[Original Article published Mar 23, 2016 - republished because of lost data during one of the forum "upgrades"]

Inexpensive Training at Home with the GAMO P25

by Kirk Lawson

It's an absolute rule of any physical skill. If you want to improve, or even just maintain, the skills you have, you must practice regularly. Firearms use is a physical skill just like any other. But everything about firearms is expensive. The gun is expensive with even used and "cheaply made" handguns starting in at $200 with the frequently recommended models starting at around $450 and up. The ammunition is expensive, with "plinking" and "range" ammunition for 9mm Luger costing around $15 per box of 50 cartridges. If you don't have a free range, as most don't, then range time is expensive, often costing over $10 for a half-hour time slot. And if you are patronizing a range which requires you to purchase their in-house ammunition and in-house targets, well, targets are an extra couple of dollars. Even if you already have a handgun as a "sunk cost," simply expending a mere 100 rounds at the range could cost you $50. To achieve and maintain skill requires thousands of rounds of ammunition expended in practice. That adds up fast.

Because of the associated costs, those who wish to build and maintain their skills with firearms are frequently looking for ways to economize and cut costs. They buy ammunition in bulk if they can, and practice with the "cheap range ammunition" saving the more expensive "self defense ammunition" for occasional use, or even reload expended ammunition. They look for free ranges that they can use, often public ranges or private property with permission. They use alternate targets such as pizza boxes, printed sheets of paper, or even DIY their home brew "Shoot and See" targets. They will often use firearms requiring less expensive ammunition, primarily a .22LR chambered alternative, preferably in a similar form factor to the firearm which they wish to practice skills in.

But in the end there is only so much which can be economized. Even cheap ammunition is still expensive.

Further, being able to go to the range is not always easy or convenient. Some people live in a place where they can shoot on their own property, literally shoot from their back porch. However, most are not so fortunate. Several hours of personal time must be blocked out and a drive to the range, hopefully close by but not necessarily so, must be undertaken. This, of course, includes packing up all the required range gear, safety gear, firearms, ammunition, etc., and then "pack muling" it along. There are certainly worse things, but it can become inconvenient, particularly if there is a bit of a hike from the parking area to the range or if the weather is inclement.

It would be nice to practice inexpensively in the comfort of your own home. Enter the GAMO P25 Blowback CO2 Pellet Pistol.

[GAMO P25 Blowback Pellet Pistol]

GAMO makes many Air and Pellet firearms, both pistol and longarm. Some of their products are intended to be replicas of existing firearms, others to bear general similarities to a class of firearms, and still others bear unique designs. Part of the reason I, personally, chose the GAMO P25 is because the grip angle is similar to many pistols often used for self defense. There are some other reasons as well and we'll discuss those in the following paragraphs.

It has been reported several times that the GAMO P25 CO2 pellet pistol is a replica for the SIG Sauer P230/P232. While I could not find any official mention of this in GAMO documentation, there is a strong resemblance between the two.

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[SIG Sauer P230]

There are also, however, some pretty important differences which will impact the training utility of the GAMO P25, particularly if the desire is to use it as a replica for the SIG P230. One of the most obvious differences is only obvious when the GAMO P25 is handled in person. It is significantly larger than the SIG P230. The Overall Length of the SIG P230 is 6.5". The Overall Length of the GAMO P25 is 7.75", an inch and a quarter longer. The rest of the GAMO P25 is similarly over size averaging about 16% longer and significantly "fatter" than the pistol it is supposedly modeled after. Holsters, particularly concealed carry holsters, for the SIG P230 will simply not fit the GAMO P25. This means that if the intention is to practice draws from concealment, a separate holster for the GAMO P25 must be acquired, which will, naturally, increase the overall cost of it as a training tool.

On the other hand, if the goal is merely that of practicing fundamentals such as Aim, Sight Alignment, Breath Control, Grip, Stance, Trigger Press, etc., then this pistol will serve the function.

