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.
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
Why Overlooking Eye Protection is a Huge Mistake for Airgunners
So, you’ve finally got some time to get out your new Umarex airgun. It’s time to engage targets and experience some instant gratification while you take stress out on unsuspecting objects. You have your airgun, your pellets and bag full of stuff to shoot at. You’re ready for whatever gets placed in front of you. Or are you? One of your biggest risks as an airgunner isn’t lead poisoning as some might believe; it’s actually your body’s most vulnerable tissue at risk – your eyes.
Your eyes are a big weak spot, and protecting them is something that you might overlook if you’re anxious to pull the trigger. You’d be wise to cover your eyes given all of the dangers a range can dish out, whether airgunning in your backyard or at a public or private gun range. Consider that unexpected ricochets and even debris stirred up by wind at the wrong moment can temporarily blind you. The potential of a ricochet is dangerous enough; shooting blind, well, you’ll probably have to quit the sport and you don’t want that to happen.
There are a lot of options for eye protection and different airgunners will find the various styles and features more comfortable than others. The best eye pro will stop debris, wind, and glare, while also protecting your eyes from UV rays. Lens color is also something to consider not just for clarity in certain light conditions, but also for comfort. For instance, yellow lenses on a bright sunny day may be too bright—they’re intended for cloudy days or low light conditions.
The bottom line is: wear eye protection and take the time to find good quality eye pro that’s comfortable to wear and suitable for your shooting conditions.
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.