May 2002

Firing Line: 05/02

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Seattle
There is no doubt in my mind that you print the only gun magazine that really tells the truth about the guns you test. I know that advertiser-supported gun magazines stretch the truth about the guns they test to please their advertisers. I only wish I had found your magazine sooner. I will be a lifetime subscriber.

Concerning the Firing Line comments in March 2002, I do agree 100 percent with Jerry Schroeder of Seattle. I have checked out the current administration’s USA Patriot Act. The NRA is going to fool around and politic private citizens out of their guns. Politicians are going to go with the majority of their constituents. Private gunowners are not the majority. A politician is only interested in getting re-elected, so you can guess what’s going to happen. The NRA needs to “let sleeping dogs lay.”

-R.S. Wood
Lubbock, TX


Understanding that your magazine seeks to review firearms and not serve as a battleground over Constitutional law, the letter by Jerry Schroeder (March 2002) nonetheless demands a reply.

We could argue whether small arms could have modified the outcome of the 9/11 tragedy. Many countries in the world arm their pilots. Enough said.

Mr. Schroeder’s personal views of the Second Amendment are well in line with the revisionist view of the ACLU, the American Bar Association, and many other organizations. He appears to seek the founders’ intent, so I will add the following commentary:

1) States do not have “rights”; only individual Americans have rights under the U.S. Constitution. State, federal and other governmental entities have “powers.” “Rights” are consistently reserved to “the people.”

2) Every instance in which the phrase “the people” is used in the Bill of Rights has been held to refer to an individual right. This has been confirmed as recently as last year in United States v. Emerson.

Although the founders’ vision of a citizen militia, additionally embodied in the Militia Act of 1792 that required universal ownership of militarily-capable firearms may have faded, please don’t perpetuate the “states’ right” myth, Mr. Schroeder.

-John Holds, M.D.
St. Louis, MO


First let me say that I really enjoy the information in your magazine. It is the only gun magazine that I buy. Your writers are obviously not in the back pocket of the gun manufacturers.

I have finished reading the comments on civil liberties by Mr. Jerry Schroeder in the March 2000 issue.

First, let’s settle the Second Amendment debate. The Second Amendment does not grant the right to keep and bear arms. It restricts the government from infringing on that right. The right to keep and bear arms is an inalienable right given to us by our creator (whichever one you believe in). All rights carry with them associated responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is the defense of these rights. In the time of the founding fathers and still today, each individual is the only one responsible for defending his or her life by the best means possible. If the best means possible is a sword, then it is a sword. If it is a gun, then it is a gun. You cannot give up that right to the government or anyone else.

The founding fathers believed that they created a government with enough restrictions that it would not become oppressive. They established restrictions on that government (i.e.: Bill of Rights) and allowed the people to be the repository of power. The idea being that the power vested in the people would keep the power of the government in check. We can now begin a long debate about whether our government has become oppressive and if we should use our vested power to remove them. I mention this to provide perspective on Mr. Schroeder’s comments, which I think reflect a belief that the people serve the government and the government is the “ultimate power” that determines our collective destinies. The founding fathers believed exactly the opposite.

The Bill of Rights is more of a Bill of Restrictions on the government. Sarah Brady and the NRA are single-issue groups that are often extreme in their advocacy. No debate on our rights should be framed by them or even our two major political parties. They all serve their own particular interests.

The first step is to realize that people have rights that transcend government.

-Bob Fisher


In Defense of the Kimber
I am a police officer and a police department range instructor, so your article in the January 2002 edition about the Kimber caught my attention. You see, I carry a Pro Carry II as an off-duty weapon. I actually ordered it to carry when my fine People’s Republic of California made its “Safe Gun” law in 2000 to try to limit my liability by carrying what my state deems a “safe” gun. You see, our state apparently has better wisdom than the gun industry, and must run its own tests to certify that a gun is “safe.”

One thing about the Kimber, it takes a few rounds to break in. I also had the specific malfunction you described in the article. I contacted Kimber, and they suggested a 500+ round “break-in” period. It worked. The Pro Carry II is now as reliable as any other weapon that I own after about 600-700 rounds put through it. The only time it happens now is if I “limp-wrist” the gun, and that will cause all sorts of problems with any gun.

I also had several failures to extract in the beginning. So, I sent it back to Kimber. The people at Kimber returned it, calling it fit to carry, but had removed the Shock Buff that I had put on the guide rod shortly after purchasing the gun. It turns out that the 4-inch barrel Kimber 1911s need all the slide travel room they can get to be reliable. As a result, Shock Buffs tend to create a problem by taking away, ever so slightly, from that travel distance.

