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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...

Cowboy Concealables: Smaller Single Actions Are Fun To Shoot

The Cowboy gun craze is still going strong. But after you have filled out your minimum required battery of lever-action rifle, shotgun, and long-barreled revolver, what's next? Chances are you've been thinking of adding a revolver with a shorter barrel, such as a 3.5-inch model in the style that was purportedly favored by the local sheriff. Moreover, these single actions are increasingly favored in the .38 Special/.357 Magnum chambering, since those rounds are easier to shoot and cost less than many other specialty cartridges.

At Gun Tests we're not just cold-hearted data-hungry technicians. No, we have our romantic side, too, and we hoped our test of three short-barreled .38s—EMF's Hartf...

Compact Alloy 9mm Sidearms: Too Heavy, Too Big, Too Slow?

[IMGCAP(1)] When we think of a compact pistol with an alloy frame, we tend to think of a gun that is light in weight and small enough to conceal without excessive compromise in grip area. However, some pistols that are advertised and categorized as compact are not necessarily diminutive nor are they especially easy to conceal. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines compact in terms of "automobiles smaller than intermediate but larger than sub-compact." In the world of handguns, the compact benchmark seems to be built around the 3.5- to 3.8-inch barrel.

Likewise, this same dictionary defines alloy ten different ways and never once refers to weight, but uses variations on the word mix...

All-Round Utility .22LRs: Used S&W 41s Are Worth a Long Look

[IMGCAP(1)] No one rimfire pistol can do everything. If it's precise enough for serious NRA bullseye competition, it's too big and heavy for taking along on a hiking trip. If it's light enough for trail use, it doesn't have enough weight for steadiness on the firing line in serious competition. Sure, there are many more uses for .22 pistols, such as hunting, plinking, and the like, but these two extremes give a reasonable picture of the scope of rimfire semiautomatics. No single gun can do all these things … or can it?

Many shooters have asked us if the new SIG Trailside can satisfy these disparate needs, so we decided to compare it to a couple of established pistols that can also be used...

Pocket .22 Long Rifle Semiautos: Fussy, or Functional Firearms?

[IMGCAP(1)] When it comes to .22 caliber Long Rifle pistols, you can spend as little or as much as you want. For about $200 retail, there are a number of very good target pistols that provide valuable range time with this economical cartridge. However, if you want to take a .22 with you wherever you go, we found that downsizing the action costs a little more, both in terms of money and functionality.

Within the modern pistol, ammunition is the fuel that runs the gun, and the .22LR round's tepid power makes for chancy operation, even though it has to move relatively little mass and overcome less slide travel. This alone may account for the higher price of pocket guns that can serve as a la...

Five-Shot .44 Special Wheelguns: Powerful, and Sometimes Painful

The .44 Magnum's baby brother round doesn't get a lot of attention, but the .44 Special has a lot to recommend it. We see how it performs in the Taurus 445ULT, Smith & Wesson 396, and Charter 2000's Bulldog revolvers

Clones Take On Colts Stainless 1911: Subtle, But Significant Improvement

[IMGCAP(1)] For many of us, the first contact we had with firearms was the 1911 .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) that our fathers brought home from World War II and Korea. Since then, this pistol has been both celebrated and maligned, depending on the shooter's viewpoint. For one, the quality of its function is directly linked to the quality of its components and the careful assembly thereof. The 1911 pistol is capable of both reliability and superb accuracy because it has relatively few moving parts. Why then did it lose out on the U.S. military contract and for a time all but disappear from holsters of self defense-minded civilians? Politics, both domestic and international, played a part,...

High-Dollar .22 LR Pistols: Pardini Is Our Pick As Best Buy

Though the $1,095 Pardini Model SP target pistol offered the best price/performance matchup, we would pick the more expensive Hmmerli Model 208S over it and Benelli's MP 95E Atlanta model.

Over and above the cost of beginner-level .22 target pistols such as those we covered last month, there are many handgun choices for those who are willing to spend $1,000 or more for the best of the best. Some of these cost more than $1,500, and we suppose if you look hard you'll find some over $2,000. We don't know if it's necessary to spend that much money for a top-quality target puncher, but we do have some solid opinions about three guns we tested recently that range between $1,000 and $2,000.

Our target pistols included a Pardini Model SP with scope ($1,095) from Nygord Precision; a Hmmerli Model 208S ($1,925) from Larry's Guns out of Portland, Maine; and a Benelli MP 95E "Atlanta" ($795). The Pardini and Benelli were Italians, and the Hmmerli was Swiss-made.

We also acquired some outstanding target ammunition for them. We chose an English brand, one from Germany, and two from the U.S. They were, respectively, Eley 10X, RWS Rifle Target, Federal Gold Medal, and CCI Pistol Match.

Bobbed-Hammer .38 Specials: We Pick a Concealed Champion

Is it worth paying hundreds of additional dollars to buy the latest materials in a short-barreled revolver? We find out when we test Charter 2000's Undercover, Taurus's M85CH and M85CH ULT, and S&W's 442 and 342PD

Armed Citizens Stop Attacks

John Lott, Jr. has done an interesting study of how often armed citizens like ourselves intervene to stop mass shooters. Bottom line: The rate...