Why a Shorty 40? I adore S&W auto’s & as far as I can remember my first spring pistol was a S&W M4505. This was back when you had to assemble the product yourself as opposed to buying a ready built gun. The quality wasn’t very good but it left a lasting impression.
Since then I had craved a gas blowback S&W auto but the best you could get was a S&W M6904 in the form of a KWC fixed slide, non-hop gas gun.
After a visit to Airsoft Dynamics I learnt that Western Arms had not long released a shorty 40 & when I asked how long it would take to get one they efficiently pulled out a familiar brown cardboard box……
It was the silver model & was a bit on the weightless side but I knew I had to have it.
I paid a mere £135 & left feeling content with my purchase. Little did I know that the following week Airsoft Dynamics would have the Custom & now intensely rare Shorty 40 sidekick, which I also purchased.
First impressions Having survived the bus ride home (which took what felt like an eternity!) I sat at my kitchen table & opened the box.
It is small, that I will say but when you hold it, it feels great. It fills my hand nicely (I have normal sized man hands) & doesn’t seem so small after all.
It is a bit light & the reason for this is simple. Western Arms guns with a decent Inox silver Finnish are made of a different type of plastic to the black or silver ‘heavy weight’ models. The plastic used is transparent with a hint of green & this combined with the type of paint used, gives a nice shiny semi-reflective Finnish. A side effect is that it is a lot lighter than what you would expect. But weighing up the pros & cons I am happier with this Finnish than the Para-Ordinance silver Finnish which looks like cheap silver spray paint over black plastic. This does make the gun less durable however, but I will get to that later.
All the buttons are metal, as you would expect from a Western Arms product & are coated in a nice durable silver paint. The front sight is adjustable left & right, whilst at the rear you will find a fixed Novac style sight, giving the three white dot line up.
Releasing the magazine is done by a push button & is very smooth. Replacing the magazine is just as smooth & gives a definite ‘click’ which is always re-assuring.
The trigger action is smooth & no matter how fast or slowly you pull the trigger it will always fire.
The gun is single or double action but the hammer is made to be flush with the rear of the slide & non-protrusive when forward maximising safety when used in a concealed compact carry fashion. With the hammer cocked it is more accurate to fire & when you need to drop it safely, pulling down the ambidextrous safety de-cocks it efficiently much the same as the Western Arms Beretta series.
Pulling the slide back is a very smooth motion & releasing the slide from last round lock out using the slide lock switch is also just & pleasing.
The only bizarre thing I found on this gun was the outer/inner barrel.
With the slide locked back, instead of tilting upward like it should (Socom, Sig or USP style) it hangs downward. This doesn’t affect the accuracy or performance, as the BB will have completely left the barrel before the slide cycle begins, but is a bit annoying that such a factor could be over looked.
The power of the gun using HFC134a gas & 0.2g ammo was around 280fp/s according to web sites I looked at. (my chronograph is a bit temperamental!)
Hop-up is adjusted using the viciously irritating hex wrench in the underside of the barrel routine which means you have to strip the gun & rebuild each time you make an incorrect amount of adjustment. Time consuming? Oh yeah!
All appropriate trade marks & real steel calibre markings are in place on the frame & grip, whilst the markings on the slide accurately read “SMITH & WESSON, SPRINGFIELD, MA U.S.A.”
Performance Gassing the magazine is the usual fiasco with the appropriately placed profanities when you forget to pull down the spring loaded plate that holds the gas release valve inward when empty. Why for this plate? Nobody knows…
It gasses up nicely & is full rather quickly, leading one to think that the reservoir isn’t very big leaving not many shots left after a magfull of rounds… prepare to be dazzled.
I lined up my sights for my life-size paper target of a bad guy wearing earmuffs hanging up 15 meters away.
Note:- The magazine holds 20 BB’s (I use 0.2g ammo in most of my pistols) & I use HFC 134a gas.
The first shot rang out. Let me say the recoil is absolutely fantastic & the speed at which the slide cycled was tremendous. Imagine a Glock 26 on HFC22 gas. Fast!
The shot went dead straight & nailed the target in the left eye.
I then tried the accuracy with a double tap, centre mass. Again both shots dead straight, centre mass with a grouping of 2.9cm. I’m an okay shot but the gun was doing most of the work here. I fired of two more rounds aiming for each knee cap in a fast hip draw motion. The first barely grazed the knee but the second was a definite hit & drop.
