One of the most common questions I’m asked is “What’s the best replica pistol?”. Problem is, there isn’t really a single “best” replica. There will always be a trade-off between performance and functionality. Some replicas are good shooters, some are good functional replicas and some look and handle well. None (as far as I’m aware) excel at all three. The best replica for you will depend on what you’re looking for. So, having answered my own question in the second sentence, the rest of this article will be a meander through products from some well-known manufacturers, assessing which particular boxes each tick and whether any could be considered the best replica. The list is in alphabetical rather than in order of preference and it isn’t intended to be comprehensive or encyclopaedic, it’s just based on my own experiences. Having said all this, I’ll do my best at the end of Part 2 to select my candidate for the best replica. Probably.
And as ever, feel free to disagree. Or even better, send me an article explaining your own ideas on the perfect replica…
ASG (Action Sport Games)
Action Sport Games A/S (ASG) is a Danish distributor of air and airsoft weapons and accessories. Most products are manufactured by OEM companies in Taiwan. ASG have license agreements with several well-known firearms manufacturers including Dan Wesson, STI International and Ceska Zbrojovka ( CZ) though they also provide unlicensed replicas of Glocks and Berettas. ASG market a range of spring, CO2 and green gas powered replicas including automatic rifles, sniper rifles and SMGs in addition to a range of semi auto pistols and revolvers. Most ASG pistols are available in 6mm and 4.5mm versions, though I only have experience of the 4.5mm, CO2 range.
The Dan Wesson revolvers are well-known but ASG also produce a very nice range of CO2 powered blowback semi-auto pistols including the CZ75D Compact and the STI International Duty One. These are very nicely made and finished replicas, and pretty fair shooters too. The trigger action on the semi-auto replicas is a bit quirky though – the blowback action just cocks the hammer – it doesn’t queue up the next BB. So the first part of the long single action trigger pull pushes the BB into the chamber. Squeezing the trigger slowly or tentatively can lead to a BB falling out of the barrel or, if you pull the trigger back without firing and release, can lead to more than one BB being fired. That apart, these are very nice mid-priced replicas, and ASG recently announced the release of a pellet-shooting version of the Dan Wesson revolvers with a rifled barrel, which could be very nice indeed.
Best things about ASG replicas: Reasonable cost, blowback versions are good replicas, fair shooters.
Worst things about ASG replicas: Single action trigger action on blowback replicas, some questions about quality control/long-term reliability.
My favourite ASG replica: Would probably be the 4.5mm, CO2, CZ 75D Compact blowback. Good replica, nice weight, well finished and as far as I know, the only 4.5mm licensed version of this chunky and attractive handgun. Nice shooter too – powerful, consistent and reasonably accurate.
Crosman Corporation is a US manufacturer and retailer of air pistols and rifles. The current range includes a number of (generally unlicensed) replicas of real world handguns. These are mostly fairly low cost replicas, and I can’t say that I find many of them (with the possible exception of the 357 revolver) very exciting. However, in the sixties and seventies, Crosman sold a range of replicas based on the iconic Colt Single Action Army, and it’s those I want to include here. Prompted by rising interest in all things cowboy, in 1959 Crosman introduced their first pellet firing, CO2 powered SAA replica – the Single Action 6 (SA6) which sold from 1959 – 1969. In 1970 it was superseded by the Peacemaker 44. Both the SA6 and the Peacemaker 44 were available in .22 calibre only and were all metal replicas, though from 1976 – 1981 a Peacemaker 44 in .177 calibre with a plastic outer cylinder was also produced. All production of Crosman SAA replicas had ended by 1982.
Very large numbers of both the SA6 and the Peacemaker 44 were produced, and these replicas are readily available in used condition. These are basic, crude, loud, fiddly to load, not terribly accurate and they gobble CO2. And I absolutely love them. If you have any interest in replica guns, you need to try shooting one of these SAA replicas. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with one of the later plastic cylinder models (or the Crosman Shiloh – a replica of the 1861 Remington revolver) as the build quality of these doesn’t seem quite so good. But if you can find a decent SA6 with its imitation stag-horn grips or a good original Peacemaker 44, grab it with both hands and don’t let go.
