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Two Pieces of Firearms History: Sterling, Pioneer Arms Compete

We acquired two historical and technically interesting firearms for this test. The guns were the 9mm Wise Lite Arms Sterling L2A3 9mm, about $500, and the Inter Ordnance/Pioneer Arms PPS-43C Pistol chambered in 7.62x25 Tokarev, also in the $500 range. The latter is officially a pistol because its folding stock is welded in the folded position. We found the folding stocks do nothing for their handling or practical function, but in close quarters that might be a handy feature. Both designs originally fired from an open bolt, and the Sterling was originally selective fire. These two test guns are both manufactured to fire semiauto-only, and they both fire from a closed bolt. We managed to find three types of 9mm ammo and two brands of 7.62x25 Tokarev, enough to wring out both guns. Here's what we found.

Pocket Pistols with Factory Lasers: Walther, SIG, and Ruger

Lasersights on handguns are common today. Scan the used-handgun case at a gun shop, and more than likely youll find a rig that the former owner customized with a laser sight. In the new-pistol case, you will also see factory-fitted laser sights on handguns. We were interested in how factory-fitted lasersights would affect our judgment of three previously tested 380 ACP pistols, the Ruger LCP, SIGs P238, and Walthers PK380. The Ruger earned an A- grade in the June 2008, and the SIG notched an A- in the June 2010 issue, and the Walther got a B-, also in the June 2010 issue. The lasered versions of those handguns are the Ruger LCP-LM No. 3718 380 ACP, $443; SIG Sauers P238 Tactical Laser No. 238-380-TL 380 ACP, $829; and Walthers PK380 With Laser No. WAP40010 380 ACP, $489. Would the addition of a laser sight change our mind about the pistol? Would the addition of a laser bulk up a pocket pistol with a gadget? Would the laser be an asset or a detriment to an already fine pistol? The three pistols spanned the spectrum of action types.The Ruger is a DAO (Double Action Only). The Walther PK380 is a traditional DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) pistol, where the pistol can be fired DA and subsequently fired SA. The SIG, SA only, was set up like a mini 1911. These pistols are made for close work, so we tested for accuracy at 15 yards with open sights, but were more interested in using the lasers in unconventional shooting positions, much like you might encounter in a real-life confrontation with a bad actor. Our goal with these lasered pocket pistols was to quickly project the red dot on target and punch holes in targets efficiently and effectively. We used D-1 tombstone-style targets with a 4-inch-diameter X-ring and an A-ring and B-ring at 8 inches and 12 inches, respectively. The rings are visible at close range - about 5 yards, but beyond that and depending on your eye sight, the rings are undetectable.All three employed red Class IIIa lasers. The warning label was blatantly affixed to each laser. Dont point the laser beam in eyes, as permanent eye damage can result. (Never mind the damage from a 380 slug.) Laser beams can reflect off certain surfaces like TV screens, mirrors, glass, etc. Make sure you test the laser of an unloaded weapon so you can experience how the laser beam can react. Also note that laser sights should also be removed when cleaning the weapon, as oils and solvents are not good for the lasers electronics.As in any test, we focused on the major areas of importance with these pistols, such as reliability, concealability, shooter comfort, and accuracy. But because of the lasers, we zeroed in on how the optics affected handling, printing, and other carry issues.

