The COVID Backyard Shootout: Pellet vs steel BB vs Airsoft

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

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

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

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

Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm

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

Gletcher PM 1951

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

Tokyo Marui Glock 26

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

The Shooting Test

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

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

Umarex Beretta PX4

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

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

Total: 103/120

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

Gletcher PM1951

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

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

Total: 106/120

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

TM Glock 26

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

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

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

Total: 105/120

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Shooting  

Related Posts

Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm Redux

Gletcher PM 1951 review

Tokyo Marui Glock 26 review

Anics SKIF A-3000/3003

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Anics replica air pistols are the anchovies of the replica world – you either love them or you hate them.  The Anics SKIF A-3000 series of non-blowback, multi-shot air pistols certainly seems to provoke very different reactions from owners.  Some praise this Russian replica’s rugged construction and claim good power and accuracy.  Others have found them to be roughly made and finished, unreliable and inaccurate.  I have owned two of these pistols and I suspect that answer lies in the expectations of prospective owners.  If you understand what you’re buying, you may like the A-3000 very much.  If you expect something that is as user friendly as equivalent replicas made in Germany, the US or Asia, you may be disappointed.

Because this review looks at several versions of the A-3000 series, I won’t be assigning scores.

The Anics SKIF A-3000 series

The JSC Anics Group was formed in Russia in 1995 and all Anics replicas have been produced since 2002 in a manufacturing facility in Klimovsk city, near Moscow.  The Anics Group produces a range of products using Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) technologies and this process is used to produce the slides on all Anics Replicas.

The Anics SKIF A-3000 series comprises four variants:

Released in 2001, the Original SKIF A-3000 has an all-black finish, a fully adjustable rear sight and a 4.5″ rifled barrel.

The SKIF A-3000 S, is identical to the A-3000 other than for a nickel finish slide.

The SKIF A-3000 LB, is identical to the A-3000 other than for the addition of a mock suppressor which is used to hide an extended 9″ rifled barrel.  This version of the A-3000 pistol was also sold in the UK and other areas by Brocock Ltd. as the Brocock F1.

The A-3003 Blackbird, was introduced in 2008 and appears to be mechanically identical to the A-3000 but has a re-designed slide with a smooth gloss black finish, a smaller fixed rear sight and revised cocking serrations.  I have also seen a Blackbird with a mock suppressor and extended barrel similar to the A-3000 LB, though this does not appear to be part of the current Anics range.

The Anics A-3000 series are not replicas of a specific pistol, though they do have some visual similarities to firearms such as the Walther P-22.  All versions have a metal slide, hammer, slide release, safety and internal parts and a polymer frame, grip and trigger.  All versions feature an under-barrel accessory rail and all use the same 28 shot conveyor type magazine. All versions are designed to shoot .177” pellets though they can also shoot 4.5mm steel BBs and .177” lead balls.

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SKIF A-3000 S

The slide on all versions of the A-3000 moves, but this is not a blowback replica.  The slide features a cut-away ejection port and can be locked back, but only when the magazine is removed.  The finish on the casting used for the slide on the A-3000 and 3000S is fairly rough though the slide on the later A-3003 Blackbird is notably smoother.  All versions are CO2 powered with the CO2 cartridge stored inside the grip and tightened and pierced using the same system of flaps and screws found on other Anics replicas.  Anics also sell a laser sight which is suitable for use with all versions of the A-3000.

I have owned both an original A-3000 and the A-3000 LB with extended barrel.  Unless otherwise noted, all comments in this article relate to my experience with these versions though I believe that the later A-3003 Blackbird is very similar in operation.

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Packaging and presentation

Like almost everything else about these replicas, even the packaging has notable good and bad points.  The A-3000 series pistols come in a foam-lined hard case, which is good.  Unfortunately it’s a very flimsy hard case, which is bad.  On both my Anics replicas, either the catches or hinges snapped on the cases and one case distorted so badly that the pellet tamping tool could fall out even with the case latched shut.  The larger case used for the LB does seem to be stronger than the standard case.

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SKIF A-3000S in hard case – note how distorted the edges of the case are.  Sadly, this is fairly normal.

All versions come with two magazines and a brass pellet tamping tool, which is good.  However, it’s essential to adjust and use the tool correctly to reduce jamming and the manual provides no guidance on how to do this, which is bad.

