Time for a review of an airsoft pistol which suffers from something of an identity crisis. The WE Bulldog is very obviously a replica of the Beretta PX4 Storm, though you won’t find any Beretta markings here or any mention of Beretta on the packaging or manual. I believe that early versions of this pistol were sold with Beretta markings and identified as the PX4 but this has changed due, I assume, to licensing issues. This seems to something of a theme for WE pistols – The WE Big Bird (stupid name alert!) bears an uncanny resemblance to the S&W M&P 40 and the WE X-Tactical could easily be mistaken for a Springfield XDM pistol.
Real Steel background
Beretta began as commercial gunmakers in 1526 when they were commissioned by the Arsenal of Venice to produce 185 arquebus barrels. 500 years later, the company is still manufacturing firearms and is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating manufacturing company in the world (it is said that the original bill of sale for those arquebus barrels is still held in the company records).
In 2001 Beretta launched their first polymer framed pistol; the Beretta 9000S. This wasn’t a great success, though it did feature styling by the Giorgietto Giugiaro Design group, the company responsible for such iconic automotive designs as the Lotus Esprit, De Lorean DMC-12 and Maserati Spyder. In 2004 this was followed by the PX-4 Storm, a much more successful pistol which used many of the styling cues from the 9000S.
Beretta PX4 Storm
The PX4 is a semi-automatic pistol with a lightweight polymer frame, replaceable backstrap, Picatinny rail and (unusually for Beretta) a fully enclosed slide. This pistol is notable for a having a rotating barrel which is claimed to improve cooling. The system uses counter-clockwise torque generated by firing to reduce the amount of pressure required from the rotating barrel lock’s cam and pin system to effect unlocking. The pistol is intended for personal defence and law enforcement use, and has proved very popular since release.
The WE Bulldog
WE is a Taiwanese metal mould manufacturer which began producing airsoft replicas in 2003. They offer a range of replicas of blowback semi-auto pistols. Amongst some people, WE have a reputation for belonging to the “cheap and cheerful” end of the market. While certainly cheaper than their Japanese counterparts, I have owned several WE pistols and have found them all to be well-made, functionally and visually accurate replicas which also shoot well.
With the launch of the Advanced Weaponry Simulator System (A.W.S.S.) in 2008, WE set out to produce gas blowback airsoft replicas which are sufficiently accurate in operation and function to be used as training options for military and law enforcement personnel. The Bulldog follows this design brief.
The Bulldog is a gas operated, 6mm, blowback pistol with a metal slide and fittings and a polymer frame with replaceable backstraps. It has a 3½” barrel, 26 round, full-size drop out magazine and weighs around 2 pounds. WE also produce the Bulldog Compact, which appears to be a replica of the smaller PX4 Compact. The Bulldog is occasionally referred to as the “Bulldog Fullsize”, to distinguish it from the compact model. The Bulldog is available in all black, or with a polished metal slide.
Packaging and presentation 3/5
The WE Bulldog is provided in a cardboard box with polystyrene inlay cut out to fit the pistol and accessories. The Bulldog is supplied with three alternative backstraps, a single gas magazine and a brief user manual. The packaging is of reasonable quality, though not something you’d use to display the pistol.
Visual accuracy 9/10
WE Bulldog left, Beretta PX4 right
Ironically given the lack of Beretta licensing, this is a very accurate visual replica of the PX4. The Bulldog really is indistinguishable from the real PX4 – every pin, slot and contour of the frame and slide are faithfully reproduced. The inner barrel is recessed approximately ¼” from the outer barrel, and so isn’t particularly obvious. The outer barrel is threaded for a suppressor.
The paint finish on the slide is a very close match to the finish on the polymer frame, making the two parts look as if they belong together (something that not all airsoft replicas manage – look at the mismatched paint on the KJ Works PX4 slide, for example). If you can find an early version with Beretta markings, this is as close a visual replica as it’s possible to find.
WE Bulldog left, Beretta PX4 right
The only minor difference here (and I’m struggling to find any at all) is that the dots used on the rear and front sights are white, rather than the luminescent originals.
