Every persons definition of a collectable air weapon may differ and many will probably disagree with my assessment of such weapons. The first impression of appearance is all important in combination with the replication accuracy in relation to the design of the original firearm.
The appearance of a black gun with black grips may not be so appealing as one with a nickel finish and brown wooden grips - the Umarex Beretta M92 FS (fixed slide) is a typical example.
Of course to complete the choice, I would like the weapon to offer excellent handling and firing .177 or .22 pellets with 398 feet per second (FPS) or more velocity through a rifled barrel, but very often, one cannot have all of these wishes in an collectable air weapon - we have to make allowances. All the pistols within this article are CO2 gas capsule powered and fire .177 pellets.
The most appealing and realistic replica collectables are the Umarex 1872 Colt Single Action Army revolvers. These are all metal (apart from the grips) and they are true to the originals. They now come in a 5.5" barrel and only in antique and nickel plated finishes.
They even replica the two dimples on the right hand side casing (above the trigger) of the original 1800s guns. The 1872 Colt SAA is the gun that reputedly 'tamed the west' and also known as the 'Peacemaker' and the 'Smoke Wagon' it came in 7.5" and 5.5" barrels. The 7.6" offered greater accuracy but the 5.5" was favoured as the gun for carrying in the townships as it offered a faster draw due to its shorter barrel. The 'Antique Finish' of the Umarex 1872 Colt Single Action Army Revolver is a very desirable replica.
However, it is well known that on dress occasions, especially when gambling at night, Doc Holliday carried a nickel plated 1872 Colt Single Action Army Revolver with ivory white grips and a 5.5" barrel for a right cross fast draw from a left side holster. Doc preferred a right cross draw as the gun in a left holster (across the front of the waist) was harder to access by another person - the Umarex 1872 Colt Single Action Army Revolver in nickel with white grips is a very close replica.
A close second and very often the most appealing revolver is the ASG 1870 Smith & Wesson 'Aged Finish' Schofield with its top-break action cylinder. Many peace officers, and outlaws of the 'old west' carried the Smith & Wesson Schofield Revolver with its fast loading 'top-break cylinder'. Men like John Wesley Hardin, Pat Garrett, Theodore Roosevelt, Virgil Earp, Billy the Kid, and many others. The Smith & Wesson No. 3 revolver was famously used by Wyatt Earp during the OK Corral Gunfight with the Clanton Gang. The ASG 1870 Smith & Wesson 'Aged Finish' Schofield is a faithful reproduction.
Loading and firing all of these revolvers is as close as you will get to the real guns from the 1800s. These weapons offer the added bonus of excellent velocity and accuracy.
To some the 'Aged Finish' is more accurate a replica than the highly polished chrome, nickel and silver finishes. A typical example of this is the true to the period, Webley Service Mark VI Revolver which comes in a 'Battlefield Finish'. This finish is what would expect if you were in World War 1 and after a few years into the battle the original colour of the gun would be worn down in contact areas to display a very appealing patina.
The Webley Mark I service revolver was adopted in 1887 and the Mark IV was used during the Boer War of 1899–1902. The Mark VI, introduced in 1915 during the First World War, is the best-known model. Normally worn in a flap top holster, it had a ring on the base of the butt to secure it by a lanyard to the wearer's body.
The 'Battlefield Finish' of the air replica is very desirable but then some collectors might prefer the 'exhibition' model which is finished in silver with black grips.
Imagine you are 'Dirty Harry' with a Magnum Revolver and blowing away the bad guys. The Smith & Wesson Model 29 which was designed and manufactured in 1955 and released to the public in 1956 was also known as the .44 Magnum which fired a .44 Remington magnum cartridge. It came in a black finish with brown grips and had a heavy recoil and loud flash on firing.
There are many 'Magnum' air revolver replicas and probably the best are the ASG Dan Wesson series, especially the 6" barrel variants. The replication of an original Dan Wesson 715 .357 Magnum is excellent but one downside is that 'Dan Wesson' is written along the barrel and 'Made in Taiwan' is stamped on the side of the frame. ASG do not make a black finish revolver with brown grips that fires .177 pellets which is very unfortunate and I can assure you, when they do make such a model, I will be first in the queue.
An alternative choice is the ASG Dan Wesson 715 6" Barrel Revolver (see image above) in a steel grey frame with black grips BUT ASG also offer genuine brown wooden grips as optional accessories. It fires .177 pellets loaded into 6 x cartridges.
I like the ASG Dan Wesson 715 4" Barrel Revolver in a silver finish, its a nice gun and modelled on the original Dan Wesson 715 .357 Magnum. I like the small size, the way the .177 pellets are inserted into the back of its 6 x metal cartridges and loaded into the cylinder chambers.
The replication is excellent and it is finished in a silver plating. A downside is that 'Made in Taiwan' is stamped on the side of the frame. Interestingly enough, the ASG optional brown wooden grips fit this gun as well - cool.
An alternative to the Dan Wesson is the Umarex S40 Legends which is a true replica of the Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Revolver. It has a 4" barrel and is finished in nickel plating and I like the shape of the black grip which is a true example of the original.
The barrel has Legends S40 stamped on it but the frame only refers to the calibre of the pellet. True to the original, it chambers 6 x cartridges with .177 pellets inserted in the rear of each one.
