September 2001

Firing Line: 09/01

In your July 2001 issue, you selected the Glock 17 and 26 as the best duos. I agree. These guns have long been my favorites for personal defense weapons. But I was surprised that you failed to tell your readers about two of the main features that make these guns compatible. First, the 17’s magazines will fit in the 26, which will includes the pre-ban high-capacity models. They protrude out the bottom of the grip, but that gives you a place for the little finger that you were looking for. This also makes extra magazines available.

Also, both guns can use the same holsters, especially belt slides and the Fobus paddle. These two guns are truly companions that offer tremendous firepower when teamed together.

—Perry Adams
via hcnews.com

----------

On S&W, Light Guns, Life
I’ve been reading Gun Tests for about a year and, while I don’t always agree with your assessments, I enjoy hearing a different viewpoint. Most gun magazines, when they get hold of a gun with problems, send it back for repairs or confer with the manufacturer and make a swap and then report on the fixed or replaced firearm. If pieces fall off a gun you guys are testing, you note it and probably give it a “Don’t Buy” recommendation, since new guns are not supposed to fall apart. This reflects the position of the real-life gun buyer much better.

Your comments about S&W in the July issue were interesting and thought-provoking. I need to make a comment though about what you called Ed Schultz’s “historically bad decision.” I don’t think he had a choice. It was make a deal with the Clinton Administration or be sued out of business by a dozen major cities. As an unabashed capitalist, I believe that a company’s first obligation is to its stockholders—not to former customers, possible customers and guys who neither own a handgun or are in a position to buy one. A corporate president’s number one job is to stay in business, not risk insolvency by standing up for the philosophical views of a portion of its customer base. Note, I said, a portion. After all, Smith & Wesson probably sells more handguns to federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies than it does to civilians.

I have read the agreement and don’t see it as some sort of major betrayal. Some reforms were overdue. I know the claims of Handgun Control Inc. and others are exaggerations and downright lies, but we do have responsibility to make guns as kid-proof as possible. The technology exists. Taurus builds it in. So do several other gunmakers. This no different from requiring child-resistant caps on aspirin bottles.

The dealers who boycotted S&W are playing into the hands of Schumer, Kennedy, and HCI Inc. And so are gun owners who are doing likewise. They are helping bring down the largest American manufacturer of quality handguns. Is this what they should really be trying to do? The real cowards were Colt’s, who opted to drop all of their fine hunting, defense and target handguns, just as some of them were beginning to be competitive—like the Defender, the Pony and the Pocket Nine—along with great pieces like the Python. Now they make only single-action cowboy six-shooters and blackpowder handguns. Even the 1911 is basically sold only to law enforcement now.

Next subject: Hooray for your choice of the S&W Bodyguard over those exotic lightweight snubbies. My carry gun has been a Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard in blue steel and black aluminum for many years. I have a drawer full of grips for it—the worst were Eagle “Secret Service” grips in beautiful rosewood, followed closely by an Uncle Mike’s Boot Grip that was too short and which used to emboss its checkering into my hand. I switched to a Pachmayr Decelerator about two years ago and it made the gun almost controllable. It now wears the new second-generation Crimson Trace lasergrips that, in addition to the laser feature, help control recoil better than anything else I have tried so far.

I thought you were going to address the recoil of alloy revolvers when you began one of the paragraphs with the question, “...how light is too light for a carry gun?” To my amazement, you completely ignored the subject of light guns, heavy bullets and recoil. Instead, you carped about “misplacing” the 342Ti in a coat pocket and quoted some jerk who feared his kid would think it was a toy. (FYI, my backup is a Kel-Tec P-32, and I really did think it was toy when I first hefted it at a gun show. The odd styling and plastic frame helped the illusion along.) The fact of the matter is that of all my guns, I practice least with the one I bet my life on—the Airweight Bodyguard! Recoil is barely manageable with tactical loads. The easiest loads to shoot in my older, carbon steel and aluminum 15-ounce gun are the lightweight MagSafe Defenders and Glasers. They also optimize the .38’s effectiveness from a short barrel and are less likely to over-penetrate or richochet. I’m thinking of having the thing Mag-na-Ported. The notion of an even lighter J-frame gun made of titanium boggles my mind. The introduction of several 12-ounce five shooters made of scandium and chambered for .357 Mag, fer chrissake, suggests S&W’s engineers are so enamored of their metallurgical prowess that they completely overlooked the fact that somebody is actually going to shoot those things! Mark my words, in a year or so, the dealers and pawnshops will be up to here with AirLite trade-ins that people swapped for something shootable.

