December 2003

Gun Tests Guns Of The Year 2003

Which firearms offer the best combination of performance, price, and value? We look back at the previous 11 months of gun tests and tell you what we would buy.

The Heckler & Koch Elite .45 ACP features single- or double-action trigger activation in a hole-in-hole accuracy package.

Every December the staffers of Gun Tests reexamine those guns they have really enjoyed shooting in the past year. These summary recommendations form a quick shopping list for anyone who is considering an end-of-year purchase for himself, a spouse, a relative, or anyone else who enjoys good firearms.

We have fun during the year testing firearms, ammunition, and accessories, but because of the head-to-head procedure we normally employ in those tests, it can be difficult to have a long-term view. With the intervention of time, we can take a step back and evaluate those guns which, in our opinion, are can’t-miss products for the Gun Tests reader.

So let’s get to it:

HK USP Elite .45 ACP, $1,533
We tested a gun that combines interesting developments in the .45 ACP self-defense features: HK’s USP Elite, $1,533, is a polymer .45 that offers both single-action and double-action firing modes. Our accuracy shots were fired single action only, and our first three shots using a special handload produced a single hole, and after five shots the group size expanded to just under 0.8 inch in diameter.

The Elite’s most distinctive characteristic is that it can be fired with the first shot double action and subsequent shots single action (traditional double action), or the shooter has the option of cocked-and-locked carry (hammer back, thumb safety on). The thumb safety locks the hammer back when rotated upward, but will also decock the hammer when swept downward.

Another distinctive feature of the HK USP series is the ambidextrous shovel-style magazine release at the rear of the trigger guard. You can release the mag with your trigger finger, your middle finger or if your strong-hand thumb is long enough, you can use it to push downward and release the magazine.

The sights were some of the best we’ve encountered, but the fully adjustable rear sight is not tucked entirely out of harm’s way, in our view. Also, the tall front sight will likely demand a sight channel built into the proper holster.

Accuracy was impressive. At 20 yards we printed only one group that measured more than 1.9 inches from center to center. Taking into account that our smallest groups from each selection of test ammunition ranged from 0.8 to 1.1 inches, we hate ourselves for shooting that one big group.

Gun Tests Recommends
HK USP Elite $1,533. Our Pick. The Elite version of HK’s USP series is just that. It has outstanding accuracy, select fire (SA or TDA) and a bold look.

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Beretta U22 NEOS .22 rifle, $225
We have found that even basic rimfire models often perform at levels much higher on the accuracy pyramid than expected. The Beretta U22 NEOS mimics Olympic competition models with its grip and balance.

The NEOS features modular construction, making it possible to switch grip frames and top ends. The frame is listed as being constructed of alloy, but perhaps the use of the word sub-frame is more accurate. The sub-frame includes the action housing topped with the rails that hold the slide. Effectively a modular gun, it can be broken down to a lower (grip frame including trigger guard), a middle, (which includes the action housing with rails to hold the slide), and a top end consisting of the slide itself and the barrel.

The grip is patterned after the rakish design of Olympic pistols. Some shooters will find this angle to be too severe or tight at the web of the hand. Directly above the web is a set of ambidextrous safety levers that, when activated, interferes with the comfort of grip. Sometimes just holding the gun deactivated the safety before we were ready. As a target gun we prefer to run the gun dry or remove the magazine and clear the chamber each time.

The magazine release sits directly above the trigger. The right-hand index finger is the only way to operate the release, making the gun right hand only in this regard. The magazine drops freely, but we found loading the magazine to be tricky. Another complaint was the trigger’s gritty feel, and we would have preferred less arc to the trigger face.

Despite these shortcomings, the U22 printed groups within a range of 1.0 to 1.3 inches from this gun.

Gun Tests Recommends
Beretta U22 NEOS, $225. The NEOS’s rakish style may not fit everyone, but if it fits in your hand, it is worth a try.

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Wilson KZ45 Compact .45 ACP, $1125
The KZ line from Wilson Combat is the company’s first foray into the world of polymer, and it is reportedly a hot seller. At “just” $1125 it is about half the price of the next least expensive Wilson pistol.

The polymer body, which was designed in South Africa, measures nearly the same in width as the typical single-stack 1911 yet holds 10+1 rounds of .45 ACP. The grip gives the hand a rectangular shape to hold on to. Another immediate impression is just like all Wilson guns, it feels broken in yet tight and fresh.

