Gun Heaven Webley MkVI Service Revolver

The first batch of Webley revolvers, also known as “Self-Extracting” or “Top-Break” revolvers, arrived in Thailand at the end of last year. Proving to be quite popular, I unfortunately missed out and so had to wait until completion of both the Chinese New Year and Songkran festivities to take possession of my very own Webley MkVI. The wait was definitely worth it!

This is the 6mm smoothbore version is marketed in Asia, under licence, by Gun Heaven of Hong Kong and Taiwan. As far as I am aware, it is identical to the 4.5mm version except for the calibre and the fact that it does not have a safety switch fitted to the right-hand side (I note some models have such a safety fitted just above the trigger; although unobtrusive, I am of the opinion that it is unnecessary: if you are ready to shoot and then change your mind, you simply lower the hammer, remove the “cartridges” and place the pistol safely in a holster or otherwise out of harm’s way).

Real Steel Background

Webley & Son of Great Britain, who would later become known as Webley & Scott following a merger in 1897, started development of their famous “Top-Break” revolvers in the 1870s for both military and civilian markets. All were chambered for the substantial .455 inch calibre cartridge with heavy 265 grain bullets travelling at a little over 600 fps. Black-powder cartridges were used in the MkI which appeared in 1887 and replaced the Enfield revolver as standard issue to the British Army. Black powder continued to be used until the MkV in 1894 when smokeless cordite ammunition was introduced (source: world.guns.ru).

The MkVI was the pinnacle of the Webley Top-Break design featuring a six-inch barrel (previous versions had either four or five inch barrels), squared instead of more rounded “bird’s beak” grips and a removeable front post (although this is cast as part of the barrel on the replica). Whilst the earlier MkIV was known for being used extensively during the Boer War, the MkVI became synonymous with The Great War, entering service with British and Commonwealth troops in 1915. Although production of the MkVI by the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield ceased in 1932 (Webley & Scott had stopped production in 1921), this powerful revolver was still to be relied upon by soldiers in World War Two alongside its replacement, the Enfield No.2 MkI (source: Wikipedia).

Gun Heaven Webley MKVI

Packaging and Presentation 4.5 / 5

The gun is held securely in place using bubble-wrap inside an attractive cardboard box. Six “cartridges” are provided along with a detailed user manual that covers operation, field-stripping, a specification comparison between the CO2 replica and the “real steel” … and film and game credits! This last one is a rather novel idea, but hardly surprising seeing as how this pistol has featured in so many films over the years.

Excerpts from the User Manual (2014 – far left) … and Small Arms Training Pamphlet, Vol.I, No.11 (1937)

This movie list is repeated on the back of the box along with a brief history of the original firearm. From “The Lost Patrol” to “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (have not seen that one… yet!) and from “Doctor Who” to “Dad’s Army” (two of my favourite shows as a boy… and ones which I am revisiting in middle age!) the Webley Mk VI Revolver has featured in so many productions (even when it should not have, owing to the fact it did not yet exist!) that it is extremely difficult – nigh impossible! – to know which to illustrate here. However, it would be ridiculous not to give at least a couple of examples; so courtesy of that fountain of knowledge the “IMFDB”…

Col. Durnford (Burt Lancaster) taking aim (both eyes open) in “Zulu Dawn” …

… and she’s got two! Anna Barnes-Leatherwood (Charlize Theron) in “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (… and who said shooting is just for boys!)

… and finally a shot (excuse the pun!) from a film set in this part of the world — Captain Hornsby (Denholm Elliott) traipsing through the jungle in “Too Late the Hero”

Another excellent idea – and one which I have not seen before – is the inclusion of the facsimile Small Arms Training Pamphlet (Vol. I, No.11) dated 1937, specific to the Webley MkVI. However, the only reason I have not given full marks (and I am being very “fussy” here!) is I would love to see an imitation cartridge box provided with replicas of such historically important guns. Admittedly, I have only ever seen this with the Tokyo Marui 1911A1, but it struck me as being another rather enterprising idea.