There are some advantages and some oddities of this pistol which should be considered. Many of the oddities are directly attributable to one of the important advantages of this pistol. It is a multi-shot, semi-automatic .177 Pellet CO2 pistol. Unlike the metallic cartridges used in the P25's supposed inspiration, the .380ACP, a .177 caliber lead pellet does not lend itself well to stacking one on top of the other in a spring driven box magazine. The .177 caliber Lead pellet actually has more in common with the Muzzle Loading Minnie Ball bullet, which has a hollow base and a "skirt" designed to swell and expand to fit the barrel and rifling as the gasses propelling it expand and create pressure behind it. So too the skirt on a .177 caliber lead pellet. This typically gives most .177 caliber pellets a shape reminiscent of a cone, dome, or flat, stacked on top of the point of another cone.

[SIG P232 with .380ACP ammunition]

[.177 Lead Pellets]

The GAMO P25 addresses this issue by using a non-traditional "magazine." The magazine is double ended and reversible. When one "end" runs out, eject the magazine, flip it over, and reinsert it into the magazine well. Each end of the magazine is fitted with an 8 chamber ratcheting cylinder which seems to have more in common with a traditional revolver cylinder.

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[8-Chambers for Pellets in the Cylinder]

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[Magazine with Pellet Cylinders on each end]

The .177 caliber Pellets are slipped into the chambers much the same as metallic cartridges are loaded into the chambers of a revolver's Cylinder and friction-pressed to the inside walls to remain in place. On each successive shot, a loaded Chamber is rotated in line with the breech of the pistol's barrel.

This brings up another oddity of the GAMO P25. It has a Double Action/Single Action trigger and hammer. Sort of. It actually feels more like a "Triple Action." Hear me out on this because it's all kinds of weird. The GAMO P25 has a reciprocating slide and external hammer, which is a good thing in that it gives it a more realistic "feel" and action. The hammer actually serves a purpose in that when it falls, it triggers the CO2 release valve which, in turn, allows escaping and expanding CO2 gas to propel the pellet down the barrel. The hammer has to be cocked and released by the trigger press to strike the release valve. If the hammer is not in the cocked position, the trigger press will cock the hammer. This is traditional Double Action functionality. So far, so good. Given the knowledge that the GAMMO P25 uses, in truth, a rotating cylinder, it might be more accurate to say that it is actually a revolver masquerading as a semi-auto. In a standard Double Action revolver design, if the hammer is in the forward, decocked, position, a trigger press will both cock the hammer and rotate the cylinder simultaneously. If the hammer on a Double Action/Single Action revolver is already cocked then the cylinder has also already been rotated by and the trigger press simply releases the hammer to fall. This is an important distinction, because it does not work that way with the GAMO P25, and, in fact, can't. The first 1/2 of the rearward trigger press on the GAMO P25 does nothing except cock the hammer; if and only if the hammer is not cocked. If the hammer is already cocked, the first 1/2 of the trigger press is nothing but slack or "take up." It performs no action. The second half of the trigger press on the GAMO P25 rotates the pellet cylinder. Understand this because it is important. Cocking the hammer does not, and can not, rotate the cylinder. Rotating the cylinder, turning it to a loaded chamber is performed by the second half of the trigger press. The reason for this is simple. It is required because the pistol is masquerading as a semi-auto. When the trigger is pressed, the CO2 gas is released, a portion of that being bled off to reciprocate the slide. The reciprocation of the slide does have a purpose. It is to cock the hammer. However, after 8 shots the cylinder is empty but the slide has reciprocated and the hammer is cocked back but there is no point in advancing the cylinder to an empty chamber. Because the gun cannot reasonably "keep count" of the number of shots fired, the designers made an assumption that the chamber immediately in line with the breech must be assumed to be empty and thus the trigger press must be used to advance the cylinder ever time. This means that even when the hammer is cocked in what would normally be considered a Single Action condition, the trigger press still is used to advance the cylinder in what would normally be considered a Double Action mode. So, even when it is in Single Action, the P25 is in Double Action or, as I have been thinking of it, "Triple Action." It's weird. When the second half of the trigger press is pressed through the cylinder can be felt to rotate and the ratcheting sound can be heard. While on my example this is a sort of gritty feeling press, the good news is that it is not particularly heavy. The springs are light and the material being moved is some sort of Impact plastic. While it's not a "good" trigger feel, it's not the worst I've ever felt.

