We recently reviewed three 38 Special revolvers that cost about $400 and thought we would increase our budget and caliber size, and then sourced three revolvers each costing about $500 in three different big-bore calibers: 44 Special, 45 ACP, and 45 Colt, often called 45 Long Colt (LC) to ensure it's not mixed up with the Auto Colt cartridge. The three revolvers included two Charter Arms products, the Classic Bulldog in 44 Special and the newer Pitbull in 45 ACP, plus the Taurus Public Defender Polymer chambered in .410 shotshell and 45 LC.
Even though these were new revolvers, we still performed a range-rod test since there was a bit of side-to-side wiggle in the cylinders of all the revolvers. Range rods check the alignment of the chambers to the barrel bore. We also noted that the action of the Taurus seemed a bit stiff; our initial dry firing in double action found the cylinder would not fully index to the next chamber at times. Dry firing took care of the indexing issue, and all passed the range rod test. We also noted during the range-rod test the barrel of the Pitbull was not fully screwed into the frame. It was off by a fraction of a turn, enough to cock the front sight to the left when aiming the revolver. It is unacceptable that a gun leaves the factory in this condition. We anticipated and needed to use Kentucky windage with the Pitbull at the range.
In the past Charter Arms revolvers have been favorably rated, but in these two examples we found exception. The not-fully-screwed-down barrel was also the reason the cylinder-to-barrel gap was so large. We measured the gap between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone at the rear of the barrel using feeler gauges from Brownells (606-950-252WB) and found a gap of 0.010 inches for the Pitbull and the Bulldog Classic and the Taurus at 0.005 inch. A gap of 0.003 inches is desirable for a competition revolver, but up to 0.006 inches is often found. A large gap allows more gas to escape, reducing the bullet's velocity. It also means there is more flash, and if the chamber and cylinder are not perfectly aligned, a user might experience splash from burning powders and bits of shaved bullet metal. We did not experience any splash with the Charter Arms revolvers. We did note that the Classic Bulldog had about 30 fps more than the published data for Hornady Critical Defense165-grain FTX bullet, which is 900 fps out of 2.5-inch barrel. The 3-inch barrel of Bulldog must have helped increase velocity. The Pitbull had noticeably less muzzle velocity compared to factory data. We assumed the reduction came because the Pitbull has a 2.5-inch barrel and the factory data for the cartridges use either a 4- or 5-inch barrel. Reduced muzzle velocity also occurred in the Taurus.
A common feature of all three revolvers was a safety transfer bar. This system prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.
These revolvers are made for close-in work, but we still tested accuracy out to 25 yards. Since the Taurus offers the ability to fire .410 shotshells as well as cartridges, we sourced some CCI shot cartridges in 44 Special. CCI manufactures shotshells in 45 ACP, but warns against using the the cartridges in revolvers since the crimp that holds the shot in the cartridge case may interfere with the rotation of cylinder after being fired. One of our team members regularly carries a revolver loaded with bird shot cartridges and bullet cartridges when we walks his dog in the woods. He's equipped to deal with snakes as well as bears, depending on what chamber he lets fly.
As a carry handgun, the Glock is rugged, reliable, and combat worthy. About the only modifications that actually improve the Glock are the addition of a better trigger and a set of aftermarket sights. We dealt extensively with the issue of trigger replacements in the April 2014. There, we installed a Zev Technologies' GlockWorx Ultimate kit from Brownells.com ($250, #100-006-566WB, Mfr. Part: ZTFULULT4G9BLK) into our Glock 17. We gave the Ultimate Kit an A grade, saying it "was the upgrade that produced the biggest difference in performance all by itself, increasing the accuracy of the Glock 17 from an average grouping of 2.3 inches down to 1.6 inches."
Also in the April 2014 issue, we looked at two sight-upgrade kits, both from Brownells. One was the Brownells Glock 17 Sight Upgrade Kit ($200, #080-000-919WB), which included a Meprolight (Kimber) ML-10224 Tru-Dot Night Sight System for Glock 17, 19, 22, 23, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39; an MGW Glock Sight Adjustment Tool, and an Ed Brown Front Sight Tool for Glock. Since we had the installation tools handy, we also ordered a set of TruGlo tritium fiber-optic Brite-Sites ($90, #902-000-107WB, Mfr. Part: TG131GT1Y), yellow rear and green front. We chose to put the TruGlo sights on the Glock 17 and the Tru-Dots on a G34 so that we could shoot them side by side.