The gun is narrow and almost entirely black. It comes with an excellent set of night sights. The rear unit is a no-snag design that blends in close to the slide and is mounted as far back as possible to provide maximum sight radius. The hammer is relieved to speed lock time, and like the slide wears a coat of black Armor Tuff, a wear-resistant Teflon-like finish.

The trigger is aluminum and adjustable. The extractor is mounted externally. The beavertail grip safety offers a raised area for sure contact with the inside of the hand. The magazine release is perfectly placed, accessible without being in danger of dropping the magazine prematurely.

One shortcut inherent in making polymer frames is that contours can be molded in from the very start. With polymer, gentle sweeping lines such as those found on the Wilson KZ pistols are simple to produce.

Gun Tests Recommends
Wilson KZ 45 Compact, $1,125. Best Buy. Just when you thought you’d never be able to afford a Wilson pistol, along comes polymer. This gun offers high capacity and the best 1911 features. It is far more capable than many current pistol systems.

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Beretta 92FS 9mm, $676
Taking into account its production as a military weapon (the M9), this pistol is one of the largest selling sidearms in history. The 92FS and the other guns are traditional double actions. The first shot is double action; subsequent shots are single action.

At least two features make the Beretta 92 pistols unique. One is that the slide exposes most of the barrel, and the other is that lockup is almost entirely achieved from underneath the chamber. A barrel-mounted falling locking block accomplishes lockup.

The energy expended to operate the locking block also contributes to a reduction of felt recoil, as does the full-sized frame, which contributes excellent ergonomics. The frame is alloy, with Beretta’s Bruniton finish. The Beretta’s stock double-action trigger was smooth but heavy at 12.5 pounds. Single action was heavy as well, requiring 7.5 pounds of pressure. This would rate as being at the high end of the average weight trigger found on most stock 1911 semi-automatic pistols.

Filled with Federal’s 124-grain Expanding Full Metal Jacket ammunition, the Beretta produced an average velocity of 1095 fps. In the Beretta’s action test, the time between shots ranged from 0.71 to 0.51 seconds, for an average of 0.61 seconds. Through 15 strings of fire, we landed 14 X-ring hits, 15 10-ring hits and one 8-ring hit. A 30-shot group measured 5.9 inches in diameter. The Beretta liked the Black Hills 115-grain JHP-EXP the best, shooting groups that consistently measured 2.5 inches.

Gun Tests Recommends
Beretta 92FS 9mm, $676. Our Pick. Performance ranged from good to excellent, depending on the ammunition.

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SIGArms P239 .40 S&W, $620
The P239 offers several physical advantages over many pistols. The narrow gun was virtually snag-free, and it was as slippery smooth as those expensive “melt-down” jobs offered by custom gunsmiths. Of the three controls on the left side of the pistol (slide release, decocking lever and magazine release), only the mag button can be relocated to the right side. The only remaining lever on the pistol was the breakdown lever.

The top end consisted of the slide, 3.5-inch barrel, a hollow metallic guide rod, and flat wound spring. With the top end removed, the frame is remarkably light despite the presence of the trigger and decocking mechanism housed therein.

We also liked the standard sights and wish they could be faithfully rendered in tritium. Proper alignment had a white rectangle with a large white dot sitting on top of it. The rectangle was centered in the rear notch and the front sight showed the dot.

The SIG produced groups ranging from 1.5 to 1.9 inch inches. But we were reminded that these guns were designed to be carried with a loaded chamber, hammer down, first shot double action. You may have heard about cocking the hammer in a “condition red” situation, but we prefer to practice a rapid transition from DA to SA that gives us speed and accuracy with maximum safety of operation.

Gun Tests Recommends
SIGArms P239 .40 S&W, $620. Buy It. Slim, concealable, and accurate, this is what compact firepower is all about. The P239’s trigger is possibly the best example of a TDA system we’ve found. Even dyed-in-the-wool 1911 shooters should find it easy to adapt.

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Smith & Wesson 396-1 Mountain Lite .44, $794
This latest L-frame chambered for .44 Special is virtually the same gun we tested in our March 2002 issue, but with five bigger holes rather than seven chambers for .38 Special or .357 Magnum. The gun features an adjustable rear sight with V notch sight blade, and a Hi-Viz light gathering front sight. We think this product is aptly named.

