November 2003

Firing Line: 11/03

Mini-14 Accuracy
Re October 2003, “Firing Line”:

I was reading Firing Line and saw where someone was asking if the aftermarket sleeves would improve the accuracy of a Mini-14. Here is my low-tech, cheap method to see if those sleeves will work on your gun. I took a 2-by-4 and cut a chunk one inch long. Then I bored a hole the size of the barrel through it. Then I bored two holes through it to put two bolts (3/8 inch by 2 1/2 inch) to clamp it. Then I split the block of wood in half and clamped it onto the end of the barrel of my Mini. Results were astounding. Most groups were cut in half. My gun started pushing toward MOA. The whole cost was 50 cents for the bolts. Consider my dimensions as small as you would want to go, and you might not be able to use open sights with this setup. Being this is so cheap, you can experiment with this until the cows come home and it still won’t cost you much.

-Jon Venden


Good Stuff
Re September 2003:

This issue of Gun Tests may be your best one yet. Ray O’s article on laser sights should be in every handgun magazine. Your article on Specialty .45s was superb. After reading your words on the Remington Titanium, I holstered my checkbook. Keep up the good work.

-Dave Ward


More About Lasers
Re September 2003, “Looking at Laser Sights: What’s Right for the Self-Defense Shooter”:

There are some other items that Ray Ordorica did not mention in his September article about lasers that you might want to consider if you still think these are good for personal protection. Criminal law attorneys, articles written by Massad Ayoob, and the night-firing training video done by Lenny McGill, Ken Hackathorn, and Bill Wilson will tell you that it is best to identify an intruder in your home with white light from some type of flashlight first before invoking your right to self defense and shooting them if you feel threatened. Why? By just putting a red laser dot on someone’s chest you have not identified him as a threat. The classic case is the woman who sees “someone” crawling into her kitchen window and fires her firearm at him. When she turns on the light that “someone” is her 17-year-old son who lost his house key and decided to come in via the window. Whoops!

The statistics tell us that most self defense situations will occur in low-light or complete darkness conditions. So do some training with a flashlight. Also, under stress the human body loses the ability to perform fine-motor skills, and turning on the LaserMax product with its tiny switch requires fine motor skills. Keep it Simple Stupid, because Murphy will be alive and well when you have to invoke your right to self defense.

Also, $300 lasers do not always work when they should. They require some maintenance and training also. As a retired Marine Officer, an Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) instructor in Arizona, and a NRA Training Counselor, I read and study what the personal protection experts recommend, and Ray Ordorica is not saying anything that the experts are not saying. A $20 Maglite and some training with the different night-firing techniques to include the Harries, the Chapman, the Roger’s Surefire, the older FBI night-firing technique, or just mounting the light unto the firearm will better serve you than a laser and a firearm. Thanks Ray, you are running with some good company on this one. Semper fidelis.

-Preston Johnson
Major USMC (Retired)
Flagstaff, Arizona


Agrees Completely On Lasers
Re September 2003, “Looking at Laser Sights: What’s Right for the Self-Defense Shooter”:

Please convey to Mr. Ordorica that I couldn’t agree with him more. My favorite home defense “laser” system is my little Surefire model 6P flashlight. One blast from its 65-lumen beam will blind any “critter” just long enough for the right hand to squeeze a few!

I enjoy your publication every month and read it cover to cover, saving back issues in a binder for reference. Keep up the good work.

-Donna Marie Kostreva


Laser Convert
Re September 2003, “Looking at Laser Sights: What’s Right for the Self-Defense Shooter”:

I’ve been a police firearms trainer for over twenty years. During that time I worked 11 years as a training coordinator with Smith & Wesson Academy, where I trained over 12,000 police personnel. Like you, I had been skeptical of lasers for many years. When products such as LaserMax frequently self-destructed in our handguns, it only increased my skepticism. When they break, the pistol became little more than an impact weapon. Such problems were never encountered with Crimson Trace or Aerotek products.

However, as I delved deeply into researching police shooting data, it became clear that so-called “night sights” (which your article seems to endorse) weren’t working, at all. This isn’t an educated guess. I have hard data from two large agencies (Los Angeles County and Baltimore County) that use night sights. These data suggest that officer hit ratios show declination of 23 percent and 30 percent under low-light conditions. To further illustrate this phenomenon, Baltimore County Police Department (1988-2002) had hit ratios of 64 percent under daylight conditions and 45 percent under low-light conditions.

In addition, police are finding it very difficult to shift visual focus from suspect to front-sight under real-world conditions. My research is indicating that 11-33 percent (depending on which agency I examined) of police engagements are so-called “Mistake-Of-Fact” shootings, whereby suspects who were mistakenly believed to have been armed were shot. In 53 percent of these shootings, furtive movement by the suspect is the most salient variable consistent with this phenomenon. Why? As you might imagine, 71 percent of these MOF shootings occurred under low-light conditions. In retrospect, where would you want officers placing their visual focus, on a tritium sight, or on a suspect they may not yet have discerned to be an imminent threat? The choice is pretty clear to me.

