September 2002

Firing Line: 09/02

Valtro
Re July 2002 issue, “Full-Size Fighting .45 ACPS”: The Valtro .45 ACP was very impressive. Is there a dealership where I can purchase the Valtro .45 ACP in the Dallas area, or is there an address and phone number where a dealership can order this auto .45 for its customers?

-Alfred Smith
DeSoto, TX


The only way to obtain these pistols is to order them directly from Valtro USA. The Valtro 1911 pistol can be sent to the federal firearms dealer of your choice. You can contact John Jardine with Valtro USA at 510-489-8477 or visit the company website at www.valtrousa.com. You can order a pistol like the one we tested, or specify exactly which features you want on the pistol and Jardine will quote a price and delivery date to your local dealer. If you do not know of a local FFL dealer, Jardine can help you locate one. —Kevin Winkle

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Self-defense Through Superior Statistics
Re July 2002 issue, “Full-Size Fighting .45 ACPS”: I have a question about a statistic mentioned in an article. You mention that a person is “more likely to be the victim of violent crime than to have a car accident.” You go on to say that the chances are one in three of being a victim of violence in your lifetime. It seems like I’ve heard this before, and I find it to be a wonderfully persuasive bit of information to whip out in the midst of a debate, or in a letter, but I’m always leery of using a stat I don’t have a source for, not to mention any associated specifics. Do you have a source for this, and/or do you know if it applies to everyone (men and women) in the whole U.S. or some specific state? Any info you can provide me on this quote would be much appreciated

-Joe Ackerman
Columbus, OH


My source for the 1:3 chance of your being the victim of a violent attack in your lifetime was my memory of having seen this statistic long ago. On receiving your email I went looking, and found another, far more chilling set of numbers, taken from the “Lifetime Likelihood of Victimization,” from the U.S. Department of Justice, March 1987:

If you are 12 years old, the approximate risk that you will be a victim of violent crime during your lifetime is five in six. That’s an 83 percent certainty that bad things will come to you.

Another statistic from the 1995 FBI Uniform Crime Report and the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey tells us that if you’re a white, non-Hispanic, California female between 35 and 49 years old, living in a metropolitan area, and your household income is slightly above average, your chance of being the victim of murder, rape or other violent crime during any given year is only about 1.1 percent, or 11 out of 1,000.

But if you live there 10 years, the numbers go up to 110 out of 1,000, and 30 years there gives you a one in three chance of getting hit.

Where it gets nasty, is if you change the original parameters to being male, poor, and Hispanic. Do that, your chances of experiencing violent crime go up drastically.

Of course, if you never get picked on, your chances are then zero (it never happened), and if you do get mugged, your chances automatically became 100 percent (it happened). Live accordingly. —Ray Ordorica

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Springfield TRP Operator
Re July 2002 issue, “Full-Size Fighting .45 ACPS”: Yes, the sharp rear sight on this Springfield drew blood on me, too. So why didn’t I wait until Gun Tests had reviewed this model before blowing all that money? I blame it on Kimber and Wilson.

Since Gun Tests had been saying nice things about Kimber, when it came time to update my carry gun, I shelled out a thousand bucks for a Kimber Ultra Elite, the 3-inch barrel compact.

The light weight and rounded edges make the Kimber very suitable for daily carry, but as it came from the factory, the trigger and mag release were terribly gritty feeling. The trigger was so bad, in fact, that it occasionally failed to return after firing a shot. When I returned the gun to the factory for repairs, they fixed the trigger and got the gun back to me within a week—but rather than apologize for selling something in that condition, they just included a set of instructions on how to clean the gun.

The trigger also has an overtravel screw, but it wasn’t adjusted so as to function. When I finally found an Allen wrench small enough to fit it, I discovered that the screw wouldn’t move. Another annoyance is that the firing pin retainer is jammed into place and doesn’t want to come out.

A positive: the Kimber has proved capable of digesting a variety of ammo, including regular 230-grain hardball, hot self-defense hollowpoints, and 185-grain target loads.

Since I’d had problems with Kimber, I decided to try a KZ-45 from Wilson Combat to use in IPSC Limited-10 competition. I was told that there would be an eight-week wait, so after 12 weeks went by I asked my dealer to check with Wilson. They told him that they were not making the KZ-45 anymore, but I could order a CQB, wait another three to six months, and pay a lot more money. I really wanted to keep the cost closer to $1,000 than $2,000, I wasn’t happy that they hadn’t informed us that the order was canceled, and I was impatient, so I crossed Wilson off my list.

