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45 ACP Carbine Showdown: Is Kriss Vector a Hit, or a Miss?

The operational concept of carrying a carbine that shoots the same round as your handgun makes a lot of sense. It streamlines ammo choices and reduces complexity in the middle of a fight, which is always a positive. The downside, however, is that handgun ammo shot from a rifle is still handgun ammo, and though the longer rifle barrel generally produces more fps at the muzzle for a given round, the operator still gives up rifle-cartridge velocities.

For example, in this test of the Kriss Super V Vector CRB/SO Civilian Carbine 45 ACP, HK's USC 45, and the Hi-Point 4595TSFG, we looked back a couple of issues to see what 45 ACP pistols developed in terms of muzzle velocity and energy. In July, we tested three short-barrel 45s, the Glock Model 36, Colt Defender, and Springfield Micro. Shooting the Black Hills 230-grain FMJ, a round similar to our test ammos in this test, we saw average velocities run 780 fps, 756 fps, and 769 fps for the Glock, Colt, and Springfield, respectively. That corresponded to muzzle energy calculations of 310 ft.-lbs. for the Glock, 291 ft.-lbs. for the Colt, and 301 ft.-lbs. for the Micro.

In three full-size guns tested in February 2011, we shot Cor-Bon Performance Match 230-grain ammo through a Colt Gold Cup, Kimber Eclipse, and Springfield Loaded Target. In the same order, those guns produced average velocities of 820 fps, 829 fps, and 811 fps and muzzle energies of 344 ft.-lbs., 350 ft.-lbs., and 335 ft.-lbs.

To ensure we got head-to-head readings, we looked back to the February 2010 issue and found another test of full-size 45s using Monarch 230-grain MC ammo. In that test, an STI Sentinel Premier's readings were 785 fps/315 ft.-lbs., with a Springfield TRP at 780 fps/311 ft.-lbs., and a Smith & Wesson MSW1911 getting an average velocity of 779 fps and muzzle energy of 310 ft.-lbs. The slowest ammo in this carbine test was the Monarch 230-grain fodder, with readings in the Hi-Point of 787 fps/316 ft.-lbs.; the HK 846 fps/365 ft.-lbs., and 888 fps/403 ft.-lbs. for the Kriss. Averaged across the three rifles, the Monarch's velocity would be 840 fps, or 59 fps (7%) higher than in the 5-inch pistols.

That doesn't seem like a lot, and in reality it's probably not. But rifles add the ability to carry lights and lasers, compliance items such as toothy flash suppressors, and a lot more. But which of our test guns should be the one you want to sling up and get mobile with? Here's what we found:

Split the Difference: Is a $700 5.7×28 Upper a Good AR Buy?

The evolution of the AR-15 continues apace, with a host of manufacturers building out the 223 Rem/5.56mm modular-rifle concept to a bevy of cartridges that offer more power (6.8 SPC, 30 Carbine) or cheaper operation (22 LR, 9mm). These chamberings appear in dozens of rifles and dozens of replacement uppers. The uppers usually cost slightly more than half the price of a complete gun, and they snap onto AR lowers, which gives owners a choice of cartridges to shoot on a given day.We recently pitted once such device, the 57Centers piston-driven AR57 PDW Upper in 5.7X28mm, to three previously tested guns that were highly rated, the direct-impingement Stag Arms Model 2T 223 Rem/5.56x45mm NATO, $1125, Smith & Wessons M&P 15-22 No. 811030 22 LR, $569, and the Olympic Arms K9 9mm, $834. The AR57 PDW Upper came to us via Collectors Firearms in Houston (www.collectorsfirearms.com), which listed the used 5.7X28mm upper for $550. New AR57 PDW Upper units are available from the company or from Brownells for $696. The PDW upper was attached to a CMMG Model 4SA lower, which lists for $296 from CMMG (sales@cmmginc.com).On a whole-gun-to-gun basis, a new 57Center AR57A1 PDW Carbine costs $1099. The whole carbine weighs 7.45 pounds and is 33 inches long with a 16.04-inch standard barrel. It includes an AR57 Flash suppressor with standard 1/2X28mm threads), a custom pistol grip with battery and accessory compartment, M4 Carbine 6-position stock, and four AR57 50-round magazines. Down the road, it will certainly be interesting to compare a selection of uppers against each other, and well continue to pit guns in alternate AR chamberings, but for now, we want to gauge whether wed plunk down $600 to $700 after taxes for the AR57 PDW Upper. In our opinion, we believe there are significant reasons not to.

