New Umarex replica pistols for 2014

As regular readers of this site will know, I’m a big fan of Umarex replicas.  So, I’m delighted that at the IWA Outdoor Classics Show at Nuremberg on 7th March, Umarex have announced several new replica pistols which will be available over the next few months.

4.5mm BB pistols


2½”, 4″ and 6″ versions of the Python .357.  4″ version is also available in polished silver

The new model I’m probably most excited about is the Python .357 revolver, a replica of the Colt Python, arguably one of the best revolvers ever made.  These CO2 powered replicas will be available as 2½”,  4″ and 6″ versions with black (2½”and  4″ only) or polished (4″ and 6″ only) finish.  The overall shape looks close to the original (though it doesn’t quite replicate the hump-backed rear frame of the original) and these will feature fully moving cylinders, vented barrels, removable shell casings, a manual safety catch, speed loader and fully adjustable rear sights.  The 4″ version weighs around 2.2 pounds, the 2½” version slightly less and the 6″ a little more.  I really like revolver replicas and if these even come close to the quality and accuracy of the Umarex TRR8, they’ll be worth waiting for.  Even if they do look very similar to the recently announced Swiss Arms .357 from Cybergun, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these!

umpress2The new Walther PPS also look very interesting and this one will almost certainly be unique to Umarex.  Based on the concealed-carry Walther Polizei-Pistole Schmal , this replica is a CO2 powered, blowback BB shooter featuring an “Enhanced Blowback System“, which is claimed to give a more powerful blowback without increasing CO2 usage.  It features a metal slide, polymer frame and grip and a drop-out magazine which holds up to 18 BBs.  The specification also notes an “integrated allen wrench in the backstrap for exchange of CO2 capsule” – so it sounds as if this may have a new CO2 tightening/piercing system.  It’s a very compact pistol at just over 6″ in length, but still weighs a reasonable 1.3 pounds.  If this is as much fun as the Umarex Walther CP99 Compact, it could be very special indeed.

umpress6The Colt M45 CQBP is a replica of a development of the venerable Colt 1911 produced as a Close Quarter Battle Pistol for the US Marine Corps.  It’s an all-metal, CO2 powered, blowback BB shooter with a 19 round drop-out magazine.  I don’t know if it features a working grip safety, but it is single action only and will be available in black or dark earth finish.   Also featuring an under-barrel accessory rail, ambidextrous safety and grooved, memory beavertail.  Another hefty replica at around 2 pounds in weight.


If you want one of the new Colt 1911 WWII Commemorative editions (and, let’s face it, you can never have too many 1911 replicas!), you’ll have to be quick – only 1000 will be produced.  This an all-metal, CO2 powered, blowback replica of the Colt M1911A1 with a 19 round drop-out magazine and wood grips and is single action only.

It looks like a very similar to the KWC 1911, in which case it will be a very good replica indeed.  The black finish has been aged to make it look like a survivor from World War Two, it weighs just over 2 pounds and each pistol will feature a unique serial number.  I hope Umarex will also produce a non-aged version in larger quantities.


The IWI Jericho B is the first Umarex CO2 replica of a pistol from Israel Weapon Industries.  It’s based on the IWI 9mm service pistol and features a movable metal slide (but no blowback), a working safety-catch, 23 round magazine and a double action trigger.

The Jericho B is a fairly new pistol, and as far as I’m aware, this is the first licensed replica, though I have also seen a similar looking Swiss-Arms Jericho from Cybergun.


Although it’s not mentioned in the Umarex IWA press release, another new Umarex BB replica was announced at the Shooting, Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at Las Vegas in January.  This is the PM Ultra Blowback Makarov pistol.  It’s a CO2 powered, 4.5mm BB shooting blowback replica of the Makarov pistol with a drop-out 18 round magazine.

I believe this will be sold as part of the Umarex Legends series.  I don’t know much about it other than that Umarex are claiming 400fps, which is impressive for a blowback Bb pistol.  It does look very similar to the Gun Heaven Model 59 reviewed on this site, and I’m looking forward to trying one of these.


Also mentioned at SHOT was the Umarex Legends Mauser C96.  This one seems to have been under development for some time, and I hope it will be available soon.  It’s another CO2 powered, 4.5mm BB shooter with blowback and a 19 round drop-out magazine.  Early pictures seemed to show an ugly extended plastic tip to the barrel, but more recent pics suggest something that looks a lot more like the original.   Another one that I’m really looking forward to…

Pellet shooters


No new releases for fans of Umarex pellet shooters were announced, just a couple of cosmetic updates to existing models.  The Beretta 92FS Sniper Grey looks to be identical to the existing Umarex 92FS, but comes in a matt dark grey finish.  The Heckler & Koch P30 ODG is a replica of the H&K service pistol and appears to be identical to the existing Umarex HK P30, but features a frame and grip finished in olive drab.

