For those of you familiar with the air guns used in Olympic style competition, the name Steyr is known as one of the, if not the finest production facilities in the world. The company has been manufacturing air pistols that have been the gold standard since their introduction, and more medals have been won in international competition with them than any other firm's offerings in the modern (CO2 and SCUBA) era.
The latest pistol in the product line for 10 meter competitors does nothing more than raise the bar for the competition to strive to reach. The LP1CP is going to bring home a lot of medals, and make it's purchasers very happy over the choice they made.
Steyr-Mannlicher is a company with a proud and storied history, steeped in the tradition of fine European firearms manufacturers, and laced with old world craftsmanship and attention to detail. They got their start in 1864 in Oberletten, Austria and throughout the economic crisis of not one but two post war de-armament policies, they have survived as a technological leader in the field. From the earliest "Mannlicher System" repeating rifles, through today's innovative SBS96 hunting rifle, Steyr has proven itself to be one step ahead of their piers in design and production techniques. The LP1CP is yet another member of the company's award winning design family.
For many years, the international 10 meter air pistol fraternity had made the FWB Model 65 the pistol of choice at all levels of competition. This was indeed a very accurate and functional gun, and with little challenge from other firearms makers, FWB enjoyed almost two full decades of market domination. But the shooters were looking to take their discipline to the next level, and to do that, a new style of pistol was needed. One with the accuracy and dependability of the early manually cocked pistols, but the freedom of simply loading and firing using a pre-charged component as the propellant, no work required by the competitor between shots. This would be crucial to those elite, world-class shooters who where poised to set and break records and bring home the gold from the upcoming 1988 Olympics - an Olympics that would see the 10 meter air pistol competition as a medal sport for the first time. The timing was right, and after many long months of R&D, Steyr-Mannlicher AG released it's LP1 CO2 powered match pistol to the public. It's initial success and subsequent acceptance by the shooting world was staggering. At practically every competition you could choose to attend, the line was populated by the new gun in increasing numbers. The sales helped put Steyr on the top step of the competition ladder in the air gun niche, what with the LG87 match air rifle now mirroring the pistol's climb to the top.
Several years passed, with the LP1 as the king of the sport, with all the Olympic and World Cup medals you could ever want as proof. But a new buzz was going around about a more stable, lighter, and non-polluting propellent for air guns that was going to further refine the sport and bring with it a new high in technological advancement. Air. Yes, air guns powered by pre-compressed air. The concept is as old as air guns themselves really, but it had never been married to the precision arms used in competition before. Steyr would not be the first company to come out with a "SCUBA" model match air pistol, but they decided to be the company to come out with the best model. This would be accomplished by taking what was already considered to be the best match pistol on the planet, and modifying it's mechanism to work with the new propellant. Along the way, other design modifications and updates would be incorporated as well, and in the end, Steyr would release a world beater, the new standard in pre-charged match air pistols. Sounds like a tall order doesn't it. Well, in my humble opinion - they succeeded.
When one first views the Steyr LP1CP, they are immediately impressed with the obvious quality of construction and it's clean design. The pistol is assembled using only the finest materials and this is only reaffirmed upon handling it. Certainly the most visible of differences between the new LP1 family and the first generation, is the inclusion of an integral compensator in the muzzle. On earlier models, the barrel was not shrouded as it is now, and a popular aftermarket accessory was the affixing of a compensator - such as the Turbo-Comp offered by Nygord Precision Products out of Arizona. Recognizing this trend in the shooting community to eliminate even the slight "flip" of the barrel felt with the air pistol, Steyr invested months of research and design to create their own system. It works flawlessly. Two vent ports along the top of the barrel allow controlled venting of the excess propellant in an upward and outward flow. When I fired the pistol for the first time, I felt absolutely no detectable movement at the muzzle upon firing. This type of stability gives the shooter the opportunity to develop exceptional follow-through in their shooting cycle - an absolute necessity if one wants to be competitive in any match.
The finish on the pistol is very nice, with some areas matte black, and others a brushed natural aluminum. The test gun that I received was one of the new color versions. At first I must admit, the blue and gold scheme took me a bit by surprise (my father - former All-Navy Pistol Champion - loved it). All of the frame and barrel surfaces were anodized blue, and the air cylinder was anodized gold. The sights, of course, remained matte black, and the loading/cocking mechanism was matte silver. I grew to like it over time, and I think that shooters - and especially competitors - will enjoy the freedom of personal expression that the various colors allow. The grips are fine-grained walnut of orthopedic design. Steyr offers at least four different sizes in both right and left hand models, so initial grip fit from the factory is as good as one could hope for. I would undoubtedly need to do some minor woodworking to get a perfect fit, but that is only to be expected. In addition to the ubiquitous adjustable palm shelf, the entire grip rotates on a fore and aft axis to the frame, allowing the shooter to fine tune the fit of the pistol to their unique stance. As with any adjustments and modifications with precision shooting equipment, taking one's time and making changes one at a time is crucial. Otherwise, if you change several items at the same time, you have no idea which changes effected your performance. The LP1CP offers it's owner an almost endless degree of flexibility. To cock the pistol, the loading gate is simply lifted and brought back to it's stopping point. You will hear and feel a slight click. At this point, the trigger mechanism is ready for either live or dry firing. There is a small, black switch incorporated on the top of the loading gate that operates the dry fire device. When it is switched into the forward position, it stops the gate from fully closing. This in turn stops the staging of air into the chamber for live fire. Because of this, Steyr's design is one of the safest on the market. When dry firing, I was impressed by the feel of the mechanical trigger. The trigger shoe is adjustable on three axis, giving you exact placement for your finger. The mechanism itself offers numerous adjustments including length of pull, first and second stage weight, first and second stage travel, and release point. It has an exceptionally crisp, positive break, and with its well machined surfaces and flawless design, it should offer a lifetime of service. The sights are world class, with fine adjustment, and positive detents during the rotation of the elevation and windage knobs. The rear sight notch is variable width, and the front sight channel accepts blades of different widths. This type of sighting arrangement is becoming the standard for the best pistols, much to the delight of shooters worldwide.
At present, all of the top models from the different manufacturers of air pistol will yield single hole groups. The Steyr assures this by making it possible for the owner to adjust the velocity of the LP1P with simple tools. This feature gives the competitor the ability to fine tune the pistol to specific pellets and atmospheric conditions (I would add, however, that unless you are comfortable removing the grip and working on this yourself, you should take it to a qualified air gun smith for this type of adjustment).
The pistol comes supplied with two air cylinders, a filling adapter, tools, and a test target showing the pistols performance from a rest. I shot several five shot groups that scored 49 or 50 on the standard UIT 10 meter target, with the tightest being a knothole that looked like a single .22 round had perforated the paper. My only desire after using this pistol for a few weeks, lays not in the pistol itself, but in its case. I personally feel that all manufacturers of match quality air pistols should supply the guns in cases that are large enough to not only carry the gun itself, but also the assorted items that one utilizes during its everyday use. Pellets, cleaning equipment, spare cylinders, sight black, shooting glasses, tools, etc. are always needed, but space for them is rarely provided. I should mention however, that some companies do not even supply a case at all (as ridiculous as that seems for a $1000+ purchase), so Steyr should get some kudos for the adequate protection their case offers.
Steyr has another winner in the LP1P, as evidenced by its immediate acceptance among the world's elite shooters. Anyone purchasing this model will be the recipient of a pistol whose value is unquestionably solid, one whose performance is perhaps matched - but not surpassed, and one whose lineage is of the finest pedigree. Now, do I really have to return it?