Umarex Legends Parabellum-Pistole P.08 review

This is a review of the Umarex Legends Parabellum-Pistole P.08, a full metal, blowback, 4.5mm BB shooting replica of the altogether iconic Luger pistol. However, while it may say “Umarex” on the box, this replica isn’t manufactured in Germany or by Umarex. I believe that this replica is made in Taiwan by KWC and Umarex, like several other manufacturers, distribute and market these KWC replicas under their own brand.

I previously owned a KWC version of this replica in 6mm form (you’ll find a link to review of that version at the end of this article). So this will be both a comparison between the 4.5mm Umarex offering and KWC 6mm version as well as a stand-alone review. 

Given that the Luger must be one of the most recognizable and best-known handguns ever produced, it’s perhaps surprising that there haven’t been more replicas. Japanese manufacturer Tanaka were, as far as I know, the first to produce a fully-functional blowback replica of the Luger, but their offering was all-plastic, very light and not a great shooter. WE Tech followed with what was basically a metal copy of the Tanaka Luger. However, though it had better weight, the WE Luger wasn’t especially reliable – I owned one many years ago and it had a worrying tendency to fire off a whole magazine on full auto!

In 2013, Umarex added a Luger to their Legends range, but this was non-blowback and it had a very heavy, double-action only trigger (you’ll find a link at the end of this article to a review of that version). If you’re buying an Umarex Legends Luger, do make sure you’re getting the version you want – the packaging for this version and the earlier non-blowback version is very similar. 

Real steel background

What is there to say about the Luger? Everyone had heard of it and even non-gun people recognise it’s angular lines. However, there are a number of myths and misperceptions about this pistol. Despite what many movies and television shows suggest, it wasn’t principally an officer’s pistol – most German officers preferred smaller and less bulky sidearms and, especially during World War Two, the Luger was issued mainly to NCOs.

Nasty Nazi officer with Luger. Wrong, but iconic.

It was accurate for its day, and not particularly powerful or reliable, but it was fiendishly complex and expensive to manufacture. Each part of the toggle mechanism had to be carefully matched and assembled to ensure that it would work correctly. This was done by inspectors and part numbers were then stamped on each part before blueing to ensure that matching parts of the mechanism would be reassembled to produce a working finished weapon. However, tight tolerances meant that parts weren’t interchangeable between Lugers and that made it difficult to replace damaged parts in the field.

The 7.65mm Borchardt C93. Ugly old thing, isn’t it? I would quite like a replica though…

When the Luger was replaced by the Walther P-38, the new pistol wasn’t particularly better, but it was much easier and cheaper to manufacture and to repair. Another thing worth mentioning is that this pistol was never officially known as the “Luger,” though that is how it was generally known. Even this name may be misleading. The toggle mechanism used on the Luger was originally devised by a German designer, Hugo Borchardt, and used on the C93, the very first successful locked-breech semi-automatic pistol which was released in 1893. However, the C93 was very  bulky (it was over 350mm/13.7” long!) and sales were poor. When Borchardt refused to redesign the pistol, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM), who had acquired the rights to the C93, ordered an Austrian engineer who was working for the company as a salesman, Georg Luger, to redesign the pistol.

The Borchardt-Luger. Still 7.65mm and it has a different toggle and a grip safety, but it’s getting close to the final version.

Luger first produced the “Improved Borchardt” and then in 1898 the “Borchardt-Luger.” By the time that this pistol had become the Parabellum-Pistole, and was given the designation P.08 when it was adopted for use by the German armed forces, Borchardt’s name had been dropped and it became universally known as the “Luger Pistol”. So, although it’s almost always called a “Luger,” Georg Luger didn’t really design this pistol at all, he simply refined and tinkered with an existing design.

The 9mm Parabellum-Pistole P.08. The basic design of the Luger didn’t really change much after this, though you’ll see that the magazine base on this 1916 DWM example is made of wood.

The Umarex Legends Parabellum Pistole P.08

This is a CO2-powered, 4.5mm, blowback replica of a Parabellum-Pistole P.08 with a 10cm barrel (the Luger was also sold with 12cm, 15cm and 20cm barrels). It’s pretty much all metal other than the grips and some internal parts. CO2 is contained in a full-size, drop-out magazine and the toggle mechanism, manual safety, magazine release and the takedown procedure from the original are all functional and accurately replicated.

