June 2000

Firing Line 06/00

There’s bears up here
I’ve enjoyed your approach of not worrying whether or not the manufacturers are happy with your reviews, but do you think it’s possible that sometimes you feel the obligation to say bad things about pieces which really have no problem?

The review that I found to be most misinformed was the one regarding the .454 Casull as an unusable piece. Having several friends who own them, and also having owned them myself, I can assure you that anyone is capable of firing one without his thumb coming off, his wrist getting broken, or any other range of colorful imaginations. It’s a powerful revolver to be sure, and a .44 Magnum feels soft once you’re used to the Casull, but it feels so much more comforting to have by your side when you hear a “woof” in the trees ahead!

I have four friends who shoot the .454 Casull on a regular basis, and I have let my friends’ 13- and 14-year-old sons shoot it. As I read this to my friend, he informs me of the time his friend’s wife, who weighs 120 pounds, fired two full cylinders of full-house 300-grainers, freestanding, with no accuracy or recoil problems.

Try writing that article again, and have an Alaskan housewife help out on the testing, or a 13 year old. You did a disservice by panning an excellent utilitarian piece of hardware for anyone in dangerous-game country. Just ask Craig Medred, who killed his grizzly while she was chewing on him.

Pete Redshaw

The cover line on the February 2000 issue said, “If you need to kill a bear when your bush plane goes down, then these handcannons will do the job. But can you take the pounding?” We still believe that many Lower 48ers don’t need the Casull’s oomph and resulting recoil, as the letter below documents.

Todd Woodard

Freedom Eats Him Up
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Last year I bought a Freedom Arms Model 1997 in .45 Colt. I bought it specifically to shoot heavy bullets at high velocity on an elk hunt I have booked for September of this year.

I was very pleased with the flawless fit and finish of the $1,450 revolver, until I touched off the first heavy load. As mentioned in your review in the February 2000 issue of Gun Tests, that gun was all sharp edges and angles. I fired less than 50 rounds and had had enough. I sold the piece as soon as I could, and took a beating on the price just to get out from under it.

I was a state trooper for 27 years, and I never thought of myself as a wimp until I tried to tame that lightweight Freedom. It just plain hurt to shoot that thing. The boys at Freedom must be machinists, not shooters.

Your review came a little too late for me, but I’ll bet it will save someone else much pain and suffering. Thank you again for your commonsense approach to testing and reporting. I can now go forward with my life secure in the knowledge that I’m not a wimp.

B. R. Reed

Freedom Responds
I would just like to make a few comments about your test of the Ruger, Taurus and Freedom Arms 454 Casull revolvers.

It occurs to me, if a magazine was going to do a test on a certain type of product, that same magazine would pick a writer that knew something about that type of product. Apparently your magazine does not agree with that concept. I can picture one of the racing magazines doing an article on an Indy 500 car using a writer that had never driven over 75 mph and had never driven anything more than a basic production line car.

Freedom Arms does not recommend shooting .45 Colt ammunition in 454 Casull chambers. There is the potential of lead and powder residue build up at the bottom of the chamber which can cause problems chambering the longer 454 Casull round. It also tends to cause higher pressures due to the 454 Casull crimp not being able to open properly to allow the bullet to exit. Also it is common for chambers to pit in front of a case, therefore when a longer cartridge (especially high pressure cartridge) is fired in that same chamber the longer case will have extraction problems.

When someone orders one of our revolvers chambered for 454 Casull, we install the proper height front sight for standard velocity 454 Casull cartridges. If someone loads the 454 Casull cartridge down to .45 Colt velocities or shoots standard .45 Colts, the front sight has to be changed to the proper height due to the increased time the bullet is in the barrel.

In your specification chart on each of the revolvers you show a Chamber Size Max. and a Chamber Size Min. What do these dimensions mean? On the FA revolver you show a Max. of .444 in. and a Min. of .445 in. The chamber dimensions of the 454 Casull are not even close to these listed dimensions. Also, why would a Max. dimension be smaller than a Min. dimension?

It seems to me that if a product fails when being tested it would be prudent to do some basic checking on what caused the failure. Especially if a separate device was being used to test the product. We have seen instances when the inserts on the Ransom Rest are over tightened, which causes interference with the revolver main spring, which can and does lock up the action. I also called Ransom International, they confirmed, over-tightened inserts can cause malfunctions of various firearms, not just Freedom Arms revolvers.

For informational purposes, there isn’t a period in front of 454 Casull. 454 does not indicate diameter of the bullet, it’s part of the cartridge name. Also at the bottom of the Ruger Super Redhawk insert you show a picture of the Ruger front sight and the FA front sight. The FA front sight is a ramp sight, not a patridge sight as indicated.

I could cover many more problem areas with the article, but I think you get the idea. Judging by the number and content of the calls and emails we have received regarding your article, its obvious not only to us but to many, the bias your writer has against big-bore handguns and cartridges and maybe even against Freedom Arms. I would hope in the future you would screen your writers to make sure they don’t have a bias against a particular product line you are going to have them write about and they at least have some basic knowledge of what the product is about.

Bob Baker
Freedom Arms Inc.

