In 2004, Sportsmarketing introduced a single-stroke, overlever pneumatic air pistol into their UK line-up – the Beeman 2004E.
It was such a success that in the following five years, over a million of them were sold across the globe.
In 2010, after its Far East manufacturer moved its production centre, the pistol was, somewhat confusingly, renamed the P17.
But whether you know it as the 2004E or P17, at under 70 quid, it’s ideal for informal plinking – and by virtue of its recoilless firing cycle, it’s also a perfect entry-level pistol for anyone wanting to try their hand at more formal target practice on scoring cards.
I’d rank myself more as a sport shooter and plinker than a targeteer – but there’s no doubt that the P17 brings the best out of your trigger finger when it comes to the more deliberate art of high-scoring on paper.
Part of the appeal, of course, is the Beeman’s totally dead, pneumatic action – and while I normally enjoy feeling a bit of a ‘kick’ in my palm when plinking with my pistols, when it comes to target shooting, the lack of any felt recoil pays big dividends.
With a two-handed grip at 10 metres, I could score low- to high 80s on standard issue ISU Pistol Targets – and with a more ‘compliant’ one-handed hold, I frequently nudged the 80-mark, too.
To be honest, I found myself wanting to push the P17 (and myself) all the way, such is the accuracy potential of this gun.
As a plinker, it’s equally as rewarding; you can hit tinnies out to 15 yards-plus with pleasing regularity. However, I can’t deny that its cocking action isn’t as effortless as, say, a CO2 auto’s or a break-barrel springer’s – you have to pay some price for all that accuracy!
Cocking the P17 is simple, if not a little more energetic than normal. Pulling back on the dummy hammer at the rear of the frame releases the overlever, which you then swing in a 175-degree arc from its pivot point at the muzzle end. As this is the ‘air intake’ sequence, there’s no effort involved.
Now you load a pellet into the rifled steel barrel which is secreted inside the overlever. Space is cramped and there’s certainly a ‘knack’ in getting this right – it took me a while before I could comfortably load a pellet without fumbling.
The return stroke primes the pneumatic action – and with around 45 degrees to go, you start to build up your pecks!
Like loading, however, there’s a knack: I found that holding the grip-frame of the pistol in my right hand and pushing down on the overlever with the open palm of my left hand worked best… with a short, final push to snap the overlever fully shut. I emphasise an ‘open’ palm because you don’t want to trap your fingers!
The initial opening of the overlever automatically sets the safety catch – an essential function to have on an air pistol like this, I reckon. A serrated glider on the frame’s left, this slides off easily and can be reset if required.
The trigger, while a long way from a true ‘match’ unit, is certainly conducive to eking out the last ounce of accuracy from the P17’s recoilless action.
It’s not adjustable, but with a slight first stage travel and a relatively crisp let-off (that’s light enough for serious target work, and safe enough for plinking), I’ve no complaints. Its broad face also helps spread the load.
A lot of elements really come together well in the P17. The backstrap is properly shaped for a snug palm-fit, with various scallops and nodules to hug the contours of your hand whether you’re shooting right- or left-handed or, indeed, with both.
The trigger guard is also spacious, with a ‘ski-jump’ ridge to act as a rest for your index finger while you’re settling on aim.
And as for aiming, it’s all taken care of by a really bright set of fibre-optic opens – a red fore and a wide U-notch rear that’s flanked with green dots.
They make target acquisition both fast (for plinking) and accurate (for target work) – and the rearsight can be altered for up/down and left/right POI via two slot-head screws.
There’s an 11mm dovetail rail moulded into the very shapely overlever, too, but given the need to press down on this for the charging stroke, it’s not a very practical place to fit another sighting system.
My results proved that, over pistol ranges, the P17’s got what it takes to hit stuff anyway – although I may be tempted to rig up a guard-mounted laser pointer, perhaps.
Made of high-impact ABS resin throughout – with chromed trigger, safety and dummy hammer – the standard of finish to the moulding is extremely good for such an affordable pistol.
Although parts like the top slide retainer and magazine release button are purely decorative, it all adds up to one very impressive, stylish looking air pistol.
I particularly liked the vented muzzle port – and with the healthy muzzle velocity of around 400fps that I recorded over the chrono with SMK’s graphite-coated BS45 Black Flats, a muzzle compensator like this probably has its worth on a practical level as well as an aesthetic one.
For the money, the Beeman P17 is a bit of a no-brainer – and I can’t think of a more accurate air pistol in its price bracket.
Once you’ve witnessed for yourself how tightly it can group, it’s easy to understand why this model has been racking up such huge sales worldwide for a decade.
It’s so good, they even named it twice!
Model: Beeman P17 / 2004E
UK distributor: Sportsmarketing ● www.sportsmk.co.uk
Type: Recoilless, single-stroke pneumatic air pistol
Calibre: .177 (only)
Barrel length: 170mm, rifled
Sights: Fibre-optic opens, adjustable rear
Trigger: Two-stage, non-adjustable
Safety: Automatic glider, resettable
Power: 396fps with SMK BS45 Black Flat pellets