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Thread: Smith & Wesson Gunsite pistol by Western Arms

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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Smith & Wesson Gunsite pistol by Western Arms

    It's not exactly a secret that I do like Commander-length 1911 pistols, those with the traditional 4.25" barrel. Until now, I have never been fortunate enough to own one, but I've shot several and I just feel like the Commander is the most well-balanced M1911. Since it is rather impossible for me to own a real Commander-lenght M1911, I wanted to have an airsoft one. In the past (a couple of years ago), we have tested here, a Western Arms (WA) Colt Commander, but that pistol left a lot to be desired. Being of the cheaper line of WA products and very lightweight (about 600 gr, if memory serves me right), I never got to like it. To make matters worst, that airsoft pistol was the only one I tried which was biting my hand, every time I fired it. It didn't draw blood of course, but still it was an uncomfortable pistol to shoot, because it had the original Commander, short spure safety. That's why I soon sold it and forgot about it.

    Fast forward to today. While searching for a European shop, which could provide me with some Wilson (airsoft) magazines I needed for my existing pistols, I got introduced to Mike Cripps, the owner of Elite Shooting Center in UK. Now my past experience with European airsoft shops was far from encouraging. The only other decent shop I have found, an Italian one, while having good service and being reliable, has the disadvantage of not having an employee who speaks English well. Dealing with them is always a problem, since you are never sure if they understood what you are talking about. Mike, of course, speaks perfect English and he has proven to be totally reliable and very friendly. So after we got my magazines problem solved (thanks Mike, the three mags are now busy feeding my 1911s), we started talking about what guns I like etc. The subject of a Commander-length airsoft pistol came up and Mike suggested that I have a good look at two WA pistols, one of them being the Smith & Wesson Gunsite pistol.

    From the pictures I saw on the Internet, the pistol looked like a killer. A typical 4.25" barreled pistol, just like I wanted, with the only drawback that it had some fancy things which I do not care about, like Novak sights etc. I would prefer the traditional looks of a Colt Combat Commander, with its standard sights and grip safety, but none is available at this moment. So pretty soon, Mike had my credit card details and in a few days, a box was delivered to me.



    Surprise-surprise! It was not the traditional, uninspiring, dark grey WA box. Nope, this one was ... equally uninspiring, but brown. LoRL, OK the box was not what I was interested in, so I quickly opened it, and here is what I found inside.



    The pistol, the usual WA leaflet, a bushing wrench, and a small bags with BBs. I took the pistol out and was happy to see that it felt nice and heavy. Upon closer examination, the pistol looks very, very nice. It is made of heavy weight ABS plastic, which explains the near perfect weight, but also the good looks of its external surfaces.





    Let's have a look at some of the details. The gun is a recreation of Smith & Wesson Gunsite model. What attracts the eye immediately, are the nice grips that this pistol has. They feature the Gunsite logo on the right side ...



    and the Smith & Wesson one, on the left.



    Very nice wood and very nice, hand-filling grips they are. Hex-head screws are used to secure the grips to the frame.

    The pistol is of a nice dull black color, reminding me of a blued pistol which has been glass-bead blasted before being put in the bluing tank. The barrel's chamber, the trigger (a solid one, no holes thank God), the hammer and the barrel bushing are of "stainless" appearance. Oh yes it even has an external (fake) extractor (I could live without it, but remember, this is an airsoft, so the extractor is not a working part).





    The thumb safety is an extended one, blended to the frame of the pistol, so there is no part of it that can bother your hand. Nice touch. The magazine release button is checkered (say "I love it" again!) and of standard length.



    The Gunsite logo is also visible on the slide, as well as the crazy inscription about the pistol being able to fire, with the magazine removed!!



    The magazine that came with the gun mimicks the Novak-style mags (actually ACT, I think), with a beveled base pad, just like the real Novak mags. It holds 23 BBs.



    Finally, the main spring housing is checkered, while the front strap is serrated.






    Overall impression from the externals of the gun, very, very positive. One thing I didn't like was the fact that the front sight base was not contoured to match the curvature of the slide, but that was all I could find that was not pleasing. Oh yes, the pistol has front cocking serrations too, I do not care very much about them.

    One problem I had with the pistol, was that its thumb safety was moving to the safe position in two steps. Something was wrong inside the pistol, as far as the fitting of the safety was concerned. I didn't worry much about this at that time, I can fit a thumb safety, so I just made a mental note about this issue, to fix it later.

    Finally, this pistol is relatively light, tiping the scale at 780 gr., but since the S&W Gunsite comes with a Scandium frame, this feature can be considered a bonus (as far as the accurate reproduction of the original is concerned) rather than a handicap.

    Disassembly

    The Gunsite comes with a standard-length guide rod, so it disassembles just like any other WA pistol without the full-length rods. In other words, you press out the slide stop with the disassembly notch aligned with it (WA slide stops do not easily come out, I used the magazine pad to press it from the right side of the frame, in order to pull it out) and the slide the complete slide assembly off the frame. The guide rod and the recoil spring are then removed from the rear of the slide, and so is the recoil spring cap. Finally, the barrel bushing is twisted anti-clockwise and removed, followed by the barrel. One interesting thing on this pistol was that the bushing was tight with the slide, so for the first time on an airsoft replica I had to use the bushing wrench to remove it.



    Reassembly is in reverse order, of course.

    You may now proceed in the second page, to see how this pistol shoots.