15 rounds left in the magazine so time to empty it. I rapid fired these last rounds & after all 15 had cleared with a pretty impressive grouping the slide locked out. There was absolutely no cool down & the fire was still rapid despite how fast I pulled the trigger. I reloaded the magazine with 20 more rounds to see how many shots worth of gas remained. I blatted off all 20 rounds with a crisp lock out at the end. I then managed to dry fire 6 or 7 more times before the remaining gas was gone.
I was very impressed.
Green gas is bad This is where the hi-performance of the gun dazzling me led me to try it with high-powered green gas. I charged the gun with about half a magazine worth of green gas.
I loaded the magazine with ammo & fired at my chilly looking bad guy. All seems fine… great! Mega recoil & slide cycle speed combined with evil power & slightly worse accuracy. I continued to fire the remaining rounds relatively fast, counting down to the last one. The slide doesn’t lock out. Confusing, I must have one round more than I thought. I fire & the slide cycles, without locking out & with no BB shooting out… very confusing.
I make the gun safe & with the magazine still in, I pull back the slide. I let it go & it returns forward on its spring. I look at the slide & panic hits me.
Remember what I said about the plastic being not as durable? The small notch where the slide release would normally hold the slide open on the last round had been sheared smooth by the power of the green gas blowing the slide backward so hard, it had reached the end of its rails & bounced forward with enough force to use the slide release switch as a chisel.
I began to make phone calls to all UK based Airsoft specialists in a bid to fix the problem with a replacement slide.
Time for up-grades! Giving the very few Airsoft retailers about at the time my first choice for a possible metal slide was Wolf Armouries. Astonishingly they actually had two milled aluminium Shorty .40 slides come in that day. I chose the stainless model & was amazed that it was only £43.99.
The next day it arrived & at a first glance it looked pretty good. Its only packaging was a small plastic bag with a square piece of paper with some Chinese on it.
The Finnish of the slide was smooth but had many scratches on it.
The groove the front sight sat in was way too small & needed filing as did the rear sight.
The small hooked bar that would act as the shell ejection lever on the real thing is separate to the slide & the slit it would fit into on the slide needed completely filing out as it was still a solid piece. I then needed to find a small metal rod to act as a hinge so that the lever pivoted.
Finally after filing all the runners & internal rear of the slide, the blow back engine installed & all the slide back on the gun it was testing time. I loaded the magazine & pulled the slide backwards. I noted no problems, no catching & no unwanted friction of the rails. I let the slide go & it stopped about 12mm’s from being fully forward.
I took the slide off again to try & find the problem.
For this I had to compare the new slide & the old one. Here is the reason the slide was so cheap.
On the original slide there is a ramp at the front of the ejection port for the barrel unit to slide up to get past the lip around the port. On the metal slide this ramp is non existent – its just a lip with no way for the barrel unit to move backward & lock into place.
It seemed that if I couldn’t make a tough metal ramp that was secured as solid as a single piece build I was stuck. I couldn’t remove the lip, as this would prevent the barrel from seating in the correct place for loading. My only option was to make an aluminium wedge about 3mm by 8mm & finely weld or pin it in place it in place.
I decided to try the cheapest method first, which was simply cut the corner off of a piece of metal & file it to the correct angle & dimensions. I then superglued it to the inside of the slide & sprayed it with cyanoacrylate activator which sets the glue instantly. I then removed all excess activator & tried the gun again.
Sods law! It worked flawlessly. All the technical ideas I had planned up for myself & a bit of metal glued in place solved the problem.
After that I polished the slide to the point that it was completely reflective using a precious metals polishing kit. Its basically sanding with a fine grit sand paper so fine it may as well be kleenex & using oils & a toothpaste kind of formula.
Conclusion Using HFC134a gas prior to upgrade, this gun is truly outstanding. It is most defiantly my favourite Gas Blowback that I own.
If you must use High-powered gas you will need the metal slide. A user-friendlier metal Shorty .40 slide is Made by Perversity Gun Co. (PGC) & is far easier to fit. Obviously the plastic durability will be much tougher on the Black heavy weight version.
This gun may come off in a bad light, but any problems that occurred were down to the use of HFC22 gas, which is just a bad idea any way!
Side note I must add however, that upon completion of the upgrade, due to the technical problems I had solved I decided to have an aluminium slide machined with all of the problems already solved. This was not necessarily needed but due to the quick & painless availability of a very hi-spec milling machine I couldn’t resist!
A copy of the modified slide was created from aircraft grade aluminium & is absolutely amazing. The cost of such a piece as a one off job would be very high but fortunately I got a ‘mates rate’ price providing I paid for the materials & supervised the process myself.
External links: Links to external sites of interest.
By Armourpiercing (aka Luke Dobson)