One change from the earliest Mountain Lite is that the rear face of the piece that holds the filament is now serrated to remove glare. This makes it easier to see the glowing filament and the surrounding edges as well, should you desire a more traditional sight picture defined by light bars.

The beauty of this gun is that it weighs only 22 ounces. This means when you put it in a holster, it stays close to the body, whereas most revolvers are top heavy and tend to flop outward. The supplied grip is Hogue’s Bantam design.

The test round that we fired with the most accuracy was also the most comfortable to shoot. This was PMC’s 180-grain JHP round, and it nearly equaled the power of the 200-grain Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points. The actual numbers are 276 foot-pounds versus 279 foot-pounds, but the Gold Dots were a real handful in comparison despite the small difference in power.

Gun Tests Recommends
Smith & Wesson .44 Special Model 396-1, $794. Our Pick. Even though this is not a small gun, its light weight makes the 396-1 concealable. Also, .44 Special may be the most suitable cartridge for this type of firearm. If “invisible power” is what you are after, your money will be well spent on this sidearm.

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USFA Mfg. Co. Rodeo, $500
The metal finish was overall matte black except for the hammer, which was case colored. Our first impression was that this was a good handgun. The gun looked great. Its finish was applied to what was obviously carefully fit and polished steel, with again what appeared to be an effort to capture the turn-of-the-century Colts, with rounded trigger guard, cylinder bevels, etc. The contours of the Rodeo’s frame were very close to those of the early Colt. The front of the ejector rod had the same contour as that of a 1904 Colt, though the hole was slightly larger on the Rodeo.

Most impressive to our eyes was the care taken in polishing the frame to keep its sides dead flat, and to avoid rounding contours where they were supposed to be cylindrical, not buffed round.

Another good indication to the Rodeo’s overall high quality was in its handling. It was well balanced, and cocking it gave a strong impression of operating a finely machined mechanism. The timing of the cylinder was perfect. It locked tightly on all six cylinders, and the effort to cock the gun was a good balance between too heavy and too light. The rifling twist was left-hand, just like early Colts. The six lands were high enough to catch most lead bullets well, we thought. The trigger pull was excellent at 4 pounds. The hammer had a cone-shaped firing pin, and its checkering was contained within a small panel.

Because of its careful fitting, we were not too surprised to see the Rodeo produce small groups on the range. We had no problems with the gun at all.

Gun Test Recommends
USFA Mfg. Co. Rodeo, $500. Our Pick. The Rodeo was one of the most rewarding of all single actions we’ve seen. It looked great, shot great, felt great, and didn’t cost a fortune.

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Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Model 65LS, $584
Features that distinguish this model are a treated satin finish, fully shrouded ejector rod and rosewood grips. The cylinder latch is relieved for speed loading. Just above it and nearly hidden is the internal hammer lock. The ejector rod on the 3-inch snubby is full length, offering sure ejection of the longer magnum cases. The 3-inch model is easy to reload

As the 65LS came from the factory, we found that all fitting points, including the sideplate and lockup were well finished. The trigger was smooth and contoured. Also, the edges of the trigger guard inside and out were gentle to our hands. We also liked the finish, which is not only glare resistant but also silky to the touch. The rosewood grip was a handsome match for this finish, but most people will change this grip in favor of a more comfortable rubber model.

The front sight on this model was a serrated ramp, and it was one piece with the barrel. The rear sight was a notch in the top strap of the frame. We didn’t have any problem picking up a sight picture, but we found that the relation between the front and rear sights on this gun was suitable for only one weight bullet fired at high velocity. The only rounds that shot to point of aim were the full power 158-grain .357 magnum rounds. Winchester 110-grain JHPs produced the most accurate results of the test fired from the Ladysmith. A best group of only 1.7 inches resulted in an average 5-shot group of 2.2 inches. However, point of impact was as much as 6 inches low measured from point of aim to the center of the aforementioned 1.7-inch group.

Gun Tests Recommends
Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum 65LS Ladysmith, $584. Our Pick. Its accuracy was excellent, and it handled well.