Visual Accuracy 8.5 / 10

This replica is, at first glance, identical to the original firearm. My first thoughts were, should you be the curator of a museum wishing to save a little money, then you need look no further than the Webley MkVI replica!

However, there are some very minor differences which I will highlight here. I should like to stress that none of these were at all immediately apparent. The photos with the blue background are part of a larger collection of immaculate British revolvers I found at the “TIR et COLLECTION Armes Règlementaires” forum, a link to which is given at the end of this review.

Photo (top) courtesy of tircollection.com

On the left-hand side everything would appear to be exactly the same, except for the hammer which, when at rest on the replica, sits slightly proud of the firing pin. Mine comes in what is known as a “weathered” finish and, in my opinion, adds significantly to the authenticity of the gun. The original usually featured a selection of proofing marks and stamps – for example, on the cylinder cam as given above – which are not on the replica. Furthermore, the rear sight appears to be slightly higher, but that may well be intentional as it shoots using a perfectly balanced sight picture.

Three well-defined stamps/ engravings may be found on the left-hand side of the frame. Both the “Mark VI” stamped above the cylinder and the “Webley” patent stamp, correctly identified as 1915, below the cylinder are exactly as would be found on the cartridge firing original; having the calibre stamped on the barrel is something I have not seen, at least on the images I have found, but in my opinion does not look at all out of place.

After all, it could be to distinguish it from the MkIV, reintroduced in 1942 in .38 inch calibre and which bears more than a passing resemblance to a scaled-down MkVI — if one of those is in the pipeline, perhaps with an alternative grip style featuring either the “Webley” logo or “bird’s beak” grips — than I for one would certainly like to have the pair.

Photo (top) courtesy of tircollection.com

A few other minor discrepancies are also noticeable on the right-hand side; namely a screw instead of a pin on which the barrel catch pivots and a pin missing to the rear of the cylinder near the top of the grips. The grips on the replica are of black plastic; I assume Bakelite would have been used on the original. Also, as mentioned previously, the front post is cast as part of the barrel whereas it is held in place by a screw on the original.

The serial number is stamped on the frame above and to the rear of the trigger guard. It actually took me some time to find out exactly where they were placed on the original. My search culminated with the Imperial War Museum website and the Webley MkVI used by author J.R.R Tolkien during World War One (a link to the IWM website is given at the end of this review):

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London: © IWM (FIR 11492)

As can be seen, the serial number was stamped on the edge of the cylinder (photo above) as well as underneath the gun, forward of the trigger guard (photo below):

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London: © IWM (FIR 11492)

N.B.: The screw for the trigger guard is not included on the replica

The shells, whilst marked “Webley .455” are nearly the same size as those of the “.38 inch” WinGun “7-Series” with an outside shell casing diameter of 9.6 +/- 0.05 mm for the Webley as against to 9.4 mm for the WinGun. However, the lead-coloured rubber “bullet” into which the BB is fitted is slightly shorter than that of the 7-Series “.38” (I believe the “7-Series” is what the Dan Wesson replicas are based upon).

Left to right: WinGun .177, WinGun 6mm, Webley 6mm and Nagant M1895 6mm

Please note that some Webley 6mm shells (not shown) have a smaller diameter hole which will reduce muzzle velocity

It certainly looks the part… and performs, too

Operational and Functional Accuracy 15 / 15

Apart from using CO2 as a propellant, operation is exactly the same as that of the original. A CO2 capsule is inserted by removing the right-hand side grip. There is a notch in the base for this purpose. The lanyard swivel, which doubles as a piercing screw, is then gently tightened without piercing the capsule. I then like to replace the grip before tightening the screw further in order to pierce the CO2. Capsules are pierced cleanly and efficiently and it holds its charge well.

BBs are pushed into the front of each “cartridge” and held firmly in place by the rubber “bullet”. Pressing on the barrel catch allows the barrel and cylinder to swivel forward. Cartridges are then loaded – if dropped into place there is a faint metallic “ring” – and the barrel/ cylinder swung back into place with a positive, metallic “click”. You really could be forgiven for forgetting this replica is made of alloy as against steel!

