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Sgt. Dave reviews the SIG Sauer P226 Pellet Pistol

My interest in realistic-blowback BB replicas actually began with a search for a repeating pellet pistol.  I got it into my head that a pellet repeater would be a good choice for dealing with varmints at in-your-face range, which does happen, if rarely, out here in the country.  As I searched, I developed a set of criteria:  CO2 power (what else?), semiauto action (which made blowback operation desirable) and removable linear magazines with the pellets in a stack, like cartridges in firearms…I mean, why not?  Should be able to get lotsa pellets in a magazine the size of the ones in semiauto pistols.  Trouble is, I eventually discovered that no manufacturer wants to put pellets in a stack!  Most repeaters use small, removable rotary magazines, but that’s just disguising a revolver as a semiauto, and who wants that?  [LOTS of shooters, apparently, but I just HAD to be the exception…]  The closest I found was the legendary moving-belt magazine in the Anics SKIF 3000, and I ALMOST bought one…but then they all suddenly disappeared from the market, seemingly at once.  (The Beretta CX4 Storm replica uses a similar magazine, but it’s a carbine, and the new SIG Sauer P320 replica revives the design in improved form, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

I came across one way of fooling myself in the form of the Beretta PX4 Storm replica, which combines realistic blowback action with a stick magazine consisting of two eight-round rotors, one at each end.  They take pellets or steel BBs, using magnets to hold the BBs in place.  After shooting eight, you can flip the magazine for a total of sixteen rounds.  A neat trick, and better than the alternatives.  A few other manufacturers, like Gamo, offer pistols with similar magazines, but when I ran across the SIG Sauer P226, I decided that was the one for me.  I never liked the looks of the PX4 anyway.

The P226 is NOT what my Sponsor dismisses as just another polymer-frame, striker-fired, double-action-only pistol, a modern fashion he dislikes.  For starters, it has a hammer.  Sure it’s double-action, but it’s single-action after the first shot, like a Beretta.  And it’s heavy!  Modern BB-shooting metal replicas tend to leave one wondering whether the real firearms they represent don’t have more heft, but no such doubts arise with this gun.  To make sure I wasn’t imagining things I weighed it, then weighed my next-heaviest BB-replica for comparison.  Because I’m unsure of the accuracy of my scale I’ll avoid citing numbers, but the P226 easily outweighed the competition by 8 ounces (240g), although with magazines loaded the BB-pistol was an ounce (20g) heavier since BB magazines are solid castings and quite massive.  (Well OK, I cited a few numbers.)  By way of explanation, the P226 really does appear to be all-metal, with the only externally-visible plastic parts being the grips and the sights.  The rifled steel barrel is threaded for a silencer.

And this is where the surprises begin.  In stark contrast with the gun, the magazines are all-plastic.  They are marked with symbols for both pellets and BBs, like the claimed capability of the Beretta PX4, though the instructions for this gun clearly state .177cal pellets only.  But the magazines have magnets to retain steel BBs, again like those for the Beretta.  This won’t be an issue I’ll be testing anytime soon, since my Sponsor has quoted a friend who says using BBs just once in this class of airgun will wipe out its accuracy.  One would think H&N Smartshot would be OK; they seem to stay in place even though the magnets don’t help, but I’m in no hurry to test them either.

Visual examination of the P226 reveals what appears to be a takedown lever and a slide release, neither of which move.  Are they stuck?  I contacted PyramidAir, and was informed that unlike realistic BB replicas, pellet airguns are Not Designed for Disassembly.  Further research into the SIG Sauer firearm revealed that the airgun slide lacks any of the notches or cutouts required for lockback or disassembly.  It also lacks an ejection port; just a shallow indentation where one should be…well, it doesn’t need one, but neither do realistic-blowback BB guns, every one of which I’ve seen has an ejection port that cycles open.  (I even have a plastic Airsoft gun with a working ejection port.)  So no further discussion of the interior mechanics of this airgun will appear in this review.

The P226 is equipped with a drop-hammer safety, which does not restrict slide movement or trigger pull, a real surprise — especially since trigger pull operates the hammer while safed, double-action style.  At least the hammer won’t cock if drawn.  If CO2 is loaded, however, no gas is expended with the safety engaged.

 

And loading CO2 is one of the slickest features of the P226.  The rear strap of the grip swings down after a release near the top is pressed, exposing the cartridge well.  Closing the grip levers the cartridge up into the piercing tube and holds it in place.  And takes A LOT of force!!  Be prepared, and DO NOT back off after you’ve started closing it, if you don’t want to waste off all your gas in a failed attempt to load it.  In fact, the lever applies so much force that the plunger gouges the rounded end of the cartridge every time.