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Ruger New Model Single Six .17 HMR, $389
The finish is Ruger’s blue-gray, the grip is a densely grained wood and the hammer has the substantial cut and polished look commonly found on all Ruger revolvers. There is no on-off mechanical safety, but opening the loading gate does prevent the hammer from being pulled back. With the gate open, the cylinder moves freely for poking free expended rounds or to “fill ‘er up.” We did not encounter cylinder drag or any other interruption in rotation.

The Remington ammunition we fired was a newly available round that we could not find for our last .17 HMR test. Accuracy with this round was comparable to the performance of the Hornady and Speer ammunition when fired in the New Model Single Six, but the Ruger turned its best performance when shooting the Hornady V-Max. In fact, this was the only combination that yielded a sub 1-inch group.

But the sterling characteristic of the New Model Single Six was its handling. The Ruger revolvers are very popular with the Cowboy Action crowd, and we think we know why. Like the other Ruger revolvers that we have tested, the .17 HMR New Model Single Six can be cycled and reloaded very quickly. One reason: It is easy to reset the hammer and keep the barrel on an even plane. This means the shooter can keep a good sight picture between shots. One of our staffers who favors speed-shooting competition with a single-action semi-auto found the Ruger to be an ideal low-impact training gun in an exercise of rapid presentation and fire. The 617 was also a good weight for field carry. Extra weight is not necessary to dampen recoil even when the velocity of .17 HMR is up from the .22 WMR as much as 400 fps in a revolver.

Gun Tests Recommends
Ruger New Model Single Six M617 .17 HMR, $389. Our Pick. This gun is fast handling, accurate reliable, and economically priced.

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Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 9mm Carbine, $383
The Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 arrived in a flat rectangular “cake box” wherein it was stored folded. In this condition the rifle measured 16.1 by 7.3 inches. At the front edge was the trigger guard, with the mouth of the chamber exposed above it.

The recommended way to unfold the Sub Rifle is to hold the barrel or fore end, which is on top when folded and then reach around the front sight with the thumb and forefinger to slide the latch forward. The butt will fall away as the barrel moves forward 180 degrees to snap into place. We found it hard to pick out the latch visually at first but it was easily indexed without actually needing to see it.

You’ll know when the rifle is fully closed and ready to activate when the bottom of the trigger guard is tightly in place against the grip. The release to return this rifle to its folded state is the trigger guard itself.

Construction is of polymer and steel. The barrel and stock are steel. The stock contains the bolt, recoil spring and operating handle. The operating handle (some might call it a charge bar) faces straight down so it is out of the way. To lock the gun back, the operating handle is pulled all the way back and slid to the right into a locking groove. The trigger also has the feel of a Glock. It has a long pull that requires its own technique.

The sights are adjustable for windage and elevation, but this is done at the front rather than rear assembly. The rear peep is static, but the orange front blade can be moved left and right via reciprocating screws (loosen one, tighten the other).

Gun Tests Recommends
Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 9mm Carbine, $383. Buy It. We had our doubts, but we couldn’t break it. Also, it shot all types of ammunition with surprising accuracy. Kel-Tec’s mission of supplying inexpensive but very usable weapons is perhaps at its zenith with the Sub Rifle 2000.

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Savage 93R17 .17 HMR, $180
The Savage was the lowest-priced model we tested. It came with a no-frills Monte Carlo hardwood stock with pressed checkering at the grip and fore end and without sling studs. This model has a 21-inch heavy blued barrel and blued action. Standard Weaver-style bases were factory-affixed to the action, a feature we liked, and there were no open sights.

The safety was also located just behind the bolt on the right side of the action. Simple and positive, it exposed a big red spot when in the foreword Fire position. An almost invisible “S” was exposed when in the rearward position. It was probably the easiest of the four safeties to operate because it had the shortest movement between the safe and fire positions.

The Savage trigger was a surprise, breaking consistently at 4 pounds with only a modest mushy section in the middle part of the pull. It had very little slippage or creep. There was a substantial amount of travel after the trigger broke, but it was manageable.

The five-shot magazine barely protrudes beneath the stock, but the release sticks down at a 45-degree angle, and we drew our own blood on that piece of metal twice while hunting varmints. But when depressed, the magazine popped free, practically shooting into the shooter’s hand. The magazine was fairly stiff when reinserted and had to be set on the rail that aligns it into the action precisely. Once on the rail and started into the action, it was best to seat it firmly with the shooting, and we tumbled a couple of ground squirrels at nearly 100 yards standing on our hind legs.

