January 2002

Firing Line: 01/02

Head To Head Works
I was reading my December 2001 issue of Gun Tests and came upon the item regarding the test guns for sale. I would appreciate it if you would email me a copy of this list. Also, if it would not be too much trouble, I’d like info on how a purchase can be arranged, monies paid, etc.

I enjoy your articles very much, because they are very informative. I mostly shoot target and combat pistol, but find myself reading articles about guns that normally do not interest me. That’s due to your test comparisons. You and your staff compare them to other guns in the same category. Your articles are easy to read and spoken in plain language. I receive two other magazines related to guns, and such; they both are informative and entertaining. However, I don’t usually agree on how they compare guns on a head-to-head basis. Sometimes they test a “stock” gun to one of their personal guns that has had modifications from a gunsmith. I find that this can be unfair, as a stock gun is a stock gun.

—Steve Pflugh


Cowboys of the Airways?
I just got around to reading your November 2001 editorial, and though I agree with your basic theme, I am given pause to wonder what you had been drinking when you wrote it. Let me make myself clear. Aircraft, especialy commercial aircraft, are pressurized to fly at high altitude; therefore, it’s like discharging a high-velocity projectile through the interior of, basically, a drink can under carbonation. Try shaking up a soda can and shooting it with a BB gun, then you will understand why I and many others have reservations about the sanity/safety of armed personnel on airplanes.

Check back a few years regarding an Air Hawaii flight that suffered depressurization. Several people were sucked out of the plane and were never found .

—Kenn Lawrence
Copperas Cove, TX


Thanks for your editorial support for arming flight crews in the November 2001 issue. As a major airline pilot, I strongly support such measures as a last defense against terrorist attacks and hijackings. Perhaps you would like to run an article comparing the relative merits of guns which might be suitable for flight crew carry, and another comparing commercially available “pre-fragmented” ammunition which might be suitable for use in an aircraft.

—Brian Bristol
Webster, MN

There seems to be some disagreement about what a projectile fired through a plane would really do. Several pilots have written to say that depressurization isn’t as big a problem as hitting critical systems inside the plane. In fact, they pointed out that planes leak air already. A small puncture like a bullet hole wouldn’t drastically hurt pressure in the cabin, if a bullet did shoot through the skins of the plane. Also, I ran your soda can illustration by a couple of fliers and they pointed out that it’s the relative size difference between a .177-caliber BB and a soda can and a bullet on an airliner that breaks the comparison down. Make the soda can the size of an airliner, and the BB becomes the size of a recliner. That, indeed, would make a big hole.

—Todd Woodard


AR15 Sights
I enjoyed the article on the pros and cons of a carbon-fiber version of the AR15 versus the metal Bushmaster, but I just had a few observations about the Bushmaster with the A3 Upper receiver. It seems to me that if you’re going to go with an A3 upper, you’d want to fit it with the rail mounted Special Forces version of the ACOG (TAO1NSN) sight with the tritium front iron sight and ghost ring in the rear, obviating the need for a carry handle.

You’d also want to get a milled front sight barrel, otherwise the standard sight is an annoying out-of-focus artifact in the line of sight. You’re point is well taken about using an A2 upper configuration with a carry handle ACOG, and ends up saving $100 off the list price.

—Jim Shepherd


Playing Favorites?
I always enjoy reading Gun Tests, but I am beginning to think you have a bias toward firearms designs you are familiar with and a bias against designs you are not. The sub-compact .45 review in the November 2001 issue is a case in point. You love the Colt and Springfield models because they are well made baby 1911’s. You give the Taurus a “conditional buy,” and yet the only faults you found with the gun were the “array of levers on the left side,” the small sights (which you admitted were “adequate”), and the 9-pound trigger which made it difficult to shoot off a bench rest.

After reading the article and comparing the specs on the three weapons tested, I think the Taurus deserves a “Best Buy” rating. It may be the red-headed stepchild of the trio, but it’s designed perfectly for its intended purpose. It is a small, light weight, reasonably priced, well made, striker fired, high-capacity .45 with a comfortable grip and an optional manual safety ideally suited for concealed carry by off duty police and licensed civilians.

