How to make your BB shooting replica more accurate

I like BB shooting replicas.  The use of BBs makes it possible to replicate the function of semi-auto firearms more accurately than is possible in replicas that shoot pellets.  However, I find it frustrating that so few BB replicas shoot well.  One of the first replicas I owned was a Tanfoglio Witness, and I loved its heavy weight and the way it felt just like a cartridge firing 1911.  But I found it irritating that, even at six yards, it scattered BBs over a 5” circle.  Given that current replicas are generally well made, surely they can be made to shoot with a little more accuracy than that?

The main problem here is consistency.  Pellet shooting replicas are good at sending pellets on a very similar trajectory every shot, leading to satisfactorily small groups.  BBs shooters are affected by tiny imperfections in BBs and the barrel which leads variation in the trajectory of the BBs and larger groups.  But there are things you can do to make your BB shooting replica produce smaller groups.

How does it all work?

The first thing to consider is what happens when a pellet or BB travels down the barrel of an air or airsoft gun.  A .177” pellet (or a .177” lead ball) fits tightly into the barrel of an air gun and is squeezed against the rifling on the inner surface of the barrel.  When you fire the gun, gas pressure builds up behind the pellet until this is sufficient to overcome the friction holding the pellet against the sides of the barrel.  When the pellet starts to move forward, the rifling also causes it to spin.  When the pellet leaves the end of the barrel, it continues to spin, improving stability.  The friction caused by the pellet being squeezed against the sides of the barrel is the reason that pellets always leave the barrel with less speed than BBs.  The accuracy (or otherwise) of your pellet shooting airgun is largely dependent on how accurately the barrel was made in the first place and how much the rifling has eroded over time.  A build-up of deposits on the rifling can cause some minor degree of inconsistency in the flight of the pellet (though some lead build-up can actually improve accuracy), but generally the most important factor is how straight the barrel is in the first place.

Shooting a pellet in a rifled barrel

Now let’s look at what happens when you shoot a BB through a smoothbore barrel (I’ll talk about shooting BBs in rifled barrels in a moment).  And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a 4.5mm steel BB or a 6 or 8mm plastic BB, the mechanics are the same.  The BB does not fit tightly inside the barrel.  A typical 6mm airsoft BB for example, is actually around 5.95mm external diameter while the barrel on most modern airsoft guns is anywhere from 6.04 – 6.08mm internal diameter.  So when the gas is pushing the BB down the barrel, some leaks past the BB and forms a thin layer of gas between the BB and the inside of the barrel.  Because of this, the BB doesn’t actually touch the sides of the barrel at all and this thin layer of gas actually helps to stabilize the BB and keep it travelling straight.

Shooting a BB in a smoothbore barrel

There are couple of things to think about here.  First, barrel length.  It takes time for the BB to stabilize on the layer of gas.  When it first enters the barrel, the BB tends to bounce off the inner sides of the barrel, especially if it hits a hop-up rubber on the way.  After it has travelled some distance, this bouncing is dampened down and the BB stabilizes in the centre of the barrel.  There is some argument about how long a barrel must be in order for the BB to stabilize fully, but most people seem to agree that anything less than around 70mm (a little under three inches) is unlikely to allow the BB to stabilize completely.  In general terms, the longer the barrel, the better stabilized the BB will be when it leaves the muzzle.

The second thing to consider is hop-up.  Most airsoft guns and some steel BB shooting guns have hop-up.  This is a rubber nub inside the barrel and close to the breech.  The nub is located on the top of the barrel and projects inside.  As a BB travels down the barrel, it strikes the rubber nub which causes it to spin backwards.  This backspin helps to overcome the force of gravity and allows the BB to maintain a flatter trajectory after it leaves the muzzle.  On many guns, the amount which the nub projects into the barrel (and therefore the amount of backspin) can be adjusted.  Most people will tell you that the effects of hop-up are not evident at ranges below 10m, but I haven’t found this to be entirely true.  Even when shooting at 6m, I have found that adjusting hop-up can affect the vertical point of impact of BBs by an inch or so.  However, hop-up initially de-stabilises the path of the BB through the barrel.  So, on a gun with hop-up, it may take more distance for the BB to stabilize.

