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.

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Are all steel BBs the same?

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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Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm Redux

Gletcher PM 1951 review

Tokyo Marui Glock 26 review

Gletcher PM 1951

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The Makarov is a classic pistol which has been represented by a number of 4.5mm replicas. However, none of them have been entirely satisfactory for a number of reasons. So, when I saw that Gletcher have produced a CO2 powered, 4.5mm Makarov replica, I was excited. Is this the Mak replica we have been waiting for? Let’s take a look…

The Makarov

I have already covered the history of the Makarov PM (Пистолет Макарова or Pistolet Makarova) in my review of the Baikal MP-654K (you can find a link at the end of this article) so I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I offer an interesting fact. Can you guess what is the only handgun to have been regularly taken into space? That’s right, that would be the Makarov.

You see, on board every Soyuz spacecraft was a Granat-6 survival kit. Along with the usual stuff like a first aid kit, there was also other survival gear in case the capsule came down in an uninhabited area. This included a compass, machete, fishing gear and a Makarov pistol and ammunition.

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A Soyuz survival kit complete with Makarov pistol.

This is, as far as I’m aware, the fourth CO2 powered Makarov replica in 4.5mm, though all the previous versions had issues. The first was the Baikal MP-654K which was introduced in 1998. Not so much a replica as a CO2 version of the firearm, this is produced in the same factory as the original pistol. It’s a heavyweight replica, but it lacks blowback and all versions are designed to shoot steel BBs through a rifled barrel, which means that none are especially accurate.

In 2009 Umarex launched their Legends range with a Makarov replica. This was a CO2 powered, 4.5mm pistol and it’s a pretty decent shooter. Unfortunately, it lacks blowback and parts like the slide release are moulded in place. In 2014 another CO2 powered Makarov replica joined the Umarex Legends range, the PM Ultra. This version had blowback, but it also had an unsightly CO2 loading tab which projected below the grip and it used a moving barrel system to fire which meant that it lacked a true single-action trigger.

The Gletcher PM 1951

Gletcher is a brand owned by US company SMG (Sports Manufacturing Group, Inc.). Under the Gletcher brand, SMG sell a number of 4.5mm replicas of historic handguns. Generally these are rebranded versions based on Taiwanese 6mm replicas.

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The Gletcher PM 1951 appears to be a 4.5mm version of the Taiwanese KWC Makarov PM airsoft replica. It’s pretty much all metal with only the grips and some internal parts being made of plastic. This is a blowback replica and the slide operates through a full range of movement and locks back on empty. There is a slide mounted manual safety and a slide release, both on the left side, and a magazine release in the heel of the grip.

Up to 16 BBs can be loaded into a full-size, drop-out magazine which also holds the CO2 cartridge. Unlike the original (which is both double and single action) this replica is single action only. The inner barrel is brass and has a fixed hop-up rubber.

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Packaging and presentation (2/5)

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This replica comes in a simple card box with a single magazine and a hex key for tightening and piercing the CO2. No manual is provided but inside the lid of the box there is an exploded view of this replica.

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The box states “18 Month Warranty” but there are no clues as to what this means or how one would go about making a warranty claim.

Visual accuracy 6/10

At first glance, the Gletcher PM looks fairly much like a Makarov. However, when you look a little more closely, there are several discrepancies. First and most obvious is that the grip frame is too long. On the original, the overall height from the top of the slide to the base of the grip is 125mm. On this replica it’s 140mm. I assume the extra length is to accommodate the CO2 cartridge, but, just like the Umarex Walther PPK/S, this looks a little odd because of the extended grip frame.

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Makarov PM (left) and Gletcher PM 1951 (right)

Next there’s the trigger guard – this is much too thick and I don’t know why. Just as on the original, the trigger guard on this replica is hinged at the rear and must be swung down to allow the slide to be removed. Some people have suggested that the trigger guard on this replica is thick because a hinged zinc alloy trigger guard of the correct dimensions would be too fragile. However, both the earlier Umarex 4.5mm versions have hinged zinc alloy trigger guards of the right size, and I’m not aware of problems with these breaking. Whatever the reason for it, the trigger guard on this replica does look odd and not at all like the original.

Then there’s the hammer. In the fully forward position, it looks sort of OK, but when it’s cocked, you can see that it’s a very strange and unrealistic shape.

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You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned the magazine base extension which projects below and in front of the grip base. This makes the already long grip look even longer and I assume that this is also done to accommodate the CO2 cartridge, but it does look a little strange – most Makarovs have a magazine base that’s flush with the base of the grip. However, some versions, especially export versions for the US market, do have this type of magazine extension, so I’m not going to mark it down for that.

This replica also lacks any accurate markings. The only markings here are PM 1951 on the left side and some Gletcher markings on the right. All markings are laser-etched in fairly obtrusive white text.

Functional accuracy 13/15

Functionally, this is pretty good. It has blowback over a full range of movement, a full-size magazine and the magazine and slide release are located and work just as they would on the original. One small discrepancy is that this replica is single action only whereas the original shoots in both double and single action. This replica can be stripped in the same way as the original with the hinged trigger-guard acting as the takedown control. There is a sleeve which fits over the outer barrel. Initially, I initially thought this was plastic, but I believe it’s actually some form of light alloy.

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This replica weighs almost precisely the same as the (unloaded) original, which is always nice to see.