If that weren’t convincing enough, there seems to be another innate problem with conventional sights. According to NYPD’s SOP-9, 70 percent of officers report never sighting their handguns in street shootings, and another 10 percent say they can’t remember if they did. NYPD officers are of course indoctrinated in traditional sighted shooting. The more I examine police shootings, the vast (95%) majority of which are within 12 yards, the more I realize that close proximity threats are so compelling that transitioning visual focus from suspect to front sight goes against our most basic neural impulses.

Having made that last point, your observation about “experience” being an issue in laser sight selection isn’t relevant. “Experienced” shooters are almost always inexperienced at shooting things that shoot back. Equating one’s ability to use metallic sights effectively on the firing range has no statistical relevance within the realm of life and death confrontation. I have numbers to back that observation up.

One last point. I’ve never documented a single case of multiple officers with lasers being confused by whose dot they saw on target. This is a training issue, but it becomes apparent when you raise your pistol to the target that there is a very intuitive sense for which dot is yours. Like you, I once shared this concern, yet I’ve never seen it materialize in any documented cases.

-Thomas J. Aveni, M.S.
Staff Consultant/Trainer
Police Policy Studies Council
Spofford, New Hampshire


Wrong Information Given
Re September 2003 “Firing Line”:

In reply to the last letter on page 29 of the September issue, Roger Eckstine stated that the suffix number following a Smith & Wesson model number “...denotes a separate production run.” Not so. The suffix numbers identify engineering design changes. This is discussed in Roy Jinks’ book, History Of Smith & Wesson, published by Beinfeld in 1977 and reprinted many times since.

As examples, on N-frame revolvers, “-1” identifies the change from right to left-hand threads on extractor rods (authorized 12-1959), “-2” identifies the new cylinder stop, eliminating the screw in front of trigger guard (authorized 11-1961), etc. Different numbers and dates apply to design changes on the other sizes of revolvers and automatic pistols. Guns with higher suffix numbers will generally include all prior design changes from “-1” forward.

It should be noted that S&W did not stamp model numbers on its guns prior to 1957. To find out when a specific gun was made, anyone can send the gun’s model number or name, with serial number, accompanied by a $30 payment, to Smith & Wesson, Attn: Historian.

-J. W. (Woody) Mathews


Kimber Parts Correction
Re September 2003, “Specialty .45s: Great Pistols to Shoot, or Signature Editions to Lock Away?”:

One of my guys passed along this recent GT article. Under the Kimber USA ST, paragraph 4, beginning “In past years...”, there were and are rumors regarding the source of Kimber parts. In fact I just wrote another editor about something he had published this month.

Anyway, your piece states, “Since then S&W has been casting for Kimber and this relationship has steadied and refined...” That statement seems to add credibility to the rumor, and I want to make the following perfectly clear:

Kimber does not and never has used “castings” for slides or frames. This fact has been reported on record in several gun magazines following factory tours where all manufacturing processes were observed.

Kimber does not and never has sourced the machining of slides or frames. We have always done it ourselves in Yonkers.

Our relationship with S&W has been limited to purchasing raw forgings — little more than a brick of steel. Further, S&W is just one of several sources for forgings we have done business with in the past.

Please make sure that GT reports the truth regarding truth about Kimber processes, points of origination and materials.

-Dwight Van Brunt
Kimber Manufacturing
Yonkers, New York


Kimber Team Match Problems
Re September 2003, “Specialty .45s: Great Pistols to Shoot, or Signature Editions to Lock Away?”:

When I read your review of the Team Match II Kimber, the first thing I thought was this can’t be the same pistol I owned for a short time. I bought mine new, took it apart, cleaned it, and went to the range thinking I had a good reliable pistol. Wrong. After shooting hundreds of different brands of factory ammunition and purchasing several different brands of mags, I could count on the pistol stovepiping within 30 rounds. It had to be the pistol because both the ammunition and the mags work well in my Gold Cup Trophy and my friends’ Springfields and Kimbers (not Team Match).

-Bill Baldwin


Likes The TNW Guns
Re June and July 2003, “Semiauto Battlefield Guns, Parts I and II:”

I just finished reading your test of the Ohio Ordnance 1917 Browning and the TNW 1919A4 in the June 2003 issue. I have owned several of the Ohio Ordnance products (semi-auto BARs) and they were uniformly excellent in both manufacture and “shootability.”

I was sorry to see that you had a poor result with the TNW semi-auto, and I wanted to let you know that such poor quality has not been my experience with TNW. I bought one of their semi-auto MG34 guns about four months ago and it is well made and shoots fine (other than having a rather stiff trigger pull; which is getting lighter with use). While I certainly agree that a weapon costing several thousand should work when the purchaser receives it, any company can occasionally send out a “clunker.”

