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Air Pistols Special 2019

Mark Camoccio looks at what we can expect from pneumatic and spring air pistols in 2019

The air pistol is arguably the hardest form of shooting to master, yet the challenge can be very rewarding. Learning to shoot a handgun of any sort is far harder than a rifle, simply because of the lack of proper support in a one-handed stance, or for that matter, two. Add in the inherently slow lock time of an airgun, and it’s clear we need to focus a little more on technique, to get the most from the discipline.

Or do we? Take one look at the incredible selection of air pistols now available, with a significant number aimed at the fun sector of the market, and there really is no need to get too hung up on the right approach. CO2 means multi shot, fast fire fun, and I’ve included five wonderfully different models in this line-up. There are three PCPs for those who favour a more precise approach, and also two of my favourite power plant- the self-contained single stroke pneumatic; so, overall, a good taster of what is currently available.



    One of the very latest models from Umarex, is their RP5, and this is powered by two 12g CO2 capsules that both fill a main chamber. Considering many guns of this type reach 2 ft/lbs energy if you’re lucky, the RP5’s unique valve system does impress, with higher power available in the region of 4.2 ft/lbs on test. The design sees the forend used as a pump action to cycle a 5-shot magazine, but this model has been designed to be single loaded too, with the magazine removed. There’s a choked and shrouded barrel, and a modular system which can accept accessories further down the line. Open sights and a 2-stage trigger come as standard but bear in mind that this model has been designed to be fitted with a shoulder stock (sold as an optional extra) and it’s clear that it’s a versatile pistol for sure.

    RRP: £260

    Contact: John Rothery (Wholesale); www.bisley-uk.com

    Pros: Versatile and higher than average power for CO2

    Cons: Reliant on CO2 capsules

    Verdict: Well made & fun to shoot



    As mentioned, CO2 as a power source often means fast fire fun shooting, and the Iceman pistol from huge American manufacturer, Crosman, offers just that. For what we have here is an 8-shot repeating pistol, that can fire either BBs or pellets. It also offers the options of single action or double action operation, along with a manual safety catch, and even has a Picatinny rail built in. Construction is nearly all synthetic, and it does feel pretty light, but handles well, and looks fair for the asking price. The magazine clip is exposed by pulling forward the tiny catch on top of the frame and letting the mag assembly spring upwards. Once filled, snap down the top assembly, and the Iceman is ready. On test, we found shooting double action with pellets was the way to go, and it gave a good account of itself.

    RRP: £80

    Contact: Anglo Spanish Imports; www.a-s-i.co.uk

    Pros: Easy to use

    Cons: Cheaper feel to plastic body than some

    Verdict: A fun pistol that’s good value



    Weihrauch’s first PCP pistol, and unsurprisingly, it’s a winner. A distinctive ballistic polymer frame and action arrangement is based on the company’s HW110 rifle, and it’s a scaled down version that cleverly builds on the modern technology on offer. There’s a hat full of features too; a recoilless regulated action, 2-stage, semi match trigger, Weihrauch barrel, superbly comfortable anatomical (ambidextrous) grips, side-lever cocking, quick fill push-probe charging, Picatinny scope rail, accessory rails, manual safety catch, open sights, integral pressure gauge, 2 x 10-shot rotary magazines, silencer and scope options, and left-handed action. Admittedly it doesn’t come cheap, but it is beautifully made and super accurate.

    RRP: £695, moderator £75

    Contact: Hull Cartridge Co; www.hullcartridge.co.uk

    Pros: Superb performance, grips and handling

    Cons: A significant outlay

    Verdict: Weihrauch quality



    Any James Bond fan will be keen to get to grips with this variation on the theme, and the usual Umarex build quality gives the Walther PPK/S a genuine feel too. All-metal construction (bar the plastic grip plates) adds satisfying weight in the hand, but the down side is that it only shoots steel BBs and not pellets. Edge up the left side of the grip and this reveals the loading bay for a 12 gram CO2 cartridge. A small tool is now used to tighten the capsule in place, replacing an ugly protrusion on the older model, and BBs are loaded into a thin stick magazine, recessed into the front of the grip. 15-shots are possible, but the real bonus is the blowback action, which makes the pistol jump in the hand as it the slide cycles. Don’t expect match accuracy, but boy is it fun to shoot! However, watch those steel BBs as they ricochet, so safety glasses please!

    RRP: £95

    Contact: John Rothery (Wholesale); www.bisley-uk.com

    Pros: Iconic model with realistic action

    Cons: Fixed sights and BB only

    Verdict: Compact, well made and great fun to shoot



    The self-contained, single-stroke pneumatic remains immensely appealing, and the Compact is a fine example of the art. Recoilless performance coupled with those anatomical, wooden grips, give this smart pistol a good start in life. And being a target-orientated model, yet modestly priced, means it appeals to the novice shot, who doesn’t want to over-invest too early on. A plastic padded hard case is a nice touch, and with a refined air overall; despite a slightly vague and creepy trigger, it’s little wonder that this model is so popular with Pony clubs. Pull up the action, sucking air into the chamber, load a pellet and then close the action, compressing the air on the downwards stroke. Just take care to avoid catching any part of the hand between the two halves of the action as they snap back together at the end of the stroke. The lack of recoil is the prize, making the small amount of effort all worthwhile. It’s little wonder this model remains popular with Pony Clubs, who need a reliable yet reasonably priced pistol for their young shot training programmes.