6mm BB pistols

The new CO2 powered 6mm Legends .357 looks identical to the 4.5mm Colt Python, but only seems to be available in 2½” and 4″ form in black finish.   The CO2 6mm IWI Jericho B appears to be identical to its 4.5mm counterpart other than for a reduced magazine capacity of 16 BBs.  One interesting new 6mm arrival is the AEG Beretta M92 A1 Tactical.  With a rechargeable battery concealed in the frame, this non-blowback electric replica features a (non-functioning) suppressor and single and full-auto fire modes.  Mind you, with just 30 rounds in the magazine, you won’t be shooting for long in full-auto!


It’s a pity that there aren’t any new pellet shooters forecast for 2014, but some of the new BB replicas look very nice indeed.  It’s particularly nice to see some additions to the Legends range and I hope to review some of these new products in the near future.

All pictures courtesy of Umarex Sportwaffen GmbH & Co. KG

Related pages:

Umarex Walther CP99 Compact review

Umarex HK P30 review

Gun Heaven Model 59 review


No details yet of when the new pistols will be available to buy, but information about all new products will be released on the Umarex website:

Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1

The Colt Government 1911 A1 is a multi-shot, pellet firing air pistol from Umarex.  Mechanically it’s very similar to other Umarex air pistols such as the Walther CP-88 and Beretta 92FS – the cast body conceals an eight shot rotary pellet holder and CO2 is stored inside the grip.  Like those other Umarex pistols it’s well made, accurate and powerful but the 1911 also inherits the elegantly slim design and good ergonomics of the original pistol.


I have owned two Umarex Colt 1911s – an early nickel finish model and a glossy black Centenary Edition.  Both were fine target shooters.  In fact, this is probably my favourite Umarex pellet shooter.  It isn’t terribly different from the others in terms of construction or performance but because it reflects many of the fine qualities of the original, I found it particularly satisfying to shoot.

Real steel background


Colt 1911 spot-the difference.  M1911 (left) and M1911A1 (right)

How good is your knowledge of the 1911?  Other than finish, there are seven physical differences between the original M1911and the later M1911A1.  One change (the M1911A1 has a wider foresight) isn’t really evident in photos.  Can you spot the other six differences?  Answers at the bottom of this article.

I have covered the background to the Colt 1911 in some detail in the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness review (link at the end of this article), and I won’t repeat that here.  However, I do want to talk briefly about the differences between the original M1911 and the modified M1911A1 introduced in 1924 as that has some relevance to this review.  Changes to the M1911 came about following experience of using the original pistol in action.  Though the M1911 was generally popular, there were a few niggling issues.  The M1911 was found to have a tendency to shoot low, so a curved mainspring housing was introduced to raise the natural pointing position of the pistol.  Some users suffered from “hammer-bite” (where the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger is nipped between the hammer and grip safety spur when the slide recoils). To prevent this, the grip safety spur was extended and the hammer shortened and re-shaped.  Some users also complained of a long reach to the trigger, so a shorter trigger and frame cut-outs were introduced.  The distinctive original wooden grips featuring a double-diamond pattern were found to be complex and expensive to produce, so the later model also featured simplified grip checkering.


Later models tended to feature the cheaper Parkerized finish compared to the blued finish on originals, but this wasn’t co-incident with the release of the M1911A1.  By 1930, most 1911s were supplied with a non-reflective, Parkerized finish (though some were still finished using Du-lite, a Colt proprietary bluing process) so finish alone can’t be used to distinguish between models.

The Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1

The Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1 is a licensed replica constructed of metal other than for plastic (or wood on some versions) grips and some internal parts.  It follows the pattern of other Umarex pellet firing replicas in having an eight-shot, rotary pellet holder which is hidden inside the slide, and accessed by operating the slide release which allows the front of the slide to move forward.  CO2 is stored inside the grip and accessed by operating the magazine catch, which releases the right grip and gives access to the CO2 compartment.


Nickel finish

There are three basic versions of the Umarex 1911: The Standard Model, The Centenary Edition and the Dark Ops version.  The Standard Model is available in black or nickel finish.  Early black Standard Models featured a glossy black finish while later models have a more matt finish.  The nickel finish is actually a rather dull silver, similar to the nickel finish on other Umarex pellet shooters.  The Centenary Edition featured a glossy black finish, wood grips, different markings and came in a box which was a replica of the packaging in which original M1911s were supplied.  The Dark Ops version is identical to the Standard Model other than for a brushed steel finish to the side of the slide.