I really have to say that my Kimber Pro-Carry II is the best lightweight, Commander-size 1911 that I have ever shot. For whatever reason, it handles the recoil better than my previous Colt Lightweight Commander, or my fellow Range Instructor’s highly customized Colt’s Commander.

Tacoma PD has also switched to the Kimber Pro Carry II as an issue-duty weapon in addition to the Glock.

-Brian Jensen
San Diego, CA


Sistema Quality
I own a Sistema (February 2002) that isn’t as nice cosmetically as the one you purchased. It also has a loose slide-to-frame fit. But my results have been “a leetle different.”

First, an EGW match bushing and a long link (0.03 inch oversize) give me 2-inch groups at 25 yards (off sandbags). This is with my own 200-grain reloads or Federal American Eagle 230-grain ball. Second, less than an hour’s work on the rear sight resulted in a very good sight picture. No alterations at all to the front sight; I plan to have it replaced with a dovetailed Hi-Viz. Last, mine chambers, fires and extracts everything I’ve thrown at it — the aforementioned ball, 200-grain Federal EFMJ, 230-grain HydraShocks, 200-grain Hornady XTPs, and even 200-grain lead SWCs that hang my other 1911s. And that’s with an 18-pound Wolff recoil spring (non-progressive), through $12 gunshow mags, as well as Wilson 47Ds.

I didn’t even bother with the issue mag included with the gun. I lightly polished the extractor hook and polished the rear of the barrel and the chamber. Didn’t throat the barrel, just polished the factory contour. My trigger breaks at an OK 5 pounds. That’s it.

I’ve shot maybe 500 rounds so far, so my test is far from exhaustive, but it’s fun to shoot and will be my primary field sidearm with a few more mods, such as an Ed Brown oversize safety.

I’m not a gunsmith and don’t play one on TV. The modifications I’ve done have certainly been within the reach of the average gunowner. And I have to ask: Where else can anyone purchase a nice condition pre-war Colt for about $400, counting state sales tax, shipping and transfer fees? Even less if you hold a C&R and live outside of Texas (no sales tax).

To the total novice, buying a Colt’s or Springfield out of the box may make more sense. But from your own tests (referenced in this issue) and the results of lots of other folks on the 1911 forum ( it’s very likely that the factory or a gunsmith is going to end up working on the gun anyway. Some of us would rather start with a good, less expensive version, less the Series 80 parts, or Kimber’s new/old Schwartz safety. I don’t concern myself with Springfield’s current concession to lawyers. I throw away the key or replace the mainspring housing. The one reservation I have is slide-to-frame fit. But mine is accurate enough.

-Larry Mitchell


Speedloading, Or Not
Re: your review of the Taurus CIA .38 snubby in the December 2001 issue. I bought a blue-steel edition of the same gun after reading your review, intending to use the snubby for a hot weather back-up to my S&W 457 carry gun.

I was surprised to discover that the CIA will not take a reload from my HKS #36 speed-loader, which usually fits five-shot .38s very well. The grip on the CIA is too thick to allow the speed-loader to work without putting tension on the rounds as they enter the cylinder.

My suggestion: When you review revolvers, include speedloader info in the same way that you also test the ejector-rod performance. A gun that is slow to reload is handicapped.

-Charles Bradley
Columbia, TN


Read your January 2002 evaluation with great interest since I own two Ballester-Molinas (refinished) and two Sistemas. I received one Ballester-Molina with a broken extractor, which the company replaced. The finish on all the guns exceeded my expectations. Your trigger pull data is about what I measured. Also, I experienced the last shot hang up. A different clip seemed to remedy this problem. Short range accuracy at 10 yards, was acceptable with all the guns, but as you pointed out, 25-yard accuracy left something to be desired. I would not be afraid to use any of these .45s for close-range defense. My assessment would have been a Conditional Buy rating.

-Ron Racino


Surplus Ups and Downs
Your reviews of surplus weapons have always drawn a lot of replies from people who have had different experiences than your testers. The gun boards were highly critical of your evaluation of the Sistema 1911 (February 2002) and the Bulgarian Makarov (March 2002).

I am an avid surplus enthusiast, but I also know that this hobby has certain risks involved. Surplus firearms have a lot of variablity due to manufacturing, storage, use, and the quality of rebuilds. Your evaluations have been right on the money for some, but different than my experiences on others. This does not surprise me at all.

The Bulgarian Makarov I have is a well functioning, and to this point, durable firearm. All my experiences with old 1911s matches your tests. This is not to say someone else will have a different experience. Your evalution of the surplus bolt guns has been about a 50/50 match with my experience. I have a M-44 Russian that duplicates the one you tested except my trigger is better.

My M-48 Mauser was not unissued, but was a very good specimen that has a good trigger and is accurate. Overall, I think you guys do a very good job in evaluation. I just hope everyone who enjoys this hobby will take the time to understand the risk involved and inspect before they buy. You never know, you may find a diamond in the rough or a good wall hanger.

-Dan Yust
Lebanon, MO


Real World Heritage Fan
Enjoyed your recent evaluation of the S&W Heritage Series revolvers (February 2002). I have just bought one of the New M1917 revolvers, partly because of your recommendation and partly because I had owned one of the original 1917s in the past.

For your information, the real-world price of the M1917 in Tulsa is $889. Also, Remington .45 Auto Rim brass is available from Midway USA.

-Bob Hemphill
Sapulpa, OK


Politically Correct PC9
Not often are there two reviews in one issue (February 2002) that I would respond to. Enjoyed the article on the S&W 25-12 (M1917). Was not surprised by the accuracy. Back in 1990 I obtained a S&W 625 in .45 ACP. This is a stainless N frame with a 5-inch heavy full-underlug barrel, and I think it is still available. It was immediately obvious that this was an accurate revolver, and to this day it is my most accurate handgun, of any type or caliber. My only objection was that I wished it had a lighter barrel. I see now that a lighter barrel can still be as accurate.

Regarding the Ruger PC9 carbine. You noted that it looked like a pre-WWII weapon in profile, and I think that was the intent. It must be remembered that this gun was introduced at the height of the antigun hysteria of the last administration. While congress was worried about pistol grips, threaded barrels, and “ugliness,” no one was really paying any attention at all to pre WWII designs, and in fact in most of the country such designs are still not on anyone’s list of banned rifles.

In its testing and review of the PC9, the NRA made much of the new safety features of the Ruger carbine. There are firing pin and bolt/slide locks. These are designed to prevent firing unless the trigger is pulled and to avoid firing if dropped. The bolt lock prevents a hit or fall on the butt from chambering a round from a loaded magazine and putting an otherwise chamber-empty gun into battery. I have seen a Mini-14 fall off a wall rack on its butt and “load” itself.

The Ruger has to be one of the most difficult weapons to modify ever made. The stock is actually the lower receiver and holds the working parts. I see no way a different stock could be substituted. The front sight is right at the end of the barrel, leaving nothing to attach a flash hider to. The only thing better, or worse, depending on your point of view was the short-lived Remington Viper .22 auto. The bottom line is this little carbine is totally Politically Correct, and I think that is where the name “PC”9 comes from. If it were green or pink instead of black, it would be even better!

In use, mine has never misfed, jammed or failed to work properly. It is accurate enough that I use it for turkey hunting. I shortened a mag to fit flush in the housing, which lets it hold four rounds.

For a while Ruger offered a version with a Ghost Ring sight. The company also had a Ghost Ring kit, which included the sight, recoil block and a block-off plate for the handguard to fill the hole left after removing the barrel sight. Those are both now unavailable.

The 2002 catalog does show a Ghost Sight kit listed as being available again, however.

Overall, I see no reason for the PC9 to exist. It weighs as much as a M1 Carbine and is much less powerful and only marginally more accurate. However, I really enjoy mine and use it often. Sometimes just being fun is reason enough to exist!

-Bob Kellner


Steyr Scout Update
Our Steyr Scout (January 2002) came back from GSI, Inc., with a new Leupold scope attached, and with a new test-fire target. We tried the new setup with 150-grain hunting ammo that had previously “grouped” over 3 inches, and with match ammo that had been all over the paper. The hunting ammo shot within 1.5 inch groups, and the match fodder was now sub-MOA. So all the ills of the rifle had been cured, and our assessment of a faulty scope had been proven correct. More important, our confidence in the rifle has greatly increased.

We now know that it’s up to us, not a questionable scope, to hit or miss the target, for the rifle is fully up to whatever we can hold.

We would like to clarify that the test weight of the Savage Scout with scope was identical to that of the Steyr with scope, 7.0 pounds. Our test report incorrectly indicated bare weight instead of scoped weight for the Savage.

-Ray Ordorica