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Sgt. Dave on The Umarex Legends P.08 Luger

[Regular readers are familiar with Sgt. Dave, a retired Air Force lifer who traded complex radar systems and guided missiles for open sights and CO2 powered pellets and BBs. He’s back this time with a detailed writeup on a gun from one of his favorite categories.]

It wasn’t long after the category of “realistic blowback” BB guns first caught my attention that the Umarex Legends P.08 Luger appeared on the Airgun Websites.  Thanks to promotional videos, I quickly learned that the Legends P.08 not only duplicates the famed “toggle action” of the Original, but even has its barrel assembly spring-mounted on a track and moves rearward during discharge like the Original as well.  So it was that this piece became the latest addition to my carefully-tailored Realistic Blowback Collection, and my Sponsor thought you’d like to read my impressions about it.  Keep following this Blog and you’ll learn about the rest of my collection in due time.

Although replicas of certain other Classics are available from a variety of manufacturers, if you want to pump BBs from a Luger replica with blowback action, Umarex has the only game in town.  (Not at all unlike the firearm, no?)  If you want to shoot pellets from a Luger, keep looking, and good luck.  Umarex offers several Luger models, including one WITHOUT blowback (shop carefully, bargain-hunters beware) and a “WWII Limited Edition” for a premium price, with a pre-worn finish for your convenience.  My experience indicates that you can just carry the standard version around awhile, maybe find a holster for it and practice a lot of quick-draws, and get a much more realistic version of the same effect.  You’ll have more fun and save about 20 bucks doing it yourself.

Like by far the most examples in this category, the model I have is a mix of metal and plastic construction.  Cast-metal parts are zinc, painted black; the .177-cal barrel insert is brass, or at least appears to be.  Manufacturers will often strategically place metal parts where they will give their replicas an all-metal “feel,” but in this respect, the Legends Luger disappoints.  Too much plastic where you’re holding it gives a plastic feel, despite a good heft and a balance reminiscent of the Original — or so I would presume, having never lifted one.  The grip scales are black plastic, which is not at all inauthentic, but they do have a hollow feel.  You could probably replace them, if you could find authentic replacements.  At least they aren’t fake wood; if THOSE grips felt hollow as well, they’d REALLY disappoint. To avoid further disappointment, the strap has a lug for a stock attachment; I may never find out if it works.

In fact, I was a bit surprised to learn that the strap and trigger guard are metal — cast as a single piece with the rest of the receiver — because they don’t feel like it.  They lack that cool metal feel, at least until shooting makes the CO2 cartridge get cold…only then do they feel metallic.  And I was CERTAIN the trigger was plastic, until the first signs of wear exposed a metallic glint… It still feels plastic.

The magazines are made from solid metal castings and really heavy — like maybe a Luger mag fully-loaded with 9mm ammo.  They hold 21 rounds and the CO2 cartridge, which is pierced and held in place by a setscrew with a quarter-inch Allen head.  Quarter-inch Allen keys are supplied with each spare magazine, and can really collect up! — At least you don’t have to worry about losing one.  BBs are loaded by pulling the BB follower all the way down and holding it in place (don’t slip!), to expose a BB-sized hole just above it so BBs can be loaded one at a time.  (It may be best to stop at 20.)  The follower has a flat little knurled grip which would really be nice if it were bigger than a BB.

At this point, my narrative will assume that you know everything there is to know about the actual Luger, because if you don’t you can just enter “Luger” into a YouTube search to learn anything you want, in glorious full-motion color video.  Umarex does not provide takedown instructions, so I researched how to do it on YouTube.  After operating the takedown lever (which Umarex doesn’t identify), removing the little panel behind it and sliding the barrel and toggle assembly forward off its track, differences between the firearm and the replica appear and dissassembly does not proceed the same way.  This is hardly surprising, since a blowback-action replica needs to find a place to install a piston and cylinder to cycle the action, while also being able to dispense with unneeded items like shell extractors and firing pins.  In the Umarex case for example, the toggle assembly can’t be removed by pressing out the pin which holds it in place in the firearm; the pin is a two-part number which has to be hammered out, risking possible damage to the zinc casting.  I have yet to do any disassembly involving removal of pins or screws.  Also, the spring that cycles the toggle isn’t in the handle as it is in the firearm; it’s in the toggle itself, so the curved link connecting it to the spring is unnecessary and nonexistent.

