KWC P08 Luger

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I like replicas of historic firearms, and they don’t get much more historic than the P08, better known as the Luger. I have owned Luger replicas before: A Tanaka version (beautifully made, looked very good, but was made of plastic, was very light and only an indifferent shooter) and a WE version (basically a metal copy of the Tanaka version, minus some of the markings and with the addition of some quality control issues that made it randomly shoot in full-auto mode) and I never really fancied the non-blowback Umarex version. So when I heard that KWC, the people behind the Tanfoglio Witness, were producing a blowback Luger, I was very keen to give one a try.

Incidentally, KWC make two versions of the Luger: one in 4.5mm and one in 6mm. Both are functionally and visually identical. The version reviewed here is the 6mm, but all comments should also apply to the 4.5mm version.

Real steel background

I have already written elsewhere about the history of the Luger, and how it isn’t really called a Luger and how Hollywood would have us believe that it’s the archetypal German officer’s pistol from World War Two when it’s nothing of the kind, so I won’t repeat any of that here (you’ll find a link at the end of this article to other Luger articles). Instead, I’m going to switch to full pedant mode and talk about Luger markings.

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Luftwaffe Unteroffizier (sergeant) training with a Luger during World War Two.

You see, Luger markings are sort of unique and if you handle a real Luger, one of the first things you’ll notice that it’s covered in mysterious letters, gothic numbers and little pictograms. These are an important link to how this pistol was manufactured.

The Luger is a complicated design which relies on very tight tolerances to make sure that it operates without jamming or misfiring. Back in the early 20th Century when production started, there were no CNC systems to ensure that all components were identical to a fraction of a millimetre. Producing the individual parts of a Luger relied on the eyesight and attention span of Claus von Steadyhand and his colleagues as they used manually controlled machine tools. So, individual parts could and did vary fractionally in size and finish.

The factories where Lugers were produced got round this by employing skilled and very experienced inspectors, whose job it was to take batches of freshly machined Luger parts and try various combinations until they had assembled a pistol in which all the components worked flawlessly together. Each part of a particular pistol was then stamped with various marks, disassembled and sent for heat treatment. After heat treatment, the markings were used to ensure the re-assembly of batches of parts into pistols which had already been function tested.

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The precise nature and locations of these marking varies and whole books have been devoted to this subject. In general, these took the form of an identification letter for the inspector, the last two digits of the pistol’s serial number and identification of the factory in which the Luger was produced. Each of the main components (barrel, toggle, receiver, frame and cover plate) was marked in this way though the extent of markings varied from factory to factory – on Lugers produced in the Erfurt Arsenal for example, even the grip screws were inspected and stamped!

So, Lugers manufactured from 1908 – 1944 feature a large number of letters, numbers, pictograms and other acceptance marks in addition to the makers name, the date of production and even unit markings on some examples. Post-war Lugers (Lugers were still being manufactured in Germany until 1986, in small batches and mainly to satisfy demand in the US market) and Lugers produced in the USA have notably fewer markings.

The KWC P.08

Kein Well Toy Industrial Co. Ltd. (KWC) is a Taiwanese manufacturer of 4.5mm and 6mm replica guns. The company was formed in 1978, but didn’t produce their first replica until 1984. In 2007 the company released their first blowback replica (the Taurus PT99). Since then, although they continue to offer a large range of spring powered pistols, KWC are generally best known for their production of all metal, heavyweight, blowback guns which replicate the look, feel and function of firearms. KWC act as original equipment manufacturer for several distributors and are the manufacturers of such well-known replicas as the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness, Mini Uzi and Sig P226 X5 as well as several recent replicas from Umarex. Despite being heavy, visually and functionally accurate, metal replicas, KWC pistols are generally also fairly low cost.

Previously KWC have focussed on replicas of current weapons (with the exception of their 1911 range) but in 2013 they began to offer a larger range of all metal, blowback replicas based on historic firearms including the Tokarev TT-33, Makarov pistol, Mauser M712 and the P08 (and if anyone from KWC is reading this, I’d love to review that Makarov…). Almost all KWC blowback replicas are offered in both 4.5mm and 6mm format, though in terms of function and construction these tend to be identical. The P08 is available as KMB-41DHN (4.5mm) and KCB-41DHN (6mm) models. The 6mm version is listed as providing 1.2 Joules of muzzle energy, so it’s actually too powerful to be classed as an airsoft weapon in the UK.

