CO2 pistol test: Crosman PFM16
14:07 25 November 2016
This is not only a test of a new pistol, but of a new type of pellet that might change the BB gun market forever - as Phill Price finds out
Crosman is rightly famous for its extensive range of CO2-powered guns, something Americans see as everyday ‘airguns’, but it’s not quite the same here. We think of airguns as spring/piston guns. The 12 gramme CO2 capsule is quite simply the ideal power source for handguns, being light and compact so it can fit into replicas of all sorts of full-bore handguns.
Crosman’s PFM16 has the look and feel of a modern 9mm service sidearm with its thick magazine well that suggests a double-stack magazine. This makes for a pleasingly solid and secure grip to operate the double-action only trigger, enhanced by vertical grooves on the front face and shallower grooves on the back strap.
It is impressive compared to most triggers in this class, being light and reasonably predictable. The travel is unsurprisingly long, and ramps up at the end, but this actually signals the break point, so it’s a useful indicator. The blade is slender and nicely shaped so it doesn’t produce any uncomfortable pressure points in the cycle.
Crosman makes it clear this pistol is all metal, and its heft and feel backs this up. The grips are synthetic, as you’d expect, with a pebbled texture on the sides for additional control. Their thickness adds to the chunky feel.
Despite the claim on the box the PFM16 is a semi-auto, it is in fact a double-action pistol fed from a 20-shot, stacked magazine (perhaps they mean semi-auto styling). The slide and hammer are moulded into the frame and completely static, and the only functional control levers are the rather awkward safety and accessible magazine release.
The all-metal magazine drops free from the mag’ well, just like a firearm, allowing for shooting drills requiring fast reloads. Dropping an empty mag’ and inserting a full one is as natural as you could wish. The base of the mag’ sits flush with the bottom of the mag’ well, so you can be sure it’s fully seated as you bump it with the palm of your hand.
The magazine is a sturdy, strongly built item that looks like it can take rough handling. But when I first filled it, I was stumped. How should I release the follower to allow the spring to put pressure on the 20 BBs, so they’d feed into the action? The answer was embarrassingly simple – when you push the follower all the way to the bottom, a tab protrudes from the base of the magazine, so once you have your BBs loaded through the round port in the face of the mag’, you simply lift the tab and you’re ready to go.
Being fixed, there is no adjustment, but I found it shot pretty much to aim anyway. The ubiquitous 12 gramme, CO2 capsule lives in a chamber accessed by sliding the grips back, away from the frame. At the base of the chamber is a screw, with a toggle to turn it, that’s used to apply pressure to the base of the capsule so it’s driven up into the action.
Next, fill the magazine with 20 BBs and insert it into the mag’ well, just like you would on a semi-automatic firearm and you’re ready to shoot. The safety is positioned on the right side of the frame, above the trigger blade. It’s impressively safe as it’s of the ‘trigger disconnect’ type, meaning once it’s engaged the trigger becomes totally ineffectual.
The safety is rather fiddly to operate because you need to press a slide forward as you move it up or down, so it’s really a two-handed job and not one to be done on the fly.
Shooting the new H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-coated lead BBs into a steel trap flattened them nicely, massively reducing the chance of a rebound like you get from steel BBs.
For me, this is a huge step forward for BB guns and one I welcome with open arms.
I could tell the PFM16 is pretty powerful from the way it flattened them compared to other pistols. It’s also frugal with gas consumption, delivering an impressively high number of shots per capsule.
I can see this great little gun being a big hit with action competition shooters for its simplicity and good trigger, plus the ability to be reloaded lightning-fast. Added to this, great handling and clear sights make for quite a special pistol.
Type: Double-action pistol
Power source: 12 gramme capsule
Length: 6.5” (16.5cm)
Weight: 1.6lbs (725grammes)
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