Although it’s branded as an Umarex product, I believe this is made by Kein Well Toy Industrial Co. Ltd. (KWC), a Taiwanese manufacturer of 4.5mm and 6mm replica guns who act as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for a number of distributors.

Spec;

Calibre: 4.5mm

Magazine capacity: 21 4.5mm BBs

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 3.54″ (90mm)

Weight: 1.85lbs (834g) is claimed, but mine weighs in at 1.91 lbs (865g) without CO2 or BBs.

Overall length: 8.7″ (220mm)

Sights: Front: Post, fixed. Rear: V-notch, fixed.

Action: SA only.

Claimed power: 295 fps (90 m/s), 1.4 Joule

Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)

The Umarex Legends Parabellum Pistole P.08is supplied in a card box with a polystyrene insert shaped to fit the pistol, a single magazine, a hex key for tightening the CO2 screw and a short user manual. The manual includes an insert that reads: “CAUTION: DO NOT OPERATE WITHOUT A MAGAZINE.” I’m not sure what that’s about, and there was no similar warning in the KWC 6mm version I previously tested.

Visual accuracy 8/10

In terms of the overall outline of the Luger, this very well done. The shape of the grip, receiver, toggle, ejector pin, barrel and sights are all very close to the original. However, I’m not so sure about the finish – most Lugers were blued, which gives a very shiny finish, but this uses a painted semi-matt black finish. It looks thick and well-applied, but some sort of more shiny finish would, IMHO, have looked much better. On many Lugers, the trigger, manual safety and the button at the base of the magazine were also given different heat-treatment that gave a straw-coloured finish, but everything here is black.

To me, the black grips look wrong too (though some Lugers did come with black Bakelite grips), and brown, wood-effect grips would have been much more appropriate. Overall, this is a close visual replica of a Luger, though it’s not perfect.

Markings are sparse. Real Lugers have lots of serial numbers and proof marks on most components. There are a few engraved markings here : Under the manual safety the text “Gesichert” (Secured) appears and the number 15 is engraved on the cover plate, takedown lever and manual safety blade. One thing I do appreciate on this Umarex version is the absence of lots of nasty white text. “P.08” appears on the left side of the receiver and “ac” and “42” on top of the toggle.

There is white text showing the “F” mark and calibre, but this is positioned under the barrel where it isn’t visible in most circumstances. I’d like to have seen more realistic markings, but at least the look of this replica isn’t spoiled by the use of lots of visible white text.

Functional accuracy 14/15

Functionally, this is outstanding. The toggle mechanism works as it should and locks back when the mag is empty (there is no equivalent of a slide release on the Luger – the only way to unlock the toggle is to re-rack it with a round in the magazine or with the magazine removed). The manual safety works as it should, as does the magazine release. Takedown works as on the original and even the complex and convoluted trigger mechanism is accurately modelled here.

The only very minor thing that doesn’t work on the Umarex P.08 (and to be fair, this hasn’t yet been modelled on any Luger replica) is the loaded chamber indicator – on the cartridge version the ejector pin on top of the toggle stands proud of the toggle and the word “Geladen” (Loaded) is visible when there is a round in the chamber. But that’s being very picky – this basically functions in precisely the same way as an original Luger.

Shooting 38/45

Mine had a minor fault that I wanted to address before shooting. Before I shot it for the first time, I noticed a small scratch on the barrel on the left side, just in front of the trigger plate.

I don’t think the scratch was there when it arrived, so it must have happened the few times that I racked the toggle. Taking the trigger plate off, I can see that there is a rough area on the forward edge of the trigger transfer bar (arrowed below). I think that’s scraping against the barrel and has caused the scratch.

I’m concerned that if I shoot it like this, the scratching will quickly get much worse. So, I carefully sand down the tip of the plate to remove the rough area. You don’t want to remove much material, here or the trigger may not function properly – the point is just to get a smooth surface that won’t leave scratches on the barrel. Here’s the result.

