By Dennis Adler
When Carl Walter GmbH introduced the 4.5mm (.177 caliber) CP99 air pistol in 2001 it was regarded as a “training gun” by the renowned German armsmaker. It was, in fact, so accurate in appearance, weight and general operation that German police departments (who carried the P99 and P99 variations) used them for training purposes. At the time, the CP99 was as close to “authentic” as an air pistol came, with the exception of the Beretta 92FS, also manufactured by Walther’s parent company, Umarex. Both, however, were pellet guns that fired eight rounds from a rotary magazine inserted at the breech. Fifteen years later these two models are still being produced, but over that same period Walther began planning even more authentic .177 caliber BB semiautomatic air pistols. At the forefront today are two new models, the CP99 Compact and PPS, both of which not only duplicate the size and operating features of the real 9mm handguns they are based upon, but also have blowback actions which cycle the slide and chamber the next BB from a magazine contained in the grip. This redefines “training gun” because these are real Walthers made by Walther!
Blowing back in the wind
When Walther began work on the latest CP99 the decision was made that it would have a blowback action for more realism and that it would not be the full size P99 version like the pellet gun, but rather the newer P99 Compact variant. While the CP99 is not an exact copy of the 9mm (and .40 S&W) Compacts, it shares the same frame, slide and standard grip dimensions, trigger design and integrated ambidextrous triggerguard magazine releases. Where the gun differs in actual operation is that the BB magazine and CO2 capsules are not contained within a single magazine, as they are in a number of current Umarex semi-auto designs. The BB magazine still loads into the grip, but it is a thin, stick-type with a grip-sized floor plate, and the CO2 capsule is inserted by removing the backstrap panel. The air pistol also has a manual safety on the right side of the frame which is not used on the cartridge-firing P99 models. The overall handling of the air pistol, however, is nearly identical including the dustcover accessory rail (there is even a Walther laser available for the air pistol), triggerguard configuration, and grip contour, making this an excellent training aid for drawing, re-holstering, slide operation, magazine release and sighting drills. The guns are available in two versions, a black polymer frame and black metal slide and in two-tone with a brushed stainless look slide. Both have a very pocket friendly retail price of around $100! You can spend that much on a few boxes of ammunition for a 9mm P99 Compact.
In terms of weight and balance, the air pistol is a little heavier at 27 ounces; the actual P99 Compact weighs 20 ounces (empty), but the two have the same balance in the hand. When you pull the trigger on the CP99 Compact and the slide comes back there is a sense of authenticity to this Walther air pistol that makes firing it an experience, even if you’re not using it to gain experience.
Walther PPS vs. Walther PPS
The first time you pick up the Walther PPS air pistol you have to wonder how Walther could make a $90 BB gun look and feel so much like a $599 semi-auto. The degree of detail Walther has put into this air pistol to make it look and feel “authentic” also pays off in its value as a training gun. The PPS air pistol has the same operating features as the 9mm model with the exception of a blade safety in the trigger; this has been replaced on the air pistol by a cross bolt safety that can be set and released with the trigger finger. The trigger’s shape is the about the same and trigger pull a bit lighter at 5 lbs., 4.5 oz., compared to the 9mm’s average 7 lbs. 11 oz. It is still enough resistance at nearly 5.5 pounds to give the feel of pulling a real semi-auto trigger. Among other important features duplicated on the PPS air pistol is the use of white dot sights to match those on the cartridge gun, the same slide and magazine release levers, an integrated under-muzzle Weaver rail for mounting a small tactical light or laser, having to pull the slide to the rear to chamber the first BB, and of course, the slide locks back after the last round is fired. Thus, every operation once the gun is loaded is identical to firing a 9mm or .40 S&W PPS model.
