Saturday, 31 January 2015

Sig Sauer P226 X Five .177 Blowback BB Pistol. First Week Review.

The SIG Sauer P226 X five Blow back Co2 pistol is a large full size replica, made by KWC which is a company in Taiwan. It is then packaged by Cybergun/Swiss Arms, and is pretty much an exact copy of the real 9 mm firearm.

SIG Sauer P226 X Five, does exactly what it says on the box, apart from he BAXS which is only for the 6 mm Airsoft version

Although other firearm P226 models are available in .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .22 long rifle, the X five model has a beaver tail and a barrel extension where the many other variants of the P226 do not, and is only available in 9mm. This is the pistol used by the Old Bill, Squaddies, and any other official gun carrying authority in the UK.

That pointy bit at the back that is supported by the web of your hand between your thumb and first finger, well.... that's the bit that only comes on the X Five model.

Notice the cut out in the foam casing by the rear sight, well that's for the adjustable sights on the sporty model of the X Five.

It appears to be a licensed model of a SIG pistol judging by the markings on the left side of the slide, however the right side of the slide has a large amount of writing about warnings and where it's made. This is a bit of a spoiler for the gun as it is actually engraved into the metal and painted white. I have had partial success with a Sharpie in filling in the writing to date, but i'm sure there is a nicer finish to be found out there somewhere. But hey, these companies have got to cover their asses from law suits.

 Licensed SIG markings lightly engraved and painted white on the left of the slide, and non genuine fire arm caliber markings below.

What is the point of aesthetically ruining this replica with all this warning stuff, any self respecting 14 year old is sooo totally going to ignore that.

With a metal frame and slide and a solid but stiff plastic grip secured solidly to the frame, it feels like you're holding the real thing.

I have large hands and I find the grip contours to be extremely comfortable.

The black adonised finish looks really good, though time plus wear and tear will tell on that one.

This is a large and weighty pistol.

It's powered by a 12g Co2 cartridge that fits in the bottom of the lifelike mag, and it is recommended that a drop of silicone oil be added to the tip of the cartridge to keep the internal seals in tip top condition.

The screw cap is plastic and the thread will wear eventually, so it's just as well you get a spare one.

The mag also contains the valve and space to hold 18 steel BB's, so in that respect it's like the real thing in that it holds the projectile and the power to propel it, but on an infinitely weaker scale.

This is where the very stiff spring and follower lock in place while popping BB's into the top.

 With the last BB fired, the slide locks back letting you know you're empty and ready to load a fresh mag, release the working slide catch (on the left side in front of the safety) leaving the hammer cocked, and do the whole fun thing all over again. I once managed to fit 19 steel .177 BB's while not paying attention but i feel more comfortable using between 12 and 14 BB's. It's my personal preference and is of no real advantage, apart from maybe putting less strain on the follower spring over it's life. Who knows?

After the last BB is fired the follower pushes up the slide lock which is just in front of the safety.

One thing that is a slight let down on this Co2 pistol is that the screw cap which holds and pushes the Co2 caplet in place is plastic and I can see that wearing down over extensive use, so it is a good thing that a spare is provided. An allen key is provided to screw the cap into place. A plastic plate over the bottom of the mag would really improve the realism of an already really realistic gun.

A plate along the bottom would be perfect but it is still flush from side on, and look, lucks a lordy, you can even change the BB spring if ever needed.

Another thing I noticed pretty quickly was that the slide rattles slightly if you shake the gun and that the safety does not engage correctly on the right hand side, but being right handed this does not pose a problem for me. And really for £120 UK pounds i'm not at all put out, afterall it does all that is says on the box (apart from the BAX system which is for the 6mm airsoft version).

On a chilly winter day I managed to shoot four full mags making that 72 BB's. Most shots were done either rapidly or with little time between shots. Halfway through the 5th mag the blow back stopped working, but if I took my time between shots I would have easily emptied that last mag. Because some of the Co2 is used for the blow back action, the BB's leave the recessed smooth bore barrel supposedly at 300FPS on a warm day, and at 8 yards on a bloody cold day I was easily hitting the 1.5 inch plastic bottles I was using as targets.

