US Air­guns

Stephen Archer has a ball with some fast-fire BB plink­ers

Airgun World - - Contents - Stephen Archer is Pub­lisher of Hard Air Mag­a­zine, the US-based on­line air­gun mag­a­zine. http://www.hardair­magazine.com

Stephen Archer has fun in the USA with some fast-fire BB guns

Here in the USA, full-auto BB guns are all the rage, es­pe­cially if they are re­pro­duc­tions of firearm orig­i­nals. Amaz­ingly enough, full-auto firearms are ac­tu­ally le­gal in some states, with the ap­pro­pri­ate pa­per­work, al­though not in the more lib­eral, and gen­er­ally heav­ily pop­u­lated states such as New York, Cal­i­for­nia and New Jersey. You can even find ded­i­cated ma­chine gun shoots – such as the fa­mous an­nual event at Knob Creek in Ken­tucky where ev­ery­thing is full-auto, in­clud­ing .50 cal­i­bre BMG! In fact, large cal­i­bre full-auto air­guns were used by the US mil­i­tary dur­ing World War Two for train­ing bomber crews in aerial gun­nery, with­out the need for ex­pen­sive, and scarce, .50 cal ma­chine guns and ammo. How­ever, for most of us, full-auto BB guns are fun enough. They’re le­gal just about ev­ery­where, freely avail­able for pur­chase, and full-auto BB guns are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as new mod­els hit the streets ev­ery year.

BUM­BLE­BEE - THE FIRST FULL AUTO BB GUN

Ten or so years back, the only full-auto BB gun read­ily avail­able here was the Drozd Bum­ble­bee. This Rus­sian BB gun, in­tro­duced in 2001, was a sub-ma­chine gun man­u­fac­tured by the Izhevsk arse­nal. It

“full-auto BB guns are be­com­ing rapidly more pop­u­lar in the USA”

fea­tured mul­ti­ple rates of fire, to­gether with sin­gle-shot, three- and six-shot burst ca­pa­bil­ity. It was pow­ered by 12-gramme CO2 cap­sules, to­gether with bat­tery op­er­a­tion of the ac­tion, in a man­ner sim­i­lar to that of many air­soft guns. A non-blow-back model, it’s so-called be­cause of its ‘non-threat­en­ing’ pre­dom­i­nantly yel­low colour.

The Bum­ble­bee is a real hoot to shoot! My per­sonal favourite mode is three-shot bursts at 600 rounds per minute. Ac­cu­racy is rea­son­able at close range, but it it’s much more fun to miss the tar­get first time be­cause that means that you have to blaze away again!

THERE’S PLENTY OF IN­TER­EST

We can see ev­i­dence of the in­creas­ing sales of full-auto BB guns through data pro­vided by Pyra­myd Air, based in Cleve­land, Ohio, and the world’s largest ded­i­cated air­gun re­tailer. Ev­ery year, Pyra­myd Air an­nounces its top-sell­ing prod­ucts for the past 12 months. Back in 2015, no full-auto BB guns fea­tured in Pyra­myd’s top-sell­ing list. Yet the 2017 re­sults in­cluded no less than four full-auto mod­els. These were the Steel Storm, Beretta 92A1 full-auto pis­tol, Uzi BB Car­bine, Le­gends MP40 and Steel Force BB guns. All are Umarex prod­ucts. Mean­while, sin­gle-shot, pel­let-fir­ing air pistols such as the clas­sic Crosman 2240 have dis­ap­peared from that best-seller list. In 2015, no BBs made it into the Pyra­myd Air best-sell­ing ammo list, it was all pel­lets. By 2017, there were two types of BBs in the top ten. So, we can see that full-auto BB guns are be­com­ing rapidly more pop­u­lar in the USA. Peo­ple here just love that ‘rock and roll’ set­ting!

TWO TOP UMAREX MODEL

Let’s take a look at two full-auto BB guns that are both pop­u­lar and re­al­is­tic World War Two-era mil­i­tary repli­cas with blow-back ac­tion; they’re the Umarex Le­gends MP40 and the Le­gends M712 Sch­nellfeuer Broomhan­dle.

Like most full-auto BB guns, both have se­lec­tors for both full- and semi-auto fire, but the Broomhan­dle, be­ing an older model, does not have a bolt hold-open to stop fire when the

BBs are gone. You have to lis­ten to the sound to know that you’re rapidly fir­ing blanks and burn­ing through pre­cious CO2 at a rapid rate.