Pocket Pistols with Factory Lasers: Walther, SIG, and Ruger

Lasersights on handguns are common today. Scan the used-handgun case at a gun shop, and more than likely youll find a rig that the former owner customized with a laser sight. In the new-pistol case, you will also see factory-fitted laser sights on handguns. We were interested in how factory-fitted lasersights would affect our judgment of three previously tested 380 ACP pistols, the Ruger LCP, SIGs P238, and Walthers PK380. The Ruger earned an A- grade in the June 2008, and the SIG notched an A- in the June 2010 issue, and the Walther got a B-, also in the June 2010 issue. The lasered versions of those handguns are the Ruger LCP-LM No. 3718 380 ACP, $443; SIG Sauers P238 Tactical Laser No. 238-380-TL 380 ACP, $829; and Walthers PK380 With Laser No. WAP40010 380 ACP, $489. Would the addition of a laser sight change our mind about the pistol? Would the addition of a laser bulk up a pocket pistol with a gadget? Would the laser be an asset or a detriment to an already fine pistol? The three pistols spanned the spectrum of action types.The Ruger is a DAO (Double Action Only). The Walther PK380 is a traditional DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) pistol, where the pistol can be fired DA and subsequently fired SA. The SIG, SA only, was set up like a mini 1911. These pistols are made for close work, so we tested for accuracy at 15 yards with open sights, but were more interested in using the lasers in unconventional shooting positions, much like you might encounter in a real-life confrontation with a bad actor. Our goal with these lasered pocket pistols was to quickly project the red dot on target and punch holes in targets efficiently and effectively. We used D-1 tombstone-style targets with a 4-inch-diameter X-ring and an A-ring and B-ring at 8 inches and 12 inches, respectively. The rings are visible at close range - about 5 yards, but beyond that and depending on your eye sight, the rings are undetectable.All three employed red Class IIIa lasers. The warning label was blatantly affixed to each laser. Dont point the laser beam in eyes, as permanent eye damage can result. (Never mind the damage from a 380 slug.) Laser beams can reflect off certain surfaces like TV screens, mirrors, glass, etc. Make sure you test the laser of an unloaded weapon so you can experience how the laser beam can react. Also note that laser sights should also be removed when cleaning the weapon, as oils and solvents are not good for the lasers electronics.As in any test, we focused on the major areas of importance with these pistols, such as reliability, concealability, shooter comfort, and accuracy. But because of the lasers, we zeroed in on how the optics affected handling, printing, and other carry issues.

New Polymer Forties: Glock, Springfield, Ruger Shoot It Out

The 10mm pistol cartridge was developed to fill the gap between 9mm and 45 ACP firepower. In 1989 its popularity was spurred by the FBI choosing 10mm as its favored caliber. At the time, Colt successfully chambered a 1911 for 10mm, the Colt Delta Elite. Smith & Wesson tried to adapt its line of semi-automatic pistols as well. Durability became an issue. But then pistol makers found out it was easier to increase the strength of their 9mm fleet to handle another round developed almost concurrently, the 40 S&W round, rather than tool up to withstand the more powerful 10mm rounds. We could resort to revolver jargon and refer to 10mm ammunition as 40 Magnum. That's because both 40 S&W and 10mm ammunition share the same diameter bullet, but the 10mm case is 0.140 inch longer.

Time has not quite eclipsed the standard 10mm round, but it is now decidedly less popular than the 40 S&W it sired. The big reason: the 40 S&W delivers noticeably more power than the 9mm, but the larger high-velocity round can still be packed into same frame as current 9mm pistols with little structural change.

This brings us to our current roster of test guns. The Ruger SR40 began life as a 9mm pistol, and since our test of the SR9 in the December 2007 issue, a compact version is now available in both calibers. Likewise, the roots of the Glock 23 Gen4 can be traced to the 9mm Model 19, which itself was the compact version of the G17 service pistol. The Springfield Armory XDM40 Compact is somewhat of a hybrid with characteristics of both a compact and full-size pistol. Developed from a foreign-manufacture 9mm service pistol, the XDM Compact offers a shortened grip for better concealment and a full-length 16-round magazine that includes a grip extension. Our fourth pistol is a true subcompact, and it shoots the same bullet as our other test guns but from a longer case that packs more powder. The Glock Model 29 chambers 10mm ammunition, from which 40 S&W was developed. Since the 10mm originally lost favor due in part to its recoil, we wondered how much we'd like shooting the round in such a small package as the G29.

