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Higher-Dollar Cowboy Guns: Colts, Freedom Are Topnotch

[IMGCAP(1)] How much do you need to spend to get into the Cowboy Action game? Sure, you can spend lots on fancy duds, and that's a big part of that game, but the bottom line for participation is a good set of guns, not the least of which is the revolver. The most common caliber for today's "cowboy" is still the .45 Long Colt, just as it was a century ago with the original riders of the range. Even if you don't anticipate becoming a weekend cowboy and shooting in any of these events, a single-action .45 makes a lot of sense. They're practical outdoor-carry guns, not entirely useless for self-defense or home protection, and they are lots of fun to shoot.

In the June 1999 issue of Gun Tests...

9mm Carry Semiautos: The Bad, The Good, and the Not-So-Ugly

[IMGCAP(1)] The 9mm cartridge offers great freedom of choice to the prospective gun buyer. It is available worldwide, is inexpensive to buy, comes in a variety of weights and design, and works reliably in many different-sized frames and actions. To get a broad sampling of smaller 9mm guns offered for self-defense applications, we went shopping and found six big chunks of steel and plastic at a variety of price points. As always, we were hoping to find a great gun for a low price, and toward that end, we examined the Miltex-imported Makarov 9X18, $225, and another product from Miltex, a Browning High Power copy named the Arcus 94. We recently saw as many as two dozen of these guns at a local...

.44 Magnum Revolvers: 6 Inches Of Volcanic Handgun Performance

If you have never actually fired a revolver chambered for .44 Magnum, your reluctance is likely based upon their reputation for infamous levels of recoil. You may like the idea of shooting what Harry Callahan dubbed the world's most powerful handgun—which it was at one time—but muzzle energies of 900 foot-pounds or more that equate to power factors above 300 can be too much to deal with regularly.

But GT decided to brave the blast and test three 6-inch (or thereabouts) models; Taurus' Model 44, $530; the $630 Smith & Wesson 629 Classic, and Ruger's $515 Redhawk. The Ruger had a 5.5-inch tube, and the Smith's and Taurus barrels were 6.5 inches long. Our mission, as always, was to collect...

Compact Defense Guns in .45 ACP: Smith, Sig and Beretta

[IMGCAP(1)] Reliability, accuracy, a fight-stopping caliber and adequate capacity. Add concealability and the facility for rapid, safe deployment. These are the keynotes of defensive pistol design, as exemplified by three products we tested recently: the Smith & Wesson 4553TSW, Sig Sauer's P245, and Beretta's Cougar 8045F. All three seek to address not only the prime directive of self defense but liability issues as well. All the guns offer a long double-action pull on the first shot. While the Smith & Wesson stays in the double-action mode throughout, the other two transfer the trigger to a short single-action movement for subsequent shots. How is this safer?

The logic comes from the fear of an accidental discharge while holding a weapon on a suspect. Police departments were looking for a way to reduce liability, and the manufacturers responded with a design that they felt would make the trigger less sensitive.

Does it really work? Is it an advantage for the average consumer? How do two separate actions in the same weapon hinder accuracy? How much extra training will it take to master these weapons? Is it possible to use alternative methods to shortcut deployment?

With more than one action on our test guns it would seem we had than twice the usual questions.

Semi-Automatics: Ported or Non? We Test Seven Guns To Find Out

[IMGCAP(1)] As heavily loaded defensive ammunition has become more widespread, so has customer dissatisfaction with the resulting stout recoil—in essence, we want to have our cake and eat it too. One way to head off muzzle flip is to port the barrel. That is, to cut holes in the barrel and slide so that some of the expanding gases that propel the bullet will be redirected to keep the muzzle down. This technology became refined in the ranks of bowling-pin shooters, whose game was to knock bowling pins off of a table in the shortest time possible. Since this required the delivery of a massive blow from a hot load and the ability to recover quickly and get back on the next pin, shooters were st...

Cowboy Options: Buy R&D Gunshops 1851 Navy Conversion

[IMGCAP(1)] Shortly after the advent of Colt's Model P Single Action Army, range-riders, lawmen, desperadoes, and even average citizens suddenly wanted a revolver that handled the new self-contained brass cartridges. However, many shooters liked the feel of their old Navy or Army cap-and-ball six-shooters, and didn't want to give them up all that quickly. Solution: They could have their percussion pistol converted to a breech-loader.