To make this head-to-head comparison even more realistic, I used the same holster for both guns, a Galco Combat Master, and the target was set out at a combat distance of 21 feet. The comparison began with drawing the gun, chambering the first round (normally one would carry the PPS with a round already chambered), and firing five rounds. In terms of draw, chambering, sighting and firing, the air pistol gives you the exact same handling with the exception of lighter resistance when chambering the first round, and naturally there is no recoil or report. The next part of the exercise was reloading. The PPS air pistol uses a separate stick magazine that holds 18 steel BBs, but it is still released from, and loaded into the grip, in the same fashion as a 9mm magazine. The practice is in actuating the ambidextrous magazine releases built into the triggerguard, reloading and releasing the slide to chamber the first round. Everything works the same way on both guns. Thus for about $90 you can practice every aspect of handling the cartridge-firing PPS models. As for accuracy, the best 5-rounds of Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ fired from 21 feet with the PPS 9mm measured 1.20 inches. The air pistol nearly matched it with a best five clustered at 1.22 inches. The 9mm rounds clocked 1,124 fps while the PPS air pistol sends its .177 caliber steel BBs downrange at 350 fps. Sighting with both guns was virtually identical. The air pistol has a bit more creep in the trigger but it is close enough to the 9mm PPS to make it a viable training tool. Overall, for training purposes, this is one of the best choices in an air pistol for practicing handling skills with a concealed carry-sized semi-auto. And if you own, or plan to purchase a 9mm PPS, it is a very small investment to become familiarized with the gun, its carry options, (and how comfortably this very narrow pistol can be carried), all before laying down $600 for the real thing. And every time you take that BB gun out to go plinking tin cans or shooting paper targets, you are still practicing with the same pistol you carry!
How Altitude and Pressure Affect Your Multi-Pump Gun
Did you know that altitude and pressure will affect your pump gun? Airgun manufacturers will typically impose a one to 10 time pumping maximum on their multi-pump airguns based on standard day conditions and maximum valve pressure. The pump limit is meant to preserve seals, reduce wear and tear and prevent valve lock. It’s a guide, but not necessarily an absolute.
When the air is thin, multi-pumps have little to compress and therefore get weaker at higher altitudes. There is less air for them to compress and store. That can be offset by pumping more to compensate. For instance, if you live in a mountain state and have an Umarex Next Generation APX or Daisy 880 for instance, you may have to pump 12 to 15 times to achieve the same velocity that 10 pumps produces on a normal day at sea level. On the flip side, if you’re in Death Valley on a winter night just seven or eight pumps might suffice for the same velocity achievable at sea level with 10 pumps.
Pump Guns are the Most Useful of Airguns
Pump guns are the most useful of airguns. Why? You can adjust the pressure at any altitude or temperature to achieve the same velocity without any extra gear just by altering the number of pumps. Pneumatic pump guns don’t require CO2, which is affected by temperature and you don’t have to worry about density altitude like in fixed volume break barrel spring rifles.
Always Use Caution with Pump Guns
Whether you pump just one or two times or experiment to find out how many pumps your gun takes to reach its maximum velocity where you live, be aware that just one pump will send a projectile flying at dangerous speeds. One or two pumps can cause serious injury or property damage. No matter how many times you might pump your airgun, ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Don’t aim or point the gun at anything other than a target or object intended to be used as a target.
by Chip Coone
Chip Coone is a writer for Umarex USA, Inc. The writings of Chip Coone are not representative of Umarex USA, Inc. or its affiliates or parent companies and are the opinion or reflection of Chip Coone.
I have the pleasure of speaking to hundreds of folks each year. Many are already hardcore airgunners, but others are still sitting on the fence and have one very specific question. That question is simply “why airguns?” It’s actually an easy question to answer and it’s what we are going to address in this article.
Usually my first response to the question of “why airguns” is why not? If you like to shoot, airguns are another opportunity to pull the trigger. What I’ve found is that most of the time folks think we airgunners are trying to get people to choose between airguns and firearms, as in one or the other. That could not be further from the truth. It’s not actually one or the other; it’s about adding airguns as another way to get quality trigger time.
The truth is that airguns offer traditional shooters the advantage of more trigger time at a much lower price per round. A quality airgun will cost about the same as a quality firearm. Take for example a decent AR15. Decked out with optics, a decent AR15 is going to run $1000 or more. Shooters can get a very nice PCP airgun with all the gear to keep it going, for about the same price; and that’s on the rifle side of things. When we consider all the replica air pistols on the market, things get really interesting.
But where airguns really shine, is the convenience of being able to shoot in more locations. Provided your city or town permits it, maybe even right in your own back yard. Moreover, the price per round is a fraction of what it costs to shoot firearms. When you compare inexpensive .22LR ammo to quality .22 pellets, you’ll find that you can probably shoot 3 to 4 times as much with a pellet gun than you can with a .22LR. And, if you shoot .177, that ratio can double or triple. If you like to shoot, you can shoot a lot more for a lot less if you add airguns to your collection.
Many shooting disciplines lend themselves to airguns as a supplement for training, as many functions crossover. Some examples may be, learning muscle memory to draw and gain a sight picture on a target, or learning breathing and trigger control for precision shooting. Airguns allow for a more convenient and affordable means for someone to improve their gun handling skills.