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The KWC P08s are all metal, blowback replicas powered by CO2 which is retained in a full-size, drop-out magazine. The toggle mechanism, manual safety, magazine and release and the takedown procedure from the original are all faithfully replicated.

Spec;

Calibre: 6mm or 4.5mm

Magazine capacity:         6mm: 15 BBs, 4. 5mm: 21 BBs

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 3.94″ (100mm)

Weight: 1.85lbs (834g)

Overall length: 8.7″ (220mm)

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

Action: SA only.

Claimed power:     6mm: 360 fps (110 m/s), 1.2 Joule, 4.5mm: 295 fps (90 m/s), 1.4 Joule

Packaging and presentation 3/5

lug11The KWC P08 is supplied in a card box with polystyrene insert to fit the pistol, a single magazine, an allen key for tightening the CO2 and a small box of BBs. A short user manual is provided which is even less useful than the usual manual provided with Taiwanese replicas. My KWC P08 came almost without any lubrication at all, and one of the first things I did was to lubricate everything.

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My KWC was supplied through a German supplier, Versandhaus Schneider, and I was initially confused because the KWC P08 was described on their site as a GSG product – German Sport Guns are a German manufacturer of .22lr replicas and a distributor for some replica pistols. I assume that GSG must be the distributor for the KWC P08 in Germany? My P08 also came with a sheet of additional instructions from GSG in the box, and laser engraved text on the left of the frame reading “GSG Cal. 6mm“.

Visual accuracy 7/10

lug15In terms of the overall outline of the Luger, this very well done. The shape of the grip, receiver, toggle, ejector pin, barrel and sights are all very close to the original. However, I’m not so sure about the finish – most Lugers were blued, which gives a shiny finish, and even the Umarex Luger replica looks closer to the original finish than the semi-matt black used here. Black grips look wrong too (though some Lugers did come with black bakelite grips), and brown, wood-effect grips would have been much more appropriate. The button on the base of the magazine was often silver rather than black on the original and on early versions, the magazine base was made of wood.

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And then there are the markings. On the right side of the frame is the KWC logo and serial number and on the left is the GSG logo and “Cal. 6mm BB“. Fortunately, although this text is in white, it’s fairly small and not too noticeable. Under the manual safety the text “Gesichert” (Secured) is engraved. The only other markings are the number 15 which is engraved on the cover plate, takedown lever and manual safety blade. That’s it. Which doesn’t even come close to the markings on a real Luger. I don’t understand why – if you’re going to the time and trouble to replicate the Luger in such functional detail, surely a few genuine looking markings couldn’t hurt? The first blowback airsoft Luger I’m aware of was the Tanaka version, which included a fair sprinkling of proof and inspection marks, though it did include the number 15 on the cover plate, takedown lever and manual safety blade. Then came the WE Luger, which appeared to be a straight copy of the Tanaka version, but dropped all markings except the 15 on the cover plate, takedown lever and manual safety blade. Internally, the KWC Luger does not seem to be a copy of the Tanaka or WE versions, but it does appear that the markings have been directly copied from the WE Luger. Pity.

So, a fair attempt at a visual replica of a Luger, but not perfect.

Functional accuracy 14/15

Functionally, the KWC P08 is very good indeed. It has good weight (everything but the grips and CO2 transfer box is metal) and the toggle mechanism works as it should and locks back when the mag is empty (there is no equivalent of a slide release on the Luger – the only way to unlock the slide is to re-rack it with a round in the magazine or with the magazine removed). The manual safety can only be engaged when the pistol is cocked (there is no cocking indicator on the Luger) and there is no decocker. The magazine is full size and the release and takedown work as they would on the original. Even the complex and convoluted trigger mechanism is accurately modelled here.

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The only very minor thing that doesn’t work on the KWC P08 (and to be fair, this hasn’t yet been modelled on any replica) is the loaded chamber indicator – on the cartridge version the ejector pin on top of the toggle stands proud of the toggle and the word “Geladen” (Loaded) is visible when there is a round in the chamber. But that’s being very picky – this basically functions in precisely the same way as an original Luger.

Shooting 35/40

Loading CO2 is simple and will be familiar to anyone who has used a KWC replica – the metal plug in the base of the magazine is loosened using the supplied allen key, CO2 is inserted from the side, and the plug is tightened to pierce. The only issue I found is that the P08 magazine is relatively small, and it’s difficult to get a firm hold of it as you tighten the allen key, so there can be a small loss of gas. Up to 15, 6mm BBs (or up to 21, 4.5mm BBs, depending on which version you’re using) are loaded through the opening in the magazine. Though previous experience with KWC replicas suggests that they work best if you don’t completely fill the magazine to capacity. There is no way to lock the magazine follower, but the spring is fairly light so at least you shouldn’t be losing any fingernails here. It is necessary to locate the magazine firmly – on a couple of occasions early on, I inserted the magazine and pulled the trigger, only to have the mag fall out. You don’t want to slam it in there – just make sure it has locked properly before you try to shoot.

