It isn't unusual for a dozen AR-15 rifles from different makers to be on the shelf at most gun shops. Some are regional makers, some are giants like Colt, and a few are new companies trying to earn a good name for themselves. The modular construction of the AR-15 means that the basic receiver may be fitted with a number of different barrel types, stock designs, and other accessories. As such, the price point is flexible, depending upon whether the user wants an entry-level rifle or something more. We picked the rifles in this report to see if the details and accessory package on a more expensive rifle really offered enough performance to justify the extra money. There are literally dozens of choices to make between rifles in this price zone, so as much as anything, this was a test of accessories and set-up, culminating in our advice on how to buy an AR that's a flexible platform for growth as possible.
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.
When it comes to personal defense, competition, and recreational shooting, the most popular rifle in America is likely the AR-15 chambered for .223 Remington. But there are still plenty of shooters who prefer the light recoil and low expense of 9mm Luger ammunition. Whereas caliber .223 is strictly the staple of rifle shooters, 9mm carbines are often used by pistol shooters who sometimes use a long gun. There are three basic types of 9mm carbine. They are the 9mm AR-15, semi-automatic versions of submachineguns such as the UZI, and purpose-built 9mm carbines that more or less follow their own rules of design. In this test we'll fire the $409 Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm, the $700 Thureon Defense 9mm, and Norinco's $800 UZI 9mm carbines. In addition we will also evaluate a 9mm conversion unit, the $505 MechTech Systems Carbine Conversion Unit for Glock. Our goal was to evaluate each carbine on its own merits and then compare the three types of design for personal defense.
Our choice of test ammunition was Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ rounds and two loads from Black Hills Ammunition topped with 124-grain bullets. One featured a full-metal-jacketed slug and the other a jacketed hollowpoint driven by a +P charge. Each carbine was tested for accuracy from the 50-yard bench using only their supplied open sights.
We test rifles with this action type: JLD's .308 PTR-91, Vector Arms' V-53 in .223, and the 9mm BW-5 from Bobcat Weapons.
In our February 2002 issue we tested two 9mm carbines, the Hi-Point 995 and Ruger's PC9. They turned out to be simple and effective, each earning a "Buy" rating. Looking forward to finding two more good carbines, we acquired the Leinad CM11 and Kel-Tec's Sub Rifle 2000.
Like the Ruger and the Hi-Point, these weapons are fed from pistol magazines. However, the CM11 and Sub Rifle 2000 are convertibles, whereas our earlier samples were long guns. The Sub Rifle 2000 breaks down along a hinge and lock that divides the gun in half for storage. The CM11 is in fact the PM11 model (PM for pistol model, we assume) with add-on stock, alternate top end, and barrel. In the case of the Kel-Tec, we had to wonder if the gun would keep its integrity after repeated openings and closings. Regarding the Leinad, we wanted to know if its function was as effective as its intimidating image. Would these guns prove to be handy, or just a handful of hard luck?
Without actually seeing the subjects of this month's test, we imagined these two 9mm carbines as being a poor man's AR-15, or perhaps an MP5. The two short rifles in question are in fact the $575 Ruger PC9, which operates from magazines common to Ruger's P85-95 series pistols, and Hi-Point's 9mm Carbine, $199. The Hi-Point cuts the figure of the type of machine pistol one envisions in the hands of SWAT or Special Forces. The Ruger, on the other hand, closely resembles a military rifle from the 1940s. Its profile is of a classic rifle punctuated by a long, narrow magazine hanging just ahead of the trigger guard.
Ruger's Magnum takes the cake as a dangerous-game gun, and we also like Sako's 75 Hunter. Pass on the Winchester Model 70 Safari Express.