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My SKIF A-3000 LB came in a larger case with eggshell foam which seemed to be much stronger.

Appearance

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The A-3000 series look purposeful in a chunky sort of way.  Although not a replica of a specific firearm, they do have the look of a modern semi-auto pistol.  The finish on the slide of many A-3000s is slightly rough, and doesn’t entirely look as if it belongs with the polymer frame.  The later A-3003 has a shinier black slide with a smoother finish.  All markings on early versions are discretely engraved while on the A-3003 they’re laser etched in white.

Functionality

The A-3000 series use a moving barrel to actually fire the pistol.  As you pull the trigger, the inner barrel moves forward against a spring until it reaches the release point.  It then springs back against the firing valve, allowing the pistol to shoot.  The same system is used in a number of replica pistols from other manufacturers, and it’s generally efficient though it does contribute to a long, heavy trigger pull even in single action.

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In the A-3000 series up to 28 pellets are loaded into a drop-out transparent plastic conveyor type magazine.  Twenty-eight separate plastic pellet holders are arranged in a track inside the plastic housing, and indexing causes these plastic holders to shuffle round the track.  It isn’t a particularly efficient system and it takes a fair amount of force to move the pellet holders in their track.  The magazine is released by using the ambidextrous release in the base of the trigger guard.  This magazine is very similar to the 22 shot conveyor type magazines used on two other Anics replicas – The Berkut A-2002 and the Beretta A-9000S.  The A-3000 cannot be fired with the magazine removed – even with CO2 loaded, pulling the trigger with the magazine removed will cause the hammer to fall, but the pistol will not fire.

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Pellets are loaded from the rear of the magazine via an opening which gives access to just four of the pellets holders at a time.  However, you can only load three pellets at a time as you need to insert the long end of the brass tamping tool into the fourth holder and use this to drag the next empty holders to line up with the opening.  To reduce jamming, extreme care must be taken when loading pellets.  The supplied brass tool should be used to tamp pellets into each holders so that they sit clear of the front and rear edge of the holder (the tool can be adjusted by unscrewing the two halves to set the appropriate depth for different lengths of pellet).  Anics recommend pellets with an overall length of less than 7.6mm.  I found that both my A-3000s worked best with flat-fronted, target type pellets.  Although using the tamping tool is essential if you want to avoid jamming, this tool can distort the skirt of the pellet as it is pushed in to the holder, and it’s possible that this distortion may contribute to relatively poor accuracy with these pistols.  I like the idea of a large capacity magazine, but loading pellets into the A-3000 is so fiddly that I’d happily have settled for something with a lower capacity but that was easier to load.

Loading CO2 involves opening the piercing flap in the base of the grip, and then pressing the cartridge release button on the rear of the grip which allows the CO2 retaining gate to open.  A CO2 cartridge can then be inserted and the retaining gate can be clipped closed.  A screw is then finger tightened and finally the piercing flap is closed.  Generally loading CO2 is done without loss of gas, though it’s best to give the piercing flap a sharp slap to make sure it closes cleanly.   Overall, loading CO2 isn’t particularly difficult, just different to the systems found on most other CO2 pistols.

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Brocock F1 (SKIF A-3000 LB)

The slide on the A-3000 series can be racked and locked (though only with the magazine removed) and the slide release on the left side works as you’d expect.  These replicas also include a working manual safety on the left rear of the frame.  Take-down latches are provided on either side of the frame.  Pushing these down allows the rear of the slide to be retracted, raised, and the slide removed by moving it forward off the barrel.

The rear sight on the A-3000 models is fully adjustable using slotted screws for separate windage and elevation adjustment.  On the A-3003, only windage adjustment is provided.

Shooting

Once you have pellets and CO2 loaded, you’re ready to shoot.  The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the A-3000 is the odd shape of the grip.  The curved lower part of the grip is much wider than the top.  Once you’re used to it, it’s easy to get a firm grip, but it feels slightly odd and might be an issue if you have smaller hands.  The second thing you’ll notice is the double-action trigger pull.  It’s horrible – long, heavy, scratchy and notably heavier just before release.  Anics claim a 9lbs double action pull, but on both my examples the pull was variable and peaked at over 12lbs.  The problem in double action is that pulling the trigger does several things.  It cocks the hammer, advances the next pellet in the conveyor magazine and moves the inner barrel forward.  The effort required to do all these things simultaneously results in a very heavy double action pull which in turn means that it’s very difficult indeed to achieve consistent accuracy in double action.  I found that after six or so shots, it was extremely difficult to maintain the sights on target during the long pull.  Fortunately, manually cocking the hammer (which also moves the barrel forward) gives a much lighter 5lbs single action pull though the first part of the pull still indexes the magazine even in single action.

