Training with a handgun can be an expensive and time consuming proposition. Even when bought in bulk, ammo can be pricey, and you need to go to a dedicated range or safe shooting location to practice with your gun. Other training, such as drawing from a holster can be safely and easily done with an unloaded gun in your own home, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could practice shooting your favorite handgun in your garage?
The market for air pistols that accurately mimic the look, feel and function of their firearm cousins has been growing for years now. Not only is it an attractive source of licensing revenue to firearms companies, but it provides a means for people not old enough to buy a real handgun, or who live in locations that severely restrict access to handguns a means to acquire something very similar. Plus, a quality airgun is just plain fun, and why not get one that looks and feels like your favorite firearm? Most importantly, they are a fabulous training tool, and at a fraction of the cost of a real pistol. Just as there are a multitude of handguns on the market, there are a multitude of airgun copies. Some are licensed by the manufacturer, some are simply clever copies. All vary in quality. We are going to look at several of these, and consider the ways in which they can aid you in training, marksmanship, and give you a chance to shoot year round at a minimal cost, while improving your skill with your favorite firearm.
One of the all time favorite handguns in the United States, the venerable Model of 1911 has been used in every conflict fought by US armed forces through the present day, and was the primary issue sidearm into the 1980’s. Today, the 1911 can be had in almost any sort of configuration you might want, from inexpensive .22’s to high end custom .45’s and several exotic calibers. Versions in 9mm, and even .380 can readily be had, along with .38 Super and other centerfire handgun rounds. However, the 1911 isn’t always the cheapest gun to get into, nor is it especially cheap to shoot in most cases. Plus, a full size, .45 isn’t something you can readily shoot in your backyard or your garage. However, the surprisingly affordable solution to regular shooting a 1911 is to get a CO2 powered version. With versions well under $100, there is an airgun that suits your needs.
A number of different choices exist, ranging from cheap to nearly the cost of an entry level 1911. However, they all offer the same advantages- namely the ability to practice with a 1911 style handgun, without the expense and legal restrictions. With some carry guns costing well over a thousand bucks, it is far more preferable to practice drawing with an inexpensive airgun, rather than the real deal.
But which one should you get? If you want to save some coin, but still practice with a airgun with recoil action, you really can’t beat the smoothbore BB firing Crossman GI model 1911 as an added bonus, it is a reasonable replica of a USGI style 1911, and features standard 1911 controls. While the smooth bore will hamper accuracy, if you are just plinking in your backyard or garage, it is really a moot point, plus the cost savings on ammo make this an even more attractive bargain. Grab some cheap CO2 cylinders and a carton of BB’s and you can have untold hours of cheap fun that builds muscle memory for your real 1911.
On the higher end is the German made, Colt licensed pellet pistol. Also CO2 powered, this high end airgun features an 8 shot magazine which better mimics standard 1911 configurations. Built of durable die cast metal and finished with a black oxide finish, this elite quality airgun is for the discerning 1911 owner who wants a quality plinker for the backyard, or lives in a restrictive jurisdiction that makes acquiring the real deal difficult.
Old Time Classics
Another compelling reason to buy quality airgun replicas of real firearms is when the real deal simply isn’t readily available or affordable. One classic example is the all metal Umarex WWII Limited Edition Luger. This CO2 powered, blowback action BB gun is an authentic of the famous P08 Luger, used in two different world wars. Because the days of hundred dollar Lugers has been over for decades, if you want a Luger your only choice is to stare sadly at your wallet and hand over an increasingly large sum of cash. Or, you can buy a quality air gun and call it good. This high quality replica has the same look and feel of the Luger, without the depressingly hefty price tag.
Not content with making a simple external replica of the Luger, Umarex has made a replica that partly field strips like the real thing, and comes with a unique battleworn finish that is both aesthetically pleasing and historically accurate. And if you are lucky enough to own a Luger, then shooting an airgun will save you wear and tear on your valuable relic.
For many, this replica gun will be the closest they can get to the real deal, and it is also ideal for reenacting, costuming, or as a film prop. The realistic blowback action, completes the illusion, and each shot costs a couple cents, making it a far more appealing proposition than shooting real 9mm ammo.
