Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm Redux

Regular readers (hello to you both!) may have noticed that I have already posted a review of the Umarex PX4 Storm back in 2014. That was based on my ownership of two PX4s between 2010 and 2013. So, you might be wondering what more I have to say about this particular replica? Well, here’s the thing; I rather like the PX4 but for me, it was marred by one particular issue – namely an inability to shoot to the point of aim. Both my PX4s shot sufficiently high and to the left at 6m that I didn’t bother with them much.

Which was a pity because there’s actually a lot to like about this air pistol. It’s a licensed blowback replica with full markings and, being a pellet shooter with a rifled barrel, it should be an accurate shooter. I have read on other sites that, somewhere around 2014/2015 the design of the PX4 was changed and that it’s now better. I have also read elsewhere that the accuracy issues on this replica are caused by the plastic outer-barrel shroud interfering with the flight of the pellet as it leaves the end of the barrel, and that over time this decreases as the plastic is worn away.

I intend to re-visit the PX4 to find out whether either of these things are true and, if they are not, to look at how I can otherwise improve how it shoots. So this review will be a little different as it will include comparison between the PX4 I have now and my earlier experience as well as information on how it can be improved as a shooter. Will I end up with an accurate shooter or yet another PX4 that gathers dust in the back of the gun cupboard? Let’s find out…  

Real Steel Background

Beretta launched the PX4 Storm in 2004 as a replacement for the 8000 (Cougar) series of pistols, a more compact alternative to the Beretta 92. The PX4 is a polymer framed semi-automatic pistol that uses the rotating barrel locking system from the 8000 series and the trigger and safety system from the Beretta 92.

This was Beretta’s second polymer-framed handgun and it borrows many of the design cues from the first, the Beretta 9000 which was designed by the Giorgietto Giugiaro Design group. The PX4 is still in production and has proved popular as a law enforcement weapon in the US, Canada, Italy and Argentina amongst many others.

Unlike most other Beretta pistols, the PX4 has a fully enclosed slide. It is available as several models both with and without a manual safety and chambered for 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Its distinctive looks have led to the PX4 featuring in a number of television shows and several movies Inception (2010), The A-Team (2010), Taken 2 (2012), Robocop (2014), and John Wick Chapter 2 (2017).

Leonardo DiCaprio with PX4 in Inception (2010)

The Umarex Beretta PX4

The Umarex Beretta PX4 was launched in 2008 and was at that time only the second pellet-shooting blowback replica from that company – the first, the Magnum Research Desert Eagle appeared in 2005. This a CO2-powered blowback replica with a polymer frame and a metal slide. It has a four-inch rifled barrel and can shoot both .177 pellets and 4.5mm steel BBs stored in a double-ended magazine that hold up to eight BBs or pellets in each end. This is a fully licensed replica that features Beretta markings.

It is manufactured in Japan on behalf of Umarex, though I don’t know who actually makes it. I have seen a number of claims that this replica was updated and (perhaps?) improved around 2014. I have not been able to confirm this and most claims are a little vague about precisely what changes have been made to the original model. Part of the reason for this review is to find out whether this really is a new model and whether it’s any better than the original.   

Specification:

Calibre: 4.5mm BBs/.177″ pellets

Magazine capacity: Sixteen .177″ pellets or 4.5mm steel BBs

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4″, rifled

Weight: 720g (1.59 pounds)

Overall length: 7½”

Sights: Fixed front and rear with white dots

Action: SA/DA

Packaging and presentation (3/5)

My Umarex PX4 came in a sturdy card box that contains the pistol, a single magazine and a multi-language user manual. The box did seem a little better than most, being strong and provided with things like a small square of foam to stop the manual safety from rubbing against the box lid.

This is not the same box that either of my previous PX4s came in. So, at the very least, I can say confidently that the box has changed…

Visual accuracy 7/10

Externally, this PX4 seems identical to both my earlier models. It’s a pretty fair representation of the original including overall size and shape and full Beretta markings.

The only visual anomalies are the manual safety on the right of the frame, the base of the grip and safety markings on the right of the slide and frame, though at least these aren’t highlighted in white. The slide-mounted manual safety and slide release catch are moulded in place and have no function, but at least they look pretty good and don’t detract from the overall appearance. 

Functional Accuracy 6/15

Functionally, this is identical to my earlier PX4s. The trigger, hammer and magazine work as per the original but the slide doesn’t move through a full range, it doesn’t lock back on empty and the slide release doesn’t work. You can lock the slide back, simply by pulling the trigger while the slide is held to the rear, but this really serves no purpose. The manual safety does feature a decocker – when you move it to the “S” position, it safely drops the hammer, and that’s quite useful if you are leaving this replica with CO2 in it (though you shouldn’t do that for extended periods or it can degrade the CO2 seal). To move the manual safety from “S” to “F,” you have to pull back on the serrated centre section, a fingernail-breaking job. Happily, to move it in the opposite direction, you don’t need to do this.  