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SKIF A-3000 with mock suppressor removed, showing extended barrel

On both my A-3000s, accuracy wasn’t great.  Partly this was due to the nasty double action trigger, but even rested and using single action, I couldn’t get better than 1½” – 2″ groups at six yards with occasional flyers.  Not particularly great for a pellet shooter with a rifled barrel.  Oddly, the A-3000 LB with the extended barrel didn’t seem to be any better than the original A-3000 in this respect.   The A-3000 can also be used to shoot 4.5mm steel BBs or .177″ lead balls, but I have only tested it with pellets.

Anics claim that the construction of the A-3000 (and the Berkut and A-9000S) provides “20 – 50%” more power than other equivalent air pistols.  On their website they claim up to 400fps for the A-3000 and up to 510fps for the LB version when shooting pellets and up to 560fps when shooting steel BBs. With pellets, my original A-3000 chronoed at around 380 – 400fps and my A-3000 LB at around 410 – 425fps, dependant on temperature.  These are perfectly respectable figures, but only a little better than other equivalent pellet shooting replicas and well short of the 500+fps I have seen claimed elsewhere when shooting pellets with these.  Incidentally, my power figures were measured in double action – for some reason, single action shooting gave around 10fps less on both pistols.

CO2 consumption is about average – I could generally get 50 – 60 shots from a single CO2, but in colder conditions I wasn’t able to shoot two full magazines before the A-3000 ran out of puff.  CO2 consumption seemed to be notably worse when shooting quickly.  I also had a number of random instances of low power shots on both pistols.  The gun would shoot, and a pellet would leave the barrel, but the sound was muted and the pellet seemed to move much more slowly than usual.  I’d guess that these were the result of some sort of partial misfeed rather than any inherent fault with the valve or CO2 system.

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A-3003 Blackbird

As a shooter, there isn’t a great deal to like about the A-3000.  Power is a little better than some other pellet shooting replicas but accuracy is just average and only achievable if you use the pistol in single action.  The double action trigger is so heavy that it’s almost unusable and the A-3000 series do seem to be prone to jammed pellets and random low power shots no matter how carefully you load the magazine.

However, it’s only fair to note that some owners report much better performance from the A-3000 series.  I have seen claims on other sites of over 500fps and consistent groupings of 1″ – 1½” for these replicas.  I don’t dispute these, but I can only say that the two versions I owned didn’t produce these levels of power or accuracy.

Quality and reliability

The A-3000 series generally seem to be well made and finished, but they do seem to be prone to frequent jamming.  If pellets aren’t very carefully tamped into the magazine, the conveyor may fail to index.  However, overenthusiastic tamping can distort skirts and cause a pellet to jam in the barrel, particularly if CO2 pressure is falling.  The worst possible problem is a pellet which jams halfway out of the magazine.  This will cause the pistol to lock up – the trigger can’t be pulled, the magazine won’t release and the slide cannot be removed.  The only remedy is to poke something down the barrel (after removing the CO2!) and try to force the pellet back into the magazine (some versions of the A-3000 come with a jam clearing rod for this purpose), or to knock the muzzle of the pistol against something solid in the hope that the pellet will move into the barrel.

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As the pellet holders in the Anics magazine are made of relatively soft plastic, they do wear over time.  If this happens, pellets won’t be held snugly in place and can slide back and fore, increasing the risk of jams.  Fortunately, replacement magazines are still widely available and relatively cheap.  If you have recurring issues with jamming on an elderly A-3000, it may be worth trying a replacement magazine.

The very heavy trigger pull is a major issue, and the conveyor magazine seems to be responsible for some of this.  Trying the trigger in double action with the magazine removed gave a pull of around 9lbs, still not great but much closer to the figure claimed by Anics.  The conveyor part of the magazine does seem to be very stiff, and dismantling the magazine and using silicone oil or grease to lubricate the channel through which the pellet holders travel does help.  However, doing this just makes the double action pull bad rather than horrible – nothing is going to turn an A-3000 into a creamy smooth shooter.