Shooting 30/40

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Loading the magazine with BBs on this replica is a little fiddly if you have large man-fingers like me. You have to hold the follower down with a thumbnail and then drop BBs in one at a time into the wider opening at the bottom front of the magazine. CO2 loads cleanly and without leaks using the hex key provided. When you re-insert the magazine, you have to use a fair amount of force – the spring on the magazine catch is very strong. When I first started shooting this replica, the magazine dropped out of the grip a couple of times because I hadn’t pushed it in firmly enough to get it to engage properly. Getting it back out again is also a bit of a chore – the deeper and extended magazine base makes using the release in the heel of the grip a little awkward and this is definitely a two-handed job, but then that’s true of the original Makarov too.

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With the magazine inserted, you must rack the slide for the first shot. This also cocks the hammer. If the manual safety is engaged, you can’t rack the slide. There is no decocker – the only way to safely de-cock is to remove the magazine and pull the trigger. With the slide racked and the first BB in the breech, you’re ready to shoot. The sights are simple – just a notch and post arrangement with no white dots, but they’re clear and easy to read.

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The trigger is reasonably light and short and true single action – all pulling the trigger does is to release the sear and allow the hammer to drop. The Gletcher PM is moderately loud and the blowback action provides fairly strong recoil effect. Balance is good, but I didn’t especially care for the feel of the grip. The rear of the grip has a pronounced corner or edge at each side. This isn’t particularly uncomfortable, but it is noticeable and I’m sure that other Makarov replicas I have owned didn’t have such pronounced corners on the grip.

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I ran a number of shots from the Gletcher PM over my chronograph and, in fairly warm temperatures, I saw readings of between 265 – 280 fps. Perfectly reasonable, but well down on the 328 fps claimed by Gletcher. I found that I was able to get 50 – 60 full power shots before power started to drop off. Faster shooting uses CO2 more quickly. Like some other KWC replicas I have owned, cooldown is an issue if you’re shooting quickly. You can actually feel the cold permeating the grip if you shoot several times in quick succession.

In terms of accuracy, this is adequate. Groups are around 1.5 – 2” at 6m, but it does do one thing that I particularly hate – it shoots low. At 6m, it hits around 2” below the point of aim. Now, there are a number of things that you can do about that (and I may look at this in another article) but looking at other reviews of this replica, it does seem that out of the box, it’s likely to shoot low. I find that very frustrating. Obviously, I prefer a replica that shoots to the point of aim, but I can just about tolerate one that shoots high. What I definitely don’t like is a replica that shoots low. There is a hop-up rubber here, but it is non-adjustable. This replica’s airsoft roots can be seen in that there is a slot for a hop-up adjustment wheel in the outer barrel, but the wheel itself is not provided.

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There is one other slightly odd thing about this replica. The slide locks back, but generally not when you fire the last shot. Instead, it locks back when you fire the next shot after the last BB is fired. So, if you have 10 BBs loaded, you shoot all ten, but it isn’t until you pull the trigger for the eleventh time when the pistol is empty that the slide locks back. This happens most of the time on my example. It’s not a major issue, but it is odd and in the course of shooting around 500 BBs through this replica, it has been completely consistent.

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Below you can see a short video showing a shooting test for the PM 1951. The aim point was the centre of the target. You’ll note that the first shot was so low that it completely missed the target – I don’t know why and this isn’t usual with this replica. You’ll also note that the slide locks back after the last shot is fired, which is also unusual.

Overall, the Gletcher PM is a perfectly pleasant shooter, but not an outstanding one.

Quality and reliability 13/15

Overall, quality and finish look reasonable. The semi-matt finish seems to be fairly hard wearing and is showing no signs of wear though, like every Mak replica I have seen, there is a scratch on the slide where the bearing for the manual safety moves. It was notable that, out of the box, my Gletcher PM was completely devoid of lubrication.

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Other than the issue with the slide usually failing to lock back until the shot after the last BB, I haven’t seen any faults with my PM and it shoots reliably and without misfeeds or misfires.

Overall impression 11/15

I like compact replicas and I like classic handguns, so I should really love this replica. The fact that I don’t is down to a combination of several minor factors which separately don’t amount to much, but which combine to be a little frustrating. I don’t care for the extended grip or the sharp corners on the rear of the grip. I don’t like look of the oversized trigger guard or the oddly shaped hammer. And I am disappointed that it lacks a double action trigger and I hate that it always shoots low.

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None of these are show-stopping issues and they are partly offset by decent finish, good weight and the fact that it’s a reliable shooter. But overall, if I’m looking in the gun cupboard for something to provide half an hour of shooting satisfaction, this  isn’t the first one I’ll be reaching for.

Conclusion

It looks as though we’ll have to wait a little longer for the definitive 4.5mm Makarov replica. This is close to being a good visual and functional replica, but it’s not quite there. However, it is relatively cheap and it seems to be reliable and fairly frugal with CO2 usage.

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If you want something that looks and handles like a Makarov, you’ll probably still be wanting a Baikal MP-654K. If you want something that looks like a Makarov, has blowback and shoots well, I’m afraid you’ll most likely be looking at one of the 6mm versions.

Total score

75/100

Cons

Not the best visual replica.

Shoots low and lacks a double action trigger.

Pros

Reasonable shooter.

Seems well made and finished.

Inexpensive.

Related posts

Baikal MP-654 review

Type 59 (Chinese version of the Makarov) 6mm review