Gun Heaven Webley MkVI Service Revolver

The first batch of Webley revolvers, also known as “Self-Extracting” or “Top-Break” revolvers, arrived in Thailand at the end of last year. Proving to be quite popular, I unfortunately missed out and so had to wait until completion of both the Chinese New Year and Songkran festivities to take possession of my very own Webley MkVI. The wait was definitely worth it!

This is the 6mm smoothbore version is marketed in Asia, under licence, by Gun Heaven of Hong Kong and Taiwan. As far as I am aware, it is identical to the 4.5mm version except for the calibre and the fact that it does not have a safety switch fitted to the right-hand side (I note some models have such a safety fitted just above the trigger; although unobtrusive, I am of the opinion that it is unnecessary: if you are ready to shoot and then change your mind, you simply lower the hammer, remove the “cartridges” and place the pistol safely in a holster or otherwise out of harm’s way).

Real Steel Background

Webley & Son of Great Britain, who would later become known as Webley & Scott following a merger in 1897, started development of their famous “Top-Break” revolvers in the 1870s for both military and civilian markets. All were chambered for the substantial .455 inch calibre cartridge with heavy 265 grain bullets travelling at a little over 600 fps. Black-powder cartridges were used in the MkI which appeared in 1887 and replaced the Enfield revolver as standard issue to the British Army. Black powder continued to be used until the MkV in 1894 when smokeless cordite ammunition was introduced (source: world.guns.ru).

The MkVI was the pinnacle of the Webley Top-Break design featuring a six-inch barrel (previous versions had either four or five inch barrels), squared instead of more rounded “bird’s beak” grips and a removeable front post (although this is cast as part of the barrel on the replica). Whilst the earlier MkIV was known for being used extensively during the Boer War, the MkVI became synonymous with The Great War, entering service with British and Commonwealth troops in 1915. Although production of the MkVI by the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield ceased in 1932 (Webley & Scott had stopped production in 1921), this powerful revolver was still to be relied upon by soldiers in World War Two alongside its replacement, the Enfield No.2 MkI (source: Wikipedia).

Gun Heaven Webley MKVI

Packaging and Presentation 4.5 / 5

The gun is held securely in place using bubble-wrap inside an attractive cardboard box. Six “cartridges” are provided along with a detailed user manual that covers operation, field-stripping, a specification comparison between the CO2 replica and the “real steel” … and film and game credits! This last one is a rather novel idea, but hardly surprising seeing as how this pistol has featured in so many films over the years.

Excerpts from the User Manual (2014 – far left) … and Small Arms Training Pamphlet, Vol.I, No.11 (1937)

This movie list is repeated on the back of the box along with a brief history of the original firearm. From “The Lost Patrol” to “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (have not seen that one… yet!) and from “Doctor Who” to “Dad’s Army” (two of my favourite shows as a boy… and ones which I am revisiting in middle age!) the Webley Mk VI Revolver has featured in so many productions (even when it should not have, owing to the fact it did not yet exist!) that it is extremely difficult – nigh impossible! – to know which to illustrate here. However, it would be ridiculous not to give at least a couple of examples; so courtesy of that fountain of knowledge the “IMFDB”…

Col. Durnford (Burt Lancaster) taking aim (both eyes open) in “Zulu Dawn” …

… and she’s got two! Anna Barnes-Leatherwood (Charlize Theron) in “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (… and who said shooting is just for boys!)

… and finally a shot (excuse the pun!) from a film set in this part of the world — Captain Hornsby (Denholm Elliott) traipsing through the jungle in “Too Late the Hero”

Another excellent idea – and one which I have not seen before – is the inclusion of the facsimile Small Arms Training Pamphlet (Vol. I, No.11) dated 1937, specific to the Webley MkVI. However, the only reason I have not given full marks (and I am being very “fussy” here!) is I would love to see an imitation cartridge box provided with replicas of such historically important guns. Admittedly, I have only ever seen this with the Tokyo Marui 1911A1, but it struck me as being another rather enterprising idea.

