Jonathan Young remembers a lifetime of 1970s war movies and gets all misty-eyed over the new breed of wartime CO2 BB pistols. Which BB gun brings back the most memories?
Once upon a time, it was possible for nearly anyone to enjoy real pistol shooting – and using historical oldies too. Growing up watching yet another war movie meant dreaming of joining a club or range and using the real thing. Since the handgun ban that’s now all history, but with airgun manufacturers releasing more CO2 pistols every year, it was only a matter of time before these oldies returned.
Now with less emphasis on modern SWAT and CQB styles, a back catalogue of historical wartime designs is being reinvented for the airgun market. Plinking used to be about BSA Scorpions and Webley Juniors: now it’s Lugers and Broomhandle Mausers!
KWC M712 Broomhandle
This Broomhandle is contemporary with the most recent P.08, and has a drop-out magazine that holds the BBs, valve and 12g CO2 bulb. It’s a semi-auto with blowback action and is all metal. The metalwork’s been treated to one of the current grey metallic hardcoat treatments and looks superb, coming equipped with very realistic brown wood-effect plastic grips.
This piece uses the same method of gas release as the aforementioned P.08, with the CO2 venting upwards into the moving mechanism. The Airsoft-style breech nozzle attached to the underside of the slide mechanism keeps the gas where it’s needed while knocking a BB off into the bore each shot. With detailing to keep even history buffs busy, a weight of nearly 1kg, and a rear sight adjustable for elevation and an authentic safety, there is also the option to dismantle the upper frame from the lower so the action can be cleaned. And that’s wunderbar, meine freunde!
What’s in a name? KWC has correctly called this gun the M712, which was a conversion of the C96 that featured a detachable magazine instead of the internal mag of the original, as well as select fire mode. The M712 saw service in the Second World War.
“The design on which KWC’s M712 blowback Broomhandle is based has been tastefully recreated, and it’s hefty enough in the hand to feel like the real thing while you’re shooting”
UMAREX LEGENDS Parabellum-Pistole P.08
This all-metal pistol is dressed in a super dark metallic finish and has a drop-out BB metal magazine. A CO2 bulb is inserted into the handgrip then tightened to pierce by winding a spring-
loaded paddle that lies flat and is hidden away when the magazine is inserted. A metal clip to the grip prolongs its life. A nice touch is the use of two P.O8-style blued steel screws to the grips.
This Umarex has an unusual firing mechanism. The barrel is pushed outwards when the trigger is pulled then it flies back, scooping a BB out the magazine and hitting the valve. The barrel is the hammer! The trigger connects with a cradle that tensions the sprung barrel.
The added bonus is better CO2 sealing, as the barrel is in direct contact with the valve face, unlike so many other pistols where the BB is literally blown off the end of a stick. This pistol does not have any blowback action and all the gas is vented forwards to where it’s really needed – behind the BB.
While the P.08 is widely associated with German service in WWII, it was patented by Georg Luger way back in 1898.
“This is a very underrated mechanism and remains interesting despite recent innovations. It has no external moving parts and is reliable, powerful and fun”
UMAREX LEGENDS Blowback Parabellum-Pistole P.08
This version is all metal with plastic grips and has a drop-out magazine that houses the CO2 gas bulb, valve and BBs. A separate Allen key is provided to tighten up the gas bulb for piercing. Unusually on firing, the magazine valve vents gas upwards, not backwards, into the hollow moving slide, hinting at its Airsoft origins. Some CO2 gas finds its way to the breech, while some enters the inner recesses of the toggle slide housing which moves rearward; hence the assembly jumps up at the toggle and cocks the hammer for the next shot.
The BB is knocked off the magazine into the breech and is then also sealed by a hollow probe, through which the gas is directed from the valve. This pistol can be dismantled for cleaning, very similarly to the original firearm.
Unlike the previous non-
blowback Umarex Luger, the finish here is more of a satin black. The use of an Allen key means this system provides the neatest magazine outline. This P.08 is made from many separate detailed parts, making for a really super replica.
“This Umarex P.08 is an air pistol with super-authentic detailing and a fetching satin-black finish. That wartime toggle action means big grins all round”
UMAREX LEGENDS Selbstladepistole C96
his little BB pistol is a blowback repeater with a drop-out magazine that houses the 12g bulb, valve and BB channel. The frame is made from black plastic in an attractive semi-matt finish with metal parts. The metal rear ladder sight follows the original military style and adjusts for elevation with authentic markings.
On firing, some of the gas is vented rearward past the valve stem, moving the slide. To load the magazine, an authentic outer cover has to be removed to reveal the tightening screw, and when replaced and loaded into the frame, no trace of the 12g bulb or screw can be seen.
Of even more interest is the BB transport design where the leading ball is physically pushed off into the barrel breech by a moving slider on the valve body, operated during blowback. This hollow probe carries the CO2 gas forward from the valve face. Your precious gas goes straight behind the BB down the barrel – not down the BB channel. Brown plastic wood-effect grips with blued-steel screws finish the look.
Technically, this is an M712, not a C96, as it has a detachable mag.
“This is an inventive BB release that offers better handling than the norm. A lightweight, attractively finished iconic design – if you can get past all the plastic”
Winner? KWC M712 Broomhandle
It has been far too long a wait to handle a Broomhandle in ‘airgun’ format – but now we have two. The KWC’s long magazine has to accommodate the diameter of the 12g bulb and it’s not slab-sided, so the design does not look as authentic as some people might wish for.
Design issues aside, this offering is superb. It’s a hefty piece good enough to admire, but strong enough to get some real use out of. To prevent gas fade, fast-fire sessions can be countered with a spare magazine, easily swapping over at intervals – although with everything contained in the mag, these are expensive units. For slower shooting, a needle file and a steady hand could make the sight picture that little bit clearer.
Each of these pistols are great pieces in their own right, with each offering something different. As a close second, let’s suggest the non-blowback Umarex P.08. On the manufacturer’s advice this produces a velocity of 125m/s, the pokiest on test, so the gas-saving non-blowback format is not to be ignored by the airgun shooter. The newer version is so much fun while being realistic, yet it is this earlier version with its ‘barrel as a hammer’ mechanism that makes for a punchy, interesting airgun.
“As long as you remember that these are airguns, and not related in any way other than looks to the originals, these can be enjoyed for what they are. Some may say that blowback wastes gas – it does. Or that BBs are not as accurate as a single lead pellet down a rifled barrel – that’s true. But who cares? Airgunning with pistols just got interesting!”