However I would advise against using it too much in sub zero temperatures. After firing one full mag I found BB's only firing on every second shot and then eventually dumping the rest of the Co2 with a big old hiss. It was about -5 degrees celsius on this occasion and the rapid firing cooled the Co2 to such a degree that it eventually dropped the pressure enough to affect the blow back. After that it must have frozen the valve open to dump what Co2 was left. By then, the pistol grip was cold and frost had appeared on the mag, a new Co2 caplet got the gun going again but it did the same things again even sooner. I initially thought i'd broken it or it was faulty, but I got it home and after a bit of head scratching realised what the problem was. Silly old sod, but hey, i'd only just got the pistol so I just had to go out and use it (i'm doing my best here to refrain from saying play with it as it is in no way a toy). 

The pistol will fire in either single action by racking the slide or cocking the external hammer with your thumb, or double action by pulling the trigger for the first shot. The trigger pull in double action is fairly stiff but in single action is surprisingly light, aiding accuracy. The replica model has a ambidextrous safety which can be released or applied by the thumb when held by the pistol grip, whereas the firearm it self has a safety that is slightly different . However there is a de-cocking lever on the on the non X Five firearm and no safety; to de-cock the X Five replica the slide has to be released and the hammer gently released whilst depressing the trigger while the safety is off.

External hammer is cocked here.

Safety off.

Safety on. but is a bitch to do from the right hand side unless the slide has been racked.

Another great thing about this pistol is that it can be field stripped like Swiss Arms 1911's and their Baretta FS92 copy - I quote these two as they also have the same magazine design holding Co2, valve, and BB's and I really want to get either of one of them next.
Field stripping means the the slide is removable and then the barrel, liner, springs and bar for the blow back mechanism are all accessable for removing, cleaning, and lubing. Use liberal amounts of silicone grease around the barrel and springs, silicone oil and graphite for all the slide parts that are in contact, and silicone oil for the trigger group, safety springs, and the rather strong follower spring that pushes the BB's up in the mag among other things. The important thing here is not to over lube any of these parts, and is recommended to keep any oil away from the valve/blow back box join.

With the slide locked back you can see the insides through the ejection port just like the firearm. 

This is pretty much how the genuine article looks when the mag is removed, that's what I like about these replica's

With the slide pulled as far back as it can go, the take down lever can be turned 90 degrees down, allowing the slide to then be pulled forward and removed.

The slide lock in the unlocked position, pull the slide forwards from here and it will slide clear of the pistol body along with barrel assembly and blow back box.

There's loads of stuff on Youtube showing how it's done and once i've had it a while i'll show how it's done also. It would appear that this Co2 pistol, all the Colt 1911 variants, and all the Dan Wesson type revolvers (the ones where the BB is loaded into an imitation bullet) are very well documented on Youtube, in fact moreso than any other Co2 .177 pistol, blowback or otherwise.

The other merits of field stripping this replica are the ability to clean any over lubrication, lubricating if dry,  access to anything that might break in order to repair it, removing loose BB's that double load when the mag is taken out and replaced and racked again (though usually in this case it fires both BB's at a slower velocity) and best of all is that it just looks damned cool. When a BB does get loose inside the pistol it sometimes lodges behind the blowback and interferes with cocking the hammer for the valve because of the shorter slide stroke.

As with a lot of these replica guns you can buy now, they tend to have a short 22 mm tactical rail in front of the trigger guard for the fitting of torches and lasers. 

A tactical rail for torches and lasers, so you can get totally tactical on some poor innocent tin can

Some have them on top along the slide for the optics of your choice, or in the case of some models, an RIS rail that bolts to the body of the  gun around the slide allowing the slide to move freely, most commonly seen on race guns.

The other sport model of the X Five has some very nice adjustable rear sights, but this basic model has fixed rear sights. 

Basic rear sights of a square notch.

The front post sight appears as if it is adjustable for windage fitting in a dove tail, in this case it is just part of the molding, but it does have a white dot for aiding an easy acquisition of target. 

The front square post looks like it can move and be interchangable, but is in fact just part of the mold. But the white dot does work well with the rear sights.

Anyway, give me half a year using this pistol and I will write a practical review from actual experience, because I have yet to see how well it peforms in a warmer climate come spring and summer. Amongst other things, I would like to see how it performs with H&N copper coated lead BB's which are 7gr as opposed to 5gr of the steel BB's, as well as trying out different makes of BB's. Things will need to bed in and smooth out with use, and I might have to help that along the way; some of the springs might need upgrading, and what would be a really groovy idea would be to machine a .177 rifled barrel liner to replace the smooth bore tube that is currently in it, though that is more a pipe dream than a probability at the moment.