The Webley MkVI, as per the original, may be fired in both single and double action. Once firing has been completed, the cylinder is again swung open and the cartridges raised automatically by the extractor. If the barrel is pushed fully forward, then the extractor will return to its closed position.

A shell being extracted. Although marked “.455” it is in fact more akin to a .38”

Inset: BBs are held firmly in place by the rubber “bullet”

Field-stripping instructions are provided in the user manual. This is much more straightforward than I imagined it would be. With the shells removed, the bottom screw below the cylinder cam assembly is removed and the cam rotated in a clockwise direction. The cylinder then “pops-up” when the barrel is fully opened and can be removed.

Indicating the screw which unlocks the cylinder cam

Shooting 35 / 40

Most of my shooting to date – nearly 600 rounds through six CO2 capsules – has been done in single-action using both a one and two handed grip (the targets shown have all been using two hands). Double-action was a little stiff at first, but is improving with use and practice. The pistol has a real “heft” to it, although with a tendency to fall forward if not held with a firm grip; just like the original, I should imagine. I weighed mine using digital scales and, correcting for spent CO2, this came to 1062 grams (loaded) which equates to 2.34 lbs (an original would be 2.4 lbs, unloaded).

The fixed sights provide a good, clear sight picture; even in low light and without my specs on! As mentioned previously, the rear sight is slightly higher on the replica, but I should imagine this is intentional as it results in a point of aim equaling point of impact.

When target shooting, then the front post should be in focus, not the rear sight.

A clear sight picture with POA (top of post) = POI

I initially shot using .25g (FireFly) BBs. Although obtaining reasonably good results at six yards with a grouping of about 1.5 to 2 inches and mean score of 37 based on sets of five shots at the standard Umarex Boys Club target, which is scaled for use at this distance, I soon discovered that heavier .40g (FireFly) balls resulted in a marked improvement as shown in the following photo:

.40g 6mm BBs at six yards using a two-handed grip.

The grouping on target four is ⅝ inch centre to centre. The inset shows the chrono reading from shot #41

Although muzzle velocity was rather inconsistent for the first few shots, it soon settled to approximately 370 +/- 20 fps using .40g 6mm BBs in a relatively cool (for Thailand!) 27°C. In fact, by about half-way through the capsule of CO2, readings were even more consistent at around 385 +/- 5 fps. At least 90 goods shots may be had from a capsule of CO2. However, it had been a few days prior to this that I first decided to swap to the heavier ammunition… just after I had shot my 10m UBC competition!

All shot at 10m. The targets on the left using .25g, the rest using .40g.

The target in the centre, whilst not being a high score, has groupings of 1 ⅜ inch and ¾ inch (not counting the flier) top and bottom respectively

Whether it is a little less powerful than the 4.5mm version, I am not sure. It is certainly perfectly adequate for my needs, being just right for my “Biscuit Tin” range with shots easily connecting with the single lid which presents an eight inch diameter target at twenty yards. What is also worthy of note is that, thanks to the slightly higher power than is usually associated with 6mm replica guns, on pulling the trigger you immediately hear the impact against the tin lid in the distance, making it much more suitable (and fun!) for plinking in the garden (neighbours permitting).

There is even a puff of “smoke”, noticeable at night, from the  rear of the cylinder and barrel. Whether this might indicate an imperfect seal between the CO2 valve and cartridge, I would not like to say as the pistol is remarkably efficient in its consumption of CO2 and the marriage between the two with the cylinder closed appears to be fine; anyway, it looks kind of cool. The pistol is not particularly loud.

Quality and Reliability 14 / 15

It is really too soon to form a proper opinion, but to date the pistol has operated flawlessly. What has to be remembered is that, although no doubt made of a very good quality and durable alloy, it is still made of alloy and not steel. The only thing I could mention is that there is a very slight lateral movement in the barrel where it pivots with the frame, but this is not worsening with use and disappears when the barrel is snapped shut. Furthermore, I would be very surprised if the original did not have some minor movement at this point, too — these guns were built to operate in the worst conditions possible; reliability as opposed to fine tolerance was the order of the day.

The cylinder comes lightly greased and there are no signs of wear to the pawl teeth.