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Finish on all models seems to be durable, but the slide finish on all but the later A-3003 is very rough.  A number of owners have reported leaks with these replicas, especially from the main CO2 seal, though both of mine sealed perfectly.  I have even seen reports of valves exploding, breaking the slide, though again I have no direct experience of this.

Overall Impression

I have to admit that both my A-3000 replicas spent more time gathering dust at the back of the gun cabinet than being used.  Partly it’s the time-consuming loading process.  You do have to be very careful to tamp pellets down accurately in the magazine, though at least you do get 28 shots without reloading.  Partly it’s the horrible double action trigger pull.  It would be great to shoot off 28 pellets without having to cock the hammer, but unless you have a massively overdeveloped trigger finger, this isn’t going to be possible.  But mostly, it was the indifferent accuracy.  Even after taking time to load pellets carefully and cocking for each single action shot, neither of my A-3000s were particularly accurate.

Conclusion

When the SKIF A-3000 was introduced almost twenty years ago, there were relatively few multi-shot pellet pistols on the market.  Now there are many more to choose from and technology has moved on.  The A-3000 feels like a slightly quirky bit of Russian engineering and it doesn’t always compare well with other designs.  If you compare this replica to (for example) an Umarex Walther CP88 or one of the other early Umarex pellet shooters, you’re unlikely to be impressed.  The SKIF A-3000 is built like a T-72 tank. Which is sort of OK. But something like the Umarex CP88 is built like a 5 series BMW, which for most people is even better.

However, it’s not all bad.  The A-3000 series is robust with a durable finish and all versions come with a spare magazine, which is always welcome.  But you do have to put up with a very nasty double action trigger pull, average accuracy and CO2 consumption and these replicas do seem to be very prone to misfeeds and jamming.  If you don’t want to pay out for an Umarex pellet shooter, for a little less than you’d pay for an A-3000 you could buy a much more recent pellet shooting replica like the ASG CZ P-09 Duty.  The ASG replica doesn’t have a perfect trigger pull, but it’s way, way better than the A-3000 and it’s overall a much better shooter.  Given that, it’s difficult to see why you’d want an A-3000.

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However, if there is an A-3000 shaped gap in your collection, just make sure you take the time to adjust the pellet tamping tool to suit the pellets you’re using and use it every time you load.  Also consider trying new magazines if you continue to have jamming issues.

There are people on-line who will tell you that the SKIF A-3000 series are some of the most accurate and powerful replica pistols ever made.  Neither of mine were, but perhaps I was just unlucky?

Related posts

Anics Beretta A9000S review

ASG CZ P-09 Duty review

Umarex Walther CP88 review

Umarex Beretta 92 FS

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The Beretta 92 FS was one of four (or five, if you count the RWS C225) CO2 powered, pellet shooting semi-auto replicas introduced by Umarex between 1996 – 2000. All shared similar mechanical design, with a rotary pellet holder concealed within a cast zinc alloy body with a moveable front part of the slide which gives access to the loading area. Sixteen years after it was launched, the 92 FS is still part of the Umarex range and is still popular with shooters and collectors. But can a design that’s almost vintage by replica standards really be that good?

Real steel background

The Beretta 92 FS is a development of the original Model 92 and a result of the outcome of the complicated, confusing and controversial process by which the US military selected its new service sidearm in the 70s and 80s.

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Early Beretta 92 with frame-mounted safety

The Beretta 92 design originated in the early 1970s and was intended as a replacement for the elderly Beretta M951. Launched in 1975, the 92 is a short recoil operated, locked breech pistol with an aluminium frame and a distinctive cut-away slide that has become a feature of Beretta pistols. The 92 is chambered for the 9x19mm round, can be operated in SA and DA modes and has an exposed hammer. The earliest models featured a frame mounted safety but the 92S launched in 1976 and all subsequent models featured a slide mounted safety.

The Beretta 92 was adopted by the Brazilian army in 1977 and by Italian law enforcement and military units in 1978. In 1979 the United States Air Force (USAF) was instructed to hold trials to find a replacement for all US military M1911A1 and 38 Special revolvers. The Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP) represented a massive opportunity for sales and semi-auto pistols were submitted by Colt (with the SSP, a development of the 1911 design in stainless steel), Heckler & Koch (with the P95 and the futuristic VP70), Smith & Wesson (with the Model 459), Star Firearms (with the M28) and FN (with variants of the Hi-Power). Beretta submitted the 92S-1, a slightly modified version of the 92S.

