Gas Blow Back Pistols are the most common choice for a sidearm - there is plenty of choice, they can be had relatively inexpensively too. GBB refers to the action - you manually rack the slide to chamber a round and cock the hammer, and from there the cycle of the slide chambers the next round and resets the hammer each time. This repeats until the last round feeds from the magazine and once this is fired the slide locks back - indicating the magazine is empty.
Magazine capacity varies but on average is between 15 and 25 rounds, and the magazine has a gas reservoir built in - so you bomb it up with rounds, and charge it with gas - and off you go. Different gas types are available - and the construction of your gun will usually dictate what you can use.
Using the most commonly available "Abbey" line of products the easiest way to explain it is:
- Predator (or Ultra) Gas - most suitable for Plastic Slide pistols
- Green Gas - most suitable for Metal Slide Pistols
Its worth noting that Green Gas is actually just Propane with a little Silicon Lubricant added to it - which whilst important it is possible to use commerical Propane with an adaptor, providing you lubricate the gun and mags later but thats more advanced stuff - we'll cover that another day.
So on to the guns, as you'll have figured out from the above you can seperate GBB Pistols into two categories - those with Plastic Slides and those with Metal. Now your first reaction may be "oh well i'd want full metal as that is better" but don't be too hasty - there are pros and con's to both.
In terms of ones worth owning, we're really only talking about Tokyo Mauri Pistols now (and clones thereof). The main advantage to these are:
- Quality - despite the plastic slides these are really solidily built, and the adjustable hop units are fantastic
- Availability - TM has one of the widest ranges available - M1911, Glocks, Sigs, Desert Eagles and more
- Usability - They will work in very low temperatures where metal slide guns will struggle or fail - important in the UK!
The secret with the plastic slide is reduced weight - that means the guns operate on the lower powered gas (Ultra) and this makes them more likely to work on a cold day. The negative is they are plastic - they sound "hollow" and "plasticy" in their operation and this can be a disappointment.
There are plenty of manufacturers in this space, but for the writer KWA/KSC (think of them as the same company - as they are essentially) are probably the market leaders in terms of quality and performance. WE are also widely available for a slightly lower price bracket but quality and reliability does suffer. The benefits of full metal are:
- Realism - feels and weighs about the same, the sound of racking and cycling sounds "meatier"
- Availability - massive choice of manufacturers and pistols - including rarer items like Lugers and Browning High Powers
- Enjoyment - they feel and look great, and you will welcome the opportunity to use it!
As stated, the enjoyment factor increases with a full metal, but on days when the temperature floats around, at or under zero - you should expect at best to get half a magazine out before you run out of gas (or your pistol jettisons whats left!) and at worst - it will just vent from the word go.
GBB Pistols aren't as cheap as they may first appear, around £100 for a brand new WE, whilst a KSC/KWA or TM will retail in at around £130. Thats not too bad but at £10 a can of gas, and on average £25 a magazine - it soon adds up. Holsters and pouches for the mags are extra too - so budget accordingly. Most pistols ship with a single magazine but some of them come with two and may be a good first purchase for that reason alone.
I think the best of both worlds situation is to have the option of both a plastic slide and a metal slide pistol - but if your just starting out this is probably a non-starter - so I'd buy one, save, then buy the other - and the first one would be selected by the season. If its the end of summer - buy yourself a TM as that will see you good through the winter - but if its the middle of a mild spring - i'd be looking at full metal pistols and having an enjoyable summer.
By their very nature the magazines for the pistols - even from one brand to another - or one variant of a pistol to another vary - and this increases the cost and complexity of ownership. Buyer beware as well - some guns are virtually impossible to find spare magazines for - so make sure that if you want to buy more - make sure you track them down BEFORE you buy the gun itself.
The holy grail may exist - the option to run both a plastic and full metal version of the same gun - that have the ability to share magazines and holsters - thus reducing the cost. As TM make what are often regarded as the best version of GBB pistols - they are often cloned - so a TM M1911 (Plastic) will share magazines with the ARMY M1911 (full metal) and the TM P226 (Plastic) will similar "co-operate" with the WE F226 (Full Metal).
This might not appeal to everyone - as you may want variety in your pistols - but if you are looking for all year round options - and you've forked out on magazines and holsters for one - then it may be an angle to consider.