Visual Accuracy 8.5 / 10

This replica is, at first glance, identical to the original firearm. My first thoughts were, should you be the curator of a museum wishing to save a little money, then you need look no further than the Webley MkVI replica!

However, there are some very minor differences which I will highlight here. I should like to stress that none of these were at all immediately apparent. The photos with the blue background are part of a larger collection of immaculate British revolvers I found at the “TIR et COLLECTION Armes Règlementaires” forum, a link to which is given at the end of this review.

Photo (top) courtesy of tircollection.com

On the left-hand side everything would appear to be exactly the same, except for the hammer which, when at rest on the replica, sits slightly proud of the firing pin. Mine comes in what is known as a “weathered” finish and, in my opinion, adds significantly to the authenticity of the gun. The original usually featured a selection of proofing marks and stamps – for example, on the cylinder cam as given above – which are not on the replica. Furthermore, the rear sight appears to be slightly higher, but that may well be intentional as it shoots using a perfectly balanced sight picture.

Three well-defined stamps/ engravings may be found on the left-hand side of the frame. Both the “Mark VI” stamped above the cylinder and the “Webley” patent stamp, correctly identified as 1915, below the cylinder are exactly as would be found on the cartridge firing original; having the calibre stamped on the barrel is something I have not seen, at least on the images I have found, but in my opinion does not look at all out of place.

After all, it could be to distinguish it from the MkIV, reintroduced in 1942 in .38 inch calibre and which bears more than a passing resemblance to a scaled-down MkVI — if one of those is in the pipeline, perhaps with an alternative grip style featuring either the “Webley” logo or “bird’s beak” grips — than I for one would certainly like to have the pair.

Photo (top) courtesy of tircollection.com

A few other minor discrepancies are also noticeable on the right-hand side; namely a screw instead of a pin on which the barrel catch pivots and a pin missing to the rear of the cylinder near the top of the grips. The grips on the replica are of black plastic; I assume Bakelite would have been used on the original. Also, as mentioned previously, the front post is cast as part of the barrel whereas it is held in place by a screw on the original.

The serial number is stamped on the frame above and to the rear of the trigger guard. It actually took me some time to find out exactly where they were placed on the original. My search culminated with the Imperial War Museum website and the Webley MkVI used by author J.R.R Tolkien during World War One (a link to the IWM website is given at the end of this review):

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London: © IWM (FIR 11492)

As can be seen, the serial number was stamped on the edge of the cylinder (photo above) as well as underneath the gun, forward of the trigger guard (photo below):

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London: © IWM (FIR 11492)

N.B.: The screw for the trigger guard is not included on the replica

The shells, whilst marked “Webley .455” are nearly the same size as those of the “.38 inch” WinGun “7-Series” with an outside shell casing diameter of 9.6 +/- 0.05 mm for the Webley as against to 9.4 mm for the WinGun. However, the lead-coloured rubber “bullet” into which the BB is fitted is slightly shorter than that of the 7-Series “.38” (I believe the “7-Series” is what the Dan Wesson replicas are based upon).

Left to right: WinGun .177, WinGun 6mm, Webley 6mm and Nagant M1895 6mm

Please note that some Webley 6mm shells (not shown) have a smaller diameter hole which will reduce muzzle velocity

It certainly looks the part… and performs, too

Operational and Functional Accuracy 15 / 15

Apart from using CO2 as a propellant, operation is exactly the same as that of the original. A CO2 capsule is inserted by removing the right-hand side grip. There is a notch in the base for this purpose. The lanyard swivel, which doubles as a piercing screw, is then gently tightened without piercing the capsule. I then like to replace the grip before tightening the screw further in order to pierce the CO2. Capsules are pierced cleanly and efficiently and it holds its charge well.

BBs are pushed into the front of each “cartridge” and held firmly in place by the rubber “bullet”. Pressing on the barrel catch allows the barrel and cylinder to swivel forward. Cartridges are then loaded – if dropped into place there is a faint metallic “ring” – and the barrel/ cylinder swung back into place with a positive, metallic “click”. You really could be forgiven for forgetting this replica is made of alloy as against steel!