Dark Ops version


Calibre: .177″

Magazine capacity: eight .177″ pellets

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4.8″

Weight: 2.4lbs

Overall length:8.6″

Sights: Front – fixed, rear adjustable for windage only

Action: SA/DA

Packaging and presentation  4/5


Early version, blue hard case

Like other Umarex pellet-shooting pistols, most versions of the 1911come in a sturdy, well-padded hard case.  The pistol is supplied with one rotary pellet holder, an allen key for sight adjustment  and a short user manual. Early models were supplied in a blue hard case which featured foam with cut-outs for the pistol, CO2, pellet holder(s), allen key and a tin of pellets.   Later models come in a black hard case with eggshell foam.  It has been claimed that the later black cases are not as good as the original blue cases, but overall the packaging is of high quality for a replica pistol.


The exception is the Centenary Edition which comes in a replica of the box in which the original 1911 was supplied.  Which sounds good, but honestly?  It’s a fairly unimpressive, small cardboard box.  If you do pay a premium for a Centenary Edition model, be aware that you’ll also be wanting a hard case.

Visual accuracy  5/10


Colt M1911A1 (left), Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1 Centenary Edition (right)

Visual accuracy is mixed.   Although it’s identified as an A1 model, the Umarex 1911 has a straight mainspring housing which is characteristic of the earlier M1911.  The trigger is long, again more reminiscent of the original M1911, but this is probably inevitable given that this pistol features both single and double action (the original is SA only).  The trigger is also a slightly odd two-piece design.  The slide profile is good, but the front of the slide features serrations not found on the original (to provide grip when closing the front part of the slide) and the rear serrations are further forward and angled (presumably to help conceal the join between the front and rear parts of the slide).  Front and rear sights are noticeably larger on the replica.  The frame cut-outs and simplified grip checkering are correct and overall size and weight are very close to those of the original.

191110There also seems to be variation between models of different ages.  Compare the two pictures above: the top one shows the latest version available from Umarex, the other shows a matt-black 1911 from a few years back.  The under-barrel portion of the frame, and the underside of the nose of the slide of the latest version seem to feature additional cut-out sections not present on the original, giving the pistol a more angular look.   I haven’t seen one of the latest models inthe flesh, but the pictures make me concerned that it may have lost some of the elegant simplicity of the original design.


Centenary Edition

The Centenary Edition features a splendid glossy black finish and some very nice wood grips.  The grips are accurate reproductions of those found on the original M1911, as is the straight mainspring housing, but this edition still features the frame cut-outs and long grip safety spur of the later M1911A1.  Compared to the Umarex Walther CP-88, which is almost indistinguishable from the real pistol, visual accuracy here isn’t particularly impressive.  It certainly isn’t anywhere as close as the Tanfoglio Witness, for example.

Functional accuracy  3/15

This is a revolver dressed-up to look like a semi-auto pistol.  Given that, functional accuracy is predictably poor.  Only the thumb and grip safeties operate as per the original.  Moving the thumb safety up prevents the pistol from firing, and it can be fired only while the grip safety is depressed.  The magazine catch is actually a release for the right-side grip, which gives access to the CO2 compartment.  What looks like a slide release is actually a catch which allows the front part of the slide to move forward for loading the rotary pellet holder.  What appears to be the base of the magazine is a hinged pad which enables CO2 piercing.  The replica allows both single and double action shooting, unlike the original which is single action only.


The Umarex 1911 can’t be field stripped. It is possible to detach the moving front part of the slide by removing the screw below the muzzle, but this won’t give access to much more than the slide return spring. Any further disassembly involves splitting the two halves of the cast body.  Which isn’t recommended unless you’re confident you know how to correctly reassemble the complex and interconnected bits and pieces inside.

Shooting  36/40

CO2 is loaded in the same way as on other Umarex pellet shooters – pressing the magazine release detaches the right-hand grip and reveals the chamber within which the CO2 cartridge is placed.  The baseplate is opened and then a thumb screw is tightened until the cartridge seats snugly, then the baseplate is pushed sharply upward to complete piercing.  It’s a tried and tested system which works very reliably.

191115The 1911 seems to accept a variety of pellet types without any problems.  I didn’t experience any jams or misfires on either of my 1911s – I suspect that carefully tamping down pellets in the rotary pellet holder before loading alleviates most problems.  Power is reasonable – on a chilly early winter day and using single action, my Centenary Edition gave an average of 370fps over a six-shot string (with a high of 380 and a low of 356).  In double action it was absolutely consistent at 365 +/- 2fps.  Both my 1911s also
produced a satisfying bang – there’s nothing so disappointing as a pistol that produces a weedy “pop” when fired!  I got around 60 full power shots from each CO2.