Hop-up nub inside the barrel of 4.5mm ASG CZ75

OK, now let’s talk briefly about shooting steel 4.5mm BBs through a rifled barrel.  Some pellet shooting guns can also fire steel BBs.  Many manufacturers and some suppliers talk about .177” and 4.5mm as if they’re the same calibre.  They are not – a 4.5mm steel BB is notably smaller than a .177” pellet.  If you shoot a steel BB through a .177” rifled barrel, it is not large enough to engage with the rifling.  Instead, just as in a smoothbore barrel, it floats on a layer of gas in the centre of the barrel.  However, the flow of this layer of gas is much less stable than on a smoothbore barrel because of the rifling which causes it to swirl and tumble.  Also, as it initially enters the barrel and bounces off the sides, the hard steel BB can cause erosion and damage to rifling over time.  A BB will always leave the barrel travelling faster than a pellet because of the lack of friction, but in my experience, I have not come across any replica air pistol which shoots BBs accurately though a rifled barrel.  The higher speed at which BBs travel is unimportant and because of the lack of accuracy and the possibility of damaging rifling, I’d suggest that you shoot steel BBs only in guns which have smoothbore barrels and only shoot pellets or .177” lead balls in those which have rifled barrels.

Left, shooting eight .177” pellets from a replica with a rifled barrel (in this case, an Umarex H&K P30) at 25 feet, aim point is the centre of the black circle. Right, same replica, same range, same aim point but this time using eight steel 4.5mm BBs. As you can see, the steel BBs give notably less accuracy.

How to improve things

Right, so, now we know how it all works, how can we make our BB shooting guns more accurate?  If we’re talking about airsoft guns, the first thing many people think about is a tightbore barrel.  As the name suggests, these are aftermarket barrels which have a smaller internal diameter than the original.  That sounds good in theory, but I’m not totally convinced.  The critical thing that determines how straight your BB will travel is how well the BB stabilizes inside the barrel. Part of what determines this is the size of the layer of gas between the outside of the BB and the inside of the barrel.  Too big a layer is bad and can cause the BB to be unstable.  But, too small a gap is also bad and can prevent the BB from stabilizing fully.  If you do fit a tightbore barrel, you can expect to see your replica shooting with more power – less gas is lost round the BB and so more is available to propel it down the barrel.  However, I suspect that most accuracy gains which users report after fitting these parts come as much from improved tolerances in the manufacturing process used when making these aftermarket barrels compared to the processes used in creating the original barrel as from the tightness of their bore.  An expensive aftermarket barrel may be straighter than a more cheaply made original part (though there is no guarantee of this) but if the bore is too tight, it can actually make consistency worse.

If you don’t want to buy new bits, what else can you do?  Well, there are two things that affect the way the BB travels down the barrel. The first is the quality of the BB itself.  The layer of gas between the BB and the barrel is very thin – around 0.05mm.  That’s equivalent to about the width of two human hairs.  So, any tiny imperfection in the BB which is spinning after hitting the hop-up rubber can cause instability in the flow of gas and may cause the BB to move erratically in the barrel.  The closer to being perfectly spherical that your BBs are, the more consistently they will shoot.  If you can see seams or other moulding marks on your BBs, they are obviously not going to perform well. 

This is a pair of cheap and very nasty Chinese 6mm plastic BBs with clearly visible seams and moulding marks.  Very few 6mm BBs are this obviously crap, but no matter how good your replica, it’s never going to shoot consistently with poor quality BBs.

However, even if they look glossy and smooth, not all BBs are equal.  In general, you should avoid brightly coloured or transparent BBs (especially those which have visible bubbles of air inside them), any small packs of BBs which are supplied with an airsoft gun and any BBs which are not identified by weight.  Most BBs which are made in Japan are good as are the majority from Taiwan.  In my Chinese BBs can be of comparatively poor quality and should generally be avoided.  Just because it says “Precision” or “High Quality” on the packaging is no guarantee that BBs are good.  Be prepared to try different brands and pay a little more for quality plastic BBs and when you can, choose those from manufacturers you recognize (Guarder and KWA, for example, produce very high quality 6mm BBs).

