Another rather nice-looking new CO2 replica from Umarex. This time, it’s a replica of the Smith and Wesson Model 29 from 1957, made famous by a certain “Dirty” Harry Callahan as “the most powerful handgun in the world.”
This replica is available in three barrel lengths: 83/8”, 6½” and 3”. At least, I think it is: The Umarex USA site claims 83/8”, 5” and 3.” Whatever, this looks rather nice. It appears to be a good visual replica of the Model 29 and it has a fully revolving, swing-out cylinder so functionality looks good too.
This version shoots 4.5mm BBs only, but I would guess that perhaps we’ll see a pellet shooting version soon. Finish look very good indeed on both polished alloy and black, and the black version in particular looks like a convincing representation of blued steel.
These are weighty, all-metal replicas – the longest version weighs a wrist-trembling 2.63lbs (1193g). The only thing I’m not so sure about are those hollow plastic grips. Will these look like wood? Will they make this revolver feel unbalanced? We’ll have to wait to find out.
For a time it seemed that the only new replicas coming out of Umarex were additional Glocks, so it’s great to see some new replicas of historic handguns. I’m certainly looking forward to this one!
I have no information about when this will be available outside the US or what it will cost. Here’s a link to the Model 29 replica on the Umarex.com website
If you have read my review on the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c, you’ll know that I like it a lot. It’s a replica I shoot often and it gives consistent groups at six yards (the range at which I most often shoot). However, after a few hundred shots it shoots just over 2″ low using the recommended 0.2g BBs at that range. Now, I find that very irritating. I prefer a pistol that shoots high to one that shoots low, so I wondered if it might be possible to do something about it? The M&P 9c doesn’t have adjustable sights, I can’t easily modify the sights to improve things and I don’t want to fit a laser or some form of optical sight. So why not adjust the hop-up I hear you say? Well, in my experience with GBB pistols, hop-up makes little difference at six yards. It’s not completely ineffective, but I have found that adjusting hop-up will change the point of impact by only ½” or so at this range. Useful for fine-tuning, but not to correct an error of over 2″.
There is no point in trying to improve the accuracy of your replica until it is giving consistent results. A combination of the pistol wearing in and you getting used to it is likely to change where your shots are striking over the first few hundred shots. I have now used my S&W M&P 9c enough to be confident that, with 0.2g BBs, it shoots just over two inches low and a hair to the right at six yards. For all testing, I used the pistol rested (to remove as far as possible errors due to my technique) and for each test I fired a string of ten shots with a fresh fill of gas. Although I show only one picture of each set of results below, I shot many, many more in the course of researching this article.
Ten shots, six yards, rested, 0.2g BBs. Group is 2″ and the centre of the group is just over 2″ below the point of aim (centre of the black circle)
So, I have established the problem. But what’s the solution? The first thing to consider is BB weight. The recommended BB for this replica is 0.2g. In general, heavier BBs will lower the point of impact while lighter BBs will raise it. So, the first thing to try is 0.12g BBs to see if that will raise the point of impact.
Ten shots, six yards, rested, 0.12g BBs. Group is 3.75″ and the centre of the group is approximately 1½” below the point of aim (centre of the black circle)
Sure enough, using the lighter BBs has raised the centre of the group by around ½”, but the grouping is much worse. It’s clear that I won’t be using 0.12g BBs in this pistol. Just to check, I also try heavier 0.25g BBs.
Ten shots, six yards, rested, 0.25g BBs. Group is under 2″ but the centre of the group is almost 3″ below the point of aim (centre of the black circle)
As expected, the heavier BBs hit the target even lower, around 3″ from the point of aim. Grouping is good, but using different BB weights doesn’t seem to be the answer here.
So, what is the answer?
Next, time to have a look at the pistol and see if we can find anything that might be causing the problem. It doesn’t take long to find that the inner barrel is a very loose fit inside the outer barrel. With the pistol held level, the inner barrel is actually drooping slightly, which may be contributing to shooting low. The reason is easy to see.
The brass inner barrel is fitted with an O ring near the muzzle end. This is generally a good idea, because it helps to stabilise the inner barrel inside the outer barrel. Unfortunately, it isn’t working at all here.
With the inner barrel in place, the O ring is actually within the wider, threaded section of the outer barrel and isn’t making contact with the outer barrel at all. Hopefully the diagram below explains the problem (sizes and gaps are obviously exaggerated for clarity).
