The COVID Backyard Shootout: Pellet vs steel BB vs Airsoft

I have been doing more shooting than usual lately, mainly as a way of spending time during COVID lockdown. Punching holes through bits of card in my back garden is not only fun, it’s now also considered responsible behaviour that keeps me and others safe (at least, that’s what I have been telling my wife…). However, it also started me thinking: of the replicas I own, which is the best shooter?

Which then started me thinking about the different types of replica pistol I review here: pellet shooters, 4.5mm BB shooters and Airsoft replicas shooting 6mm plastic BBs. How do the three different types compare as shooters? You might assume that a pellet being shot through a rifled barrel is always going to be more accurate, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily true at the 6m range at which I shoot. I think a pellet will always be more accurate at longer range, but that may not be relevant for short-range backyard shooting. In some ways, you could argue that I’m comparing apples with oranges here – Airsoft and pellet shooting replicas are designed for different things, but I use them all to shoot at targets in my backyard, and it’s that experience I want to compare.

My home-made backyard target holder and pellet/BB catcher – it’s made out of an old drawer with the base reinforced with wood and thick, heavy-duty carpet tiles to absorb impact and reduce ricochets.

So, here you have it – the backyard shootout! I’m going to use three very different replicas – one pellet shooter, one steel BB shooter and an airsoft replica. Each has been chosen as an accurate shooter of its particular type. And here are the contenders…

Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm

This is a CO2 powered, blowback replica that is capable of shooting both .177” pellets and 4.5mm steel BBs. I have never seen the point of shooting BBs through a rifled barrel, so I’ll be using pellets with this one. This is the most powerful replica tested in this shootout and it flings BBs downrange at a healthy 350fps from a 4” rifled barrel. Now, if you have read my review of the Umarex PX4 (and you’ll find a link at the end of this article if you haven’t), you’ll know that, out of the box, mine was pretty dismal in terms of accuracy. However, with a couple of simple mods it has turned into a very satisfying shooter.

Gletcher PM 1951

This a CO2 powered, blowback replica of the iconic Makarov pistol. It shoots only 4.5mm steel BBs through a 3.15” smoothbore barrel and when I tested it, it gave a velocity of around 280fps. When I first used it, it consistently shot low and so I have reduced the height of the front sight to make it hit closer to the point of aim.

Tokyo Marui Glock 26

This is a Duster Gas (HFC 134a) -powered blowback replica that shoots 6mm BBs at a fairly lowly 210fps from a 2.95” barrel. This shot to the point of aim out of the box and hasn’t been modified in any way.

The Shooting Test

I’ll be shooting at targets from 6m, semi rested to reduce errors caused by my shooting (in)ability. For each replica type, I’ll shoot four targets with ten shots and I’ll keep only the highest scoring target for each type. A direct comparison will tell us which is my most accurate replica at this relatively short range.

I’ll be using standard Sportwaffen- Schneider card targets for each. The target is 14cm square, the outer circle measures 115mm in diameter and the inner black circle is 28mm. There are twelve scoring zones and points are awarded for the highest scoring area any shot is touching. The highest possible score for ten shots is 120 if all the shots are in or touching the innermost light circle which has a diameter of just 9mm. The replicas I’m using are all blowback and all have been reviewed here on the Pistol Place.

Umarex Beretta PX4

10 shots at 6m, semi-rested using RWS 0.53g training pellets. The score was:

2 x 8, 1 x 9, 1 x 10, 4 x 11, 2 x 12

Total: 103/120

I really enjoy shooting this replica now that it’s capable of decent accuracy. The blowback feels strong, it is loud enough without being a problem and it feels solid when you shoot it.

Gletcher PM1951

10 shots at 6m, semi-rested using Umarex steel 4.5mm BBs. The score was:

2 x 9, 2 x 10, 4 x 11, 2 x 12

Total: 106/120

I like the functional realism of this replica and the fact that it has the strongest blowback and that it’s the loudest here, though by a small margin over the PX4. I also like the fact that this is a hefty, solid-feeling replica.

TM Glock 26

10 shots at 6m, semi-rested using 0.25g BBs. The score was:

1 x 8, 1 x 9, 2 x 10, 4 x 11, 2 x 12    

I really love the tiny TM Glock 26 and this is probably my favourite Airsoft replica, just because it shoots so well, though I also appreciate that’s it’s a great functional and visual replica. However, shooting alongside the other two in this challenge, it is noticeable that it’s very quiet, quite light and that the blowback is the weakest of the three.  

Total: 105/120

So, the Gletcher PM1951 is the surprise winner in this backyard shooting test by a very small margin. It’s so close overall that, on another day, either one of the others might have edged ahead. What’s impressive for me isn’t just the winner but that all three were capable of shooting accurately enough for challenging and satisfying target work. If you were shooting at longer range (say, 10m), I suspect that the PX4 would do much better in comparison. However, 6m is all I have space for, so that’s what I’m using here.   

Conclusion

If you had to guess the winner here based on stats, you would probably choose the Umarex PX4, simply because it shoots pellets through a rifled barrel that’s longer than the barrel on either of the other two. I already knew how good the TM Glock is as 6m shooting and I would probably have guessed that the Gletcher PM1951 would have done worst of all in terms of accuracy. But here in the real backyard world, that’s just not how it works. The Gletcher PM 1951 and the TM Glock 26 are great target shooters at 6m, despite using BBs which you might expect to be less accurate. In isolation the TM Glock also feels like a convincing replica too but, in the company of these two CO2 powered blowback replicas with metal slides, it does feel just a little wimpy. The other two are heavier, louder and with stronger blowback and both replicate the firearm experience more closely than the Glock.

In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a replica. For me, shooting ability is important – I don’t collect wall decorations; I like shooting my replicas and I want them to be accurate enough to make that fun and challenging. For that reason, I do very much like the TM Glock. However, the Umarex PX4 is almost as accurate and it’s louder, heavier and has stronger blowback compared to the Airsoft replica. With its extended grip, the Gletcher PM1951 looks a little odd to me, but it is a cracking shooter as well as a good functional replica…

So, there you are. The winner of my COVID Backyard Shootout is… Any of these replicas! They’re all fun to shoot, accurate enough to be challenging and those things help keep you shooting and off the streets in these difficult times. If I had to pick a personal favourite, it would probably be the Umarex PX4 – it may be marginally less accurate than the other two but I like the way it looks and shoots and it fits my hand really well.

Why not try this challenge yourself – only use air or Airsoft pistols that are replicas of real firearms, use as many different types as you can, shoot four targets with ten shots on each at your usual range and keep only the best score. Then compare to find your own backyard champion…

Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Shooting  

Related Posts

Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm Redux

Gletcher PM 1951 review

Tokyo Marui Glock 26 review

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