Our municipality allows for target shooting with airguns on your own property provided what you shoot, i.e. pellets, bbs, airsoft bbs, etc. do not leave your property and that you don’t violate any noise ordinances. Keeping this in mind I’ve setup two shooting areas in our yard, one short range for pistol practice, and one longer range for rifle practice. Even though we have a tiny yard, we’ve managed to make it work. This allows our entire family to get in that trigger time whenever we like.
We shoot replica pistols on our short 10-yard range to help develop and maintain a basic familiarity with our actual firearms. This does not replace practice and training with live ammo, but rather it is a supplement to keep up our proficiency. In addition, we shoot suppressed air rifles on our longer 22-yard range to work on our precision shooting. We can do this all on our own property whenever time allows, without having to plan a special trip to the range.
Another great reason to look at airguns as a supplement to your firearms collection is pest control, specifically small pests like rats, squirrels, and rabbits, that can cause significant property damage. There are times when it is perfectly legal to remove pests that are causing damage, but illegal to do so with a firearm. .22 caliber and larger airguns fit very well into this situation.
Because they are very quiet as compared to firearms, they can get the job done without disturbing anyone. There is an airgun for every pest out there, regardless the size. Obviously, you need to use good common sense here, but the point is that modern airguns bring a lot to the table in this regard.
Beyond pest control, airguns are also great for small game hunting. Rabbit and squirrel hunting are good examples. They provide a greater challenge than traditional firearms and are inherently safer for developing shooters and young hunters. Again, because they are quieter than traditional firearms, you can often get several shots off before your game even knows what is happening, allowing you to maximize your time in the field and bring home more game.
While the other reasons to add airguns to your collection are all very “practical,” there is another side to them that you just can’t overlook and that’s fun. If you like to shoot, probably a part of you likes the fun of it. Seeing the bullseye in your target being drilled repeatedly is just fun. Airguns allow us to do this just about any time the urge comes along. And, there’s more than just paper out there to shoot.
So many different target options on the market bring shooting fun and airguns together. There are resetting metal targets, knock down targets, heck you can have a lot of fun with paint balls and golf tees, the options are really only limited by your own imagination.
If you have been on the fence about adding airguns to your shooting collection. It’s time to get off the fence and start shooting. I would bet there is something out there that will resonate with how and what you like to shoot. Whether you prefer a serious traditional hunting rifle, a lever action 30/30 rifle, or maybe even an old cowboy action Colt 44 revolver, there is an airgun with your name on it.
Rick Eutsler, Jr. of AirgunWeb & AirgunWebTV
Airgun Critic, Writer, Videographer, and all around lover of Airguns.
Special thanks to Harwood W. Loomis at The M1911 Pistols Organization (www.M1911.org).
Remember the Lone Ranger? Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, and look at one of the newest CO2-powered BB guns offered by Umarex USA, under license from Colt. This is the Colt Peacemaker .177, an incredibly accurately detailed (and fun!) reproduction of a Colt Peacemaker Model from the late 1800s. This is, without a doubt, the most accurate Peacemaker reproduction I’ve ever seen in a BB gun. It looks, feels and acts real.
The level of detail and authenticity is astonishing, carrying through the entire gun. Small details throughout, tell you this is a Colt Peacemaker.
The CO2 cartridge is contained in the grip frame. The left side panel pops off, revealing space for the gas canister in the area where the hammer spring would be in a real revolver. The canister is locked into place by a set screw under the grip frame. A hex key is built into the removable grip panel.
Now for the fun part. Air gun revolvers typically use a small, pinwheel-like disk, with holes for loading the pellets. The disk is then dropped into the gun to shoot. It works, but it doesn’t look or act much like a real revolver. The Peacemaker is different. Rather than load pellets or BBs into a tiny disk, the Peacemaker uses realistic-looking bullets with a hole running length-wise. The center hole contains a rubber sleeve sized to hold a BB that’s inserted into the back end. The bullets are loaded into the cylinder, just like the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. It just doesn’t get more authentic than this.
Between the realistic action and the weight and balance of the all-metal frame, there’s enough six-gun here to “fill yer hand, Pardner” and have fun plinking. The only problem is that you’ll likely want a lot of extra “bullets”, and they are so popular that it’s not easy to buy spares.
The Peacemaker has a manual safety. It’s inconspicuously located under the frame, just ahead of the trigger guard. It’s easily accessed and used, yet it’s out of the way until you need it.
Shooting the Peacemaker is a joy—just like playing cowboys and Indians like us older kids did when we were young. The trigger pull is light and crisp, and because it’s a single action revolver there is little trigger movement. BBs have plenty of power to punch through soda cans, and the Peacemaker is plenty accurate for an afternoon of backyard plinking. The Colt/Umarex Peacemaker is in a class by itself; there is nothing even remotely like it on the market today.