Right – view through the smooth bore barrel

The wide indexing pawl, cylinder stop and valve gasket.

Right – Please note the steel insert in the hammer where it strikes the “firing pin” (this reinforcing pin is to be found on all the WinGun/ Gun Heaven replicas I own)

Overall Impression 15 / 15

I have decided on full marks for this section since, if anything, this pistol has surpassed my expectations — and they were high. Having been so impressed by this smoothbore version of the Webley MkVI, I must admit that I am more than a little keen to see the .177 pellet version one day. Also, as mentioned above, should the manufacturers decide to modify things somewhat to produce a MkIV to accompany the MkVI, then in my opinion they would definitely make a great pair!

Introduced in 1915, this gun was issued to men who were expected to endure the unimaginable horrors of World War One. Most of these men were not professional soldiers, but ordinary people from all walks of life who when called upon, did their duty, many of them never to return home. Terrible sacrifices were made on both sides; not only must this never be forgotten, we must ensure that it never happens again.

On a less serious note, I feel immense credit is due to Gun Heaven/ Toubo/ WinGun and Webley for deciding to work together in order to revisit the original design and thence develop what can only be described as a thoroughly authentic, fully functioning replica of the Webley MkVI Service Revolver; one which should appeal not only to shooters and collectors of replica firearms like myself, but also to those who may otherwise not be particularly interested in replica pistols such as full-bore and other shooting enthusiasts, military historians, readers of classic late 19th and early 20th Century fiction and, last but not least, avid television and movie fans!

Total 92 / 100

Review by Adrian. Adrian is also a moderator for the Umarex Boys Club Forums.                   

Related posts

Nagant M1895 Revolver review

Umarex Colt Single Action Army revolver review

Links

http://www.tircollection.com/t7678-revolvers-british

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30034679

WE G-17

This is a review of the WE-Tech G-17. Now, I don’t know about you, but although the G-17 has no markings or trades, it looks to me an awful lot like a certain type of handgun that also has a “G” and the number 17 in its name. Clearly this isn’t a licensed replica and we all know that the company that make that handgun beginning with “G” are very unhappy about unlicensed replicas of their guns. So, just to be clear, this isn’t sold as a replica of the Generation 3 Glock 17. Even though that’s what it appears to be, OK?

I have been playing around with airsoft pistols for a number of years now, and I recall WE replicas that came out a few years back which had various problems. The WE Luger, for example, was a great looking replica, but mine had a tendency to unexpectedly enter full-auto mode. My WE Browning High-Power was also great to look at, but not so great as a shooter. But back then, WE was a budget manufacturer and I was willing to accept less than stellar quality in exchange for a cheap purchase price. Now, WE seem to have repositioned themselves at the upper end of the market, with prices of some models close to those of TM, but are their new replicas actually any good?  Whatever the G-17 happens to look like, is it fun to shoot? Let’s take a look.

Real steel background

As noted, WE don’t claim that this is a replica of a Glock. But, possibly by an odd coincidence, it looks very similar to the Gen 3 Glock 17. So that’s what I’m going to talk about here. Now, I have already written an article about the development of the Glock (you’ll find a link at the end of this article) so I won’t go into massive detail here.

Original Glock 17 (1982 – 1988)

The Glock 17 was the first handgun designed by Gaston Glock. It was given that name because it was apparently the seventeenth thing that Glock (who had never designed a handgun before) invented and not, as some people supposed, because the original version held seventeen 9mm rounds in its magazine. When it first appeared in 1982, the Glock 17 was a revelation. A handgun that held 17+1 rounds was pretty startling back then, as was the fact that the Glock’s frame and grip were made of reinforced polymer. However, when it was tested by the Austrian army the same year, it also turned out to be as reliable as if it were carved from a block of granite. They purchased 20,000 and suddenly, the whole world seemed to go Glock mad.

Glock 17 Gen 3 (1995 – 2010)

Nearly forty years later, the Glock 17 is still being manufactured and it still looks a lot like the original. Sure, the stippling on the grip has changed over the years, later versions have an accessory rail under the barrel and there are finger grooves on the front of the grip, but the current version is recognizably the same gun. Now, there are so many Glocks in different sizes and calibres that it’s difficult to keep track, but this is where it all started.

