December 2012

The ‘A’ List: 2012 Guns & Gear

Which firearms, accessories, and ammunition offer the best combinations of performance and value? We look back at the previous 12 months of Gun Tests to find out.

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work Ben Brooks, R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Ray Ordorica, Robert Sadowski, John Taylor, Tracey Taylor, Ralph Winingham, and Kevin Winkle have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.—Todd Woodard

When you buy a CZ USA SP-01 Shadow Custom No. 91029 9mm, $1200, from CZ Custom, or any custom shop, you are paying for applied expertise, not just parts. The most noticeable difference to the shooter was that the double-action first shot was not an issue. The sense of transition from DA to SA on our Custom SP-O1 was almost nonexistent. Double-action pull weighed in at 7.0 pounds, and the single-action press required only 3.0 pounds of pressure. But altogether they seemed less. This made our Double Tap test all the more exciting. Beginning with a double-action press, first shots rang out in elapsed times ranging from 1.05 seconds to 0.94 seconds. The fastest split was 0.25 seconds.

In the February 2012 issue, we also tried the Double Tap test beginning with a single-action first shot. After the initial run, our shooter’s split times dropped from 0.21 seconds to an average elapsed time of 0.175 seconds. Nevertheless, our shooter reported that his control was suffering due to the flat-sided grips. For his hands, the full-profile rubber grips were more suitable.

From the bench none of our groups were as large as 2.0 inches across. The 115-grain rounds produced an average size group measuring about 1.7 inches. We split hairs calculating averages for the Black Hills 124-grain hollowpoints and the American Eagle 147-grain rounds, 1.23 inches versus 1.29 inches respectively.

In the multiple-targets test the first two shots on target qualified as a near perfect double, with two holes touching inside the A-zone. This was also the fastest run, with the score sheet showing a 2.19-second first shot and a 4.73-second total elapsed time. Average first shot and elapsed time averaged about 2.41seconds/4.82 seconds. T-1 was scored 9 A’s and one shot less than an inch low. T-2 showed 8 A’s with one hit left of center and the other just right of center. The head shots formed about a 4-inch-wide group on both targets, but in both cases one hit was wide right.

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