In 1980, after over one year of testing, the USAF declared the Beretta 92S-1 the winner. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. In 1981, the US Army challenged the outcome of the JSSAP in Congress, claiming amongst other things that the USAF had used the “wrong kind of mud” in tests. In early 1982, the US Department of Defence declared the results of the JSSAP void, and ordered the US Army to conduct a new series of trials. In May 1982, the US Army declared that all pistols submitted had failed the required tests and this second trial was abandoned.

In 1983, Congress instructed the US Army to re-start testing, this time under the designation XM9 Service Pistol Trial. Pistols were submitted by Smith & Wesson (Model 459A), Heckler & Koch (P7M8 and M13) , Walther (P88), SIG-Sauer (P226), Steyr and FN. Beretta submitted the 92F, a further modification of the original 92 design with a new finish and a re-shaped grip and trigger guard. Testing continued until September 1984 but the announcement of the result was delayed by a legal challenge from H&K and S&W after their designs were eliminated from the trial. Finally, in January 1985, the US Army announced the adoption of the Beretta 92F as the M92 pistol. Orders were placed for over 300,000 pistols.

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US Navy personnel training with the Beretta M9

And that, you might think, would be the end of the story. Except it wasn’t. The M9 was adopted by, amongst many other units, the US Navy SEALs. Several M9s used by SEAL units suffered catastrophic failures, where the slide split in two and the rear half of the slide struck the shooter in the face (“You aren’t a Navy SEAL, Until you’ve tasted Italian steel.“). At the same time lobbying in Congress by S&W resulted in the announcement of yet another trial in early 1989, the XM10 Service Pistol Trial. Beretta submitted the 92 FS, modified with a slide over-travel stop and a re-worked hammer to prevent a broken slide from striking the shooter in the face (the failures in SEAL M92s were later found to be due to the use of over-pressure ammunition rather than any inherent defect in the M9). In May 1989, the Beretta 92 FS was declared the winner (for the third time!) and orders were placed for an additional 60,000 M9s.

So, it took ten years, four rounds of testing, several allegations of misconduct, a Congressional inquiry, legal action, a major fall-out between the US Army and the USAF and a huge amount of suspicion and ill-feeling, but in 1989 the Beretta 92 FS was finally accepted as the standard sidearm for the US Military.

The Umarex Beretta 92 FS

Released in 1998, the Umarex Beretta 92 FS is a replica of the pistol used by the US military and followed the design of the Walther CP88 and Colt 1911 which had preceded it. It’s an all-metal design and up to eight .177″ pellets are held in a rotary holder which is loaded by pressing down on the takedown lever, which allows the front part of the slide to move forward, exposing the loading area. CO2 is retained inside the grip and accessed by removing the right side grip. The ambidextrous slide mounted safety is fully operational though it does not incorporate a de-cocking function.

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Early glossy black finish 92 FS with walnut grips

The 92 FS was originally available in black or nickel finish with black plastic or walnut grips. The original black finish was a glossy, polished finish but this was later changed to a more matt, bead-blasted finish. In 2014, a matt grey finish version was introduced as the 92 FS Sniper Grey. All versions are mechanically identical.

Umarex originally supplied a (non-functioning) compensator in black and nickel finish as an accessory for the 92 FS. Unlike the Umarex Walther CP88, the compensator on the 92 FS is not used to conceal a longer barrel or to increase the sight radius – it’s just a cosmetic addition and I’m not certain that it is still available. Umarex also supply a rail which can be attached in place of the rear sight and which allows the mounting of an optical sight.

Spec;

Calibre: .177″ pellet

Magazine capacity: 8 pellets

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4.52″ rifled

Weight: 1260g

Overall length: 210mm

Sights: Notch and post, rear sight has windage adjustment

Action: SA/DA

Packaging and presentation 4/5

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Gloss finish 92 FS in early style case

The Umarex Beretta is supplied in a plastic hard case with a foam insert. Earlier models were supplied in a blue hard case with foam cut-away to accept the pistol and accessories. Later models are supplied in a black case with generic, eggshell type foam. All versions are supplied with two rotary pellet carriers and a hex key for sight adjustment and both styles of case can be used to store the 92 FS with a compensator attached.

