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!
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.
By Dennis Adler
Collectors call them “snake guns,” Pythons, Diamondbacks, Cobras, Anacondas, King Cobras, etc. Colt once had an entire lineup of famous double action revolvers named after snakes, and each and every one, in its own right, has become collectible, some more than others. At the top of the order was the Colt Python. Back in the 1950s and well into the late 20th century revolvers were king among law enforcement sidearms, and one of the most popular was the Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, introduced in 1955.
The .357 Magnum Colt Python was one of two significant revolvers introduced in 1955, making it a very memorable year for Colt. The other was the second generation Single Action Army. The Python was a superbly designed and handcrafted gun, harder to manufacturer because it was built to a standard that only Colt could live up to; Pythons took longer to make than any other production pistol at the time because each was hand fitted and hand polished to perfection. And they were unmistakable for any other revolver, bold in shape with a full length bull barrel, fully shrouded ejector rod and full length stippled vent rib. The grips were big and distinctively shaped to provide a firm hold on the heavy recoiling .357 magnum, which came with a standard 6-inch barrel. An optional 4-inch barrel (popular with law enforcement) was also offered, a short-lived 3-inch barrel (Combat Python), long 8-inch target barrel length, and the very desirable compact model with a 2½-inch barrel and smaller Colt Service grips for easier concealment. Add the standard fully adjustable white-outline rear sight, a 1/8-inch front ramp with red inset, handsome Colt Royal blue finish or high polish nickel, and you had guns with instant appeal. Built like a target pistol the Pythons came with a distinctive wide spur checkered hammer and grooved, curved trigger. Overall weight for the standard 6-inch model was 44 ounces, 41 ounces with the 4-inch barrel.
Used by the California Highway Patrol, Colorado and Georgia State Police, and Florida Highway Patrol, among others, the Python’s remained popular with civilians and law enforcement alike in the decades leading up to the transition to semi-autos in the 1980s. By the 1990s high capacity semi-autos sealed the fate of the revolver as a primary sidearm for the vast majority of law enforcement agencies. By the early 21st century the Python and all Colt revolvers, save for the Single Action Army, were discontinued.
A little more than a year ago Umarex got together with Colt to build an authentic copy of the famed Single Action Army. To make this gun as authentic as possible the six-shot Peacemaker was literally a six-shooter using brass bullets that loaded a single steel BB into each cartridge. You loaded and unloaded the air pistol exactly as one would a real .45 Colt SAA. The concept of the BB cartridge opened the door for Umarex and Colt to take the cartridge-loading air pistol to the next level and reproduce the second most famous Colt wheelgun in history, the Python. This new double action, single action airgun is nearly identical is size, weight and operation and load their charge of six rounds either individually or with an included speed loader. (Extra cartridges and speed loaders are also available for just $22.95 a set).
The Hands-on Test
The moment you pick up the Colt Python airgun you have a sense of authenticity in their weight, balance, and very familiar operation. The guns even fit existing Colt Python holsters like the Galco thumb break belt holster shown. With a very modest suggested retail of $149.99 the Pythons are available in a deep matte blued black or nickel (actually chrome) finish with authentic wood grained or black checkered plastic grips. (The nickel chrome versions are a Pyramyd Air exclusive).
The BB-cartridge loading six-shooters weigh in at 39.4 ounces (empty) just 4.6 ounces less than a real Python with 6-inch barrel. The double action functions smoothly with a double action trigger pull averaging 10 lbs. 11 oz. and 6 lbs. 7 oz. single action. The wide notch rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage with a serrated ramped front sight for easy target acquisition. It is a hand-filling revolver, just like the original .357 Magnum models.
At a glance the Umarex/Colt Python air pistols look incredibly accurate, and they are for the most part, but there are some noteworthy differences aside from what comes out the barrel. For one, there is an important and discretely placed serrated manual safety lever at the base of the hammer that allows the gun to be locked so the action will not function. This is a good design, especially on the blued gun where it is almost indistinguishable against the dark finish. There is a corresponding window on the right side of the frame that displays a white S or F to denote the pistol’s condition. The guns have the original “PYTHON .357” and “.357 MAGNUM CTG” markings on the left side of the barrel and the Rampant Colt on the frame just below the cylinder release.