The Webley MkVI, as per the original, may be fired in both single and double action. Once firing has been completed, the cylinder is again swung open and the cartridges raised automatically by the extractor. If the barrel is pushed fully forward, then the extractor will return to its closed position.

A shell being extracted. Although marked “.455” it is in fact more akin to a .38”

Inset: BBs are held firmly in place by the rubber “bullet”

Field-stripping instructions are provided in the user manual. This is much more straightforward than I imagined it would be. With the shells removed, the bottom screw below the cylinder cam assembly is removed and the cam rotated in a clockwise direction. The cylinder then “pops-up” when the barrel is fully opened and can be removed.

Indicating the screw which unlocks the cylinder cam

Shooting 35 / 40

Most of my shooting to date – nearly 600 rounds through six CO2 capsules – has been done in single-action using both a one and two handed grip (the targets shown have all been using two hands). Double-action was a little stiff at first, but is improving with use and practice. The pistol has a real “heft” to it, although with a tendency to fall forward if not held with a firm grip; just like the original, I should imagine. I weighed mine using digital scales and, correcting for spent CO2, this came to 1062 grams (loaded) which equates to 2.34 lbs (an original would be 2.4 lbs, unloaded).

The fixed sights provide a good, clear sight picture; even in low light and without my specs on! As mentioned previously, the rear sight is slightly higher on the replica, but I should imagine this is intentional as it results in a point of aim equaling point of impact.

When target shooting, then the front post should be in focus, not the rear sight.

A clear sight picture with POA (top of post) = POI

I initially shot using .25g (FireFly) BBs. Although obtaining reasonably good results at six yards with a grouping of about 1.5 to 2 inches and mean score of 37 based on sets of five shots at the standard Umarex Boys Club target, which is scaled for use at this distance, I soon discovered that heavier .40g (FireFly) balls resulted in a marked improvement as shown in the following photo:

.40g 6mm BBs at six yards using a two-handed grip.

The grouping on target four is ⅝ inch centre to centre. The inset shows the chrono reading from shot #41

Although muzzle velocity was rather inconsistent for the first few shots, it soon settled to approximately 370 +/- 20 fps using .40g 6mm BBs in a relatively cool (for Thailand!) 27°C. In fact, by about half-way through the capsule of CO2, readings were even more consistent at around 385 +/- 5 fps. At least 90 goods shots may be had from a capsule of CO2. However, it had been a few days prior to this that I first decided to swap to the heavier ammunition… just after I had shot my 10m UBC competition!

All shot at 10m. The targets on the left using .25g, the rest using .40g.

The target in the centre, whilst not being a high score, has groupings of 1 ⅜ inch and ¾ inch (not counting the flier) top and bottom respectively

Whether it is a little less powerful than the 4.5mm version, I am not sure. It is certainly perfectly adequate for my needs, being just right for my “Biscuit Tin” range with shots easily connecting with the single lid which presents an eight inch diameter target at twenty yards. What is also worthy of note is that, thanks to the slightly higher power than is usually associated with 6mm replica guns, on pulling the trigger you immediately hear the impact against the tin lid in the distance, making it much more suitable (and fun!) for plinking in the garden (neighbours permitting).

There is even a puff of “smoke”, noticeable at night, from the  rear of the cylinder and barrel. Whether this might indicate an imperfect seal between the CO2 valve and cartridge, I would not like to say as the pistol is remarkably efficient in its consumption of CO2 and the marriage between the two with the cylinder closed appears to be fine; anyway, it looks kind of cool. The pistol is not particularly loud.

Quality and Reliability 14 / 15

It is really too soon to form a proper opinion, but to date the pistol has operated flawlessly. What has to be remembered is that, although no doubt made of a very good quality and durable alloy, it is still made of alloy and not steel. The only thing I could mention is that there is a very slight lateral movement in the barrel where it pivots with the frame, but this is not worsening with use and disappears when the barrel is snapped shut. Furthermore, I would be very surprised if the original did not have some minor movement at this point, too — these guns were built to operate in the worst conditions possible; reliability as opposed to fine tolerance was the order of the day.

