The ever-popular AK-47 has been made in many countries over many years, and in many variants. They have been around a long time and are still being manufactured new today. Some are better than others, and the buyer will have to do some research to find the best bargain, and luck might have a part to play as well. In an effort to clear away a tiny bit of the fog, we acquired one of the recently offered fixed-stock versions from Romania, called the WASR-10 (about $450), and put it up against a recently made Yugoslav [IMGCAP(1)]version with a folding stock, called the M70 AB2 (about $500). Both were in the original 7.62x39 caliber, and both were in near-new condition. Our test ammo was two-fold only, Russian hollow-point and Chinese soft nose. Both rifles had what we consider to be excellent triggers. And besides the caliber and pedigree, that's about all they had in common. We took a hard look at them, and here's what we found.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Cabela's gorgeous Henry and Cimarron's 1873 are cowboy-ready, but not so Winchester's 94AE—still, the latter does have its uses.
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...