Recessed into the imitation 9 mm barrel is the actual .177  smooth bore brass barrel, a touch up with a black Sharpie would improve the looks a lot.

I can see the demise of many tin cans in my future, and at the moment my brain is turning over some interesting variants on some iron plate action shooting (IPAS) targets to make things a little bit more interesting, but time will tell if and when I manage to knock these up.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

ASI Sniper Vs The SMK 15, A Comparison Test.

Comparing two cheap youth air rifles made 30 years apart.

The ASI Sniper is a youth air rifle also known as the Gamo Expo. It was popular during the late 70's and early 80's. This model is .177 which was capable of reaching power levels of around 9.5 ft/lb; mine is currently happily reaching 6 ft/lb since I dropped some oil down the transfer port to put a bit of life into the leather piston seal.

ASI Sniper, i really like the feel and looks of this rifle.

Just shy of 6 ft/lb.

The SMK 15 is aimed at the same age group and with a bit of tweaking could reach 9 ft/lb, though at the moment is fine knocking out .177 pellets at around 6 ft/lb. 

More like 5 ft/lb but does do 6 ft/lb with Hobby's.

Like ASI, SMK is an import company which buys up air rifles from different parts of the world, re-brands them in their company name and sells them on at a cheap rate compared to rifles with a well recognised brand name. They have been doing this from the late 80's onwards and are still doing it today.

SMK 15, quirky little thing that it is.

ASI took Gamo and El Gamo rifles and sold them on cheaper than their competitors, and SMK took cheap massed produced Chinese air rifles and sold them on at, in some cases, a considerably cheaper price. Recently, SMK have been given the import rights for air rifles from big names like Diana, Remington and Gunpower, to name but a few. But my favourite at the moment are Swiss Arms and Cybergun which make the .177 BB replica pistols, though if truth be told they're actually made by KWC and re-branded. Since then, Gamo have grown larger and now own BSA, and have an extensive range of air rifles and pistols on offer.

So there you have it, two similar imported air rifles made three decades apart. I plan to do a comparison test between them to see which one out performs the other, if indeed one does out perform the other. Two air rifles imported by British companies who buy cheap air rifles and put them on the British market cheaper than other brands - one is Chinese, one is Spanish.

Chinese made especially for SMK.

Gamo mark and country of origin. Rick Lamphere of Rick's Shop blog told me this was also sold as the Daisy 120 in the USA.

The open sights on both are pretty solid with no slackness to them and almost identical in looks; front square post with a hood, and rear square notched sights, click adjustable for windage and elevation.

Rear sights for the ASI Sniper.

Rear sights for the SMK15, both mostly plastic but pretty solid all the same.

Both are break barrels and their power plants produce roughly the same power. Cocking effort for both feel the same, though the SMK spring is stiffer and slammy on firing and the Sniper is softer with more pre-load. The trigger on the Sniper feels noticeably lighter than the one on the SMK, but neither are what you would call light triggers by a long shot.

The ASI Sniper trigger has adjustment for sear contact, but a long pull.

The SMK 15 rigger has a long pull and a stiffer break.

Both rifles are pretty much the same in size, looks and weight, and most importantly both rifles are in a .177 flavour which, with all factors combined, make them perfect for this comparison test.

Two rifles ready for testing, (and the SIG Sauer X Five pistol for a bit of fun after the test)

For this test, all shots were taken while sitting, with the air rifle supported in front of the trigger guard at their points of balance. The pistol grip was held as lightly as possible and the butt plate gently rested in my shoulder, giving both rifles chance to recoil freely and (hopefully) in the same way for each shot. Both rifles were tested with the same four types of pellets at 12 yards, once with open sights and once with a 4 x 32 scope with five shots per group to give a general idea of performance and accuracy.

