April 2000

Firing Line 04/00

H&K P7M8 Booster
I am a commissioned security officer in Dallas, Texas. My H&K P7M8 (October 1999) was $850 plus tax when I bought it several years ago. Was it worth it? The last time I requalified, I scored 146 (including a 2-point penalty for a flyer), on a shooting test with a maximum score of 150. Yup, it was worth it. I also used it to qualify for the state concealed carry permit. Out of 50 rounds fired, I had two flyers. My hand got tired with the squeeze cocker. And yes, I carry it concealed.

It seems to prefer 115-grain bullets best. But realistically, when you are looking at one ragged hole, whether it is a little bigger or smaller, is a pretty specious argument. I carry Cor-Bon’s mostly from personal preference. I value accuracy over all the other incidental criteria. I like good tools!

—Temple V. Nash, Jr.
Rover Captain
Wells Fargo Protective Services
Dallas, Texas


P7M8 Cocking Tricks
First off, thanks very much for your truthful tests. It rarely gets any deeper than when a writer from a magazine with advertising gets a free gun to test. I appreciate your honesty.

Two comments. About keeping a P7M8 cocked, a problem you noted in the October 1999 9mm showdown: Many people have a problem keeping the grip squeezed when they first shoot the gun. They don’t always realize that while it takes about 13 pounds of force to cock it, it takes less than a pound to hold it, and it does not de-cock till fully, 100 percent released. Try the gun again and feel how far you can relax, how far you can go before it de-cocks. Basically, if you’re still holding on to it, it will stay cocked. I normally let the cocking lever out about 1/16 inch so that I know I’m not wasting any energy in squeezing. One you learn, it is not a problem anymore.

Second, I see you will be testing a Mini-Cougar again. Let me suggest something to you. Perhaps the full-size Cougar should have been the “compact gun” in your last test. No, it isn’t a compact version of an 92FS—but that is the place it fits in Beretta’s line. If you had put the full-length magazine with grip extension in the gun in the last test, it would have been just about the same size as the other guns, wouldn’t it? I think a gun’s dimensions should be used for setting up tests, not the word “compact” in their names. I hope this new test doesn’t give the Mini-Cougar the same treatment.

—Chris Cooney
Chris@Chris.cc


You make a valid point about making the dimensional matchups of guns as close as possible, and we usually try to do that. But there is also the aspect of matching guns that may be marketed similarly as well.

—Todd Woodard


454 Casulls, Take 1
I just read the February 2000 issue. The article on the .454 Casulls was very interesting. In the near future your testing crew should receive personalized plaques recognizing their efforts “above and beyond the call of duty.”

I, for one, would not shoot such a weapon, be it a rifle, shotgun, or pistol. Too much power increases the chance for accidents. You don’t need a broken wrist, shoulder, or a split forehead when you’re in the woods.

—Mike Graves
sevarg@flash.net


Big Handguns and Bears
I found your test articles on three revolvers in .454 Casulls very interesting. I would like to comment on your statements “little real-world utility,” “buy a rifle instead,” etc.

Up here we carry firearms with us when fishing in the woods. Many of us carry a .44 Magnum, but with tongue in cheek since that caliber, while a whole lot better than nothing, is just not adequate for a brown bear encounter. Admittedly, carrying a long gun is a lot wiser, but there is a popular saying up here—When you need that rifle or shotgun in a hurry, it is leaning against a tree. A handgun is always with you in a shoulder rig even while fishing. And since the .454 has a lot more punch, it is fast becoming a popular item. I guarantee that when used in self defense, the recoil will not be noticed.

—Bob Hensler
gunsmith@eagle.ptialaska.net


Your comments about handguns against bear didn’t go unnoticed. In my 14 years in Alaska, I was never without a big handgun in the bush. I carried a .45 Linebaugh while I was there (355 grains at 1,250 fps), and having seen the big bears, share your opinion that the .44 Mag. would be of little use against them, unless you hit the brain—as he was eating your legs. Today, if I lived there I’d pack my .500 Linebaugh for that purpose. It would be very effective against the big bears, the handgun being capable of killing an elephant. Still, one must shoot carefully if he can’t keep himself out of harm’s way.

—Ray Ordorica


AR-15 Mistakes?
On page 24 of the February 2000 issue, listed above is a picture of a Colt AR-15 SP-1 labeled a Colt AR-15 A2 Sporter II. As a several years subscriber, I am wondering why this AR-15 has been mislabeled. In fact the upper and lower receiver w/missing forward assist, no bullet deflector, and no mag-release button protection bears a remarkable resemblance to the original ArmaLite AR-15 built in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Given the fact that I have two older issues with AR-15 comparisons in the last two to three years at home, I have to ask why Gun Tests would compare a 30-plus-year-old SP-1 against two new manufactured versions?

As an owner of a Bushmaster with a 16-inch barrel and AK-muzzle brake, with an ATAK 5X scope, I am wondering why your groups are not up to snuff? My gun will shoot sub-inch groups @100 yards with Sellot-Beloit, steel-cased surplus ammo. Perhaps the Russian and Malaysian ammos aren’t worth squat?