In other cases, fidelity to the function of the firearm is astonishing.  The chambered-round indicator on the bolt is a separate part pinned in place, even though it doesn’t work or even move.  After finding moving parts I couldn’t identify, I learned that the trigger-release mechanism is IDENTICAL to the one in the firearm — to say nothing of my surprise at the way Luger designed it.  The only detail difference is in the shape of the removable pin that holds a little L-shaped lever in place in the little plate that the takedown lever releases.  The safety works the same way too, which I found out only after wondering what that little parallelogram-thing was that moved up when I operated the lever, and was again surprised that Luger did it that way.

Reassembled, this complex, multilink trigger release is the reason that fans of “that feel of glass breaking” will feel nothing of the sort when shooting the Legends Luger — or with the real firearm either, most likely.  Nothing is felt but trigger-spring tension until the hammer drops — which makes this the time to discuss the Legends Luger action.

Trigger pull actually releases a hammer, even though you can’t see it, and the hammer actually causes weapon discharge — by whacking on a gas valve in the top rear of the magazine.  (If the hammer wasn’t cocked, the gun wouldn’t discharge.)  The gas charge exits a port atop the magazine (just behind the BB stack), which mates with a similar port in the action, where it simultaneously expels the BB and operates a piston that cycles the toggle action.  That cycle is an exact analog of the firearm operation; the ejection port actually opens (even though it’s unnecessary, there’s nothing to eject), and when the toggle comes forward a pin beneath the gas tube (which also functions as the bolt face in the firearm) shucks a BB off the top of the magazine and directs it up a ramp and into battery — just like shucking a 9mm round off the top of a Luger magazine.  This cycle also moves the barrel assembly back on its slide.  The magazine even locks back the toggle when empty!  To reload, you install a loaded magazine and either release the toggle or, if it’s down, rack back the action to chamber a round (and cock the hammer, if it isn’t already).  Loaded magazines often fail to latch in place with the toggle down, so you may want to always load with the action locked back.  (Herr Luger requires you to use an empty magazine to lock it back yourself.)  You get at least two full loads of BBs from a CO2 cartridge; “rapid fire” shooting takes its toll on the number of shots you get after that.  Magazines did not drop free from my gun when when the authentically-located, authentically-operating magazine release was pressed, and  I figured this was by intentional design until they started dropping free during a shooting session.  Evidently some paint needed to be worn away, I thought, but later when the gun cooled down after being sun-warmed, they stopped dropping free again.  You need to watch for this; you do NOT want to let your magazines hit the ground.  Not only is there risk of damage, but if the top end hits the dirt you face contamination issues.  Besides, they’re heavy enough to really hurt if one hits your foot!

Shooting the Legends Luger can also disappoint, if your expectations  include a mystic recreation of The Luger Experience.  Most of the sense of “recoil” in a blowback gun comes from the moving mass of the action cycling, but with the toggle action of the Luger, most of that movement is upward.  It’s an odd feeling.  It isn’t very loud, but at least the report masks the sound of the action working.   Nor is it very powerful; I thought it was doing alright (based on what it did to aluminum cans and mail-order catalogs) until my crude penetration tests showed that my Drozd and Steel Storm could both punch though twice as much barrier material as it took to stop all the Luger’s BBs.  Clearly the need to cycle a realistic action clearly takes its toll on power; dispatching varmints in style by Luger won’t be in my future.  Accuracy won’t add to the Legend of the Luger, either.  Shooting from rest (which I probably don’t do very well) from my customary range of 30 feet, I got a group of about five inches diameter, mostly high and to the left; can’t do anything about placement with fixed sights, cast in place.  But I’ve seen a video review of a different replica in which the expert asserted that target shooting with “action pistols” is best done at a range of 15 feet, and that matches my experience in general so far.