New Polymer Forties: Glock, Springfield, Ruger Shoot It Out

The 10mm pistol cartridge was developed to fill the gap between 9mm and 45 ACP firepower. In 1989 its popularity was spurred by the FBI choosing 10mm as its favored caliber. At the time, Colt successfully chambered a 1911 for 10mm, the Colt Delta Elite. Smith & Wesson tried to adapt its line of semi-automatic pistols as well. Durability became an issue. But then pistol makers found out it was easier to increase the strength of their 9mm fleet to handle another round developed almost concurrently, the 40 S&W round, rather than tool up to withstand the more powerful 10mm rounds. We could resort to revolver jargon and refer to 10mm ammunition as 40 Magnum. That's because both 40 S&W and 10mm ammunition share the same diameter bullet, but the 10mm case is 0.140 inch longer.

Time has not quite eclipsed the standard 10mm round, but it is now decidedly less popular than the 40 S&W it sired. The big reason: the 40 S&W delivers noticeably more power than the 9mm, but the larger high-velocity round can still be packed into same frame as current 9mm pistols with little structural change.

This brings us to our current roster of test guns. The Ruger SR40 began life as a 9mm pistol, and since our test of the SR9 in the December 2007 issue, a compact version is now available in both calibers. Likewise, the roots of the Glock 23 Gen4 can be traced to the 9mm Model 19, which itself was the compact version of the G17 service pistol. The Springfield Armory XDM40 Compact is somewhat of a hybrid with characteristics of both a compact and full-size pistol. Developed from a foreign-manufacture 9mm service pistol, the XDM Compact offers a shortened grip for better concealment and a full-length 16-round magazine that includes a grip extension. Our fourth pistol is a true subcompact, and it shoots the same bullet as our other test guns but from a longer case that packs more powder. The Glock Model 29 chambers 10mm ammunition, from which 40 S&W was developed. Since the 10mm originally lost favor due in part to its recoil, we wondered how much we'd like shooting the round in such a small package as the G29.

Paired Foreign 40 S&W Pistols: H&K USP LEMs Duel Steyrs

In our March 2011 issue we paired small-framed revolvers designed for concealed carry with larger-framed wheelguns in hopes of defining an effective battery of defense for home and street. In this test we've taken a similar tack by pairing full-sized 40 S&W pistols with a compact version of each pistol. All four pistols were based on a polymer frame with staggered-column magazines for higher capacity.

Our first pair was from Steyr Arms. They were the new 4-inch-barrel M-A1 pistol and the compact model S-A1 with 3.62-inch barrel. Both guns carry a suggested retail price of $642. These guns were much like the Steyr pistols imported several years ago that performed favorably in a test published in the April 2001 issue. Among the changes to the latest Steyr pistols was a shorter-action trigger.

We matched the Steyr pistols against a pair of Heckler & Koch USP pistols that offered a trigger system unfamiliar to most shooters. Devoid of safety or decocker levers, our $952 USP and $991 USP Compact Variant 8 pistols each utilized a full-time double-action trigger referred to as the LEM, aka Law Enforcement Module.

One significant difference between our comparison of the revolvers and the pistols in this story was that the delineation between house gun and carry gun was not as clear. The bigger revolvers were fitted with long 6-inch barrels for maximum sight radius and greater propulsion of the bullet. Their weight also played a part in recoil control. The small-framed revolvers were built to be as light and as small as possible, with priorities such as recoil control and shooter comfort further down on the list. In the case of the pistols in this story, one might choose a duo of big and small as we intend, but then again the capacity and power of the compact pistols may be enough for use as a primary gun.

In choosing our test guns, we thought we had done a good job of picking two equal teams. But we soon realized that the lack of a Picatinny rail on the Heckler & Koch USP pistols might cause buyers to shy away. To level the playing field, we found a $10 adaptor listed under the Laser Legacy menu on the LaserLyte website. We then purchased one of Laserlyte's new Subcompact V3 lasers. Smaller than a matchbook and priced at only $99, we could think of no excuse not to have one.