Shooting 38/45

OK, so for me, this is the most important part of this review – does this PX4 shoot any better than the previous examples I owned? The first thing I looked at was the plastic outer barrel shroud – I have seen claims that this can interfere with the flight of the pellet or BB as it leaves the inner rifled barrel. It’s certainly notable that this plastic outer barrel is very close to the inner barrel and, if you look closely, it isn’t perfectly circular – there are irregularities that look like mould marks that project inwards. If you look at the image below, you’ll see one at around the two o’clock position.

Is it possible that these deflect the pellet as it leaves the rifled barrel? We’ll have to wait and see. Getting the Umarex PX4 ready to shoot is straightforward. The lower rear part of the grip is removed to reveal the CO2 chamber.

The bottom of the grip is twisted clockwise, the CO2 cartridge is inserted and then the knurled wheel is finger tightened. Then, the base of the grip is turned counter-clockwise and this pierces the CO2. I get full four magazines to a single CO2 – that’s over 60 shots, which isn’t too bad for a blowback replica though the last couple of shots do sound as if they’re a little down on power.

Back in 2008 when this replica was first released, the magazine was pretty novel, though similar designs have since been used in a number of other replicas. It’s double-ended and at each end there are eight chambers into each of which you can load a pellet or BB.

Only two chambers are visible at a time and you then have to click the magazine round to expose the next two. It’s a little fiddly and time-consuming but fairly easy. Pellets are a friction fit and steel BBs are retained by a magnet. With this replica loaded it’s time to shoot, and the first thing I want to talk about is the trigger. It works in both double and single action and the double action pull is predictably long and heavy. However, even in single action it’s a long pull and the first 70% or so does nothing – there is barely any resistance until you come to the point where the next pellet is indexed in the rotary magazine. This isn’t especially heavy, but it happens just before the release point. My technique with this pistol is to pull the trigger past the indexing point and to pause just before the release before the final pull. But,  more than once, I found myself unintentionally shooting as I pulled the trigger past the indexing point and through the release point. This isn’t a nasty trigger, it’s just different and, if you use it as I do, it’s worth being fairly careful.

Finally, it’s time to shoot. And it soon becomes apparent that this new PX4 isn’t as bad in terms of accuracy as my previous versions – it’s much worse! The image below shows the result of sixteen shots at 6m range using Umarex 0.48g Mosquito flat-fronted pellets. The aim point was the base of the centre black circle.

This photograph was taken after more than 150 shots, to give the barrel a chance to lead-in. As you can see, the shots are scattered mainly to the right of the target and not all sixteen have even hit my 14cm square target. I tried a couple of other types of target pellet and all gave similar results. This is very disappointing – shooting pellets through a rifled barrel should give much tighter groups than this. Most of my airsoft and BB shooting replicas can do better than this! Both my previous PX4s were capable of 1 – 1½” groups at 6m, though they were high and to left of the aim point. But, this is also puzzling. You can actually see the pellets deflecting to the right as they leave the barrel. What’s going on here and, most importantly, can it be fixed?

Intermission – Improving the PX4

OK, so it’s time to find out what the problem is. I have read in other sites a suggestion that inaccuracy is caused by the front face of the outer plastic barrel interfering with the flight of the pellet. And, if you look closely, you can see that the inner and outer barrels aren’t quite concentric and that the lower part of the plastic barrel does seem to overlap with the bore of the inner metal barrel. I’m going to describe what I did to improve my PX4, but please do remember that if you do these things, you will void your warranty and you may even end up with a replica that won’t shoot properly or at all. So, don’t do any of this unless you are confident in your ability. You have been warned!

To test whether this is causing the problem, I want to enlarge the hole in the outer barrel. To avoid the possibility of damaging the rifled barrel, I’ll disassemble first and fortunately, this isn’t difficult (you’ll find a link to a disassembly guide at the end of this review). To remove the slide and remove the firing valve only requires the removal of three pins and once the valve is out, you can remove the inner barrel and the plastic breech block.

Then, I widened the opening in the outer barrel and this is the result. Yes, I know, it’s pretty rough – I’ll clean it up later but all I want to do for the moment is see if this makes a difference to shooting. You actually have to be pretty careful when you’re doing this. The end of the plastic barrel is the only thing that retains the inner barrel in place – if you remove too much material, you could make this replica inoperable.

I put it all back together, load up with the same pellets, and here’s the result of sixteen shots at 6m.

That’s quite a dramatic improvement. The vertical spread was previously over six inches. Now, it’s down to around 1½”. So, the the pellets were hitting the plastic outer barrel and that was making a difference to accuracy. Now, I want to look at whether I can move the centre of the group to the left to coincide more closely with the point of aim and to tighten it up further.

I disassemble again and this time, I’m looking at the fit of the rifled barrel into the plastic breech block. It’s notable that the fit is quite loose – the metal barrel pushes into the breech block and I note that it can move around quite a lot and the fit in the plastic block is all that gives it support.

I go for the simplest solution – a small strip of adhesive tape round the base of the barrel makes it a tight push-fit into the breech block and it no longer has any play. I reassemble and try shooting again. Here’s the result, with the aim point still at the base of the inner black circle.

