June 2001

Firing Line: June 2001

Cabela’s Millennium Six-Shooter
After receiving my April 2001 issue and reading only one test, I think it is the best issue this old man has read in a long time. I will be ordering a pair of Cabela’s Millennium six-shooters ASAP. I went to Cabela’s web site to see what I had to do to order a pair. No guns advertised for sale there. I am going to try and find their snail-mail paper catalog. Or maybe I will just call Cabela’s.

-Forrest L. Pretzer
Fort Worth, Texas


Wild Cartridge, Or Not?
In the November 2000 Gun Tests, I was pleased to read the article on .416 rifles. I’m intending to have a .416 Taylor built out of a Browning Pump Rifle. Starting with one in 7mm Rem. Mag., it should be a very straightforward conversion.

Anyway, for benefit of you and my fellow readers, the .416 Taylor isn’t quite a wildcat. A-Square makes correctly headstamped brass and loads ammo with its solid, dead-tough (controlled expansion) and lion load (rapid expanding) bullets.

-Dean McCormick
Cedar Creek, TX


Winchesters and Vaqueros
I just read the March 2001 issue about the Winchester 94AE’s lever bruising your fingers. I have a 94 Trapper in 44 Mag. that used to do the same thing and actually cut my fingers. I solved the problem by wrapping the bottom of the lever with leather laces, which is legal for Cowboy Action Shooting.

The action smoothed out after a few hundred rounds, and I can shoot very rapidly now. Also, a few drops of Breakfree CLP on bearing surfaces worked wonders. By the way, I shoot .44 Special for CAS and can get 10 rounds in the nine-shot .44 Mag. tube.

My experience with SA revolvers (April 2001) primarily concerns the Bisley Vaqueros. I own two, one in stainless and the other blued. The blued shoots to point of aim at 25 yards, and the stainless about 2 inches left. Both are plenty accurate for Cowboy shooting. For both of them combined, I paid less than half of what a Colt 3rd Generation costs. I personally don’t think the Colt is worth what they sell it for, but that is true about a lot of Cowboy guns these days.

I like the Bisley grip better than the plowhandle. When I shoot .44 Mag. loads, I feel the Bisley grip absorbs recoil better. This is important to me because I have some arthritis in my right hand. The lowered hammer is great when you are shooting one handed, but I prefer the standard hammer for a two-handed hold, if you cock the gun with the weak hand.

I also think Ruger’s warranty service is much better than Colt’s. My stainless Vaquero had some cylinder drag when loaded. Ruger fixed the problem, and I got the gun back in two weeks from the day I sent it in and a check for $25 to cover my shipping costs. That is pretty hard to beat.

-Joe Zerza
from aol.com


Russian To Judgment
I’ve noticed that in your reviews you always refer to the 7.62x39 M43 cartridge as “Russian.” While that is nominally correct, it is not specifically correct. By 1943 when the 7.62x39 was designed, the country known as Russia did not exist. The Russian government had been overthrown and replaced by the Soviets. The new country was the Soviet Socialist Republic. So, the 7.62x39 M43 round would more properly be referred to as “Soviet.” The 7.62x54r, on the other hand, was designed when the country of Russia existed and could therefore be properly referred to as “Russian.” This way, we can refer to the 7.62 Soviet and the 7.62 Russian without confusion. And, hopefully, I won’t have to watch guys at gun shows buy 7.62x54r for their SKS.

-Barry Cole
via Internet


More on SKSs
The December 2000 article entitled, “Buying SKS Rifles: Smart Shopper Checklist,” was rather interesting, but had a few statements that concerned me based on my research into the SKS rifle.