A full-size gun with a light rail seemed like a good way to make the competition gun double as a home-defense gun, and the Springfield was available now instead of in six months, as well as being more reasonably priced. I opted for the fancier of their two light-rail models, the TRP Operator, along with an Insight M-3 flashlight.

The TRP Operator is provided with wooden grips that have been coated with fine particles like 220-grit sandpaper. They are thick and absolutely non-slip, which made it very hard to get my thumb over to the magazine release. I eventually installed an extended mag release, an inexpensive improvement compared to a new set of grips. The grips also prevented the safety from going down all the way, though not so much as to stop the gun from working. This was easily corrected with a file.

The overtravel screw on the trigger had not been adjusted, but a hex key was included. Unfortunately, the provided key was a very loose fit—I used my own key instead.

They also provided a pin for retaining the return spring during disassembly, but it was not usable. I made my own out of a 4-penny finishing nail, and disassembled, cleaned, and lubricated the gun. I then made a quick trip to the range to check out the position of the adjustable rear sight.

It took only 25 rounds to get the sights adjusted to my liking. Unfortunately, after 25 rounds the barrel could no longer be removed from the slide because a burr had developed on the slide where it meets the plate on the back of the guide rod—the barrel link didn’t clear until I used a file to remove the burr. Also, the slide-to-frame fit went from zero play to fairly loose.

I shipped the gun back to the factory, and they beveled the back of the guide rod a bit—I’m not convinced this was helpful. They also tightened up the slide, but this produced an overly tight fit at the back of its travel, causing occasional failure to feed even after 300 rounds of break-in. After another couple of hundred rounds, as well as working the slide back and forth a lot by hand with the spring removed, it’s beginning the function reasonably well.

While working on the gun they munged up the mounting screw on the adjustable sight, but they paid for a second trip to the factory and corrected the problem. They also fixed the mag release, which tended to stick in.

I think the Springfield had way too many flaws, even if it is cheaper than a Wilson. Having to use a Dremel tool on the sight was especially irksome. While reading a review in Gun Tests doesn’t ensure satisfaction, I do believe it improves your odds. I wish I had waited.

-Dan Vander Ploeg
Portland, OR

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20 Gauge Shotguns
Re July 2002 issue, “Firing Line”: In the letters section, Dick Klauzinski asks about shotguns smaller than 12-gauge for self-defense. In his LFI-I class, which I took 3 years ago, Massad Ayoob recommends the Remington LT-20 with its short stock and #3 buckshot for home defense.

-John P. Ashjian
San Antonio, TX

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I must agree with Dick Klauzinski wholeheartedly. While 12 gauges are great, they get meat at both ends.

Winchester now has a 20-gauge Defender out, and a local respected gun store chain has been recommending Remington’s 20 gauge 870 youth model in this role for several years. I think it makes a lot of sense. Please add my vote to Mr. Klauzinski’s request.

-Rick Adkins
@AOL.com

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I suggest Mr. Klauzinski try low noise/low recoil rounds which are even available in 00 buck. I think he will find that a 12-gauge “kicks” less than his 20-gauge bird gun. I am an ardent cowboy-action shooter in which we shoot at least a box of shotgun rounds per stage. I have observed many shooters who started out with 20-gauge shotguns using the lightest loads available. Those that could soon traded those 20s in for 12s as they realized that the 12s with the low noise/low recoil rounds were comfortable to shoot when compared with their 20s.

-F.C. Gaetje
Houston, TX

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Tell us about the timing!
Re July 2002 issue: I was sorry to read about the injuries sustained by Ross Carter and his wife, and will offer prayers for their recovery.

I always enjoy tests on 1911-type pistols, but always feel that you leave out very important information by not giving us a report on barrel link-down clearance dimension on these guns. As you know, unless the problem is extreme, it is almost impossible to detect lack of locking lug clearance by hand-cycling the gun, or by even firing it. I had a brand-new Springfield 1911-A1 seriously chew up the locking lugs on the barrel hood in less than 200 rounds, yet it hand-cycled smoothly and was more than acceptably accurate. And I have since seen this problem on a number of guns from different manufacturers. You check lockup so, I also want to know that the gun under test has proper link-down clearance.

Everyone does things slightly differently, but with the slide drawn back about 3/8-inch, a narrow-tip feeler (or wire) gage should give a no interference fit of from 0.005 inch to 0.010 inch. This is a simple dimension to measure and can save your readers many a headache. How about it? Can we get the correct time from now on?