The weight and manufactured finish of the Umarex S40 Legends Revolver is second to none which makes the gun a delight to handle, load and fire.
The Gletcher NGT-R .177 air pellet, rifled barrel revolver is an authentic replica of the Nagant M1895 Revolver which is a seven-shot, gas-seal revolver designed and produced by Belgian industrialist Léon Nagant for the Russian Empire.
The Nagant M1895 was chambered for a proprietary cartridge, 7.62×38mmR, and featured an unusual "gas-seal" system, in which the cylinder moved forward when the gun was cocked, to close the gap between the cylinder and the barrel, providing a boost to the muzzle velocity of the fired projectile and allowing the weapon to be suppressed (an unusual ability for a revolver)
The Gletcher NGT-R is a worthwhile addition to any collection and Gletcher have understated the average FPS performance of their gun which actually delivers around 418 FPS rather than the claimed 328 FPS. They also manufacture a .177 pellet, rifled barrelled Gletcher NGT-R Nickel Version of the revolver.
Semi-automatic pistols with fixed slides and blow back slides are too many to mention but only a few could be considered as collectable. A fixed slide pistol will not automatically re-cock the gun's hammer so the user has to pull the trigger to cock and fire the hammer or pull the hammer back to cock it before pulling the trigger. Therefore the replication of a blowback slide pistol is not so authentic but invariably the fixed slide pistol delivers a more accurate shot.
The Umarex Walther CP88 air pistol is as near a perfect replica of the original Walther P88 firearm. It has a fixed slide but is glorious in a black finish but perhaps more appealing in a nickel finish with black grips?
The Walther P88 is a semi-automatic pistol developed by the Walther
company of Germany in 1988, hence the model
name P88. Its main feature
is a high-capacity double-stacked magazine designed for military and law
The Walther P88 is highly prized among collectors and sport shooters due
to its superb accuracy and high-quality construction. The Umarex Walther
CP88 follows this trend with a superb replica, albeit with a fixed slide
– sometimes you cannot have it all.
However, a fixed slide pistol is often very
desirable due to the finish
of the weapon. The Umarex Beretta M92 FS shown at the top of this
article is a classic example.
A fixed slide will deliver more shots per CO2 capsule than a blow back
BUT then the feel of the recoil and the blow back slide in action,
is a hard act to follow.
The Umarex Colt M1911 A1 Dark Ops pistol has a fixed slide but the overall feel and look of the gun is excellent. It has a very firm split/top loading system via a circular metal disc with .177 pellets inserted and the butt magazine is a fixed replica look alike which houses the Umarex CO2 capsule by unclipping one of the grips. Its a very nice replica of the original gun, the M1911, also known as the "Government" or "Colt Government", which is a single-action, semi-automatic, pistol and was standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1986. It was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It also comes in a complete black finish with black grips.
A pistol with a blowback slide is cocked by pulling back the slide along the top of the gun to load the first round. When you pull the trigger, the firing makes the blow back slide recoil backwards and the hammer is cocked for the next trigger pull. To finish the experience, you want a magazine that loads like the original firearm. So, snap in the magazine, pull the top slide back to load, flick up the safety to red for fire and pull the trigger, pull the trigger and so on until the magazine is empty; fantastic realistic blowback recoil, the gun is great fun. To decock, just flick the safety on and the hammer clicks back without firing the weapon.
To ultimate blowback pistol is one that allows you to field strip the gun by removing the top slide and the slide locks back when the last round is fired. You cannot have it all, but the one air pistol that offers as near 100% replica realism as possible is unfortunately a BB version and not a .177 pellet. The Umarex Glock 17 Gen 4 has it all, realistic blowback with last shot slide lock back, field strippable and a great magazine that looks and feels like the real thing - how cool is that?
I don't like BBs as they ricochet everywhere but you can purchase alternatives to steel, such as lead or copper, which perform similar to .177 lead pellets. There is probably no better replica than the Glock GEN4 and I am seriously tempted to purchase one - just because of the way it performs like the real firearm.
As always, there are downsides and poor accuracy on the target is one of them. The main Glock weakness is the lack of firepower which propels 5.37grm steel BBs at around 320 FPS BUT by purchasing a couple of spare magazines the Glock delivers an enormous fun factor. You rapid fire the 19 rounds with blowback slide re-cocking recoil, eject the spent magazine (CO2 capsule still reusable when reloaded with BBs) and pop in another. No need to worry about loss of power as the new magazine also has a new CO2 capsule alongside the BBs section. The magazine is about as authentic as you can get and is made of metal. The Glock GEN4 is likely to eat CO2 capsules and probably you will have to be nearer that tin can to hit it but the fun factor makes up for the extra costs - be sure to wear proper safety glasses when you are firing BBs.
I went for the Umarex Beretta PX-4 Pistol, which has the blowback slide, a fairly realistic (plastic) magazine, decocking safety, fires .177 pellets through a rifled barrel and it is field strippable - if you remove a pin in the body.
It is collectable but mine will be used as an every day gun from a holster so it will not be residing in a display cabinet.
Last but not least, if you want to keep your gun in pristine showroom condition, do not use a holster because as sure as night follows day, the gun coating will wear off.
Best keep the gun in a sturdy case with foam inlays for the gun and any accessories.