So from 12 yards I sat down and shot at a paper target with the ASI Sniper, with just the open sights as I had forgotten to bring the allen key to take the SMK 4x32 scope off the SMK 15. Using RWS Superdomes, AA Diabolo's, Geco Wadcutters and H&N FTT's, I shot groups of five. The trigger was heavy and this was the first time I had really fired this rifle, but despite that it was very comfortable to shoot.
Not a brilliant set of groups for the Sniper but they will tighten up with practice, besides i'm short and long sighted so open sights are a bit of a chore. Also it was 12 yards not 10 like it says on the target paper

Then, using the same pellets in the SMK 15 with the 4x32 scope, I shot five of each at 12 yards. I had to remember to take the safety off and the trigger was a tad stiffer, with the rifle being a lot harsher to shoot. Even with the scope, the groups were larger than the ASI with open sights. I would say the fact that the ASI was well run in helped out here, and again it was the second time I had ever shot the SMK.

The SMK with a 4x32 sights was no better than the Sniper without, but Superdomes and H&N's seem the way to go if i'm going to try and improve on this.

Days later when the weather had settled down again, I swapped the scope over to the ASI and took both rifles out again. I had ran out of Superdomes but I did have a new tin of JBS Exacts to try instead. I gave the SMK 15 a go with open sights first, but the spread was that bad that I gave up and didn't even bother recording the results.

After three days of howling winds we're back out with the scope swapped over to the Sniper and a brand new tin of JBS Exacts.

However, when it came to the ASI Sniper with the 4x32 scope, the results were a lot better - remember this was only the second time I had fired this rifle. The Diabolo's and Exacts gave amazing groups considering, but it didn't seem to like the H&N's. The Geco's were not too bad and they are pretty cheap pellet, so a decent Wadcutter could give results as good as the Diabolo's and the Exacts.

The line of shots at the top left are sighting in shots, but on the whole i'm pretty chuffed with these results and with the JBS Exacts as well.

So there you go, two cheap air rifles from decades apart and it looks like the Spanish Gamo won hands down. With a little fettling the ASI could have the power brought up, the trigger made lighter, and still be a smooth shooting accurate air rifle. The same could be done for the SMK 15 as well, but to me it sounds a bit like polishing a dog turd, afterall you can only do so much with cheap air rifles.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe

PS. Please don't think that I am of the opinion that all Chinese air rifles are crap. Some are pretty good. You just get what you pay for really, and with a bit of time and effort working on them some people have achieved amazing results.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The High Power ASI Sniper Micro Accuracy (Gamo Expo)

This was generally how rusty all the exposed metal work on the rifle was when I first picked it up.
My shed was getting full of junk that I keep picking up on the off chance that i'll find a use for it; I do that a lot and have found some good stuff, though lately I have managed to cut down. However I decided to take a car load of junk down to the recycling centre. I decided to ask if they ever have any air rifles or air pistols that they keep hold of to sell. They said they do sometimes and went off to have a look for me ... what they came back with was a break barrel that had rusted shut, they said I could have it for £5.

Rusty old air rifle out of a bin.

It was a .177 ASI Sniper micro accuracy, a Spanish air rifle made by El Gamo or Gamo, called the Expo. They were fairly popular in the late 70's and early 80's as they were even cheaper than a BSA Meteor or even a Relum.

Slap on a sticker and it becomes an ASI

The stamp on the breech lets you know what model Gamo it is.

It's a small to medium rifle that in it's day would do around 8-9.5 ft/lb in .177 or upto 10.5 ft/lb in .22 on a good day with the wind behind it.

Three drops of oil and dieseling gives an extra 3 ft/lb.

Not a light trigger but apparently surprisingly accurate, and for an air rifle from the 70's/80's looks pretty cool in sort of semi-tactical way. 

Spacious trigger guard.

A molded plastic trigger guard, square muzzle break with metal hood and hooked butt pad give it this look. 

The muzzle break protects the crown of the barrel.


Hard plastic butt pad that's a tad too small for the stock.

There was even a version that had a repeating mechanism that stored pellets in a tube, as did others of their models, and they were responsible for the iconic ASI Paratrooper around this time as well which was even more tactical looking. 

Rear sights worked just fine even when rusty.

Anyway, the point is that I snapped it up as at that price it was worth it for the full set of open sights alone, besides, it just needed spraying in 3in 1 oil and it would be cocking again.

One of the rustier parts.

The stock is in pretty good condition and is made from beech I presume, with an orange looking varnish and no interesting grain at all. 

Quite a plain finish on the stock.

The plastic butt pad is too small for the stock with the stock end overhanging top and bottom; if the the stock was re treated and the wood taken down it would look a lot better. 

