by B.B. Pelletier
When I review a vintage airgun, we always get a lot of comments about this and that. Apparently, a lot of you like seeing the guns of yesteryear. Sometimes, the gun is one that not too many of you know, and that’s a lot of fun…learning about something for the first time.
Then, when I review a contemporary airgun in the expensive class, we get a lot of comments from readers who always wondered this or that about the model but never had the opportunity to see one for themselves. It’s nice to have an expensive product laid out for you, warts (if any) and all so you can evaluate what might be a major purchase.
But, when I write about a bread-and-butter airgun, something most people can afford and something that isn’t going to fascinate you with exotic features and capabilities, something else happens. The buying begins. And that’s why I review these kinds of airguns. So you can compare the functionality and features and decide on a low-risk purchase for yourself or someone else. Yesterday’s blog report about the HK MP5 K-PWD was an example of such a review, and I spotted in the comments that several of you had been waiting to read about that gun because you had a purchase in mind.
Today is going to be more of the same, as I begin the review of the Umarex Steel Storm, another submachine gun-type BB gun with similar yet different features to the HK MP5. And, yes, there’s a third and final new gun to look at some time in the near future. That will be the EBOS. So, in a couple of weeks, you should know everything you need to know about these three similar BB submachine guns.
What is a submachine gun?
First, some background. A fully automatic gun that shoots a rifle cartridge or larger is called a machine gun. Note: When the caliber gets much larger than rifle-sized, the term automatic cannon comes into play. Because these guns have usually been assigned to at least two people to operate, they are also called crew-served weapons. While there have been notable departures from this basic design, in guns like the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the definition of a machine gun almost always encompasses a fully automatic gun of rifle caliber and a second member called the ammo bearer to help the gunner manage the weapon.
When certain German weapon specialists developed fully automatic weapons after World War I that used pistol cartridges, they gave the title Maschinen Pistole (this archaic spelling is the correct spelling of the first developmental guns) to that type of gun, which is where the designation MP comes from (as in MP5). Americans called them submachine guns. Those are the differences between a machine gun and a submachine gun.
A 300-shot BB gun
The Steel Storm is definitely a submachine gun design. You can tell that by its compact size, which suggests that if it were a firearm it might chamber 9×19mm ammunition. The specifications list a BB capacity of 300 rounds, but you need to understand what that means. There are 300 BBs onboard the gun, but it will not shoot all of them without certain steps being taken. Those 300 BBs are housed in a reservoir that does not feed into the firing mechanism. However, when you wish to shoot, the BB follower is pulled back and the gun is shaken so that as many as 30 BBs will fall into what the owner’s manual calls the BB chamber. So, you can fire up to 30 BBs, and then you have to stop and refill the BB chamber.
Something this gun offers that almost everyone who buys it seems to like is the burst-fire mode. Because it’s powered by CO2, which is a refrigerant gas, the Steel Storm cannot be fired in the fully automatic mode or it will quickly freeze up. A good solution to this is to offer 6 rounds of full-auto fire so the shooter gets the sense of full-auto without freezing. In the military, machine gunners are taught to fire in short bursts anyway. And, with submachine guns, burst fire is even more important for ammo conservation. There’s also a single-fire capability with the Steel Storm, so you get a true semiauto capability on top of burst fire.
The sights are pistol sights, only. The front is a square post, and the rear is a square notch. Neither is adjustable. Both are visible at arm’s length, only. If you want to use sights, the gun must be held away from the body. However, that’s not how submachine guns are usually employed.
Subguns are fired from the hip more often than not. The shooter looks at the target and watches as his bullets (BBs) trace through it, adjusting fire as necessary to get the desired effect. A bright green laser would be a wonderful addition to this gun, because it would give you a good reference point to begin with.
Dot sights and other optical sights will be less useful because there’s no shoulder stock. It will be a real trick to get a dot sight on target when the gun is held away from the body in hands that can move so freely. The parallax problem would make sighting that way extremely difficult. What I mean is that it is practically impossible to pick up the dot unless the gun is held in reasonably close alignment with the eye, which a shoulder stock does. Using a dot sight on a pistol takes practice, because even a small movement of the hands will cause the dot to disappear.
As you can see, there’s a Picatinny rail both above and below the frame of the gun, so accessories will be easy to attach. I think the lower rail is the perfect place for a laser mount, with the switch located near the thumb of the firing hand.
Although the owner’s manual refers to a “drop free” magazine button, the Steel Storm does not have one. What it has is a mag that drops partway out of the grip and waits for a second button (the drop-free button) to be pushed to come all the way out. The magazine is where the two CO2 cartridges are contained during operation. Yes, this gun uses two 12-gram CO2 cartridges that are reported to give over 200 good shots. And according to the advertising, good means a velocity of 430 f.p.s. or so. So it’s fairly powerful.
Loading BBs couldn’t be easier. Slide the front sight back and dump them in. That fills the large reservoir. To fill the smaller 30-shot magazine, pull the spring-loaded follower forward and lock it in position, then shake the gun to move BBs into the BB magazine. Ease the follower down when the mag is full, and you’re ready to shoot.
So, we have a contender to challenge the MP5, and it has some different features. We’ll test velocity next.