Hopefully, it’s also obvious that re-using plastic BBs isn’t a good idea. The plastic used to manufacture 6 and 8 mm BBS is fairly soft, so they tend to develop flat spots when they hit a target. This of course makes them unstable if you re-use them. While we’re talking about plastic BBs, it’s also worth thinking about weight. In general, the heavier the BB, the more stable it will be and so the smaller groupings you’ll see. You may have to experiment with different weights of BB to find one that works best for you, but the table below gives a general guide to the most appropriate weight BBs to use in your replica. The fps figures are based on the speed when shooting with standard 0.2g BBs.

Under 300 fps: 0.12g

300 – 350 fps: 0.2g

350-400fps: 0.25g

400-450fps: 0.28g

450 – 500fps: 0.36g

Over 500fps: 0.43g

I haven’t found the same variation in quality with 4.5mm BBs.  Most steel BBs from the big producers seem to be of very high and consistent quality with few blemishes or imperfections whether they say Blaster, Umarex, Crosman or ASG on the pack.  I tend to avoid steel BBs from unknown manufacturers – there are Chinese steel BBs around and though I haven’t tried them, I’d probably like to keep it that way.  I don’t use copper coated BBs because I find that they leave deposits on the inside of the barrel, though I know that many other shooters use them without problems.  I also don’t use lead balls in guns with smoothbore barrels intended for steel BBs either.  These lead balls are slightly larger than the 4.5mm steel BBs and they are often not perfectly spherical (or even if they start out that way, the soft lead can deform as they move through the feed system).  They also tend to leave deposits on the inside of the barrel. Lead balls are fine in rifled barrels, but generally not good in guns with smoothbore barrels.

The second thing that affects the way in which a BB travels down the barrel is the cleanliness of that barrel.  On a smoothbore barrel, any tiny speck of dust or other contamination on the inside surface can cause disruption to gas flow which will affect BB stability.  I have found that cleaning the inner barrel is the best way to quickly improve groupings and to reduce the number of flyers on any BB shooting gun.  Even a new replica will likely have traces of packing grease inside the barrel.

Cleaning the inner barrel is very simple.  Remove the barrel if possible, or at least dismantle the replica so that you can easily access both ends of the inner barrel.  If your replica has adjustable hop-up, turn it completely off (i.e. so that the rubber nub protrudes as little as possible into the barrel).  Make a simple pull-through using a piece of cord or string and a piece of clean, absorbent cloth. Do be careful what you use for a pull-through – many inner barrels are made of very light alloy and it’s frighteningly easy to cut the end of the barrel if you use a hard cord or wire pull-through. Soak the cloth in warm water which has a little washing-up liquid in it and pull through several times.  Finish off by doing the same again with a clean, dry piece of cloth.  That’s it!  Re-adjust the hop-up, re-fit the barrel and you will now have an inner barrel which is free of particles or deposits which are likely to affect the stability of the BB.

Cleaning the barrel from an ASG CZ75

Use top quality BBs and try shooting your replica after cleaning the barrel (and after re-adjusting the hop-up if fitted) and I think you’ll notice a marked improvement.  Groups should be noticeably smaller. Gas flow is critical on any BB shooter and gas flow through the barrel and around the BB is the single place where you can generate the most marked improvement.  Go on, give it a try.  And let me know if it works for you.

Related Posts

Are all steel BBs the same?

Marushin Auto Mag

And now, as they say, for something completely different – a review of the only 8mm replica I have owned. And it’s a replica of no ordinary handgun; There are big guns, there are stupidly big guns and then there’s the Auto Mag, for people who think the Desert Eagle is a bit small…

Ah, the 70s. The decade that taste forgot. Big hair, big cars, big movies and really, really big guns. In many ways the Auto Mag pistol typifies the excess of the early 1970s. It was bigger and more powerful than just about any other semi-automatic handgun before or since. It was also almost completely pointless. It certainly produced the power of a .44 Magnum revolver with a little less recoil, but generally, the only time a gun this big makes a useful weapon is when it’s fitted with wheels and towed behind a team of horses.

Somehow, this seemed cool in the 1970s. And no, that isn’t me. My hair was way longer than that back then…

The production history of the real steel Auto Mag was relatively brief and these exist now only as historical oddities and collector’s items. So, it’s perhaps surprising that in 2003 Japanese company Marushin introduced a gas powered, blowback replica of the Auto Mag. But I’m glad they did. Just like the original, production of this replica was brief and you can now find these only on the used market. But it’s worth seeking one out if you can – if you have any interest in handguns and replicas, I defy you to pick one of these up and not have a smile on your face.