The cylinder comes lightly greased and there are no signs of wear to the pawl teeth.

Right – view through the smooth bore barrel

The wide indexing pawl, cylinder stop and valve gasket.

Right – Please note the steel insert in the hammer where it strikes the “firing pin” (this reinforcing pin is to be found on all the WinGun/ Gun Heaven replicas I own)

Overall Impression 15 / 15

I have decided on full marks for this section since, if anything, this pistol has surpassed my expectations — and they were high. Having been so impressed by this smoothbore version of the Webley MkVI, I must admit that I am more than a little keen to see the .177 pellet version one day. Also, as mentioned above, should the manufacturers decide to modify things somewhat to produce a MkIV to accompany the MkVI, then in my opinion they would definitely make a great pair!

Introduced in 1915, this gun was issued to men who were expected to endure the unimaginable horrors of World War One. Most of these men were not professional soldiers, but ordinary people from all walks of life who when called upon, did their duty, many of them never to return home. Terrible sacrifices were made on both sides; not only must this never be forgotten, we must ensure that it never happens again.

On a less serious note, I feel immense credit is due to Gun Heaven/ Toubo/ WinGun and Webley for deciding to work together in order to revisit the original design and thence develop what can only be described as a thoroughly authentic, fully functioning replica of the Webley MkVI Service Revolver; one which should appeal not only to shooters and collectors of replica firearms like myself, but also to those who may otherwise not be particularly interested in replica pistols such as full-bore and other shooting enthusiasts, military historians, readers of classic late 19th and early 20th Century fiction and, last but not least, avid television and movie fans!

Total 92 / 100

Review by Adrian. Adrian is also a moderator for the Umarex Boys Club Forums.                   

Related posts

Nagant M1895 Revolver review

Umarex Colt Single Action Army revolver review

Links

http://www.tircollection.com/t7678-revolvers-british

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30034679

ASG CZ 75

751

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.

752

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.

753

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

7517

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.

cz_01152

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).

758

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)

757

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.

7510

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.

7511

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.

7512

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.

7513

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.

7520

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.

7518

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.

7519

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

7516

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

Classic handguns – the Walther PPK

Classic is an overused and seldom defined term. What exactly is a “classic” handgun? Ask ten people and you’ll probably get ten different answers, and ten different lists of “classic” guns. However, there are a small number of handguns which I’m fairly confident would appear on most people’s list, including the one I want to talk about here: The Walther PPK. Although it was introduced almost eighty-five years ago, the PPK is still available, virtually unchanged from its original form. That in itself is testament to good basic design, but the PPK is also perfectly sized, a decent shooter and of course is has an association with a certain British secret agent…

Development

The pocket pistol (what we’d now call a compact or sub-compact design) wasn’t a new idea in the 1920s. A number of manufacturers including Colt, Mauser and Steyr all offered small, easily concealed semi-auto pistols. However, most were of a hammerless design and were intended to be carried with a round in the chamber. Manual safeties were provided, often of the cross-bolt type, but accidental discharges due to light, single action triggers were frighteningly common. Revolvers, which required a long, double action trigger pull were generally safer, but less popular for concealed carry due to their greater bulk. What the market wanted was a compact semi-auto pistol which incorporated a revolver style double-action trigger.

