Review: Pocket Power: Backup Backups Compared
Published July 2005
Most skirmishers carry a gas gun as a sidearm for those moments when they run out of BBs or battery in their AEG, but what happens if your trusty Glock vents its gas? Or, God forbid, you need more than a mag or two of BBs to fend of the marauding hordes or you just don’t have time to swap magazines?
That’s when you need a Backup Backup!
I’ve grouped four, very different, pocket gas pistols together to show what you might want to consider in this range.
My personal Colt 25 is a 3PSA labelled gun, but I believe it is more widely available as an HFC.
Airsplat have this gun listed at just $40, a price that is hard to argue with, but I have seen it even cheaper elsewhere. Indeed, some people report it having been given away with other items!
The magazine is a 7 round, stick magazine with the gas going straight into a reservoir built into the grip. Green gas seems to leak slightly from the fill valve at fill time, but this appears to be excess, as there is always plenty of gas in the gun, even if left for some period of time. The gun is pretty solid with the maker taking advantage of the NBB action to make the gun of few parts. In black it looks pretty smart and the markings have a realistic look, even if closer examination proves otherwise.
Sadly, the Marushin 6mm Derringer tested has been replaced by a strictly two-shot 8mm version, which would severely limit your options, but you still come across the odd retailer with some in stock. Marushin also sometimes reissue old designs, so it may reappear. WGC still show this model with a list price of $45, but it is out of stock as I write.
The finish is disappointing with huge seam marks and no moving parts, other than the hammer and tiny trigger protrusion. 8 BBs are loaded into a ‘magazine’ that fits into the upper barrel and the pistol has to be cocked, single-action style, for each shot. Gas goes into the base of the butt.
Very much at the Rolls Royce end of the pocket pistol, Western Arms’ Beretta 1934 certainly manages to count as a pocket pistol due to its compact dimensions.
Unlike the other guns reviewed, the WA Beretta is a proper GBB, with a slide that racks each time you shoot. This permits a light trigger without having to manually cock the hammer, which is more ‘realistic’ in operation.
Build quality of the 1934 is in a different league to the Colt and Derringer, but so, too, is the price, at around $140 from most HK retailers (depending on the EXACT version you choose).
The Beretta has metal grips (painted to look like wood on this silver model) and field strips exactly like the real thing. It also features a tight bore 6.03mm barrel.
The 1934 is single action, but once cocked it will fire as long as BBs (an impressive capacity of 20 rounds, courtesy of a double stacking magazine) and gas are present. Gas goes into the base of the magazine, as with 99% of all other GBBs.
This is a new take on the Derringer design. Marushin’s COP is available in black (as here) and silver and short (as here) or long barrelled form (although the long barrel rather negates the compactness aspect).
Firing 8mm BBs, this is a strict 4 shot weapon, with 4 independent barrels, which are fired one after the other by means of a rotating valve.
Weight is pretty good for such a compact weapon and the finish far surpasses that of the Derringer, with part of the frame and other parts, such as the sight/barrel catch and trigger, being made of metal.
Whilst not bargain basement cheap, the COP is a fairly reasonable $70 (with an extra $20 or so, if you want the long barrels) at most Hong Kong dealers.
Gas goes into the base of the butt and the operation is strictly double-action, with nothing to do except pull the trigger.
What else is out there? Well, Maruzen make a PPK GBB (and used to make a NBB, which some retailers still have now and then), whilst you might consider a KSC or TM Glock 26 in this category (it’s fatter, but not much bigger otherwise, than a 1934) or search out one of Marushin’s Colt 1910 or Walther PPK Secret Agent models.
KSC make a couple of GBB SIG 230s, which are around the size and shape of the PPK, and you might even include one of Tanaka or Marushin’s M36 style revolvers (Chief Special, for instance).
Whilst accuracy isn’t the purpose of any of these pocket pistols, you need them to be able to hit what you aim at.
Using my standard 5m/6 shot, off-hand test, I was able to test the 3 guns back to back, with the COP (acquired later) being tested independently, but under the same conditions (albeit in warmer weather).
The Colt placed its 6 shots all on target. One is dead centre on target, but the others are clustered (1.5 inches/4 CM across) low and slightly left. This is quite impressive grouping for a gun with no sights to speak of.
The Derringer placed all 6 of its shots on target, too. However, these were more broadly spread, with a group of 3 to the right of the target centre, one dead centre, one central, but high, and the last one slightly low and left. Most of this spread, though, is down to the fact that you have to recock the hammer for each shot. If you aim slowly and carefully, BBs will go pretty much where you aim them, at 5m, anyway.
The Beretta placed its shots more accurately, with 4 slightly high of the aimpoint, but in a grouping just 1.5 inches/4 CMs across and the other two lower and left (with one still in the centre target).
The COP .357 put all its shot on target, but spread relatively widely. Having said that, the spread was no more than a hand spread, with the fingers closed together, and anyone being hit by the 8mm BBs would have been more than aware of it!