Real Steel Background

The idea which became the Auto Mag pistol came from Harry Sanford, a US businessman, in the late 1960s. Sanford wanted to produce a semi-automatic pistol which was capable of shooting the powerful .44” Magnum round, but with less recoil and a larger ammunition capacity than the Smith & Wesson revolvers for which the round was originally designed. Because of the power of the round for which this pistol was designed, a conventional moving slide was rejected in favour of a cylindrical bolt with eight radial locking lugs (similar to the bolt used on the M16/AR15 rifle) and a cocking knob with grip serrations that projects from the back of the main body of the pistol. The final design was complex and required extensive manual input during manufacturing to ensure that the stainless-steel elements operated correctly together.

The Auto Mag was offered in two versions. One was chambered for the mighty .44 AMP round which propelled a 15.5 gram projectile at up to 1,650fps (that’s around 2,000 Joules of muzzle energy folks!). The other was the .347 AMP version which used a necked-down version of the same casing to fire a .357” round at over 1,700fps. The only difference between the two versions was the barrel (which was interchangeable). Barrels were available in 6½” and 8½” and with or without vent ribs. Magazine capacity was 7 rounds and all versions featured adjustable sights.

Early Auto Mag Model 180 in .44 AMP and with a 6½” barrel.

But just who were the customers that the Auto Mag was intended to appeal to? Its sheer size and weight ruled it out as a military or police sidearm and (outside Hollywood) for the same reason it was never going to be a viable concealed carry weapon. You can shoot targets and tin cans just as effectively with much cheaper .22” rounds (a .22LR round is less than one tenth the cost of a .44AMP round) and those don’t generate wrist-snapping recoil and blinding muzzle flash. There are certainly people who hunt using large calibre pistols, but their numbers are relatively low and anyway, the Auto Mag doesn’t provide a massive advantage over a revolver as a hunting weapon. I suppose there will always be people who feel a pressing need to win any “my gun is bigger than your gun” argument, but again, the numbers involved are presumably fairly small. In most ways, the Auto Mag was the answer to a question no-one was asking.

Don’t you love Hollywood? Only there would a police officer choose a 14” long pistol weighing four pounds as a concealed carry weapon. In Sudden Impact (1983), the fourth of five films featuring Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan, the main character briefly swapped his iconic S&W revolver for a .44AMP  Auto Mag.

In mid-1971, production of the Auto Mag pistol started but the business model adopted was, well, let’s be charitable here and call it “quirky.” It has been estimated that each Auto Mag pistol cost around $1,200 to manufacture in 1971 (and remember that the purchase price of something like the reliable and well-regarded Colt Python revolver was just over $200 at that time). To overcome this major problem, the company decided to sell each Auto Mag at a price of just $247.50. This meant that they would lose almost $1,000 on every Auto Mag sold, but the idea was that this would generate such massive demand for this pistol that subsequent volume production would reduce manufacturing costs and investors would queue up to pour money into the company. This was a brave (or possibly misguided) approach and in the event, very few people bought Auto Mags. It was therefore no great surprise when on May 3rd 1972, after producing less than 3,000 pistols, the Auto Mag Corporation of Pasdena declared bankruptcy.

However, that wasn’t quite the end of the Auto Mag story. After AMC went bust, several other companies were granted licenses to manufacture the Auto Mag. Some of the best known include TDE Corporation, OMC Corporation and High Standard Corporation. Altogether, around 9,500 Auto Mag pistols were produced between 1971 and 1982. These were sold at prices of up to $3,250, much more realistic in terms of manufacturing costs but hardly likely to encourage large numbers of sales.

This is one of the later Auto Mag pistols produced by AMT. It doesn’t look anything like the original version but, is it just me or does it look a whole lot like the pistol from the original Robocop movie?