Fritz Walther, the eldest son of founder Carl had persuaded his father to enter the pistol market in 1908. Recognising the need for a safer pocket pistol, in 1924 Fritz registered a German patent for a “self-loading pistol with magazine and revolver self-cocking lock and double action trigger“. Development continued until 1929 when the Walther PP (Polizei-Pistole) was released. The PP was a mid-sized, blowback operated design with an external hammer and double and single action trigger. Additional safety elements included a manual safety which also locked the trigger and hammer, a de-cocker and a loaded chamber indicator. Another notable feature was the takedown system – rather than using a separate lever or catch, the trigger guard of the PP was hinged at the rear. Rotating the trigger guard down and letting it rest against the frame allowed the slide to be removed. Reliability, safety and a reasonable price ensured that the PP immediately became popular both as a police handgun in Germany and as a civilian weapon in that country and elsewhere.

cppk11

The Walther PP

However, though it was smaller than a full-size military pistol, the PP was still relatively large and was mainly used as a sidearm by uniformed police. Walther almost immediately began work on a more compact version suitable for use by undercover and plain-clothes officers. In 1931, the Walther PPK was released. Visually and mechanically similar to the PP, the PPK featured a shorter barrel and grip and a smaller capacity magazine, making it the perfect concealed carry weapon. Incidentally, the “K” in PPK stands for Kriminalmodell (Detective model) and not Kurtz (Short) as is sometimes claimed.

cppk10

Early Walther PPK produced in Zella-Mehlis

Use

The PPK was an instant success, being quickly adopted by police and civilian users in Germany and elsewhere. Both the PP and PPK also became very popular as German officer’s sidearms. In this period, German army and navy officers were given an allowance to select and purchase their own pistols, and very large numbers chose the small and light Walther pistols and not, as Hollywood would have us believe, the larger and heavier Luger.

Why was the PPK so popular? The de-cocker and double action trigger certainly made it less prone to accidental discharge than some other pocket pistols and it was a reliable and effective shooter. It was also relatively cheap, being one of the first commercially produced handguns to use pressed steel parts. But most of all it was the perfect size. Very small handguns are difficult to grip and fire accurately. The PPK was just big enough to provide a good and comfortable grip while being small and light enough for concealed carry. Even more than the PP, the PPK was an instant commercial success.

cppk4

Post-war Walther PPK from Ulm, with “pinky rest” magazine extension

Initially, the PPK was manufactured at the Walther plant at Zella-Mehlis in Thuringia, Germany. Following World War Two the plant was relocated to Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, though for a number of years firearm manufacture was forbidden by the Allied powers. As a result, in 1952 Walther licensed production of PPK series pistols to Manufacure de Machines du Haut-Rhine, a French engineering company better known as Manurhin. Manurhin produced the PPK from 1952 until 1986, though their licensed versions continued to feature Walther markings. Production of the PPK at the new Walther plant in Ulm finally resumed in 1955, though early models utilised many parts manufactured by Manurhin. It wasn’t until 1986 that full manufacturing and production of the PPK was undertaken in Ulm and this continued until 1999. The only significant new version produced during the post-war period was the PPK/L, featuring a lightweight dural frame.

cppk3

Manurhin Walther PPK

In 1978, Walther also granted a manufacturing license to US company Ranger Manufacturing to produce both the PPK and the new PPK/S. These versions were distributed in the US by Interarms. The PPK/S was produced in response to the US Gun Control Act of 1968 which set minimum sizes and weights for imported handguns. The PPK was simply too small to comply with these new requirements, and the slightly larger PPK/S was produced by combining the slide and barrel of the PPK with the frame and grip of the original PP. From 2002 Smith & Wesson began production of a licensed version of the PPK/S in the US. S&W are now the only producers of the PPK and the pistol remains part of their current range.

cppk12

Interarms stainless steel Walther PPK/S

The PPK was produced in several calibres. The majority were 7.65mm, though a 6.35mm version was produced in relatively small numbers. The PPK was also available chambered for the .22LR round, principally to provide a police practice and training weapon which used much less expensive .22 rimfire ammunition. The PPK was also chambered for the 9mm short (9x17mm, also known as the .380 ACP) cartridge, but this was considered the limit for the strength of the slide, and no versions were produced using the more powerful 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) cartridge.