Six shots, six yards, 1911 Centenary Edition.  Aim point was the top centre of the black inner circle.

Sights are rudimentary with no white dots or other sighting aids and the rear is adjustable for windage only.  Despite this, both my Umarex 1911s grouped very nicely at around 1″ at six yards.  The sights on both could be set accurately for windage, but both shot around 1½ – 2″ high at six yards regardless of pellet type or weight.  I suppose I could have fitted adjustable sights, or even some form or red-dot, but both would have spoiled the look of the 1911.  The other alternative would be to modify the rear sight, though I didn’t attempt this with either of my 1911s (though I did do it to a CP-88 – see the link at the end of this article).  I do wonder if this tendency to shoot high is the reason that Umarex have gone for a straight mainspring housing here?  The curved mainspring housing on the M1911A1 was introduced to cure a tendency to shoot low.  It’s possible that providing a curved housing here would exacerbate the tendency to shoot high.


The trigger pull is fairly long and heavy in double action, though it’s smooth and consistent.  Single action trigger pull is crisp and short.  The action of both hammer and trigger are notably smooth and precise.  The only minor operational flaw seems to be the action of the grip safety.  This was quite stiff on both my pistols and engaged with a distinct (and not very pleasant) crunch.

Overall, the Umarex 1911 is a very pleasant shooter indeed.  It’s more than adequately powerful and accurate and I suspect that with a little work (principally to that rear sight) could be made into a very useful target pistol.

Quality and reliability  14/15

The Umarex 1911 generally seems to be very well built and finished.  The black and nickel finishes are well applied and seem durable.  The glossy black finish on my Centenary Edition was absolutely flawless and seemed to be resistant to scratching and scuffing.  General build quality and fit are very good – the gap between the front and rear parts of the slide is barely noticeable.  The operation of the hammer and trigger is particularly good – smooth, creamy and precise.  I’m not aware of any particular issues with the 1911, beyond the usual wear and tear found on older examples.  Like all the Umarex pellet shooters, the hammer and trigger mechanisms are fairly complex and benefit from regular lubrication if they’re to continue operating smoothly.  Doing this effectively involves splitting the main casing halves, exposing lots of tiny springs, cams and levers, so it’s not for those of a nervous disposition.

Overall, the Umarex pellet shooters seem to be of notably higher quality than many other replicas.  However, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re also amongst the most expensive.  Is an Umarex 1911 really worth two Cybergun Tanfoglio Witnesses?  If you value high build quality, good finish, power, accuracy, reliability and durability, the answer is probably yes.  I imagine that Umarex 1911s will still be making small groups of holes two inches above the centre of targets long after most TFWs are scrap.

Customising the Umarex 1911


Mirror polished Umarex 1911 with compensator, from Black Dog Pistols (link at the end of this article)

Many custom parts are available for the Umarex 1911 and sound basic design and build quality make this a great platform for customisation.  A plethora of items are available including (non-functioning) compensators, replacement hammers, one-piece triggers, replacement screw sets, adjustable sights, replacement thumb safeties, extended beavertails and different grips.  The decent quality of metal used also makes this replica amenable to high quality polishing.  Magic Nine Design (link at the end of this article) also produce my favourite visual mod – plain or engraved titanium ejector port covers.  These really transform the look of this replica, and are especially effective on black versions.


Engraved titanium ejector port cover from Magic Nine Design (link at the end of this article)

Overall Impression  13/15

This is a well made, nicely finished replica which reflects many of the fine qualities of the original.  It has good weight and feel and is a consistent pleasure to shoot.  The Centenary Edition in particular is a thing of great beauty.

Niggles?  Well, there are a couple.  Both my Umarex 1911s shot around 1½” high at six yards, an irritation on a pistol that is otherwise so accurate.  From reading the experiences of other owners, I believe that this is a common issue with these pistols.  Like all the Umarex pellet shooting replicas, the 1911 does not replicate any aspect of the functionality of a real semi-auto pistol.  I also think it’s disappointing that Umarex didn’t choose to produce an accurate visual replica of either the M1911 or M1911A1 rather than a hybrid with features of both.


But really, these are small problems.  Like most Umarex pellet shooters, this is beautifully made.  I’m aware of the discussions about whether current versions of the Umarex pistols are quite as good as the originals, but these are largely irrelevant when comparing these to other replicas – the Umarex pellet shooters are simply of much higher build quality and finish than almost all other replica pistols.  For me, this is also the best of the Umarex pellet shooters – it has the power, accuracy and feel of the others coupled with the slim profile and ready pointability of the original Colt 1911.  Overall, this is right up there with the very best replica pistols.


