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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.