The Le­gends MP40 has a slower – real­is­ti­cally slower – rate of fire and a bolt hold-open. So it stops fir­ing when the BBs have been ex­pended. The strong blow-back of this model also has the cock­ing han­dle re­cip­ro­cat­ing un­der fire. This makes for a par­tic­u­larly re­al­is­tic-feel­ing experience. At least, I think it does. Like the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of US shoot­ers, my only experience with full-auto fire is by shoot­ing these BB guns.

Umarex has more full-auto mod­els than these two, though. There’s also a full-auto replica Uzi BB gun and the com­pany has ‘non-replica’ mod­els such as the Steel Force and Steel Storm. As men­tioned, these are big sell­ers here, but do not fea­ture blow-back op­er­a­tion.

CROSMAN EN­TERS THE MAR­KET

At this year’s SHOT Show, Crosman also en­tered the full-auto BB gun mar­ket with two mod­els. The PFAM9B is a Crosman-branded pis­tol with se­lectable full- and semi-auto fire. The de­sign is ob­vi­ously Beretta style, but it’s not branded as such.

The PFAM9B cer­tainly works well and is much more con­trol­lable in full-auto than the Sch­nellfeuer Broomhan­dle, thus repli­cat­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the firearm orig­i­nals which in­spire them.

To match this, Crosman also an­nounced a ‘DPMS SBR’ long gun. DPMS is a US-based spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­turer of AR15-type firearms. The SBR (Short Bar­relled Ri­fle) is not an ac­tual replica of any spe­cific DPMS model, but it’s cer­tainly an in­ter­est­ing-look­ing BB gun with the looks and feel of a cus­tomised AR15-type firearm. It has no less than four ac­ces­sory rails to mount any com­bi­na­tion of sights, lasers, lights and fore­grips that the owner can imag­ine. Crosman claims a rate of fire of above 1,400 rounds per minute for the DPMS SBR. I’m sure it’s true, but I couldn’t count that fast!

Like the other full auto firearms-replica BB guns we’ve men­tioned, both these Crosman mod­els have blow-back ac­tion. They also have pri­mar­ily metal con­struc­tion, giv­ing them the weight and feel of a firearm.

The Crosman DPMS SBR fea­tured in this story is an early pre-pro­duc­tion sam­ple. It’s se­rial num­ber TWO, in fact! Like the Le­gends MP40, it has a mag­a­zine hold­ing the BBs, to­gether with two 12-gramme CO2 cap­sules, al­though in a dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tion. Crosman tells me that they’re plan­ning a UK-com­pli­ant ver­sion of the DPMS SBR, so look out for the ‘one shot at a time’ ver­sion at some time in the fu­ture. I’m sure John Milewski will love this as much as he did the MP40!

KOREAN BACK­GROUND

In fact, all these full-auto BB guns, with the ex­cep­tion of the Bum­ble­bee, are de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by South Korean com­pany, KWC, and they are also re­spon­si­ble for many other re­al­is­tic, BB-fir­ing replica pistols mar­keted by a num­ber of other com­pa­nies. KWC is not a gen­er­ally well-known name to air­gun­ners, but they clearly have a core com­pe­tency in the de­sign and man­u­fac­ture of blow-back and full-auto BB guns.

FULL AUTO DOWN­SIDE

Sadly, all these full-auto BB guns suf­fer from one ma­jor dis­ad­van­tage. Whilst they fire the BBs at a tremen­dous rate, they’re all very slow to load. Load­ing times are an or­der of mag­ni­tude longer than the shoot­ing time! That’s an is­sue for many peo­ple, but it’s ob­vi­ously not enough of one to stop the ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of full-auto BB gun mod­els and their sales over here in the USA – prob­a­bly be­cause that full-auto smile stays with you a long while.

The Bum­ble­bee is a lit­tle too com­pact for com­fort­able use from the shoul­der. It’s more fun to shoot from the hip!

The Umarex Le­gends Sch­nellfeuer Broomhan­dle is a very ac­cu­rate BB-fir­ing replica of the orig­i­nal.

The Umarex Le­gends MP40 is sur­pris­ingly ac­cu­rate.

Here’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween UK and US ver­sions of the Umarex MP40. The safety/se­lec­tor switch.

Ready to open-up with the MP40.

Full-auto even made it to the 2017 Ex­treme Benchrest shoot. Stephen Gib­son showed-up with his cus­tomised SMG 22 full-auto pel­let gun. It drew lots of at­ten­tion from the long-range pre­ci­sion shoot­ers who were com­pet­ing with their Daystate and FX air ri­fles.

The Drozd, DPMS and MP40 are all a hoot to shoot!

Crosman’s DPMS SBR has a func­tion­ing ejec­tion port cover and ad­justable length stock.

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