 

 

SIG Sauer appears to have addressed the problem of the difference in trigger feel between single- and double-action with a trigger that does not change position at all when the hammer is cocked.  There’s still a difference in trigger feel, but in single-action operation you still have a trigger travel of nearly three-quarters of an inch.  At least you can feel a nice, solid stop before hammer release, less than an eighth of an inch from full-travel.  In double-action, you can clearly feel tension buildup before hammer release, so you should be able to acquire good trigger control as well as practice in double-action technique.  Either way, you’ll hear a click before hammer release (explained below), which isn’t as helpful as it sounds as it isn’t close enough to more significant events.  It’s the hammer that initiates discharge, by whacking on the gas valve.  With no CO2 loaded, I find that the P226 in double action feels like nothing so much as the cap guns I played with as a kid.

So:  Load sixteen, and insert the magazine, being careful not to get it the wrong way forward.  It won’t fit in the magazine well the wrong way, but could jam if pushed.  (I marked mine.)  Latched in place, the bottom of the magazine is recessed into the grip, so unlike firearms magazines (and realistic replicas), you can’t seat it reliably with the flat of your palm; it has to be poked in with a finger.  Then you can rack back the slide if you want; it’ll cock the hammer.

And nothing else; the rotor (cylinder?) at the top of the magazine is advanced by trigger pull; that’s the click I mentioned hearing as the next chamber snaps into place.  It really does work like a revolver cylinder.  The topmost round is in battery, and is propelled from its position in the magazine by the discharge.  You should be aware that pulling the trigger partway and changing your mind about shooting will advance the rotor (cylinder?) anyway, moving an unexpended round out of battery and causing possible issues with empty chambers before expending all your ammo.  And keep count of your shots, because the slide will not lock back, and you will not be prevented from expending all the CO2 you want “shooting blanks.”

When it’s time to reload, the magazine is not so much drop-free as pop-out.  It’s under spring tension, and would pop up like a slice of toast if you turned the P226 upside-down and pressed the magazine release.  So make sure you’re ready to catch it.  Then you can flip it over and shoot another eight.  You could even load different pellet types in each end if you had a reason.  You should be able to empty three full magazines on a CO2 cartridge, but after that you’re pressing your luck, and could face reliability issues long before the slide stops cycling.  I should mention that I was once able to empty five magazines on a warm day…but I was pressing my luck on the last eight rounds.

Accuracy is about what I’ve come to expect from “action pistols,” which is a bit of a disappointment as I’d hoped rifle-spun pellets would do better.  But I was able to shoot a slightly better group at rest from fifteen feet (my best result, unsurprisingly) than I’ve done with my BB replicas.  The three-dot sights are in the current military style, and the front sight appears to be dovetailed in and adjustable for windage — but without being able to disassemble for examination it’s impossible to determine if it really is, and being plastic, an adjustment attempt could do damage if it isn’t.

Realistic-blowback BB pistols can often disappoint in their attempt to simulate recoil by cycling their actions, but the SIG Sauer P226 has an authoritative snap.  It adds some realism to training, even if realism is lacking in other areas.  The biggest disappointment comes from SIG Sauer’s own insistence in the value of their pistol — AND longarm — replicas for firearms training.  I’ve even seen a SIG Sauer video.  I was looking for realism in field-stripping at the very least — that would sure help the training curriculum.  Still, the P226 is as much fun as any when chosen for a “combat-arms”-style course of fire.  And eight rounds between reloads is more realistic than those double-digit loads in those replica BB magazines.  My P226 leaves me undecided as to whether I’ll ever acquire a P320.  I only have two reasons to want one:  That monstrous 30-round magazine and the fact that it’s been adopted by the U.S. Armed Forces as the successor to the Beretta M9 — and I already have a Beretta, as well as an M1911.  Otherwise, it’s just another polymer-frame, striker-fired, double-action-only pistol.  Other than collection completion, I can make do with my P226 just fine.

The Daisy Powerline 1200 CO2 BB Pistol

Last month I packed up my Beeman P17 and mailed it off to my old pal Sgt. Dave. A week later, this box showed up in my mail:

and inside:

A genuine Daisy Powerline 1200, complete with all the paperwork. The 1200 was made from 1977 to 1966, replacing the CO2 200, which was functionally similar but had (I think) a more stylish appearance. Less plastic and more cast metal. Anyway, I thought I’d load it up and see how it performed.