Visual style

I don’t normally consider the appearance of a pistol separately. After all, a handgun is a functional piece of equipment which is principally designed to operate efficiently rather than to look good. However, there is something about the appearance of the PPK that I can’t entirely explain but which makes this pistol look as fresh now as it did in 1931. As is the way of things, I started to wonder why that might be…

The design of any item is inevitably influenced by events in the wider world. The Walther PP and PPK were designed at a time of political change and social turmoil in Germany. However, this period was also notable for the influence of the German Bauhaus art movement. Started in 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius, Bauhaus took the concepts and philosophy of high art and translated them into the industrial production of everyday objects. Rejecting the ornate and ostentatious Art Nouveau which had gone before, Bauhaus stressed simplicity, functionality, unity and ease of use and manufacture. A Bauhaus artist had to be not just creative in an abstract sense, but also capable of translating this into functional and useful manufactured objects. Though it’s notable that many of the things created by Bauhaus artists also have a timeless and elegant aesthetic that makes them as visually appealing as they are functional.

“It is harder to design a first rate chair than to paint a second rate painting – and much more useful.”

Walter Gropius, the Bahaus Manifesto

cppk14Take a look at this “cesca” chair above, designed by Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer, a leading member of the Bauhaus movement. Look familiar? The chances are that if you visit any modern office or public space, you’ll see something very similar to this 1928 creation. Why has this design lasted so long? I suspect the answer is because it’s comfortable, practicable and simple to manufacture and yet it somehow manages to appear contemporary more than eighty years after it first appeared.

cppk7

Tokarev TT-33 (top), Walther PPK (centre), Enfield Number 2 (bottom)

I haven’t found any evidence that the engineers at Walther who created the PPK were directly influenced by Gropius or the philosophy of Bauhaus. But by the late 1920 the ideas inherent in the movement, that industrial production could and should generate objects which had artistic value, were prevalent in Germany and elsewhere. Take a look again at the PPK and consider the Bauhaus ideals of simplicity, unity and ease of use and manufacture within a visually pleasing whole. Is the PPK a Bauhaus pistol? I certainly think so. Also, try comparing the PPK to a couple of roughly contemporary handguns – the British Enfield Number 2 revolver and the Russian Tokarev TT-33 for example. Both were perfectly adequate handguns, but unlike the PPK both now look very dated and neither could be mistaken for a modern design. Somehow the PPK looks as good now as it did in 1931, which suggests a design which, in some indefinable way is “right“. Whether or not its designers were consciously influenced by Bauhaus, I believe that the PPK embodies the ethos of the movement perfectly.

James Bond and the PPK

However, one of the reasons the PPK is so well known has nothing to do with its abilities, design or appearance. The James Bond novels of Ian Fleming were hugely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Strangely however, for the first five novels Fleming provided his hero with a Beretta 418 in .25 calibre. Which is an ineffectual and rather rubbish gun for such a tough hero.

cppk13

Beretta 418. James Bond gun? Really?

In 1957 while he was writing the sixth novel, Fleming received a letter from Bond fan and firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd who pointed out that the Beretta was “a lady’s gun – and not a very nice lady at that!” Boothroyd suggested that it would be much more appropriate to provide Bond with a Walther PPK in 7.65mm calibre. Fleming agreed and Boothroyd went on to provide advice about firearms for the following Bond novels. In recognition, a new character was introduced in Dr No; – Major Boothroyd, the MI6 armourer known as “Q” who is described as “the greatest small-arms expert in the world”.

cppk9When Albert “Cubby” Broccoli came to make the first movie based on a Bond novel in 1962, the screenplay was based on Dr No, and so the movie Bond (then played by Sean Connery) exchanged his Beretta for a PPK from the very start. The PPK continued to be 007’s screen sidearm for sixteen more films and 35 years, until in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 it was swapped for a Walther P99. However, with the advent of Skyfall in 2012, the third film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, the character has once again reverted to using a PPK, albeit modified with a palmprint recognition system. The Bond connection gives the PPK additional cachet, and ensures that it is recognised by people who otherwise know very little about firearms.