Our staffers test a range of products. We don’t agree that basic shooting principles of assessing comfort and safety don’t carry across performance lines. We stand by our opinion that the Casull’s utility is very vertical, as we noted. In our conversations with Freedom personnel, we received no explicit warnings to avoid using .45 Colt ammunition in the Casull. Moreover, using lower-powered, less expensive—but still compatible—ammunition is common practice, as you acknowledge in your discussion about sights (“If someone loads the 454 Casull cartridge down to .45 Colt velocities or shoots standard .45 Colts…”).

Also, we find it curious that the Freedom gun shot better than the other two guns—a 1.2-inch average—using Winchester 225-grain Silvertips in none other than .45 Colt. Obviously, it takes far more rounds than a typical test session for leading or residue to become a problem, and our test gun was nonetheless cleaned with each change of ammunition.

In the past we have received FA guns with more than one sight blade. Perhaps FA should continue this practice, or perhaps a front blade of compromise dimensions should be mounted that can work within the elevation adjustment of the rear assembly to suit more cartridges.

On the use of the Ransom Rest, we’ve never had any other revolver, including other Casulls, fail.

The chamber measurements reflect how much the chamber mouths vary in size from largest to smallest. Less variation means better quality. In the case of the FA gun, the 0.001-inch variation indicates tight tolerances and a well-made product. However, the figures were reversed due to an editing error.

Also, we don’t have a bias against big-bore handguns nor against Freedom guns in particular. We reported favorably on the .475 Linebaugh chambered for a Freedom revolver as recently as February 2000, and a quick check of our files show that we generally have rated Freedom products as well made, but expensive.

SIG Not An FBI Gun?
Your article in Gun Tests, “Guns of the FBI: We Test Three Pistols,” contains inaccurate information. The FBI has never approved the SIG 239 for use by its Special Agents.

New Agents are provided with the Glock 22 or Glock 23 during New Agent training. After training at the FBI Academy and upon reporting to an office of assignment, Special Agents have the option of carrying a different pistol, selected from an approved list. This list does not include the SIG Sauer P239.

I would appreciate it if you would correct the record in the next issue of your magazine.

Jeffrey Higginbotham
Assistant Director
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Thanks for the clarification. We wish the FBI would have responded so promptly—or at all—to our repeated requests by mail and phone for names of the guns that are on the “approved list.” Since we couldn’t get official confirmation of what guns to test, we relied on unofficial law-enforcement sources to compile our three-gun matchup. We regret the error.

Roger Eckstine

FBI Gun Capacities
I just received my Gun Tests for March 2000. I especially enjoyed the article on “Guns of the FBI.” While not an FBI agent, I am a law-enforcement officer, with an interest in firearms and other agencies besides my own.

I believe your article was slightly “off target” in a couple of areas, reference the Glock. First, it is my understanding new agents are given a choice of either the Glock 22 or Glock 23. Second, your chart shows Glock 22 capacity as 10+1. Elsewhere, in the recommendation section, you state 12 rounds for law enforcement. The 10+1 count is correct for civilian use; however, both are wrong for law enforcement, which is 15+1. 15+1 is a significant increase over either other weapon.

My duty weapon in southwest Florida is a Glock 23C that has a 13+1 round count. Test the 23C sometime and compare it to any other pistol for carry and, if need be, use.

Jim Williams

Definitive Description of Sporter II
I thoroughly enjoyed my first copy of Gun Tests. The articles are well put together, and I enjoyed the lack of distracting advertisement. However, I believe several small mistakes were made in the AR-15 shootout article. The Colt rifle was labeled as an AR-15 A2 when it actually looks like an AR-15 A1. While this may seem trivial, the A1 and A2 variants are different rifles. The A2 differs from the A1 in several important areas.

The A2 has reinforcement at the front and rear of the lower receiver to accommodate the extra punishment of the SS109 round. The rear sight was improved with a windage adjustment and the front sight post is squared rather than round. An integral brass deflector and magazine release fence were also added. The A2 has a 1:9 twist to reduced barrel wear from the NATO SS109 62 grain bullet and improve accuracy. The A1 1:7 twist can cause fliers with this round, and some cases of jacket separation were reported in military trials when the round was fielded. Both the Bushmaster and Armalite rifles are considered A2 variants as they contain these improvements. What I find strange is that the Colt rifle has A2 handguards and the improved grip. Was this rifle possibly put together from parts?

I may be mistaken about the Colt designation of the rifle, do they follow a different labeling for their variants?

James Kerbo

Thanks very much to a Gun Tests reader who found some very interesting information on the evolution of the Colt AR-15. He said the tested AR-15, lacking a forward assist, brass deflector, and fence around the magazine release button, was a Colt AR-15 Sporter II (Catalog No. R-6500), sold briefly by Colt in 1985 before being replaced by the upgraded AR-15A2 HBAR (Catalog No. R-6600) in 1986. The rifle is clearly NOT an SP-1.” Don Francis provides a masterful explanation of the production history of these rifles at: http://www.recguns.com/IIID2b123.html.”

At that URL we found the following, written by Don Francis: “The next model out was the Sporter II (Cat# R-6500). When this gun first appeared in 1985, it had many of the old Sporter 1 (SP1) features. New to this model were these M-16A2 features: Flash hider with closed bottom, barrel with 1-in-7” twist, heavy from front sight base forward, same as SP-1 under handguards, front sight post squared, round handguards, longer, stronger buttstock, a Delta ring; and an A2-style, angled finger-grooved pistol grip.” He also added that early guns of this type had no forward assist.

Ray Ordorica