The angle of the grip looks odd, and is different to most other semi-auto pistols, but the Luger feels natural in the hand and points well. The grip is fairly small and narrow and should suit most hand sizes. The toggle must be racked to cock the pistol for the first shot and the manual safety can only be engaged when the pistol is cocked. When you’re ready to shoot, you’ll find yourself looking down a particularly nasty set of sights. There is a broad, V shaped cut-out in the upper rear part of the toggle and a tall, thin, tapering post at the front. There are no white dots or any other sort of aiming aids and it’s difficult to be precise, but hey, these are authentic Luger sights.

lug8Then you pull the trigger. The trigger on the real Luger has been variously described as “mushy“, “imprecise” and even “horrible“. This is mainly due to the complicated mechanism – remember the old game Mouse Trap? Where you pressed a button at one end which started a series of interesting movements which eventually resulted in plastic cage descending on a plastic mouse? Well, the Luger trigger works in much the same way. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s perfectly replicated on the KWC Luger. It isn’t terrible and it does have a short travel, but it isn’t as precise as you may be used to on replicas of more modern pistols.

lug7When you do pull the trigger, the first surprise is that the toggle flips up and down, briefly obscuring your view of the target. It’s disconcerting at first, but you soon get used to it. The KWC Luger isn’t particularly loud, but it does have a reasonably satisfying crack. The felt recoil effect from the toggle is notably less than you’ll find on other blowback replicas, and especially if compared to other KWC pistols such as their 1911 range. The toggle locks back after the last shot is fired, completely obscuring your view of the target, so you’re in no doubt when it’s time to reload.

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Ten shots, six yards, semi-rested, 0.2g BBs. Black area is approximately 1½” in diameter. And yes, I know the target is on its side, but that’s the way it was when I shot at it.

KWC claim 360fps for the 6mm version, and that feels about right. 295 fps is claimed for the 4.5mm version. And I have to say that mine shoots very well indeed. Even allowing for the difficult sights, I’m able to group most shots using 0.20g BBs to within 1″ or so – highly impressive for a BB shooting pistol and extremely consistent. I suspect that part of the reason for this accuracy and consistency is due to the inner barrel not moving during firing, unlike most blowback replicas which have floating barrels. One minor issue with mine is that it shoots about 2″ high at six yards. I’m guessing that 0.30g BBs might work better.

I do have to mention CO2 consumption and cool-down. Cool-down is very noticeable if you shoot rapidly – it’s so marked that the grip actually becomes chilled and you can hear the tone of the report changing with each shot. CO2 consumption is also higher than I expected – around 50 full-power shots at 70°C and after one bout of rapid-fire shooting, under 40 shots. I have no idea why – without a heavy slide to move, I had expected CO2 usage to be lower on the P08, but that certainly isn’t the case on mine.

Overall, this is a very satisfactory shooter. It’s powerful enough, accurate and consistent. The sights aren’t great and the trigger isn’t the best, but these are just part of the Luger experience. The high CO2 consumption is a surprise, but it’s certainly not something that stops me using this replica.

OK, so it shoots a little high. But doesn’t it have hop-up adjustment?

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I don’t think so. Some people say it has, some say it hasn’t. The KWC manual doesn’t mention hop-up, but then all it really says is that if you pull the trigger, the gun will go bang and that shooting your cat or policemen is a bad idea. All good advice certainly, but I would have liked something a little more in-depth. The additional sheet provided by GSG specifically mentions hop-up, and talks about “turning the screw anti-clockwise to amplify hop-up effect”. At least I think it does – it’s in German and my technical German is less than perfect, but it certainly talks about “das hop-up system“. However, the only screw I can find is in the rear of the sliding part of the toggle mechanism. There is a small, brass screw there, but it doesn’t look as if it’s designed to be set in different positions. Turning it anti-clockwise simply unscrews it, which can’t be right. Looking down the inner barrel reveals an O ring near the mouth of the barrel, but no way to tension or adjust this. So, I’m going to go with no – despite what GSG suggest, the KWC Luger doesn’t appear to have any hop-up adjustment.

