There’s a lot of different CO2 pistols on the market, so how do you choose the best one to suit your needs? For starters, CO2 pistols are available in two main platforms with some sub categories under each one:
- Replica, shell loading
- Blowback, often close replicas
Let’s begin with the revolvers. If you are a firearm enthusiast wanting to improve your handgun skills on the cheap, the replica models with BB or pellet shells are an excellent choice. Since they load with BB or pellet shells, you can practice tactical reloads along with drawing from a holster, target acquisition, sight picture, and trigger pull. The downside to these it that most of the replicas on the market are of antique revolvers, not modern ones. There are some modern styled ones out there, but few, if any direct replicas. Because of this, they may not be identical to your carry pistol. The classic styled ones are great if you want to shoot an iconic revolver, though, so don’t overlook them. Most of these are smoothbore, so they shoot BBs very well, making them very inexpensive to shoot.
The clip-style loading revolvers allow loading more BBs or pellets at a time, so you can shoot more and load less frequently. They often shoot with more power than their replica counterparts and usually cost significantly less. Most of the clip-style revolvers feature rifled barrels, giving them very good pellet accuracy, but usually don’t shoot BBs very accurately. These usually feature more optic mounting options, so they can easily be customized with red dot sights, flashlights, lasers, etc. They often can be fired in both single action or double action, so you still get realistic trigger time with these. If you want to do more with your CO2 pistol than just use them for firearm training, the clip-style revolvers are a very good choice.
With either style of revolver, you can expect over 100 shots per CO2 cylinder. That, combined with higher power and often better accuracy, makes them a logical choice for the shooter who wants to get the most for their shooting dollar.
Revolvers have really dropped in popularity with concealed carry enthusiasts over the years in favor of higher capacity semi-automatic pistols. As a result, there is a large number of semi-automatic styled CO2 pistols available today. Like their firearm counterparts, they have high ammunition capacity, and can send that ammunition downrange at a very high rate of speed.
One of the most exciting varieties of semi-automatic CO2 pistols are the blowback replica models. These have the same controls and similar weight of their firearm counterparts. This makes them incredibly useful as firearm training tools. The blowback and noise can even help to a degree with flinch control, something you don’t get with dry fire training systems. Most of these CO2 pistols shoot BBs only, making the ammunition very inexpensive. In spite of their realism, they do have some downsides: they have a higher purchase price, replacement magazines are expensive, they use a lot more CO2, and produce less power than the other CO2 pistol platforms. That aside, they are much cheaper to operate than an actual firearm, so they are well worth the downsides for realistic training purposes. You can expect 3 to 4 magazines worth of shooting per cylinder depending on how fast you pull the trigger.
A few of these even feature a “fun switch”, or the ability to switch to full-automatic fire. Full-auto firearms are very expensive and difficult to acquire, so having an airgun with that feature really adds a new dimension to the CO2 pistol experience. The downside is you’ll get 2 to 3 magazines worth before you run out of CO2.
The non-blowback CO2 pistols don’t waste CO2 to operate a blowback mechanism. Because of this, they often shoot with a lot more power and get a lot more shots per CO2 cylinder than their blowback counterparts. You can expect 90+ good shots with this type of pistol. These often have a very long trigger pull to operate the internal mechanism. This trigger pull is surprisingly similar to the trigger found on many concealed carry pistols, and it is for this reason I spend a lot of time shooting these and highly recommend them as a valuable training tool to experienced pistol shooters who don’t need to work on their flinching. If you can shoot good groups with this long and hard of a trigger pull, you will be able to shoot anything! Combine that with rapid fire shooting, and you’ll be unstoppable at competitions! The non-blowback CO2 pistols are very inexpensive to purchase, often a third of the cost of the blowback replicas. Combine that with using less CO2, and you almost can’t afford not to own one of these.
There are other CO2 pistols out there that are less like regular firearms. Most of these are bolt action and are often available in both .177 and .22 caliber. These have a huge following among the airgun modification crowd, and could have an entire website dedicated just to them.
I hope this article helps you in deciding which type of CO2 pistol is for you!