Full-size pistols are often tested for accuracy from the 25-yard line. Most forums test compact pistols from 15 yards. We decided to split the difference and test all four guns from the 20-yard bench. Here is why. We reasoned that what little knowledge of the bigger guns we would gain from the extra 15 feet would be overshadowed by finding out how hard we could push the compact pistols. We wanted to know how much accuracy we were giving up by switching to the compact models. For support, we used the $60 Caldwell Matrix shooting rest from www.battenfeldtechnologies.com. We augmented the Matrix with sandbags to support our elbows, forearms, and head. Yes, we even piled sandbags beneath our test shooter's chin. The guns were easy to stabilize in the Caldwell rest, but we didn't want the shooter's eyes shifting as the head bobbed around in the crosswinds. The only thing moving in this set up was the trigger finger.

We did not expect the compact guns to be as accurate as the full-size models. All four pistols had full-length dustcovers, but the smaller guns offered a limited area on which to rest the guns. Another key element was reduced sight radius. We also wondered if the shorter grip of either compact pistol would be a factor.

Test ammunition consisted of Winchester USA 165-grain FMJ target ammunition and two hollowpoint defense rounds. The defense loads were the Remington UMC 180-grain JHP rounds sold in 100-round value packs and a new round from DoubleTap ammunition topped with a 150-gr. Nosler JHP bullet (www.doubletapammo.com). In addition to our bench rest session, we also performed a rapid-fire action test from the 7-yard line using the 165-grain rounds. The target was an IPSC Metric target offering a rectangle measuring about 5.9 inches by 11 inches in the center and a "head" area measuring about 6.3 inches by 6 inches above. Beginning with the gun in both hands pulled in towards the chest (finger off the trigger), our military/LE tester fired two shots to center mass and one to the head over 10 separate strings of fire. We recorded first shot elapsed time as well as overall elapsed time and looked for a total of 30 hits on target, including 10 shots to the head.

40 S&W Polymer Pistols: H&K, Glock, S&W Shoot It Out

In this test we evaluate three 40 S&W polymer handguns that offer significant changes to their original designs. In the case of the $530 Smith & Wesson SD40, the SD40 and its new trigger provide an upgraded version of the Sigma pistol. Glocks $649 G22 Gen 4 is an optional version of the G22 series pistol, with an aggressive grip texture and a choice of three different backstraps. Heckler & Kochs $1005 P30 V3 adds an ambidextrous thumb safety to the latest edition of that companys newest polymer platform. According to Smith & Wesson representatives, the primary difference between the Sigma and SD pistols was the latters lighter trigger-pull weight. We can recall testing several of the original striker-fired pistols that simply wore out the shooter who had to pull a long, heavy trigger. Many years later, improved springs and improved mechanisms have made all the difference. We measured our SD40s trigger to present about 7.5 pounds of resistance. It seemed somewhat lighter because after a takeup of about 0.3 inches, true compression was smooth and relatively short.One of the most popular handguns for law-enforcement personnel is the Glock Model G22. The G22 is a full-size handgun that fires from a 4.49-inch barrel. Since the introduction of the Glock pistol, there have been only subtle changes, and most people still think of the Glock as being available without options or variation. But weve been able to purchase different models with upgrades to the trigger, sights, slide release, magazine release, and other operational components. Also, at www.teamglock.com, we found another lineup of RTF pistols that offer streamlined grips with a radical surface texture-but the Gen 4 Glock pistols go even further. They offer an aggressive grip texture and a choice of three different backstrap profiles. The Gen 4 pistols include the 9mm G17 and G19, the .357 SIG G31, and the 45 GAP G37.Most polymer handguns are simple in design. Rather than call the HK P30 more complex, well use the word sophisticated. There are six variants of the P30 series pistol- seven if you count the suffix "S" for ambidextrous safety. In our December 2007 evaluation of the 9mm Heckler & Koch P30 V3, we began our Gun Tests Report Card by saying: "Based on the fine accuracy we achieved firing single-action only, maybe this is a gun that should have a thumb safety rather than a decocker." The P30S V3 pistol in this test adds an ambidextrous thumb safety.