Affordable 50-Cal Muzzleloaders: Knight Vs. Thompson/Center

Muzzleloading has enjoyed unprecedented growth over the last 20 years-unprecedented not just compared to its own prior popularity, but also compared to shooting sports in general. As of today, we have an estimated 3.5 to 4.5 million muzzleloading enthusiasts in the United States. Along the way, we have had offering of both good and bad equipment-some additions that have made the sport safer, more enjoyable, practical, and effective, and more than a few attempts that have not. The current story has its roots back in 1985, when railroad man William Anthony 'Tony' Knight named his first muzzleloading rifle the 'MK-85' after his daughter Michelle, and sought to modernize the sport. It took more than a few years, not taking firm root until the mid-1990s, but the pull-cock or 'Enfield type' action Mr. Knight employed proved reliable, and the Knight legacy began. Gary 'Doc' White, M.D., took a close look at the older Sir James Whitworth rifle and made his own Enfield-style rifles revered by many to this day such as his 'Super 91.' It is a good thing to see what you are shooting at, a very good thing indeed, and his modern treatments of ancient inline designs were more easily scoped, making the rifles both safer for everyone and more humane to use for those with less than perfect vision, meaning just about everyone. Thompson/Center, entering the firearms business with the production of Warren Centers Contender, finally decided that its sidelocks were no longer competitive with the Knight and White products, and released its copy of the Knight/White style of rifle as the T/C Black Diamond. From the mid-1990s until 2002, things stayed very much the same. In 2000-2002, though, there were big changes. Master riflesmith Henry Balls patents found life in the superb Savage 10ML and 10ML-II rifles, a Thompson office-bet fling at producing muzzleloading barrels for the T/C Encore found surprising success, serving as impetus for the break-action craze, and in 2002 Thompson-Center surprised the muzzleloading world with its Omega, one of the most successful (and copied) muzzleloaders of the day.

50-Caliber Inline Muzzleloading Shoot-out: Buy The Savage

Modern inline muzzleloading hunting has been one of the fastest-growing hunting and shooting sports of the last twenty years. It is easy to understand why; the current crop of high-performance 209 shotshell primer-fired inline muzzleloaders from reputable manufacturers offer big-game getting accuracy like never before, with improvements in ignition system, propellant, and projectiles completing the picture. It is easy to understand the appeal, for the better muzzleloaders may provide accuracy, shooting comfort, and low cost per shot as compared to many slug shotgun attempts. Here we compare four premium fifty-caliber hunting tools to see how they stack up in bang for the buck. The candidates are the Knight KP1 Magnum P1M-209-50/SN 50 Caliber, $640; the Savage 10ML-II Stainless Steel/Laminate Model 10MLBSS-II, $792; Thompson Encore Pro Hunter Stainless Steel/Black Composite No. 3976, $992; and the Thompson Triumph Carbon Steel "Weather Shield"/Camo No. 8512 50 caliber, $586.Three of these rifles are hammer guns: designated "break-action" or variants; the Savage 10ML-II is distinguished by its being developed from the familiar Savage Arms short-action bolt-action rifle. Also, the Savage alone can use specifically designated moderate relative burn-rate smokeless powders such as Accurate Arms 5744, Hodgdon/IMR SR 4759, and Vihtavuori N110 as prescribed by Savage Arms. Neither Knight nor Thompson allow these propellants in their rifles. Knight inscribes "Black Powder Only" on the KP1, and Thompson marks its barrels "Black Powder or Pyrodex Only." Both the Knight KP1 and the Thompson Encore offer centerfire barrels for the frames, and are classed as "Form 4473" arms for this reason.The Savage 10ML-II and the Thompson Triumph are dedicated muzzeloaders, and need no 4473, according to the BATFE. Neither Thompson nor Knight really mean what they say, of course. Blackpowder is seldom shot in todays inlines. Modern synthetic compounds such as Triple Se7en, Blackhorn 209, and others are more commonly used, including pellets that arent "powder" at all, but solid cylinders.We wanted to be as even-handed in our comparison as possible, so we elected to use Western Powders Blackhorn 209 blackpowder replica propellant along with both Barnes saboted bullets and Hornadys new FPB bore-sized space-age version of the Minie Ball. So, thats what we did.