    [BREAK]

    Shooting

    My past experience with all Western Arms pistols was a very favorite one, as far as shooting is concerned. All of them grouped nicely, with the point of impact being very close to the point of aim. My traditional shooting setup consists of a cardboard box on which the targets are taped set at 10 m from my firing position. I always fire the pistols from a supported position, in order to have the best possible accuracy.

    With a large garden being available to me now, and because the kids were at home when the pistol was delivered, I set up some paper targets hanging from a piece of thin rope, at the rear of my yard, for some quick shooting. After firing four BBs at each of the two targets I had prepared, I moved up to them to see the results. Strangely enough there were no holes on the targets. I know I can be a lousy shot, but this??? I reloaded the magazine with eight rounds and tried again. My back stop consists of some bamboo sticks in front of a solid cement wall, so I could hear a noise when the BBs were hitting, but it was the noise of them hitting the wall, not the paper target. Same result, not even one hole on the target. Very strange, I thought and I aimed the pistol at the bottom of the bullseye, just in case it was sighted for a 6 o'clock hold. GOOD LORD, nothing on the target again.

    To make a long story short, the pistol points so high that I had to aim at the bottom of the A4 paper to have the BBs landing near the top! Amazing, but nothing to worry about, I thought, probably too much hop-up dialed in. So I disassemble the pistol and look for the hop-up adjustment screw (usually found below the chamber on the late WA pistols), but I couldn't find one! No hop-up adjustment on this one!!!

    I got really mad! I hadn't checked if this pistol had a hop-up adjustment before ordering it, I considered it a given fact that it would have one. Now what do I do?

    I emailed Mike about this (and about the safety issue) and I was really surprised to get an answer from him, saying that if I was not 100% satisfied with the pistol, I could return it back to him. Come again?? Most airsoft retails in Europe don't even bother answering their emails and this guy is telling me to send it back if I wasn't satisfied? That increased my appreciation and respect for Mike. However I didn't want to return the pistol. Not for such silly issues.

    A search in my spare 1911 parts box was rewarded with a new Novak front sight. Unfortunately, the dovetail dimensions cut on the airsoft pistol are not the same as the real Novaks. Some more digging in the parts box brought up a front sight I had butchered some years ago. Strangely enough, that sight fitted perfectly in the dovetail (well, it was a bit loose, but nothing some Crazy Glue couldn't fix) and it was about one and a half millimeter taller than the one on the pistol.



    As an added benefit, its base was contoured to match the slide.



    Thank God for my habbit of not throwing anything away.

    So I removed the front sight from the pistol and replaced it with my find. I fired the pistol again, and the point of impact was about 1.5-2" high compared to the point of aim, something I can live with. Unfortunately, I had butchered the sight so much in the past, that now there is a gap between the bottom of the sight blade and the top of the slide, near the rear. Nothing a small quanity of JB Weld couldn't fix though and with that job taken care of, all that remained was to paint the front sight black again and call it a day.

    After changing the front sight on the Gunsite pistol, I proceeded to some accuracy testing.

    This is a typical group I obtained with this pistol, measuring 1.75" from center to center.



    Power-wise, the coke test showed penetration of the one side of the can, bursting of the other side, but the BB didn't exit, so I would say that the Gunsite performed a little worst than most of the Western Arms pistols we've tested here, but that could be due to the lowish temperature the day the test was done.



    Overall, I liked the Gunsite rendition of the Smith & Wesson pistol. It has the classic lines of the Commander (adorned with beavertail, extenderd thumb safety and Novak sights), and it is a nice shooter. Now, if only Western Arms could make a decent copy of the Colt Combat Commander......

    Accuracy: 4
    Upgradeability: 3
    Training Capability: 5
    Realism: 5
    Quality: 5
    Power: 2

    Overall: 24

    Note on Gas

    With all Western Arms pistols, you are supposed to use the HFC 134A gas. Using Green gas in them, will cause problems, premature wear etc. HFC 134A is giving slightly less performance (lower BB speed), when compared to Green Gas. Green Gas should not be used in unaltered pistols made in Japan, like the WA ones.

    With the above warning noted, I have to admit that I am testing all pistols using ... propane. Green Gas is in reality propane, with a little silicone oil added, to lubricate the pistols. So instead of paying for Green Gas, I bought a canister of propane, like the ones sold in US for the camping stoves, or flame torches, and a special valve adaptor, which allows me to use the much cheaper propane instead of Green Gas. In this site, you can read more on this issue:

    http://www.airsoft-innovations.com

    The reason I am ignoring the manufacturer's recommendation, as far as gas is concerned, is two-fold. First, I want to have consistent environment for all the tests (some of the pistols we'll test here use HFC 134A, some use Green Gas), and second it's plain difficult to find HFC 134A in Greece. Also, I plan to upgrade all the standard pistols (like this one) so that it is safe to use Green Gas (and thus propane) with them.
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org
    Last edited by John; 13th September 2008 at 04:39.


  2. #2
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    18th September 2007
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    Yeah, the SCW3 guns do not have an adjustable hop up. It is thus more stable than the finicky SCW2 system, but you can only adjust point of aim through bb weight. With .25s it will still over hop a lot, most people I know are using .29 and higher.

    PDI released a set of barrels which is cut to lower the hop a little bit, but they don't make a commander length right now just 5 and 6 inch barrels.

  3. #3
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    I need to check my BBs inventory then. I don't think I have anything heavier than .25 ones though. Thanks for the tip.
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org

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