Are there differences between low end, say $200 airguns, and the higher end $500 plus airguns? I mean is it really worth the extra money to purchase a European air rifle over a less expensive clone of the same gun? This is a very good question and one that I discuss all the time with new airgunners.
I’ve been shooting airguns for many years. I started with the inexpensive copies because they promised to be “just like” their European counterpart. After a lot of shooting under my belt, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are huge differences. Many of which you wouldn’t see at first glance, but that become more evident with time.
High End Airguns
Some of the big names in high end airguns are Walther, RWS, Hammerli, Air Arms, Weihrauch, Feinwerkbau, Anschutz, BSA, and the European Beeman models just to name a few. These guns not only look great, but are built to be handed down from generation to generation. I’ve seen many companies attempt to copy mainstays like the Beeman R9, or the RWS 34 & 350 Magnum. But in the end, while they may look similar and may promise similar performance to the real thing, they never actually shoot like the real thing.
There’s a misconception that you’ll need to spend several hundreds of dollars to get a “high end,” quality European airgun. But “high end” doesn’t always have to mean a high price tag. Sure there are some competition products from Air Arms, Anschutz, and Feinwerkbau, that will push the envelope costing nearly $4,000 dollars, but there are also great products from Walther and RWS that can fit into just about any budget, and actually come in priced under some of the non-European imports.
Perhaps my favorite example of an affordable yet “high end” airgun would have to be the Walther Terrus, built in Germany by Walther. It’s easy to cock, easy to shoot, delivers great accuracy and costs under $300 retail. When you get up close and shoot the Terrus side by side a similarly priced, non-European import, the difference is more than just a little dramatic. The cocking stroke is extremely smooth and tight with zero slop. The rifle is very well balanced and great for younger shooters as well as older shooters given its lighter weight and easy cocking stroke. Out of the box the Terrus has about a 2 pound trigger pull that’s more than suitable for bench shooting as well as hunting small game in the field. The shot cycle is also tight, without the usual “twang” or “ping” you would usually get from a spring or gas piston airgun. All in all, it’s perhaps the best “first airgun” for a new airgunners looking to get into the sport.
So What’s the Real Difference?
When it comes to the major differences, it generally starts with the raw materials and goes from there. The standards used by the higher end European airgun manufactures are simply higher than what’s expected from the non-European counterparts. Unfortunately, photos seldom do these products justice. You really need to see them in person and feel the metal and other materials to understand the contrast between high end products vs commodity products.
Once you get one in your hands you can see that the primary distinction is the overall fit and finish. This is most evident as you begin to work the mechanics of the gun. Less expensive guns may take hundreds of pellets to season the internals and get them through the “break in” period. By contrast, quality airguns generally only take a few shots to hit their stride. Some good examples are the Walther Rotek and the Walther LGU. In fact the Walther LGU may be my favorite spring powered airgun for bench shooting. In the right conditions I’ve shot sub 1” groups at 50 yards with my .22 cal Walther LGU. I even had the chance to prove that point on American Airgunner.
Why Should New Airgunners Consider a Better Airgun as Their First Airgun?
As I mentioned earlier, I started my life as an airgunner much like most folks just getting into the sport. I didn’t want to invest a lot because I wasn’t sure if I was really going to like it. Unfortunately my first couple of air rifles where really poor examples of what the sport had to offer. They were cheap, and they performed like it. I actually almost walked away from the sport because I was just not convinced that it had anything to offer me.
But then I had the chance to try something that actually lived up to the potential. That rifle was the RWS 350 Air Magnum. I’d shot many airguns that claimed to be “like” the 350, but there was nothing like shooting the real thing. It’s not a cheap airgun. But, it does everything it claims to do and is a real pleasure to shoot. Once I had experienced what a real airgun could do, I was hooked.
Having been in the sport professionally for almost ten years now, I’ve learned that it’s actually less expensive, and less frustrating, to buy the right airgun the first time. Trying to save money on lessor products just does not work out in the end. They seldom live up to the expectations and the real performance of the higher end options. So if you’re looking into airguns for the first time, or you’ve been frustrated trying to find something that really works as promised, go ahead and raise your sights a little bit and consider some of the higher end European airgun options. You’ll spend a little more up front, but I bet you’ll be glad you did in the end.
Rick Eutsler, Jr. of AirgunWeb & AirgunWebTV
Airgun Critic, Writer, Videographer, and all around lover of Airguns.