Gun Tests Recommends
Savage 93R17 .17 HMR, $180. Best Buy. The Savage was accurate, and the heavy barrel made it pleasant to shoot in the field, especially offhand. If you are on a budget but can’t live without a new .17 HMR, this is the gun you should pick.

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Springfield M6 Scout, $219
This break-action, over/under firearm is available in four versions, either stainless steel ($219) or Parkerized ($185), and with either .22 LR/.410 barrels, or .22 Hornet/.410.

The first thing one notices about this firearm is that it’s almost all metal. Except for a rim of rubber covering the top of the butt stock and some plastic bits within the stock, the whole thing is made of sheet-metal stampings, castings, tubes, and other odd-shaped chunks of metal. The gun was uniformly matte silver in color, the finish appearing to have been achieved by vapor-blasting.

In our opinion, the trigger was not a happy device. We found that, in spite of the great amount of room within the trigger guard, the best system—at least with the rifle barrel—was to insert only the trigger finger into the guard, and press the trigger upward to release the hammer.

The butt stock held a trap for fifteen .22 rounds and four 3-inch .410 rounds. The trap was opened by pressing hard on a button on the left side of the stock behind the trigger. The inside of the trap lid had a rubber cushion so the ammo within would be less inclined to rattle. The two barrels had enough room between them that it would be an easy matter to attach some sort of sling to the front end of the gun.

The action opened via a serrated latch behind the rear sight. Lifting the latch permitted the 18-inch barrels and breechblock to swing open, revealing the two chambers. The upper barrel was a six-groove .22, with 1:15 inch twist. It would, of course, work with any .22 rimfire round from CB caps to Stingers. The lower accepted 3-inch or shorter .410 shells, and was choked Full. A simple extractor between the chambers lifted rounds so they could be dumped out, or pulled out with the fingers.

In front of the single hammer, and attached to it, was a three-position plunger. Pulling the plunger up permitted firing the .22 barrel, and all the way down into the bottom detent would fire the .410. The rear sight was a two-position arrangement, with an aperture for the .22 and a V-notch for the shotgun barrel. Windage adjustment was possible by loosening a small screw in the rear-sight base, and sliding the sight sideways in its dovetail slot.

At the range, we found the M6 Scout shot .22s well enough. Its best group was with Winchester ammo, 1.6 inches for five shots at 50 yards. The M6 Scout seemed to come into its own with shotshells. It hit exactly where it looked. Patterns were round, even, and tight enough to get some good out of the little shells. Finally, we tried some slug loads, and found they shot accurately enough to do some good against moderate-size game, as long as the shooter could get close enough to minimize shooting error and maximize the available power of the small slugs. The balance of the gun was good, and we found we could do almost as well with this weapon firing .22s offhand, against the clock, as with the semiauto AR-7s. With sufficient time to work the long, odd trigger (and practice), the M6 Scout would surely put meat on the table in a survival situation.

Gun Tests Recommends
Springfield M6 Scout, $219. Buy It. We could not fault the M6 Scout, though we wish it had more of a shooter’s trigger.

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Remington 1100 12 Gauge No. 25369, $540
The 1100 gas-operated autoloading shotgun, designed by Wayne Leek, has been in production since 1963, according to Remington records. The 12 gauge was the first model to roll out that year, followed by a 16 gauge in 1964 and a 20 gauge and .410 bore in 1969. Several grades have been offered, including specialized Skeet and Trap versions, and variations have included a Magnum Duck Gun, left-hand guns in 12 and 20 gauge, and others.

Our test gun was the 2.75-inch-chamber Model 25369, which measured 48 inches in overall length with a barrel 28.0 inches long. The LOP measured 14.0 inches. Drop at the comb was 1.5 inches; drop at the heel was 2.5 inches.

The synthetic stock was matte black, as was the metal finish on the action and barrel. Unloaded, the gun weighed 7 pounds. It had a capacity of four shotshells. The autoloading action is gas driven. The trigger pull measured a crisp 5 pounds at the break. The gun came with a choke-tube wrench.

The 1100’s pistol grip featured pressed checkering that afforded a decent grip, even when the gun was wet. The fit at the butt pad was sloppy, and the top of the rubber pad had not been ground for easier mounting. But the black-rubber pad offered good cushioning, we thought. The beavertail forend was medium width and wiggled slightly side to side.

