Time for a review of an airsoft replica which suffers from something of an identity crisis. The WE Bulldog is very obviously a replica of the Beretta PX4 Storm, though you won’t find any Beretta markings here or any mention of Beretta on the packaging or manual. I believe that early versions of this pistol were sold with Beretta markings and identified as the PX4 but this has changed due, I assume, to licensing issues. This seems to something of a theme for WE pistols – The WE Big Bird (stupid name alert!) bears an uncanny resemblance to the S&W M&P 40 and the WE X-Tactical could easily be mistaken for a Springfield XDM pistol. However, despite the silly name, this is actually a pretty decent replica.
Real Steel background
Beretta began as commercial gunmakers in 1526 when they were commissioned by the Arsenal of Venice to produce 185 arquebus barrels. 500 years later, the company is still manufacturing firearms and is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating manufacturing company in the world (it is said that the original bill of sale for those arquebus barrels is still held in the company records).
In 2001 Beretta launched their first polymer framed pistol; the Beretta 9000S. This wasn’t a great success, though it did feature styling by the Giorgietto Giugiaro Design group, the company responsible for such iconic automotive designs as the Lotus Esprit, De Lorean DMC-12 and Maserati Spyder. In 2004 this was followed by the PX-4 Storm, a much more successful pistol which used many of the styling cues from the 9000S.
Beretta PX4 Storm
The PX4 is a semi-automatic pistol with a lightweight polymer frame, replaceable backstrap, Picatinny rail and (unusually for Beretta) a fully enclosed slide. This pistol is notable for a having a rotating barrel which is claimed to improve cooling. The system uses counter-clockwise torque generated by firing to reduce the amount of pressure required from the rotating barrel lock’s cam and pin system to effect unlocking. The pistol is intended for personal defence and law enforcement use, and has proved very popular since release.
The WE Bulldog
WE is a Taiwanese metal mould manufacturer which began producing airsoft replicas in 2003. They offer a range of blowback replicas of semi-auto pistols. Amongst some people, WE have a reputation for belonging to the “cheap and cheerful” end of the market. While certainly cheaper than their Japanese counterparts, I have owned several WE pistols and have found them all to be well-made, functionally and visually accurate replicas which also generally shoot well. Although I have found that some of their earlier models weren’t especially reliable in the longer term.
With the launch of the Advanced Weaponry Simulator System (A.W.S.S.) in 2008, WE set out to produce gas blowback airsoft replicas which are sufficiently accurate in operation and function to be used as training options for military and law enforcement personnel. The Bulldog follows this design brief.
The Bulldog is a gas operated blowback pistol with a metal slide and fittings and a polymer frame with replaceable backstraps. It has a 3½” barrel, a 24 round, full-size drop out magazine and weighs around 1.5 pounds. WE also produce the Bulldog Compact, which appears to be a replica of the smaller PX4 Compact. The Bulldog is occasionally referred to as the “Bulldog Fullsize”, to distinguish it from the compact model. The Bulldog was previously available in all black or with a polished metal slide but only the two-tone version is listed as a current model on the WE website.
Packaging and presentation 3/5
The WE Bulldog is provided in a cardboard box with polystyrene inlay cut out to fit the pistol and accessories. The Bulldog is supplied with three alternative backstraps, a single gas magazine and a brief user manual.
Visual accuracy 9/10
WE Bulldog left, Beretta PX4 right
Ironically given the lack of Beretta licensing, this is a very accurate visual replica of the PX4. The Bulldog really is indistinguishable from the real PX4 – every pin, slot and contour of the frame and slide are faithfully reproduced. The inner barrel is recessed approximately ¼” from the outer barrel, and so isn’t particularly obvious. The outer barrel is threaded for a suppressor.
The paint finish on the slide is a very close match to the finish on the polymer frame, making the two parts look as if they belong together (something that not all airsoft replicas manage – look at the mismatched paint on the KJ Works PX4 slide, for example). If you can find an early version with Beretta markings, this is as close a visual replica as it’s possible to find.
The only minor difference here (and I’m struggling to find any at all) is that the dots used on the rear and front sights are white, rather than the luminescent originals.
Functional accuracy 14/15
Given that WE replicas are intended to be used as training weapons, it’s no surprise that the Bulldog replicates every aspect of the operation of the original. The slide operates and locks as it should. The ambidextrous slide mounted safety operates correctly as a safety and decocker. The slide release, takedown slider and mag release all operate as per the original weapon and the Bulldog can be field stripped. The Bulldog shoots in single and double action. Even the rotating barrel of the original is replicated – as the slide is pushed back, the outer locking sleeve of the barrel rotates through approximately 90°. The weight of the Bulldog is also reasonable, something that really helps to replicate the feel of the original.
I can’t find anything on the Bulldog which doesn’t fully replicate the operation of the real PX4. I fully believe that this could be used as a viable training option for the real weapon. However, there is one slightly odd thing about the operation of the Bulldog – the hammer in the down position sits about 8mm back from the fully-forward position of the hammer on the real weapon. This doesn’t affect shooting in any way, but does look slightly odd.
Bulldog hammer in fully forward (fired) position
The Bulldog is loaded by filling the full size magazine with gas and BBs. Filling is done without drama or leaks. The magazine holds up to 24 BBs and I found this replica worked best with 0.2g ammunition. The slide must be racked for the first shot, which pushes a BB into the chamber and cocks the hammer for single action.
One of the things I like about the Bulldog is that, although it’s a compact pistol, it’s a chunky little thing that feels good and points well. I like compact replicas, but some are so small that you struggle to get a decent grip. That doesn’t apply in this case and it’s certainly big enough to enable a two-handed grip and the grip is long enough to comfortably get all your fingers on it. The slide mounted, ambidextrous safety/decocker works positively and moving it to the “safe” position also safely de-cocks the hammer.
The trigger pull in single action is crisp, light and consistent with a clearly defined break. In double action it is longer, but still fairly light and consistent. The three white dots on the non-adjustable sights make lining up the target simple, especially for aging eyes like mine. The pistol has adjustable hop up, though shooting 0.2g BBs at six yards I found that no adjustment was required. If you do need to adjust the hop-up, you must first remove the slide and take out the barrel to give access to the knurled wheel that allows adjustment. Blowback is crisp and strong and I had no misfeeds or failures to fire. The magazine on mine holds gas more two weeks and more without appreciable leaks.
Six shots, six yards, 0.2g BBs
Claimed power for the Bulldog is a lowly 285fps, unsurprising given the short inner barrel. However, BBs hit the target fairly hard at 6 yards and penetration is good. Accuracy is very good indeed. Groupings are around 1¼” – 1½” at 6yds. Rested and shooting carefully, 1″ groupings are possible. For an airsoft pistol with open sights and a 3½” barrel, that’s pretty respectable. I found that, at 6yds, best accuracy was obtained using 0.2g BBs.
Quality and reliability 11/15
The Bulldog seems generally well made and finished. The slide fits well with no side-to-side movement and no rattles. The hammer, trigger and all other controls work well without play or slop. The magazine locks and releases cleanly. The finish on the slide looks good and (so far) hasn’t chipped or marked. The finish on the slide matches the finish on the polymer frame well. Finish on other parts isn’t as good – paint on the high spots of the safety, slide release and inner barrel is wearing off after very little use. A unique serial number plate is provided below the barrel. I have had no functional problems with this replica.
I am not aware of any reported issues with this pistol. However, I would add a word of caution. I have previously owned several older WE replica pistols and some (especially the WE Luger) don’t seem to have good longevity. The quality of metal used on some internal parts seems low. The sear on the WE Luger for example, is prone to rapid wear causing the pistol to fire in full auto. I have no reason to believe that this applies to the Bulldog, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you are considering long-term ownership.
Overall Impression 14/15
I like my replicas to be as close as possible to the original weapon in looks, feel and operation, and this is about as good as it gets. Other than markings, it’s indistinguishable from the original. It’s a significantly better visual replica than (for example) the Umarex PX4 BB shooter.
I like this replica a lot. Visually and operationally it’s difficult to see how you could have a closer replica of the real weapon other than by including Beretta markings. It seems to be well-made and reasonably finished and has convincing weight. It’s also lots of fun to shoot and accuracy is consistent and good enough for target shooting. That it’s also significantly cheaper than some Japanese and other Taiwanese alternatives is an added bonus. How the finish and mechanical reliability hold up long-term remains to be seen, but other than that one question mark, I don’t see how you can go wrong by adding a WE Bulldog to your collection.
Total score: 85/100
The Bulldog now seems to be available only in a two-tone (silver/black) finish and the latest version incorporates a threaded barrel extension.