What can you do about it? A suppressor which screwed into the threaded part of the outer barrel might do the trick. If I had access to a lathe, I’d be tempted to cut a new O ring groove on the inner barrel about 15mm to the rear of the existing groove. This would then seat the O ring within the narrower (unthreaded) part of the outer barrel. However, I don’t have a lathe or a suppressor, so I need a simpler solution. The easiest is to add some packing to the bottom of the inside of the outer barrel, which will make the inner barrel sit straighter. After some experimentation, I used two layers of packing, each made up of a 3mm wide strip of duct tape approximately 40mm long, stuck inside the bottom of the outer barrel. Depending on what you use as packing you may need more or fewer layers. You’re aiming to have the inner barrel still able to move freely inside the outer barrel, but to be supported at the bottom. It’s a little fiddly to place the packing precisely, but it’s worth taking time to get it straight as if it’s off to one side, it will push the barrel off-centre.
With the packing in place, I tried shooting some more, concentrating on 0.2g BBs.
Ten shots, six yards, rested, 0.2g BBs, with barrel packing in place. Group is over 2″ but is centred much closer to the point of aim
OK, this is much better. It’s now time to start fine tuning by adjusting the hop-up. Moving one increment at a time, I tested until I was able to produce reasonable groups which are centred for elevation precisely on the point of aim.
Ten shots, six yards, rested, 0.2g BBs, with barrel packing in place and hop-up adjusted. Excluding the flyer on the right, the group is under 2″ and is centred for elevation on the point of aim
Well, that was easy! With a minimum of effort, I have been able to improve the accuracy of my Cybergun S&W M&P 9c. With a three inch barrel it’s never going to be a tack-driver, but at least now I’m consistently producing groups right on the point of aim. The additional packing inside the outer barrel can’t be seen at all, and after around 100 shots is showing no signs of coming loose or affecting the performance of the pistol.
A poor fit between inner and outer barrels is a common issue on GBB pistols. Sometimes it doesn’t cause major problems, though it can contribute to inconsistent grouping. In the case of the S&W M&P 9c, it seems to have been the cause of the pistol shooting low and this simple fix it has increased my enjoyment of this replica.
As you’ll know if you have read the review (link at the end of this article) I really liked the 6mm Walther PPQ M2 produced by VFC for Umarex. I looked around to see what else VFC have done, and found the S&W M&P in full size and compact versions, produced for Cybergun. I really like compact pistols and I rather like Smith & Wessons, so finding the next pistol to review wasn’t difficult. But would it be as good as the Walther? Well…
Real steel background
By the late 1980s, Smith & Wesson was in decline. Gun sales, especially in the lucrative US market, were relatively flat. Military and law enforcement agencies, the traditional market for S&W revolvers, were looking to swap their revolvers for semi-automatic weapons and Glock and Beretta were taking large chunks of the market away from S&W. By 1986, profits were 41% down compared to 1982. In 1987, S&W was bought over by British firm Tomkins PLC.
In 1994, S&W released their first polymer framed semi-automatic pistol – the generally unfavoured Sigma. In 1997 the firm were sued by Glock for trademark infringement which led to a multi-million dollar payment to Glock and modification of the Sigma. So there was a lot at stake when S&W started development of an all new semi-auto pistol intended primarily for law enforcement use in the early 2000s.
S&W M&P 9mm
The outcome in 2005 was the S&W M&P series of semi auto pistols. Although these may look similar to other hammerless, polymer framed, short recoil operated, locked breech pistols, there are actually a couple of important differences. First of all, rather than being all polymer, a stainless steel chassis is cast inside the grip and frame. Providing, S&W claim, the lightness and good ergonomics of a polymer framed pistol with the strength and durability of a steel design. The design of the stainless steel slide is also different as the slide runs on four ovoid metal blocks at the corners of the frame. The M&P was initially available chambered for 9x19mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W cartridges and with barrel lengths from 3″ – 5″. In 2007 a version chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge was released with a 4.5″ barrel.
S&W M&P 9c
In 2006 the M&P Compact was released, featuring a shorter grip, smaller magazine and 3.5″ barrel. The Compact version is functionally, technically and visually similar to the full size M&P. Like the full size version, the Compact is provided with a steel reinforced polymer frame and is available chambered for 9x19mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W cartridges.
The Cybergun Smith & Wesson M&P 9c
The Cybergun S&W M&P 9c is a replica of the 9mm compact version of the S&W M&P pistol. This is a gas powered, blowback, 6mm replica featuring a metal slide, polymer frame and grip (though without a steel chassis) and with full S&W markings. Cybergun also offer a full-size S&W M&P. The Cybergun S&W M&P 9C and the full size M&P are manufactured in Taiwan by Vega Force Company (VFC).