The trigger still works as it should, so I guess I haven’t removed too much material. The last step before I begin shooting is lubrication. I can see some light oil on the gun as supplied, but I disassemble and add silicon grease to the parts of the toggle and where the receiver moves in the frame. I also grease the thread on the hex plug in the base of the magazine – I know from previous experience with KWC replicas that it’s very easy to cross-thread this plug if it’s completely removed, and a little grease helps to prevent that. Finally, I spray a little silicone oil onto the top of the magazine, underside of the loading nozzle and the CO2 seal in the magazine to ensure good sealing. With these jobs done, I’m ready to start shooting.

Loading CO2 is simple – just loosen the hex plug in the base of the magazine using the hex key provided, put the CO2 cartridge in place from the left side of the magazine and then tighten the hex plug until it seals. There is a short puffs of gas as it pierces, but nothing dramatic. Then, you load up to 21 BBs in the magazine, one at a time through the opening in the front (arrowed above). The magazine follower doesn’t lock down, but the spring isn’t especially heavy and the follower knob is rounded, so this isn’t a fingernail-removing job. Again from previous experience of KWC replicas, I don’t load the magazine to full capacity. If you do, it can occasionally cause problems with the first shot.

The toggle must be pulled fully back and released to load the first BB into the breech and to cock the pistol. With that done, and the manual safety released, you’re ready to shoot. And the first thing you’ll notice are the sights. There is a deep V in the top rear of the toggle and a tall, thin post on the front. The sight picture is rather vague compared to replicas of more modern handguns, but that’s all part of the Luger experience. When you do shoot, you may be distracted by the toggle momentarily flipping up to obscure your view of the target, but surprisingly quickly, you get used to it. When you fire the last shot, the toggle locks up, leaving you in no doubt that it’s time to reload.

Trigger action is light and more precise than on the 6mm version I tested previously. This is a little odd – the Luger trigger mechanism is complex, but somehow, here that translates into a clearly defined and predictable break. Accuracy is pretty reasonable too. I could generally get 1½” groups at 6m. Occasionally, I could even get  a 1” group. The sights are pretty much spot-on for elevation, but mine shoots about 1” right of the point of aim at 6m. Unusually, this replica did seem a little finicky about BBs. I have tried three different kinds of BB in this replica: Umarex steel BBs, ASG Blaster steel BBs and Heckler & Koch black coated steel BBs. I was consistently able to get smaller groups using the Umarex Steel BBs – Using the H&K BBs gave groups of around 2½”. I don’t know why that would be and most BB shooting replicas do pretty much the same whatever type of steel BB you use, but this one does seem to prefer a particular type.

This is my best effort so far. 6m, semi-rested using Umarex Steel BBs. The overall group is about 1”. To get this, I had to aim about 1” left of the centre of the target.

There isn’t much felt recoil effect due to the lack of a moving slide, but there is enough going on to make this feel convincing to shoot. CO2 consumption is disappointing though consistent. I would get 40 full-power shots. Then, around shot 41/42 you could hear power dropping. By shot 45/46, there wasn’t enough puff left to re-set the toggle. That was while shooting ten-shot strings fairly slowly and with pauses for reloading. The temperature while I was shooting was 26-28˚C. In cooler conditions or if you were shooting rapidly, I think you might be lucky to be able shoot two complete magazines of BBs before you have to change the CO2. That’s pretty poor and notably worse than lots of other CO2 blowback replicas. There doesn’t seem to be a fault here and there is no obvious loss of gas as you shoot, so I guess that’s just how it is for this replica.

This isn’t a particularly loud replica. It’s noticeably quieter than, for example, the Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm, so you won’t startle your cat, spouse or neighbours. My chrony is playing up at the moment so I wasn’t able to test the power of this replica, but I have no reason to doubt Umarex’ claim of 295fps.

Quality and reliability 12/15

I had the initial problem with the scratch on the barrel caused by the defect on the trigger transfer bar, but other than that problem, the finish on this replica has held up well. Everything worked out of the box and has continued to work since. I simply haven’t had any problems at all with this replica. And that’s a good thing. If you just want half an hour of shooting therapy, there’s nothing worse than a replica that won’t work reliably. 

Everything about this replica feels solid and well made. The toggle action is commendably precise and even the trigger action is good, not something you normally associate with Lugers!