That’s more like it! The group is still a little to the right, but it’s now close to spot-on for elevation and the overall group is just over 1”.

Shooting – Part 2

Now that I have the PX4 shooting reasonably, I enjoy it much more. This is actually a very nice replica to shoot. It has good weight, the blowback is strong and the pellets hit the target with a great deal of power (my chrony shows around 350 – 360fps). And now, by aiming off a little to the left, I can get reasonable groups close to the centre of the target. Here’s the result of a full magazine, fired fairly rapidly from 6m.

These few simple mods to the PX4 have transformed it as a shooter. Out of the box, it was so inaccurate that shooting was basically a waste of time. Now, I can appreciate the good things about this replica and actually enjoy shooting it. I like the fact that it isn’t too loud, I appreciate the fact that I can get 60 shots per CO2 and I especially like that this replicates the feel of shooting the real steel more closely than many replicas. The score for this section is for this pistol after I had done these few mods. As it was out of the box, it would have scored much lower.   

Quality and reliability 11/15

One of the things I didn’t like about both my pre-2014 PX4s was that the slide didn’t fit well and rattled annoyingly from side to side. That problem has vanished now – on this version the slide fits very well indeed and the movement of the slide feels more precise and better engineered. Overall, this feels like a good quality replica and I haven’t experienced any functional problems with loading CO2, pellets or with shooting.

But…

The problem with the plastic outer barrel fouling the pellets as they leave the barrel is pretty poor and any sort of reasonable quality control should have picked this up long ago. It isn’t difficult to fix, but really, you shouldn’t have to think about fixing a new replica. Likewise the loose fit of the rifled metal barrel in the plastic breech block – this means that you are never going to get tight groups and it just shouldn’t have left the factory like this. Like the problem with the outer barrel, it’s easily fixed, but it shouldn’t need this done just to get it to shoot straight.

So, I’m conflicted as to what to say here about quality. This does seem like a good quality replica in many ways, but what I got was the basis for something to work on rather than a pistol that shoots well out of the box. Now, it’s possible that I was unlucky and that I got a poorly finished and assembled PX4, but looking at other reviews online, I’m not the only one to experience a lack of accuracy with this replica (though some people do report getting PX4s that shoot perfectly out of the box). If you are lucky enough to get a good one, this is a great replica. If you get one like mine, you’ll have to be prepared to do a little work to turn it into an acceptable target shooter.   

Overall Impression 8/10

This looks and feels like a well made and finished replica. It’s solid, the action of the slide now feels very good and the trigger, though it takes some getting used to, actually isn’t too bad. I guess the best thing I can say about it is that, now that the problems are fixed, I really enjoy shooting it.

Conclusion

Overall, this does feel a little different to the two previous versions of this replica that I owned before 2014. The fit of the slide and its action are now much better and overall it looks and feels good. However, as a shooter, it was simply dire out of the box. With a little work I have managed to change that and I now do really enjoy shooting the PX4.

Whether you choose to buy one of these probably depends on whether you feel confident to disassemble and make some small changes. You might be lucky and get one that doesn’t need these things done, but if you get one like mine, you will probably not be prepared to put up with its atrocious accuracy out of the box. So, if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, this can be made into a very decent replica for not a great deal of cash.

Total Score (after modification) – 73/100

Links

Here’s a link to a step-by-step disassembly guide for the PX4. Remember, to do the mods described here, you only need to remove the slide and the firing valve – that means you only have to remove three pins.

Related Posts

Original Umarex Beretta PX4 review

WE Bulldog (Beretta PX4 Storm) review

Umarex Desert Eagle review

Umarex Buck Mark URX

It’s time for a review of something a little different; The Umarex Buck Mark URX is a spring-powered, pellet-shooting replica of the Browning Buck Mark target pistol. As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I rather like gas and CO2 powered replicas of firearms and I don’t review many spring-powered replicas, mainly because many of the decent spring-powered airguns aren’t replicas and many of the spring-powered replicas aren’t generally terribly good shooters.

However, I was tempted by this one. It is (sort of) a reasonable visual replica of a firearm, it is said to be a good shooter and, not coincidentally, it’s very cheap. And I rather like the idea of an accurate target shooter where I don’t need to worry about running out of gas or CO2. So, here we go: the Buck Mark URX. Is it any good? Will I get frustrated having to cock and reload for every shot? Would you want one?

The Browning Buck Mark

The Browning Buck Mark series of 22 semi-automatic target pistols can trace their lineage all the way back to the venerable Colt Woodsman designed by John Moses Browning in 1911. In the 1960s, JMB’s grandson, Bruce Browning, redesigned the Woodsman (while also using features from other popular target pistols such as the High-Standard Supermatic and the Smith and Wesson Model 41) to create a new model, the Browning Challenger.

This proved to be fairly popular but by the 1980s Browning were losing sales to cheaper models such as the Ruger Mk II and the Challenger was redesigned once again to become the Browning Buck Mark. Launched in 1985 these target pistols have proved so successful that more than twenty variants of this pistol are still in production today.