The Auto Mag name was also revived by the Arcadia Machine and Tool Company of Covina, California who produced both copies of the original pistol and a series called the AMT AutoMag II, III, IV and V in the 1980s and 1990s. However these latter pistols were actually of a completely different design and had nothing to do with the original Auto Mag. There are still people who buy and collect Auto Mags in the US, but with ammunition becoming difficult to find (and costing anything up to $8 per round if you can find it!) these aren’t particularly popular shooters.

The Marushin Auto Mag      

This replica is manufactured by Japanese company Marushin and is a replica of the first version of the .44 AMP Auto Mag Model 280 manufactured by the Arcadia Machine and Tool Company of Covina, California. Most parts of this replica are made of high-density plastic, though the hammer, trigger, bolt, magazine and some internal parts are metal. It’s a blowback replica where gas is stored in the full-size drop-out magazine but it’s designed for 8mm BBs rather than the more common 6mm variety. The Marushin Auto Mag was available only with an 8½” barrel and in black finish with black grips or silver polished finish with brown wood effect or black grips. The one that I owned had a very glossy and rather attractive black finish though I have also seen examples with a more matt finish. As far as I am aware, this replica was introduced in 2003 but is no longer available new though used examples do occasionally turn up for sale.

This was often (though not always) sold by Marushin as the “44 Auto Mag CLINT1”. The “CLINT1” refers to the use of the Auto Mag by Clint Eastwood in the movie Sudden Impact. This movie was made in 1983 after production of the Auto Mag had ended. However, two pistols were built specially for use as props in the movie and these were given the serial numbers “CLINT1” and “CLINT2”. Despite this, the Marushin Auto Mag doesn’t feature a serial number.

I believe that Marushin also produced a very similar non-blowback version of this replica. However, I know nothing at all about the non-blowback Auto Mag other than that it is also now out of production.

Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)

The Marushin Auto Mag usually comes in a monster card box with a polystyrene insert though I have seen silver finish versions which were supplied in a light alloy case. This replica comes with a small bag of 8mm BBs, a couple of hex keys for adjusting the hop-up and a manual.

This is the box for the silver finish version which also came with a light alloy case.

Visual accuracy 9/10

As far as I can tell given that I have never actually seen a real steel Auto Mag, this Marushin replica is completely accurate in terms of size, placement and shape of controls and markings. The only visual difference is that on the right side of the upper receiver (in the position where the serial number is stamped on the original) this has the text “MFG.MARUSHIN.”

Markings are moulded deeply into the high-density ABS receiver and look much, much better than the more usual painted or laser etched markings.

Functional accuracy 14/15

Just like visual accuracy, the functional accuracy of this replica is pretty close to 100%. All controls are present and operational as per the original. The bolt must be pulled back and released to cock the pistol for the first shot and the bolt locks back when the last shot is fired. Like the original, this is single action only. The takedown lever on the left side of the frame is operational and takedown allows the upper receiver and barrel to be removed leaving the bolt and bolt carrier mechanism in-situ.

Shooting 32/40

Preparing the Marushin Auto Mag for shooting is no different to any other blowback 6mm airsoft replica. Put up to 10, 8mm BBs in the magazine, fill the magazine with green gas through the valve in the base, insert the magazine then pull back the bolt and release and you’re ready to shoot.

The Marushin Auto Mag is fairly loud, certainly louder than most 6mm replicas I have owned, and the felt recoil from the moving bolt is strong. The 8mm BBs hit the target with notably more authority than 6mm BBs. The very long stretch from the front to the rear sight gives the Auto Mag an exceptional sight radius and the fact that the rear sight is fully adjustable means that you can get the point of aim and the point of impact to coincide precisely.

Oddly, given its size, I didn’t find the Marushin Auto Mag at all clumsy to shoot. The grip is reasonably sized and the balance is good and I found this less of a stretch than, for example, several Beretta 92 replicas I have owned. The reach to the single action only trigger is also reasonable and the trigger is very light and with a precise and consistent break. I found accuracy to be reasonable, with groupings of 1” – 1½” at 6m. I ran six shots from my Marushin Auto Mag over a chronograph on a fairly chilly day in Scotland and I got a low of 240fps and a high of 260fps. Let’s call it an average of 250fps, though I have seen claims of anything up to 400 fps for this replica. I generally got about two full magazines plus a few extra shots for each fill of green gas.

