieutenant in 1970, but neither of them had changed my opinion of the gun or the cartridge. The funny thing was that I was reloading and shooting Colt Single Action Army revolvers with the much harder-recoilling .45 Colt cartridge that I loaded to Elmer Keith’s specifications, so I wasn’t recoil-shy. But something about the old slabsided pistol turned me off.

As a young officer in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, it fell to me quite often to run firing ranges for annual qualification and familiarization. In the cavalry, we had more weapons than typical soldiers, so not only did we have to qualify with the M-16 and the .45 if we carried them (which I did), but we also had to shoot a plethora of machine guns and the M3A1 submachine gun. Cavalry units don’t have just one kind of machine gun. We had four — five if you count the 20mm automatic cannon we had on the M114A1E1 scout vehicle. And there are 40mm grenade ranges, demolition ranges, mortar ranges, etc. In short, it was the best of times for a gun-lover like me.

One day I was running the squadron qualification range for the 1911A1 pistol. Out of a thousand men, perhaps 400 were armed with the pistol and had to qualify, so it was a long two days on the range for me and my non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who are all sergeants of one level or another. We had shooters lined up 20-25 at one time with one safety NCO to every four shooters and then several other safety personnel behind them, all the way back to me and my bullhorn.

Hour after hour, I watched men shoot the pistol, sometimes kicking up dirt 10 feet in front of them as they flinched in anticipation of the discharge. The safety and operations personnel could never relax because all one shooter had to do was turn around with a cocked and loaded pistol in his hand and there was trouble. To say all of us were focused is an understatement.

Then, the brand new Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Bonsall, arrived at the range in his jeep. I had never seen a lieutenant colonel at a small arms range before. I’m sure they went, just never when I was running the range. The colonel introduced himself, because I hadn’t met him yet –he was that new. Then, he asked to qualify. Well, sure he could qualify. It was his range, when you got down to it!

I directed him to a table upon which we had about 50 pistols waiting for the next shooters. You’re supposed to qualify with your own weapon, but to keep the range moving we had 50 pistols that the entire squadron used. That way there weren’t a lot of malfunctions. After weeding out the bad magazines in the first few relays, we had the range running smoothly. It was also much easier to clean only 50 pistols instead of 400.

Colonel Bonsall selected a weapon and took his place on the line with another 24 shooters. The shooting commenced and that’s when I lost track of him until my chief NCO came up and discretely asked me if I had noticed the colonel’s target. We were shooting at man-sized silhouettes at 25 yards. Each man got a fresh target when his relay began and the course of fire was 50 shots at the silhouette. We called it qualification but it was really more like annual refresher training. Most of the silhouettes looked as though they had been peppered by a shotgun firing huge balls. But the colonel’s target had a small hole right where the heart should be. He had fired about 30 rounds through a one-inch hole when I caught up with him, and the rest of his shots didn’t stray far from it.

The upshot of that day at the range was that our new commander wore the Army Distinguished Pistol Shot badge, a qualification badge so rare that not only had I never seen one, I had never even heard of it! And I was a gun buff serving in the Army! As of 2006, there were 1,689 Distinguished Pistol Shot badges awarded since its inception in 1903, making the badge rarer than the Army Medal of Honor that has been awarded over 2,000 times, though admittedly over a 40-year longer span of time.

The U.S. Army Distinguished Pistol Shot badge is a rare shooting distinction.

After we cleared the colonel off the range, I examined the pistol the he’d used for his demonstration. It was a typical loose-as-a-goose arms room M1911A1 with green phosphate finish and brown plastic grips. It had probably been made around or just before World War II, and the only special care we gave it was to bring it to the range in the bed of a 2-1/2-ton truck inside a wooden footlocker with 49 others just like it. When it wasn’t being shot, it laid on a table in the hot sun while dust blew over it and through it all day long. By the time the colonel got his hands on it, it had probably already been fired several hundred times without cleaning or lubrication. The parts inside were just good enough to avoid condemnation during a major inspection.

That was the day when Elmer Keith’s last printed lie turned out to be true — you really CAN hit a man at 100 yards with a 1911 pistol. Repeatedly! But you have to know what you’re doing. Anyway, the colonel got my attention. Being a kindred gun buff, he taught me how to shoot the pistol. Now, I’ll pass on to you what I learned from him.

It’s all in the hold and the trigger action
How you hold the 1911 or the 1911A1 determines how tight it will shoot. Yes, the gun can be gunsmithed to shoot even tighter, but even a tired old clacker will surprise you if you hold it right. The Beeman P1 has the same grip frame and responds to the same hold in the same way.

You must always grip the pistol the same way every time you hold it. Hold the palm of your shooting hand flat with the thumb extended and place the pistol into the web of your hand. The three fingers that aren’t the trigger finger should be wrapped around the grips, and the thumb comes in on the other side of the grip, Now — and this is the key — you squeeze the pistol straight back into the web of your hand with the middle finger, which is the highest of the three fingers wrapped around the grip. The other two fingers apply absolutely no pressure on the gun. They’re just along for the ride. The thumb also puts no pressure on the gun. Only that middle finger squeezing straight back.

This graphic is copied directly from the January 1996 edition of “The Airgun Letter.” It illustrates the correct hold.

The other aspect of this hold is that the trigger finger presses straight back until the gun fires. Use the pad on the end of the finger for this, not the crease under the knuckle or any other part of the trigger finger. The object is to exert as little sideways influence as possible, so the gun always recoils in exactly the same way. Once you learn to shoot like this you will always be able to outshoot those who use a two-hand hold. They can move the gun faster from one target to another, but you have precision on your side.

A lot has been written about the P1’s recoil simulating that of a firearm. In my opinion, it doesn’t do that at all. The P1’s recoil is quicker than that of a .22 rimfire, and it’s nothing like the recoil of the .45 ACP. It does move when it fires, though, and that’s what this special grip is designed to counteract. Think of it as the artillery hold for pistols.

One last update
I took out my 1996 newsletter for this report and I read what I had said back then. Everything is still true today. I didn’t bother mentioning in the newsletter where I’d learned how to shoot this way, but I thought it was appropriate to do so here because I know you guys better than I knew my newsletter subscribers. You know my weaknesses and have come to understand that I’m not a special shot. What I do well, I do because others who were far better taught me how.

In reading that article, I saw that after a 500-shot break-in period, the pistol was shooting RWS Hobby pellets at an average of 593 f.p.s. As I’d mentioned in Part 2 of this report, my lube tune did slow down the gun quite a bit.