A Browning Buck Mark Contour URX fitted with a Buck Mark Reflex sight

All models fire .22 LR ammunition and all are provided with ten round magazines. This pistol features straight blowback action with a barrel that is fixed rigidly to the frame and an abbreviated slide that includes the striker mechanism. The design of the slide makes it simple to fit an optical sight to the fixed topstrap and many Buck Mark pistols are fitted with red-dot sights. There are three basic frame types; the UDX, UFX and URX and all models include fully adjustable rear sights. These pistols are available with traditional wood grips or, in models such as the URX Contour, moulded polymer grips.

The Umarex Buck Mark URX

This airgun was introduced in 2012 and it is a licensed replica of a Browning Buck Mark target pistol. It is a single shot, break-barrel, pellet-shooting replica and to date, this remains the only Umarex spring-powered (or “mechanical airgun” as Umarex call it) replica if we discount low-powered airsoft replicas.

Construction of the upper body is mainly metal, with the exception of the accessory rail and a thin layer of plastic which covers the zinc alloy outer barrel. The trigger-guard and grip frame are heavy-duty plastic, the trigger is metal and the grips are made of a rubberised material.  The rifled barrel is just under 5½” long and is not concentric with the outer barrel shroud, being offset to the top.

The magazine and slide release catches are moulded in place and have no function but the manual safety on the right side of the frame is accurately modelled and fully functional.  The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation and a long, 20mm accessory rail is provided which can be used to mount an optical sight.

This isn’t a precise replica of any particular Browning Buck Mark pistol but it is a reasonable generic copy of the Buck Mark Contour URX.

Specification

Calibre: .177″ pellet

Barrel: 5.40″ (137mm), rifled

Overall length: 12″ (305mm)

Weight: 1.5lbs (680g) claimed, 1.53lbs (692g) measured

Capacity: Single shot

Sights: Front: Post, fixed.  Rear: Notch, windage and elevation adjustment.

Claimed power: Up to 295 fps (90 m/s)

It seems as though there have been some minor changes to this replica since it was first introduced back in 2012. On early versions, the painted metal parts were a glossy finish, which contrasted with the matt-finish plastic exterior to the barrel and grips. However, on mine, everything was the same matt finish. There seem to have been a few other small external changes too; for example, on early versions, the “S” near the manual safety was within a raised circular area which now seems to have disappeared and there were raised and rather ugly ejector marks on the plastic barrel cover which also seem to have vanished. These are just the changes that I can see – I don’t know if there have been any internal changes since 2012.   

Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)

My Umarex Buck Mark URX arrived in a simple card box that contains the replica and a short, multi-language user guide. I have also seen this sold in a plastic bubble-pack.

Visual accuracy 4/10

Overall, this looks a little like a Browning Buck Mark Contour URX pistol, though it certainly isn’t a precise replica. Things like the grips, rear sight, slide serrations and controls are all accurately recreated (though only the manual safety is operational) but the profile has been changed to accommodate the break-barrel design. Like the Buck Mark Contour URX this replica includes an accessory rail on the topstrap that can be used to mount an optical sight.

This is a licensed replica so it does include markings including the stylised deer’s head logo on the grips.

Functional accuracy 2/15

The only function this shares with the original is the operation of the manual safety on the right side of the frame.

Shooting 35/40

Before we even start talking about shooting, I need to mention the trigger-pull on this replica. When I first took it out of the box, I tried cocking and firing without a pellet inserted. At first I thought that the manual safety was failing to disengage because pulling the trigger didn’t produce any result. After some head-scratching, I realised that the safety was disengaged but that the trigger was so horribly stiff that it at first seemed that it was jammed. I did a quick check and found that the pull was over seven pounds, way too heavy for accurate target shooting in my opinion.

That was more than a little disappointing but, to my surprise, the trigger pull improved quickly with use.  After fewer than twenty shots, the pull-weight had reduced to between four and five pounds. In my opinion, that’s still too heavy, but at least it’s much better than it was out of the box. The only thing that the trigger does in this replica is to release the sear, so there is no reason for it to be so heavy. Out of the box, it felt unusable but it very quickly loosened up to become better and I assume that continued use will see it improve further. If you tried this in the shop, you might reject it on the grounds of a horrible trigger-pull, but it really does seem to loosen-off fairly quickly. It’s still a little heavy after a couple of hundred shots, but it is useable.

Anyway, preparing the URX for shooting couldn’t be simpler; just break the barrel and push it down through a little more than 90˚ until resistance stops. Then, place a pellet in the end of the barrel and move it back up until it locks. Cocking requires relatively little effort, less than twenty pounds of force is needed, and the spring-loaded detent locks the barrel positively and with no movement or wobble. Cocking the pistol automatically engages the manual safety.

When you are ready to shoot, disengage the safety by pushing it down and you’re good to go. There is absolutely no take-up or movement in the trigger. You just apply gradually increasing pressure until it breaks. It shoots with a subdued crack and there is a distinct jerk as the spring releases but this is much less noticeable than on some other break-barrel air pistols I have used.