Unlike many CO2 powered revolvers the Python does not require removing a grip panel to insert the 12 gr. cartridges; rather like semi-autos with interchangeable magazines, the base of the pistol grip has a recessed, threaded cover that unscrews allowing the CO2 to be inserted, and then with the cap replaced, it is turned tight with an enclosed hex head wrench to pierce the cartridge and ready the gun for firing. This keeps things looking and working more authentically since the grips are actually screwed to the frame and have Colt emblems. Now for the differences; the frame is just slightly higher to accommodate the air pistol action, the ramped front sight atop the vent rib does not have the red insert, and the rear lacks the white outline, minor details but a difference. The speed loaders are easy to use and make loading the six BB-charged rounds as close to the real thing as it gets.
For the range test I used one of the best steel BBs on the market, Hornady Black Diamond black anodized BBs. The rounds are simply pressed into the hollow point bullet nose, and you can do this quickly by placing all six cartridges into the speed loader (just seat the cartridges and lock the release) then press the rounds into a tin holding a quantity of BBs. They find the hollow point openings and with a little downward pressure are loaded all at once and ready for the cylinder drop. Just make sure they are seated all the way in.
With the 6-inch barrel, excellent sights, an average velocity of 400 fps, and light, crisp, single action trigger pull, the target was moved out from the usual 21 feet used for semi-auto blowback action airguns to a more competitive 10 meters (33 feet). The test was done with the blued gun with two six round sets being discharged at a Birchwood Casey 3.75 inch circumference Big Burst orange target. The gun was consistent placing all 12 steel BBs inside the 10 and X rings with a best six measuring 1.5 inches.
Overall the Umarex Colt Pythons airguns are a great deal of fun to shoot and despite being air pistols they have a certain panache that only a Colt can deliver, even if it is only pushing a .177 caliber BB downrange. For more information visit umarexusa.com.
In 1955 Colt re-introduced its famous 1873 Single Action Army revolver. It was a welcomed reprise of “The Gun That Won The West” and Colt has never looked back, still manufacturing the legendary Peacemaker since 1873 – with a brief hiatus caused by the demands of WWII that kept the Single Action out of the lineup until 1955.
Over the decades there have been many variations of the Peacemaker but never a BB cartridge loading CO2 model, that is until Colt and Umarex teamed up to build an authentic .177 caliber Single Action Army in 2015. The gun is accurate in almost every detail, right down to the Colt patent dates and Rampant Colt emblem on the left side of frame. When I first saw this air pistol last year I was not only amazed at the engineering that had gone into making this all-metal six-shooter, but how all of the famous Colt features had been incorporated right down to the loading gate, ejector housing, hammer, triggerguard, and grip contours. It’s as close to the real deal as you can get without loading .45 Colt cartridges.
At about 33 ounces it’s a little lighter than a .45 Caliber 5-1/2 inch barrel length Colt Peacemaker, but the Colt Umarex SAA has the same looks except for the addition of a manual safety discretely hidden under the fame and just forward of the triggerguard. The nickel version is a dandy of a gun that will open up whole new avenues for Cowboy Action Shooters to practice quick draw and shooting from the hip, pistol handling and target shooting at close range without the expense or cleanup of black powder or smokeless powder .45 Colt rounds or wax bullets. Dimensionally, the BB gun is dead on. The rebounding hammer feels different, lighter, as there is no actual Colt-style mainspring and the hammer sits slightly back from the frame at rest. Cocking the gun follows normal single action operation by rotating the cylinder to the next chamber. There is a CO2 capsule stored inside the grip to power the .177 pellet downrange at an average of 410 feet per second. Unlike some of the BB cartridges in use, the Colt models load the BB or pellet into the base of the cartridge where the primer would usually go. The brass BB and silver pellet cartridges authentic, though not .45 Colt in size, more like a .32-20 Winchester round, which Single Actions were chambered for beginning in 1884. The gun fits any SAA holster, and even has to be oiled and cleaned (moderately after every 1,000 rounds) with an available Umarex cleaning kit.