—Donald Fleu
Ashland, KY


Where’s The SIG P239?
How could you not pick the SIG P239 in .357 SIG caliber, to which you gave two glowing reviews (March 2000 and August 2001 issues), as one of the “best of the best?” Was this simply an oversight on your part, or do you feel that the SIG P220 is the better weapon? The purchase of my own P239 was influenced strongly by one of those articles. It has become my favorite pistol for both concealed carry and recreational shooting. I was more than a little puzzled not to find this firearm mentioned in your December 2001 issue.

Keep up the good work, as I really appreciate your unbiased opinions.

—Matt McVey

Well, of course, we’re very biased at Gun Tests: We like good guns, and we don’t like bad guns. Picking entries for Guns of the Year is always difficult, because we need a mixture of cartridges, frame styles, and other factors. The P239 is a great gun, and we didn’t mean to damn it with faint, or in this case, nonexistent praise.

—Todd Woodard


Springfield Fan
The November 2001 issue featured the Colt Defender, Springfield Ultra Compact, and the Taurus PT145. After years of carrying a full-size steel 1911 totally customized by Wilson Combat to the tune of about $2,500 on an inside-the-waistband holster, I was hunting a gun customized somewhat, totally functionally reliable, tritium night sights a must, a dark, nonreflective finish that would not cost me a fortune again, and be light and small. So I bought the Springfield Armory based on your recommendation, called Wilson Combat and got three of that company’s black-oxide seven-round officer model magazines and a slim-line diamondwood set of grips. I carried the gun to my gun range, ran 300 rounds of S&B ball and 50 rounds of 230-grain Federal Hydra Shok through it, and it had perfect functional reliability and combat-acceptable accuracy.

Thank you for helping make my decision easier.

—Randy Price
Trussville, AL


Blistering The Cougar
You had good comments about the Cougar (December 2001) and you rated it a buy, but I noticed what appeared to be blistering on the slide behind the safety. If this is true, why didn’t you comment about the finish. Would it still be worth purchasing knowing the finish doesn’t hold up? Perhaps it was just a printing blur in the picture. Can you clarify?

—Rohn Larson

We checked the gun after the magazine came out and found the problem wasn’t a finish issue. Oil from the wrapping paper in the case had collected in that spot. The finish on the gun was perfect.

—Ben Brooks,
product coordination editor


.32 ACP’s Punch
I generally wear suits and seldom carry a regular holstered firearm. The Kel-Tec P32 (October 2001) is perfect for me because I can pocket it or carry it in my Hedley pocket holster, and it is unobtrusive and weighs no more than my wallet (on a good day). However, I was concerned about the stopping power of the 32 ACP. I have followed your article and opinions as stated in response to readers’s letters and, as you said, have decided that it is better than nothing. My local gunshop (Canyon Sports in Pacheco, CA) introduced me to Performance Plus ammo by RBCD. They make a 37-grain TF/SP that comes out the barrel at 1815 fps. I have watched videos of that bullet hitting ballistic clay, compared to a .40 S&W (my other carry in a Glock, love the trigger and accuracy), and the results are essentially equal and devastating for that caliber! I practice with regular .32 ACP ammo, but qualify and carry the Performance Plus Platinum which, at $35.99 per box of 20, is too expensive for practice. There is a substantial difference in felt recoil, and the Performance Plus ammo shoots a little high, but then, at 10 feet or so, a little high is OK.

I am sure that if I shot this ammo all of the time, it would diminish the life of the gun. It would be great to see an unbiased Gun Tests report that focused on ammo in carry handguns, particularly light calibers. The video I saw was from the manufacturer, and while convincing, I have come to value your opinions greatly. Keep up the terrific work. It is truly appreciated.