Overall Impression 8/10

The fact that this replica has a very similar weight to the original really helps. It feels solid and nothing rattles or is loose. The toggle mechanism has a nice, tight, precise feel. The overall first impression when you pick this up is very good indeed and it feels much less toy-like than some replicas. If it only had grips that looked more like wood and a more convincing finish, it would be close to a perfect visual and functional replica of the iconic Luger. 

Conclusion

In terms of Luger replicas, it doesn’t get much better than this. Visually and functionally, this is very close and it’s a decent shooter too. CO2 consumption is a little disappointing, but not disastrous. In terms of longevity, it’s just too early to say. I have put more than 500 shots through mine with no problems at all and everything still works as it should. In my previous experience of KWC replicas, if you keep them lubricated and look after them, they last surprisingly well.

The issue with the defect on the trigger transfer bar scratching the barrel before I had even started shooting was disappointing, but I guess is that’s is a problem specific to my example. Other than that, the finish seems thick and well applied and mine isn’t showing any undue signs of wear or distress. Overall, if you want a Luger in your replica collection, this is probably the one to go for.  

Total score: 82.5/100

Pros

All metal, good weight

Good visual and functional replica

Decent shooter

Cons

High CO2 consumption

Related Posts

KWC (6mm) P08 review

Umarex Legends (Non-Blowback) P.08 review

ASG CZ 75

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I generally don’t like surprises. Because, let’s face it, they’re usually unpleasant. I was surprised when I managed to shoot a hole through a very expensive double glazing unit with my Tanfoglio Witness. I was very surprised to discover that I hadn’t secured the seat properly on one of the motorcycles I had re-built and found myself standing at a set of traffic lights with just a seat clutched between my thighs as the bike accelerated briskly up the road. You get the picture. Happily, I’m rarely surprised by replicas. I have owned a fair number from different producers and I generally have a good idea of what to expect before I even pick a new pistol up. But, just occasionally, I find something unexpected in a new replica and that happened recently when I was provided with an ASG CZ 75 for review.

I have owned several ASG replicas, and they’re generally pretty good. In terms of blowback, semi-auto BB shooters, I have owned an STI Duty One and a CZ P-07 Duty. Both were very nicely made and finished, powerful, reliable and reasonably accurate, but I didn’t especially care for the trigger action on either – like many replicas they both use the first part of the single action trigger pull to queue up the next BB for shooting and neither could be field stripped. Not show-stopping issues to be sure, but I do like functional accuracy and a true single action trigger. I had assumed (always a dangerous thing to do) that the ASG CZ 75 would be similar and had never owned or shot one. How wrong I was…

Real steel background

State-owned arms manufacturer Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod (CZUB) was established in 1936 in the small town of Uherský Brod in what was then Czechoslovakia and is now the Czech Republic. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the company was privatized in 1992 as Česká zbrojovka a.s. PLC. CZ currently employs more than 2000 people, making it one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the world.

Back in the early 1970s, military orders were starting to drop-off and the Ministry of Foreign Trade requested CZ to begin work on the design of a military and law enforcement pistol which might have export potential to Western countries. The design brief was for a pistol chambered for the 9x19mm round, with a high-capacity magazine and capable of being carried “cocked and locked” (i.e. with the hammer cocked and a manual safety applied). Chief designer František Koucký (with some help from his brother Josef) produced a design where the slide of the pistol ran inside rails on the frame, rather than the conventional approach where the slide is outside of the frame. This was claimed to give smoother and more controlled slide movement, though it did mean that the slide serrations are a little small. Czech architect and designer František Crhák was also asked to provide ideas on the visual design of the pistol, and the result was a simple, distinctive and instantly recognisable design.

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Early model CZ 75

Functionally, the all steel CZ 75 is a relatively simple design using a modified Browning short recoil operated, locked breech action. Early prototypes were single action only but the final version featured both double and single action with a half-cock position for the hammer in order to make manual de-cocking safer (because it can be carried cocked but with the safety engaged, the manual safety does not incorporate a de-cocking function). Mass production began in 1977 and the CZ 75 quickly gained a reputation for power, accuracy and reliability. It also has superb ergonomics, combining the slim pointability of a 1911 with the advantages of a double-stack magazine.

