As the title says, this is a review of the Army Armament R45 airsoft pistol. I found this pistol when browsing a European supplier’s website and I immediately had two questions; who are Army Armament and what the Hell is an R45?
A bit of research soon answered the second question; this is an unlicensed replica of the Detonics Combat Master pistol and it appears to be a close copy of the Tokyo Marui Detonics 45. I still haven’t been able to answer the second question. I believe that Army Armament is a Chinese company and that they produce only airsoft replicas, many of which appear to be based on TM designs. There is an Army Armament FaceBook page, but it says nothing at all about the company, its history or even where it is based.
I’m not sure why so many Chinese Airsoft manufacturers are so coy about giving company information, but this does seem to be a common thing. Some research suggest varied experiences with replicas from this manufacturer. Some people seem perfectly happy, others complain about poor quality and reliability. And that seems like a good reason for a review. The Army Armament R45 is certainly very cheap, but is it any good? Let’s take a look…
Real steel background
The Detonics Combat Master began as an attempt to design a pistol small enough for concealed carry but capable of chambering the powerful 45 ACP cartridge. 1911 enthusiast and engineer Patrick Yates bought three cheap 1911 pistols from a pawn shop in the early 1970s and hacked them around to create a prototype of a much smaller version of that pistol.
Although it looked a lot like a scaled-down 1911, the Combat Master is actually quite different in design. The most obvious visual change is that rather odd-looking, sloped slide with the rear sight set just to the rear of the trigger. It may look a little strange, but this was done for a sound reason – the 1911 is single action only so, depending on how you carry it, you may need to cock the hammer before firing. The sloped slide makes it very easy to run your thumb down the back of the slide until it hits the hammer. The redesigned slide here just makes it much easier to cock the hammer quickly.
Detonics Combat Master
There are other changes too. The grip-safety has been removed as has the barrel-bushing – the barrel is cone-shaped so it always locks in the same position when it’s in-battery. Inside, there are multiple recoil springs, placed one inside the other and the hammer can be de-cocked to a half-cock position for safe carry. From the outside, this may just look like a smaller 1911, but it’s actually a thoughtful re-design – only the slide stop, manual safety, magazine release, trigger, sear and disconnector are identical to those on the 1911.
Sales of what became the Detonics Combat Master began in the late 1970s. The original Detonics company went out of business but the rights to manufacture the Combat Master passed first to New Detonics (in 1986) and then to Detonics Defense (in 2007). When it first appeared, this was a popular handgun as one of the few compact pistols chambered for the .45 ACP round. However, the appearance of baby Glocks and other large-caliber compact pistols in the 1990s led to a decline in sales and, as far as I know, this is no longer manufactured. The Detonics Combat Master was featured in the television show Miami Vice in the 1980s when it was used by lead character Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) as a back-up pistol.
Sonny Crockett with Detonics Combat Master
The Army Armament R45
The Army Armament R45 is an airsoft, Green Gas-powered blow-back replica of the Detonics Combat Master. It finished mainly in black with a chrome trigger, hammer and polished metal outer barrel and brown plastic grips. This is a mainly metal replica including the magazine (only the grips and some internal parts are plastic) and it weighs-in at a convincing 700g. The outer barrel is threaded. This replica has no markings whatever. All controls function as per the original
Magazine capacity: 15 BBs
Propellant: Green Gas
Barrel length: 75mm (2.95″)
Weight: 700g (1.54lbs)
Overall length: 175mm (6.89″)
Sights: Notch and post, non-adjustable.
Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)
The Army Armament R45 looks slightly lost in a card box that is obviously sized for the larger AA R31, a 1911 replica. All you get in the box is the pistol, a single magazine and a slim user manual written entirely in Chinese.
Visual accuracy 7/10
This is a good visual replica of the Detonics Combat master pistol. It is finished in black with brown, plastic, wood-effect grips. The size, proportions and the location of all controls precisely match the original and things like the strange curved shape of the ejection port are accurately replicated. The outer barrel is polished metal, matching the look of the original and the hammer and trigger are chromed, something that can be seen on many Detonics pistols.
There are no markings here. None. Not even something identifying this as an airsoft pistol and nothing to show the Army Armament logo.
Overall, other than the lack of markings, this is a good visual replica of the Detonics Combat Master.
Functional accuracy 14/15
The slide and magazine releases and the manual safety work here as they do on the original and the slide locks back when the last BB is fired. If you pull the trigger and gently lower the hammer, it falls to a half-cock position, just as on the original.
Disassembly is done as on the original – drop the magazine, move the slide back until the cut-out is level with the rear of the slide release and then push the release out to the left. The slide can then be removed.
To remove the barrel assembly, compress and remove the recoil spring assembly and remove it from the slide. The barrel assembly can then be removed from the front of the slide. The outer barrel replicates the odd cone-shape of the original and there has even been an attempt to replicate the double recoil spring on the original – this has two springs, one inside the other.
Overall, this is a good functional replica of the original.
Problems with the R45
Before I get to the usual stuff about shooting, I first need to talk about problems with my R45. Within less than fifty shots, it started misbehaving. With each shot, there was a puff of gas out of the lower rear of the slide and the muzzle. Power dropped noticeably and the slide wasn’t moving far enough to the rear to push a fresh BB into the hop-up. If I manually racked the slide, the pistol would shoot, but a full magazine would allow only around four shots before it was empty. It was clear that I had a leak or a feed problem somewhere, but precisely where?