Regular readers (hello to you both) will be aware that I generally like visually and functionally accurate replicas and if you look just at the numbers, you might conclude that the Umarex 1911 is a less impressive pistol than for example, the Umarex Walther CP-88.  They both share similar build quality, power and accuracy, but the Walther is a much closer visual replica.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for a moment while I get all metaphysical in order to justify the fact that I much prefer the 1911.


If I could own just one Umarex pellet shooting replica, it would be a 1911.  Partly this is because I like the original Colt design.  The 1911 is one of the most influential, successful and well-regarded handguns ever made which also happens to feature elegantly simple design and that most elusive quality: “pointability”.  The 1911, to me at least, just looks and feels somehow right in a way that many more recent designs don’t.  Modern handguns are designed with the aid of sophisticated computer programs which take account of a huge range of ergonomic parameters.  The 1911 was designed by an engineering genius who understood that what looks right will probably work.  It has an emotive appeal that goes well beyond anything that can be easily quantified.  Pick up an Umarex 1911 and I think you’ll agree that it somehow reflects these qualities.  It’s a classic example of the whole somehow exceeding the sum of the parts.  So, while I may have marked the Umarex 1911 lower than the Walther CP-88 (chiefly on account of poor visual accuracy) I’d have to say I actually feel that the 1911 is the nicer pistol.  So much for objectivity!

If you have any interest in replica air pistols, you need to beg, borrow or steal a chance to try an Umarex 1911.  If you do, I suspect it won’t be long before one finds its way into your collection.

Total score: 75/100

Colt 1911 Spot-the-difference answers


In addition to a wider foresight, the Colt M1911A1 features:

1. Shorter and differently shaped hammer.

2. Longer grip safety spur.

3. Curved mainspring housing.

4. Simplified grip checkering (no double-diamonds)

5. Frame cuts-outs.

6. Shorter trigger.

Did you spot them all?

Related pages

Umarex Walther CP-88 review

Umarex HK P30 review

Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness review

Tokyo Marui Colt 1911A1 review

Modifying the rear sight on an Umarex CP-88


You can buy this pistol at Pyramid Air here.


Magic Nine Design

Black Dog Pistols

Umarex web site

Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911


When I was a kid, I had a toy Colt 1911 (not that I knew what it was back then) which fired rubber-tipped darts.  It was my favourite pistol.  To my childish eyes, it looked just the way a gun should look- squat, no-nonsense, chunky and somehow menacing.  I also liked my die-cast, cap-firing Luger, but despite the cachet of this being a “baddie” gun (which is of course wildly cool when you’re ten years old), my preferred sidearm was always the Colt, especially when I was fighting off the relentless attacks of Stormtrooper Action Man from the top of the stairs.

My replicas are a little more sophisticated now, and if I owned a Stormtrooper Action Man, it would be a collectible far too precious and expensive to be shot at.  But the 1911 still looks to me like a “proper” semi-auto pistol – the standard against which others are judged.  I wasn’t interested in airsoft pistols back in 2010 and though there were some .177 replicas of the 1911 around, none were fully functional.  Until Cybergun announced the release of the Tanfoglio Witness in 2011.  I can’t remember when I was last so excited about the release of a replica pistol.  And then of course they sold out almost as soon as they were released, and I wasn’t able to find a new one.  I ended up paying more than I should for a barely used second-hand example.  And I loved it.  In fact, I liked it so much that I ended up buying two more over the next twelve months.

So, you’ll understand that this isn’t an entirely dispassionate review.  I had to sell my collection what I moved away from the UK, and those Witnesses are amongst the replicas I still miss most.

Real steel background

The Colt 1911 was created by legendary U.S. firearms designer John Moses Browning, and was an evolutionary development of previous pistols such as the Colt Model 1900.  The pistol which became the M1911 was initially produced in 1905 in response to a US Army procurement exercise intended to replace the then current Colt M1892 revolver as the standard US Army sidearm.  The army were looking for a gun which would chamber the new .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) round and which would be simple, rugged and reliable enough for military use.

tfw1Combat reports had noted the poor performance of the .38 calibre round for which the M1892 was chambered.  The .45 ACP cartridge
was designed by Browning in 1904 as an experimental round for semi-automatic pistols.  It was significantly larger and heavier than any other contemporary pistol cartridge and promised to provide the stopping power which was lacking in the smaller .38.  During the 1905 trials, pistols from several manufacturers were examined, including a Luger chambered for .45 ACP.


