February 2002

Firing Line: 02/02

Kel-Tec Misfires
I think one important point missed on the shooting qualities of the Kel-Tec P-32 (October 2001) is the fact that if one experiences a misfire, no attempt can be made to try and re-fire the round, because, unlike the other Kel-Tec pistols, the hammer is disconnected from the trigger after the initial pull. In an emergency, one must immediately pull the slide to the rear to eject the misfire and jack a new round in the chamber.

-Bob Caulkins
Brunswick, GA

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I am glad you had good luck with the Kel-Tec P32 you tested. I and several people I know have not had such good experiences. My P32 would not go two magazines without a jam.

The gunsmith polished the feed ramp and eliminated some of the problems, but it still would not go 50 rounds and the slide refused to lock back. I returned it to Kel-Tec, they replaced the slide and the barrel. The gun then would not extract consistently, malfunctioning about once in 50 rounds. The gunsmith could not figure out the problem. I got my money back.

It seems that quality control is not good at Kel-Tec. Some P32 owners I talked to have had good luck, however some purchased problem guns. One local gun shop owner says he hates to sell P32s because so many of them come back. This is unfortunate, since the gun is much smaller and lighter than most .32 ACP pistols. It is a very useful pistol if yours happens to be dependable.

I think you should consider collecting data from your subscribers about firearms and company service. Consumer Reports does this and it provides useful information that you cannot get when you test one gun. It would help uncover quality control problems like this.

-Steve Hurst
@hotmail.com

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Glocks Over SIGS?
Having read the tests between the Glock .357 SIG and the SIG .357 SIG (August 2001), I felt compelled to comment on your observations.

I purchased the .357 SIG 229 when it first came out and later obtained the SIG 239, both in 357. I shoot both guns extensively and concur with your report on their utility.

Then the Glock 33 in .357 SIG came out and I purchased one of them. After putting about 500 rounds through it, I sold both the SIGs. The GL33 was a keeper, and although I somewhat agree with your evaluation of the firearm, it is by no means a nasty little gun to shoot, if you take the time to master it and add a few aftermarket necessities.

For example, my GL33 has a Pearce +1 magazine extender on the four mags that I have, 10-percent-over Wolff mag springs, Haarts recoil system (the utility of this system is dubious, but I wanted to try it), Glock 3.5 connector, MMC adjustable “V” notch tritium bar rear sight and Ashley Big dot tritium Front, Jarvis barrel, and Lightning Strike aluminum trigger. All in all this gun is without a doubt the best compact/mini-sub gun I have ever owned. I carry it everywhere and am deadly accurate with it out to 20 yards.

Long live the .357 SIG Glock!

-Gary E. King
@aol.com

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Holes Of Many Sorts
I was reading your online December 2001 letters section and found a statement from Kenn Lawrence about the Air Hawaii flight that suffered depressurization. It should be noted that the hole (just about the entire roof section of the plane) was not caused by a bullet. The hole was caused by a massive structural failure. The plane had not been inspected like it should have been, otherwise the cracks would have been found.

I would like to also point out to David Herrmann “.32 ACP’s Punch” that clay targets are not human tissue. When these manufactures show demonstrations using items like clay targets, milk jugs and the like, they are not showing the buying public what will happen on tissue. I teach a concealed carry course, and I give the students some things to think about when purchasing self-defense ammo and then show them many different types. I also tell them they should shoot their self-defense ammo and buy fresh ammo about every six months. Their lives are worth more than the $20 it will cost to replace the ammo), also they get the feel of self-defense ammo by shooting it up. The ballistic gelatin tests are OK for finding out what a bullet is capable of; however, it is not tissue. I carry Speer Gold Dots in the firearms my wife and I carry and Winchester L.E. Rangers (A.K.A. Black Talons) in my duty firearm (issued by our department). The Hydra-Shok rounds are carried by a lot of people, but I will never stake my life on them. Also as far as the Kel-Tec P32, I and a few other officers I know (along with some Police Academy instructors) carry this firearm as a duty backup. It fits perfectly into my vest and is a great “get the heck off me gun.”