Quality and reliability 12/15

The KWC P.08 feels like a well made and finished replica. However, I’m concerned that my version is already showing some signs of internal wear and I have also owned several Tanfoglio Witnesses (which are also made by KWC) and they turned out to be of variable quality. Now. it’s possible that this wear is entirely normal – most wear happens when a replica is first used, so this may not be something to be worried about, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

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Areas of wear on the toggle (arrowed)

Other than this and so far (after about 400 shots), everything is working as it should. The KWC Luger shoots very well, doesn’t leak CO2 and the toggle reliably locks back on empty. There is no sign of wear to the black finish and nothing has fallen off or worked loose.

Is the KWC Luger well-made and reliable? It seems to be at the moment, but ask me again in six months!

Overall Impression 12/15

Remember the first time you picked up a Tanfoglio Witness? And how it felt heavy and well made and substantial and rather like a cartridge firing pistol.   The KWC Luger is like that. When you pick it up it has good heft and when you rack the toggle it moves precisely and cleanly. Everything about it just feels good. It isn’t up there with the best of the Umarex pellet shooters in terms of quality feel, but it’s way better than lots of other Taiwanese replicas. If it only had wood effect grips and a more convincing finish, it would be close to ideal.

Conclusion

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Many of the less than perfect things about the KWC P08 are features it inherits from the original: The sights are poor, the trigger pull feels a little mushy and imprecise and there is no defined release point and the toggle action, though snappy, provides relatively little felt recoil effect. The lack authentic of markings is also an issue and I would have liked to see brown, wood effect grips and a finish that looked more like blued steel.

However, this is a functionally perfect replica of the legendary Luger, a cracking good shooter and it appears to be reasonably well made and put together though I have some reservations about its longevity. It’s also agreeably cheap, though the CO2 consumption may be an issue. Is it the perfect Luger replica? Not quite, but if you want a Luger, I don’t believe that there is a better replica currently available.

Total score: 83/100

Video review

Related pages:

Umarex P08 review

Luger replicas

Tanfoglio Witness review

Buy:

In the US only, Umarex sell a blowback P-08 as part of the “Legends” range. This appears to be a re-branded KWC P-08. You can buy the Legends P-08 blowback at Pyramid Air here.

Links:

P08 on the KWC website

6mm GSG/KWC P08 on the Versandhaus Schneider site

4.5mm GSG/KWC P08 on the Versandhaus Schneider site

 

Cybergun SIG Sauer P226 X-Five

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The Cybergun X-Five was the first replica I ever bought, so I have to admit having a particular fondness for this pistol. However, it’s also a pretty good visual and functional replica with good weight and heft and a fair shooter and I believe that it would appeal both to anyone interested in replica handguns.

Real steel background

Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) is a Swiss company which designs and manufactures a range of semi-auto pistols. However, Swiss laws on the export of firearms are very restrictive. In order to facilitate export sales of their products, SIG entered a contractual agreement with German firearms manufacturer J. P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH. This joint venture became identified by the trade-name SIG Sauer and handguns bearing this name are manufactured either at the Sauer manufacturing plant in Eckernförde, Germany or at the SIG Sauer Inc. facility in New Hampshire, USA.

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SIG Sauer P226

The SIG Sauer P226 is a locked breech, short-recoil operated semi-automatic pistol which is available chambered for 9mm, .40 S&W or .357 SIG cartridges. It is a development of the SIG 220 and was designed and introduced to enter the US Army XM9 Joint Service Pistol Trials in 1984. The XM9 trial was intended to find a replacement for the venerable Colt M1911A1 as a US service sidearm. The Beretta 92F was eventually selected, but only by a narrow margin over the P226. Despite losing out to the Beretta, the P226 went on to achieve a great deal of commercial success, being adopted by police, military and special service forces around the world. A licensed copy of the P226 is manufactured in China as the Norinco NP226. Unlicensed copies are also manufactured in Myanmar (as the MA-6) and Iran (as the ZOAF) and used by the armed forces of those countries.

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SIG Sauer P226 X-Five

The P226 X-Five is a competition variant of the P226 with a longer 5 inch barrel, extended beavertail and an adjustable rear target sight. The X-Five is generally provided in polished metal finish, often with wood grips and is a replacement for the SIG210, one of the most highly regarded target shooting semi-auto pistols ever made. The X-Five is available chambered for 9mm or .40 S&W cartridges and each pistol is hand fitted and finished before being factory tested to confirm that it is capable of a sub-2″ grouping at 25 yards. The X-Five Tactical is a variant available only in 9mm and featuring a black Ilaflon finish, black plastic grips and fixed rear sights.