US Soldiers with 1911s, circa 1912

Photo: National Archives

The design of the 1911 was hugely influential and most semi-automatic pistols which followed used variations of the same basic approach.  The principle of using expanding combustion gases to extract the used cartridge case and load the next round wasn’t new – the Mauser C96 and P.08 (Luger) pistols were both well established when Browning began his design.  However, both used  complex mechanisms to achieve self-loading and both were prone to jamming if they were not kept scrupulously clean.  The 1911 was much simpler, and was one of the earliest pistols to use a moving slide.  It’s an elegantly simple design which proved simple to manufacture and reliable in use.


World War One Colt M1911

An exhaustive series of field tests were carried out between 1906 and 1911 to determine which pistol best suited the needs of the army.  The Colt was modified and improved during this time and trounced the opposition in later trials – at one test in late 1910, 6000 rounds were fired through one of the Colt test pistols over the course of two days.  When it inevitably over-heated, the gun was simply plunged into cold water to cool it.  Despite this brutal treatment the Colt suffered no stoppages during the test (its closest rival, the Savage pistol, had 37 stoppages).  The Colt was formally adopted for service with the US Army on March 29th, 1911 as the M1911 pistol.  Despite its success, Browning was never entirely happy with the pistol.  He felt that some features (such as the grip safety) had been forced upon him by illogical Army requirements.  Many of the features of the 1911 were re-visited in his final semi-automatic pistol design, the 9mm Browning Hi-Power which appeared after his death in the mid-1930s.

With minor external changes in 1924 to become the M1911A1, the Colt remained the principal sidearm of the US army until 1986 when it was replaced by the Beretta M9, though derivatives of the original 1911 are still used by some US military units.  Original 1911s were supplied in a blued finish, though many A1s have a “Parkerised” finish – a non-reflective, grey zinc phosphating process which provides good protection from corrosion.  The 1911 is single action only (i.e. the hammer must be manually cocked or the slide racked before it can be fired) but the principal disadvantage of this pistol is that it holds relatively little ammo – it’s admirably slim, but only seven of the fat .45ACP rounds can be squeezed into the magazine.


World War Two Parkerised Colt M1911A1

In the wider world, copies and clones of the 1911 have been produced in many countries and these and originals have been used by a wide variety of military and law enforcement agencies around the world.  Captured 1911s were even used by German Volkssturm units in World War Two as the P.660(a).  In late 2004 the US Army Marksmanship Unit began work on the M1911A2 project, which is looking at whether an improved variant of the original 1911 may yet find large scale usage within the US military.  No-one is entirely sure how many 1911s, copies and clones have been produced, though over 2.5 million were provided to US armed forces alone.

This handgun is almost unique in terms of longevity.  The only other pistol I can think of that comes close is another Colt product – the Single Action Army.  However, although that gun is still manufactured, the current third generation SAA models are significantly different to the 1873 original.  Although there are many variations on the 1911 theme, it’s still possible to buy a pistol which is essentially identical to the original.  Outside the gun world, I think you’d be hard pressed to find another piece of relatively modern technology that has remained in use virtually unchanged for over 100 years.  For this reason alone the 1911 is worthy of interest.

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911

Cybergun S.A. is a French distribution and marketing company which sells branded airsoft and replica air pistols manufactured in Asia.  In 2011 (to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1911) the company introduced the Tanfoglio Witness, a 4.5mm replica manufactured by Taiwanese company KWC.  Fratelli Tanfoglio Snc (Tanfoglio Brothers) is an Italian company which produces a range of semi-automatic handguns including the Witness, a copy of the 1911.  The Witness is a copy of the 1911A1 with a finish similar to the Parkerised finish of the original.  So, this is a French distributed, Taiwan manufactured replica of an Italian copy of an American pistol.  Simple really, though it seems surprising that Cybergun didn’t go for a straight 1911 replica as they have extensive licensing agreements with Colt.


The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911

Picture from

When it was first released, the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness sold very well.  Probably unsurprising as it was the first accurate Colt 1911 replica in 4.5mm and was relatively inexpensive.  In fact it was so popular that many retailers quickly sold out and even second-hand examples became hard to find.  The Tanfoglio Witness is still listed as a current model on the Cybergun website, but supply seems to be sporadic with many retailers reporting the pistol sold out and on back order for long periods.

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness is a CO2 powered, blowback 4.5mm BB replica with a 4.3 inch smoothbore barrel.  It’s all metal (zinc alloy) and the matt grey finish is visually a good match for Parkerisation.  CO2 is contained in a full-size drop-out magazine, though in order to fit a standard CO2 cartridge in the slim magazine the sides are cut away.  The sights are fixed and, like the original, this is single action only.