The sights are standard notch-and-post with no white dots or aiming aids. The notch in the rear sight felt a little shallow to me, but it is still possible to get a good sight picture. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation using slotted screws. In theory, this means that you should be able to get the point of aim and the point of impact to coincide though on mine, with the sight adjusted fully for elevation, it still shot around ½” high at 6m. The sight radius is a fairly lengthy 270mm, which helps with accuracy.

I only used one type of .177 pellet while shooting this replica; Umarex 7.40gr Mosquito flat-fronted, target-type pellets. Running six of these over my chrony gave the following results:

303fps

307fps

305fps

305fps

308fps

313fps

Nothing stellar here in terms of power, but these are nice and consistent and all are above Umarex’ claim of “up to 295fps.” Not that power especially matters to me as I only shoot at 6 metres range (I just don’t have the space to shoot at 10m) and so as long as the replica has enough power to hit the target convincingly at that distance, I’m happy.

Ten shots, 6m, freestanding using Umarex Mosquito wadcutter pellets. Aim point was the base of the black inner circle. This is one of my better groupings and there are often flyers, caused by the heavy trigger rather than any inherent problem with accuracy.

Shooting at 6m isn’t really much of a challenge for this replica. I would assume that it is capable of very tight groups indeed at that range even if the heavy trigger-pull makes it difficult to achieve this consistently. The real test here is of your technique. That’s quite a change from most of the BB shooting replicas I own where accuracy at 6m may vary by up to 2” or even more. This leads to a very different shooting experience, but one that I came to really enjoy.

Shooting a blow-back replica, for example, often means shooting a string of shots fairly rapidly. Here, being forced to pause and cock and reload for each shot leads to much more deliberate shooting where I really tried to accurately place each shot on target. When I failed (which was most of the time) the fault was entirely mine and that presents a different kind of challenge where you must focus on your stance, grip and breathing. I did find that managing to achieve a tight group of six or ten shots close to the centre of the target was immensely satisfying on the odd occasion that I managed it.  

Quality and reliability 14/15

This seems a robustly made and well-finished replica. It’s also mechanically very simple so there really isn’t much to go wrong. Mine has suffered from no problems and the black finish on metal parts is showing no signs of wear. It also arrived nicely lubricated, I have seen no reports of reliability issues with this replica and I would guess that it should last a very long time with minimal maintenance. I have seen reports that some people complain that the barrel wobbles. On mine, this certainly wasn’t a problem.

The plastic used to cover the barrel shroud and the painted metal parts are a good match which, to me at least, looks better than early versions where painted and plastic parts looked quite different (the picture on the front of the box shows this clearly).

Overall impression 14/15

I like this replica more than I expected. It seems well made and finished and it does just what it says on the box. It is the first spring powered airgun I have owned for many years (the last was an elderly Webley Senior) and I wondered whether I might find an inability to fire more than one shot without reloading a pain, but in the event, I found this more relaxed approach a pleasant change. This certainly isn’t the most powerful or accurate airgun available and it isn’t a great visual or functional replica, but it is fun to shoot. And, after all, that’s why we do this.

Although it is much better than it was previously, the trigger-pull is still a little heavy for my taste. I have seen several videos showing how to improve the pull weight by polishing the sear, and I may give that a try, though of course any attempt to modify a trigger should be undertaken with extreme care for safety reasons.

Conclusion

I am generally biased towards blow-back replicas that mimic the look and function of firearms. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this one and it surprised me by being very satisfying to shoot. If you enjoy ripping off a rapid volley of shots from a blow-back replica (or even a string of shots from something like one of the Umarex rotary-magazine pellet shooters), you may find this a little dull. However, if you want a replica that is accurate enough to really challenge your skills and that forces you to be more deliberate in your shooting, you may just find this is more fun than you might expect.

If you shop around, it’s also possible to find this for very little money – you’ll find a link to one supplier at the end of this review. However, this doesn’t feel like a budget replica – it’s well made and finished and it feels robust in use. The freedom from having to think about gas or CO2 is also an advantage; just cock, stick in a pellet and repeat as often as you want with no need to wonder if you have enough gas of CO2. And of course the accessory rail means that you have the option to add some form of optical sight. This replica gets a fairly low overall score here, mainly because it just isn’t a particularly good visual or functional replica of the original pistol, but despite that, I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in a very different kind of replica.