High-Capacity 40 S&W Rail Guns: Glock, Springfield, & STI

The 40 S&W has become the preferred cartridge for much of the law-enforcement community because it's more powerful than the 9mm, recoil that's snappy but not as substantial as the 45 ACP, and magazine capacities than split the difference between the two. This month we'll look at three guns that fit this medium-frame high-capacity format. They could aptly be classified as "tactical" pistols, because they all featured an accessory rail capable of adding a weapon light and/or laser.

Our contenders consisted of two polymer-framed guns, the Springfield XD40 ($605) and the newly introduced Glock G22 RTF2 ($599). Both guns incorporated striker-fired systems with trigger-tab designs. The third gun came from Georgetown, Texas. The STI Tactical 4.15 operates like a 1911 but utilizes a double-stack magazine to dramatically increase ammo capacity. Designated as a 2011 frame, the Tactical 4.15 is built on a patented modular platform, and incorporates a wealth of performance upgrades. All of the bells and whistles come at a price, however. Occupying the highest price point of our test guns, the Tactical 4.15 comes in at a wallet-clutching $1999 MSRP.

We conducted our testing within the friendly confines of Bass Pro Shops in Grapevine, Texas. The climate-controlled indoor pistol range was ideal shelter from the sweltering heat and one particularly nasty thunderstorm that blew up during one of our sessions. Accuracy ratings were done at 10 yards using a slow, controlled trigger press. We then progressed to multi-round firing at 8 and 15 yards. Magazine changes were made during the middle of some of our runs to see how each gun handled in a more stressful environment.

Three More Ankle Guns: Kahr, Springfield, and Walther 40s

In the July 2009 issue of Gun Tests, we evaluated three small revolvers chambered for 38 Special. These guns were chosen specifically as candidates for concealment inside a holster strapped to the ankle. In this test we will look at three semiautomatic pistols suitable for ankle carry or other deep concealment. Each of the guns in this test are chambered for 9mm or 40 S&W, but we went with the bigger round here. Our test guns are the $786 Kahr PM40 No. 4043 40 S&W, Walther PPS No. WAP10002 40 S&W, $713; and the Springfield Armory Enhanced Micro Pistol No. PI9240LP, $1329. Despite their small sizes, these guns are as pricey as many popular full-size models. But if it comes down to drawing a gun from deep concealment, at least you can take comfort in knowing you're not about to depend on a cheap pistol. In fact, all three guns completed our tests without malfunction.

For testing in the summer heat we arrived at Phil Oxley's Impact Zone, located in Monaville, Texas, at daybreak (theimpactzonerange.com). The shade of a cypress tree and a steady breeze helped us keep cool as we practiced firing each gun standing offhand and from the bench before attempting shots of record. Then we fired five-shot groups from sandbag support to establish accuracy from the 10-yard line. We also engaged two different action tests that we hoped would tell us more about each gun's capability when fired standing without support.

First, we tried our familiar test of delivering two shots to the center of an IPSC metric target followed by a single shot to the head area of its humanoid silhouette. Center mass on the target consisted of an A-zone measuring 6.0 inches wide and 11.0 inches tall. The head area measured 6.25 inches by 6.75 inches overall, with another A-zone measuring 4.0 inches by 2.0 inches to designate a preferred area of impact. After an audible start signal, the elapsed time of each shot was displayed by an electronic timer. Ten separate strings of fire were recorded. Test distance was 7 yards.

Our second action test also required three shots per draw but only to the center of the target. Instead of holding the gun in both hands, the shooter utilized only his strong hand (right hand only for a right-handed shooter or left hand only for the left-handed shooter). In each case the start position was holding the gun pulled back toward the chest with little more than the muzzle at the bottom of the shooter's vision. Upon start signal, the gun was thrust toward the target.

Our list of test ammunition consisted of four different loads. For our bench session we fired Winchester USA's 165-grain FMJ rounds and two choices from Black Hills. They were remanufactured loads (sold in blue boxes) topped with a 180-grain FMJ bullet and Black Hills new manufacture 180-grain jacketed hollowpoints packed in red boxes. For our action test, we relied upon Black Hills new manufacture 155-grain JHP rounds to help us paint a picture of how each gun might perform filled with defensive ammunition when rapid fire was called for. Here is what we learned.