During the early 1980s, the CZ 75 became one of a small group of pistols referred to as the “Wonder Nines“. Police in the US were still largely armed with revolvers at this time, and a number of influential gun writers including Jeff Cooper and Robert Shimek urged the adoption of 9mm handguns with large capacity magazines which could be carried ready to fire, but with a manual safety. The CZ 75 was one of the pistols identified as a Wonder Nine and it was eventually adopted by some US Police Departments as well as by police users in the Czech Republic and Turkey. The CZ 75 and its derivatives have also become very popular as target shooting and self-defence weapons around the world.

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CZ 75B

The earliest versions of the CZ 75 featured a rounded trigger-guard and a spur hammer though these were quickly replaced on the CZ75B with a combat style trigger-guard and a rounded hammer. Subsequent versions have included the select fire CZ 75 Automatic and the aluminium framed compact P-01. More recent pistols from CZ such as the polymer framed P09 Duty continue to use the internal slide and other operational features from the original CZ 75. The CZ 75 has also been used as the basis for several other handguns including the IWI Jericho 941 series, the Tanfoglio TZ-75, the Chinese Norinco NZ-75 and the Springfield P9.

The ASG CZ 75

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Danish group Action Sport Games A/S (ASG) produce a range of CO2 powered 4.5mm semi-auto and revolver replicas. ASG have a licensing agreement with CZ and a number of their replicas are based on CZ designs. The ASG CZ 75 is an all-metal licensed replica of an early CZ 75 featuring blowback, a full-size drop-out magazine and full CZ markings. Up to 17 steel BBs and the CO2 are stored in the magazine and all controls from the original are replicated visually and operationally.

Spec;

Calibre: 4.5mm

Magazine capacity: 17 steel BBs

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4.3″ (110mm), smoothbore

Weight: 2.1lbs (950g)

Overall length: 8.27″ (210mm)

Sights: Front: Post, fixed. Rear: Notch, fixed.

Action: SA/DA

Claimed power: 312fps (95m/s)

Packaging and presentation 2.5/5

7514The ASG CZ 75 comes in a card box with a polystyrene insert shaped to fit the pistol and extras. It is supplied with a hex tool for removal of the magazine base plug, a small box of steel BBs and a very short user manual. The manual doesn’t mention the full and half-cock hammer positions or tell you how to field strip the replica.

7515Visual accuracy 9/10

754Dimensionally, this is a very good replica indeed.  The lines of the original and the shape and location of sights, controls and grips are precisely the same. Even the distinctive tiny, silver hammer pin retaining peg is in place. The magazine on the ASG CZ 75 does have a larger base than the standard CZ 75 magazine. However, CZ provide an extended magazine for the CZ 75 which increases capacity to 18 rounds, and the magazine on the ASG version is based on this, so it’s a reasonable solution to the need to fit a 12g CO2 cartridge inside the mag.

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Later model CZ 75 SP-01 fitted with high-capacity magazine

The finish on the replica is a semi-matt black compared to a fairly glossy black finish on the original, but it looks reasonable and it’s close to the finish on later models of the CZ 75. The trigger is chromed and outer barrel is finished in polished alloy on the replica, which look good and replicate the finish on the original. Markings are fair. The “Model 75 Cal. 9 Para” on the left of the slide is correct though the “Made in Czechoslovakia” text which appeared on the left side of the frame of early versions of the original is missing and the CZ logos on the slide and grips are modern style rather than the 70s version. There is also additional white ASG text on the right of the frame, but at least it’s small and fairly discreet.

Functional accuracy 14/15

The ASG CZ 75 features blowback operation and the slide moves through a full range of movement. The slide lock/release works as it should and the slide locks back when the last round is fired. Like the original, the hammer has a half-cock and full-cock position. On the cartridge version this is used to safely de-cock a loaded pistol – the hammer is de-cocked only from full-cock to half-cock. This is probably not something you’ll be doing often on a replica, but it’s nice to see such attention to functional detail. With the hammer in the full-cock position, the pistol can be fired in single action. With the hammer in the half-cock position, the pistol can only be fired in double action. The manual safety can be applied only with the hammer in the full-cock or half-cock position. With the hammer fully down, the pistol can be fired in double action, though on mine this is notably stiff (but it does seem to be improving with use).