I love the magazine; I’m just not used to seeing errors.

—Mike Wilson
mike@uei-houston.com


The Colt in question is in fact labeled on the lower receiver AR-15 A2 Sporter II, exactly as we told you it was. I’m the second owner of that Colt. The previous owner bought it new, unfired, as a pre-ban gun, from a Colt distributor. The gun has never been modified and is not 30 years old. The upper receiver is a perfect cosmetic match to the lower. The barrel is a Colt, 1:7 twist, labeled “C MP 5.56 NATO 1/7.” Close inspection shows the barrel has not been removed. One collector who is familiar with this Colt rifle thought it might have been hastily assembled by Colt right before the ban. He surmised that Colt, desperate for money (as they still are), used any available parts just to get guns out the door.

At any rate, this Colt represented an excellent on-hand example of a pre-ban gun, and made a fine comparison with the other two guns, which were selected to be as close to it as possible.

Concerning the Bushmaster’s accuracy, please look at our data for the heavy-bullet match-grade handload. The Bushmaster sprayed that load all over the place. However, the Bushmaster shot the .22LR ammo very well. We learned heavy bullets need to be long-loaded for best accuracy in the AR-15.

We choose ammo the average uninformed shooter can find in local stores. If the gun shoots them well, that’s fine. We do not go out of our way to determine the finest ammo out there for a particular purpose. As we’ve said in the past, this type of rifle generally shoots better with top-quality ammunition. The Winchester ammo proved that. It is impossible for us to obtain exactly the same lot of ammunition, or even the same brand as used in previous tests, particularly when the test locations are as far apart as Idaho and Florida, as these were. Also, our previous tests ignored the light-barrel Colt. The previous tests were of HBAR versions. Cops, as we pointed out, can still buy this exact lightweight configuration of Colt, which weighed a full pound less than the ArmaLite. Also, there are lots of them out there, and our readers have told us they appreciate finding out how well their current gun stacks up against the “latest.”

—Ray Ordorica


Makarov Insights
I was very interested to read your review of the Bulgarian (?) Makarov you tested and reported on in the October 1999 Gun Tests. I believe you described your results as fairly as possible, although I sensed a sadness that the pistol did not perform as hoped, or touted! My first thought is that perhaps the test pistol was a “Monday Morning” manufacture!

My experience has been more positive. Some time ago I purchased two 9 x 18mm Russian Makarovs, which came with fully adjustable rear sights. An acquaintance with some experience with Soviet bloc arms told me the pistols were manufactured at the Tuzla arsenal. I am absolutely enamoured with these two pistols. I gave one to my son for his use, and he is equally fond of it. Both have excellent triggers; not hard to use at all in single or double action. A friend who had one in .380 who shot mine was astonished at the trigger and the accuracy, something my son and I have always found to be excellent. My friend could hardly believe that the pistol was as purchased, right out of the box.

The only problems I have had with shooting the Makarov was Russian ammunition I purchased with the pistols. In a case lot I would say about 2 to 5 percent required a second trigger pull to fire, but fire they did. This failure did not occur with Chinese and Hungarian (FMS) ammo or with reloads with Starline brass or the Hungarian ammo.

I bought the pistols after firing a fellow worker’s Russian Makarov with Chinese ammo. His pistol worked every bit as well as mine and was just as accurate. Later, he adapted some 9mm Parabellum brass to 9 x 18mm reloaded to Makarov specs. As far as I know, the reloads functioned perfectly.

Although I have not heard of reliability problems before, that does not imply such do not exist in those pistols manufactured in other countries. I have heard from some commercial range masters that the German version of the Makarov evidenced extremely fine workmanship in all respects, better than the Russian models—no tool marks or poor finish. I don’t have any personal experience with the German pistols. The Russian pistols are finished well enough where it counts. Inside work is not rough, but not a finished work of art either.

—Name and address withheld


Lefties Need Consideration
I am a left-eyed, left-handed, right-batting, redneck and gun-loving male. I read your comparison regarding pump shotguns three times and cooled off mentally since the last read several minutes ago. My reason: That lefties are apparently insignificant to your testing criteria.

Let me speak emphatically to the appreciation I have for left-handed guns. I recently won a Benelli pump shotgun, the new one, and sold it immediately because of the right-dominant configuration, and bought a Browning lever-action .22-250, also great for left-handed people. I competed in the tournament with my Browning pump shotgun, which is better for a left-handed person than a right-handed person. The gun ejecting at the bottom allows the spent shells to drop at your feet, a consideration for those of us who pick up their shells in the field and on the range.

But to discount the advantages of the BPS “other than a hard-to-define precise feel to the gun and easier handling for lefties” is unfair and unclear. Hard to define precise feel? Just say precise feel. We lefties understand. Besides, the gun doesn’t fly spent shells across anyone’s face. Let me know about any other left-handed versions manufactured by popular companies. I will buy them and add them to my fifty-gun collection.

—Ken Wilpitz
kenwilpitz@sprynet.com