50-Caliber Inline Muzzleloading Shoot-out: Buy The Savage

Modern inline muzzleloading hunting has been one of the fastest-growing hunting and shooting sports of the last twenty years. It is easy to understand why; the current crop of high-performance 209 shotshell primer-fired inline muzzleloaders from reputable manufacturers offer big-game getting accuracy like never before, with improvements in ignition system, propellant, and projectiles completing the picture. It is easy to understand the appeal, for the better muzzleloaders may provide accuracy, shooting comfort, and low cost per shot as compared to many slug shotgun attempts. Here we compare four premium fifty-caliber hunting tools to see how they stack up in bang for the buck. The candidates are the Knight KP1 Magnum P1M-209-50/SN 50 Caliber, $640; the Savage 10ML-II Stainless Steel/Laminate Model 10MLBSS-II, $792; Thompson Encore Pro Hunter Stainless Steel/Black Composite No. 3976, $992; and the Thompson Triumph Carbon Steel "Weather Shield"/Camo No. 8512 50 caliber, $586.Three of these rifles are hammer guns: designated "break-action" or variants; the Savage 10ML-II is distinguished by its being developed from the familiar Savage Arms short-action bolt-action rifle. Also, the Savage alone can use specifically designated moderate relative burn-rate smokeless powders such as Accurate Arms 5744, Hodgdon/IMR SR 4759, and Vihtavuori N110 as prescribed by Savage Arms. Neither Knight nor Thompson allow these propellants in their rifles. Knight inscribes "Black Powder Only" on the KP1, and Thompson marks its barrels "Black Powder or Pyrodex Only." Both the Knight KP1 and the Thompson Encore offer centerfire barrels for the frames, and are classed as "Form 4473" arms for this reason.The Savage 10ML-II and the Thompson Triumph are dedicated muzzeloaders, and need no 4473, according to the BATFE. Neither Thompson nor Knight really mean what they say, of course. Blackpowder is seldom shot in todays inlines. Modern synthetic compounds such as Triple Se7en, Blackhorn 209, and others are more commonly used, including pellets that arent "powder" at all, but solid cylinders.We wanted to be as even-handed in our comparison as possible, so we elected to use Western Powders Blackhorn 209 blackpowder replica propellant along with both Barnes saboted bullets and Hornadys new FPB bore-sized space-age version of the Minie Ball. So, thats what we did.

Taurus, AWA, and Beretta Rifles Meet at the Not-Quite-OK Corral

There's a new breed of action rifle in Cowtown. Instead of the diehard lever gun of old, many Cowboy Action shooters looking to shave the last seconds off their time will soon be using a pump rifle. In the quest for speed in that game, top shooters are posting winning scores with the old Colt Lightning design, or clones thereof. Because top shooters use them, that means everybody wants one, whether or not they work better than the ol' lever action mainstay. Variety is, of course, what drives the gun industry, and we're surely not complaining, but we confess we had no idea how well these corn-shuckers would perform. The original Colt Lightning was made in three sizes, the smaller two being more popular. The medium frame, first of the series, was made from 1884 to 1902, and was offered in .32-20, .38-40, or .44-40 to match popular revolver calibers of the day. Total quantity made was around 90,000 in the medium frame, which today's guns copy. Original guns in shootable condition are scarce and costly, but today you can buy a decent copy of the Lightning from several sources, including Taurus, American Western Arms (AWA), USFA, Beretta, and one or two others, and at least one of them is totally affordable. Calibers now include .45 LC and .38/.357, but AWA still offers the original chamberings.

To immediately dispel several rumours making the rounds of the Internet, yes you can get Taurus Thunderbolts ($475), and no, AWA USA, which produces the $850 Lightning Carbine, is not out of business. We spoke with the heads of both companies and verified product availability, and ultimately acquired a sample of the guns of each, in .45 LC.

