Training is essential in order to develop good gun-handling skills, safety, accuracy and familiarity with weapons operation. It is also costly on the ammunition side, but a lot of training, right through the trigger pull, can be duplicated with these live-action, CO2-powered air pistols for just a fraction of the cost, and every operating feature is virtually identical to the corresponding cartridge-firing model.
Revolvers are still used by many law enforcement agencies as well as private citizens as either primary or backup guns. At the forefront in modern CO2 air pistol design, Umarex produces one of the most authentic revolvers available, the Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8. Accurate enough in handling to use for firearms training purposes, reloading drills and target acquisition exercises, the gun has green fiber-optic front and rear sights. The rear sight is also adjustable for windage and elevation. The TRR8 loads six BB cartridges that are carried in a speedloader, with extra BB cartridges and speedloaders available.
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It has the size, the exact weight (35 ounces), the look and ergonomics of the actual S&W Performance Center TRR8. What it doesn’t have is an eight-shot cylinder, but considering the rest of the gun’s features, two rounds is a small price to pay for what is arguably the best looking tactical BB revolver in existence. The Umarex version has a 6-inch barrel, versus the Performance Center .357 Magnum’s 5.5-inch barrel, the same integral lower accessory rail and an added top rail for optics. The grip profile and texture is virtually identical to the cartridge-firing model. Press the thumb latch forward and the cylinder swings out for loading. Pull the thumb latch back and it acts as a manual safety. Everything on the Umarex works smoothly and feels like the actual TRR8, making this gun perfect for low-cost training purposes.
There are nine Dan Wesson Signature series models available as .177-caliber BB guns with 2.5-, 4-, 6- or 8-inch barrels, and three models, with 2.5-, 6- and 8-inch barrels, chambered for 4.5mm pellets. In addition to barrel lengths, there are two standard finishes, black or silver, plus a special-edition model with a gold finish and a 2.5-inch barrel.
The Dan Wesson wheelguns have the inlaid “DW” emblem in the large combat style finger groove grips with the general design of the gun based on the Dan Wesson Model 15-2 series. The 6- and 8-inch-barreled models also feature a full-length barrel shroud and vent rib. There is only one noteworthy exterior alteration for the air pistols. The traditional Dan Wesson cylinder latch (located in front of the cylinder) is absent, and in its place is a frame-mounted S&W-style thumb latch that also serves as a manual safety.
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Manufactured by ActionSportGames (ASG), they are all good-looking air guns with a heft and balance (longer barrel models) that make them easy to handle and fire accurately. The weight on the 6-inch model is 33 ounces empty, which is 5 ounces lighter than the current 6-inch-barreled Dan Wesson Model 715 in .357 Magnum. The air gun’s hammer is very wide for easy cocking and single-action accuracy; the double action runs smoothly and cleanly stages the cylinder as you pull through. Trigger pull during double action averaged 8.5 pounds and 6.25 pounds on single action.
The grips have a traditional pebble grain finish and break at the frontstrap to allow the one-piece main panel to slide back and expose the CO2 capsule grip channel. The CO2 is easily seated, and a hidden turnkey moves the capsule up until it is pierced. Then just slide the grip panels back and you’re ready to load.
A six-round speedloader comes with each gun and makes filling the cylinder as fast as a real cartridge revolver. And loading BB cartridges for the Dan Wesson (and the TRR8) is equally fast. You simply place them in the speedloader, pour BBs into a jar lid (or an old pellet tin) and push the cartridge’s nose down into it. The hollow-point, plastic bullet tips easily find a BB to seat into the opening.
For the 4.5mm Dan Wesson pellet gun, having at least two extra sets of cartridges is a must. Each brass cartridge has a hollow-point, plastic bullet that must be unscrewed before a pellet is inserted and then threaded back onto the bullet case. It is a slow process, but the return is a level of accuracy from the rifled-barrel pellet gun that BB pistols can rarely match.
The best semi-auto air pistols are those with blowback actions and authentic operating features, including replicas of the Colt Model 1911, the Beretta Model 92A1 and the Walther PPS. There are numerous advantages to using live-action 1911 air pistols for training exercises as these duty-sized handguns operate the same way as a cartridge-firing Colt in .45 ACP. Specific training regimens can be practiced with blowback air pistols, including loading the magazine, chambering the first round and pulling the trigger.
This also helps to improve skills such as trigger control and sight acquisition, because the slides on Umarex 1911 Colt Commanders and other 1911-based models like the Tanfoglio Gold Custom actually function with each shot. All that is missing is recoil. You can train for only pennies with steel BBs rather than .45 ACP or 9mm ammunition.
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Tanfoglio’s Gold Custom air pistol is based upon the 9mm model used by five-time IPSC Open Division World Champion Eric Grauffel, and the air gun is almost indistinguishable. The .177-caliber air pistol shares the same design features and is a blowback-action semi-auto. While internally it is the same blowback action used in the 1911-style air pistols, the Tanfoglio has a completely different trigger design, grip configuration and uses a unique Tanfoglio-designed magazine that is contoured like a double stack and based on the competition magazines made for the 9mm Witness Match Xtreme. Standard Colt 1911 air pistol magazines will not fit in the Tanfoglio’s flared, beveled grip well.
Like the 9mm competition model, the air pistol has a special silver finish; an oversized triggerguard; a finely checkered, flat mainspring housing; a checkered front gripstrap; a ported slide and compensator; Xtreme aluminum grips; an Xtreme hammer; an Xtreme trigger; a flared and beveled magazine well; an oversized checkered magazine release; a permanently affixed scope mount; a slide racker; and thumb rest safeties.
The smooth-bore barrel is 5 inches in length, not counting the ported compensator, and overall length for the pistol is 9.84 inches. Height, without the rail or optics, from the base of the magazine well to the top of the slide, is 5.25 inches.
The latest blowback-action semi-auto on the market is the Beretta Model 92A1, which combines the current A1 version with a variation of the legendary Model 93R’s selective-fire mechanism. The 93R was only produced for Italian military and law enforcement use from 1979 to 1993. The “R” stood for raffica, Italian for “burst” (as in burst of fire). The burst-fire mechanism counted shots, and after three rounds in rapid succession, the trigger had to be pulled again, thus eliminating the tendency to empty a full magazine with one pull of the trigger. This same type of device is used in the new Umarex Beretta Model 92A1, only the selector has been moved to the right side of the receiver.
For handling, the Beretta provides the exact feel and operation of controls for firearms familiarization. This includes practicing your draw stroke, thumb safety release, sight acquisition, fire drills, reloading drills (both full and tactical reloads), and even mock clearing and second-strike practice. It even has the latest Beretta white-dot sights and a rounded triggerguard.
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The DA/SA trigger works identically to the cartridge-firing model, with the first round fired in DA and the slide cycling back after discharge to cock the hammer and chamber the next BB. You can also cock and decock the gun manually. The air pistol uses a Beretta-style magazine that contains both the BBs and the CO2 capsule for the most authentic handling and reloading. All current holsters for the 92 FS also fit the air pistol. For remedial training on the Beretta 92, you could not ask for a more accurate copy of the cartridge pistol.
All of these air pistols feature all-metal construction and are licensed copies of the manufacturer’s cartridge-firing arms down to the smallest detail, name and model. They all have recessed .177-caliber barrels shrouded by 9mm (or .45 ACP) sized muzzles as well as authentic-looking sights, slide serrations and finishes. They are as close to the real thing as it gets without firing centerfire bullets.
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This article was published in the 2016 issue of Gun Buyer’s Guide. For information on how to subscribe, please email Subscriptions@a
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