Like most Daisy CO2 pistols, to insert a CO2 cartridge you remove one of the handgrips via the indent provided for the purpose:


Popping off the grip reveals the CO2 compartment and the trigger springs:

I don’t know of another Daisy, offhand, that shares the 1200’s clever trigger adjustment system: Three springs, of which one, two, or all three may be connected to the trigger. I left the setting alone for now, installed a CO2 cylinder and tightened the thumbscrew until I heard the brief “psst” indicated that the cylinder cap had been punctured. The appearance of frost around the neck of the cylinder indicated that gas had indeed flowed, chilling the neck enough to condense and freeze some moisture from the atmosphere.

Replacing the grip panel, I cocked and fired the gun and heard a reassuring “POP!” Time to actually load and test it.

It turned out I had a box of appropriate BBs on hand:

I inserted a dozen into the loading port:

stood five yards away from my pellet trap, and fired for the record in one-handed bullseye style. The resulting group:

I was aiming at the cross at the top of the photo, so you can see I was shooting a bit low and pulling to the left. My group is about 2″ by 3/4″. I suppose I could do better by shooting two handed, removing one of the trigger springs, and wearing my shooting glasses, which allow me to actually focus on the front sight. Still, not too shabby. It’s a fun plinker and I think I’ll keep it for a while. These are still pretty cheap, though I’ve seen people try to get as much as $80 for them on eBay. You should probably be able to find one for half that on collector’s forums, or for even less, if you shop yard sales.

Scoping the Feinwerkbau LP80

Back in February on 2016 I wrote about my then-new (to me) FWB LP80, the most accurate spring air pistol ever made. Mine arrived with a Beeman-installed scope rail that I removed, leaving holes:

that I filled with setscrews. As I’m now shooting my more recently (April 2017) aquired FWB LP100, the LP80 has been sitting 9in the pistol case untouched. I decided to mount an optic and perhaps use it for NRA Bullseye practice. The problem was finding a set of rings that would engage the recoil lug recess at the rear of the mount. Most rings I tried didn’t work, as the recess is so far to the rear of the rail that there isn’t enough rail behind it to support a ring. But way back in the rear of my scope mount box was a long discontinued B-Square mount I bought back in the 1980s. If you look at the photo at the top of this article, you’ll see that it hangs way over the rear of the scope rail- but it’s still solidly mounted.

The recoil  forces acting on the moving part of this recoilless pistol are actually pretty violent- the receiver only moves a short distance, but it’s very light, and the movement needed to counterbalance the forces exerted by the spring and piston is sharp and rapid. When I tried to mount a scope using rings without a recoil lug, three shots was all it took to dislodge the rings from the rail. I mounted a Millet SP1 for my test, as it’s a pretty rugged sight given that it sell for around $50.

I shot it this way for a few days. While it worked well, and was accurate once zeroed in, it made the pistol a bit top heavy, which I didn’t like. A lightweight mini-sight might be a better choice. I removed the sight and mount, replaced the set screws, and put the LP80 back in the case

Sgt. Dave reviews the Remington 1911 RAC [refurbished]

 

[Our CO2 and BB loving friend Sgt. Dave is back again with another new purchase, and he’s going to tell you all about it]

In contrast with certain other realistic replica airguns (like the Luger I reviewed recently), the customer for a Colt M1911 replica has a bewildering array of selections to choose from.  In what I admit was a less-than-exhaustive search, I counted up no less than six “classic” M1911 replicas.  Adding “custom” or “modernized” versions will more than triple the list — and that’s with criteria limited to realistic-blowback BB-shooters.  Deleting the blowback requirement will add maybe four more, and I even found one pellet-shooter.  (Pellet replicas are really disguised revolvers, inauthentic in principle and function.)

Confronting this vertigo-inducing array myself, and wanting only a wartime-classic replica with realistic blowback and reliable performance (reasonably-authentic disassembly would be nice), I pored over postage-stamp-sized images, unhelpful specification listings, and finally settled on the Tanfoglio Witness as my choice — until PyramydAir got other ideas.  Pyramyd seems to have acquired a large number of used, refurbished Remington 1911 RAC pistols and offered them for maybe two-thirds the new-gun price — in fact, they still do.  But it was a sale price offer at about half retail — with a Plano gun case and 6000 Remington BBs thrown in — that really concentrated my attention, and made me decide to check out My Sponsor’s longstanding advocacy for Buying Used.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to collect any of the generally-similar offerings from other firms for comparison, so this review will cover only the Remington example.

I’ve purchased refurbished products in other categories before, and have been just about unable to distinguish them from factory-new versions.  But the Remington 1911 RAC I received definitely had that well-broken-in look both inside and out.  After my initial surprise I really grew to like it; there are “John Wayne/War Commemorative” versions out there for which you’re expected to cough up an extra 20-30 bucks to get Limited-Edition fake wear-and-tear, but this gun is the reason I say save your money.  Do it yourself; it’s a lot more realistic and a lot more fun.