There is a plastic end cap on the compression tube that sits at an angle, it looks like it comes off a BSA Meteor and with some wood removed from the stock would sit straight. 

With a shallow recess cut into the stock the Meteor end cap will sit straight.

The fore stock stops well short of the forks and barrel and slope back at an angle, very much like the stock off the later Relum break barrels; like them it has a slightly raised comb with cheek piece on the left, typical of air rifle stocks of the 70's and 80's (well the cheaper ones anyway).

With a bit of a clean, the stock came up surprisingly nice!

The plastic shaped trigger guard, plastic end cap, and plastic muzzle break with hood are really the only things that give it it's own identity over other air rifles of the era. 

Barrel looking tidier and a good square front sight post,

Of course, metal hoods that usually fall off and get lost eventually tend to date the rifle, and of course no tru-glo sights. 

to match the square notch on the rear sight

Hold it against an SMK 15 and it actually looks quite modern, but ill fitting parts do let it down a bit.

Rub wire wool with oil into the rust.

See the scum it lifts while not touching the enameling or bluing.

Leaving it a different looking air rifle all together.

After an hour with wire wool and some oil, nearly all the rust was removed, leaving behind 95% enamel and some patches where the rust had removed it, mainly at the front of the compression chamber and along the barrel.

Pitting left on the more rustier patches of the enamel.

Spraying some oil around the forks soon got the barrel to move, and moving the barrel back and forth for a while had it cocking and moving freely in no time. The rear trigger guard screw connects it to a lug at the rear of the compression tube and the two screws in the fore stock go in at a slight angle.

The larger bolt at the rear of the plastic trigger guard screws into the lug on the compression tube.

Underneath there's no rust at all but one of the fore stock screws is stripped at the end. Without the stock on, the damaged screw does bite and hold, so I swapped them around and they both held with the stock on, though I will most likely drill one of the stock holes a couple of mm deeper and that should solve the problem saving me having to replace the damaged screw which will definitely need to be done if I fit a new main spring.

Hole for fore stock bolt on the under side will need drilling 3 mm deeper.

The outside of the barrel is mildly marked with rust but looks nice and straight though possibly leaning slightly to the left; anyway, with extra rubbing with wire wool and oil it looks pretty nice. 

Barrel and plastic muzzle break comes up clean and shiny.

An interesting thing about the barrel is that it is a rifled .177 barrel liner made of what looks like stainless steel with an outer casing to bring it up to 15 mm; I believe this is not an uncommon practice with Gamo even today as it a system they use on many of their air rifle barrels. Anyway it's nice and shiny and needs only a brief clean, lets see just how that effects the accuracy stakes.

What looks like a stainless steel rifled barrel liner.

This rifling is very clean.

 When the stock was off I could see that the main spring appeared slightly lubricated and was not dried up. The articulated cocking linkage slides over a metal stud inside of the stock.

Metal ball to hold articulated linkage in place.

It cocked fairly smoothly with enough pressure to show the main spring still had some life in it still. In fact, it was knocking out Superdome's at around 5 ft/lb.

Just under 5 ft/lb straight off.

with a few drops of oil on the leather piston seal this should go up a little, in theory. 

About 6 ft/lb with oil settled into leather piston..

A new main spring and rubber O ring breech seal should also improve things some more, but the main spring is the same that fits Relums and Meteors and I have a few of those so it's just a matter of using the best one for now. I don't want to put too stiff a spring in as it will make the trigger quite stiff and it's just fine at the moment, it feels a little gritty but a clean and lube should improve that.

Simple trigger and sear with adjustment for sear contact.

For a cheap old air rifle it's a bit of a tidy find and nothing appears to be missing from when it was new, it scrubs up nicely and shoots fairly smoothly considering it's age. As it is, it will make a lovely little plinker or youth rifle, but with a fair bit of tinkering it could become a nice light short range hunting rifle dispatching rodents with some quality hollow points. 

Looking better after a clean.

This is one of those air rifles that people want nowadays because it reminds them of one they had as a kid back in the days when no one gave a second glance at a couple of young lads off down the fields with a couple of air rifles. One of my mates had one of these and one had a Paratrooper, whereas I had an old Webley Hawk if memory serves me well. Anyway, that's it for now.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe