Here at TTAG, when we aren’t wading into the political morass, we spend a fair amount of time reviewing guns, gear, and training. One area that’s been sorely lacking is a discussion about BB and Airsoft weapons. Granted, some people argue that BB and Airsoft are ultimately toys that have no place on a gun blog, but those people would be wrong. BB and Airsoft guns have numerous applications for firearm aficionados. For many people, a BB gun was their first experience with firearms. Just about everything that you would teach a kid about a bullet flinger applies to BB and Airsoft guns. The four rules of gun safety should still be followed and mistakes such as jerking the trigger and other shooting errors will have the same effect on the accuracy of an air powered weapon as it does on a gunpowder one . . .
With the coming of Old Man Winter here in the northern hemisphere (particularly for those of us who live in Northern climates), opportunities for shooting outdoors start to diminish somewhat. My gun club closes its outdoor ranges when the berms freeze (usually mid-January) and even when they’re open, a cold and bitter wind tends to take some of the fun out of shooting. Sure, there are always the indoor ranges, but those become a lot more crowded in the winter and you have to contend with the higher lead exposure issues that comes with shooting indoors.
BB and Airsoft guns, though, can be shot in your basement, garage or almost any other heated structure. A piece of plywood is all you need for a backstop and safety gear you need is limited to eye protection. The highly realistic copies of actual firearms that are now being offered enable people to practice with a reasonable facsimile of their carry piece indoors. Sure, you don’t get to experience the recoil, but most of the other shooting dynamics remain the same and on the more advanced guns that employ a blow back slide, you can even rack the slide and clear the occasional malfunction just like you do with a real pistol.
For those into tactical simulations, Airsoft weapons are often used as a poor man’s force-on-force system. Yes, you give up the marking capability of paintball or Simunitions, but the cost is a lot less, the list of required safety equipment is smaller and you don’t have to go to a sanctioned range run by trained range officers to have a force-on-force exercise with your friends. If you go upmarket to the electrically powered rifles at the high end of the Airsoft world, you can enjoy some highly realistic experiences for a lot less money than would be the case with marking round FoF. The bottom line is that air-powered weapons have a whole range of applications for our readers which is why you are going to see more discussion of them down the line.
I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience with air-powered weaponry, so I can’t really compare the S&W M&P I’m reviewing to a myriad of other guns that I have shot over the years. But I don’t think that’s a problem. My guess is that many of our readers have limited experience with air guns, so the apples-to-apples comparison may be somewhat less important. Plus, if you really need/want that sort of thing, there are plenty of excellent sites on the Internet where you can get that sort of info.
So I’m going to take the perspective of a standard gun enthusiast who wants to see what Airsoft can do for him. I think that Pyramyd Air gets that. There’re certainly dedicated Airsoft sites out there that Pyramyd could work with (and probably does) to get an “Airsoft warrior’s” perspective on things. The first gun that I asked to review was the Smith & Wesson M&P. I own an M&P in 9mm and was interested in seeing how the air version compared. Pyramyd sent a nice package of stuff that enabled me to hit the ground running with this gun.
Included with the gun was a second magazine, a speed loader, five CO2 cylinders and a couple of bottles of .20 gram plastic BBs. As you might surmise from that kit, this is a CO2-powered gun. There are a number of methods used in BB and Airsoft guns to propel projectiles. That includes springs, electric motors, and various gas systems. The M&P uses the relatively straightforward disposable CO2 cylinders that fit into magazine along with the BBs.
To load the CO2 cylinder, you remove the cap on the bottom using a large Allen wrench (included), insert the CO2 cylinder, and screw the cap back on. It’s a little tough to see in the picture above, but if you look closely you can make out the round cap on the bottom where the CO2 cylinder fits. The BBs go into the channel on the front where the spring is.
Pyramyd Air provided a loading tool for the BBs, but to be perfectly honest, it’s still a slow and careful process to get the ammo inserted. You wouldn’t want to be trying to do this during a gunfight in the field which is why having more than one magazine is always a good idea. In keeping with the realism approach, the BB magazine holds up to 15 rounds, which is (shockingly enough) the same round capacity of the real thing in .40.
Upon initial examination, the BB version looks a lot like the real thing. Sure, there’s that pesky orange tip that Airsoft guns generally have, but given how realistic the gun is otherwise, the orange tip might not be such a bad idea. That said, it does present one minor problem, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
Other than the orange tip, (and the bright white logo and markings that are not found on the real gun), these guns look remarkably the same. The sighting system is the same three-dot arrangement (I replaced my factory S&W sights, so they don’t look exactly the same as my personal gun, but the Airsoft version does indeed resemble a stock factory version).
Looks aside, the difference between the Airsoft and the real gun becomes apparent the moment you pick it up. My M&P without a magazine weighs 24.6 oz. The Airsoft version clocks in at 6.7 oz. When we add the magazines to the two guns, things tighten up a bit. With magazine, the real version weighs 27.7 oz. and the Airsoft version, 18.6 oz.