You all have an outstanding magazine, and I am always making references to it. Keep up the great job.

-Eric Jones
Deputy Sheriff
NRA Life Member/Instructor
@cs.com

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An Unsafe Proposal?
Holy cow! I just got your January 2002 electronic update and I had to write. I saw that they (Sen. Tom Daschle, D-SD) are going to push for a tax break for all of those folks with gun safes. What better way to get folks to unwittingly inform the government that they are not only gun owners, but have so many they require a safe?

Granted, form 4473 tells the BATF that you have a weapon, but it would speed up the process of getting the large arsenals first if they knew where to go. Maybe I am being paranoid here, but didn’t the feds use harmless census data to round up Americans of Japanese decent? Surely the feds would never pervert this grand idea into something shameful.

-Dr. Geoffrey Asher, MD
aol.com

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Unlevel Playing Field?
I’d like to start out saying that I very much enjoy Gun Tests magazine. The depth and technical expertise exhibited are second to none. I especially like the pull-no-punches philosophy, objective methods used, and the extent to which the staff goes to ensuring a fair test on a level playing field. But I must comment on a few recent articles that seem to go against that trend.

First, the level playing field. Regarding the big-bore revolver comparison in the May 2001 issue, I think a little additional background information regarding development of the .480 Ruger cartridge might have helped the test team. According to other sources I’ve read, the project was initiated by Hornady, not Ruger. Having just completed work on factory loads for the .475 Linebaugh (we won’t go into the legal wranglings over headstamp rights), Steve Hornady had some additional thoughts.

First, everyone who owns a .475 Linebaugh might not necessarily handload. And if they don’t, they might like a loading that they could shoot without loosening their dental work and developing a twitching flinch. It was discussed in the write-up of the .500 that a reduced loading was being offered, and even recommended.

Second, .475 handguns are still a custom-only proposition at this time; that could lead to a pretty limited market for mass-produced ammunition. Some of us who might like to have one just to have one (as in don’t really need a dangerous-game charge-stopping defense handgun) can’t justify the cost of a custom revolver. So, third, why not come up with a “.475 Special” that can be made to work in an existing handgun design already in mass production? Having also worked up multiple factory loads for the .454 Casull, its pressure level was used as a baseline. Then Hornady called Ruger and made the pitch to chamber the Super Redhawk for this new large-bore round, since it was already proven up to the Casull’s beating. The end result was to be a cartridge with most of the performance of the .454, (considerably more than the venerable .44 Mag), but with some manageably lower amount of felt recoil and blast.

Other evaluations I’ve seen conclude that they just about succeeded. Considering these facts, I don’t think a head-to-head test of the .480 Ruger against the .475 and .500 Linebaughs was exactly apples-to-apples. The .480 was specifically designed to be less powerful than the Linebaughs. And, speaking strictly of my own opinion of being the wrong gun in the wrong chambering with the wrong barrel length, I have no basis for direct argument, but I do own a standard-frame 7-1/2-inch barreled Redhawk in .44 Magnum that has been my regular companion for all excursions beyond the pavement for years. I carry it both as a hunting gun (during season) and as a “defensive” weapon when in the wild - from various vermin with 4, 2, or no legs (snakes)! I have never felt that it was too burdensome a load, compared to the comfort and versatility it offers.

Second, I’d like to address objectivity. We all have our preferences, maybe even prejudices, especially in the area of firearms. As most will conclude by the end of this dissertation, I am a Ruger fan. I own several Ruger revolvers, auto-pistols, and long guns, and have handled many others — never with any disappointment. So my objectivity might have also been a bit clouded when reading the article on lightweight .308 bolt-action hunting rifles, also in the May 2001 back issue.