This brings up another feature of the GAMO P25 that is both an advantage and an oddity; the reciprocating slide. On a traditional semi-auto pistol, the reciprocation of the slide serves several purposes. First, it removes and ejects the spent shell case from the chamber. Second, it re-cocks the hammer or striker. Third, it strips a round from the top of the magazine and feeds it into the chamber. Fourth, it helps bleed off some of the kinetic energy, the "recoil," from the firing process which makes the gun more comfortable to shoot. In the GAMO P25, the first and the last functions are not required. The "recoil" on the GAMO P25 is so inconsequential that it is only worth noting that it must exist because of the basic Newtonian Laws but not because it is particularly noticeable. And the first, extracting a spent case, is irrelevant because there are none in gas operated pellet guns, nor does it have a spring fed box magazine, as we discussed earlier. This leaves only the second function; cocking the hammer. A semi-auto pistol uses the convenient, but otherwise "waste," energy of recoil to cock the hammer. Because that is negligible with the GAMO P25, and certainly not enough to reciprocate even the lightest of slides, the P25 is designed to "bleed off" a small amount extra of CO2 gas in order to force the slide to reciprocate. This, in turn, cocks the hammer. The action gives the P25 a slightly more realistic appearing action which enhances its functionality for training purposes where one would want the training tool to be as realistic as safely possible. However, bleeding off a small amount of extra CO2 gas also has the consequence of reducing the number of shots per gas cartridge. In my example, this averages around 90-100 shots before there is not enough remaining pressure in the CO2 cartridge to reciprocate the slide rearward with enough energy to cock back the hammer. The slide does have an opening analogous to an ejection port. Its purpose is apparently to allow access to the breech end without disassembling the pistol. This allows stuck pellets to be driven out, as one example.

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[GAMO Blowback reciprocating Slide]

While it is not necessary for proper function of the GAMO P25, I have found that the slide's ability to reciprocate enhances its training functionality in another way as well. When the magazine's cylinder is empty, and it is either reversed and reinserted, or it is reloaded and reinserted, the slide can be manually reciprocated, or "jacked," the same way as would be required to chamber a fresh cartridge in a "real" metallic cartridge firing handgun. While this is not required on the P25, it makes a good training tool for "real life" and helps to develop or reinforce "muscle memory" automatic habits required for the proper load sequence on a "real" metallic cartridge firing handgun.

When there is not enough remaining pressure in the CO2 cartridge to reciprocate the slide rearward with enough energy to cock back the hammer, there is, however, still enough pressure to fire at least 7 pellets through the barrel. This provides the opportunity to practice Tap-Rack-Bang drills. Tap the butt of the pistol, Rack the slide (thus cocking the hammer), and press the trigger to the Bang.

Another unusual feature of the GAMO P25 is the Safety Lever. The most obvious thing about the Safety Lever is that it is on the right hand side of the frame. For right-handed shooters, this is the "wrong" side. There is no way at all that the Safety Lever can be reasonably accessed when the P25 is being held in the right hand. Similar to the Beretta M9, the Safety is up for "FIRE" and down for "SAFE." This is not uncommon on GAMO brand CO2 pistols. Left-handed shooters may think that this frame location is finally a "win" for them. Unfortunately, again, no. The Safety Lever has a serrated central slide in the middle which must be pulled to the rear of the frame to release the Safety Lever to move up or down. It would be difficult to perform the push-in-pull-back-sweep-up/down motion with the thumb while grasping the pistol with the same hand. It is my estimation that GAMO designers intended this pistol to require both hands to move from "SAFE" to "FIRE."

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[GAMO P25 Safety Lever]

If the "real" firearm being trained for has a functioning Safety Lever on the more common left side of the frame, then the training regiment must include thumb-sweeping an imaginary lever.