Visual accuracy 9/10

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Beretta 92 FS (left), Umarex Beretta 92 FS (right)

The Umarex Beretta 92 FS is a very good visual replica of the original. Every line and contour of the original is accurately reproduced, the sharpness and details of the castings is outstanding and the join between the front and rear part of the slide is unobtrusive and concealed by the slide serrations. The safety, takedown lever and magazine release are all operational (even though they don’t perform the same function as they do on the original) and even the non-functional slide release is cast as a separate part and looks convincing. The looks are enhanced by accurate Beretta markings on the slide and grips.

Functional accuracy 5/15

Given its design, the Umarex Beretta 92 FS is never going to be as a functional replica as a blowback design. The rear part of the slide doesn’t move, there is no drop-out magazine, there is virtually no felt recoil when shooting and only the manual safety operates in the same way as it does on the original (though it doesn’t include a de-cocking function).

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That said, this has more convincing weight and heft than most blowback replicas. It’s one of the few replicas which actually weighs more than the loaded cartridge version. The hammer and trigger action are also very close to those of the original. So, ironically, while it doesn’t mimic the functionality of a cartridge firing semi-auto pistol, this handles and shoots more like a firearm than many more functionally accurate replicas.

Shooting 37/40

CO2 is retained inside the grip and the CO2 chamber is accessed by pressing the magazine release, which causes the right side grip to pop out. A hinged pad at the base of the grip is pulled down, the thumbwheel is loosened and the CO2 cartridge is placed inside. The thumbwheel is then tightened, and the CO2 is pierced by pressing the hinged pad flat against the base of the grip. This is best done with a sharp slap from the palm of the hand – if you try to close the pad slowly, there will be a notable loss of gas.

926Pellets are then loaded into the rotary pellet carrier. It’s worth taking time to ensure that all pellets are firmly tamped down into the carrier – if not, the carrier may fail to index, causing the pistol to jam. The front part of the slide is opened by operating the takedown lever, the pellet carrier is placed inside and the front part of the slide is pushed to the rear until it latches. You’re then ready to shoot.

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The sights on the 92 FS are a simple notch and post design with no white dots or aiming aids. They’re clear and easy to read except against very dark backgrounds. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage by loosening the small hex screw on top of the sight – a suitably sized hex key is supplied. The 92 FS can be fired in double or single action. The double action trigger pull is fairly long and moderately heavy, but it is smooth, consistent and has a clear break point. Manually cocking the hammer also indexes the pellet carrier, so this replica has a true single action trigger pull which is short, light and crisp. The trigger action is very nice indeed in DA and SA – creamy smooth with no catches or graunches and with a clear and consistent break.

Like most of the Umarex pellet shooters, the 92 FS shoots with a loud and satisfying bang. It’s notably louder than most BB shooting replicas though not so loud that you’re likely to upset the neighbours or require ear protection.

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Six shots, 6 yards, RWS CO2 target pellets. Inner (black) circle is just over 1″ diameter

Most owners report power close to the claimed 400fps. I chronoed both my 92s on a chilly day in November and got a very reasonable average of around 375 fps for both. Accuracy is very good. Both my 92s were capable of grouping at around 1″ at six yards and at about 1½” – 2″ at ten yards. I also shot the 92 FS on several occasions at 25m, something I don’t normally bother with on a replica pistol with iron sights. At 25m from a rested position the 92 FS was capable of placing all eight shots within a 6″ square target and could probably realistically group at 4″ or less. At 25m I find that I’m at the limit at the abilities of my eyesight for shooting with open sights, and any error is likely as much down to me as the pistol. Flat fronted target type pellets seem to work well in the 92 FS, though if you are shooting at ranges of over 20m, you might want to try pointed or domed pellets as these seem to be more accurate at longer ranges.

CO2 consumption is good. I was generally getting between 55 – 70 full power shots from my 92s depending on temperature.

Overall, this is a very good shooter indeed. It’s as good as any of the Umarex pellet shooters at 6m, and does seem to be slightly better at longer range. I don’t know why that should be, and it may simply be that the 92 FS suits my style and eyesight better, but both examples I have owned seemed to be effective shooters at 10m and over.

