The young musician hops into a New York taxi and asks “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The driver turns to the musician as says, “Practice, Practice, Practice”. While the musician didn’t quite get the answer he was looking for, the taxi driver was right on the mark. The only way to get good is to practice, practice, practice.
This not only holds true for music, it also holds true for firearms. You can take classes to learn safe handling, read books on proper site pictures and stances, and ask your fellow gun owners what is their favorite grip. This is all great background information but isn’t a substitute for actual trigger time. One has to burn through ammunition at a range or other safe area in order to get the feel of your weapon.
Living in some areas of the country this is relatively easy. However, I live in Illinois. ‘Nuf Said as the saying goes….. There are two indoor ranges within 30 minutes of where I live. The problem is they are always packed with wait times of at least an hour plus. Trying to get trigger time is just about a futile effort. Both of these ranges will not let you practice drawing a holstered weapon. One can practice this in the house, but repeated dry firing is often not recommended for a weapon. Add in the recent events in our country and this situation and their effect on the price and availability of ammunition and trigger time is almost out of the question!
In January of this year we were stalking the SHOT Show and came across Umarex. They produce replica weapons that fire BBs and/or Pellets. Much to my surprise we came across a Makarov CO2 BB pistol! The light bulb lit up over my head and I had an epiphany. Why can’t I use a BB Pistol just like my real Makarov to practice drawing from a holster and picking up a site picture? After a little schmoozing and running the idea past the sales rep he gladly sent me one for testing and review. The pistol arrived in a few weeks and at first glance it is an exact duplicate of the Mak.
Putting both of the scale the BB version weighs in at 1 pound 8 oz which is the same as the real version unloaded. Dropping a full magazine in and the real Makarov weighs in at 1 pound 12oz. Other common attributes are how the slide functions and the safety. There is a slight difference of the mag release but that is the nature of the beast. Both have the release on the bottom.
Specs on the Umarex version are as follows:
Trigger: Single Action, Double Action
Ammo: Steel BBs
Sights: Fixed Front and Rear
Barrel: Smooth Bore
Barrel Length: 3.5”
Capacity: 18 Rounds
Power Source: 12g CO2 Capsule
Charging up the BB version with CO2 is a simple procedure. The grip slides back to reveal the CO2 chamber. Unscrew the locking screw on the bottom and insert the CO2 capsule. Then screw it back in to puncture the capsule. Loading the BBs in the mag is just as simple. There is a tab that gets pulled back to a stop. Then drop in 18 BBs and release the tab to keep them in place. To chamber a round or BB you pull back the slide. This sets the hammer for single action mode. The BB pistol will also work as double action. Removing the slide works the same way as the real version. Pull the trigger guard down and to the side. Pull the slide all the way back and it will detach from the rail. The safety is also located in the same position as the Makarov.
The great folks over at Drago provided me with a soft case to carry either the Umarex or the Makarov. Both fit perfectly and keep either weapon protected.
Practicing with the Umarex
Aside from the lack of recoil the Umarex Mak still lets me practice the shooting fundamentals with a weapon nearly identical to the actual firearm I use. I can still practice proper grip, site alignment, and trigger control either in my basement or garage with a proper backstop (such as a cardboard box filled with Styrofoam, newspaper etc.) or in the backyard or out in the woods (local regulations pending of course. Even airgun use is regulated in some places)
All things considered, the Umarex performs well in the accuracy department. At 10 yards I can get a decent grouping. It was shooting a little low and right but even with non-adjustable sites it would be easy enough to adjust my site picture. Also in this pic I was running low on CO2 so that would explain the low group. Once I put a fresh cylinder in, the grouping was more centered. I was able to get around 60 – 70 shots per cylinder. At around 50 shots the power did taper off a bit. If you like the immediate feedback from your target you can check out the Birchwood Casey’s Shoot-N-C line. They provide a nice ‘splat’ even with a BB.
Considering that 2500 BBs are around $5.00 and the CO2 cylinders run about a buck a piece you can have a bunch of fun for not much money. With the cost of even .22LR ammo these days this is an inexpensive alternative!
The size and feel of the Umarex is nearly identical to my German Suhl Makarov. This allows me to practice basic weapon handling skills and try out different holsters and configurations with the Umarex in my basement and not have to worry about finding a range that will let me run through the same drill. With concealed carry almost a reality in my state, being proficient with my carry piece is a must.
I can practice drawing the weapon from the holster either on its own or with a covering garment such as an untucked shirt or jacket on and draw and fire on the target so that I can refine my motion and ensure smooth, fast first round hits from concealment. I can also use the Umarex to practice strong and weak hand shooting and weapons retention shooting drills. Being in the leather business and starting to get into holster making I can test out different configurations and designs.
One thing to note with concealed carry: while I can’t imagine anyone carrying a BB gun for defense, if you did plan on carrying one around with you for some reason be cautious and check your local laws first. Carrying a BB gun might be viewed the same as carrying an actual firearm in some places, especially if its carried in a manner that might suggest it’s a real weapon like concealed in a holster, and the Umarex certainly looks real enough that it could get you into trouble.
Aside from the serious side of practicing with what I hope will become my concealed carry pistol one day there is another side to the Umarex Makarov BB pistol: they’re a whole lot of fun to shoot! While I value the fact that the Umarex makes a good training pistol it also is simple a neat gun to shoot. It’s a great chance to own a Makarov type pistol even if you can’t or don’t want to own the real thing. As noted the size, weight and details of the gun compare very favorably to the real thing so it’s fun to be able to go out and shoot the sidearm of the old USSR, especially when it’s so inexpensive to shoot. If you get bored running combat drills there are plenty of other targets suitable for the Mak including soda cans, plastic bottles, vanilla wafers and just about anything else you can think of that’s safe to shoot at. I’d avoid metal targets since, unlike lead pellets, the copper BB’s have a tendency to ricochet when they hit a hard target like steel or even a wooden board hit head on. This is why I recommend using proper safety equipment like safety glasses and always safe handling procedures as with all firearms. Just because it is a BB Gun doesn’t mean it won’t do damage. Like we have all heard; “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!”
While the lack of recoil may be a negative when it comes to use as a stand in for the real thing in training, it can be a bonus for general plinking. With no recoil you can shoot all day without ill effect. The noise level with this piece is pretty nominal, it is recommended to use your own judgment with hearing protection. The lack of recoil and noise make it a great piece to introduce new shooters to as well. A new shooter can practice on the fundamentals of grip, sights and trigger control and not be distracted.
If you’ve got a Makarov the Umarex BB version is just about a no brainer. With an MSRP of $73.99 and street prices even lower if you shop around it won’t take long for you to start saving money on your practice. If you don’t have the real thing the Umarex Mak is a still a neat gun for fans of Soviet small arms and just a plain fun gun to shoot for everyone else!