At Gun Tests we often speak of features and modifications that push the performance of a given design further up the pyramid. What is this pyramid and why is it so important? Atop the pyramid is where all parts combine to produce the greatest possible results. Often the ability to climb the pyramid is linked directly to money. Most guns hover about midway up the pyramid in performance, function and appearance because they are priced in terms of available markets, i.e. your pockets and mine. But what if a firearm was produced without a price point in mind? How much would such a gun (in this case a 4-inch combat revolver) cost?
In our view, these limited-capacity pistols have limited usefulness for most shooters. Reviewed: American Derringer DA 38 and Model 1, and Bond Arms' Texas Defender and Cowboy Defender.
One of our representatives recently spoke with a fellow who has, to put it gently, a vanilla outlook on the world. That fellow declared his chances of getting in a gunfight were around one in a million. He thought the chance was so remote that it would do him no good to either prepare himself with proper gunfighting training, nor to begin to understand what constitutes a suitable and properly set up fighting handgun.
As the sport of competitive shooting progresses, the latest trend does not always supplant or erase what came before it. In terms of smallbore pistol competition, Bullseye, one of the oldest forms of competition, is still alive and well despite the increasing popularity of rimfire practical shooting sports such as those fostered by the USPSA. But with new games comes changes in equipment.
First manufactured in 1907, a John Browning-designed pistol was forever christened the "1911" when it was chosen in that same year to be the sidearm of the American armed forces. Another name for the unit that sports a 5-inch .45 ACP-chambered barrel is the Government model. Since then the 1911 has also been available in 9mm Parabellum, but with much less popularity. Said simply, the mating of the 1911 and .45 ACP was perfect. The big nose of the .45-caliber bullet slides forgivingly when feeding from a wide-mouthed chamber set in a narrow frame and slide. Fully loaded, the heavy bullets counterbalance the mass of the big steel pistol and the slide. Also, not being asked by this lower-pressure round to move terribly fast, the slide is able to cycle with glove-like precision.
We think Ruger's $453 "K" gun takes the P-series pistol another step forward, but HK's $699 USP and Springfield Armory's new $489 XD pistol offer more successful combinations of features.
Smith & Wesson's 629 Classic DX has the edge over Ruger's New Model Super Blackhawk Hunter and Taurus's latest Raging Bull, but with the right ammo, each can be a winner.
If surplus guns make you antsy, three proven .357 Magnum revolvers from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and Colt offer power and accuracy on any budget.
The Browning 1911 single-action pistol and big 0.450- to 0.452-inch bullets are synonymous. So is a level of power that demands respect, not to mention the recoil that goes with it. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can enjoy the benefits of the 1911 design with what we found to be a pleasing flash and satisfying jolt simply by rolling back the clock almost a hundred years ago.
In the January 2002 issue, we presented an evaluation of seven-shot .357 Magnum revolvers from Taurus and Smith & Wesson. Based on the trend toward lower-capacity pistols chambered for larger cartridges, our conclusion was that seven-shot revolvers such as the Taurus 617 and the S&W 686+ might be too heavy for carry.
Surplus pistols occupy a niche in the marketplace that is surprisingly large and varied. Buyers who want a low-priced plinking gun will often consider buying $200 to $300 sidearms because they (a) might not have much money to spend, or (b), they might be interested in some historical aspect of a particular gun, which they nonetheless still want to shoot for fun. But there are pitfalls in finding one that works well enough to keep and further, to enjoy shooting.
In our search for the least expensive, but still functional, .45-caliber semi-automatics, it was inevitable we would finally bottom out with guns in the $200 to $350 price range. If you'll recollect, we tested two guns in that dollar span in the September 2001 issue, the Llama MAX-1, $298, and the Firestorm 45, $329, two of the lowest cost 1911s we could find. They were so badly flawed we said "Don't Buy" to both of them.