Quality and reliability 14/15

The Umarex Beretta 92 FS is well made and finished and suffers from few reliability problems. One issue which seems to affect most of the Umarex pellet shooters which use the rotary pellet carrier is a tendency for the screw which retains the front part of the slide to loosen and even to strip its thread. The screw is located below the muzzle, in the position occupied by the guide rod on the original. If this fails or comes loose, the front part of the slide will fly off the gun when the slide release is operated. Problems can be avoided by periodically checking that this screw is tight and by cushioning the forward movement of the slide when you operate the release lever (while being careful to keep your hand away from the muzzle!).

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Seals do wear eventually, but replacements are readily available. The complex trigger and indexing mechanism benefits from regular lubrication, though this requires splitting the casing halves and may be something best left to a professional unless you’re confident to reassemble a range of tiny pins, springs and sears. The rifled barrel also benefits from regular cleaning. Very rarely, the front sight on the 92 FS has been known to come loose with extended use. This can be fixed by using a dab of superglue when re-attaching the sight.

Otherwise, this is a very reliable and long-lasting replica. The finish in particular appears to be very hard wearing and durable. The 92 FS seems to accept a range of pellet types, but both examples I have owned gace the most consistent results at 6 – 10m with flat-fronted, target type pellets.

Overall Impression 13/15

In some ways, this feels like a throwback to an earlier period. Remember when replicas felt as if they were assembled and finished by craftsmen rather than churned out in an anonymous Asian factory? That’s how the 92 FS feels. It exudes quality and thoughtful design and doesn’t give the impression that any element has been built down to a price. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the few currently available replicas which is manufactured, assembled, finished, assembled and tested in Germany.

There are those who argue that the later matt black finish doesn’t look as good as the earlier glossy finish, and there may be some truth to this. But pick up a 92 FS compared to almost any other replica made within the last five years and it feels like a better quality product in almost every way. It may cost twice as much as some other replicas, but you get the feeling it’ll last much longer. As ever, you get what you pay for.

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And it’s a great shooter too. It’s probably the most accurate multi-shot replica I have owned at ranges of 10m and even 25m. Combine this with a creamy smooth trigger and reliable and long lasting mechanicals and you have a satisfying replica that should last for years.

The black and nickel finish 92 FS and the new Sniper Grey version are still part of the Umarex range. The nickel finish version is available with walnut grips and I believe that Umarex also still sell the wood grips separately for this model. These are expensive, but they do transform the looks of this replica. One thing to note is that the wood grips seem to have a slightly more rounded profile than the plastic versions, making the grip more bulky. If you find the standard grip of the 92 FS rather wide, you may want to think carefully before fitting wood grips.

Conclusion

Given its design and the lack of blowback, the Umarex 92 FS doesn’t replicate the feeling of shooting the cartridge version in the way that blowback versions do. However, balanced against this 92 FS is way more powerful and accurate than most blowback designs – this is one of the very few replica pistols I have owned with which I could reliably place a shot on a standard size target at 25m. It’s also very nicely made and finished – the quality of the castings is outstanding, early glossy versions in particular look superb and the finish seems to be very hard wearing and chip and scratch-resistant. I’d go so far as to say that a black or nickel version with walnut grips is one of the best looking replicas you can own.

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This is also a weighty replica with the heft and feel of a firearm. This is good – if you want to persuade someone of how realistic replicas can be in terms of feel, hand them a 92 FS. But it’s also a drawback. Like the original, the Umarex 92 FS is bulky and can feel very heavy if you’re shooting for extended periods. The 92 FS probably isn’t the ideal choice if you have small hands or weak wrists.

Overall, I probably prefer shooting the Umarex 1911 over the 92 FS at 6m, simply because that pistol is slimmer and a little lighter. But despite their mechanical similarities, I found the 92 FS to be the better pistol at longer ranges, and the SA and DA trigger action is just wonderful.

This is a great looking, powerful and accurate replica, and provided you can deal with its bulk and weight, a fantastic shooter. Grab a black one, find a set of walnut grips and you’ll have an attractive, accurate and satisfying air pistol that will still be shooting long after most other replicas have been consigned to the spares box. They don’t make ’em like this any more. Except fortunately, they do!

Total score: 82/100

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Related pages:

Umarex Walther CP88 review

Umarex Walther CP99 review

Umarex Colt 1911 review

Cybergun GSG92 review

KJ Works M9 review

Buy

You can buy the nickel finish version of the Umarex Beretta 92 FS at Pyramid Air here.

Links

Beretta 92 FS on the Umarex website