The Cybergun SIG Sauer P226 X-Five

x56Introduced in 2009, the Cybergun SIG Sauer P226 X- Five is a CO2 powered, all metal (other than grips and internal parts), blowback replica of the X-Five Tactical. It is 4.5mm calibre and comes with a full-size, drop-out, 18 round magazine and a smoothbore 4.4″ brass inner barrel. No adjustable rear sights are provided, but it does come with a standard size accessory rail below the barrel. It’s sold by French distributor Cybergun and I suspect is probably produced on their behalf by Taiwanese manufacturing company KWC.

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Cybergun P226 X-Five Open

In some markets the X-Five Open (also known as the “Sight-rail” or “Combo“) is available. This is a kit comprising the standard Cybergun X-Five, a (non-functional) compensator, an “X-Mount” sight rail (which allows a red-dot sight to be fitted) and fully adjustable rear sights. The removable compensator does not hide an extended barrel, so this is mechanically identical to the standard X-Five, though the grip and magazine base look to be slightly different.

Spec;

Calibre: 4.5mm

Magazine capacity: 18

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4.4″

Weight: 2.55 lbs

Overall length: 8.85″

Sights: Fixed front and rear

Action: SA/DA

Packaging and presentation 3/5

x55The Cybergun SIG Sauer P226 X-Five comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a an expanded polystyrene insert with cut-outs to fit the pistol and accessories. The pistol comes with a magazine, a ¼” allen key for tightening/piercing the CO2, a spare CO2 retaining plug and a small box of Cybergun steel BBs.

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Oddly, the 4.5mm X-Five box and manual both mention an “adjustable shooting system” and “BAXS“, the proprietary version of hop-up seen on a number of Cybergun replicas. However, the 4.5mm version does not have BAXS or any trajectory adjustment – it isn’t possible to impart the required spin to the heavier metal 4.5mm BBs.

Visual accuracy 7/10

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SIG Sauer P226 X-Five above, Cybergun P226 X-Five below

The Cybergun X-Five is a very good visual replica indeed. Other than markings, it’s actually difficult to tell the replica from the original. All controls are correctly replicated and every contour and detail on the frame, slide and grips is identical.

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Markings on the left side are reasonable, comprising white painted “SIG Sauer“, “X-Five” and “Germany” on the slide and “SIG Sauer” on the grips. On the right side of the frame, things are spoiled slightly by a large, ugly block of white safety text.

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Finish is semi-matt black painted, and looks fairly good. However, the paint doesn’t appear to be particularly thick, is prone to scuffing on high points (the paint on the ambidextrous safety on my X-Five for example, wore off very quickly indeed) and is easy to scratch.

Functional accuracy 14/15

The Cybergun X-Five shoots in single and double action. The magazine release, slide release and takedown lever all look and function as they do on the original. Applying the safety catch locks the hammer and no de-cocker is provided – as on the original, de-cocking is done by carefully lowering the hammer.

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The Cybergun X-Five can be field stripped for cleaning and lubrication in the same way as the original. The magazine must first be removed and the slide racked back and locked. The takedown lever on the left of the frame is then rotated through approx 100° and can then be released and slid forward off the frame.

Overall, this is a very good functional replica indeed and would make a good training weapon for the original.

Shooting 33/40

When you first pick up the Cybergun X-Five, you’ll realise that this is a very heavy replica. At 2.55 pounds, it’s very close to the weight of the original. However, it isn’t a particularly large pistol and unlike (for example) the Cybergun GSG92, I find the X-Five fits my hands very well.

Preparing the X-Five for shooting is simple. The plug in the base of the base of the magazine is removed using the allen key provided and the CO2 cartridge is installed. The plug is then replaced and tightened until the cartridge pierces. This usually happens without drama or undue leaking. When tightened, the plug fits flush to the base of the magazine, which looks good. Up to 18 steel BBs can be loaded into the magazine though there is no retaining catch, so you have to hold down the follower while loading. Some people have noted that loading all 18 BBs can cause misfeeds and jams, and recommend loading only a maximum of 15 BBs, though I can’t say I had any issues using a full magazine. The magazine is then inserted until it locks and the slide is racked and released to move the first BB to the chamber ready for shooting. Racking the slide also cocks the hammer.

x516The sights are fixed but well sized – it’s easy to centre the foresight (which has a white dot) in the relatively narrow notch in the rear sight. The trigger operates in both single and double action, but as this is a blowback pistol, in practice you’ll be using it almost exclusively in single action. In this mode it’s light, smooth and has a clearly defined and consistent break point. On pulling the trigger you’ll immediately notice the sound and recoil. The X-Five fires with a satisfying bang and the recoil is strong and pronounced, causing the gun to jerk upwards after each shot. This means that you’ll have to re-acquire the target after each shot, but this realistically replicates the use of a real semi-auto pistol. The slide locks back when the last shot is fired.

