The Next Best Thing to Being There

The Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E Paintball Marker
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The Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E Paintball Marker is a dead ringer for the real steel.

Umarex has changed the game regarding realistic-looking stand-in firearms. Their expansive line of airsoft guns, pellet-firing weapons, and utility airguns will keep you trained, fed, protected, and entertained most anyplace. Their most recent addition is a dead nuts perfect replica of a GLOCK 17 that is CO2-powered and fires .43-caliber projectiles. Unlike many toys on the market today, you cannot distinguish this thing from the real steel until you pick it up and work the action.

Such a weapon has legitimate tactical applications. For force-on-force training, literally, nothing is better. The gun cycles like the live iron and feeds via a butt-mounted magazine. It hits hard enough to keep you frosty but won’t do any lasting damage so long as proper eye protection is used. There remain some tantalizing recreational applications as well.

The Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E Paintball Marker even comes in a GLOCK box. Everything about this replica is perfect.

Big Hair, Loud Music, and a Whole Pile of Awesome

I graduated from High School in 1984. Red Dawn graced the local cineplex, and President Reagan had recently kicked the living dog snot out of the Cubans on the island of Grenada. America was feared around the world, and you could generally discern a person’s gender with a glance. It was a great time to be alive.

I knew I wanted to be a soldier from when I was in diapers. A modest cadre of like-minded lads made up my posse. On free weekends we gathered at a buddy’s rural farm for war games.

Toy guns modified for extra realism and ample fireworks made up the loadout. I split a buddy’s lip open with a bottle rocket and ended up working for him twenty years later. Yes, that was awkward.

The backstraps that come with the Umarex GLOCK 17 T4E are the same as those accompanying the actual weapon.

Eventually, we all got jobs. That meant a little folding money and some proper iron. Back then, that was Nelspot paintball guns.

Nelspot markers were originally designed to mark timber or cattle at a distance. They fired oil-based enamel paintballs and were powered by 12-gram CO2 cartridges. Each pistol was a bolt-action manual repeater that held about ten rounds. Reloading was laborious.

Getting hit in a sensitive spot would make you get religion. We drew blood on a few occasions. Many times, I fired my round and then went screaming off in terror with one of my buddies in hot pursuit. If we got into that kind of mischief with what were essentially single-shot guns firing unreliable, inaccurate paintballs, just imagine where we might go with these puppies.

Each magazine contains a single 12-gram CO2 cartridge and eight projectiles. Each cartridge is good for about five magazines’ worth of chaos.

Technical Details

I just cannot overstate how cool these Umarex guns are. They’re training tools, not toys. That means no stupid orange muzzle plugs. They are also fully licensed by GLOCK. The box and backstraps are identical to those of the real weapons. In fact, the frames, sights, and switches seem indistinguishable from the genuine Gen 5 GLOCK 17.

The slide release is replicated on both sides, and the trigger has the standard blade safety and striker-fired personality. The reversible magazine release is identical to that of the live weapon. The Umarex gun will fit in any appropriate GLOCK holster and accept any standard accessories on its dust cover rail.

The live weapon is on the left. The paintball gun is on the right. The differences aren’t really worth mentioning.

You load the magazine with eight .43-caliber balls and a single 12-gram CO2 cartridge to run the gun. The gun comes with two magazines so that you can practice reloading drills under pressure, just like the real steel. The slide cycles about half an inch with each round. Recoil is noticeable without being onerous. On the last shot fired, the slide locks to the rear. Mags drop freely on command.

Doc Dabbs says this is the best force-on-force combat simulator he’s ever seen. It takes standard rail accessories too.

Fodder

I got three different types of ammo for testing. Hard rubber balls are utterly miserable but typically don’t break skin. Powder balls also sting quite a bit but look like a bullet strike upon impact. Paintballs splash a generous bit of orange paint. This helps excise the ambiguity from whether or not you connected as if the inevitable shrieks of pain were inadequate.

If you hate your friends, there are even rubber-coated ball bearings, but I swear you wouldn’t shoot me but once with one of those monsters before we had words. PAVA-filled pepperballs are used by Law Enforcement and Corrections personnel for riot control. These rounds burst in a cloud of irritant material designed to incapacitate. They cost about $2.50 per shot but are available uncontrolled online.

Solid rubber balls punch through cardboard and sting like the devil. Powder rounds yield realistic-looking bullet strikes. Paintballs take all the ambiguity out of an exchange.

I didn’t have any PAVA rounds handy, but that’s just as well. I don’t love you guys enough to let somebody shoot me with one of those. Uncle Sam sent me through the gas chamber back in the day, and I promised God that if I survived, I’d never voluntarily do that again. You don’t want me reneging on that kind of deal.

At typical CQB ranges, the Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E Paintball Marker groups about like the live weapon. .43-caliber hard rubber balls punch through both sides of this cardboard box with a fresh CO2 cartridge.

Practical Tactical

The Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E handles, feels and runs just like a genuine factory 9mm GLOCK 17. The weight is the same, the balance is excellent, and the controls are identical. Let your imagination run wild, and it really does feel like the real deal, particularly throwing exploding powder balls. Movie folk actually use very similar tech to create live-action bullet strikes in your favorite action films.

Unlike laser tag, there is some proper pain associated with getting hit. That keeps you from acting invincible and makes for a useful training tool. However, I wouldn’t get within a hundred meters of this thing without eye pro. Accuracy at across the room ranges is about indistinguishable from the live weapon. For draw, point, and shoot, there’s really nothing better. However, brandish this thing menacingly in public, and somebody will kill you.

There is only so much damage you can do with one of these things. Wear your eye pro religiously, and don’t be stupid, and you can’t hurt anything more fragile than your pride. That means you can train in the backyard. It also means you can practice your draw from concealment without worrying about blowing your manhood off.

This is a big deal beyond the obvious reasons. Most commercial ranges won’t let you draw from a holster during live-fire training. The motivations behind this are self-evident — there are a lot of plaintiff’s attorneys in America. However, the muscle memory required to draw and shoot can be a hard-bought commodity, particularly from awkward positions. This thing is the best close combat training tool I have ever seen.

We call this ruffian the Big Rubber Man. He’s from RubberDummies.com. This is how he fared after going mano-a-mano with Will in the backyard.

I’ve needed a gun twice for real, and I’ve known lots of gun guys who have been way deeper in the suck than have I. It’s never quite like the shooting range. Being able to practice your draw, use your weak hand, manage bulky clothing, and work around a vehicle, furniture, or obstacles, all while delivering realistic but harmless effects down range makes for a training tool par excellence.

Wear proper eye protection, and you can train with the Umarex GLOCK 17 Gen 5 T4E Paintball Marker in some surprising spaces. Unlike a live weapon, you can practice your draw and shoot from unconventional positions without worrying about (permanently) hurting anybody.

A CO2 cartridge is good for about five magazines. Muzzle velocity averaged about 335 fps. Rubber balls are reusable, and Amazon sells 500 powder rounds for $64. Paintballs are about half that. CO2 cartridges run about 75 cents apiece in boxes of twenty-five. Budget for plenty. This thing’s freaking awesome.

For more info: UmarexUSA.com