-Ron Coleman
via att.net

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Full-Size Fighting 1911s
Re July 2002 issue: I thought that all of the guns shot great until I saw that they were shot at 15 yards! Were groups shot from a rest or off-hand? State at the bottom of accuracy and chronograph data chart at what distance the groups were shot and whether they were from a bench or off-hand.

Most of today’s so-called combat guns do not have adjustable sights. If I were in law enforcement I would certainly want my firearm to hit the point of aim out to at least 25 yards. Where do these pistols with fixed sights impact in relationship to the point of aim? How are the sights adjusted to hit the point of aim? What happens when an agency goes to a different type of ammunition?

It would do good to comment in your tests where the groups impact in relationship to the point of aim.

I have an Essex Arms .45 Auto that I constructed from parts about 25 years ago. It has a surplus National Match slide and a series 70 barrel with collet bushing. The rest of the parts are surplus. It also has a Dwyer Group Gripper. This gun is very accurate with 200 grain SWC’s and I believe that it will shoot as well as any of your test guns if you would like to give it a try. It has adjustable sights which have allowed me to adjust the point of aim to the point of impact.

By the way, this pistol has fired several thousand rounds. I am still waiting for the fingers on the collet bushing to break!

I believe that the manufacturers today has done an enormous disservice to law enforcement with all of their bells-and-whistles handguns that cannot be adjusted to hit the point of aim. Forget the so-called experts who say that most gunfights are in the 7-yard range. Remember the shoot-out a few years back during the holdup of a bank in Southern California where the two bad guys were wearing body armor and firing machine guns? Logic would dictate that you would not want to close to this distance, but put more distance between them and the bad guys.

Hundreds of rounds were expended, but no one was able to come up with a head shot—not only because of stress, but because their weapons were not able to impact on the point of aim.

-Terry Rehak
Worland, WY


In the future we plan to put test information into a more easily read format, so you don’t have to look within the text or data boxes.

The 1911 pistols, and all the handguns I personally test and report on, are shot from a very steady seated position, with good support, but not with a machine rest such as the Ransom. We decided long ago that the results a good shooter could accomplish with each handgun would tell the reader more about the gun’s potential than machine-rest results, particularly when some handgun shapes don’t permit easy handling. If it were easier to fire good groups with gun A than with gun B, it made little sense to prove, with Ransom Rest results, that gun B was actually more accurate.

We also get better overall evaluation of the handgun, and can learn that 30 lpi checkering works better than 20 lpi even in slow fire.

The Ransom Rest requires a special set of inserts for each shape of grip tested, and with the variety of guns we see, that’s impractical.

It matters little at what range we test as long as the reader knows the range. We always state that some of the guns can do better than we can shoot. We also tell you if the gun is not up to our capability. However, in the case of fighting handguns, all that’s needed is 4- to 6-inch accuracy at 25 yards. This translates to about 2.5 inches at 15 yards.

If you think that it’s possible to hit, say, a head-size target in the heat of battle at 25 yards, I suggest you try some sort of practical handgun competition, where you’ll quickly find out the error of your ways. I’ve seen master-class NRA-target shots, fantastic offhand at 50-yard slow fire, completely miss a body-size silhouette at 7 yards in the heat of IPSC battle.

What is needed is absolute reliability, and a package that can be handled in every combat-related technique easily.

Concerning your collet-equipped gun, my old Gold Cup didn’t break its collet fingers either, with well over 6,000 rounds fired in IPSC competition. I knew of several other shooters who had collet fingers break after not many rounds. I recall the guns became tied up as a result, not what you’d want from a self-defense handgun. I was shooting with former IPSC world champion Ross Seyfried one day when inside of two minutes, my Gold Cup and his custom 1911 both broke. My gun’s adjustable sight flew off, and his ejector fell out. Fixed sights are, in the long run, much better for absolute reliability. That’s what I have on my double 470, with which I took a Cape buffalo in Africa at very long range. With fixed sights, you must use only one type of ammunition for best results, and you must know your gun. Those California cops’ handguns were all capable of ending that bank-robber fight, but the shooters clearly were not.

Finally, don’t “forget” the experts and their 7-yard range. That is no one’s opinion. It is the statistical result of many thousands of gunfights, and is something you need desperately to understand. The other thing about gun fights is that most of them take place at night or in bad light. —Ray Ordorica