It is not unusual to open the pages of a gun magazine and find advertisements for guns adorned with a celebrated name or a limited-run designation—some might call them "signature" or "specialty" guns because of their unique production status. We recently tested three such pistols from two makers, Springfield Armory and Kimber. Our Springfield products were the $925 Black Stainless model and the $1,900 Rob Leatham TGO II. From Kimber, we evaluated a $1,300 Team Match II, all in all a pricey trio of .45 ACPs.
When we received our Rob Leatham TGO II signature model from Springfield Armory, we wanted to know if this was a match-ready custom pistol or a collectible. The same goes for Springfield's Black Stainless model, which was absolutely striking. It featured a combination of brushed stainless steel surfaces contrasted with an artfully applied flat-black finish. We couldn't help but wonder if this pistol was meant for "serious" work. Another 1911 .45 single stack that captured our imagination was Kimber's USA Shooting Team Match II. In terms of serious 1911 features, it seemed to have all the right stuff plus red, white, and blue checkered grips. But it takes more than fancy grips to produce excellence. We wanted to know if these pistols were shooters or showpieces. Certainly, these guns will maintain or even gain value simply by putting them in a glass case, but Gun Tests is not about the Blue Book. We are about the banging and the clanging, hitting the center of the target fast and true. In a time when custom variations of the .45 ACP 1911 abound, we wanted to find out if these guns were truly special. Was the Kimber worthy of an Olympic shooting team endorsement? Would Rob Leatham, arguably the greatest practical pistolero of all time lend his name to anything less than a stellar 1911 .45? Was the beauty of the Springfield Black Stainless only skin deep? We shot them to found out:
One hundred and thirty years ago Colt's brought out its Model P, also known as the Single Action Army revolver. (For those who wonder, Sam Colt never saw the Model P. He died in 1862.) The company is still making the old thumb-buster, and a host of companies are producing clones of it in what seems to be ever-increasing numbers. The game of Cowboy Action Shooting must surely be one of the main driving forces behind the continued onslaught of fine and finer single actions, but the fact remains that these revolvers are viable sporting, hunting, and even self-defense firearms, and serve their owners in as many capacities as they did in the 1870s.
Most shooting glasses are really designed for tracking moving targets, and that translates to the shotgun sports: trap, skeet, and sporting clays. But many rifle and pistol enthusiasts shamble over to the scatter-gun ranges now and again. Even if you're peering over your sights at a stationary piece of paper 100 yards away, anything that enhances the image is welcome, to say nothing of the importance of eye protection.
In testing two lesser-known .40-caliber pistols, we found that Beretta's $700 Cougar is a very good choice, but we had a couple of problems with the polymer Steyr M40.
Small semiautos that match the physical dimensions of two pistols we tested recently—the $1,695 Smith & Wesson 945 and Para-Ordnance's $740 P12-45—are usually referred to as compacts or sub-compact. But when pistols of this size class are miniaturized 1911s, the tag of "Officer's models" is hung on to them, even though they may not exactly fit the mold of the original Colt's Officer's model. In fact, the Smith & Wesson 945 stretches the designation even further by offering a variation on John Browning's action lock up. Still, the physical operation the 945 affords is decidedly 1911 in nature, since it shoots the .45 ACP and can be carried cocked and locked.
Manufacturers are taking a fresh look at the Officer's model for a number of reasons. For one, the 1911 pistol has legions of fans inside both competitive shooting and law-enforcement circles. Also, many military and ex-military personnel recognize the .45 ACP's superiority over the 9mm Parabellum, a cartridge choice often perceived as NATO's intrusion into American affairs. Once the United States government set a capacity limit for civilian handguns, the trend has been toward larger-caliber rounds, even when this means lower total capacity. Traditionally the Officer's model offered a six-round magazine, like the 945's. However, the Para Ordnance P12 integrates a double-stack or staggered-round magazine that in civilian trim will hold the full ten-round legal limit.
The full-sized 1911-style .45 ACP pistol is widely used for both self-defense and competitive shooting, and there are dizzying numbers of holsters used to carry it in everyday situations or on the range. But after extensive winnowing down of dozens of holsters, we've found some models have design features that make sense to us.
Among the many holsters available today we have come to like seven different models in particular, and below we describe briefly why these units stand out, in our opinion. Some of the designs, such as the Safariland 011, Bianchi's PDQ, and the Hoffners Speed Pro, are unique. The others are based on designs closely related to traditional styles that have been reproduced and refined for years. Though we normally cover both good and bad products head to head, in this case we instead concentrate on ones we think are worth buying, rather than detailing the faults of products that don't make the grade.
In our opinion, the seven holsters we've assembled in this article should be all the leather and plastic you'll ever need to carry the 1911 or its variants.
But whats the best material for self-defense handguns? This isnt so crucial a question for guns used for other purposes...
[IMGCAP(1)] We have always shied away from fluting barrels. As an old machinist told us many moons ago, the more you machine a piece of steel, the more chance you'll generate problems. For instance, one problem barrel fluting can cause arises from dulling tools. The cutter gradually dulls as the flutes are milled, and they tend to generate a hard surface case in the bottom of the flutes. This is not a problem if these areas of hardness are the same. But the process tends to produce a variable hardness in the flute-groove bottom. As the flutes are cut, the cutter is gradually dulling, and the first groove is not as hard as the bottom of the last groove. This can cause stress in the barrel, an...