But let’s add some realism to our expectations here.  Start with the admission that for almost all of us (including me!), this is the closest we will ever come to even TOUCHING a real Luger, much less firing even a single round.  The blowback movement displaces your sight picture, forcing you to reacquire it as recoil does on a firearm.  “Rapid-fire” fusillades also get punished at the target, like the real ones do without the specialized training the real ones require.  As for target performance, the best use for guns like this is on a “Combat Arms”-style course of fire, emphasing ammunition discipline, quick reloads, and rapid targeting with solid hits on target — and NOT on innocent bystanders! — rather than chopping out ten-rings at spotting-scope range.  Twenty-one round magazines may lack realism, but for these exercises you can always load eight for more authentic operation.

The Beeman P17: Best bargain in air pistols?

 

Normally the only air pistols that interest me are match pistols- those capable of making one-hole groups at 10 meters, with triggers that can be set to just a few ounces. But I’ve heard so many good things about the P17 that when I saw it at Amazon for under $33, I decided to bite and see why it had such a strong following.

The P17 is a Beeman-licensed, Chinese manufactured, copy of the Beeman P3, which itself is a rebranded HW40 manufactured by Weihrauch in Germany. The Weirauch gun is all metal gun that sells for around $240. What kind of quality and performance can you get for one seventh of that? I’ve never handled a P3, but I have owned two Weirauch HW45s, which Beeman markets as the P1. They’re excellently made, with all the quality you expect of fine German guns.

The P17, on the other hand, feels like a well made toy. It’s mostly plastic, with a few metal parts- barrel, cylinder, trigger, and sear. I wouldn’t expect it to last as long as a P3, but if decently cared for it should last several years. The pumping system is the same as that found on the FAS 6004 and the Gamo Compact, and the P17 is cocked and loaded the same way as the more expensive guns:

The upper part of the gun is unlatched via what looks like  a hammer at the rear of the gun, and hinged forward. A pellet s inserted at the breech end of the barrel:

and the barrel/arm is hinged back into place, compressing air in the cylinder and cocking the trigger.

This takes a surprisingly high amount of effort, far more than the FAS 6004 or the Gamo Compact. I don’t know if this is because the energy is higher (it shoots around 100fps faster than the other two pistols), or because the cocking geometry is not as efficient, but there it is. It definitely takes an adult to do it. Once cocked, the slide safety is automatically engaged- an excellent feature on a gun designed for beginners, I think, and perhaps a necessary for experienced shooters as well, given the contortions you have to go through to cock it.

The adjustable sights are simple but cleverly designed, using short pieces of “light pipe” plastic to create luminous dots under reasonably bright illumination:

They’re the sort of sights you’d put on a combat gun, not one designed for shooting at paper targets, though, so while they’re very easy to see and quick to acquire, they’re not ideal for paper punching.

The trigger is… well, not wretched, but not very good. It’s light, but it’s very long- probably as a safety feature. You can’t feel the break coming, so there’s no way to stage it. The best technique I found was to get a good target hold while quickly and smoothly pulling straight through.

Shooting two handed, I got the following group at 10 meters with the stock sights:

That’s roughly an inch. I then tried attaching a Millet dot sight that costs twice as much as the gun:

…and shooting one handed, as if I were shooting Bullseye. After a few shots to get the Millet more-or-less on target, I got the following shooting at a standard ISSF Air Pistol 10m target:

That’s actually not bad, considering how poor the trigger is when compared to even a cheap match gun like the Gamo Compact. (The shots outside the black were all sighting shots.)