The disparity is not all that hard to understand. The Airsoft version is mostly plastic. The real version has a plastic (polymer) frame, but the slide and barrel are all metal. The upshot of this is that from a handling perspective, you are not likely to confuse to two. On the other hand, the heavy magazine does add enough heft to the Airsoft version that holstering and drawing exercises are going to feel pretty close to “real”.
On that topic, I’m happy to report that the Airsoft version fits most holsters designed for the M&P. Of the three holsters I own (a Blackhawk OWB, an Old Faithful IWB, and a Blade Tech OWB), only the Blade Tech has a problem with this gun. The problem, as I alluded to earlier, is caused by the orange tip on the barrel. This 1/2″ extension of the barrel is not found on the regular gun and the Blade Tech Holster’s partially closed bottom prevents the gun from seating fully into the holster. The problem is fairly easily fixed – you just mill off the bottom part of the holster (I had to do this to get my P226 X5 tactical with threaded barrel into to fit a Blade Tech holster that was designed for a gun without a threaded barrel). As neither of my other holsters have this closed off section on the bottom, the Airsoft version fits beautifully.
The aforementioned magazine weight contributes another advantage to the design – it drops clear of the gun very easily with no snags and no need to strip it. The gun does feel very different sans magazine and given how much weight and functionality is in the magazine (both gas source and pellets), I do have to admit that I would be reluctant to let it drop to the ground the same way that I do with my regular gun’s magazines. After all, real empty mags generally only weigh a few ounces when they get released from the gun as opposed to the 1 pound plus weight of the Airsoft magazines. For the record, since this is a review gun that I need to return in (mostly) the same condition as I received it, all magazine drops were done into my hand. For those looking to use this as a practice gun, I suspect that if you did it on a carpeted surface with possibly some additional padding, you would not likely have any serious problems if you did let the mag hit the ground.
On the negative side, some of the ergonomics are less than optimal. Trigger pull is one such thing. My M&P 9 has a measured trigger pull of about 5 pounds 10 ounces. The Airsoft version is noticeably stiffer, clocking in at nearly 12 pounds. This will of course affect your accuracy as it is nearly impossible not to pull the gun a bit when you need to exert that much force on the trigger. On the plus side, the very stiff trigger pull makes accidental discharges relatively unlikely.
Next, let’s talk muzzle velocity. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, this gun fires BBs at a maximum velocity of 380 fps. When you read the fine print though, you see that this velocity was obtained using .12 gram BBs. The funny thing is that no one recommends .12 gram BBs for actual use. Their accuracy stinks and in fact, on the same spec page for this gun, the manufacturer recommends .20 – .25 gram BBs. Pyramyd air supplied me with .20 gram BBs which is what I used for my testing. I fired 20 shots through my Competition Electronics Chronograph. Of the 20 shots, the top speed was 322 fps, the slowest, 258 fps. The average velocity was 278 fps. with a standard deviation of 16 fps across the entire 20 round sample. To put that Standard Deviation into perspective, my hand loads usually clock in at a standard deviation of around 20 while the best ammo I’ve ever used, Black Hills Match .300 Win Mag had a standard deviation of just 7.
When you order a gun from Pyramyd Air, you have the option to purchase a “check out” service. This includes test firing the gun and chronographing 10 rounds using .20 gram BBs. Pyramyd includes the printout from the Chronograph with the check out certificate.
Pyramyd got somewhat higher velocities during their testing. Their scores ranged from a low of 311 fps to a high of 380 fps. with a mean of 346 fps. I really can’t explain the 70-odd FPS difference between Pyramyd’s measurements and mine, but if I had to guess, it would be that their chrono might simply be a better quality instrument than mine. It is also possible that 6mm .20 gram BB’s are damn hard to see by a chrono which leads to inconsistencies in measurement. In any event, your real world experience will be somewhere between 278 and 346 fps on average, which should be more than good enough for what this gun is likely to be used for.
This gun just blew me away in terms of reliability. It went bang (or more accurately, whoosh) just about every time I pulled the trigger. I’ve put about 600-700 rounds through it at this point and I had, maybe one or two times when it failed to fire. In both cases, all I did was give the trigger another pull and the pellet came zipping out. To be frank, this is nothing short of amazing for me on a $40 gun. I also own a full metal Sig Sauer Airsoft gun that cost four times as much as this Smith & Wesson did and that does not have half the reliability of the M&P. If you are using this in Force on Force or other Airsoft games, you can feel pretty confident that your gun is going to fire each and every time you pull that trigger.
Okay, now this is one topic where perhaps having more Airsoft experience would have helped. I don’t know how accurate an Airsoft gun can be. I only know what I saw when I fired this one and present the results for your perusal. All firing took place at my club’s outdoor range. They have a BB gun range set up, so I decided to use that. As it turns out, when I later read the club rules, only metal BBs were allowed. Ooops. Won’t make that mistake again. Without further ado, here were my results at various distances. I fired a full 15 round magazine into each target. First up is five yards (15 feet)
This works out to about a 3.5 inch group if you toss a couple of outliers. I next moved back to seven yards:
At this distance, we begin to see a few more outliers. The group size has increased to 4.5″ if we toss the outliers and 5.5″ if we leave them in. The final batch was shot at 10 yards.