Buy Springfields Ported XD40

Ported guns are loud, and some say they are dangerous. But porting makes it possible for the shooter to practice more often and fire more rounds with more comfort, especially if the caliber of the weapon is big and bad. The concept of porting is simple. The expanding gases that drive a bullet out of the barrel can also be redirected at such an angle that it fights muzzle flip and reduces felt recoil. Some guns are designed to weigh more, specifically to absorb recoil. But in the case of polymer-framed guns such as the Springfield Armory XD, this is not the case. The use of polymer construction created an all-weather lightweight carry gun, but when faced with the pressure and power of 40 S&W caliber ammunition, making the gun more comfortable meant porting was a desirable option. Weve tested the XD several times in several sizes and caliber. But we had to know if adding holes to the barrel would be a plus or a minus to the XDs performance, so we got an XD Service Model 4-inch V-10 Ported XD9702HCSP06 in 40 S&W. The V-10s barrel was perforated with 10 holes, five on each side of the bore centerline. The first hole (approximately 0.1 inch in diameter) was drilled just less than 0.9 inch from the muzzle and there was about .08 inch between each hole. What effect did it have on performance?

Buy Springfields Ported XD40

Ported guns are loud, and some say they are dangerous. But porting makes it possible for the shooter to practice more often and fire more rounds with more comfort, especially if the caliber of the weapon is big and bad. The concept of porting is simple. The expanding gases that drive a bullet out of the barrel can also be redirected at such an angle that it fights muzzle flip and reduces felt recoil. Some guns are designed to weigh more, specifically to absorb recoil. But in the case of polymer-framed guns such as the Springfield Armory XD, this is not the case. The use of polymer construction created an all-weather lightweight carry gun, but when faced with the pressure and power of 40 S&W caliber ammunition, making the gun more comfortable meant porting was a desirable option. Weve tested the XD several times in several sizes and caliber. But we had to know if adding holes to the barrel would be a plus or a minus to the XDs performance, so we got an XD Service Model 4-inch V-10 Ported XD9702HCSP06 in 40 S&W. The V-10s barrel was perforated with 10 holes, five on each side of the bore centerline. The first hole (approximately 0.1 inch in diameter) was drilled just less than 0.9 inch from the muzzle and there was about .08 inch between each hole. What effect did it have on performance?

.40 S&W Concealables: M&P40 Edges Out Sigarms P229 SAS

The ammo development program at Winchester had been a closely guarded secret. The goal: to make a suped-down version of the 10mm Auto.When the FBI began testing the 10mm, the agency found that a 180-grain bullet with velocities between 950 to 1,000 fps had great defensive potential. But the 10mm Auto, introduced in 1983, was too hot and dealt the shooter too much recoil for practical law enforcement use. What was needed, essentially, was a shortened 10mm cartridge that would fit in a smaller pistol platform-that is, S&Ws 9mm frames. Also, the cartridge needed to deliver a 180-grain payload at 950 to 1,000 fps with chamber pressures under [IMGCAP(1)]35,000 psi, the established ceiling for the 9mm.The result was the .40 S&W, which Smith & Wesson and Winchester teamed up to introduce in 1990. Though big-bore critics of the time derided it at the time as "Short & Weak" or "Short & Wimpy," the .40 came along as law enforcement was beginning to switch from revolvers to autoloaders.Still, its a curious choice for the average LE or concealed shooter, because the .40 S&W cartridge is a high-pressure round that delivers a sharp recoil pulse. It pushes a medium to heavy projectile at high velocity, and this in turn pushes the slide back sharply. While it is supposed to occupy the middle ground between the 9mm and the .45, it is a much more difficult cartridge to shoot well than either of those rounds.So we were curious how the .40 S&W would fare when packaged in concealable 4-inch-barrel guns.

Joe Biden’s Gun Plan

Hey, at Gun Tests, we like our politicians to like guns. We don’t dig pols who want to restrict 2nd Amendment rights, aka infringe...