—David Herrmann


.348 Brass Supplier
Saw Pete MacMahon’s letter in the December 2001 online issue concerning where to get .348 brass. I have a quantity of new Winchester brass and factory cartridges of both Winchester and Remington. Mr. MacMahon can contact Accuracy Associates International, P.O. Box 6400, Hollywood, FL 33081-0400, lvr38@aol.com, (954)966-0512, if he wishes to purchase some.

—Lou Riggio
Accuracy Associates Intl.
Hollywood, FL


Correx & Comments
I have a few comments and corrections your readers may like to know about. First, the Taurus PT911 (July 2001) has an alloy (aluminum) receiver/frame, not stainless steel.

Second, in my experience, the compact S&W pistols (also July) always outshoot their full-size counterparts. I don’t know why, but they do. Obviously this was not a mistake on your part, simply a correct observation.

Third, the Colt Agent (July) does in fact use a lead-spring powered action, but it is subtly but significantly different than the Python’s.

Next, the reason everyone is having accuracy problems with the Carbon 15 (Letters, July; November 2001) is that the receivers are lacking in “stiffness.” This is an important consideration in rifle accuracy. That is why custom actions have heavy, “stiff” construction.

Also I can, and quite often do, get consistent 4- to 5-pound triggers out of Browning Hi-Powers no matter what their vintage. The sear is in fact a casting, as Mr. Chester Simpson suspects, but installing the Cylinder & Slide forged sear is a little job to install and is not inexpensive (I sell them for $43.)

As a side note, Allan Merrill sent an email a few months back about his frustrations with a Weatherby Mark V Ultra-Lightweight 7mm Remington Magnum Left-Handed Rifle. The update, if he hasn’t contacted you previously, is that the factory replaced the stock (and the barrel although they won’t admit that) and the rifle shoots fairly consistently. He asked me if I thought he should send it to your magazine for an evaluation, and I recommended that he not because I firmly believe it is a highly massaged example of the rifle now and definitely not representative of what a potential reader/buyer would get if they purchased the same rifle.

—Jeff Hutchins
Rangemaster Gunworks
Albany, OR


Taking Quick Action?
I have been a subscriber to Gun Tests since the very first issue back in 1989. I save all of my Gun Tests magazines. I also tend to favor defensive type handguns, such as the HK USP Compact 40, the SIGArms P229, and Walther’s P-99. I recently owned a Walther P-99 QPQ semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber. It was the regular SA/DA Trigger. I believe it was called the QPQ Model due to the silver slide.This pistol handled well and was accurate.

Unfortunately, due to a period of unemployment I was forced to sell this pistol to get some money to pay the bills. I let it go for $600. That was just a few months ago. I now see that brand new specimens of this pistol are fetching upwards to about $800. The only thing that I didn’t care for on the Walther P-99 was the long take up on the trigger. It made it very hard, if not impossible, to fire double taps. However, I still want to get another one soon. I have never been fond of double-action only pistols, always preferring the regular traditional SA/DA trigger style. Because of the long pull on the SA/DA Walther P-99, I am considering the QA (Quick Action) trigger version of this pistol, such as you tested in April 2001.

I briefly handled one of these pistols at a dealer who was at a recent gun show. The pistol’s trigger pull felt fairly light and consistent, however it broke very early in the pull and surprised me when the striker fired. I liked the ease of cocking the pistol, with only a slide movement of about 1/4 inch; however, I have read on the internet that some owners of these pistols have had trouble with the pistol accidentally cocking from the friction of holstering the pistol. I also do not like that there would be no second strike capability by just pulling the trigger in the case of an encounter with a hard primer or some other similar situation. Plus the long double-action trigger pull for the first shot on the regular SA/DA pistol seems safer if one is going to carry it with the chamber loaded.

So there is my dilemma; whether to choose the “QA” model for a more consistent trigger pull, or to go with the regular P-99, which has the traditional trigger pull. Any advice you can give would be helpful.

—Alan Szymanski
Cleveland, Ohio

Buy the Colt’s Defender reviewed in the November issue.

—Roger Eckstine