One area where small guns are always compromised is power. With short barrels and limited capacity gas reservoirs, even NBBs are unable to deliver particularly impressive power figures, but given their close-quarters, self defence role that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Colt .25 – 154 fps Derringer – 156 fps Beretta 1934 – 195 fps COP .357 – 195 fps (equivalent to 253 fps with .2g BBs)
The Colt and Derringer were very evenly matched, but the much more complex and better-engineered Beretta emerged 30+fps ahead. The COP was impressively powerful, but the big BBs take the edge off of velocity.
99 times out of 100, you won’t use this style of pistol to engage a target much beyond arms reach, but there will always be that odd occasion where you have an unsuspecting target in sight at 30 or 40 ft, but are out of ammo/power in your other weapons.
Are any of the pocket pistols going to be able to hit a man sized target at that range and deliver a surprise ‘kill’?
I devised a test in which I fired 6 rounds at a target (it was actually a waist high shed half-door, so about 3ft x 3ft) 10m away and measured if all 6 hit the target.
None of the guns achieved 100% success, but it was around 4C here (except for the COP.357), so it was a harsh test for a gas gun.
Colt .25 – 4/6 hit Derringer – 3/6 hit Beretta 1934 – 5/6 hit COP .357 – 5/6 hit
All were very close with the remaining shots, missing by less than 6 inches in all cases.
The Derringer was compromised by having to realign after each shot, due to having to cock the hammer. Both the Derringer and the Colt required shots to be lobbed slightly at this range. The COP was tested separately at 16C, but had no problem putting all 6 shots on target (I’ve marked it down to 5 to allow for the difference in temperature).
The Colt has no hop-up, whilst the Derringer, COP and Beretta all have fixed hop-up.
What you need in a Backup Backup is reliability and a reasonably sustained rate of fire, mated to a decent, but not great, magazine capacity (if you are close enough to use one of these guns ‘in anger’, you are not likely to be able to fire off more than 3-4 shots).
The Colt .25 holds 7 rounds and is full double action. You basically pull the trigger when you need some firepower and, although there is a working safety, the trigger is hard enough a pull to mean you don’t need to safe the gun when you don’t need it.
The Derringer holds 8 BBs in its magazine, but requires you to cock the hammer between each shot. In practice, this is much easier than you would imagine and it is probably actually EASIER to get all the rounds off, accurately, more quickly than with the Colt.
The Beretta is a GBB. Therefore you get fast shooting and a light trigger. Being single action, you either need to rack the slide for the first shot (or cock the hammer and fire a blank) or safe the gun when you carry it. It also features an impressive 20 round BB capacity.
The COP .357 holds just 4 rounds, but is easy to reload quickly. The trigger pull is no heavier than most NBBs, but heavy enough to negate the need for the, included, safety. 8mm BBs mean you will need to carry two ammo sizes, but you’ll only need a handful, so it would probably not be too onerous.
These guns are all pretty small.
I decided to measure them using a method I had seen used for IPSCC, where a gun had to fit in a box.
With the butt in the bottom left hand corner and the barrel in the bottom right, I measured the top and bottom edges that the gun would fit in. As a guide, I measured a Beretta 92FS, a gun familiar to most people, which measured 24.5CM x 14CM (width x height), which approximates to 9.5 inches x 5.5 inches.
Colt .25 – 13CM x 9CM (5 inches x 3.5 inches) Derringer – 14CM x 8CM (5.25 inches x 3.25 inches) 1934 – 17.5CM x 12CM (6.75 inches x 4.75 inches) COP .357 – 16CM x 10.5CM (6.3 inches x 4.1 inches)
As you can see the 1934 is quite a bit bigger than the others, but still pretty small.
In weight terms, the Colt .25 and Derringer both weigh a featherlight 160g (5.6 Oz), with the 1934 being a hefty 540g (19 Oz). The COP .357 is closer to the Beretta at 400g (14 Oz).
The 4 pistols I have compared here are in a wide price range and offer different quality and performance levels. Everyone will have a view as to how to balance the quality/price equation and will probably favour GBB or NBB differently.
The Colt is cheap, but quite well made. The 7-round capacity is probably enough for most situations, but the trigger is heavy and the range only so-so, even if close range accuracy is reasonably good.
The Derringer is surprisingly practical and accurate and is easy to deliver a decent rate of fire with, which I found slightly surprising. However, its quality is not great and the 2 round capacity of the current 8mm version is severely limiting as a Backup Backup.
The Beretta is (as you would expect for the price) the clear winner in quality terms, delivers good accuracy and is a GBB, but it is not dramatically better in power terms.
The COP .357 will attract attention wherever you go and it is nicely made and impressively solid. However, the limited capacity will be seen, by some, as a problem, as will the need to buy 8mm BBs for it. Its power is pretty good, though, even with .34g BBs and accuracy and range are serviceable.
However, in most situations that call for a Backup Backup, I reckon the Colt would suffice and the price is pretty hard to argue with. Maybe get one instead of a spare hi-cap next time you are ordering?