Obviously, I have not taken a similar group of rifles out and tested them for myself, but I was puzzled when the final buy/don’t buy rating didn’t seem to agree with what I read in the evaluation and test results. I don’t have the article at my fingertips, but I remember the comment that accuracy of the Remington was not acceptable for a hunting rifle. No argument there. I also remember the comment that the Ruger’s bolt felt loose, maybe even sloppy, but it did not seem to inversely impact its performance. In fact, the accuracy and chronograph results table showed the Ruger’s performance only very slightly behind the Browning’s. But at the conclusion of the article, the unacceptably inaccurate Remington got a “Conditional Buy” rating, and the Ruger got a “Don’t Buy” because of a loose-feeling bolt? I think I could better live with a bolt feeling slightly loose when it’s open and the bullet going where the rifle is aimed when the bolt’s closed than the other way around. I will say that I would love to see a follow-up to this article on the new Ruger 77 Compact in .308, a real lightweight hunting rifle, comparable in size and weight to a lever-action .30-30. It’s on my likely purchase list, but I would be very interested in a first-hand review by your group.

Lastly, pulling punches. Another trait that usually comes out in your reviews is the concept of holding guns up to an absolute or empirical standard, rather than just comparing each to the other samples in that particular test. This can result in all guns getting a good or bad rating, based on their performance. But the June 2001 article on .38 snub-nose revolvers seemed to be forced into a bell-curve distribution. Similar to my impression on the .308 article, the ratings didn’t seem to reflect what I read in the testing and evaluation write-up. I thought none of the guns exhibited stellar performance, falling about equally into the mediocre range. But at the article’s conclusion, one was rated a “Buy,” one a “Conditional Buy,” and one a “Don’t Buy.” There may have been more to the range session than I gleaned from the text, but let’s call a spade a spade, and if none of the test subjects are up to acceptable performance, then give them all failing grades.

All that said, I still enjoy your magazine, and just sent in my subscription renewal.

-Joe Kenwright
Chelsea, AL


A lot of the matchups available in the marketplace are not strictly physical apples-to-apples tests. There simply aren’t 40 brands of white refrigerators in the gun segment to chill side by side. Some of the matchups, then, are functional, rather than literal.

As far as the conclusions, we continue to clarify that our recommendation process is upfront, but not objective. We try to disclose our biases early in the article, but we’re not so foolish as to say we’re unprejudiced. That’s why we liberally use phrases such as “we believe,” “we preferred,” “in our opinion,” “in our judgment,” and the like. The objective data in the magazine are the weights and measures; the subjective impressions are what we think. We do our best to differentiate between them.

That said, sometimes the difference between a buy and don’t buy recommendation is very thin, and it reflects input from a lot of shooters.

-Todd Woodard

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Where’s The Carbon 15?
Just received the December 2001 Gun Tests and read every article but the Carbon 15 5.56mm NATO. I and my wife and looked through the magazine and found no article in the Guns of the Year. Was wondering why you would show a gun on the front and it be one of the guns of the year and no article?

Can you either send me a copy of the article or explain what happened?

-Richard Hohlbein
Nottingham, MD


Very late in the production cycle we got a wave of complaints about the Carbon 15s from readers, who had read the initial test in November 2001. Though we didn’t have function problems with our test gun, there was enough critical mail from readers that it gave us pause about recommending it as a gun of the year. Thus, we were able to pull the text and photo/specs module for the gun, but were unable to rework pages at the front of the magazine. We will continue to look at the Carbon 15s very critically in the areas that readers have complained about, primarily failures to feed and extract. We regret the confusion.

-Todd Woodard

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Slug Barrels
I really enjoyed your article on the slug barrels in the June 2000 issue [available at www.gun-tests.com]. You brought up the question of all-lead “rifled” slugs versus the saboted slugs in the rifled barrel. Would the rifling get filled up or not?

-Robb Finnell
@kwom.com


The pure lead slugs found in unsaboted slug loads will not hurt your barrel. The Remington we tested seemed to provide usable accuracy with these slugs, though in our limited testing the slugs in the Remington didn’t give the superb accuracy we got with the faster-twist Browning, with saboted loads.

-Ray Ordorica GT