There are a couple of other version of the M&P available in 6mm: KWC produce a version of the full-size M&P and WE Tech produce the Big Bird and Little Bird, which look very similar to the full size and compact M&P but aren’t licensed. And, by the way, a note to whoever chooses the model names at WE: Come on guys, “Big Bird” and “Little Bird” may sound fine in Taiwanese, but in English these are just really stupid names for guns, OK? Umarex also do two CO2 powered replicas of the M&P: the 4.5mm BB shooting M&P 40 and the .177 pellet and 4.5mm BB shooting M&P 45. Neither of the Umarex versions feature blowback.
Magazine capacity: 14 BBs
Propellant: Airsoft gas
Barrel length: 3″
Overall length: 170mm
Sights: Front: fixed, blade, white dot. Rear: Windage adjustable, notch, white dots.
Action: SA only
Packaging and presentation 2/5
The Cybergun S&W M&P 9c comes in a rather plain card box and features the pistol, one magazine, two alternative backstraps and a short user manual.
My M&P 9c arrived with an orange plastic tip glued in place. This was easily removed, but note that these orange tips are a legal requirement in some areas, so don’t remove this without first checking that this is OK where you live.
This replica also comes with a small plastic bag containing some very tiny parts. There is a serial number plate (featuring what appears to be a unique serial number) and inserts for the front and rear sights. The sight inserts take the form of very small, opaque circular white inserts, and really tiny transparent inserts which fit inside these. Why VFC don’t just fit these at the factory, I can’t imagine. Take great care when fitting – one sneeze and they’re gone! Oh, and you also get a magazine insert which allows the pistol to be fired without BBs and without the slide locking back.
My M&P 9c arrived totally lacking any lubricant and required a full lube before the slide would cycle reliably.
Like the VFC Walther PPQ M2, this is about as good as it gets for visual accuracy. The Cybergun S&W M&P 9c is indistinguishable from the original firearm. Every line and contour of the original are replicated and all markings are precisely the same as on the original. There is nothing here that isn’t on the original -no “F” mark for the German market, no “Cal. 6mm“. Look, I particularly hate white safety text printed on my replicas, but even the safety text here (CAUTION CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED”) printed on the right of the slide is a copy of the text on original. Even the inner barrel is deeply recessed and difficult to see. I don’t see how you could have a better visual replica than this – full marks
Functional accuracy 14/15
At under 600g, the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c is light, but its small size makes the weight seem reasonable and it has very good balance. And it’s only around 20g lighter than the (unloaded) cartridge version.
The slide moves through a full range of travel and locks back on empty. Both left and right slide release catches work (after a little modification – see the Quality and Reliability section below for more information). The takedown latch works as per the original. The S&W M&P 9c has no manual safety and can’t be de-cocked, once it is cocked, the only way to decock is to discharge the pistol without gas in the magazine.
The magazine latches and releases as per the original. The trigger is a good replication of the original, with a short, light action. Even the two-piece trigger safety works as it should. If you try to pull the upper part of the trigger only, the pistol will not fire.
This is a very, very good functional replica and would make a useful training and practice weapon for users of the firearm version.
Whether it shooting BBs or bullets, a pistol with a short barrel is generally going to be less accurate than a pistol with a long barrel. Part of the reason is that the longer barrel gives the projectile more time to stabilise, making flyers less likely. But the main reason is that the sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sights) is smaller on a short barrelled pistol. The shorter the sight radius, the harder it is for your eyes to detect minor changes in the position of the front sight. The S&W M&P 9c has a sight radius of just 140mm. Combine this with a 3″ barrel, and it’s clear this isn’t going to be winning any accuracy prizes.
However, a small number of compact pistols have a grip that fits my hand perfectly, and the the S&W M&P 9c falls in to this category. The front of the grip is just long enough to allow a good grip with all my fingers, and the shorter rear of the grip has a curved end which fits precisely into the hollow of my palm, at the base of my thumb. The result is a pistol which seems to lock in to my hand perfectly, making it a pleasure to grip and shoot.
The blowback on this replica is strong and snappy, making it feel more powerful than it is. The sight inserts, though fiddly to fit, are easy to acquire and the sight picture is very good indeed. The result is a pistol that will shoot 2″ groups at six yards, which isn’t bad, though it does shoot about 1½” low with 0.20g BBs. However, it excels at rapid fire snap shooting, which does spread the groups out a little. It also locks back reliably on empty and (now that I have fixed the slide release – see the Quality and Reliability section below for more information) is completely ambidextrous. The magazine holds just 14 BBs (the manual says 16, but it’s not actually possible to squeeze more than 14 into the stubby loading chamber).