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Hammer at half-cock (top) and full-cock (bottom)

The ASG CZ 75 can be field stripped in the same way as the original (though this isn’t explained in the manual). To remove the slide, the magazine must be removed and two marks on the left rear of the slide must be aligned. The slide release can then be pushed out from the right and removed from the left, and the slide can then be moved forward off the frame. It’s very similar to the takedown procedure on any 1911 style pistol.

759Slide alignment marks (arrowed, left), slide stop removal (right)

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Overall, this is a very good functional replica of the CZ 75. It accurately replicates trigger action, slide movement and locking and takedown and it’s very close to weight of the original. This would probably make a good training aid for anyone who also owns the cartridge version.

Shooting 34/40

To load the magazine with CO2, the plastic cover on the base must first be removed. There is a small plastic button in the centre of the base which is pressed, then the plastic cover can be slid off to the front. This exposes the tightening plug which can be removed using the supplied hex key (though it also has a large slot so a coin or screwdriver can also be used). The plug must be completely removed so that the CO2 can be inserted from the bottom of the mag. Once it’s in place, the plug is replaced and tightened until the cartridge pierces, which it generally does cleanly and without any major loss of gas.

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Up to 17 steel BBs are then loaded into the magazine. The follower doesn’t lock down, so it must be held in place whilst you are loading.

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The magazine is then replaced and you’re good to go. The slide must be racked to prepare for the first shot and, due to the design of the slide, the area of serrations is fairly small. This, combined with a strong return spring, means that you do have to grasp the slide strongly to get a good grip. Racking the slide also cocks the hammer, so most of your shooting will be done in single action. Fortunately, the ASG CZ 75 has a very nice, light, true single action trigger. There is some free-play, but the pull is short, light and consistent. Blowback is strong and snappy and this replica shoots with a reasonably loud bang. Sights are simple and basic (no white dots here), but clear and perfectly adequate.

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The CZ 75 can be fired in double action if the hammer is fully down or in the half-cock position. With the hammer at half-cock, the double action trigger is moderately heavy, though smooth and consistent. With the hammer down, the first part of the double action pull is much heavier, though this does seem to be improving with use.

The CZ 75 shoots well, with groupings on average of around 2″ at six yards, though this does seem to vary. One magazine of BBs might group at 1½”, while the next might be 2½” or even 3″. On the target below, the group was around 2½”, but if you watch the video review, you’ll see a grouping that’s close to 1½”. This seems to happen in a number of steel BB shooting replicas I have owned, and I have no idea why. In general, the first magazine I shot in a particular session with this pistol seemed to be less tightly grouped than subsequent efforts. The CZ 75 is roughly comparable to something like the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness in that it isn’t going to compete for accuracy with your pellet shooting replicas, but it is accurate enough for satisfactory target shooting and plinking. It feels adequately powerful and I have no reason to doubt the claimed 300+ fps. In temperatures of around 26 – 28°C I was getting between 50 and 60 shots per CO2. Power doesn’t seem to drop off, and accuracy and power are maintained until virtually the last shot. The slide locks back reliably when the last shot is fired.

Good recoil effect and a loud report make this a satisfying replica to shoot. It also inherits great ergonomics from the original, the single action trigger pull is wonderfully light and short and the sights give a clear picture. Overall, it’s a very nice shooter indeed.

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Ten shots, six yards, semi-rested

Target downloaded from: http://umarexboysclubforum.myfineforum.org/index.php

The sights are non-adjustable and my CZ 75 shot around 1½” low and to the left at six yards. Or at least it did until I adjusted the hop-up. Hang on a minute, I hear you say, this is a 4.5mm replica, so it can’t have hop-up. And I’d agree, except that it appears that it does. There is an adjustment screw on the outside of the inner barrel housing which seems to press on an internal O ring – which is precisely how the hop-up works on 6mm replicas. And when I gave this screw and experimental turn, it did seem that the groupings changed until they were pretty close to centred for elevation on the point of aim (though still a little to the left). I know that sounds unlikely, but that’s just how it happened.

