Firing Line 09/00
Confidence in Ruger P97
Thank you for testing the Ruger P97. I think I will buy one soon. My current .45 (Glock 21) has superb accuracy—acually it’s the most accurate non-1911 .45 I have ever shot. People I know who bought the Ruger P97 say it is just as accurate as the Glock. Your test showed that the ergonomics were great, reliability is topnotch, and the trigger was good (for a Ruger). I assume your accuracy wasn’t great because you didn’t use ammo the Ruger 97 likes. Again, I really am glad you reviewed it. I now feel confident enough to make the purchase.
August Pros and Cons
A Glock representative brought a G36 demonstrator and a supply of free ammo to a recent IDPA match. I agree with your evaluation; it is a real handful. For a minimum Glock, I would take a G26 9mm. I told the rep so, and said what I would like to see was a larger single-stack .45 because the G21 is just too big for my hand. I asked how many .45s would go in the mag well of a G17, and he said, “Eight or nine. We have tried it and we are considering it.” I’m watching for the “G37,” but not holding my breath.
To pick a couple of nits, I don’t commonly refer to lead roundnose ammo as ball, reserving that term for 230-grain FMJ military issue or equivalent. The only “flying ashtray” I am familiar with is the original Speer pre-Gold Dot 200-grain JHP. Perhaps definitions differ in your area.
Also, I would not count the Hämmerli 208S down and out too soon. They issued its first “replacement,” the Model 280 with “modern” forward magazine and carbon-fiber composite construction, in 1990. The carbon fiber was too expensive even for Hämmerli, so they designed the aluminum and injection-molded plastic SP 20. I’d bet on the 208 hanging on as it has ever since its immediately recognizable ancestor was introduced as the Walther Olympia in 1936. In the ‘50s they even called it the Hämmerli-Walther, but just kept modernizing it with better sights, grips, and trigger without losing the original concept. There is also a fancier Benelli, the MP90S, which has adjustable trigger and grips. For about half again the money, it might suit better than the 95E.
I also agree that there is little, if anything, that the .450 Marlin will do that a heavily loaded .45-70 or heavy-bullet .444 won’t. Well, it won’t demolish a trapdoor Springfield. I also read in one of the slick magazines that the wider belt is to keep it from being chambered in a bottleneck H&H belted chamber. Yeah, like I really have a lot of trouble telling the difference between a .45 and a .375. I guess the lawyers rule at Marlin and Hornady instead of the ballisticians, shooters, and hunters. Wild West better watch out because their .457, which is “longer than the .45-70 but otherwise similar,” sounds an awful lot like a .45-90.
Black Gun Showdown
You did good on the shotgun comparisons in the August issue. However, you forgot to mention how easy it is to break down and clean the Benelli. Under normal conditions, you can shoot it all day and only have to clean the barrel. Also, a six-year-old can take it apart and put it back together. The 1-pound lighter weight comes in handy at the end of a long hot day in the sunflowers, and the gun never breaks. At one time or the other, I’ve owned every commercial left-handed shotgun made. None compare with the Benelli.
More Black Gun Comments
I looked at the picture of the Benelli SBE and thought that you had a M1 Field. Further inspection indicates changes between the SBE you have and the 1999 SBE I own. I am disappointed to see that Benelli has changed the barrel style and like the cleaner lines of the 1999 SBE. The 1999 SBE I own has a much less cluttered sighting plane, simply the 0.3-inch lined area leading directly to a flat rib down the barrel. The rib is flush with the top of the 0.3-inch lined area, with no cluttered step up to the rib.
This stepped rib also was present on versions of the M1 Field I looked at in 1999. Although I didn’t consider the 3.5-inch chamber a necessity, I spent the extra money for the SBE over the M1 because of the cluttered sighting plane. I will say that I have had two Benelli shotguns, and they have never failed even when they have accidentally taken a bath (fully immersed) on duck hunts. It is also the one of the easiest guns to clean I’ve ever owned.
This may be common in most of today’s autoloaders, but I like that you can remove a shell from the chamber without having to empty the magazine or having to flip some type of magazine cut off switch. This is handy where I hunt because I often encounter geese on duck hunts. I have often switched to a more appropriate load using this feature.
The failed/broken Ruger forend latch is a disappointment. I would like to see a short follow-up from the standpoint of letting your readers know the type of warranty/service/repair you may receive. Although I wouldn’t expect any change in your failing mark, I think it would be beneficial to see which companies stand behind their products when you do encounter failures.
Finally, do you still sell the guns you review and how can a list of available guns be obtained?
Yes, we do still sell our test inventory guns—that is, the ones that aren’t broken. Anyone who wants to get a copy of the test-gun inventory can send an email request to email@example.com. All the current inventory of test guns and directions on how the transactions are conducted are detailed in a list we distribute periodically.
Custom Combat .45s
Thank you for your recent article re: custom combat 45s. I own a Les Baer Premier II, and my initial experience mirrored yours. To wit: I almost could not manually get the slide into slidelock; getting the slide into battery required a rap half the time, and a press check was impossible. I was driven to call the company and was connected to Les Baer himself. He urged me to send the gun back without hesitation. At that point I had 200 rounds through it.
Well, I figured I might as well shoot some more rounds before I parted with it. So I put another 200 rounds through it, and lo and behold, it started to act like a pistol. I cleaned and lubed it after 400 rounds, and now it’s as smooth as silk. Not only that, I can shoot it offhand into a ragged hole at 50 feet. I never knew I was that good a shot. I hope your extended experience with this product is as good as mine. I cannot remember a more startling metamorphosis in breaking in any firearm.
High Dollar .22LR Pistols
As a certified nut regarding .22 top-quality target pistols, I thoroughly enjoyed your August issue. My only concern was that you may have given the Pardini an unfair advantage in hand-held shooting by reason of the red-dot sight. I have a Pardini (the older model) plus 208S and SP-20 Hämmerlis, and on sandbags at 50 feet, they all group about the same (using red dots).
You might want to mention that fitting a red-dot to the 208S is an exercise in frustration. Hämmerli provides a mounting bar that fits into the dovetail below the muzzle, but the bar must be removed to disassemble the gun for cleaning, and there’s always a doubt that the scope will stay zeroed.
I would sure like to see your review of the Hämmerli SP-20. I haven’t shot mine enough to make a fair comparison to the other two, but it does have a number of pluses, including convertibility to centerfire. I took mine to Larry’s Guns in Portland, and for $25 he customized the grip by selecting different grip angles and then by using a fast-setting “goo.” The result is that I can raise the gun with my eyes closed and know that the dot will be right in the center of the scope. It’s the best $25 I have ever spent. At the same time, the gun is even uglier than a Glock, and I don’t like the plastic mags.