During the 1870s, many percussion revolvers were converted to handle cartridge-type ammunition. Gunsmiths drilled out the existing percussion cylinder, added a breech plate with loading gate and ejector rod, and fitted a firing pin to the hammer. Afterward, t...

9mm Showdown: Can The Bull Outflank Pietro?

[IMGCAP(1)] Old sayings like "The original and still the best," or "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," can lead to self-admiration to the point of destruction. Witness what happened to Colt's Manufacturing, as clones stole the 1911 market out from under them. Could the same thing happen to other manufacturers as well?

For years Taurus International has been offering a Beretta knock-off that emulates the Italian firm's Model 92, a civilian gun cast from the same lineage as the U.S. M9 military 9mm sidearm. Beretta, of Brescia, Italy, began offering the series 92 in 1975, and in 1981 Taurus began producing its version of this pistol, the PT99, at the plant the company bought from...

.454 Casulls: Too Much Power, Too Little Real-World Utility

[IMGCAP(1)] Hunting with a handgun has its limitations. Handguns have less sight radius than long guns present when open sights are used, and suitable scopes tend to be limited compared to those designed to be mounted upon a rifle. Also, handguns cannot be braced against the shoulder, they have limited space for grip, and the shorter barrel will not produce the same velocities that even carbine barrels will, in part because of pressure bleeding at the cylinder gap (at least in the case of our three test guns, which are revolvers).

The physical limitations of a hunting handgun—that is, its overall size and weight—can be said to be advantages, but the corresponding lack of power compared to...

Durability Test Results? Our Favorite Wheelguns Come Through With Flying Colors

[IMGCAP(1)] At Gun Tests we constantly seek ways to follow up on the service life of the guns we test. When possible, we track the very pistols and long guns that appear on these pages by keeping in touch with their owners, which in some cases are our testers but more often are readers who have bought actual test guns. Another way of tracking the reliability and satisfaction that a firearm can bring is to contact gunsmiths, retail outlets or the operators of public shooting ranges who add them to range rental-gun fleets.

We recently had occasion to test several revolvers previously reviewed and recommended in these pages with an eye toward gathering data about their longevity, a topic GT...

SIG, Smith & Wesson, Glock: We Test Approved Pistols of the FBI

Current FBI regulations stipulate that three handguns, the double-action-only Smith & Wesson 4586 in .45 ACP, the Glock Model 22 in .40 S&W, and the SIG P239 chambered for .357 SIG, are approved carry guns for its field agents. Notably missing from this list, of course, are any number of 1911-style .45 ACPs, one of which Springfield Armory already supplies to the FBI's Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) agents. Why the disparity?

Bureau thinking has it that SWAT-force officers frequently train for high-threat encounters, thus, they fire many times more rounds a year in training and qualification than the typical agent. In this view, the 1911 pistol, with its short, crisp trigg...

Four-Inch .357 Mag. Revolvers: Enduring Choices for Car or Carry

[IMGCAP(1)] Whatever happened to the old 4-inch service revolver? Take a look around and you will see they're on the hips of many uniformed police officers. Yes, the majority of peace officers today do carry the semi-automatic, but take part in your own survey and you will be surprised to find out how many rely on a 4-inch wheelgun.

The reasons for this gun's popularity as a duty weapon for officers or, correspondingly, as a personal self-defense gun for citizens are manifold. The revolver offers an on-demand choice of single or double action, it will run reliably on any load strength, and the .357 Magnum guns will also shoot cheaper .38 Special rounds to boot, mixing power and affordabil...

High-Dollar 1911 .45s: Wilson Combat Beats Baer and Clark

[IMGCAP(1)] Value is a difficult concept to pin down when buying a self-defense gun, because it means different things to different people. For one shooter, value means getting acceptable performance for the fewest dollars; for another, it means uncompromising performance, the dollars be damned. At Gun Tests, we generally lean toward the first definition—maximizing what you get for what you spend.

But there is another way to look at purchasing firearms, especially self-defense guns: Get the best. We admit this idea has strong appeal, because in a shoot/don't-shoot situation where your life is at stake, don't you want the best possible machinery in your hand?

In response to dozens of i...

Gun-Rights Rino Rollover Candidates

Last issue, I asked for your thoughts about what gun legislation might be forthcoming from the Biden Administration, and some of your comments appear...