With the current pandemic lockdown and the concurrent dearth of ammunition, my range training time has gone to zero for the past few months. I’d improvised a practice setup in the garage where I can plink away with a single-shot Sig Sauer Precision Super Target Air Pistol and the not-so-precise Sig Sauer P365 Air Pistol.
Looks Like a Sig, Feels Like a Sig?
To add some semi-auto pellet action to the practice repertoire, I got a Sig Sauer P320-M17 Air Pistol.
The verbiage on the package says all. The air pistol is a CO2-powered replica of the M17 which has been adopted by the US Army (the Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps are replacing the M9 with the compact M18 variant). It’s supposed to (and presumably does) replicate the heft of a fully loaded M17.
Aside from the obvious difference that the replica fires a .177 pellet instead of a 9mm Luger cartridge, there are other non-functional features, the slide lock for example. The ambidextrous thumb safety, however, is functional as it’s probably quite useful in a training scenario.
Despite similarities between it and the P320 Air Pistol, the M17 Air Pistol uses a different magazine assembly which has a “belt fed” pellet mechanism to simulate a 20-round capacity.
So, How Does It Shoot?
I guess the TL/DR answer to that question is that when you pull the trigger, it goes “pop” (instead of “bang”), and a small hole appears in your target.
There’s a bit of recoil which I suspect is where some portion of the CO2 that propels the pellet goes into. It doesn’t seem as sharp as the recoil on a Glock G19, but seems vaguely similar to what I remember from trying a friend’s non-M17 P320 full-size. The trigger pull and reset feel different from the P320.
The ballistics of a .177 pellet are obviously completely different than a 9mm Luger bullet. Air gun performance is affected by a number of environmental factors - namely temperature, elevation, and air pressure, and as observed by other owners of the M17 air pistol, this shoots low. Quite low. In initial sessions at 7 yards, the point of impact was about 3 to 4 inches below the point of aim.
I’ve also found that the air pistol requires a full, relatively slow trigger press in order for the magazine to cycle properly and load the next pellet. It’s distressingly easy to jam up pellets and possibly wreck a magazine (which I did to one of the pellet carriers which now serves as a half-capacity Hail Mary spare).
Then What Is It Good For?
As the title of this missive claims, the M17 Air Pistol is a reasonable approximation of a firearm in terms of weight and handling, especially in the context of practicing in situations where live ammo cannot be used.
I’ve been using the scaled down IPSC targets at close distances (12-15 feet) to compensate for the pellet ballistics, and the results appear to be reasonably comparable to what I might do at a range with a firearm.
Here are the results of a session at 12 feet. Because of the scaling, we’re simulating an IPSC at 12 yards distance. Not the tightest groups, but (let’s say this again) reasonable.
Another session at 12 feet. Better groups. Let’s take a few steps back to 15 feet and make more holes!
One more set of holes at 15 feet (simulating 15 yards).
As CO2 pellet pistols go, the M17 Air Pistol is a pricier choice, but then you’re paying for the Sig name and the constrained replication of a firearm experience. Given the limitations of venue, resources, etc., having this approximation as a practice option can’t be easily dismissed.
And it’s a lot of fun going pew pew in the garage with a little bit of recoil and noise.