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Versatility Plus: Smith & Wesson Tops Test of 6-Inch .38 Specials

It may be misleading to refer to the guns in this test, the Ruger GP100, the Rossi 971, and Smith & Wesson's Models 14 and 686-5 as double-action revolvers. This is because each revolver is actually two guns in one. They can be fired single action just like the cowboy guns of old as well as by double-action pull. Surely there are more than a few semiautos on the market that offer double- and single-action triggers on the same frame, but few of those can match the precise double action of even the lowest-priced wheelgun in this test. Furthermore, these revolvers in box-stock condition go a long way in replicating the sensation of a "hair trigger" often found on custom-built single-action 1911...

Good Buy or Gyp? We Check Out The Beretta Combo Kit Pistol

Beretta is selling a 92/96 Combo Kit Pistol, a $908 parts package that allows the shooter to get a double-action semiautomatic ten-shot pistol in both 9mm and .40 S&W calibers. For an extra $279 above the base price ($629) for either a Model 92 9mm or Model 96 .40 S&W, the Combo Kit owner gets one barrel, slide, and magazine in each caliber, and one specially made and marked aluminum-alloy receiver designed to accept them both. But is this a deal, or simply a way to thin out your wallet? We ran a test recently to find out.

What It Is
The Beretta 92/96 Combo Kit Pistol is built on a frame that differs from both the 9mm Model 92 and the .40 S&W Model 96. Thus, to answer the most...

Investing In A Shooting School: Thunder Ranch Versus LFI

Most of us got tired of going to school years ago, and the idea of voluntarily hitting the books again—and, in fact, paying handsomely for the privilege—is enough to make us laugh out loud. But what if the school in question was offering shooting instruction, gun-selection tips, and life-saving tactical advice? Would that entice you back into the classroom? We thought so.

We attended two well-known shooting schools to compare and contrast the quality of instruction, advice, and fun, they offered: Thunder Ranch, in Mountain Home, Texas, and Massad Ayoob's Lethal Force Institute. Though both services offer the shooter a lot of bang for his buck, Ayoob's LFI course taught us many sobering, e...

.45 Colt Dueling Cowboy Guns: We Like Cimarrons Model P

The American West offered cowboys great freedoms. Sure, they had to contend with wild animals, manage an unpredictable relationship with the Indians, and survive the forces of Mother Nature, but for those seeking to live by their own rules and escape persecution, heading west and leaving it all behind was an attractive option. Many cowboys were ex-slaves, escaped or emancipated, such as Nat Love, better known as Deadwood Dick. Others hit the trail to forget one of life's dirty deals, or in the case of many a bad man, to escape prosecution. For those who chose the cowboy life, a sidearm was standard equipment. While a rifle was more reliable for hunting, the revolver answered many other more...

.45 ACPs: Springfield, Kimber Beat Colt; Glock 21 Surprises

Recently, a friend of Gun Tests named Bruce decided to buy himself a .45 auto. Although he had been a revolver shooter for several decades, Bruce recently received some intense instruction in the un-gentle art of rapid-fire shooting and handling of a 1911 .45 auto. His eyes were opened to the many possibilities of the caliber, so he went shopping and examined eight different .45s. Now, picking a .45 for some of us is a simple task because we impose a few personal requirements on the gun that greatly limit our choices.

However, there are many different kinds of full-size .45 autos available, and our friend didn't have our strict prejudices, so he had a harder time choosing. He considered...

.38 Special +P: The True Calling Card Of Titanium Concealment Guns

Along with our experiences with the .32 Magnums, we also shot and evaluated two more ultralight .38 Special +P revolvers, which in our minds offer comfort on par with the .32s while shooting rounds most Gun Tests readers will recognize and prefer. Here's what we thought of S&W's seven-shot titanium Centennial 242 and the Taurus 85ULTi five-shot .38 Special +P.

Smith & Wesson 242
Our first experience with Smith & Wesson's Centennial series was the little five-shot alloy Model 442. Perhaps the best hideout gun of all time, it featured a fine double-action-only trigger that seemed custom. The trigger pull was long but very smooth and could be halted with the firing pin ready to go...

Big Bore Ultra-Light Revolvers: The Ultimate Carry Answer?