Happy shooting

Overall Score: 71.5/100

Related Posts

Umarex Buck Mark URX trigger job

Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1

Umarex Beretta PX-4 Storm

Links

I purchased my Umarex Buck Mark URX from the nice people at Sportwaffen Schneider in Germany. At the time of writing, it is available at a very reasonable €46.95. Here’s a link to their website:

https://www.versandhaus-schneider.de/product_info.php/cPath/40_89_1300_107/products_id/25289

This video provides detailed instructions on how to disassemble and lubricate this replica:

Anics SKIF A-3000/3003

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Anics replica air pistols are the anchovies of the replica world – you either love them or you hate them.  The Anics SKIF A-3000 series of non-blowback, multi-shot air pistols certainly seems to provoke very different reactions from owners.  Some praise this Russian replica’s rugged construction and claim good power and accuracy.  Others have found them to be roughly made and finished, unreliable and inaccurate.  I have owned two of these pistols and I suspect that answer lies in the expectations of prospective owners.  If you understand what you’re buying, you may like the A-3000 very much.  If you expect something that is as user friendly as equivalent replicas made in Germany, the US or Asia, you may be disappointed.

Because this review looks at several versions of the A-3000 series, I won’t be assigning scores.

The Anics SKIF A-3000 series

The JSC Anics Group was formed in Russia in 1995 and all Anics replicas have been produced since 2002 in a manufacturing facility in Klimovsk city, near Moscow.  The Anics Group produces a range of products using Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) technologies and this process is used to produce the slides on all Anics Replicas.

The Anics SKIF A-3000 series comprises four variants:

Released in 2001, the Original SKIF A-3000 has an all-black finish, a fully adjustable rear sight and a 4.5″ rifled barrel.

The SKIF A-3000 S, is identical to the A-3000 other than for a nickel finish slide.

The SKIF A-3000 LB, is identical to the A-3000 other than for the addition of a mock suppressor which is used to hide an extended 9″ rifled barrel.  This version of the A-3000 pistol was also sold in the UK and other areas by Brocock Ltd. as the Brocock F1.

The A-3003 Blackbird, was introduced in 2008 and appears to be mechanically identical to the A-3000 but has a re-designed slide with a smooth gloss black finish, a smaller fixed rear sight and revised cocking serrations.  I have also seen a Blackbird with a mock suppressor and extended barrel similar to the A-3000 LB, though this does not appear to be part of the current Anics range.

The Anics A-3000 series are not replicas of a specific pistol, though they do have some visual similarities to firearms such as the Walther P-22.  All versions have a metal slide, hammer, slide release, safety and internal parts and a polymer frame, grip and trigger.  All versions feature an under-barrel accessory rail and all use the same 28 shot conveyor type magazine. All versions are designed to shoot .177” pellets though they can also shoot 4.5mm steel BBs and .177” lead balls.

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SKIF A-3000 S

The slide on all versions of the A-3000 moves, but this is not a blowback replica.  The slide features a cut-away ejection port and can be locked back, but only when the magazine is removed.  The finish on the casting used for the slide on the A-3000 and 3000S is fairly rough though the slide on the later A-3003 Blackbird is notably smoother.  All versions are CO2 powered with the CO2 cartridge stored inside the grip and tightened and pierced using the same system of flaps and screws found on other Anics replicas.  Anics also sell a laser sight which is suitable for use with all versions of the A-3000.

I have owned both an original A-3000 and the A-3000 LB with extended barrel.  Unless otherwise noted, all comments in this article relate to my experience with these versions though I believe that the later A-3003 Blackbird is very similar in operation.

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Packaging and presentation

Like almost everything else about these replicas, even the packaging has notable good and bad points.  The A-3000 series pistols come in a foam-lined hard case, which is good.  Unfortunately it’s a very flimsy hard case, which is bad.  On both my Anics replicas, either the catches or hinges snapped on the cases and one case distorted so badly that the pellet tamping tool could fall out even with the case latched shut.  The larger case used for the LB does seem to be stronger than the standard case.

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SKIF A-3000S in hard case – note how distorted the edges of the case are.  Sadly, this is fairly normal.

All versions come with two magazines and a brass pellet tamping tool, which is good.  However, it’s essential to adjust and use the tool correctly to reduce jamming and the manual provides no guidance on how to do this, which is bad.

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My SKIF A-3000 LB came in a larger case with eggshell foam which seemed to be much stronger.

Appearance

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The A-3000 series look purposeful in a chunky sort of way.  Although not a replica of a specific firearm, they do have the look of a modern semi-auto pistol.  The finish on the slide of many A-3000s is slightly rough, and doesn’t entirely look as if it belongs with the polymer frame.  The later A-3003 has a shinier black slide with a smoother finish.  All markings on early versions are discretely engraved while on the A-3003 they’re laser etched in white.

Functionality

The A-3000 series use a moving barrel to actually fire the pistol.  As you pull the trigger, the inner barrel moves forward against a spring until it reaches the release point.  It then springs back against the firing valve, allowing the pistol to shoot.  The same system is used in a number of replica pistols from other manufacturers, and it’s generally efficient though it does contribute to a long, heavy trigger pull even in single action.

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In the A-3000 series up to 28 pellets are loaded into a drop-out transparent plastic conveyor type magazine.  Twenty-eight separate plastic pellet holders are arranged in a track inside the plastic housing, and indexing causes these plastic holders to shuffle round the track.  It isn’t a particularly efficient system and it takes a fair amount of force to move the pellet holders in their track.  The magazine is released by using the ambidextrous release in the base of the trigger guard.  This magazine is very similar to the 22 shot conveyor type magazines used on two other Anics replicas – The Berkut A-2002 and the Beretta A-9000S.  The A-3000 cannot be fired with the magazine removed – even with CO2 loaded, pulling the trigger with the magazine removed will cause the hammer to fall, but the pistol will not fire.