 

In summary, then, the plusses:

  • Surprisingly accurate
  • Really Cheap
  • Fairly well made
  • High velocity for a single stroke pneumatic
  • You can mount a scope or dot sight
  • Recoilless

And the minuses:

  • Mediocre trigger
  • Sights are wrong for precision shooting

I’d have to say that all things considered it’s an excellent value, a more accurate plinker than anything else in its price range, and a good budget choice for learning basic pistol marksmanship-  especially if you can’t afford anything better.

Feinwerkbau 100 Match Air Pistol

Yes, another 10 meter match air pistol. I’d never fired (or even seen in person) a Feinwekbau 100, 102, or 103, but I’d heard that they’re great guns, the best of the single-stroke pneumatic era. One came up for sale at a fair price, and I’d just sold some expensive toys, so…. this one made it into my collection.

As you can see, functionally it’s not terribly different from the IZH-46m. There’s a large cocking arm underneath that rotates down and around 180 degrees to open. When you reach the fully extended position, the loading gate flips open:

Place a pellet in the loading tray, close the gate, and that o-ringed aluminum bolt pushes the pellet into the  barrel and seals it.

Bring the cocking arm back around and you compress a charge of air. It takes significantly more force to do so than cocking the IZH-46m, something that was dealt with in later versions of this pistol. The model 102 (there was no 101) used two cocking levers that divided the work between them. Easier, but a bit clumsy. The 103 used a longer cocking arm with better geometry to less cocking effort. It was also removable, which made the gun lighter.

The trigger on this gun, like the triggers on just about every other Feinwerkbau, is about as good as you would want. It’s adjustable for length of pull, position, first stage and second stage length and weight, and trigger shoe angle. I was able to get it just where I wanted with just a few adjustments to the position of the trigger, and left everything else alone.

Firing performance is excellent, as you might expect. It’s recoilless, of course, and absolutely free of any vibration or movement on firing. The sights are more of less identical to this eon my LP-80, being adjustable for not only windage and elevation but also for the width of the rear sight notch, something I really appreciate. For some reason the sights were cranked way to one one side and very low when I received it, but after a quick check of the manual to see which way the controls worked I had it on target pretty quickly.

As it points better than my IZH-46 and has a better trigger as well, I decided the Izzy would go and this gun would take its place. If you’re looking for one for yourself, 100s, 102s and 103s in excellent working condition generally  run from $600 to $700. They don’t seem to show up for sale as often as other guns, perhaps because once someone buys one, they tend to hang on to it. Like the Feinwerkbau recoilless spring  guns, you could shoot one of these in competition today without giving up very much to shooters with $1500-2000 PCP guns, although your cocking arm might get a bit tired over a long match.

[Single-Stroke Pneumatic (SSP) air pistols and rifles were an intermediate stage between the complex recoilless spring-powered guns that dominated ISSF competition in the 1970s and today’s modern pre-charged pneumatic guns. With no spring to wear out, and no spring hysteresis, SSPs are more efficient than spring guns and have much less vibration. The very first match SSP was the Walther LP1, which came out in the mid-70s. While it was a very accurate gun, it was harder to cock than the Feinwerkbau and didn’t really challenge it on the firing line. It wasn’t until the LP100 came out in 1988 that the big move to SSPs started. SSPs in turn were replaced by CO2 powered guns, which were less fatiguing to shoot (as there was no cocking effort), but problems with fluctuating gas pressure at different temperatures and altitudes led to CO2 guns being replaced by PCP guns. When it comes to actual firing performance, there’s not a lot of difference between an SSP and a PCP gun.]

Saying farewell to my IZH-46m

I recently purchased yet another target air pistol so one of the collection has to go, and I’ve decided it’s the Izzy. Excellent condition, not a lot of use. The grips have been slightly sculpted to my XL hands, so there’s plenty of wood left there. One of the e-clips fell off and I temporarilyreplaced it with a neoprene washer that actually seems to hold better.

(Sold 5/2/17).