—Bob Jorgensen, Ph.D
Bath, Maine

----------

Bully for Bushmaster
I own three AR-15s, two of which are Bushmasters (May 2001). Nice rifles for the price. Both have 1-in-9-twist barrels. Get the basic rifle and add components later. The triggers are easy to fix.

Fifty-five-grain bullets are right on the edge of being accurate in a 20-inch barrel. Any more weight and the rifle starts to spray them like yours did with the 69-grain MatchKings. Sierra 69-grain MatchKings work better out of 1-in-8 or 1-in-7 twist barrels.

My recommendation is to try 45-grain bullets in both the Bushmaster and the Wilson Combat. Sierra and Nosler sell some good bullets for that purpose. The 40- to 45-grain bullets just might get you the sub-MOA accuracy you are looking for in a 16-inch barrel.

—Mark W. Fix
Indianapolis, Indiana

----------

Dynamic Duo Pearce Grip Enhancers
I like Glocks. I like their simplicity, consistency, durability and accuracy. I like their bold standard sights with the white square U and big white dot—my old eyes can see them. I like their triggers: the metallic “sproing!” doesn’t bother me when weighed against the short, light pull every time, like a DAO revolver but lighter and shorter.

Most of all I like the fact that they work.

But I have big hands, and don’t like the second-generation, finger-grooved grip. The grooves are spaced wrong for me. I just found an unfired first-generation Model 19, my first compact, and found that in the shorter grip configuration the little semicircular cutout at the bottom of the front “strap” was really annoying to my large paws.

Enter the Pearce Grip Enhancer. Not the Extender. The M19 is too nicely concealable in its present size to add length to the grip. The Enhancer is a standard magazine baseplate, but with the addition of a smoothly molded plastic half-button that neatly fits the cutout. Makes all the difference!

I put one on each magazine, and will get them for any Glock I buy in the future. Nice product, and not expensive for the comfort it gives.

—Mike Adkins
Louisville, Kentucky

----------

Taurus 617 Feedback
Enjoy Gun Tests every month. This is the first time I disagreed strongly enough to write you. In your June 2001 article, which included the Taurus 617, my experience has been much different than yours.

I have owned a Taurus 617 (ported) for six months now, have shot 300+ full-load .357 Mags through it. Not once have I had a stuck case that wouldn’t fall out of the cylinders, nor have I had unpredictable DA trigger action. The trigger has been smooth as silk, just like when dry firing.

I think you got a bad piece. I encourage you to send it back and ask for another. Keep up the good work. Maybe I will see you at American Shooting Centers sometime.

—Jay Gusler
Houston, Texas

----------

Looking Back at the Stoner SR-25
I enjoy reading Gun Tests and find valuable information in it, especially back issues, in this case the July 2000 edition.

Sometimes the test results you show lead me to a different conclusion than yours, but it’s usually a matter of priorities. I own a Knight/Stoner SR-25 that is old enough to be classified as pre-ban. About the only complaint I can muster is that the trigger pull is heavier than I like. I should have shelled out a few bucks more for the deluxe trigger package. I shoot left-handed and the rifle initially came with no shell deflector. The empties would smack me in the face. When I called the company, they said that they had discovered that the only way they could insure reliability was for the cases to fly straight back. I told them it was intolerable to be smacked in the face with hot .308 brass, and they mailed me a prototype bolt-on shell deflector at no charge to cure the problem. The service and courtesy were all one could wish for.