4.5mm steel BB (left), 6mm alloy BB (middle), 8mm plastic BB (right)

This is the only 8mm replica I have owned, and I have to say I enjoyed shooting these larger BBs a lot. They may be only 2mm larger in diameter than the more usual 6mm BBs, but they feel notably bigger, they’re less fiddly to pick up and load and they smack into the target a lot harder than smaller BBs. I have a feeling that they’d also probably be better at longer range than 6mm BBs as well, though I never did get the opportunity to try this out. The Marushin Auto Mag does have adjustable hop-up though I never tried it – mine shot just fine as it was and the adjustable rear sight has a good range of adjustment.

Generally, I enjoy shooting smaller replicas. I have no idea why – I don’t have especially small hands, but for some reason I find the grip on things like Desert Eagle and Beretta 92 to be just too big to get a comfortable hold. However, I didn’t have any problem with this replica. And this is so ridiculously big that it’s just fun to shoot. Look at the picture below of my Auto Mag next to one of my Umarex Walther CP88s. The CP88 isn’t particularly small, but next to the Auto Mag it looks like a pocket pistol! But look at the grips – if anything, the Auto Mag has a smaller grip and a shorter reach to the trigger than the CP88 which is why it’s comfortable to hold and shoot.

Quality and reliability 12/15

I’m afraid that the mainly plastic Marushin Auto Mag does feel rather light when you pick it up. Its sheer size makes you expect something very heavy indeed, but although it weighs over 2 pounds, it doesn’t weigh as much as it looks as if it should. In some ways that’s good – I imagine shooting the four-pound real steel version would get tiring very quickly, but that isn’t a problem here. But I can’t help that wish that more metal had been used in the construction of this replica. The most striking thing about the Auto Mag is its size, and if this replica had the weight to match, it would really stand out in any collection.

I did have a few minor issues while shooting my Marushin Auto Mag. The bolt would occasionally fail to lock back on empty and sometimes a BB would not feed into the magazine, leaving me shooting just green gas. However, in general this was fairly reliable considering that I bought it as a well-used example. The fact that most of the external parts are made of plastic means that you won’t have to worry about the finish chipping off (on the black version at least, I don’t know how the silver version is finished). However, on some of the painted metal parts including the bolt and trigger, there was some paint wear on mine.

Overall impression 11/15

The Auto Mag pistol is bigger than a very big thing and that bigness is first and main thing that strikes you about this Marushin replica. The second thing that strikes you when you pick it up is that it feels rather light and a little toy-like (especially with the metal magazine removed). That’s a pity because Marushin also make an all-metal, shell ejecting PFC version of the Auto Mag and there seems no reason (other than cost) that they couldn’t have used more metal here.

However, if you ignore the lack of weight, this is a sturdy, well-made replica which shoots reasonably well. I also found that, despite its size, it was easy to find a comfortable grip, something I haven’t found with all large replicas.

Conclusion

This is a good replica of a relatively little-known pistol. I particularly enjoyed shooting with 8mm BBs instead of the more usual 6mm versions and I’d like to see more replicas in this calibre. These larger BBs probably make this replica too powerful for skirmishing, but they are ideal for the kind of target shooting that I do.

This is the more common matt black finish

Do you really need a replica this big? Of course not! On the original, the size is justified because the Auto Mag shoots a massively powerful round capable stopping a charging T-rex. However, this replica isn’t any more powerful than most 6mm replicas and is less powerful than some. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. If you do want one, your biggest problem will be finding a used example as these aren’t made any more. The polished silver version with wood effect grips and which came with an alloy case looks particularly good, if you can find one. So, go ahead, make your day – get yourself one of these.

Total score 80.5/100

Pros

Handles and shoots well

Great visual and functional replica of an unusual handgun

Fun

Cons

Mainly plastic and fairly light

Not especially powerful

Hard to find nowadays

The COVID Backyard Shootout: Pellet vs steel BB vs Airsoft

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

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

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

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

Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm

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

Gletcher PM 1951

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

Tokyo Marui Glock 26

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

The Shooting Test

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

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

Umarex Beretta PX4

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

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

Total: 103/120

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

Gletcher PM1951

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

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

Total: 106/120

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

TM Glock 26

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

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

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

Total: 105/120

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Shooting  

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