Raising the bar
The new nickel finished SAA pellet model comes fitted with black panel grips and a Colt Peacemaker Rampant Colt inset emblem. In all respects other than what comes out of the recessed .45 Colt muzzle, the pellet model looks identical to the .177 caliber BB models, which is to say very much like a nickel plated smokeless powder frame Colt Single Action Army revolver design. The 1892 smokeless powder frame design introduced the transverse cylinder latch under the barrel to release the cylinder pin for disassembly.
Skinning the no-smoke wagon
This is one sharp looking revolver and with the 5-1/2 inch barrel it fits any Colt SAA holster from hand tooled belt holsters to shoulder rigs. Just as in the Old West, holsters were a matter of choice or more often what was available at the gun shop or local saddlery. To test the new pellet model Umarex Colt Peacemaker I dropped it into a one-off copy of a famous fringed holster pictured in the book Packing Iron. The copy of the holster was handmade by Javier Garcia of .45Maker (801-628-7219). To do a few Cowboy Action shooting drills with the pellet gun I set up silhouette targets at the SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) pistol distance of 10 yards and fired Duelist style, which is one handed. A CO2 pellet gun with a rifled barrel is definitely good out to 10 yards. I also set up a few tin cans to do some Old West target shooting!
Ammo choice was RWS Meisterkugeln, a traditional 4.5mm wad cutter target grade pellet. Purchasing at least a dozen extra cartridges is a good idea for faster reloading. Pellet cartridges run around $10 for a set of six.
Taking my best gunfighter stance I did a quick draw for the first six shots just to see where I was hitting on the silhouette target. I put six pellets into the center of the target. Going to aimed shots six rounds grouped in the 10 and X rings at 1.75 inches. I repeated this a few more times with average six round groups measuring under 2-inches. Then I went after the tin cans, knocking them down in order and “kicking the cans”around the top of an old whiskey barrel (see the accompanying video gun test).
You can also practice drawing, re-holstering, and a little fancy gun handling with the Umarex Colt Peacemaker and shoot to your heart’s content for just pennies. The nickel finished, rifled barrel six-shooter has a suggested retail of just $179. 99. For more information visit umarexusa.com.
by Dennis Adler
Special thanks to Harwood W. Loomis at The M1911 Pistols Organization (www.M1911.org).
The new Colt/Umarex Commander 1911 model is a CO2-powered, (simulated) blowback version of the M1911A1. This is the most accurate reproduction of an M1911A1 I have ever seen in a BB gun. It looks and feels real, and it acts real. The experience of shooting this pistol is amazing – and I shot 1911s when I was in the Army.
The level of authenticity is astonishing. One of my pet peeves is fake 1911 air pistols that have swinging triggers. In this one, the trigger slides straight back, just like it should. The slide stop works. It not only swings up and down, it also locks the slide back after the last shot has been fired. The grip safety not only moves, it also functions as it should.
The thumb safety is functional. Like on a real 1911, it can’t be raised unless the hammer is cocked. As is common on air guns, it has markings for “SAFE” and “FIRE” positions. I can live with that if it gets us a properly functional thumb safety.
The barrel is smooth-bore. A smooth-bore barrel simply can’t produce the accuracy of a rifled barrel. But this is a plinking handgun, so accuracy isn’t critical. The advantage is that it shoots readily-available, steel BBs.
The specifications list the barrel length as 4.50 inches, yet the pistol is the size of a 5-inch M1911A1. This is because the muzzle of the .177-inch barrel is set back a half inch from the apparent muzzle at the front of the slide, for a .45 caliber barrel effect. The “muzzle” even has six ribs on the inside to look like the rifling in a real gun barrel.
What makes the new Colt/Umarex Commander an excellent training aid is that so much of the real 1911 manual of arms remains the same on this reproduction. The Commander is loaded using a magazine that occupies the full magazine well in the frame. The CO2 cartridge is loaded into the magazine, with the BBs, and the pistol is loaded by inserting the magazine and racking the slide. Just like in real life.
The pistol is made of metal, so its weight and balance are very close to those of a real 1911.
The trigger was light, with a bit of creep. The Commander uses some of the gas energy to cycle the slide, resulting in a CO2 air pistol that feels more like shooting a .22 caliber rimfire pistol than it does an air gun.