Calibre: 4.5mm

Capacity: 18 round magazine

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4.3″

Weight: 2 pounds

Length: 8″

Sights: Fixed

Action: SA only

Packaging and presentation  3/5

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a an expanded polystyrene insert cut-out to fit the pistol and accessories.  The pistol comes with a magazine, a ¼” allen key for tightening/piercing the CO2 and a small box of Cybergun steel BBs.

tfw9Oddly, the box and instruction sheet claim that the Witness has Spin-Up, the Cybergun proprietary hop-up adjustment.  This is incorrect – no hop up is provided on this or any other 4.5mm BB shooting replica as it’s not possible to impart the required spin to the heavier steel BBs.  The instruction sheet also notes that the Witness shoots 6mm plastic BBs, which is also obviously incorrect.


Visual accuracy  7/10

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness is an extremely accurate visual replica of the Colt 1911A1.  Surprisingly however, it’s not a particularly accurate replica of the Tanfoglio Witness 1911!  The real Witness has a straight backstrap, rounded hammer,  “double diamond” wood grips, an extended grip safety spur and an extended magazine base.  So, although this is sold as a replica of the Tanfoglio Witness, it’s actually a very accurate visual replica of the Colt 1911A1.  Confused?  So am I.  For the remainder of this review, I’ll compare this replica to the Colt 1911A1 rather than the real Tanfoglio Witness.


The real Tanfoglio Witness 1911

Picture from:

I really can’t fault this as a replica of the M1911A1, with the Parkerised finish seen from the late 1930s onwards.  Every contour of the frame and slide and every detail of the trigger and hammer are accurately replicated – even small details like the checkering on the front of the trigger and on the top surface of the hammer are present.  Overall, this is a very good visual replica indeed.  Apart from the markings.  The slide of the Witness is marred by bright, white lettering – on the left this reads “Tanfoglio Witness 1911” which is just about acceptable (though this marking isn’t used on the slide of the real Witness), but on the right of some examples is a whole paragraph of white safety text.  To me, this really spoils the look of the right side of this pistol.  However, this safety text doesn’t appear on every example – I have owned three Tanfoglio Witnesses.  Two had the white safety lettering on the right of the slide while the third had just “Made in Taiwan Witness” on the right, though all three came in similar packaging.


Right side of one of my Witnesses with (inset) block of safety text seen on right side of slide on some examples.

Overall, this is a very good visual replica of the Colt 1911, though somewhat spoiled by garish and unnecessary markings.

Functional accuracy  14/15

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness faithfully replicates every aspect of the operation of the original. The slide operates and locks as it should.  The safety, slide release and mag release all operate as per the original weapon and the Witness can be field stripped correctly.  The Witness shoots in single action only and the weight of the replica is close to that of the original.


The Witness also replicates the function of the slightly quirky grip safety on the original 1911.  The grip safety is a moveable section on the upper part of the backstrap.  Regardless of the position of the manual safety, the pistol will not fire unless this is depressed, as it is naturally when you grip the pistol.  On the original, this was included to prevent accidental discharge if the 1911 was dropped.  Designer John Browning felt that this was superfluous and it certainly hasn’t appeared on many subsequent designs, but it’s nice to see this function accurately replicated here.  One minor irritation is that this means you need two hands to de-cock the pistol – there is no de-cocker provided, and the only way to de-cock is to pull the trigger and gently lower the hammer.  However, this can only be done while the grip safety is depressed.


Grip safety

This replica will even allow you to experience one of the nastier features of the real 1911 – a tendency to bite.  Unless you hold a 1911 correctly, it’s possible to experience “hammer bite” – a very painful nipping of the web of skin that runs from the thumb to the forefinger and which can be caught between the hammer and grip safety spur as the recoiling slide cocks the hammer (this was a particular problem on early models, and was one reason why the A1 had a longer grip safety spur).  The Tanfoglio Witness replicates this precisely.  Perhaps not with quite the force of the original, but sufficient to draw blood if you’re unlucky.

Engaging the manual thumb safety on the left side of the frame locks the slide and disengages the trigger.  Just as one the original, all controls are set up for right handed use only – no ambidextrous appeal here.  However, I’m a lefty and I didn’t find this caused any major problems with shooting the 1911.  Grips from a real 1911 can be fitted to the Witness with very little modification, making it simple to customise.

Overall, this is a very good functional replica of the Colt 1911.

Shooting  32/40

CO2 is loaded into the magazine, and tightened and pierced using the ¼” allen key provided.  Generally this is done cleanly and without major leaks, though one of my Witnesses leaked at the main CO2 seal from new.  Up to 18 BBs can be loaded into the magazine, though many users have noted that loading all 18 can cause problems with misfeeds and jamming – generally it seems better to load 15 or less.  The magazine follower does not lock down, so you have to hold it in place while loading.


