"Air Defense Understudies"

Gletcher Air Guns offer new levels of realism and crossover training opportunities
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Gletcher BB Guns

Gletcher offers numerous models of CO2-powered BB guns perfect for backyard fun.

M1944

The M1944 Moisin Nagant has a folding bayonet for added realism. The rifle weighs 8 pounds. The BBs and cartridge fit in a detachable magazine (below).

airgun ammo

The mere mention of “BB gun” inevitably conjures up the Daisy Red Rider. But let me tell you, BB guns have evolved well past this stage. Thanks to my youngest son — who has an insatiable appetite for shooting — I started on a quest to update myself on what the air gun world has to offer today.

airgun M1944

Surprisingly, the full-size bolt-action M1944 proved to be a favorite, thanks to its realistic feel and accuracy potential.

A Name Brand Emerges

I quickly arrived at Gletcher as a potential source of premium air guns. Gletcher has emerged as a leader in the pneumatic gun market since its debut in 2008. While maintaining enthusiasm for shooting (and keeping it fun) is my first priority with my son, today’s air guns make it easy to stick to my standards.

Because Gletcher offers many models that closely resemble classic centerfire weapons, they are a means for experiencing and appreciating many iconic weapons not easily obtainable due to cost, origin or bureaucratic red tape.

The company’s primary goal is to create pneumatic guns that simulate the feeling of shooting a real firearm. Their guns feature real-world trigger pull, manipulation techniques and sight pictures. This provides for solid training experience while standing in your backyard. The use of full-metal construction and moving slides (on the blowback models) add to the realism. Gletcher strives to replicate the external aesthetics and weight of a designated model. Their air guns balance functionality and historical accuracy, capturing the essence and nostalgia of the original designs.

Gletcher

Gletcher’s attention to detail is captured nicely with their Broomhandle, offering an operating mechanism similar to the original — including a full auto option!

Gletcher

Airgun pratice

The Stechkin is a spittin’ image of the famous Soviet select-fire machine pistol (above). It features a BB magazine and requires the slide to be racked (below) before firing, just like the original.

bb gun

Maintaining A “Perishable Commodity”

Having an “understudy” similar in ergonomics and feel to a full-powered original is a well recognized practice. Skill with a handgun or rifle is a perishable talent unless maintained. However, a young shooter is more likely to be attracted to having fun. With Gletcher guns they can have fun while gaining the benefits of practicing important skill sets used with real guns.

Gletcher guns offer zero recoil and no muzzle signature. They provide solid accuracy and reliability for enhancing marksmanship capabilities in shooters of all skill levels. A variety of .177 (4.5mm) BB air guns were used for this article such as a Stechkin, Broomhandle Mauser and Luger P08. A Mosin Nagant 1944 served as the lone long arm.

All four of the guns were simple to get into action. Concise, photo- filled instructions were provided to explain how to load CO2 cartridges and BBs. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference aesthetically between the Gletchers and the real-deal originals. The in-hand “feel” between the Broomhandle and an original was hard to tell apart.

Gletcher

Gletcher Broomhandle being charged just as an original would be before firing (above). This photo, (below) says it all after the first full-auto burst!

Gletcher

Easy Practice

What I appreciated most was being able to simply walk out my back door to my fenced-in yard to experience plinking fun usually reserved for a journey to the range. These guns can be shot in the backyard or inside your basement or garage — a huge advantage for those of us living in areas where winter hangs on into April. Target stands/traps were simple to construct out of cardboard boxes filled with composite materials such as rigid insulation board, packing foam and old magazines. A little experimentation and attention to detail upfront will go a long way to ensure BBs don’t escape from the trap — safety glasses are a must anytime you step onto any type of range.

The highly realistic Gletcher copies provide practice with a facsimile of the real thing. Sure, you don’t get to experience the recoil and muzzle blast, but most of the other shooting dynamics remain the same. You can even rack the slide to simulate a realistic manual of arms. Gletcher air guns send BBs downrange at 320-390 fps. They are simple to get into action — the magazines are easy to load with BBs, and the CO2 is easily inserted into place. Magazine capacities were 16-22 BBs, depending on the model.

Certain Gletcher handguns featured blowback systems with the slides reciprocating when fired, reinforcing the realism. The P-08 even has an operating toggle link similar to the original Luger. It was possible to get between 3-4 magazines worth of shots out of one 12-gram CO2 cartridge with the Broomhandle and Luger P-08. The Stechkin handled approximately 140 BBs before it needed a fresh CO2 cartridge. The increase in rounds fired with the Stechkin is because it doesn’t need to bleed gas off to operate its slide.

Open and shut: The Gletcher P-08, like the original, features an operating toggle-link as well as a BB magazine.

Gletcher

Gletcher BB gun

Gletcher’s P-08 in action. At 32 ounces, even the weight is accurate thanks to its metal construction.