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Six shots, six yards, free-standing, Blaster steel BBs. Inner (black) circle is 1″ diameter.

Cybergun claim 300fps, but I generally found that using Blaster steel BBs and a fresh CO2 gave around 310 – 320 fps. Not especially powerful, but BBs do hit the target with an authoritative “thwap” from six yards. Cooldown is an issue though – rapid fire will see the fps dropping dramatically. Accuracy was good on my X-Five – grouping at around 1¼” at six yards, with BBs hitting the target about 1″ above the point of aim at that range. CO2 usage is reasonable for a blowback pistol – I got around 45-55 full power shots from a single CO2.

Unlike the Cybergun GSG92, the X-Five is semi-auto only. No great loss considering that the GSG92 gobbles CO2 and is wholly inaccurate in full auto mode.

Quality and reliability 11/15

The finish on the Cybergun X-Five doesn’t seem to be especially durable. It rubs off easily on high spots and can be very easily scratched. Some users also report misfeed/jamming issues if you try to fill the magazine to capacity. However, other than for these issues, I’m not aware of any major problems with this replica.

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After less than 200 careful shots, the inner barrel and guide rod on one of my X-Fives had started to shed paint. High-spots were also wearing thin.

Overall Impression 13/15

I really can’t recommend this one highly enough. It’s reasonably well made but fairly inexpensive. It’s hefty enough to feel realistic but not so chunky that it’s unwieldy. The blow back is strong, it doesn’t seem to have any major technical or mechanical issues and it shoots well enough to be challenging and fun. If you can put up with the thin paint which will wear quickly, there’s a lot to like here.

Conclusion

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This is still one of my favourite replicas. Partly, that’s because it was also the first replica I ever bought, and I can still remember being stunned at how close it was to the real thing. Naively, I assumed that all replicas were this good. However, even allowing for my rose-tinted view of the X-Five, I still believe it’s a great replica. It’s chunky and hefty while still being a good fit for my medium sized-hands. It looks and functions just like the real firearm and it’s a powerful shooter with a satisfying bang, strong blowback and fair accuracy. OK, it’s a pity Cybergun didn’t include the adjustable rear sight on the standard version and the finish is pretty thin but then it’s relatively cheap and doesn’t seem to have major reliability issues.

Overall, if you’re interested in replica pistols, I can’t see any reason that you wouldn’t enjoy the Cybergun X-Five.

Total score: 81/100

Related pages:

Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness review

Cybergun GSG92 review

Links

Cybergun web page

Luger replicas

DWM-1900-Swiss-Commercial-Contract-Luger-Pistol-with-Holster-gun

The Luger is probably one of the best known handguns ever made. Instantly recognisable even to people who know nothing about firearms, no wonder it has been the subject of a number of replicas over the years. Sadly, most of the available replicas up to now have had some drawbacks. But with the release of the KWC CO2 powered blowback Luger, it looks as if we may finally have a replica worthy of this incredibly iconic handgun. To celebrate the release of the KWC Luger, I thought I’d take a brief look back at some of the Luger replicas produced since World War Two and consider how they stack up as shooters and visual and functional replicas.

Real Steel background

First thing to mention is that what we’re looking at here isn’t officially called a Luger at all. It’s actually called the Pistole Parabellum 1908, or P.08. It’s known as the Luger because it was designed and patented by German engineer Georg Luger in 1898. I’ll refer to it as the Luger in this article for the sake of simplicity. Manufacture began in 1900 with German firearms company DWM (Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken). The Luger was later manufactured under license in a number of other locations in Germany, and even at one time by Vickers in the UK.