The WE G-17

The G-17 is part of the WE G series of airsoft pistols which includes the G-18, G-19, G-26 and so on (there are currently nine different models in this series) which all look a lot like Glocks of the same number. The version reviewed is the G-17 Gen 3, which by an odd coincidence, looks very like the Glock 17 Gen 3. WE also offer the G-17 in Gen 4 and Gen 5 versions. This is a 6mm, blowback airsoft pistol powered by green gas. It has a metal slide, magazine and internal parts and a polymer grip and frame. It has adjustable hop-up and a working trigger safety and, unlike the original, a manual safety which is disguised as a serial number plate under the frame.

Spec:

Calibre: 6mm

Magazine capacity: 24 BBs

Propellant: Green Gas

Barrel length: 110mm (4.33″)

Weight: 770g (1.70lbs)

Overall length: 186mm (7.32″)

Sights: Notch and post, non-adjustable.

Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)

The WE G-17 comes in a card box with an eggbox-style interior. All you get here is the pistol, a single magazine and a brief and not terribly helpful user manual.

Visual accuracy 7/10

This is a very good visual replica of the Gen 3 Glock 17, other than for the absence of appropriate markings. Overall size and shape is correct, all controls are in the appropriate places and the complex shape and stippling on the grip is precisely as it is on the original. Every pin on the original is replicated here and the only noticeable visual difference is that the moulding seam on the centre of the grip and frame is more prominent here and especially noticeable on the front and underside of the trigger guard.

Markings here are very simple and follow the layout of markings on the original. So, on the left side of the slide, for example, this has “17,” “Tactical” and “9×19” where on the original you would see “Glock 17,” “Austria” and “9×19.” On the lower side of the grip this replica has a small WE logo where the original has the Glock logo in the same position. In every place that the original has a marking, you’ll find a marking here but the markings on the G-17 use different text.

Functional accuracy 14/15

The slide and magazine releases and the trigger safety work here as they do on the original and the slide locks back when the last BB is fired.

Disassembly is done as on the original – drop the magazine, pull down the two takedown latches on the front of the frame, move the slide back slightly and then release it forward and it can be removed from the frame.

Once the slide is off, the  captive guide-rod/spring assembly can be compressed to remove it after which the inner/outer barrel assembly can be removed from the slide. The spring guide-rod and the outer barrel are black-painted metal.

Even the trigger action is very close to the original. When the pistol is uncocked, the trigger sits close to the rear of the guard and the trigger safety is almost flush with the trigger. When cocked, the trigger moves forward and the trigger safety projects to the front. The pull has a short, very light initial take-up until it reaches the release point where it takes less than two and a half pounds of pull to fire. The only thing which doesn’t work on this replica is the extractor, which projects slightly when a round is in the chamber on the original.

Shooting 35/45

You can squeeze up to 24 BBs into the fat magazine in the G-17, though I generally go for a couple less to minimise the chances of jamming. You have to hold the follower down as you load the BBs through the wider part of the opening at the bottom of the magazine. Filling with gas happens without drama and virtually without leaks.

Sights are good and accurate to the original, with a thick white “U” shape on the rear sight and a large white dot on the front. The first part of the trigger pull is virtually without resistance until you reach the break point. Then there is virtually no take-up until the striker releases. This is a very light trigger with a pull-weight of less than 2.5lbs to release. The trigger safety works – you cannot pull the trigger until the blade in the centre has been depressed until it’s flush with the main part of the trigger. Should you wish, there is also a manual safety on this replica – it’s the serial number plate under the front of the frame. It’s a little fiddly to use being recessed into the frame and sliding this to the rear applies the safety, but this can only be done when the replica is cocked and it completely locks the trigger.

Power is average with most shots at around 280 – 290 fps using 0.2g BBs. Recoil effect from the metal slide is strong and this is a fairly quiet replica – it shoots with a “crack” rather than a bang. Gas usage is average and I was able to shoot two magazines worth of BBs (around 50 shots) on a single fill before power started to drop. The slide (usually) locks back when the last BB is fired and it releases with a satisfying “clack.”  I did have a few instances where the slide failed to lock back after the last BB, but this was fairly rare.