One of the things that really surprised me with the S&W M&P 9c was gas efficiency. With a relatively small size mag, I had expected two mags worth (28 shots) per fill. Maybe. What I got (at around 70°F and using Umarex Elite Force airsoft gas) was 55 – 60 full power shots per fill, with maybe 5 or six more before it ran out ofpuff. After around 50 shots, power and accuracy were dropping, but still, that’s almost four mags worth of full power shots from a single fill of a short, stubby magazine. Highly impressive.
Quality and reliability 9/15
There some really nice detail touches on the S&W M&P 9c. I like the unique serial number, the slide casting is very good indeed and the distinctive serrations are well replicated and crisply moulded. The outer barrel and slide rod are metal rather than plastic and the front sight is drifted in place rather than moulded. The finish on the slide is nicely done (though I don’t suppose it’ll be any more durable than the finish on any other Taiwanese replica) and matches the finish of the polymer frame very well. The alternate rubberised backstraps are a nice feature and ensure a good grip for most hand sizes and the sight inserts work very well. The finish on the slide looks reasonably durable and matches the finish on the frame and grip.
However, there are things that just aren’t done well. Take the ambidextrous slide release for example. As a lefty, this is important to me, and it’s one of the reasons I bought this pistol. The internal mechanism appears to be faithfully modelled on the original, and should work on both sides. However, the operating arms and the sear which engages with the notch in the slide are made of plastic, and if you try to use the control on the right side of the gun, the whole arrangement flexes so much that it fails to release the slide. Looking on-line, most owners report the same thing (most other reviews actually describe the right-hand slide release as “non-functional“, which is sort of correct, but it certainly isn’t designed to be that way!), so I don’t think this is just a fault with mine. I find this very disappointing. What’s the point in spending time and money designing and manufacturing a feature to work, then executing it so poorly that it can’t possibly function? Beats me. It’s easily fixed (I’ll post a how-to article if anyone is interested) but it shouldn’t need to be.
And what about the outer barrel? It’s threaded, presumably to take a silencer, but the process of threading has caused the front 15mm or so to bulge slightly on mine, occasionally making it bind in the slide which fails to move fully forward. It’s also notable that the hole in the slide is oval rather than round, which is evident when looking at the front of the pistol and may be part of the reason it shoots low. And the magazine release is a one-piece plastic moulding which feels as if it’s made of the same soft plastic that was used on my Airfix toy soldiers back in the 1960s. These things don’t ruin this replica, but they do make me wonder if testing and quality control are concepts VFC are familiar with. And using plastic parts in hard-used components like the slide and magazine releases makes me question how long it will all keep working?
This isn’t a terrible quality replica by any means, but my feeling is that it’s not up to the standard of some other modern Taiwanese replicas and it certainly isn’t as good as, for example, the Walther PPQ which VFC also make. This seems as though it has been built down to a price to make a good visual replica but without ensuring efficient, reliable and long-lasting function.
Overall Impression 12/15
Size comparison with the Umarex Walther PPQ M2
If replicas were dogs, this would be a Jack Russell puppy – small, a little ugly and a bit snappy, but kind of cute and lots of fun. Quality isn’t always fantastic and it’s not the most powerful or accurate shooter. But visually it’s indistinguishable from the cartridge version and it fits my hand perfectly. High quality, precision tool? No. But lots of fun all the same.
As noted above, I have mixed feelings about the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c. It has a couple of faults (the poor fit between outer barrel and slide, the bulge in the outer barrel and the non-functioning right hand slide release, for example) which could and should have been sorted before it left the factory. It’s also fairly light, I worry about how long some of the internal plastic components will last and the full-auto mode seems like a pointless gimmick.
And yet, here’s the thing – I like it and enjoy shooting with it far more than the score below might suggest. It’s my go-to gun when I want a quick blast of airsoft therapy. It seems to fit my hand very well indeed and it’s just such fun to shoot. Snappy blowback, very good gas efficiency and just about enough power and accuracy to be lots of fun. I also like the way it looks – it’s difficult to see how you could have a more visually accurate replica. So, I’ll probably have to leave you to make your own decision on this one. If you like compact pistols, try handling and shooting one of these. If it feels as good to you as it does to me, you may want one despite its faults. If not, well, the VFC Walther PPQ M2 is still a fine replica…