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German Navy P.08

The Luger was an early attempt to produce a self-loading pistol, a handgun which could be fired and reloaded more quickly than a revolver. Most later designs used some form of moving slide to extract the spent shell casing and load a new cartridge, but the Luger employed a unique toggle mechanism. Venting gases cause the barrel and toggle to move backward until hitting a cam, which hinges the toggle knee-joint, unlocking the breech and extracting the spent cartridge. A spring then forces the toggle closed, pushing the next round into place. It’s a neat technical solution which causes relatively little recoil, though it does have disadvantages. The toggle operates to very tight tolerances which made manufacturing costly and expensive and the mechanism is also prone to jamming if dirt, dust or debris are present. The Luger wasn’t a completely new design, being partly based on the existing Borchardt C/93 self-loading pistol, though it was a neater and much more compact design than the earlier pistol. The Luger was available in 4″, 6″ and 8″ (Artillery) form. The artillery version featured adjustable sights, a wooden holster which doubled as a stock and an optional 50 round, drum magazine.

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Well used Artillery version

The Luger used a seven round, drop-out magazine in the grip, which was more steeply angled than most pistols (145° between the barrel and grip, compared to 120° on the Colt 1911, for example). The base of the magazine on most early Lugers is made of wood, something no replica has yet attempted to recreate. Early versions were chambered for a new cartridge, the 7.65mm Parabellum (also called the .30 Luger in the US) and the Luger was adapted by Swiss armed forces in 1900. Concerns that the Luger lacked stopping power led to the design of another new cartridge, the 9 x 19mm, which became known as the 9mm Luger and has been used in a range of handguns since. The Luger was updated in 1904 to take the 9mm cartridge, and at this time a safety on the right side of the frame was added. The Luger was adopted initially by the German Navy and then by the German Army in 1908 (at which time it gained the P.08 designation). Thereafter, sales to German military forces accounted for the vast majority of Lugers produced.

Replicas

Below is a list of the Luger replicas I’m aware of, in approximate chronological order according to when they were released. I haven’t included any of the spring powered Luger replicas because they are, without exception, crap.

Schimel GP-22

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The Schimel GP-22 is a pretty good CO2 powered replica of the Luger, produced In California by brothers Orville and Clifford Schimel. Both were machinists and Orville was also a die maker. The brothers were fascinated by the Luger, and soon after the end of World War Two they set out to make an air pistol replica. Early work was done in Orville’s garage before a plant was set up in North Hollywood and manufacturing begin in 1946. The Schimel uses an 8g CO2 cartridge (commonly available in the 1940s as soda siphon bulbs) to shoot a single .22 pellet. Up to 580 fps was claimed when the pistol was first sold.

When it first appeared, the L.A. Police department tried unsuccessfully to have the Schimel banned, claiming it looked too much like the real firearm. However, despite its visual appeal, power and claims of extreme accuracy, the Schimel didn’t sell particularly well. There were a number of good reasons for this. The materials used in the Schimel weren’t always sensibly utilised – die cast, pot metal parts were used in stressed areas and were prone to cracking, a steel barrel was press-fitted into a die-cast outer shell, and electrolysis quickly welded the barrel in place. The O rings were made of gas-permeable material, and were prone to expand up to 50% in use, causing the pistol to leak catastrophically. The grips were made of an early form of plastic which shrank on exposure to UV light – some owners claim shrinkage of up to ½”, which makes the grips impossible to remove. The cocking and charging procedure is complicated and parts break if the pistol is roughly handled. Finally, the paint tended to quickly flake off the die-cast body. No surprise then that within ten years, manufacture of the Schimel ceased and the company went bust. Despite this, a good Schimel is still a powerful, accurate and loud replica. The problem is finding a good one. Schimels regularly turn up on gun auction sites, though they tend to be rather expensive and are now even more fragile than they were sixty years ago.

American Luger

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The manufacturing plant from the bankrupt Schimel company was bought up by Californian engineering works A.C. Swanson in 1956. Swanson developed the Schimel design and produced the American Luger from 1956 – 1958. This is generally similar to the Schimel, but it’s an eight shot repeater which shoots .22 lead balls. Sadly, the American Luger was just as fragile as the Schimel, and sales were never particularly strong. Production ended when Stoeger, the US firearms company which became the owner of the “Luger” trademark, threatened legal action. Relatively small numbers of American Lugers were produced, and these command even higher prices than Schimels when they do appear for sale.