While less unusual than some other features, some attention needs to be given to the sights. The GAMO P25 has fixed, non-adjustable, front-blade and rear-notch sights with 3-Dot spots. The front blade is wide enough to be easily seen and fits well enough within the square rear notch. However, that is about all that can be praiseworthily said of the sights. There are two notable shortcomings of the sights, besides being fixed and non-adjustable. First, the 3-Dot spots are worthless. The rear dots are in the right position on the rear sight but the front spot is completely wrong. It is about half way down the blade. Lining up the 3 dots misaligns the front sight too high. I recommend that the dots be ignored or even blacked out with paint. The second important shortcoming is the Sight Picture is a little bit different from the standard. Most handguns are either set with a Target Sight Picture, where the Point of Aim is the Bullseye immediately above the aligned front and rear sights, with the bottom edge of the Bullseye touching the top edge of the front sight, or a "Combat Sight Picture" which the Sight Picture has the Point of Impact immediately below the alligned Front Sight so that the top edge of the Front Sight touches, and therefore "covers," the top edge of the impact hole. Not so with the GAMO P25. The sights are set so that the Point of Aim hovers slightly above the front blade. Picture the front blade as the post of a lower-case letter "I" and the Bullseye/Point of Impact, being the dot of the "i" with a small amount of space hovering between.

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[Recommended Sight Picture for the P25]

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[Traditional Sight Picture from FM 23-35, Pistols and Revolvers, July 1960]

If the shooter is unaware of this difference in sight picture, it has the effect of sending shots "high." It also affects how sight picture must be considered. In the photo below the black sights were not visible against the black background of the field, but were clearly visible against the white spot. In this case, I chose to aim for the center of the bullseye, despite the fact that I knew it would send my shots high.

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[Grouping of about 100 shots high on target]

Another thing to note is that the GAMO P25, and I suspect all CO2 Pistols of this type, has an inherent inaccuracy. In the photo above, note how the group spreads about 3", slightly to the right, and has multiple fliers. This was shot at 20 feet, with a two-hand grip in both Isosceles and Weaver. Similar lackluster results were achieved from Benchrest shooting. No doubt part of the issue is using cheap pellets. The more uniform the pellets, the better the inherent accuracy and cheap pellets lack the uniformity. One brand I purchased had mold flashing protruding as much as 1mm on the skirts and painfully obvious mold lines. These are unusable and will stick in the mechanism. Nevertheless, one would expect slightly better groups even with mediocre grade pellets. I believe that this lack of accuracy is just a function of the design of the pistol and how CO2 is released. Below is the best group I was able to get with this pistol, and measures about 2", again shot from 20 feet.

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[2" Group]

Still this is sufficient accuracy to ensure that the basics are being practiced and can allow for practice of methods which do not require Bullseye accuracy such as certain Point Shooting methods.

Given many of the oddities of the GAMO P25, it does, however, allow for a great deal more realism in training than what might be otherwise assumed. Besides firing actual lead "bullets" (pellets) which will make holes in things, the multi-shot functionality allows for double-tap, H&H, Mozambique, and rapid fire drills.

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[GAMO P25 and Crossman brand pointed pellets, which turned out to be among more accurate of the commodity Pellets]

GAMO claims that the P25 launches pellets at 450 FPS. While this won't generate as much energy out of a 8.2gr Lead Pellet as a metallic cartridge firearm, it is still more than enough to flatten the pellet on steel or penetrate into wood or even flesh. It is sufficient with pointed pellets to hunt very small game such as nuisance birds, though that may not be a good option with this product. Proper eye safety is, therefore required. Further, a proper backstop is required. I strongly recommend a steel framed Pellet Trap. Collect the expended Lead Pellets and recycle them, either commercially or selling/donating the lead to a friend who casts bullets. It takes a lot of pellets down range to add up to a pound of lead, but the training acquired while doing so is well worth it.

The CO2 cartridge is loaded in the butt from a removable sleeve and the magazine loads in a small magazine well on the Butt, near the front.

[CO2 Cartridge in Butt - Locking Ring remains hidden]

The GAMO P25 has a MSRP of $105.00 but can be found for around $70 or $80.
http://www.gamousa.com/product.aspx?product=P-25 Blowback&productID=356

User Manual: