Firing Line: 07/02
Re February 2002, “9mm Carbine Semiauto Rifles: Hi-Point 995 Outshoots Ruger PC9”: You give great praise to the 995, and give it your coveted “Best Buy” rating. You mention, though, that you had troubles with the original testing you did on this model in 1997 and that Hi-Point has seemingly overcome these problems in this model. So, why don’t you tell me how to tell the difference between the new and the old 995s? I have a local dealer that has two 995s sitting on his shelf, but I’m not sure I want to take the chance on them if they’re the old version.
-Scott R. Bishop
The chances of a five-year-old gun being sold as “new” is pretty small. Take your pick, and if the gun has function problems, try different ammos or return it.
No .40s, Thank You
Re June 2002, “A Balky Trio: 1911 Pistols Chambered for .40 S&W”: There are too many decent pistols on the market to buy any of the three evaluated in your test. Owning a .40 S&W pistol is not for me if unreliability is part of the price to be paid. I recently bought a P11 9mm Kel-Tec, and it functions flawlessly with hardball ammo. The P11 is small, lightweight, inexpensive, nearly indestructible, accurate enough, and reliable.
My wife isn’t strong enough to manually operate the P11 slide, so she prefers to carry the .380 Bersa Thunder (purchase price $179) when she’s outside. Between the Bersa and the Kel-Tec, my wife and I are well armed at a total cost of $422.
Argentine .45 ACP
Re February 2002, “Foreign Surplus .45s: Bargains, Or A Waste of Your Money?”: I purchased an Argentine-made 1911 .45 about six years ago from my ex-boss. He showed it to me, and I fell in love with it, for about $350. He said that the only problem he had with it was that it jammed. He only had one mag that came with it. So I got some .45 hardball and tried it out, and sure enough it jammed up. I purchased two new mags, and to my great relief it shot beautiful! No jams and accurate. I think I got a real good deal. I replaced the black plastic grips that came with it and put on some checkered wooden grips, and it looks like a different pistol. It’s one of my favorites.
Re June 2002, “Getting A Garand Deal: Choose Marksmanship Program Surplus”: I have a few things to share after reading the Garand review. First, Hatcher’s pronunciation of “Garand” differs from that of John’s son, Richard Garand. I asked Richard at dinner one night how to pronounce the family name. His answer was “gaRAND.” I then asked about Hatcher’s “GArand”; Richard just shrugged and said he didn’t know much about that. His demeanor implied he didn’t much care what Hatcher said, either. So for me, it’s gaRAND.
Next, I wish you had not mentioned the chamber inserts for 7.62mm. They are a very bad idea. They will come out eventually, invariably in a rapid-fire string. The next round will either come out a straight-walled “.308 Basic” case, or rupture. That’s the good news. The bad news is when it comes out, the next round goes all the way up into the chamber, you think you had a failure to feed and chamber another round. The FMJ bullet point of cartridge number two then detonates the primer of cartridge number one, hiding up in the chamber. The resulting catastrophic “out of battery” fire will severely damage the rifle and generally causes injury to the shooter. Further, at best with the insert, you’re firing .308 rounds with 1/2-inch freebore. You want a .308 Garand, you get a commercial barrel chambered for .308. USGI 7.62mm barrels are chambered way too long for .308 commercial ammo, so expect head separations if you don’t use USGI military 7.62mm ammo in your GI 7.62mm Garand. The Navy spent a lot of money proving the inserts were a failure.
The fit of the front handguard is contributory to accuracy, at least in the form of vertical stringing. For the handguard to be “tight,” it must be firmly affixed to the lower band. New rifles were to have a very tight fit between the handguard tenon and the lower band, but this loosens rapidly. Tightening then is traditionally done by gluing and screwing the handguard to the lower band. Under no circumstances should the lower band touch the gas cylinder. If you don’t have a tight attachment of the handguard to the lower band, it’s better to let it float. If it touches the gas cylinder, as the rifle heats during firing the “tension” on the barrel caused by that contact will change, causing worse stringing.
The screw in the center of the elevation knob has no effect on the tightness of adjustment. Its purpose is to allow the knob to be indexed as desired. Typically, one would zero at 200 yards, loosen the elevation knob screw, index the knob, then tighten the screw to hold the index. The screw in the windage knob is the one that governs adjustment tightness. Generally, however, it’s the elevation that won’t hold adjustment, not the windage. Are you sure it was the windage? That gizmo under the front of the barrel is the gas cylinder; it’s retained by the gas cylinder lock, which in turn is retained by the gas cylinder lock screw. “Gas tube” is, respectfully, incorrect, as is “gas plug.” The Gas Traps have gas plugs, but the Gas Port rifles have the Screw, Gas Cylinder lock. All three of these components are stainless steel, and must be blackened by some process other than Parkerizing. See: www.fulton-armory.com/CylCoat.htm for more information.
It’s not unusual to see photos of Garands with gas cylinders completely devoid of finish. Unless the cylinders are finished with something really enduring, e.g., “molten dichromate black,” the gas cylinder, gas cylinder lock, and gas cylinder lock screw will go from black to “silver” without much wear. That’s probably what’s happening with the gas cylinder on the Lithgow. The gas cylinder should be tight on the barrel, not least because it carries the front sight and its wandering will change the point of impact related to the point of aim. See: www.fulton-armory.com/M1CylTight.htm for more on this subject.
As for your “short stroking,” the problem is really “long stroking.” Note that the op rod spring also powers the magazine follower. An old, weakened spring will not lift the cartridges up fast enough for the bolt to catch the topmost round. The bolt then slides over the cartridge and closes on an empty chamber. The bolt is going far enough back; the rounds aren’t getting far enough up in time.
Last, it’s “M1,” not “M-1.” Nor “M-14” nor “M-16.” Army “M” designations have no hyphens. It’s one of my quixotic crusades, stamping out superfluous hyphens.
Better? You’d Best Be Good!
Re June 2002 “Coming Up in Gun Tests”: When, in order to draw attention to your correct use of “better” (as in good, better, best), I read aloud to my wife a passage from the magazine, “... so we tested two bolt actions chambered for the round to see which one we liked better.” My wife, who is half-Irish, promptly replied, “‘Better’ deserves a letter!” So please accept my congratulations for the correct form of an adjective which all-too-often is abused.
While I am applauding your writing, may I be permitted a general beef about the forces generated by springs. As nearly as I can tell, writers use “tension” to refer to pulling or pushing apart (i.e., correctly), but also, incorrectly, when they mean “compression,” (squeezing or pressing) or, perhaps less often, “torsion” (twisting).
It seems to me that descriptions of stripping, adjusting or otherwise working on firearms would be more easily understood if writers were to use these three words properly.
20 Gauge Is Enough?
Re May 2002, “Self-Defense 12-Gauge Shotguns: Five Ways To Protect Your Castle”: Thanks for the great article on 12-gauge self-defense shotguns. I hunt birds with a 20-gauge pump, and it’s about as big a gun as my body can comfortably withstand. I’m hoping that you will write an article someday on self-defense shotguns for the home that are smaller.
Insights on Sights
Re March 2002, “We Test Ultra-Lightweight 7-Shot .357 Magnum Revolvers”: There was an error concerning sight correction. You state in evaluating the S&W 386SC Mountain Lite, “We feel the gun’s point of impact needs to be brought down to protect the rear unit, which has to be jacked up to make it shoot nearer point of aim. This will require a lower front sight.” Actually, it will require a higher front sight. All apparent point of impact adjustments are “reversed” at the front sight. To make it shoot lower, you make the front sight higher. To make it shoot left, move the front sight to the right.
-Leo C. Petroski
Indeed, as you wrote, the point of impact needed to be raised, which is why we had to compensate with the rear unit.
Re March 2002, “12-Gauge Test: Norinco 99 Versus Baikal Bounty Hunter II IZH-43”: Your article on “inexpensive” 12-gauge side-by-side shotguns compares the relative ease of opening the actions of the test guns. The Baikal opened stiffly, incompletely, even with help, but the Norinco dropped open completely when the release lever was pushed. This was scored as a winning point for the Norinco.
It might be well to note that the action on a side-by-side double gun usually breaks in to become somewhat loose with use, particularly on less-than-perfect examples.
-Arthur J. Weisberger
Sierra Vista, AZ
The Baikal requires the barrels to be pushed down to fully open the action because that is what cocks the internal hammers. Whereas on the Norinco 99, the hammers are external and are cocked with your thumb, thereby needing no cocking force when opening the action.
Re June 2002, “Getting A Garand Deal: Choose Marksmanship Program Surplus”: In the process of loading the June issue online, I found two links in the Garand article that are wrong.
In the www.armscorpusa.com/Products/m1_garand_parts.htm link there needs to be a capital “P” in Products or else it doesn’t take you there and gives you an error message saying page not found. It’s a lower case “p” in the article. Also, www.interstate.com is not a gun site. It is a site in development for highways. The one you’re looking for is www.interstatearms.com.
Gun Tests Web Manager
.22 LR Test
Re January 2002, “Lever-Action Hunting Rimfires: Ruger, Browning, and Marlin”: As a very happy Marlin 39AS owner, I feel compelled to respond to your test. When I went shopping for a lever-action .22, I had two primary requirements: 1. Simple, fast takedown for cleaning; and 2. Use of .22 Short low-velocity cartridges. Of the three lever actions you tested, only the Marlin met my requirements. Considering your test was about .22 Long Rifles, I can see why you didn’t bring up the Ruger’s inability to fire .22 Longs or .22 Shorts. However, I do believe it was worthy of mention. I also believe the Marlin’s one-screw takedown for cleaning was noteworthy.
Re January 2002, “Lever-Action Hunting Rimfires: Ruger, Browning, and Marlin”: Did your test Ruger have any “slop” or “play” in the lever mechanism? All the Ruger lever-action rifles I have handled have sloppy lever mechanism. I loved the Marlin I once had; it was incredibly accurate and very light. But it did not compare to the Browning I traded it for.
The Ruger we tested didn’t have appreciable side-to-side play, otherwise we would have mentioned it.
Re March 2002, “9mm Surplus Pistols: FEG, Carpati, And a Bulgarian Makarov All Fail”: KBI of Harrisburg, Pa. who is the distributor of my Makarov pistol, puts out a separate warning pertaining to the problem you had. I am going to copy word for word the insert that came with my pistol. “The safety decocking mechanism on the model IJ-70 pistol is not designed the same as other “Hammer Drop” type systems you may already be familiar with.
“To avoid possible damage to the internal parts, do NOT allow the slide to slam closed with the safety lever in the upward “ON” position while the slide is locked open or in the rearward position. In this position the safety lever could inadvertently be pushed past the upper detent, allowing the safety lever, firing pin, etc. to come loose as in a normal disassembly procedure. This can only happen when the slide is to the rear and the safety lever is pushed upward past the top detent.”
-Ernest R. Green
We wish our Makarov had come with such documentation.
Saiga Shotgun Review
Re June 2002, “Box-Fed Shotguns: Valtro Pump Dispatches Saiga Auto 12 Gauge”: Although I understand the reason for your rules concerning the testing of guns that fall apart, I was disappointed in your review of the Saiga shotgun. The fact that the takedown catch was depressed when the gun was delivered is analogous, for example, to a 1911 in which the slide stop is hanging out the side of the gun. Of course the gun will fly apart when shot in this condition.
It is also true that most Kalashnikovs are crudely made and finished; however, due to the robust design they rarely malfunction. It is too bad that you had to end the test prematurely.
Re January 2002, “Scouting Out Two Scout Rifles: Steyr, Savage Go Head To Head”: What is all the fuss over Scout Rifles? With the help of a gunsmith friend I put together a great Scout Rifle that works just fine even without the label.
I purchased a used Browning BLR (Belgium) in .308 for $400. Had a Williams receiver sight installed for $50. Included cost of sight.
Had quick-detach scope mounts (also used) mounted in front of receiver along with a Leupold 2X pistol scope. Cost including mounts, $75.
Gig Harbor, WA
.32 ACP’s Punch Follow Up
Re January 2002, “Firing Line”: In response to David Herrmann’s commentary on the .32 ACP’s punch and RBCD Performance Plus ammunition, we are glad you are using RBCD ammunition. However, we would like to point out that all RBCD ammunition is at standard pressure (SAAMI) and never +P or +P+. RBCD ammunition does not require special barrels, muzzle brakes, or recoil dampers. In fact, shooting RBCD ammunition is the same as shooting regular target ammo.
There is “moly” in the jacket, which will extend barrel life considerably. Our powder is a low-temperature powder which also protects the barrel of the weapon. We have reports from several customers who use a .32 ACP that have more than 2,500 rounds of RBCD ammunition fired in their guns and report no problems.