-Joe Mangan
Reno, Nevada


Works of Art?
Re July 2003, “Semiauto Battlefield Guns, Part II: Another BAR and an 8mm MG-34:”

I enjoyed reading the reviews of the Ohio Ordnance semi-auto machine guns. I have three of their guns. The bluing on the A-1918 BAR and 1928 Colt Commercial is magnificent. They are works of art. I don’t agree though, with Gun Tests’ assessment of what it would be like to shoot the full-auto 1918A2 from the shoulder. I’m co-owner of a Marlin-Rockwell with British proof marks down in the Dallas area (they don’t let us have them up here.) With the bipod off (as many GIs liked them), you don’t have to be a Rambo to heft it. I’m just 138 pounds. It is sweet to shoot. The muzzle rise during two- or three-round bursts balances your weight. The weapon seems to float in the air, and you can hit steel plates at 200 yards with every burst. It might be tough to equal that with the rather heavy semi-auto trigger on the current versions. Also, the buffer mechanism in the butt may not function in the Ohio Ordnance guns. That device may help to explain why GIs hated to carry them but loved to shoot them.

-Gerald Weinstein
New York, New York


Cogito, Ergo Shoot
Re September 2003:

This issue was superb. “We are about the banging and clanging, hitting the center of the target fast and true” is after my own heart and, it would appear, many other readers. Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! After all, there is simply no other way to judge a gun’s performance and reliability, is there? I also enjoyed your article on laser sights. Such sights are problematic at best, and you did an exemplary job of reporting on these questionable devices, covering every possible concern. Outstanding reporting. It seems today there is no limit to gilding the lily and that no gun is worth a darn until it has been gussied up, tricked out and tweaked endlessly. Utter nonsense. Any marksman worth his salt can shoot well with iron sights. The simple fact that you do not accept advertisements makes your publication unique. I am confident that you are going to call ‘em like you see ‘em. It’s delightful. The only other publication that matches your journalistic integrity and professionalism is Consumers Report. Most especially galling are reviews written while writers attend junkets sponsored by gun and ammo manufacturers! Well, if you didn’t exist, someone would have to invent you. Keep up the good work, it is sorely needed.

-Thomas Damian Hanrahan
Whitefield, Maine


More On Sub-Compact .40s
Re October 2003 “Coming Up”:

Most sub-compact single-stack .40s are, by their very nature, low-capacity pistols. I would encourage all and sundry to take a look at the double-stack .40-caliber Glock 23 sub-compact. With an aftermarket grip extension, you can increase the magazine capacity from 9 to 10 rounds without sacrificing concealability. The extension also improves the shooter’s ability to grip the gun and provides a rest for your pinkie. The only drawback that I am aware of is that the magazine on mine does not drop free. Maybe later models do.

In addition, Eagle Creek makes a small, padded waist pack that does not print through, fits as if it was designed specifically for the Glock 23, and does not scream gun pouch. The pack will hold the pistol and one spare magazine. If you really want to disguise the pack’s purpose, get one in red or green instead of black. They are available at outdors, camping, and travel stores.

I have worn it legally around pointy-headed anti-gunners, and they never had a clue that I was a CHL holder. Photographers vests, overshirts, and all the other concealment tricks don’t work as well for me in the hot, humid Houston summers.

-R.E. Jacobs
Houston, Texas


Mak Clarifications
Re August 2003, “Surplus Pocket Pistols: Makarov Outpowers Walther and CZ .32s”:

In both the “Accuracy and Chronograph Data” table and the “Gun Tests Recommends” summary section of this article, you refer to the CZ Vzor 70 pistol as the “CZ VZOR.” Please note that the Czech word “vzor,” often abbreviated as “vz,” means “model.” (I believe the Polish language uses a similar word.) In other words, this was the equivalent of a foreign-language publication describing, say, a Smith & Wesson Model 19 as the “Smith & Wesson MODEL.”

Your readers also might like to know that the Russian word “Makarov” (for the designer, Nikolai Federovich Makarov) is correctly pronounced “ma-KAR-ov” and not “MAK-a-rov.” Further, the Makarov pistol — as opposed to the (9x18) Makarov cartridge — is properly referred to as the “PM,” for the Russian phrase usually rendered in English as “pistolet Makarova,” pronounced “pistolYET maKARova.”

-Sam Cohen
Concord, NH


The Gun Tests Reputation
I thought you might like to know of a conversation I had on an overseas flight. When the flight began, I introduced myself to the man next to me and recognized his name as the owner of a well-known firearms manufacturer. I mentioned that I had read a test of one of his recent new models in Gun Tests. His reply was, “Yeah, you can’t fool those SOBs. Some magazines you can sweet talk, but at Gun Tests, they don’t care anything about that stuff.”

In this case the test had been favorable, but he hastened to add that no amount of explanation got bad press stopped.

I just thought you might like to know your reputation precedes you.

-B.H. Rawls

The truth is a powerful thing. —Todd Woodard