The first was the reference back to the October 1999 article comparing the SKS with the SK and the Ruger Mini-30. A number of historically inaccurate statements were contained in that October 1999 article regarding the research and development of the 7.62x39 M43 cartridge versus the development of the German 7.9x33 Infantrie Kurtz Patrone. First off, neither cartridge was a copy of the other. The SKS was developed from a larger anti-tank rifle with a similar action. When reduced in scale and combined with the M43 cartridge (which at the time was a cartridge without a rifle), it was shown to be highly reliable and nearly unbreakable. The SKS was first deployed in numbers in mid-1944, making its field test on the Eastern Front. After some modifications and upgrades, it was officially deployed in some quantity in 1945 and adopted as the SKS45.

Meanwhile, the Kalashnikov rifle debuted in 1947, but was not officially adopted until several years later after some manufacturing bugs were worked out.

The SKS was manufactured at Tula from circa 1945 to 1955, and at Izevsk from circa 1953 to 1954, at which time all production ceased and the AK was in full production.

All Russian-made SKS rifles (and AKs) had chrome-plated bores and chambers. The Russians have always used “corrosive” primed ammunition in their rifles for a number of reasons. One is cost. “Corrosive” primers are much cheaper to manufacture in quantity. Second, the chlorate-based primer has a much longer shelf life in adverse storage and deployment conditions. The Soviet Union covered climates from the horrifyingly frigid to the unbearably hot, and their weapons were deployed in areas that can only be described as inhospitable. They had to work, and the ammo had to be reliable. The hard chrome enabled a quick cleaning with minimal equipment to be satisfactory to keep the weapon operational under all combat conditions. Essentially, with an AK or SKS, you could field strip it, rinse it out in a river, dry it out and it was cleaned as far as chlorate priming compounds were concerned.

When the SKS was pulled out of front-line service and refurbished, a number of changes to the guns were apparent. One is that the original stock was solid hardwood or walnut with a single recoil lug across the front of the receiver. When you see an SKS with a cross-laminated stock, it is usually an indicator of a refurbed gun. If the number of the laminated stock matches the number on the gun, you have a refurb. The laminated stocks had two recoil lugs as a rule, one forward and one aft of the receiver.

As issued, the SKS rifles were nicely polished and blued. The receiver cover had the Soviet Star and the year of manufacture on it, together with the “arrow” insignia for either Tula or Izevsk arsenals (different pattern arrow for each). The white chrome plating of the bore could be seen from the muzzle crown and even at the breech. When refurbed, the guns were usually bead blasted and reblued. Many times the receiver covers were replaced, which explains why many are found without the Soviet star and date on them. In the refinishing process, the blueing solution used by the Soviets also covered the chrome plating, so you do not see any evidence of the chrome, but it is still there.

A note on the Chinese-made Type 56 SKS. The early Chinese military Type 56 SKS rifle was made on the same machinery that was used at Tula. Their finish and quality are every bit as good as the Russian guns. The Chinese stocks were a soft Chu wood, which gave it the slightly blonde tint. Later Chinese SKS rifles, mainly after the Swampeast Asian War era (’61-’75), were not of such great quality. The Chinese military guns all had barrels threaded into the receiver, while the most of the Chinese guns made for the commercial US market in the early 1990s were press-fit barrels and pinned into the receiver. You can keep these latter ones.

The Romanian SKS rifles seem to be the identical pattern to the Soviet SKS rifle. (There were differences mainly in the firing pins, and not all are interchangable with the Russian Type 1 and Type 2 pins). The finish of the Romanian guns does not appear to be up to Soviet standards.

I’ve done a lot of shooting the Chinese and Soviet SKS rifles. The earlier Chinese military refurbs shoot quite well, the late commercial ones make great pikes or wall decorations. The Soviet rifles are the cream of the crop. I have not had any shooting experience with the Romanian SKS. I am fortunate to have a beautiful 1951-made Tula specimen that is in near mint shape—and it shoots like a dream.

-Stuart H. Bond
Roswell, Georgia

We cannot argue the facts in Mr. Cole’s letter, however, he said: “This way, we can refer to the 7.62 Soviet and the 7.62 Russian without confusion.” This is something we must not do, because—like so many of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s comments—you have to know something most other folks don’t know in order to decipher what is being said, and that attitude does nothing but cause confusion for those who don’t know the specific history of the two cartridges. Most shooters don’t. Unlike Mr. Buckley, we don’t want to assume knowledge among our readership where none exists, and we don’t want to instigate a “fog factor” by being cute. Most Westerners have used the terms “Soviet” and “Russia” interchangeably for a great many years, and I believe using both would add nothing but confusion.