Now, regarding your conclusions based on the tests, I feel that the statement attributed to Warren Page is what is important: “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” If you are willing to settle for 3-inch groups in a rifle intended for longer-range shooting than a .223, I fail to see the advantage of the heavier .308. It would be nice if the makers of the DSA FAL would render their piece more accurate. Until they do so, what good is the money saved if you can’t hit anything at extended ranges such as 500 yards or more? (You even say that the piece isn’t accurate enough to justify mounting a scope sight, yet you recommend buying it!) Five hundred yards is about where the .223 gives up and the .308 takes over and excels. With a military style .308, poor accuracy makes the rifle next to useless. The Stoner is a true 1-MOA rifle, and it doesn’t need handloads to do it. True, it is pricey, but you have to pay to get top-flight accuracy. There’s always the Springfield M1A Super Match at a much lower price than the Stoner, and its accuracy doesn’t take a back seat to anything. My M1A is also pre-ban and cost $1,200, about half the price of the Stoner. (These are all pre-ban prices.) If you want a reasonable price, good accuracy and total reliability, the Springfield M1A is unbeatable. Nonetheless, I still believe my SR-25 was worth the money.

—Jeffrey J. Loefer
Olympia, Washington


Thanks for the insight on Stoner’s service and the history of their add-on deflector. The statement about accurate rifles actually came from Townsend Whelen. Of course your comment about the longer-range .308 is entirely valid. However, most urban rifle engagements, as Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch told me, take place at ranges very much closer than 100 yards. In such engagements it is far more important that the rifle fit the man perfectly than that the rifle have match accuracy. The ability to make a fast hit with adequate accuracy is, we believe, a realm owned by the DSA FAL, and this has been proven in recent matches where winners used the same rifle we tested.

The FAL gave more than adequate accuracy for close-quarters battle, hence our endorsement of it. DSA does make match-type rifles, built on the order of the Knight with free-floating barrels, and their rifles also are winning matches all over the country. The individual rifleman (non-military scenario) might be better served with a more accurate version of the DSA/FAL, and they’re available. We agree the M14 clones are among the most accurate .308 rifles out there. We didn’t mean to give the impression the latest test made our previous findings obsolete.

It’s good you got your Stoner at a good price, for it seems to be a good rifle. However, both the DSA FAL and the AR-10 are far better deals today than the SR-25, and they can be had with free-floated match barrels, and for lots less money than the Stoner. Bottom line is, you pays your money and takes your choice.

—Ray Ordorica

----------

Too Easy on the 66?
The test in the June 2001 issue was way too kind to the Model 66 S&W. It should have been given a “Don’t Buy” rating. You didn’t say if the chambers were properly timed. In the April 2000 issue the 4-inch .357 S&W slightly hung up your range rod. My 629-5 had the same problem, among others. I spent $300 to get them taken care of. It will be a cold day when I buy another Smith. Where have your standards gone?

On topics: Standardize on a test range of 25 yards. Let us know if your range rod hangs up. Tell us if the muzzle is properly crowned. Pan rough triggers and pulls above 10 pounds DA. Tell readers that if they want to shoot magnum loads, they should get a GP100 or a least an L frame. And that magnum barrel lengths start at 4 inches. Two-inch barrels should be reserved for .38 Specials.

—Art Rhoads
Jacksonville, Florida


After a careful second reading of our evaluation of the Smith & Wesson M66, we can find nothing that would disqualify it from a Buy rating, especially in comparison to the other revolvers in this class. We checked the timing on the 686-5 because it is a 7-shot revolver and wanted to see if the addition of an extra chamber posed any problems for the manufacturer. We found a slight imperfection. However, we did use a Match Grade range rod that would likely cause problems for any revolver but a finely tuned match weapon. Were we to standardize this test for every revolver, we feel a Service Grade rod would suffice.

The 629-5 you mention is a much larger bore revolver (.44 Mag), and because of this may be more prone to alignment problems. However, we cannot comment on a gun we have not tested. We choose test distance mainly on available sight radius and the purpose for which the gun was built. How well the frame can be matched with test equipment is another consideration. Our basic rule is full-sized guns are shot at 25 yards and subcompacts at 15. Compact models may be tested at either 15 or 25 yards. Smaller guns are shot at 10 yards.

—Roger Eckstine