Wham-O Kruger

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In the late 1950s yet another Californian company, this time toymaker Wham-O, produced the Kruger 98, a replica of the Luger which used a similar sounding name, presumably to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit from Stoeger. The Kruger 98 wasn’t really an air pistol at all – it used the explosive power of a standard “cap” to propel a .12 birdshot. As can be imagined, there isn’t actually much power in a cap intended for toy guns, and despite advertising claims for extreme accuracy, the .12 lead shot barely achieved enough power to leave the end of the barrel. A later version which fired standard .177 BBs was even less powerful, though Wham-O advertising gleefully claimed that the Kruger could also shoot “peas, beans and even tapioca!“. The Kruger was produced in large numbers and these regularly turn up for sale, but unless you have a particular desire to use tapioca as ammo, there really doesn’t seem much reason to own one.

Tanaka Luger

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Japanese manufacturer Tanaka Works were the first to produce a fully functional Luger replica. Their green gas powered, 6mm, blowback Luger features an operational toggle, full size drop-out magazine, working safety catch and is available in 4″, 6″ and 8″ versions. Tanaka also produced a wooden stock/holster, wood grips and a drum magazine for this replica. This is a very nice, well made replica which field strips accurately and is marred only by the fact that it’s entirely made of plastic (even the “heavyweight” version is rather light). Like many Tanaka pistols, it’s also not especially powerful (250 – 300 fps) or accurate and the firing pin is a little fragile – pushing the magazine in with the firing pin extended or even repeated dry firing can cause the pin to snap. This apart, the Tanaka Luger is a nice replica and well engineered, but like all Tanaka products it’s very expensive. However, for me, the main problem is that it’s plastic – I don’t feel that a plastic replica can ever provide convincing weight and heft.

WE Luger

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WE Luger, 6″

Taiwanese manufacturer WE were next to produce a 6mm , green-gas powered blowback Luger, and functionally this is almost identical to the Tanaka version. However, the WE Luger is all metal, and does feel much more convincing. The WE version is available in black or polished metal finish and in 4″, 6″ and 8″ form, and WE also offer a 50 round drum magazine. Overall, the WE Luger is a very nice replica, though it doesn’t have a great reputation for longevity. On many older WE Lugers, the trigger sear wears until pulling the trigger causes the pistol to fire on full auto until all the gas in the magazine is exhausted. Which is sort of exciting if you’re not expecting it. Accuracy and power are similar to the Tanaka Luger. Overall, the WE Luger is a pretty reasonable replica and like most WE pistols, it’s fairly low cost. Just don’t expect it to last forever.

Umarex “Legends” Luger

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In 2013 Umarex announced the addition of a P.08 Luger to the growing “Legends” collection. This is a .177 BB shooting, CO2 powered, non-blowback replica and appears to be identical to the KWC non-blowback Luger (KMB-41DHN) and the ASG P.08. It’s all metal and has good weight, but is only available in 4″ form and the lack of blowback is an issue – the trigger operates only in double action and the pull is long and heavy. The drop-out magazine is reduced size and although the pistol has good power (at around 400fps), the heavy trigger pull affects accuracy. A nice looking, well made, low cost metal replica with good weight and a fair shooter, but without the toggle mechanism that is the defining characteristic of the Luger. You can find a link to a review of the Umarex P.08 at the end of this article.

Gletcher P.08

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Gletcher is the trademark of the New York based Sport Manufacturing Group, Inc. The Gletcher P.08 is a CO2 powered, 4″, .177 BB shooting, blowback Luger replica. CO2 is stored inside the grip and the drop-out magazine is reduced size. The appearance of this replica is somewhat spoiled by prominent white “Gletcher” markings and trademarks, though otherwise it’s a good visual replica of the Luger. Despite having blowback, early reports suggest that it has a very heavy trigger action and an appetite for CO2 (some owners report no more than 35-40 shots per CO2). Accuracy and power are also reported as no more than average. This is getting closer, but the lack of a full sized magazine and the reportedly heavy trigger mean that this still isn’t the perfect Luger replica. It’s also expensive in comparison to other Luger replicas.

KWC Luger

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At last! A CO2 powered, blowback Luger with a full sized drop-out magazine. Taiwanese manufacturer KWC have recently released a full metal, blowback Luger and even better, they have somehow managed to shoehorn a CO2 cartridge into the slim magazine. KWC make some pretty good replicas (they are the OEM manufacturer for, amongst others, the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness and some Umarex replicas) so I’m very hopeful about this one. It’s available only as a 4″ version but in both 4.5mm (KMB-41DHN) and 6mm (KCB-41DHN) form and KWC claim “incredible accuracy“. Don’t know about that, but if it’s as good as some of the KWC 1911s, this could finally be a decent Luger replica.

Related pages

Umarex Legends P08 review

Best replica Part 2