This one though is my favorite
“Broomhandle” Mauser pistols are expensive and hard to come by. Legal full auto versions are even tougher to get. But for a hundred bucks or so, you can get a visually authentic BB firing replica, making it a real bargain in the airgun world. Full auto BB pistols are hard to come by, so it only makes sense to make a replica of one of the most well known early full auto pistols. Unless you are lucky enough to have the price of a new car laying around, and live in a state that allows ownership of registered machine guns, you’ll never get a chance to play with a full auto Broomhandle… unless of course, you pick up this gem from Umarex. Complete with an 18 round BB magazine, there is no real reason not to get one of these clever replicas.
The Ultimate Revolver
Dan Wesson is famous for high quality revolvers. If you are fortunate enough to own one, you already understand why they are the gold standard for custom quality double action revolvers. If you don’t own one, you probably wish you did, and for everyone, this licensed Dan Wesson six shot CO2 revolver is a must have for your collection. No matter if you are taking the cheaper way out, and buying a premium quality airgun, or want something to practice with indoors or in the backyard that isn’t your Dan Wesson, there is no better solution. If you’ve already got a Dan Wesson revolver, then you might as well keep up your skills between shooting sessions by plinking in the backyard, and if you can’t get one, then this is your best chance to enjoy Dan Wesson quality.
Because this is a pellet gun, you’ll enjoy target quality accuracy, meaning you can develop real world shooting skills on the cheap, and in the comfort of your own home when using a safe shooting backstop. The price is right, the name is right, the quality is right. Why not add this unique six shooter to your gun safe?
The Justification for Airguns
While some dismiss airguns as cheap kid’s toys, or poor quality substitutes for the real thing, the truth is radically different. Serious airguns have been appreciated by serious shooters since the late 18th Century. The first issued military repeating rifles were deadly fast and deadly quiet Austrian air rifles, one of which was carried on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and was used to hunt deer sized game. Today, airguns range from cheap airsoft and BB guns, to high end hunting weapons capable of taking down wild boar. In between, there are all sorts of quality airguns suitable for target shooting, small game hunting, and most any other legitimate use for a projectile weapon. What is perhaps most interesting for firearms owners, is the ability of an airgun to mimic a given firearm, and allow the owner to practice handling and marksmanship more safely, and at a lower cost and with greater convenience to themselves. While it is true nothing can replace firing a real firearm, an airgun can offer almost everything but recoil, noise and picking up piles of spent brass.
When handling a gun, muscle memory is one of the most important things to learn. This allows you to instinctively operate your weapon under stress, and through force of habit, rather than slowing down to recall what actions to take in order to turn off the safety, cock a hammer, chamber a round, change a magazine or the like. For nearly every common task of a firearm, you can practice with an airgun. This is particularly important when you may not want to risk damaging your firearm through accidentally dropping it during holster drills. Equally important, once you set up a safe shooting area with a proper backstop, you can engage in firing drills without the risk and expense of firing live ammunition. Many quality airguns duplicate the sights, safety, and magazine controls of real guns, and allow the shooter to become proficient in their use, even in the comfort of their garage.
Replica airguns are also a great way to introduce children and teenagers to gun safety and to allow them to practice on something that duplicates a real firearm. Along these same lines, an airgun is often easier to acquire than a real firearm, and most restrictive jurisdictions in the United States do not regulate airguns as they do regular firearms, which allows persons who want to own something resembling an actual firearm the chance to do so without intrusive licensing and registration schemes.
We have also seen that replica airguns are a great way to shoot something resembling a historical firearm, without the expense. There are many different historical replicas available, which allows a person the chance to build a collection of historical guns at nominal price, and to enjoy the legacy and history behind them, without resorting to firing antiques and relics.
All in all, there are many good reasons to own an airgun replica of your favorite handgun, ranging from acquiring unusual and rare patterns, to simply plinking away in your garage with your favorite style of handgun. The low cost, relative safety, and similar function ensure many happy hours of shooting fun.