Gletcher BB Gun

Eye protection is mandatory. A BB can take some mighty erratic bounces!

A Learning Experience

BB air guns are generally not as accurate as pellet guns, but accurate fire was possible out to 7 yards or so depending on wind conditions. The M1944 rifle was spot-on up to 12 yards. The goal is to choose challenging targets and then practice sight alignment and trigger control, trying to stack “BBs” on top of each other. The Gletcher Broomhandle has the unique feature, normally not found on “BB” air guns, of allowing full auto fire. I do not care what it is, but full auto on anything is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face at any age.

An unexpected side benefit I discovered while working the Gletcher guns was the ability to teach safe gun handling skills, especially when loading, manipulating safeties and moving to engage various target scenarios. The guns were handled just as you would a real firearm. The “four rules of gun safety” are the same as well as mistakes in trigger control and improper sight alignment. The absence of a muzzle blast creates a great learning environment.

The Gletcher guns we tested emulate the dimension and weight of the originals they were inspired by. They achieve this by using metal for the body of the gun, breech lever system and firing mechanism. For example, the P08 Luger weighs 32 ounces, the Stechkin 36 ounces, Broomhandle 48 ounces and M1944 8.2 pounds. The weight is perfect for simulating the feel of aiming and holding steady actual guns while firing. This is especially true of the Gletcher M1944 rifle. Where else could you get an 8-pound air gun with an actual folding bayonet in place for authentic air gun fun?

Proper sight alignment and trigger control are easy to self-diagnose with air guns because muzzle blast and recoil often mask flaws in your technique with real firearms. If you are missing, it is time to slow down and re-evaluate.

All of Gletcher’s attention to detail and authenticity would be in vain if the models didn’t perform on par with how a “BB” air gun meant for laid-back shooting should. All of the time spent on the range with these copies proved it wasn’t it vain.

You had better have numerous CO2 cartridges and thousands of BBs in stock before you get started. Spare magazines are available from Gletcher. And it might be best to limit spare magazines to slow down BB cost, especially once the Broomhandle’s “fun switch” is discovered. Range time can best be described as productive as well as with the unscientific term of fun!

BB guns

The accuracy demonstrated by four Gletcher BB guns during Todd’s backyard shooting-session instilled confidence in his kids.

AirSoft And Pellet Options

Air guns can take the form of BB, airsoft and lead pellet in terms of ammunition. Each kind has its own applications. Let’s break them down:

Airsoft — Airsoft guns offer authentic-looking replicas for target shooting and fun. Because they employ 6mm plastic “BB-type” ammo, activities similar to paintballing can be considered. Obviously, face and eye protection are required. But the plastic ammo allows for indoor use without requiring special target traps. Airsoft guns can be great force-on-force training tools where individuals or groups can get a better feel of the dynamics of a personal defense encounter. Gletcher’s Tokarev and Grach 6mm airsoft pistols are CO2-powered. The Grach is a replica of the replacement for Russia’s long-serving Makarov.

Lead Pellet — Pellet guns from SIG SAUER and Gamo USA also allow for backyard target practice. It’s easier to find — or make — effective backstops or traps for pellets than it is for BBs thanks to their soft lead construction, lessening the chance of ricochets. When fired, the pellet’s “skirt” will obturate to fit the bore and provide a good seal in a rifled barrel-providing pin. In a smoothbore barrel, the skirt will still flare to provide a tight seal, but since there’s no rifling the pellet won’t spin. In this case, the solid head in the front and hollow skirt in back will prevent the pellet from tumbling, providing more accuracy than a round BB. Pellets come in all different shapes, weights and sizes.

SIG SAUER 226 handgun and MCX rifle ASP air guns are based on contemporary centerfire SIG weapons. SIG pellet rifles are matched to original model specs. The MCX ASP features a steel rifled barrel and accessory rail for optics or vertical forward grips. The MCX uses a patented pellet drive system in the magazine, smoothly feeding up to 30 rounds in 3.5 seconds.

The 226 ASP has a reciprocating full blowback metal slide; it matches the original P226 in terms of balance and weight. The SIG 226 ASP has a unique rotary magazine; it flips over and reloads for a second 8-round feed. Lastly, SIG’s innovative CO2 cam lever system allows for simple CO2 cartridge refilling by opening the grip and dropping in a fresh CO2 cartridge. No screw-in necessary.
Spring-powered Gamo models can send pellets downrange at over 1,400 fps, making them effective on pests and varmints. Both .177 and .22 caliber models are available. The Gamo USA Hornet will fire a .177 pellet at near 1,200 fps. The 18-inch barrel-cocking Hornet is simple to manipulate, requiring only 30 pounds of pressure to cock the spring. The Hornet weighs 6 pounds with overall length of 43 inches and has provisions for mounting an optic via grooved rails on the receiver.

www.gletcherguns.com

www.gamousa.com

www.sigsauerasp.com