With the Ed Brown Front Sight Tool for Glock ($20 sold separately, #087-017-001WB, Mfr. Part: 952) and the MGW Glock Sight Mover ($100 sold separately, #584-045-017WB, Mfr. Part: MGW309) for the rear sight, we started the switch with a disassembly of the slide to get access to the front sight. With the Ed Brown front sight tool and a small crescent wrench, we loosened the screw beneath the sight and removed it, then replaced the white dot with the new TruGlo front sight and tightened with the crescent wrench. Once the front sight was swapped, we hooked the slide into the MGW. The device came with some thin plates to raise the slide up the right height. We did not need them. The old sight drifted out with relative ease, going left to right pointed away from us. The new rear TruGlo sight did require some minor fitting with a file and a little more strength to slide in, but with the MGW tool, leverage was not a problem. We used the same process to put the Meprolite sights onto a factory Glock 34.
Despite the new TruGlo sights being fixed like the originals, we found them to be much clearer and easier to acquire and reacquire targets. We took to the range with the TruGlo sights installed, using all other original parts, and we cut our average group size down by almost half an inch, from 2.3 inches with the standard Glock to 1.9 inches with the TruGlo sights. We turned down the lights over the shooters, leaving the targets illuminated to check out how much the tritium would glow in the fiber-optic sights. The green front sight was quite bright, while the rear yellow sights were significantly dimmer, although still visible.
The Meprolight Tru-Dots provided an even more impressive change on the G34. We shaved just over a full inch off our average group size at 10 yards once we installed them.
Upgrading fixed sights can seem like a challenge to someone who hasn't done work on pistols previously, but with these tools and the simplicity of Glock's designs, this upgrade is a great place to start if you want to attempt a DIY project. You can drift the sights out with a punch, which will save $100 for the MGW tool, but you risk rupturing the tritium capsules. The MGW mover requires oil on the crankshaft, but it made drifting the dovetail sights in and out so easy we quickly misplaced our punch set. Overall, we found the TruGlo sights to be a nice upgrade and would recommend putting them in place of the standard non-tritium sights on any factory Glock. We gave them a Grade: A ranking, along with the Meprolight Tru-Dot tritium.
Naturally, readers asked about other sights, so we began looking at more replacements we could test head to head, rather than as a general Glock upgrade. So, again working with Brownells, we assembled a sextet of night sights suitable for installation on various Glocks. Also, we believe you can broaden our recommendations to include other firearms of similar size — the visual presentation won't be appreciably different on different platforms — though the installation process may differ gun to gun.
At the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Gun Testsstaffers ran across many dozens of new products that we're working to include in future tests. Following are some of the handguns, handgun ammunition, and handgun accessories we were interested in. Next month we'll look at new long guns and new options for them.
Given the growth of the AR-15 pistol market, aftermarket supplier ATI sees an opportunity to help users of the popular Ruger Charger get more enjoyment out of its use. The AR-22 Pistol Stock System features a polymer receiver chassis and a T2 pistol grip as well as a six-sided aluminum free-floating forend that sports an FS8 nose cone. The T2-style pistol grip lowers a shooter's hand to align the finger with the trigger, and the sure-grip texture helps reduce recoil. In addition, the stock also features a 16-inch aluminum Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver and forend for trouble-free optic and accessory mounting.
The biggest ammunition surprise might be the news that Browning is now offering, via licensing, a full line of ammunition manufactured by Olin-Winchester.
The BXP Personal Defense X-Point defensive handgun loads are loaded in black nickel-plated cases, with bullets utilizing the X-Point technology. There is also a line of Target Performance BPT loads for defensive handguns. The usual chamberings are represented in both lines, with one load each in 380 ACP, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, and 45 Auto. Browning is also offering rimfire loads in 22 LR. They have a distinct black-oxide coating on the bullet and will be offered in 100- and 400-round packages.
In a startling move, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced on December 22 that Virginia will sever concealed handgun permit (CHP) reciprocity ties with 25 of 30 states. This will affect hundreds, maybe thousands, of Gun Tests readers who reside in Tennessee and other states bordering the Commonwealth, and perhaps millions of people nationwide.
Effective Feb. 1, 2016, — about the time this issue arrives in your mailbox —Virginia will no longer honor carry permits from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The following permits will continue to be recognized: West Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. The move also means several states will no longer recognize Virginia's concealed-carry permits because they require mutual recognition of permits. Those include Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
Speaking about this audit and update, Attorney General Herring said, "Virginia, and nearly every other state in the country, have recognized that carrying a concealed handgun is a significant responsibility that should be extended only to those who have gone through a process to prove a level of competency and responsibility."