It’s possible I suppose that the inclusion of hop-up is a left-over from a 6mm version, but generally the hop-up mechanism isn’t included on 4.5mm replicas. And the conventional wisdom is that, even if it were included, it wouldn’t make any difference because the steel BBs are too heavy. The manual certainly doesn’t mention hop-up adjustment, but then it doesn’t say much about anything. It’s possible that the improvement in groupings is simply a coincidence and nothing to do with adjusting the screw – it could be part of the gun wearing in. Or I may just have had too much wine with my lunch. So, I don’t claim that the ASG CZ 75 has hop-up adjustment. But it does have something that looks an awful lot like it.

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Mysterious screw. Hop-up adjustment?

Quality and reliability 13/15

I haven’t had any functional issues with my CZ 75. It loads and holds gas without leaks and everything works reliably. When shooting the first few magazines, there was an occasional double loading of BBs which resulted in a notably less powerful shot. However, this hasn’t recurred and I assume it’s just part of the process of wearing in. Like most ASG replicas, this feels well made – the slide fits tightly and with almost no play, all the controls works crisply and positively and the grips seem robust and don’t flex or creak when the pistol is gripped.

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The finish is good, but not perfect. There a couple of areas on the frame and magazine where there are minor flaws in the paint. You have to look very closely to see them, but they appear to be slightly thicker areas of paint which have dried to leave a slight discoloration. Now, I have noticed that the finish on the previous ASG semi-auto replicas I have owned seemed to last better than the average. On most modern replicas, the finish is applied electrostatically, which gives an even, but very, very thin coating of paint. On some replicas this produces a finish so fragile that it wears if you look at them hard enough. I don’t know whether these slight defects in the paint on the CZ 75 imply that ASG use some other process to apply a thicker and more hard-wearing finish?

A very minor issue is that there is a tiny area of wear to the finish on the very back of the long beavertail. I’d guess that the equally long hammer is clipping the edge of this as the slide retracts under blowback. There is also a little wear inside the slide where the outer barrel is rubbing against the inside of the slide. It’s not major, and because the outer barrel is polished alloy, there is no finish to be worn off and this wear isn’t apparent unless you remove the slide and look inside. Otherwise, the finish on my ASG CZ 75 is holding up very well indeed.

Overall Impression 14/15

I hadn’t realised how much I have got used to replicas of polymer framed pistols until I picked up the hefty, all metal CZ 75. It’s notably heavier than, for example, the polymer framed ASG CZ P-09 Duty, and it feels good. OK, if I had to carry a pistol round all day, I’d probably appreciate the light weight of more modern guns. But as an occasional target shooter and replica collector, I really enjoy a weighty pistol.

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Like most ASG replicas, it seems to be well made too. The finish looks good and (if my past experience of ASG replicas is a guide) should be durable too. I also appreciate the attention to detail in things like the half-cock position for the hammer, the light single-action trigger and the ability to field strip. Like the original, it isn’t a complicated design and the sights and controls are simple and basic but easy to use. Niggles? Very few really – the slide serrations are rather small and it can be difficult to get a good grip on the slide, the double action trigger pull seems sticky in the first stage (though this seems to be improving with use), I don’t especially care for the extended base to the magazine and accuracy seems to be variable, though within reasonable limits. Otherwise, this is very good indeed.

Conclusion

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OK, this is pretty easy: Bored with 1911s, Beretta 92s and plastic framed pistols? Want a replica of something a little different? Then you need one of these. For collectors, it’s a very nice replica of a transitional design which comes somewhere between the 1911, the Hi-Power and more modern pistols like the Sig P226 and the Glock 17. For shooters it’s a powerful, weighty, reasonably accurate BB pistol with strong blowback, a true single-action trigger and great ergonomics. It’s also fairly frugal with CO2, it’s relatively inexpensive, it looks good and it feels great in the hand compared to most polymer framed replicas. For me, the only puzzling thing is that it has taken me so long to discover the ASG CZ 75. Surprised? You bet! But in a good way…

Total score: 86.5/100

Many thanks to ASG for supplying the CZ 75 for review.

Video review

Related pages:

ASG CZ P-09 Duty review

ASG Dan Wesson revolvers

Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness review

Links:

CZ 75 on the ASG website

Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911

Picture from Cybergun.com

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.

Spec;

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.

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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.

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The real Tanfoglio Witness 1911

Picture from: http://www.tanfoglio.it/eng/catalogo/defence/witness-1911.html

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Conclusion

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.

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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

Buy:

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

Links

Cybergun web page