article-2085176-0F6B14E400000578-797_634x480

Walther PPK Replicas

Given the enduring appeal of the original plus the James Bond connection, there have been surprisingly few decent replica air pistols based on the PPK. Ignoring spring powered replicas, which are pretty dire, I’m aware of just two: The Umarex PPK/S in 4.5mm and the Umarex/Maruzen PPK in 6mm.

ppk6

The Umarex Walther PPK/S

The Umarex CO2 powered 4.5mm version was introduced back in 1999 and was the first Umarex blowback pistol. In some ways it’s a great replica – all metal, heavy with great fit and finish and strong and snappy blowback. Unfortunately in other ways it’s not so good. I don’t care for the moulded-in-place slide-mounted safety, or the actual safety which is a moving lever at the front of the right grip (though it’s similar to the safety fitted to some prototype PPKs). It’s also very inaccurate compared to more modern BB shooters. However, the main issues for me are the large and visible CO2 tightening tab at the base of the grip and the shape of the grip itself, which has been stretched to accommodate the CO2 cartridge. The tab can be replaced with something less obtrusive, but there’s nothing you can do about the lengthened grip which, to me at least, completely loses the pleasingly squat profile of the original. However, this is overall a decent PPK/S replica and it does have the virtue of being readily available and relatively cheap.

cppk8

The Maruzen Walther PPK

The 6mm Walther PPK from Japanese manufacturer Maruzen is a much better visual and functional replica (it’s also licensed by Umarex, but for the sake of clarity I’ll refer to it as the Maruzen PPK here). It’s a gas powered blowback replica and the slide mounted safety, magazine release and takedown all work as they do on the original. It incorporates Walther markings and this version accurately replicates the short, squat grip of the original. Even the magazine incorporates a pinky rest, just like the original. The metal finish version looks particularly good and in 2011 a 125th Anniversary edition (celebrating 125 years of Walther) was released. However, this is an all plastic replica which is very light (around 375g) and it shoots only in the 220-240fps range, so it isn’t particularly powerful. It can also be very difficult to find new, and production seems to be sporadic.

Shooters Design (a company specialising in aftermarket parts for airsoft guns) produce a full metal kit for the Maruzen PPK, which replaces the plastic slide and frame with metal versions, though a heavyweight slide return spring is also required. I’m not sure if this kit is still in production and it is certainly hard to find. The Maruzen PPK has good functionality and looks good, but is too light to be an entirely convincing replica and it isn’t a particularly great shooter out of the box. Upgrading by using the Shooters Design kit is said to improve look, feel and function, but this is also a pretty expensive option. You can expect to pay around £125 ($200) for the basic pistol and over £200 ($325) for the upgrade kit, if you can find one. I have been looking for a Maruzen PPK and an upgrade kit for some time, and if anyone has either one they’d be willing to donate or sell for review, I’d be very happy to hear about it!

Conclusion

Whether you regard it as a piece of Bauhaus art, an industrial artefact from a significant historical era, a James Bond movie prop or simply a compact and pointable handgun, the Walther PPK doesn’t disappoint. It’s small, light, looks great, fits most hands and shoots better than its small size and relatively antiquated design would suggest. It’s no accident that in 2003, when Walther engineers set out to create a new compact pistol (the PPS), they used the weight and dimensions of the PPK as a guide to what looked and felt right. If ever a handgun deserved the “classic” label, it’s the Walther PPK.

It’s disappointing that the PPK is under-represented in the replica world. The Umarex and Maruzen versions both have good points, but neither is entirely satisfactory. We’re still waiting for a weighty PPK replica which is also a decent shooter and mirrors the functionality and distinctive look of the original.

Links:

The Walther PPK (on the Walther Arms website)

The Umarex Walther PPK/S

The Maruzen Walther PPK (on the RedWolf UK airsoft site)

Shooters Design kit for the Maruzen PPK (on the redwolf airsoft site, but don’t get too excited because it’s currently out of stock)

The Bauhaus movement

Related pages:  

Umarex Walther PPK/S review

Modifying the CO2 tab on an Umarex Walther PPK/S

Classic Handguns – The Glock 17