Accuracy is OK though nothing spectacular. For me, the sights were perfectly aligned for windage at 6m though it does do one thing that I really hate – at 6m, it shoots about 1½” low. That’s with 0.2g BBs and with the hop adjusted as far as possible. It’s not a disaster, and it is consistent, but it is kind of irritating. Groups were generally of the order of 1½” lateral spread and up to 2” vertical spread.

Ten shots, 6m, freestanding with 0.2g BBs.

Overall, this is a perfectly pleasant replica to shoot, though it’s neither spectacularly good nor bad. It does seem to work consistently and reliably even after being left unused for long periods, and that’s something I do appreciate. When I fancy half an hour of airsoft therapy, pointlessly punching holes through card, I don’t want to have to spend time fiddling with the replica first.

Quality and reliability 13/15

I have now shot around 500 BBs through my G-17, and so far it is showing few signs of wear. There is a small loss on paint on the front edge of the upper part of the outer barrel where it engages with the slide, but it’s barely noticeable. Internally, I can’t see any signs of wear even on the slide where it rubs against the frame.

In terms of function, it hasn’t given me any problems at all and the magazine retains gas for weeks at a time. Occasionally, I have noticed that the slide does not lock back after the last BB is fired, but generally it does. This is one of those replicas that you just don’t seem to have to worry about in terms of function – just fill it with gas, stick in a load of BBs and it is good to go, even when it hasn’t been used for (literally) months.

Overall Impression 9/10

This replica has good weight; at 770g, it actually weighs more than an (unloaded) Glock 17. I like that – a replica that is too light is just never going to be convincing, but this one feels weighty and solid. The polymer grip is very robust with no flex or give at all and the slide fits the frame tightly with no rattle if you shake it. The feeling you get when you first pick up a replica is important, and this one just feels good.

It looks good too; the finish is showing virtually no signs of wear or distress and there is a good match between the painted finish on the slide and the polymer frame.

Conclusion

For me, this makes an interesting contrast with some of the earlier WE products I first owned almost twenty years ago. Some of those were decent visual and functional replicas, but they were also rather fragile and not always reliable. In 2008, WE Tactical Training International launched the Advanced Weaponry Simulator System (A.W.S.S.), basically a range of airsoft weapons sufficiently like firearms that they can be used as training tools by military and law enforcement personnel. Given that Glocks are currently the most widely used law enforcement firearms in the world, it’s no surprise that the G series replicas are part of that range and the intention to make something suitable for firearms training really shows.

This looks and feels like a firearm and it functions in precisely the same way as the original even down to the trigger action and pull. Although I have only owned this for just over a year and I haven’t put a vast number of BBs through it, it has always worked flawlessly and I’d guess that this is also due to the AWSS approach. After all, there would be no point in selling something as a training tool if it wasn’t reliable. Most airsofters and collectors won’t be using this for training, but we all benefit from an approach that gives us something that replicates the firearm experience reliably. Overall, I was impressed by this replica. On the basis of my experience with the G-17, it does seem that WE have made the transition from cheap and cheerful towards the quality end of the market.

Of course, I’d like to have seen this as a licensed replica with full markings and you can debate the ethos of using an unlicensed replica. That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself but I can otherwise heartily recommend this in terms of quality and reliability and as a fun shooter.

Total score: 80.5/100

Pros and cons

Pros

Seems well-made and finished

Good weight and feels solid

Good visual and functional replica

Reliable

Cons

Unlicensed replica lacking trades

Fairly expensive

Just an average shooter

Related posts

Tokyo Marui Glock 26

Classic Handguns: The Glock 17

Army Armament R45

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

Spec:

Calibre: 6mm

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    

Shooting 35/45

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;

238fps

241fps

239fps

234fps

234fps

237fps

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.  

Conclusion

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

Pros

Cheap

Seems fairly well-made and finished

Good weight

Good visual and functional replica

Cons

Reliability issues

Not a particularly accurate or powerful shooter

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