Functional accuracy 14/15
Given that WE replicas are intended to be used as training weapons, it’s no surprise that the Bulldog replicates every aspect of the operation of the original. The slide operates and locks as it should. The ambidextrous slide mounted safety operates correctly as a safety and decocker. The slide release, takedown slider and mag release all operate as per the original weapon and the Bulldog can be field stripped. The Bulldog shoots in single and double action. Even the rotating barrel of the original is replicated – as the slide is pushed back, the outer locking sleeve of the barrel rotates through approximately 90°. The weight of the Bulldog is also very close to that of the PX4, something that really helps to replicate the feel of the original.
I can’t find anything on the Bulldog which doesn’t fully replicate the operation of the real PX4. I fully believe that this could be used as a viable training option for the real weapon. However, there is one slightly odd thing about the operation of the Bulldog – the hammer in the down position sits about 8mm back from the fully-forward position of the hammer on the real weapon. This doesn’t affect shooting in any way, but does look slightly odd.
Bulldog hammer in fully forward (fired) position
Before talking about the Bulldog, I’d like to talk in general about airsoft gas blowbacks. I previously lived in the Highlands of Scotland where I had a large collection of airsoft pistols. While I admired their functional accuracy, none shot particularly well. They produced a subdued “phut” rather than a bang, power was low and and slide operation was, well, relaxed. I recently moved to Thailand and have started buying airsofts again. Here, they are completely different. Crisp blowback, decent bangs and generally much better power and accuracy. I spent time thinking about different valves, gas, etc. before recognising the blindingly obvious – it’s the heat, stupid! It’s so warm here that gas pressure must be significantly higher. So, be warned, if you are shooting airsoft pistols somewhere chilly, you may have very different results.
The Bulldog is loaded by filling the full size magazine with gas and BBs. Filling is done without drama or leaks. The magazine holds up to 20 BBs, and I found the pistol worked well with .2g ammunition. The slide is racked for the first shot, which pushes a BB into the chamber and cocks the hammer for single action.
The trigger pull in single action is crisp, light and consistent. In double action it is longer, but still fairly light and consistent. The three white dots on the non-adjustable sights make lining up the target simple. The pistol has adjustable hop up, though shooting .2g BBs at six yards, I found that no adjustment was required. Blowback is crisp and strong and I have had no misfeeds or failures to fire. The magazine holds gas for more than two weeks without appreciable leaks.
Six shots, six yards, .2g BBs
I don’t currently have access to a chronograph, so I can’t say what the fps is. However, BBs hit the target hard at 6 yards and penetration is good. Accuracy is very good indeed. Groupings are around 1¼” – 1½” at 6yds. Rested and shooting carefully, 1″ groupings are possible. For an airsoft pistol with open sights and a three and a half inch barrel, that’s pretty impressive. At 6yds, best accuracy is obtained using .2g BBs.
Quality and reliability 10/15
The slide fits well with no side-to-side movement and no rattles. The hammer, trigger and all other controls work well without play or slop. The magazine locks and releases cleanly. The finish on the slide looks good and (so far) hasn’t chipped or marked. The finish on the slide matches the finish on the polymer frame well. Finish on other parts isn’t as good – paint on the high spots of the safety, slide release and inner barrel are wearing after very little use. A serial number plate is provided below the barrel. I have had no functional problems with this pistol in two months of ownership although (and this is just a general impression), it doesn’t feel especially robust.
I am not aware of any reported issues with this pistol. However, I would add a word of caution. I have previously owned several older WE replica pistols and some (especially the Luger) don’t seem to have good longevity. The quality of metal used on some internal parts seems low. The sear on the WE Luger for example, is prone to rapid wear causing the pistol to fire in full auto. I have no reason to believe that this applies to the Bulldog, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you are considering long-term ownership.
Overall Impression 13/15
I like my replicas to be as close as possible to the original weapon in looks, feel and operation, and this is about as good as it gets. Other than markings, it’s indistinguishable in look and operation from the real weapon. It’s a significantly better replica than (for example) the Umarex PX4 BB shooter, and it also feels better made and put together than that pistol.
I like this replica a lot. Visually and operationally it’s difficult to see how you could have a closer replica of the real weapon other than by including Beretta markings. It’s well-made and reasonably finished and has convincing weight. It’s a pleasure to shoot and accuracy is consistent and good enough for target shooting. That it’s also significantly cheaper than some Japanese alternatives is an added bonus. How the finish and mechanical reliability hold up long-term remains to be seen, but other than that one question mark I don’t see how you can go wrong adding a WE Bulldog to your collection.
Total score: 81/100