An examination of the magazine revealed no obvious leaks or broken parts and taking off the slide and looking at the loading nozzle also showed no signs of damage. Next, I removed the loading nozzle and blowback unit from the slide – fortunately a simple matter of removing the small hex screw key that holds the rear sight in place and a larger hex screw on the rear of the slide.
With everything disassembled, there were no obvious problems – I suspected a crack in the loading nozzle, but there don’t seem to be any issue there. Which is, of course both good and bad – it’s good to find nothing damaged, but then I don’t know why it isn’t cycling properly. I lubricated everything thoroughly and put it all back together and seemed to be working as it should – it shot with a notably sharper “crack,” there was no apparent loss of gas and the slide cycled correctly and locked back on empty.
Around twenty shots later, the same problem reoccurred. A puff of gas onto my hand as I shoot, a subdued “phfft” rather than a crack and I only got around seven or eight shots before it ran out of gas. This is not impressive. I disassembled again. I checked the magazine, feed system, blowback unit and loading nozzle carefully and again, I can find nothing wrong. I soaked the main firing valve, the fill valve and the transfer lip with silicone oil and left them overnight. I then reassembled and it worked perfectly. No leaking gas, good power and thirty or more shots per fill. Two hundred or so shots later, it is still working correctly
Almost all my shooting with this replica was done after the problems noted above were addressed. Before you shoot the R45, you’ll need to fill it with gas. I was happy to note that this happens completely without any loss of gas, something I rarely see in most other airsoft replicas. Then, you have to load BBs. To do this, you must hold the follower down while you add BBs through the wider part of the opening in the front of the magazine. You can squeeze in up to fifteen BBs.
The magazine latches positively and to prepare for shooting, all you need to do is rack the slide. Just as on the original, the manual safety can only be applied when the hammer is fully cocked, though you can drop the hammer to a half-cock position. Pulling the trigger has no effect with the hammer in this position and it must be fully re-cocked to fire. It may be worth noting that the sloped rear slide really works – your thumb naturally follows the top of the slide before it meets the hammer and this is much easier than cocking a 1911 replica.
The sights are simple and rather small, just like the originals, and they lack white dots or any other from of aiming aid. Neither sight is adjustable – the rear sight is retained in position by a small hex-head screw, but loosening this does not allow any adjustment of the sight. Hop-up adjustment is done via a toothed wheel under the barrel (arrowed below) and the slide must be removed to access this.
The trigger is very light and with virtually no take-up. When it’s working correctly the R45 shoots with a sharp crack that isn’t especially loud though the fairly hefty metal slide does give good recoil effect. The short grip allows space for just two fingers and there is no pinky-rest extension for the magazine.
Power is reasonable. I ran six shots from the R45 over my chrony using 0.2g BBs. The results were;
Nothing startling here, but perfectly respectable for an airsoft replica with a barrel that’s under three inches long. The slim magazine does not hold a great deal of gas. I found that I couldn’t shoot much more than two full magazines (30 shots) from a single fill without power dropping noticeably.
Ten shots, freestanding, six metres, 0.25g BBs.
Accuracy is fair for a replica with such a short barrel with groups generally around 1.5 – 2 inches. Mine shoots a little to the right but using 0.25g BBs and adjusting the hop-up means it’s spot-on for elevation.
When it’s working, this is a pleasant replica to shoot. Blowback is fairly strong and accuracy is good enough for satisfactory target shooting at six metres.
Quality and reliability 10/15
Overall, I am conflicted about this replica. It managed relatively few shots out of the box before I started having problems. It now seems to be working correctly but, given that I didn’t actually find anything wrong and fix it, I’m concerned that it may happen again. Set against those issues, the finish looks fine and the R45 isn’t showing any other signs of distress or wear. It was noticeably dry out of the box, but I lubricated it before I began shooting.
This makes an interesting contrast with another compact airsoft replica I reviewed recently, the Tokyo Marui Glock 26. The TM replica is around three times the price of this one, but it works flawlessly and it shoots very nicely indeed. If you are short of funds, it may be worth taking a chance on the R45. But, if you can afford it, the TM Glock 26 provides a much better (and totally reliable) shooting experience.
Overall Impression 7/10
I really like the fact that this is a hefty replica. At over one and a half pounds in weight, this feels pleasingly heavy for such a small pistol. Despite the problems I had, it generally appears to be well-made and finished and it’s nice to see a replica of a relatively little-known pistol. In many ways, I really like the R45, but I’m not convinced about its long-term reliability and, for me, there is nothing worse than a replica that won’t shoot reliably.
At first glance, this seems like something of a bargain. It’s less than one-third the cost of, for example, a TM replica and well under half the price of, for example, a WE Tech replica. Despite that, it doesn’t feel particularly cheap. In fact, it feels well-made and hefty and the finish seems reasonable. However, I had problems with shooting mine almost from the start. I’m fairly experienced in terms of working on airsoft replicas, and I just couldn’t work out what was wrong with this one.
It now seems to be working perfectly but these problems mean that I have concerns about its long-term reliability. This is my only experience with an Army Armament replica so I certainly can’t say that the same problem is likely to affect other replicas by this manufacturer or even other R45s. What I can say is that my slightly disappointing experience with the R45 means that I won’t be rushing to buy anything else made by Army Armament.
There are good things about this replica, and you may be lucky to get one that works well. However, on the basis of my experience, I would be cautious about recommending the R45 despite its low price.
Total score: 75.5/100
Pros and cons
Seems fairly well-made and finished
Good visual and functional replica
Not a particularly accurate or powerful shooter