"The standards for proving competency and responsibility are up to each state," Herring said, "and the General Assembly has established Virginia's standards for whom it considers capable of safely carrying a concealed handgun. Those standards should be applied evenly, consistently, and fairly to anyone who wants to lawfully conceal a handgun in Virginia."
I'm a long-time customer and would like to get three or more comparisons of 357 Magnum lightweight snub-nose revolvers. The index shows the captioned rifle being reviewed in November. When I go online for past reviews, I only find a 2007 review, and it was not from November, as stated in magazine. The Blackhawk GripBreak 421903BK holster seems like just the ticket for this coming year for those of us who are predisposed to reject Kydex and plastic holsters for reasons of them being ugly and inelegant. Problem is, no one has the GripBreaks. Check your Schmidt-Rubin for a possible Christmas present. Remove the buttplate and see if there is anything under it. Many original owners wrote a personal note or ID and hid it under the plate. - Winslow
Handgun retention is serious business for uniformed police officers who, as a matter of course, practice open carry. Special holsters with retention beyond a tight fit are mandated in most precincts, yet the list of police officers killed with their own guns sadly continues to grow. So what does this mean for civilians who openly carry their firearms? On January 1, 2016 the state of Texas will join the list of states no longer requiring concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons concealed. How many Texas CHL holders will immediately change their habits from stealth carry to out-in-the-open carry remains to be seen. Gun Tests doesn't get into how people carry and use their legally owned firearms, but we recognize that some legal gun owners will want to open carry, which creates two issues the shooter has to deal with in advance. Mainly, the gun owner must maintain control of a carry firearm while still having fast access to it.
Joe Woolley, president of Firearms Operations and Responsible Training of Texas (FortTexas.us), thinks the new law might prompt licensees to carry larger firearms that are ordinarily more difficult to conceal. But more important, he said, "The security level of any open-carry holster I use will need to be higher than for the concealed firearm." To see how manufacturers provide this extra security, we assembled a collection of 12 currently available holsters that supply more retention than most concealed models — that is, they require the manipulation of a locking device to draw the weapon. We'll cover this dozen in two parts in back-to-back issues.
Our test holsters were Hogue Incorporated's $50 ARS Stage One Carry, Galco's M4X and M6X each priced at $45, Blackhawk's $79 GripBreak, and the $32 Evader from Bianchi. In addition we tested three holsters from DeSantis, the $52 Facilitator, the $40 Quick Safe, and the $68 Prowler. We also tried a trio of holsters from Safariland, the $50 578 ProFit in Long and Standard sizes and Safariland's $50 6378 ALS. Last, we also tried Blade Tech's $124 WRS Level 3, which was much closer to being a police duty holster than what a civilian would typically wear. In this installment, we'll tackle the Blackhawk GripBreak, DeSantis Facilitator, Galco M4X and M6X, and the Hogue ARS C.
Most people think a tight fit in a typical holster constitutes Level I retention and the addition of a thumb-break strap makes it a Level II holster. That's not actually the case, any more than adding a mechanical locking device would change its rating to Level III. Retention ratings and their corresponding tests were originally developed by Bill Rogers, a former FBI agent and pioneer in modern police training. In purchasing the Rogers Holster Company in 1985, Safariland adopted his security rating system with tests intended to simulate a gun grab. Rogers' Retention Level I test (trademarked) "is described as applying all the force to the grip or handle of the weapon by an individual while the weapon is totally secured in the holster and mounted on a suitable belt being worn by another individual. The direction of force is unlimited, but the duration of the force is limited to 5 seconds. At the end of the 5 seconds, the weapon must still be secure in the holster and the holster must still be attached to the operator." By mounting each holster on a Blackhawk Instructor Gun Belt ($37 fromOpticsPlanet.com) we made sure any failure would be traced back to the holster and not to the belt.
Our tests likely exceeded Bill Rogers' protocol by wrestling to the ground for weapon control. We challenged retention using two types of grips, "educated" and "freestyle." The educated grip describes how an instructor might handle the gun, with the trigger finger held straight alongside the frame with three fingers wrapped below the trigger guard, thumb hugging the opposite side of the pistol. The freestyle grip started with all four fingers beneath the trigger guard and thumb wrapped around the other side. We also tried grabbing the gun with the left hand from a right-hand-side-mounted holster. In the interest of security, we're not going to tell you everything we learned about drawing from these high-retention holsters — just whether or not they might help protect you from a gun grab.