Faced with deciding which is the best handgun caliber or action design for self-defense, the traditional answer was once to carry the biggest gun you could handle. Then, in the age of concealed-carry permits, the answer increasingly has become carry the biggest gun you can conceal. Now enter downsizing. The conventional carry wisdom now reads the best gun is the one you have with you.

However, to take advantage of the latest philosophy, your carry gun needs to be wearable, and bearable at that. Reducing the weight of guns to make continuous carry livable is the reason ultra-light titanium has been adapted to handgun construction. Wheel guns built wholly or in part with titanium are now av...

Revolvers in .32 H&R Magnum: Tiny Packages With Plenty of Pop

It has been our belief that there are enough different calibers and types of handguns currently on the market to satisfy the security needs of just about anybody. As an example, on the periphery cartridges such as the .32 have survived in unusual niches, in one case as a target round in guns such as the Walther GSP, built specifically for International Rapid-Fire competition. So the inquiring shooter has to wonder why he needs another .32, the H&R Magnum, as a carry gun when the venerable .38 Special is around as an effective mainstay.

One answer: Capacity. Downsizing and the use of featherweight materials have lead to the creation of S&W's 342Ti, the first and arguably the most successfu...

Polymer-Bodied 9mms: Ruger Scores Surprise Victory

[IMGCAP(1)] When it comes to caliber and handgun design, handgun owners and manufacturers alike have taken cues from law enforcement agencies across the country. When police departments changed from the 4-inch .357 magnum to 9mm Parabellum, the market was soon flooded with semi-autos chambered for this round. The logic for the change was largely based on higher capacity, as many as 15 rounds in the mag plus one in the chamber. Once the legal limit for civilian-owned magazines was set at a maximum of 10 rounds, a new trend toward larger calibers began. We're not sure who moved first, but many police departments geared up to more powerful .40-caliber semi-autos, giving up capacity for power....

Carry .45 Autos: Kimber Compact Custom Is Our Hands-On Pick!

Not many would doubt that the Colt 1911-A1 (or any good clone thereof) has been the premier self-defense handgun of the 20th century, nor is there much doubt of its continuing viability into the 21st. Only problem with the old warhorse, as many concealed carriers can tell you, is that it's heavy. It pulls your pants down on the side where it's carried, and makes your belt too tight. A woman who puts it in a purse has a lot of unwelcome weight on her shoulder. Further, the .45 1911 is not exactly tiny. Because of its weight and bulk, the grand old dame of self-defense pistols often gets left at home.

Many shooters who own the 1911 also own smaller and lighter guns for concealed carry. However, the ban on magazine capacity over ten rounds led manufacturers to replace great numbers of relatively small rounds (9mm) with fewer rounds of great power (.45 ACP). The result is that concealed carriers, or any shooters who want small guns with lots of power, have a new generation of .45 autos to choose from that are lighter and smaller than the old full-size 1911.

Blackpowder Quest: Looking For A Good, Modern 1851 Navy

[IMGCAP(1)] Wild Bill had a pair. Sam Bass used one, and so did Frank James and Cole Younger. Elmer Keith liked his very much. In fact, Elmer's 1851 Navy Colt was one of his first handguns, and it undoubtedly influenced the grand old master all his life. We, too, like the Colt Navy, and so do many Cowboy Action shooters. With all this popularity we thought it would be a good idea to inform our readers where to go to get today's best copy of the breed. Unfortunately, we can't tell you that, because although we found an affordable fun gun, we haven't found one yet that is thoroughly satisfactory.

It ought not to be all that hard to produce a decent copy of the Colt 1851 Navy, the popular oc...

Jumbo Shrimp .45s: Factory, Factory Custom, or Custom?

When it comes to the argument over which is the best defensive handgun caliber, shooters bent on the survival of the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) will defend their favorite round's honor to the death. Even after the U.S. military switched to 9mm and word comes of electronically ignited firearms, it is likely that the .45 ACP will live on into the next millennium. In the next century, your grandchildren will likely read in their daily electronic newspaper about a battalion of lost soldiers found in a cave reloading this venerable round for their aging 1991A1s. Such is the strength of allegiance this caliber attracts.

Halfway There

On April 12, 2022, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 319, Constitutional carry, into law. Constitutional carry in Georgia goes into effect immediately....