Winchester Air Pistol Model 11
Another Option for Inexpensive 1911 Trigger Time
Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG
Several weeks ago, while looking through a new catalog that had recently appeared in my mailbox, I was surprised to see a listing for a 1911-style, CO2 powered BB-gun that I had not seen previously, and didn’t know even existed. The maker was Daisy, so I immediately went to the Daisy web site to look it up, and I found … nothing. So I fired off an e-mail to Daisy’s marketing department, and I promptly received a friendly response informing me that the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 (as the pistol is named) is a new model that is for sale but not through Daisy channels. Daisy referred me to a Winchester web site covering Winchester's air rifles and air pistols. Naturally, I went on to ask if we could obtain a sample for review, and just as promptly I received a reply that they could lend us one for review, if we would agree to return it when we finished. That’s the basis of all our gun tests here, so I agreed, and about ten days later we received our test pistol.
The nice thing about testing BB-guns is that they aren’t legally considered as firearms, under most definitions in most laws, so the test pistol didn’t have to come to us through an FFL. It came right to our door.
The Winchester Air Pistol Model 11
We find the name association to be a bit ironic, since of all the firearms manufacturers in the world, Winchester is one of the few who have not ever made a 1911. But, one would hardly expect Winchester to market a pistol that says "Colt" on the side, and Colt already has their own CO2-powered air pistol in any event. However, why Winchester chose to designate it the Model 11 rather than the Model 1911 we won’t even try to understand.
The Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 pistol is a rather good rendition of a Government (full) size 1911, albeit with some differences due to its being an air gun rather than a true firearm. It is nicely executed, with a matte black finish that is uniform all over and exhibited no runs, sags, or “holidays” (as the painting trade refers to uncoated spots). At first glance it has all the usual 1911 controls in the correct places. The overall heft felt close to that of a real 1911 pistol, weighing in at a very realistic 32 ounces. Overall, we were not disappointed with anything about the first impression.
The test pistol included a test target, shot at 5 meters (approximately 16 feet) with an impressive group of about one inch. Inspection of the barrel showed us that it is not rifled, and the pistol is intended (as stated on the outside of the box) for .177” steel BBs. A 1-inch group at 16 feet is, in my opinion (not being any sort of expert at air guns), very good for a pistol shooting steel BBs through a smooth barrel. It was going to be a challenge trying to match that target.
The test pistol with the factory test target
The box also yielded a small, folded instruction sheet (not a “manual,” which would imply a book). Unfortunately for my innate manliness, I found it necessary to refer to the instructions twice during our testing. Once having read the applicable portions, the questions were easily answered, but there are a few aspects of the Winchester Model 11 that are not exactly intuitive.
The Model 11 package
And what comes inside the box
Unlike any “real” 1911 I have ever seen, the controls on the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 are clearly labeled for their functions. The slide stop is marked “Slide Release” and the magazine release is marked (ahem) “Clip Release.” The thumb safety is functional, and is not labeled as a safety. However, when in the FIRE position a red dot is exposed on the flat of the receiver, next to which is a letter ‘F’ for “Fire.” Unlike real 1911s, the thumb safety can be applied whether or not the hammer is cocked.
The slide stop and magazine release, showing the markings for purpose/function
The thumb safety. Note the red dot above, to indicate the "Fire" position, and the safety lock button
The grip safety articulates normally, but serves no function. The trigger can be pulled and the pistol will fire without depressing the grip safety. Thus, while the Winchester Model 11 gives every appearance of being true to its 1911 inspiration, the manual of arms is slightly different.
This extends to the operation of the thumb safety, as well. Aside from the fact that it can be applied when the hammer is not cocked, when the thumb safety is applied a small button pops out just beneath the paddle. The safety cannot be disengaged without first depressing this button. This means that, if this pistol were to be used for practical/tactical exercises, it would NOT be possible to draw the pistol from a holster and sweep the safety to the off position one-handed while raising the pistol to acquire a target. Given that a BB-gun must be regarded primarily as a child’s or youth’s toy, this is understandable. I have no doubt that the legal department would prefer to make the gun safer at the expense of “authenticity” rather than slavishly adhere to the 1911 manual of arms and risk injuries to young shooters.
The pistol is stated to function by blowback, and the slide does function during shooting. We couldn’t tell if this is just for effect, or if the slide’s retraction and return to battery is actually necessary to load the next BB.
The first time we had to lower ourselves to reading the instructions was to install a gas cartridge. The Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 uses standard 12-gram, disposable CO2 cartridges. We had several boxes of those on hand. What we couldn’t figure out was where and how to install them. The procedure is simple enough, but it required knowing what to do before attempting it.
