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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.

DA .40 S&W Defense Guns: S&W, Walther, and S&W/Walther

[IMGCAP(1)] Elvis may not have been the first rock and roller and Glock may not have made the very first polymer-framed pistol. But like Elvis did in rockabilly, Glock made its big splash in the plastic-gun market, and to this day Glocks retain a positive brand awareness among consumers that other companies envy.

For evidence, the shooting consumer need look no farther than guns made by Smith & Wesson. To compete in the polymer defense-gun market, Smith & Wesson introduced the Sigma series pistols, the appeal of which are obvious. Capable of high capacity, they are snag free and ready to fire without a complicated safety system but insulated from accidental discharge by a long double-acti...

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...

Four-inch .22 LR Revolvers: We Test Three Pretty Good Plinkers

[IMGCAP(1)] Regardless of which firearm you shoot most often, the only way to ensure its safe and effective use is through constant practice. Enter three revolvers chambered for .22 Long Rifle: The $359 Taurus Model 94, Smith & Wesson's 617, $534, and the $280 Sportsman 999 from Harrington & Richardson, now known as H&R 1871, Inc. While the Taurus 94 appears slightly smaller than the company's medium-sized revolvers, the Smith 617 is a standard sized K-framed revolver with full lug barrel bored to fire 10 rounds of .22 LR instead of .38 Special or .357 Magnum. We've lost count of the old hands who first learned to shoot on the break-top H&R, and the other two guns in this test offer an inexp...

.32 Pocket Pistol Update: Buy the Autauga Mark II

In the January 1999 issue of Gun Tests, we gave you an evaluation of three .32 ACP pocket pistols made by Seecamp, Beretta, and North American Arms. Recently Autauga Arms, Inc., entered the pocket .32 pistol market with a bang, and we think the company's 32 Mark II is a winner.

This Prattville, AL-based company offers a stainless-steel, double-action-only semiautomatic with no bells and whistles. You chamber a round and that's it. The gun is all ready to go. Simply pull the trigger, which requires about 8 pounds of pressure, and the little gun fires each of its six-plus-one shots reliably, and with all the accuracy anyone would want.

Autauga is no newcomer to guns, having made precisi...

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.

.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...

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...

Fruits of Bruen

A couple of issues ago (August 2022), I wrote in this space about the earth-shaking effect that the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision would have...