If shooters simply ask for ammunition for their SKS, they’ll get the right thing from most dealers. If they don’t know the difference, I wonder if they should be buying any ammunition for any rifle. Most shooters who have been around SKSs know the cartridge by its length, i.e., 7.62x39, and they know it doesn’t have a rim, which the longer cartridge has.

The 7.62x39 is also commonly known as the “thirty Russian short.” That’s non-confusing and also historically accurate enough.

-Ray Ordorica


Tell It Like It Is
Whoever wrote the article on full-size double-action .45 ACPs (May 2001) deserves a pat on the back for the following comment:

“The way we see things, there’s no functional reason that makes the DA-to-SA stroke better in any way than cocked-and-locked SA carry, and we believe the reason for DA-to-SA action is not to offer advantage in a confrontation; rather, it’s to help define circumstances to those who might doubt one’s judgment later.”

That is the most acute, intelligent observation I have read concerning the current obsession with DA autos. No one in the ordinary gun press would dare make such a bold and correct assertion.

-Ben Ballengee


Scope Blocks For H&R M12
I was re-reading a back issue (April 2000) on the H&R M12 from the Civilian Marksmanship Program. When these came up for sale I couldn’t get my check in the mail fast enough, and was fortunate enough to receive one with the Redfield aperture sights. The gun is so accurate as to be scary. My only problem was with a rusty firing pin spring, which I replaced.

My question is, I have been looking for a scope mount that would match the scope mounting blocks screwed to the receiver. The rear block is 1.25 inches long with a half-circular groove cut into the side to facilitate locking down the scope rings. At a gun show in Reno, no one could identify the mounting system. My Redfield front globe mounts on these blocks great. However, I am looking for a scope ring to mount on the rear as you showed in your test.

-Douglas Lundgren
from juno.com

First, my congratulations on acquiring an H&R Model 12 from the CMP with the Redfield sights (just after our article they were all gobbled up). It is indeed an accurate rifle. The set-up we used to conduct the test consisted of a riflescope mounted with Weaver 1-inch Tip-Off Rings (Product 49440), which are designed to be used with .22 rifles with 3/8-inch receiver grooves. Though the H&R does not have receiver grooves, the dovetail mount did allow us to temporarily mount the scope. I would not recommend this set-up for permanent mounting.

However, it could be done in one of several ways: First, the existing dovetail mounts are similar to the Anschutz. Contact an authorized Anschutz dealer/supplier for scope rings and/or mount adapters (e.g., Neal Johnson’s Gunsmithing, Inc. at [800] 284-8671. Or with the help of a good machinist, machine a dovetail groove on the underside of a Weaver one-piece base to lock onto the dovetail mount. Then use standard rings to mount your scope. Last, check with some of the older military competitive rifle shooters, because I believe this dovetail mount was designed for Unertl scope systems.

Unfortunately, you don’t see many of these for sale (the last one I saw and tried to acquire was in a neat wooden box, and the guy was hoarding it like a gold nugget).

-Ben Brooks, product coordination editor


Is Rosie In The Militia, Too?
Thanks for your column in the December 2000 Gun Tests magazine. I was already aware of USC Title 10, section 311, which defines who is in the unorganized militia. I would like to point out that this statute predates other legislation which forbids discrimination on the basis of age and sex, so the age limit and gender restrictions stated in the section may no longer apply. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever tested those restrictions in a court of law, so we don’t know if they apply or not at this date.

If those restrictions have been nullified by non-discrimination legislation, then all citizens who are not members of the organized militia and who are not government officials are part of the unorganized militia. When you think about it, that’s quite a statement!

-Bob Hale
from teleport.com