In fact, since there is no mainspring, the mainspring housing is essentially unnecessary on this pistol. So those diabolically clever engineers used it as a lever to control the loading of the gas cartridges. The mainspring housing is pivoted out from the bottom and then a lever is pulled away from the receiver. The left side grip panel is removed and a cartridge is inserted. Then the mainspring housing is rotated back into the closed position to force the gas cartridge up, pierce the seal at the tip, and seal it into position. It probably takes longer to describe the process than it does to perform it – once you know how to do it.
The bottom of the grip frame. Note the small magazine
Loading a new CO2 cartridge begins with pushing the bottom of the mainspring housing toward the rear
The mainspring housing is folded back and up, and the left side grip panel is snapped off
The cartridge locking lever is opened
The CO2 cartridge is inserted into what is normally the magazine well
The lever is closed, pushing the cartridge up and sealing it to the valve mechanism
Getting to the point
Naturally, the bottom line of any firearms review is how well (or how badly) the gun shoots. In the case of the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11, we rate the performance as “pretty darned good.” This is, after all, a smoothbore BB gun that fires only round, steel BBs, not the more accurate lead or alloy pellets. It’s simply unrealistic to expect match-grade performance from a pistol that doesn’t have a rifled barrel. With that in mind, we fired a number of 5-round groups from a seated position off a rest to see how well this new pistol could do. The test target indicated that it was shot at 5 meters distance, which is about 16 feet. At the indoor range where we test, the shooting lanes are underground so all lighting is artificial. Over the range area, lights are arranged in rows at 25 feet, 50 feet, and 75 feet from the firing line. If we had placed our targets at a distance of 16 feet, they would have been in the dark. So we ran the target hanger out just far enough to bring the targets into the light, a distance we estimate to have been approximately 20 feet.
Since the Model 11 only shoots BBs, we didn’t expect there to be any significant variation from one brand or type to another, nor would we expect much difference from one brand of CO2 cartridge to another. We had on hand a large bottle of RWS Target Match BBs … so that’s what we shot.
As always, we fired 5-shot groups and discarded the worst shot out of each group. Sometimes that was an obvious flyer, other times it would have opened up the group just a little. Our best group at 20 feet was ⅞ of an inch. The worst was approximately 1¾ inches, and the overall average was about 1¼ inch.
Our test gun with one of our better groups
As a comparison, we had in the basement lab of doom and diet cola a less expensive Daisy CO2 pistol, the 15XT. This Daisy pistol has a grip and frame shaped like a 1911 but, unlike the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11, the slide and hammer do not move and there is no removable magazine. The manual of arms, therefore, is even more un-1911-like than that of the Model 11. But, because it mimics the shape of a 1911, we wanted to compare it to the Model 11. What we found was that shooting the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11, while not to be mistaken for shooting a centerfire .45 Automatic pistol, is more realistic and more satisfying than shooting the Daisy 15XT. The trigger on the 15XT has a longer and noticeably heavier pull, and the lack of any sort of recoil or slide motion while shooting renders shooting a bit more … dare I say … boring. The Daisy Model 15XT (which is also a smooth-bore pistol) produced accuracy about as good as that of the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11, but it just wasn’t as satisfying to shoot.
The Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 compared to a Daisy Model 15XT
We are not certain for whom or for what market the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 is intended. The less expensive Daisy 15XT model is sold blister-packed on the hanging racks in the sports department at Wal-Mart. The list price is $49.99 and Wal-Mart typically sells it for $29.99. We judge the 15XT to be intended for the youth market, for plinking and playing rather than serious shooting. The Winchester Air Pistol Model 11, on the other hand, has an MSRP of $149.99 and the price in the catalog where we discovered it was $79.99 … double the price of the 15XT.
So is the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11 worth twice as much as the Daisy Model 15XT? In our estimation, yes. What the higher price brings to the table is a better trigger, more realistic shooting experience, a pistol with enough weight to feel more like a real gun, and (not that it really matters for shooting) more authentic detailing. There are CO2-powered 1911 airguns available that will shoot the more accurate lead and alloy target (and hunting) pellets, but those double the price again over the MSRP of the Winchester Air Pistol Model 11. In its price range, we think the Model 11 is an excellent value. If what you want is a BB gun that replicates a 1911, in this price range we think it’s the only game in town.
The following is a link to a video showing the Model 11 in action: http://bcove.me/ydwla01k
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Daisy Winchester Model 11 Caliber: .177 (4.5mm) Steel BB Overall Length: 8.6" (220 mm) Overall Height: 5.63" (143.0 mm) Overall Width: 2.6" (65 mm) Barrel Length: 5" (127.0 mm) Sight Radius: 6.50" (165.1mm) Sights: Combat-style (non-adjustable) Weight w/o magazine: 32.0oz. (0.91 kg) Magazine Capacity: 16 rounds Grips: Checkered, Plastic Finish: Matte Black MSRP: $149.99
Winchester Air Rifles
P.O. Box 220
Telephone: (800) 643-3458
Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437