When it comes to handgun concealment, perhaps the most colorful configuration is the shoulder holster. Shoulder holsters are not as popular in the real world as they are in old detective movies, but that has as much to do with contemporary style as it does with the cost of a good rig, especially when compared to a Kydex belt holster. People simply do not wear sport coats as much as they used to. But shoulder holsters do provide superior access when seated at a desk or behind the wheel of a car.
To learn more about shoulder holsters, we purchased four different models from the company that offers more designs than any other maker. Galco International (USGalco.com) began making gun leather in the late 1960s as the Famous Jackass Leather Company in Chicago, Illinois. Their most famous product was a shoulder holster referred to as the Jackass Rig worn by Don Johnson in the second season of the 1980s hit show Miami Vice. Later, Johnson's character, Detective James "Sonny" Crockett, was fit with a new model from Galco, the Miami Classic. It was covered by a summer-weight sport jacket and sparked a trend in men's fashion that some of us would like to forget.
To carry our full-size Springfield Armory 1911 45, we chose the $200 VHS vertical carry shoulder system with a vertical drop dual magazine pouch. To house our Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 9mm compact, we picked the $195 Miami Classic II with dual magazine pouch, offering horizontal open top access. For our Caspian 1911 Commander we bought a $165 Jackass Rig, also with a vertical drop dual magazine pouch. This design offered abbreviated coverage of the pistol's top end but greater diagonal adjustment for the holster than the Miami Classic. For our Sig Sauer P239 we tested a $93 Classic Lite shoulder system with single vertical drop magazine pouch fashioned from center cut steer hide with a natural finish. The Classic Lite is the least expensive shoulder system that Galco makes.
The belt-slide holster design is basically a sleeve of material through which the carrier pushes the muzzle of the handgun, leaving the nose of the sidearm and the grip uncovered and the middle of the gun secured by the sleeve, aka the slide. Many criticize the design because it doesn't protect the muzzle or front sight, the gun can be pushed up when the user sits, the gun can be noisy when it hits against chairs or other hard objects, and the carry arm can be unsecure if the slide isn't snug on the frame and slide.
Despite these worries, belt-slide holsters are among the most popular holster types. Some view them as convenient for range use and carrying the handgun to the range and back and little more. Others feel that the belt-slide holster is a good choice for concealed carry. As is often the case, the rule is that the belt slide only works if you use a good example. The thin suede-leather or fabric types just do not make the grade except for range use and even then, they do not properly present the handgun for any type of draw angle. The draw angle is derived from the necessary gap between the handle of the handgun and holster and the torso as well. The handle of the handgun must be presented in such as way that the hand may grasp the grip and draw into the target. If the holster does not allow a fast presentation, then the handgun must be partially drawn with the fingertips to facilitate a draw. This is slow and fumble prone.
The belt slide was once almost universal among trainers, as they found it an excellent holster for general range use. They ended up using it for concealment under a light shirt or vest. There are a number of impressions of the belt slide that are not always accurate. It has been noted that the belt slide may be worn without the gun and it doesn't look like a holster. We fail to see the advantage of wearing a holster without a gun, recognized or not, but rather see a disadvantage. If anyone does recognize the belt slide as a holster, then they will quickly realize you are not armed. The better type of belt-slide holster is clearly molded to the outline of a gun. It is unmistakably a holster, not a tobacco pouch.
As noted above, a persistent criticism of the belt slide is that with the muzzle and much of the slide exposed, the handgun may be levered out of the holster if the muzzle contacts a chair when the user sits. If any holster meets the edge of the chair, the holster will be levered up against the body. If a long-barrel handgun is used in a belt slide, there is some chance of the gun being pushed up, but it depends upon the retention involved. The handgun may be levered out if the handle meets the chair as well as the muzzle meeting the chair. You really need to be aware you are wearing a gun!
As for the balance of speed and retention, the speed of the type cannot be disputed; it was the retention that worried us. The belt-slide holsters tested proved to be very fast on the draw. The better examples featured good retention for a minimum of leather. For use under a light jacket with a short-barrel handgun, these holsters have merit. The problem of positioning the handle away from the body to allow a good sharp draw is solved to an extent by some of the holsters, and the draw angle makes for good speed in others.
Gun Tests recently compared several of belt-slide designs to assess whether they are secure enough for us to recommend for everyday carry, and whether their minimalist form offers any advantages in comfort over other styles. We consider them piece by piece below: