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9mms: Classic Artillery Luger Vs. 1896 Mauser Broomhandle

We were delighted to have this pair of rare and costly 9mm handguns to evaluate, thanks to a collector in Houston who sent them along with a bunch of fine accessories to our Idaho office. They were an Artillery Luger (about $2500) and an 1896 Mauser Broomhandle (about $2000), both with very good bores and in overall nice — though refinished — condition. Accessories for the Luger included a new wood stock, two eight-round magazines, a new 32-round drum magazine with loader and leather pouch, and a reproduction leather holster with a two-magazine pouch. The Broomhandle came in a new wood shoulder-stock/holster with leather, and a bunch of stripper clips.

Regarding the Artillery Luger, one must remember these guns are all very old. They were used a century ago in the First World War, this one having been made in 1915. They saw hard and heavy use and there are not a whole lot of them left. Those with pristine finishes command prices in the realm of $5000 on up, depending on condition and relative rarity of the individual gun. Thus, the price for this one is within reason for a good-looking representative sample with what we thought was an excellent barrel.

The Mauser looked at first to be pristine. However, we soon found out it had been refinished by a master who maintained all the markings and original surfaces very well indeed. There was some pitting here and there, such as under the grip areas and along the sides if you looked carefully, but whoever did the rework really knew his stuff. The subsequent bluing was probably done by hot-dip process, as there were none of the signs that accompany rust bluing. Nevertheless, the gun looked just great. Sadly, that was the only good part of this gun.
We tested them with two types of ammunition, 115-grain Independence FMJs and Black Hills 124-grain +P JHPs. Without further ado, here's what we found.

(Gunsmithing the AR-15 #1) Lubrication and the AR-15/M-16

The subject of lubrication is vast, and opinions vary. In most situations, as one of the instructors has been know to joke, "sunscreen would probably work for a while." Adherents of one or another brand of lubricant will extol its virtues endlessly. Whatever you use, use it. A dry AR is a rifle looking to malfunction. Invariably in the patrol rifle and patrol rifle instructor classes taught in NEMRT, we have rifles whose owners thought they had sufficiently lubed them start to malfunction right after lunch of the first full firing day. You don't want so much lube on it that it splatters you and bystanders on every shot. But if, when you touch the carrier through the ejection port, you don't get oil on your fingertip, the carrier (and thus the bolt) is probably too dry. Some have suggested that the best way to keep an AR-15 or M-16 running reliably is to keep it dry, to prevent it from attracting dirt. They are wrong. You need oil to reduce friction, and carry grit and dirt away from the working parts. Running a rifle while it is dry will simply make it malfunction sooner, not later.

(Gunsmithing the AR-15 #2) The 30-Second AR Check

From nationally known 1911 custom gunsmith Ned Christiansen, who is also a stellar AR-15 ‘smith and operator:
"They're almost upon us, grab one of these rifles and get ready": the 30-second prioritized AR15 checklist. Items are prioritized factoring in criticality, ease of checking, sequence and likelihood.
If you have a half a minute, you can confirm that:

(Gunsmithing the AR-15 #3) Measuring Twist Rate

If your barrel isn't marked, how can you tell what twist it has? Simple, get a cleaning rod with a swiveling handle. Fit a tight-fitting patch in it, and stuff the rod with patch down the bore. Make sure the patch can go both directions. Push in until it is ore than halfway down. Wrap a piece of masking around the rod, with the ends stuck together, forming a "flag". Attach this flag with the ends straight up, as close to the flash hider as you can. Then slowly pull the rod out, watching the flag rotate. When it comes back up to vertical, stop. Measure the distance from the flash hider to where the flag is now. That's your twist rate.

2014 Guns & Gear A List

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Ray Ordorica, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, Rafael Urista, Ralph Winingham, and Kevin Winkle have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazines testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full years worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information Ive compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.
-Todd Woodard

Don’t Get Beat Up by High Caliber Rifles

Those of us who like big rifles have plenty to choose from, both in type of action and caliber. Some of us have found out that rifles bigger than 30 caliber are, for those prepared to learn how to control them, far more fun than those of 30 caliber and under. There are a few tricks to help you avoid being hammered by the big 'uns, and we've published a few of those tricks from time to time on these pages. For the uninitiated, begin with a heavy-enough rifle, one that has appropriate weight for the caliber. In recent tests we looked at rifles chambered for the 416 Rigby, and such a rifle could easily weigh over 10 pounds without being declared too heavy. We have seen several 416 Rigbys and even more powerful rifles that weigh as little as 8 pounds, and some even less than that. Unless you are planning to do a whole lot of carrying of a powerful rifle, it makes very little sense to have it so light.

Another easy trick is to shoot your big rifle standing up, not from the bench. Or you could construct a standing bench, so you can have the steadiness of a bench rest, but keep your body upright so you can give with the kick. Be sure the rifle has a large butt area and a properly set up recoil pad. Pads can be too soft. The rifle does not have to fire the hottest round every time you press the trigger. You can easily make your own lightly loaded rounds, and thereby learn to control the rifle by reducing its recoil, and gradually working up to full-power loads. Cast-bullet loads are ideal for this. Another trick is to put a bag of lead shot between the rifle's butt and your shoulder, a trick we used in this test. Be sure the rifle doesn't slip off the bag just as you squeeze the trigger.

For more advice and recommendations on large and small bolt-action rifles, purchase the ebook Bolt-Action Rifles & Gear, Part 1 from Gun Tests.

Varminting AR-15s: Ruger, RRA, Remington, Windham Weaponry

Coyote hunting has become a popular hunting pursuit, with new specialized rifles and equipment coming out each year. The AR-15 platform itself has become a widespread coyote-killing choice due to its handiness, accuracy, and ability to execute rapid follow-up shots. These rifles usually weigh around 7 pounds (without scope) and have a slender barrel contour. But there is more than one way to skin a coyote, as we found in a recent test.

We shot four rifles we might consider as walking-around varminters, the first being the Remington R-15 VTR Predator Carbine chambered in 223 Remington, $999, which we bought at an Academy Sporting Goods store in Houston more than a year ago (SKU #421833447, UPC 00047700601069). A recent store check didn't turn up any more of the all-black version tested here, but it is the same mechanically as the still-cataloged #60003 in the Remington line, which has an Advantage MAX-1 HD camouflage skin. This was our first look at the R-15, although we had tested the company's R-25 in the April 2009 issue.

Our next rifle marks a company's debut in these pages, the Windham Weaponry Model VEX-SS "Varmint Exterminator" R20FSSFTSKV, $1295, which was designated the WW-15 Varmint Exterminator when we began testing in May 2013.

The third was a more typical varmint rifle in the form of the Rock River Arms LAR-15 A4 Varminter AR1500X 223 Rem./5.56 NATO, $1215. This rifle was tested to provide a contrast between the more typical varmint rifle and the specialized walking varminters.

Next up was Ruger's SR-556VT Autoloading Rifle #5914, which has a 5.56 NATO chamber and lists for $1995. It joins an ever-growing list of Ruger AR-style semi-autos, including the SR-762 308 Win./7.62 NATO, which we tested in the September 2014 issue, and the others in 5.56 NATO, including the SR-556 (January 2010) and SR-556E (January 2012). After testing was complete, we learned this rifle had been recalled. More on that in a minute.

All four rifles were of the flat-top variety with Picatinny rails that allow the easy mounting of optics. To keep things consistent, we used a proven Bushnell Elite 4200 4-16x50mm scope mounted in Rock River Arms one-piece rings with a Picatinny base. For accuracy, we tested each rifle with five 5-shots groups for each of three different ammo types: TulAmmo 55-grain full metal jackets, Federal 62-grain full metal jackets, and Black Hills 77-grain moly-coated match hollowpoints. Because these rifles might be used for high-volume shooting, we fired the rifles as quickly as we could while maintaining good technique and careful sighting. We did allow time between groups for cooling. At no time did the barrels on these rifles get hot enough to prevent grasping them firmly with bare hands.

Here's how they did at the range and in the field:

S&W and H&K 9mm Compact Concealment Pistols Square Off

For more than one hundred years folks have been trying to make a service pistol fit on the hip under a covering garment. The Colt Sheriffs Model was one of the first such downsized handguns, and today practically every service pistol has a compact version. Many shooters with LE histories prefer this because they feel that a downsized service pistol still has a service-grade action and its operating principles are maintained in the more-compact form; that is, a shorter barrel and slide.

Nowadays, compacts and subcompacts for concealed carry save weight over old-generation handguns because new guns from full-size to subcompact use the same material - polymer - regardless of size. To save weight, older downsized frames had to change materials - aluminum rather than steel. Moreover, the subcompact handgun goes one further and also shortens the grip frame, so at least two dimensions shrink substantially. This is great for comfort and concealment.

The drawbacks for downsized handguns are their reliability and power, which reveals why so many popular compacts and subcompacts are chambered in the 9x19mm round. For many shooters, the 9mm is a realistic minimum for personal-defense use, and its very handy because a shooter can buy just the one caliber and have it run in full-size handguns, subcompact handguns, and carbines by pretty much anyone in the household. The 380 ACP below the 9mm is too little power for many shooters, and the 40 S&W and 45 ACP above it can prove to be a handful for smaller shooters in small guns. With proper load selection and marksmanship, the 9mm represents a reasonable level of power for a practiced shooter.

Toward that end, we selected two popular concealable handguns chambered in 9mm for this test: The Smith & Wesson Military & Police M&P9c #209004 and the H&K P2000SK #709302-A5, the first time weve tested any gun in that line. In the April 2007 issue, we shot and didnt like the M&P9c #209004. Unfortunately, that M&P Compact suffered repeated malfunctions wherein the slide would lock back with one round remaining in the magazine. Failure rate was nearly 70 percent.

In the February 2009 issue, we tried the Smith & Wesson M&P Compact 9mm No. 209304. That gun shot way high and right and not very accurately at 15 yards -- groups were around 4 inches.

However, hope springs eternal at the Gun Tests offices, so we cheerily prepped another M&P Compact 9mm and took it to the range.

To evaluate the handguns, they were fired from a solid benchrest-firing position, as we test all handguns. However, in this case the pistols were fired for groups at 15 yards rather than the 25 yards assigned for service pistols. The short sight radius and double-action trigger simply doesnt lend itself well to pinpoint accuracy.

A portion of the test that is more important to personal defense shooters is the combat firing test. This test began with man-sized silhouette targets placed at 5, 7, and 10 yards. Each pistol was drawn from concealed carry.

The Smith & Wesson was carried in a Discreet Defense Solutions inside-the-waistband holster (DiscreetDefenseSolutions.com). This holster has a good fit and comfort, and something we really needed in 98-degree heat - a sweat guard. From Mernickle Holsters

(MernickleHolsters.com) came an all-leather IWB with a strong spring-steel belt clip and a generous sweat guard. This holster was actually ordered for a Baby Eagle pistol, but it fit the H&K 2000 just fine. The pistols were belted on under a lighter covering garment, most often a sport shirt, during testing. During the combat-shooting stage, we used primarily HPRs 115-grain full metal jackets, a few 115-grain jacketed hollowpoint loads from the same maker, and Federal American Eagle 115-grain FMJs. We also were able to fire a magazine with the Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+ loads. Like many of you, we have mixed boxes left over from previous projects and this was the time to use it. The results were interesting.

Kit Guns: Ruger SP101 Rimfire Versus Used Taurus Model 94

We recently looked at new stainless steel Ruger SP101 ($699) and a used Taurus Model 94 ($300) with an eye toward finding a Bargain Hunter kit gun — generically, a knockabout handgun that was substantial enough to go into the backcountry as a plinker or small-game getter, but which didn't have to cost and arm and a leg. After the tin cans stopped jumping, we wound up with two vastly different, but very good recommendations, as kit guns. In more detail, the two contestants were a Ruger SP101 #5765 KSP-242-8 and a used Taurus Model 94, both small-frame, double-action revolvers with 4-inch barrels, adjustable sights, and high-capacity cylinders. They are chambered in 22 LR but are also compatible with 22 CB caps, 22 Shorts, 22 Longs, and 22 LR shotshells loaded with #12 shot. Besides their versatility, it's usually possible to replenish your stores of 22 cartridges pretty much anywhere that sells ammo.

In addition to simply finding the better handgun, the task here was to decide what was enough gun for this role without spending unnecessary money. With that caveat thrown in, the Taurus had a huge initial lead because it cost so much less — about $399 cheaper than list and about $235+ cheaper than prices at Cheaper Than Dirt! ($536) and Bud's Gun Shop ($540), not counting transfer fees, shipping, sales taxes and other associated costs. Our used Taurus test gun was most similar to the current production model 94B4 #2-940041, which also has a nine-shot capacity and a 4-inch barrel, a 5-inch height, and an OAL of 8.75 inches. The major difference is the new model has a full lug barrel and a price of $438. Assessing the Taurus test gun's condition, we gauged it at 90%.

To get things started, we cleaned the 94's bore thoroughly, scrubbing it with a bronze brush after letting it soak in bore cleaner. Then we tried to use a Brownells range rod (Brownells.com) to test the chamber-to-bore alignment, but the 94's bore was tight and the 22-caliber head did not fit, so we didn't force it. We thought, at worst the undersized bore would have an effect on accuracy. We hoped it would be positive. With the Ruger, we discovered all chambers were indeed aligned with the bore.

Off sandbags at 15 yards using the guns' open sights, PMC Target 40-grain roundnose ammo delivered shockingly good results in the Taurus, shooting a best-of-test 0.48-inch group on the way to an five-shot average group size of 0.68 inch, not quite half the size of the Ruger's 1.30-inch average. The Ruger did produce a marginally faster average velocity of 838 fps to the Taurus's 829 fps.

Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain roundnose ammo was a coin flip in average group accuracy, with the SP101 taking a tiny 0.96-inch edge over the Model 94 at 1 inch. The Taurus produced better velocity with this round, however, 884 fps to 862 fps.

CCI Mini-Mag 40-grain roundnoses produced groups likewise too close to call, with both handguns spitting out average group sizes of 1.20 inches, though the SP101 had the smaller best group, 0.78 inches to 1 inch for the Model 94. Velocity slightly favored the Ruger, 1005 fps to 992 fps.

All in, we found these small revolvers were well suited for plinking and small-game hunting, but we thought one offered more value.

Kimber Tactical Pro Vs. SIGs Scorpion: Two Good Carry Guns

In our latest shoot-out between 1911 handguns, we chose two of the most popular 1911s in their respective lineups. Each lists for well over twelve hundred dollars and has a legion of adherents. There are certain subjective differences in appearance that many find attractive, and design features that one shooter or the other may find more desirable. But there are differences in the handguns that will make one or the other the best choice for the individual. This was a shoot-out of the elite among 1911 handguns in some ways, and the pistols were given a thorough test for their compatibility with daily concealed carry. Our test guns were the Kimber Tactical Pro II 45 ACP, which lists for $1317. We paid $1215 for it. The SIG Sauer Carry Scorpion lists for $1213 and we paid $1180 for our test gun. The pistols are each shorter and lighter than the Government Models and are intended for 24-hour carry.

Which Is Better: 9mm Luger or 45 ACP? Answer: It Depends

When making the decision to purchase a new handgun, the question of which cartridge it will fire is the first to come up. Readers of Gun Tests are undoubtedly aware of the debate that has raged for a century about which cartridge is better between the 9mm Luger and the 45 ACP. A surface inspection of the question yields some clues such as the tendency of 9mm Luger handguns to hold more ammunition (sometimes double the magazine capacity of a 45 ACP) and 45 ACP handguns to recoil more strongly than the 9mm. The truth is that neither handgun is better in all areas, but I will use some uncommonly seen metrics derived from my slow motion videography to better explain the issue. As a disclaimer, my favorite handgun was a 45 ACP (which I sold, like many people do at one point with their favorite gun), but my carry gun is now a 9mm Luger. I sold the 45 ACP so that I wouldn't fret every morning over which gun to carry.

Three Lever-Action 45-70s: Winchester, Henry and Marlin

Up for testing this month are three 45-70 lever-action rifles. Two, by Marlin and Henry, are made in the U.S. and are fairly handy carbine-length firearms. The third is a huge, heavy, octagonal-barrel copy of the original 1886 Winchester, bearing Winchester's name but made by Miroku in Japan. The Henry and Marlin have dull finishes. The Marlin is matte stainless steel and the Henry, blued steel. The Winchester has a glossy blued finish that we thought was superb. The two carbines have appropriately padded buttstocks, but the classy-looking Winchester has a hook-shaped buttplate of steel, entirely appropriate for the era and for the weight of the gun. There were some design differences we thought were mighty interesting, including an unusual safety system on the Henry, and three different types of iron sights. We tested them using their iron sights with Remington 405-grain soft points and with Winchester 300-grain jacketed hollowpoint ammo. Here is what we found.

‘Background Check’ Rule Is Coming For You

On April 11, 2024, the Biden Administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued a new rule to expand background-check requirements for private...