We also had the loan of a Beretta Gold Rush carbine ($1429) in the same caliber. We shot them over the machine rest and in simulated action shooting, and this is what we found.

Historical Matchup: Two Tommies and a Grease Gun in .45 ACP

The Tommy gun first carved a name for itself on the streets of Chicago during the grand bad days of the "Roaring Twenties," and later played an important part in several world conflicts. The term "Chicago Typewriter" is only one of many applied to what was, for some, an excellent fighting tool. First placed on the market in 1921, Gen. John T. Thompson's remarkable invention quickly found its way into lawless hands, most likely led — or at least inspired — by Chicago's bootleggers. Only later, when police forces realized their lack of comparable firepower, did law enforcement adopt the weapon.

One of the earliest marketers of the Tommy gun was the Auto Ordnance Corp., same name as the makers of two of our test guns. The first price noted was $200, quite a handful of change in the early 1920s. However, if you wanted a submachinegun at that time, there were exactly no other options worldwide until about 1928, according to Smith's "Small Arms of the World." The Tommy gun thrived.

The first editions of the Thompson were marvels of careful machining. These were the guns with the slotted bolt knob on top (so you could see the sights), the double pistol grip, the 50- or 100-round drum magazines, and with cooling fins cut around the rear portion of the barrel. The early Tommy guns also incorporated a friction-type mechanism (Blish theory) that was supposed to delay the blowback operation, though later tests indicated little actual delay took place, and the system was eventually dropped. The early guns also had the Cutts compensator, designed to help control muzzle climb in full-auto mode. These guns had hand-detachable butt stocks and an adjustable leaf-type rear sight. These came to be known as the Model 1928A1. Caliber was, of course, .45 ACP, but some were also produced in 9mm and 38 Auto.

.45-70 Single-Shot Rifles: Can Ruger, Browning Outdo Shiloh?

Back in February of this year we tested a group of Sharps rifles by Shiloh, Cabela's and Cimarron. We found that although the other two versions were nice, we felt the price and several-years' wait necessary for the Shiloh Sharps were well justified, because it was the nicest Sharps rifle of the bunch. But can you get a good .45-70 single shot that's not a Sharps, and would you want to? Let's find out.

We obtained a nearly new Ruger No. 1S and a brand-new Browning 1885, both in .45-70, to test against our previous best single-shot, the Shiloh Sharps. These two rifles, while contemporary, both resemble — at least slightly — older rifles from the time of the Sharps. They were not precise copies of earlier rifles, though the Browning came close. We wanted to see how well they'd hold up to the Shiloh Sharps's quality, and to see if they were better buys for you, the lover of single shot .45-70s.

The two newer guns had a tough opponent in the Shiloh, as we noted in the February 2001 issue. The feel of the Shiloh's action was like that of a fine watch. It opened with precision, and shut like the old bank-vault door. There were no machining marks visible anywhere. The inletting was perfection. The sights could be whatever you wanted them to be and agreed to pay for, except (as far as we could tell) there were no provisions for modern scope mounting. Accuracy with the costly aperture sights that were fitted on our test sample was all we could hold for in the dismal light conditions in which we tested this rifle. The better we could see and hold and squeeze, the tighter were our groups.

This was the standard against which we gauged the Browning and the Ruger's performances. How did they do? Read on to find out:

.45 LC Lever-Action Guns: Saddle Up With Cabelas, Cimarron

Cabela's gorgeous Henry and Cimarron's 1873 are cowboy-ready, but not so Winchester's 94AE—still, the latter does have its uses.

Marlin Model 1894 Cowboy Our Pick Of .45 LC Cowboy Rifles

We talked with Judge Roy Bean the other day. The one we spoke with had nothing to do with holding court, hanging strangers at a whim or running a frontier saloon named The Jersey Lily. He and seven others shot an IPSC match with black powder revolvers back in 1979, giving birth to the Single Action Shooting Society, over which Judge Bean now presides.

The S.A.S.S. eventually begat Cowboy Action Shooting, and the rest is history in the making. No other shooting sport is growing as fast. It got a foothold in California, moved into Arizona, then Texas, is presently spreading rapidly through Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia and doubling the number of active participants nationwide every 12-1...

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...