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Pellets are loaded from the rear of the magazine via an opening which gives access to just four of the pellets holders at a time.  However, you can only load three pellets at a time as you need to insert the long end of the brass tamping tool into the fourth holder and use this to drag the next empty holders to line up with the opening.  To reduce jamming, extreme care must be taken when loading pellets.  The supplied brass tool should be used to tamp pellets into each holders so that they sit clear of the front and rear edge of the holder (the tool can be adjusted by unscrewing the two halves to set the appropriate depth for different lengths of pellet).  Anics recommend pellets with an overall length of less than 7.6mm.  I found that both my A-3000s worked best with flat-fronted, target type pellets.  Although using the tamping tool is essential if you want to avoid jamming, this tool can distort the skirt of the pellet as it is pushed in to the holder, and it’s possible that this distortion may contribute to relatively poor accuracy with these pistols.  I like the idea of a large capacity magazine, but loading pellets into the A-3000 is so fiddly that I’d happily have settled for something with a lower capacity but that was easier to load.

Loading CO2 involves opening the piercing flap in the base of the grip, and then pressing the cartridge release button on the rear of the grip which allows the CO2 retaining gate to open.  A CO2 cartridge can then be inserted and the retaining gate can be clipped closed.  A screw is then finger tightened and finally the piercing flap is closed.  Generally loading CO2 is done without loss of gas, though it’s best to give the piercing flap a sharp slap to make sure it closes cleanly.   Overall, loading CO2 isn’t particularly difficult, just different to the systems found on most other CO2 pistols.

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Brocock F1 (SKIF A-3000 LB)

The slide on the A-3000 series can be racked and locked (though only with the magazine removed) and the slide release on the left side works as you’d expect.  These replicas also include a working manual safety on the left rear of the frame.  Take-down latches are provided on either side of the frame.  Pushing these down allows the rear of the slide to be retracted, raised, and the slide removed by moving it forward off the barrel.

The rear sight on the A-3000 models is fully adjustable using slotted screws for separate windage and elevation adjustment.  On the A-3003, only windage adjustment is provided.

Shooting

Once you have pellets and CO2 loaded, you’re ready to shoot.  The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the A-3000 is the odd shape of the grip.  The curved lower part of the grip is much wider than the top.  Once you’re used to it, it’s easy to get a firm grip, but it feels slightly odd and might be an issue if you have smaller hands.  The second thing you’ll notice is the double-action trigger pull.  It’s horrible – long, heavy, scratchy and notably heavier just before release.  Anics claim a 9lbs double action pull, but on both my examples the pull was variable and peaked at over 12lbs.  The problem in double action is that pulling the trigger does several things.  It cocks the hammer, advances the next pellet in the conveyor magazine and moves the inner barrel forward.  The effort required to do all these things simultaneously results in a very heavy double action pull which in turn means that it’s very difficult indeed to achieve consistent accuracy in double action.  I found that after six or so shots, it was extremely difficult to maintain the sights on target during the long pull.  Fortunately, manually cocking the hammer (which also moves the barrel forward) gives a much lighter 5lbs single action pull though the first part of the pull still indexes the magazine even in single action.

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SKIF A-3000 with mock suppressor removed, showing extended barrel

On both my A-3000s, accuracy wasn’t great.  Partly this was due to the nasty double action trigger, but even rested and using single action, I couldn’t get better than 1½” – 2″ groups at six yards with occasional flyers.  Not particularly great for a pellet shooter with a rifled barrel.  Oddly, the A-3000 LB with the extended barrel didn’t seem to be any better than the original A-3000 in this respect.   The A-3000 can also be used to shoot 4.5mm steel BBs or .177″ lead balls, but I have only tested it with pellets.

Anics claim that the construction of the A-3000 (and the Berkut and A-9000S) provides “20 – 50%” more power than other equivalent air pistols.  On their website they claim up to 400fps for the A-3000 and up to 510fps for the LB version when shooting pellets and up to 560fps when shooting steel BBs. With pellets, my original A-3000 chronoed at around 380 – 400fps and my A-3000 LB at around 410 – 425fps, dependant on temperature.  These are perfectly respectable figures, but only a little better than other equivalent pellet shooting replicas and well short of the 500+fps I have seen claimed elsewhere when shooting pellets with these.  Incidentally, my power figures were measured in double action – for some reason, single action shooting gave around 10fps less on both pistols.

CO2 consumption is about average – I could generally get 50 – 60 shots from a single CO2, but in colder conditions I wasn’t able to shoot two full magazines before the A-3000 ran out of puff.  CO2 consumption seemed to be notably worse when shooting quickly.  I also had a number of random instances of low power shots on both pistols.  The gun would shoot, and a pellet would leave the barrel, but the sound was muted and the pellet seemed to move much more slowly than usual.  I’d guess that these were the result of some sort of partial misfeed rather than any inherent fault with the valve or CO2 system.