    RRP: £189

    Contact: BSA Guns ltd; www.bsaguns.co.uk

    Pros: Well finished, and presented

    Cons: Average trigger

    Verdict: Good value beginners target model



    The Sheridan Cowboy is a real head turner and just feels right in the hand. Based on the Remington 1875 firearm, (Remington’s attempt to compete with Colt’s highly successful Single Action Army revolver), this Sheridan has more than enough feel and class to do a passable job, capturing the look and feel of that original classic. Firstly, the weight, then the sharp machining work, takes you by surprise. The nickel finish is excellent, and the sheer precision of the revolving cylinder can’t fail to impress. Crosman describe the grips as faux ivory finish, and whilst they do the job, frankly the Cowboy deserves better. In terms of functionality, this is a repeating revolver, powered by CO2, that can fire .177 pellets or 4.5mm BBs. It comes with dummy cartridges that hold the pellets, and has a functional hammer, smooth bore barrel, loading gate and extractor. Cocking the hammer to set the trigger makes all the right clicks too, and the sweet firing cycle and creditable accuracy are the icing on the cake.

    RRP: £169

    Contact: Anglo Spanish Imports; www.a-s-i.co.uk

    Pros: A surprisingly authentic feel

    Cons: It deserves better grips

    Verdict: One of the best Crosman products in years



    This best-selling pistol from Webley is a faithful reproduction of the original service revolver adopted by the British Army; with the only modern addition, as I understand it, being the safety catch on the side of the action. Lookalike dummy cartridges hold a BB round in the nose, and these are then loaded into the chambers. Power comes from a standard 12 gram CO2 capsule, neatly recessed within the grip, and the lanyard ring at the base cleverly doubles as the tensioner to pierce and release the gas that provides the motive power. This Webley can be shot double or single action, and the weight, build quality and slick operation are all highly impressive. Opt to shoot BBs though, and it is vital to wear safety glasses, just in case of any ricochets. The Webley Service Revolver can be specified in 4.5mm or 5mm BB or with a .177 rifled barrel and is available in a variety of finishes too. It even gets supplied with a copy of the original training manual, which is a really nice touch.

    RRP: £210-£250 (dependent upon finish)

    Contact: Highland Outdoors; www. highlandoutdoors.co.uk

    Pros: An authentic and functional replica style air pistol

    Cons: Relies on CO2 capsules as a power source

    Verdict: Another modern classic



    The HW75 is basically a single stroke pneumatic version of the HW45, and as such offers slick recoilless performance. Adjustable open sights and anatomical target grips come as standard, and as per the GAMO Compact, the highly efficient action sees the barrel assembly used as the cocking lever. It’s pulled up and back in an identical fashion to the HW45, yet in one deliberate sweeping motion. At the end of the outwards stroke, a hiss is heard as air is sucked in via the inlet hole. The return stroke requires more effort as this actually compresses the quantity of air taken onboard. A recoilless action means lighter trigger pressures are possible, and the result is a highly accurate and velocity consistent pistol, capable of good groupings over ten yards. Factor in the usual Weihrauch build quality, and the result a superb air pistol, fit for purpose.

    RRP: £366

    Contact: Hull Cartridge Co; www.hullcartridge.co.uk

    Pros: Highly efficient power plant

    Cons: Care needs to be taken when snapping closed the action

    Verdict: Pricey but worth every penny



    Tesro were set up by a former employee of Walther in Germany, so the company’s inherent pedigree should be obvious. The PA10-2 Basic Compact pistol incorporates features designed to smooth the shooter’s path and maximise potential. Yes, you pay for the privilege, but consider the outlay for rivals such as Steyr, and this model seems well placed and fairly priced. So, what do we get for the money? Well, for a start, the box is a neat little hard case, and inside we get tools a replacement foresight, and even a spare breech seal. The pistol itself features a removable cylinder, floating barrel and air stripper, match trigger, adjustable rear sight, anatomical grips, manometer (air gauge), and a spring-assisted cocking lever. The full match trigger can be dry fired, and the adjustable grips mean that the Tesro can be made to fit your hand. In short, a superb air pistol, with subtlety built in.

    RRP: £1100

    Contact: www.tesro.co.uk

    Pros: Full blown target pistol with classy build quality

    Cons: Significant outlay and again charging gear is extra

    Verdict: An investment for serious competition



    Top flight match pistols cost the same as their rifle counterparts, and it’s a big investment for newcomers to the sport. Air Arms’ Alfa Pro lays claim to the middle ground, offering some serious subtlety in a simplified package. The Alfa Pro is a joint venture between Air Arms here in Britain, and a company called Alfa Proj spol in the Czech Republic. Specified as an ‘entry level’ ‘high performance’ pistol, the Alfa Pro boasts an impressive features list; match trigger, all-metal construction, removable balance weights, adjustable sights and elements, target grips, and even a dry-fire facility, all aimed at the indoor match target market. Accuracy is beyond question, with ragged, one-hole groups possible over ten yards. The down side of course, as per any PCP, is that shot count is limited, and the cost of charging gear, £150-£200, needs to be factored in.

    RRP: £714 guide price

    Contact: Air Arms; www.air-arms.co.uk

    Pros: Very well made intermediate target model

    Cons: Rather pricey and charging gear extra

    Verdict: A good entry level target class pistol


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