We are inside of 5″ if we toss the outliers and still only 6.5″ if we include them. Is that good for an Airsoft gun? I don’t really know. Let’s face it, an Airsoft gun fires a relatively lightweight ball out of smooth bore (no rifling) so an Airsoft round does not have a lot going for it accuracy-wise. Given the fact that I was able to hold all of my shots within a 6.5″ diameter circle at 30 feet, I’d say this gun is plenty accurate for Airsoft games. As a high end target pistol… well, that’s not what it was designed for.
As I mentioned earlier, this pistol has the same dimensions as a real M&P, pretty much feels the same in the hand, and fits most standard holsters made for the M&P. It does not however have the same weight as an M&P, and the magazines are disproportionately heavy. Also, it does not support the different back straps that come with M&Ps so if you are using something other than the default one, it will feel a bit different in your hand. Repeatedly dropping a “spent” magazine on a concrete floor is probably not recommended, but put down some padding and there should be no reason you can’t practice magazine changes. If you actually plan to shoot it, the magazine holds up to 15 Airsoft BBs, which mirrors the actual magazine capacity of the real .40 M&P. You can draw from the holster, fire rounds off, drop a magazine and reload it.
It is not however a perfect training tool. Some of the more expensive Airsoft guns (like my previously noted Sig Sauer) have a slide that reciprocates with each round fired and that locks back when the last round is expended, just like the real thing. If you intend to incorporate this sort of thing into your training regimen, then this M&P replica will fall short. On the other hand, it’s 1/4 the price of the other gun and more reliable to boot, so it may or may not be good enough for what you want to do.
Besides CO2 cylinders and BBs, there are a few accessories you may want. An extra magazine (or two) is a good idea. True that at $26, they cost 2/3 what the pistol does, you are going to want to have at least one reload. The CO2 cylinder lasts for about 300 rounds, but the magazine only holds 15 BBs so if you are taking to an Airsoft battle, some loaded magazines are essential as it is a relatively slow process to reload the magazines and one you probably don’t wish to undertake while under fire. If you plan to use this gun for tactical practice, a holster may be in order and as noted earlier, most holsters made for the M&P .40 should fit this gun nicely.
This gun has its good points and its bad points. To understand whether or not this is the right gun for you, you need to understand the hierarchy of Airsoft. At the bottom are the spring powered guns. Next up are the pump airguns like the ones Daisy has been pushing for more than 100 years. CO2 was the next innovation in air guns – all the benefits of air propulsion with none of the pumping. Green gas and propane powered weapons were next to the scene with refillable gas containers that did not use the disposable CO2 cylinders. Electric guns are near the top of the heap with many of the replica rifles using this technology. CO2 guns tend to fall into the lower end of the spectrum (there are of course exceptions) which means they are more suited to daily plinking and Airsoft wars than they are to the world of precision marksmanship. And that’s just fine with me. As long as you understand exactly what niche this gun is trying to fill, you’ll appreciate what it offers for the price.
Type: CO2-powered air pistol
Capacity: 15 rounds
Caliber: 6mm Airsoft
Velocity: 278 to 346 fps, depending on pellet weight and who is doing the chonographing
Trigger: single-stage, 12 lbs
Weight: 6.7 oz. (pistol only) 27.7 oz. (with magazine)
Street price: $39
Ratings (out of five stars):
This is my first airgun review so I had very little to compare it to. There are airsoft pistols out there that do a more thorough job of mirroring the functionality of a “real” semi-automatic handgun, but they cost a lot more and were not as reliable as this inexpensive CO2 gun. Depending on what you plan to use it for, this can either be something to pass by or something to grab with both hands and have a hell of a good time shooting. For me, if I also did Airsoft FoF stuff, I’d probably own this sort of gun along with a more realistic one. I’d use the “realistic” one for my indoor training, but would take this one to Airsoft battles. High levels of realism are great for training, but I want a gun that works when I’m getting shot at.
Accuracy: * * *
As I don’t have much to compare it to airsoft-wise, I have to gauge its accuracy in terms of regular firearms. Unfortunately, by this standard, it falls short. At 5 yards, I was really expecting better than a 3.5 inch group. This is why I would normally rate it two stars. It gets a third star from me because while it sucks as a precision target gun, its ability to put 15 rounds within 6.5″ at 10 yards makes it more than capable as a dynamic airsoft battle weapon. Shots within an eight inch circle center mass on the torso are generally kill shots, so it meets that requirement admirably.
Handling: * * *
The gun feels just like my 9mm M&P in my hand (minus some weight). The trigger is a little further forward which is not an issue but the trigger pull at 12 pounds is. When testing the CO2 cylinder shot capacity, I had to take a break every 75 shots or so because my hand was getting sore from the effort. Four stars for the grip feel, minus one star for the trigger.
Reliability * * * *
Nearly perfect. It fired with just about every trigger pull and was a lot more reliable than my green gas-powered Sig airgun. If I had to choose one gun to take into an Airsoft battle with me, it’d be this Smith knockoff every time. Plus, even if it breaks, its only $40. Buy a couple of these and you will be all set.