The Remington 1911 RAC is finished in “Gunmetal” -colored metallic paint (well-worn, in the case of my refurbished example) and, while a mix of metal and plastic is common in realistic replicas, the use of metal by Remington is extensive.  Castings are zinc, while the .177cal barrel is brass — or at least appears to be.  Magazines are solid zinc castings with extra hardware fastened to them, and are remarkably heavy.  They drop free when the magazine release is pressed; DO NOT let them hit the ground!  Not only can they be damaged by the rather forceful impact, but they can damage your foot if they hit it.  And if they hit the dirt with the top end down, you’ll have contamination issues to deal with.

Externally, the 1911 RAC functions exactly like the firearm, except for spring rates that are all much lighter, so at this point in the narrative, any reader who doesn’t already know how to field-strip an M1911 in the dark is directed to go to YouTube and search “M1911 Disassembly.”  There you will learn all you ever wanted to know.  Returning to the Remington, the thumb-grip safety is fully functional, and the safety lever blocks the trigger and prevents the hammer from being cocked (unless it already is), as well as locking the slide.  The magazine holds the CO2 cartridge and 18 rounds, and locks back the slide after the last BB is expended.  The BB follower latches in place at the bottom of its slot (would that all BB mags were so designed!)…BUT.  To provide an opening to load BBs, you have to press it even farther, to its limit of travel, and hold it there.  Don’t let it snap! — you may launch a BB across the room.  CO2 cartridges are pierced  and held in place by a setscrew with a quarter-inch Allen head.  Quarter-inch Allen keys are supplied with every spare, so they really collect up with your spare magazines.

Disassembly begins as it does with the firearm.  But I was unable to proceed beyond removal of the slide-and-barrel assembly (and Remington’s instructions are of no help) until I figured out how it differs from Mr. Browning’s design.  The slide has a barrel bushing which can be removed the same way as the Original’s, but neither the barrel nor the recoil spring cap will come out.  It wasn’t until I found out how to remove the recoil spring by disconnecting it from the barrel assembly (not unlike that of a Beretta) that the spring cap slipped REARWARD out of the slide; then the barrel assembly, without a recoil spring to stop it, came FORWARD out of the slide.  Any further disassembly would require driving out pins or screws.

At this point, we can see that the Remington’s outer barrel actually has lugs which engage locking notches inside the slide, although this feature does not provide blowback delay; the blowback cylinder assembly has a different way of doing that.  Reassembled, and with the slide locked back, a *slight* barrel tilt can be seen, though this is a clever illusion:  Only the outer barrel tilts relative to the inner, BB barrel, which is fixed in place…oddly enough, by the slide-lock pin, just like the firearm’s barrel pivot.

A loaded magazine may be difficult to latch in place if the slide isn’t locked back.  It may help to load seventeen; I found I couldn’t latch a magazine in place with more than fifteen loaded with the slide closed.  Then release the slide or, if it’s already forward, rack it back John Wayne-style to chamber a round.  Otherwise, your first shot will be blank — or nothing at all; remember, this legendary piece is a single-action weapon, and needs to be cocked.  The hammer actually initiates discharge by whacking on a valve in the top rear of the magazine.

At this point, the cycle follows that of the firearm.  After the blowback piston-and-cylinder drives back the slide, cocking the hammer (while the gas charge, exhausting through the gas tube, simultaneously propels the BB), it returns under recoil-spring tension, a pin under the gas tube shucks a BB off the top of the magazine and the gas tube, acting as the breech, drives it into battery.

And that’s where the disappointment begins.  This gun is not powerful.  I’d say it can outpunch a Daisy Red Ryder, but I won’t credit it with much more oomph.  It is not accurate.  Even from rest I shot big sloppy groups I feel I can outdo with my other replicas.  It may be adequate for a “combat arms”-style course of fire, but it will certainly add to the challenge.  And it isn’t loud!  The clank of the action cycling can easily be heard over the volume of the report.  The action of the famously massive slide provides some sense of recoil, but for training purposes the effect is better for  displacing your sight picture and teaching the need to reacquire it than for teaching weapon control.  Feel of the nicely-knurled trigger is light but indistinct, with constant tension through a very short travel before hammer release.

But for  “combat arms”-style shooting, the Remington is a suitably macho choice — especially since the slide locks back when you run out of ammo.  An 18-round capacity may be inauthentic, but you can always load seven for practice with ammunition discipline and quick reloads.  And the Remington BBs are of gemlike quality and won my enthusiastic approval, in case you were wondering.

The Remington RAC leaves one wondering what the M1911 replicas from other companies have to offer, but provides no ready excuses for ditching it and buying a different one to find out.