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A-3003 Blackbird

As a shooter, there isn’t a great deal to like about the A-3000.  Power is a little better than some other pellet shooting replicas but accuracy is just average and only achievable if you use the pistol in single action.  The double action trigger is so heavy that it’s almost unusable and the A-3000 series do seem to be prone to jammed pellets and random low power shots no matter how carefully you load the magazine.

However, it’s only fair to note that some owners report much better performance from the A-3000 series.  I have seen claims on other sites of over 500fps and consistent groupings of 1″ – 1½” for these replicas.  I don’t dispute these, but I can only say that the two versions I owned didn’t produce these levels of power or accuracy.

Quality and reliability

The A-3000 series generally seem to be well made and finished, but they do seem to be prone to frequent jamming.  If pellets aren’t very carefully tamped into the magazine, the conveyor may fail to index.  However, overenthusiastic tamping can distort skirts and cause a pellet to jam in the barrel, particularly if CO2 pressure is falling.  The worst possible problem is a pellet which jams halfway out of the magazine.  This will cause the pistol to lock up – the trigger can’t be pulled, the magazine won’t release and the slide cannot be removed.  The only remedy is to poke something down the barrel (after removing the CO2!) and try to force the pellet back into the magazine (some versions of the A-3000 come with a jam clearing rod for this purpose), or to knock the muzzle of the pistol against something solid in the hope that the pellet will move into the barrel.

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As the pellet holders in the Anics magazine are made of relatively soft plastic, they do wear over time.  If this happens, pellets won’t be held snugly in place and can slide back and fore, increasing the risk of jams.  Fortunately, replacement magazines are still widely available and relatively cheap.  If you have recurring issues with jamming on an elderly A-3000, it may be worth trying a replacement magazine.

The very heavy trigger pull is a major issue, and the conveyor magazine seems to be responsible for some of this.  Trying the trigger in double action with the magazine removed gave a pull of around 9lbs, still not great but much closer to the figure claimed by Anics.  The conveyor part of the magazine does seem to be very stiff, and dismantling the magazine and using silicone oil or grease to lubricate the channel through which the pellet holders travel does help.  However, doing this just makes the double action pull bad rather than horrible – nothing is going to turn an A-3000 into a creamy smooth shooter.

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Finish on all models seems to be durable, but the slide finish on all but the later A-3003 is very rough.  A number of owners have reported leaks with these replicas, especially from the main CO2 seal, though both of mine sealed perfectly.  I have even seen reports of valves exploding, breaking the slide, though again I have no direct experience of this.

Overall Impression

I have to admit that both my A-3000 replicas spent more time gathering dust at the back of the gun cabinet than being used.  Partly it’s the time-consuming loading process.  You do have to be very careful to tamp pellets down accurately in the magazine, though at least you do get 28 shots without reloading.  Partly it’s the horrible double action trigger pull.  It would be great to shoot off 28 pellets without having to cock the hammer, but unless you have a massively overdeveloped trigger finger, this isn’t going to be possible.  But mostly, it was the indifferent accuracy.  Even after taking time to load pellets carefully and cocking for each single action shot, neither of my A-3000s were particularly accurate.

Conclusion

When the SKIF A-3000 was introduced almost twenty years ago, there were relatively few multi-shot pellet pistols on the market.  Now there are many more to choose from and technology has moved on.  The A-3000 feels like a slightly quirky bit of Russian engineering and it doesn’t always compare well with other designs.  If you compare this replica to (for example) an Umarex Walther CP88 or one of the other early Umarex pellet shooters, you’re unlikely to be impressed.  The SKIF A-3000 is built like a T-72 tank. Which is sort of OK. But something like the Umarex CP88 is built like a 5 series BMW, which for most people is even better.

However, it’s not all bad.  The A-3000 series is robust with a durable finish and all versions come with a spare magazine, which is always welcome.  But you do have to put up with a very nasty double action trigger pull, average accuracy and CO2 consumption and these replicas do seem to be very prone to misfeeds and jamming.  If you don’t want to pay out for an Umarex pellet shooter, for a little less than you’d pay for an A-3000 you could buy a much more recent pellet shooting replica like the ASG CZ P-09 Duty.  The ASG replica doesn’t have a perfect trigger pull, but it’s way, way better than the A-3000 and it’s overall a much better shooter.  Given that, it’s difficult to see why you’d want an A-3000.

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However, if there is an A-3000 shaped gap in your collection, just make sure you take the time to adjust the pellet tamping tool to suit the pellets you’re using and use it every time you load.  Also consider trying new magazines if you continue to have jamming issues.

There are people on-line who will tell you that the SKIF A-3000 series are some of the most accurate and powerful replica pistols ever made.  Neither of mine were, but perhaps I was just unlucky?

Related posts

Anics Beretta A9000S review

ASG CZ P-09 Duty review

Umarex Walther CP88 review