Best things about Crosman replicas: Low cost, Colt SAA replicas from the 60s and 70s are great fun.
Worst things about Crosman replicas: Just about everything else they currently make is of low quality with limited functionality and most are indifferent shooters.
My favourite Crosman replica: Would be my very own Crosman Peacemaker 44. It’s super loud and I’m lucky to get 30 full power shots per CO2 but it’s nevertheless one of my favourite replicas to shoot. Weighty but with good balance and one of the best single-action triggers I have come across, it never fails to put a smile on my face. Why, oh why doesn’t someone introduce a new Colt SAA replica?
Cybergun is a French distribution company which markets a range of branded CO2 and green gas powered replicas including automatic rifles, sniper rifles and SMGs in addition to a range of semi auto pistols. Most are from Taiwanese OEM companies including KWC. Cybergun pistols are available in 6mm and 4.5mm versions, though I only have experience of the 4.5mm, CO2 range.
Many Cybergun replicas have odd licensing agreements – their Taurus PT92B replica is branded as a GSG92/Swiss Arms P92, their Colt 1911 is the Tanfoglio Witness and the Mini Uzi sometimes appears as the Swiss Arms Protector. If markings are important to you, this may be an issue, but these are generally very good replicas indeed. Heavy and fully functional, they really are close to the feel of operating the real weapon. However, finish isn’t always the best: some Cybergun replicas seem to have a very thin coat of paint indeed which wears quickly and some folk report rapid wear of internal components. As shooters, they do seem to vary – I have owned three Cybergun Tanfoglio Witnesses and one was very accurate indeed while the other two weren’t quite so good. I also owned a GSG92 which had relatively poor accuracy and power and a Sig X5 which was very good indeed in both respects. Buy with fingers crossed.
Best things about Cybergun replicas: Low cost, good functionality and weight, good visual replicas.
Worst things about Cybergun replicas: Finish isn’t always of the best quality, some questions about long-term reliability, variable shooters.
My favourite Cybergun replica: Is the 4.5mm, CO2, Mini Uzi blowback. I’m not sure this qualifies as a pistol at all, but it’s a very good functional replica with nice weight (it’s pretty much all-metal). The bolt is heavy, which gives a strong recoil. Not particularly accurate and it gobbles CO2, but in full auto mode (not available in the UK) it’s as subtle as a baseball bat with nails in it, but pure mad fun. It’s unlike any other replica I have owned – You really need to try one of these.
KWA and KSC are separate companies (KWA is a Taiwanese manufacturer and KSC is a Japanese R&D company). However, though both companies are very coy about explaining, there is obviously a close relationship between the two. Products branded KSC and KWA appear to be identical, though KWA products are generally a little cheaper. Both companies provide a range of electric and green gas powered rifles, SMGs and pistols in 6mm. All recent KWA/KSC replicas are high quality and visually and functionally very accurate: some are sold as PTP (Practical Training Pistol) training weapons. Some KSC/KWA replicas are licensed, but many are unlicensed but accurate replicas of real weapons – the KWA KZ75 for example, is a very good replica of the CZ75 but includes no CZ markings.
The KWA pistols I have owned have also been very accurate and consistent shooters, especially those featuring System 7/NS2 internals. Unfortunately, many airgun enthusiasts still regard airsoft pistols as toys. I’d recommend anyone who feels this way to try a KSC/KWA pistol – these are not only well made, well finished and accurate replicas, they’re satisfactory target-shooting air pistols too.
Best things about KWA/KSC replicas: Extremely accurate visual and functional replicas, good finish and overall quality, fair shooters.
Worst things about KWA/KSC replicas: High cost (especially KSC versions).
My favourite KWA replica: Is the M226 PTP.It may not feature Sig Sauer licensing or markings, but you simply won’t find a better replica of the Sig P226. It has good weight at 1.8 pounds and every aspect of the function of the original, including field stripping, is replicated. It’s a handy shooter too, using the NS2 shooting system, and has a reputation for quality and reliability.
Coming soon: Part 2 – Tanaka, Tokyo Marui, Umarex and others. And possibly even a decision on the best replica…