With the magazine inserted, the slide must be racked to move the first BB into the chamber and to cock the hammer.  On pulling the trigger, you’ll initially notice two things – the Witness is loud for an air pistol and the recoil is very strong.  Both make this pistol seem more powerful than it really is – Cybergun claim 320fps for the Witness, but I found 290 – 310fps more realistic in the chilly North of Scotland.

Take-up on the trigger is short and light and the release point is clear and consistent.  When you start shooting, the next thing you’ll probably notice is that your shots aren’t grouping particularly closely.  Accuracy is variable – of my three Witnesses, one was notably more accurate than the others, and all seemed sensitive to BB selection.  I found best accuracy was achieved with Blaster steel BBs.  Generally, I was getting groups of around 2″ at six yards, though this reduced to less than 1½” with the best of my Witnesses.  When the magazine is empty, the slide locks back.


CO2 consumption is reasonable for a blowback pistol – I generally got around 50 – 60 full power shots per CO2 cartridge.  Be aware however that some examples have a tendency to fire full-auto bursts when the CO2 pressure gets low!

The loudness and strong recoil make this a very satisfying replica to shoot, though accuracy is no better than average for a BB pistol.  The slim profile and good balance inherited from the original 1911 make this a natural pointer and a pistol which simply feels good in the hand.

Quality and reliability  11/15

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness looks and feels as if it’s very well made.  The slide fits well without rattles and racks smoothly and cleanly – which is more than can be said for many real 1911s!.  The finish is well applied and seems more durable than the finish on some Cybergun replicas – the GSG92, for example.  However, it appears that quality control may be variable.  Some Witnesses seem to go on shooting almost indefinitely without any problems.  Others seem to give problems from the start.  This doesn’t seem to be confined to a single batch or production run, it seems to be almost random.  Of my three Witnesses, two performed very well indeed, shooting reliably and powerfully and without any issues.  The third seemed to have a whole range of niggly problems with BB feeding, jamming, inconsistent power and variable accuracy.  I don’t have figures to back this up, but anecdotally from talking to other owners, my impression is that most Witnesses are reliable and powerful with only a small number giving problems.

It’s also notable that filling the magazine to capacity does seem to cause problems with misfeeds and jamming – it seems better to load fewer than 18 BBs.

Overall Impression  14/15

I love the Colt 1911.  It’s a testament to the longevity of basically sound design.  It’s also a well balanced, slim and characterful pistol which is very satisfying to shoot.  So, no surprise that I also like the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness a great deal.  In fact, I’d say that it’s about as close to the experience of shooting a real 1911 as it’s possible to get without using gunpowder.  For me, this is how replicas should be – heavy, loud with strong recoil and tough to shoot consistently, but wonderfully satisfying when you do.

Modifying the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness

The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness has proved to be a very popular platform for modification.  Partly this is due to low cost, but also because the metal used is of sufficient quality to facilitate stripping and re-coating, painting or polishing.  Real 1911 grips can also be fitted with very little modification.

tfw2TFW with hydraprinted slide, Duracoated frame and controls, modified trigger, Madbull airsoft suppressor and pearl grips.  Picture courtesy Freeballer74.


Stripped, mirror polished Witness with vented slide, nickel plated trigger, hammer, slide release and thumb safety and white resin grips.  Stunning!  Picture from Black Dog Pistols (see link at bottom)


It’s really very simple – if you have any interest in replicas of historic pistols, you need to have a Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness in your collection.  The Colt 1911 is one of the most significant handguns ever made and this (in my opinion) is the best replica to date.  It looks, weighs, handles and shoots just like a real 1911.  It also appears to be generally well made, it shoots reasonably well and it’s inexpensive.  There does seem to be a question mark over reliability however – there seem to be distinctly good and bad examples and if you are unlucky enough to get a bad one, it may take some fettling to get it right.  However, that this replica is also a great basis for modification and customisation is an added bonus.


Cybergun have gone on to produce other variations on the 1911 theme with the Swiss Arms 1911 and the Blackwater BW1911, but for me none have the raw appeal of this original 1911 replica.  So, if you don’t already own a Tanfoglio Witness – you need to get one now.  If you already own one, why not get another, strip off the paint, polish it and fit pearl grips?  You know it makes sense!

Total score: 81/100


You can buy this replica at Pyramid Air here.

Related pages:

Tokyo Marui Colt 1911A1 review

Umarex Colt Government 1911 A1 review 

Cybergun GSG92 review

Cybergun SIG Sauer P226 X-Five review

Nagant M1895 revolver review

WE Tokarev TT33 review

Walther PPK/S review

Walther P99 Compact review

Umarex Legends P-08 review

Modifying the Tanfoglio Witness:

Magic9 Design

Black Dog Pistols


Cybergun web page