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Using a fast-fire BB plinker in the US

PUBLISHED: 15:34 18 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 18 July 2018

Ready to open-up with the MP40.

Ready to open-up with the MP40.

Archant

Stephen Archer has a ball with some fast-fire BB plinkers

Here in the USA, full-auto BB guns are all the rage, especially if they are reproductions of firearm originals. Amazingly enough, full-auto firearms are actually legal in some states, with the appropriate paperwork, although not in the more liberal, and generally heavily populated states such as New York, California and New Jersey. You can even find dedicated machine gun shoots – such as the famous annual event at Knob Creek in Kentucky where everything is full-auto, including .50 calibre BMG! In fact, large calibre full-auto airguns were used by the US military during World War Two for training bomber crews in aerial gunnery, without the need for expensive, and scarce, .50 cal machine guns and ammo. However, for most of us, full-auto BB guns are fun enough. They’re legal just about everywhere, freely available for purchase, and full-auto BB guns are gaining in popularity as new models hit the streets every year.

Bumblebee – the first full-auto BB gun

Ten or so years back, the only full-auto BB gun readily available here was the Drozd Bumblebee. This Russian BB gun, introduced in 2001, was a sub-machine gun manufactured by the Izhevsk arsenal. It featured multiple rates of fire, together with single-shot, three- and six-shot burst capability. It was powered by 12-gramme CO2 capsules, together with battery operation of the action, in a manner similar to that of many airsoft guns. A non-blow-back model, it’s so-called because of its ‘non-threatening’ predominantly yellow colour.

The Bumblebee is a real hoot to shoot! My personal favourite mode is three-shot bursts at 600 rounds per minute. Accuracy is reasonable at close range, but it it’s much more fun to miss the target first time because that means that you have to blaze away again!

The Bumblebee is a little too compact for comfortable use from the shoulder. It's more fun to shoot from the hip!The Bumblebee is a little too compact for comfortable use from the shoulder. It's more fun to shoot from the hip!

There’s plenty of interest

We can see evidence of the increasing sales of full-auto BB guns through data provided by Pyramyd Air, based in Cleveland, Ohio, and the world’s largest dedicated airgun retailer. Every year, Pyramyd Air announces its top-selling products for the past 12 months. Back in 2015, no full-auto BB guns featured in Pyramyd’s top-selling list. Yet the 2017 results included no less than four full-auto models. These were the Steel Storm, Beretta 92A1 full-auto pistol, Uzi BB Carbine, Legends MP40 and Steel Force BB guns. All are Umarex products. Meanwhile, single-shot, pellet-firing air pistols such as the classic Crosman 2240 have disappeared from that best-seller list. In 2015, no BBs made it into the Pyramyd Air best-selling ammo list, it was all pellets. By 2017, there were two types of BBs in the top ten. So, we can see that full-auto BB guns are becoming rapidly more popular in the USA. People here just love that ‘rock and roll’ setting!

The Umarex Legends MP40 is surprisely accurate.The Umarex Legends MP40 is surprisely accurate.

Two top Umarex model

Let’s take a look at two full-auto BB guns that are both popular and realistic World War Two-era military replicas with blow-back action; they’re the Umarex Legends MP40 and the Legends M712 Schnellfeuer Broomhandle.

The Umarex Legends Schnellfeur Broomhandle is a very accurate BB-firing replica of the original.The Umarex Legends Schnellfeur Broomhandle is a very accurate BB-firing replica of the original.

Like most full-auto BB guns, both have selectors for both full- and semi-auto fire, but the Broomhandle, being an older model, does not have a bolt hold-open to stop fire when the BBs are gone. You have to listen to the sound to know that you’re rapidly firing blanks and burning through precious CO2 at a rapid rate.

The Legends MP40 has a slower – realistically slower – rate of fire and a bolt hold-open. So it stops firing when the BBs have been expended. The strong blow-back of this model also has the cocking handle reciprocating under fire. This makes for a particularly realistic-feeling experience. At least, I think it does. Like the overwhelming majority of US shooters, my only experience with full-auto fire is by shooting these BB guns.

Umarex has more full-auto models than these two, though. There’s also a full-auto replica Uzi BB gun and the company has ‘non-replica’ models such as the Steel Force and Steel Storm. As mentioned, these are big sellers here, but do not feature blow-back operation.

Here's the difference between UK and US versions of the Umarex MP40. The safety/selector switch.Here's the difference between UK and US versions of the Umarex MP40. The safety/selector switch.

Crosman enters the market

At this year’s SHOT Show, Crosman also entered the full-auto BB gun market with two models. The PFAM9B is a Crosman-branded pistol with selectable full- and semi-auto fire. The design is obviously Beretta style, but it’s not branded as such.

The PFAM9B certainly works well and is much more controllable in full-auto than the Schnellfeuer Broomhandle, thus replicating characteristics of the firearm originals which inspire them.

The Drozd, DPMS and MP40 are all a hoot to shoot!The Drozd, DPMS and MP40 are all a hoot to shoot!

To match this, Crosman also announced a ‘DPMS SBR’ long gun. DPMS is a US-based specialist manufacturer of AR15-type firearms. The SBR (Short Barrelled Rifle) is not an actual replica of any specific DPMS model, but it’s certainly an interesting-looking BB gun with the looks and feel of a customised AR15-type firearm. It has no less than four accessory rails to mount any combination of sights, lasers, lights and foregrips that the owner can imagine. Crosman claims a rate of fire of above 1,400 rounds per minute for the DPMS SBR. I’m sure it’s true, but I couldn’t count that fast!

Like the other full auto firearms-replica BB guns we’ve mentioned, both these Crosman models have blow-back action. They also have primarily metal construction, giving them the weight and feel of a firearm.

The Crosman DPMS SBR featured in this story is an early pre-production sample. It’s serial number TWO, in fact! Like the Legends MP40, it has a magazine holding the BBs, together with two 12-gramme CO2 capsules, although in a different configuration. Crosman tells me that they’re planning a UK-compliant version of the DPMS SBR, so look out for the ‘one shot at a time’ version at some time in the future. I’m sure John Milewski will love this as much as he did the MP40!

Full-auto even made it into the 2017 Extreme Benchrest shoot. Stephen Gibson showed up with his customised SMG 22 full-auto pellet gun. It drew a lot of attention from the long-range precision shooters who were competing with their Daystate and FX air rifles.Full-auto even made it into the 2017 Extreme Benchrest shoot. Stephen Gibson showed up with his customised SMG 22 full-auto pellet gun. It drew a lot of attention from the long-range precision shooters who were competing with their Daystate and FX air rifles.

Korean background

In fact, all these full-auto BB guns, with the exception of the Bumblebee, are designed and manufactured by South Korean company, KWC, and they are also responsible for many other realistic, BB-firing replica pistols marketed by a number of other companies. KWC is not a generally well-known name to airgunners, but they clearly have a core competency in the design and manufacture of blow-back and full-auto BB guns.

Full auto downside

Sadly, all these full-auto BB guns suffer from one major disadvantage. Whilst they fire the BBs at a tremendous rate, they’re all very slow to load. Loading times are an order of magnitude longer than the shooting time! That’s an issue for many people, but it’s obviously not enough of one to stop the ever-increasing number of full-auto BB gun models and their sales over here in the USA – probably because that full-auto smile stays with you a long while.

Stephen Archer is Publisher of Hard Air Magazine, the US-based online airgun magazine - hardairmagazine.com.

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