Of course, this is not a gun for which cosmetics are a major concern. It is made to shoot in extreme conditions and like it. Thus, we were disconcerted when rust showed up on the steel receiver’s scrollwork after we had shot the gun in a driving rain.

The trigger guard was aluminum. As noted, the receiver featured minor scrollwork on each sideplate. The ventilated rib was machined evenly, and its nonglare pattern was extremely effective at killing reflected sunlight, we thought. The rib was 7mm wide. The matte silver front-sight bead was unobtrusive. During our shooting, the 1100 handled all the test rounds perfectly.

The pistol grip’s angle relative to the trigger was very comfortable for all our test shooters. Even when shotgunners switched from what they normally shot to this gun, they adapted easily to the 14.0-inch LOP on this stock. The thin trigger, which broke at 5 pounds, was positive and sure. We think this was a prime factor in our learning how to shoot this gun well, and fast.

On the downside, the Remington is somewhat more expensive. Street price on the 1100 is around $450.

Gun Tests Recommends
Remington 1100 12 Gauge No. 25369, $540. Buy It. This is a working shotgun by virtue of its synthetic stocks and flat-black presentation. If you only need the performance of 2.75-inch shells, then we wouldn’t hesitate to buy the 1100.

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Browning Citori XS Sporting 28 Gauge, $2,000
At first glance, this 28 is hard to distinguish from its 12-gauge counterpart. The normal qualities of a small-gauge shotgun—lighter, quicker and a shorter length of pull—were missing in this 28 that feels like a 12.

Rather than distract from the overall enjoyment factor, the heavier-than-expected attributes allow a shooter to quickly become accustomed to the Citori 28.

Very pleasant dark wood, crisp lines and precise wood-to-metal fitting immediately stand out on first inspection. The Browning logo and XS letters, in addition to outlines around the engraving of the silver nitride-coated receiver, give the shotgun a classy appearance.

Recoil is not a factor with 28-gauge shotguns, so our testers were surprised at the 0.5-inch-thick solid-rubber recoil pad. However, the smooth sporting clay-style pad, rounded at the top, offered easy mounting into the shoulder.

The ability to adjust the trigger and even swap out the standard trigger with an extra wide or narrow trigger (all gold plated and supplied as part of the package) was a pleasing bonus with this shotgun.

The drop at the comb was 1.4 inches; and drop at the heel was 2.2 inches. Heavy for a 28, the Browning tipped the scales at an even 7 pounds and had a pitch of 2.5 inches. These features, combined with a good, crisp trigger pull for both barrels of 4 pounds, gave our field testers a very pleasant shooting experience.

Like its heavier 12-gauge cousin, the Browning 28 also features a dark walnut forearm and stock finished with a satin lacquer coating. The sharp, crisp checking on the Schnabel forearm and pleasingly thin pistol grip provide a sure grip for shooters. The non-automatic safety on the tang allows the shooter to select which barrel fires first by moving the safety from side to side. Whichever letter is exposed (U or O) is the barrel that fires first.

One of the interesting features of the shotgun is the HiViz Pro-Comp front sight that almost seems to give off a chartreuse glow. Combined with a small white bead in the middle of the 0.375-inch-thick rib, the shooter’s eye is naturally drawn down the barrel.

As for the handling and target-breaking capability of the Browning, none of our shooters had any complaints. The hefty weight of the 28 allowed our shooters to glide through targets with ease. Yet the shotgun was very quick on short-range shots.

The Browning came with three choke tubes - skeet, improved cylinder and modified - and a standard, T-shaped choke tube wrench. The chokes provided target-breaking patterns as they should, although the tube wrench was awkward to use.

Mechanically, there were no problems with the Browning. Although the shotgun demonstrated typical stiffness of a new firearm, the locking system featuring solid rear barrel lugs opened and closed with a reassuring snap every time. There were no misfires and no failures to eject spent shells.

Among the most common comments from our test group were mentions about the crispness of the trigger pull (both barrels fired with a pleasurable 4-pound pull) and with the “12-gauge feel” of the 28-gauge shotgun. The 30-inch barrel with ventilated side rib was both smooth and steady on a variety of targets.

Gun Tests Recommends
Browning Citori XS Sporting 28 Gauge, $2,000. Our Pick. This was a very smooth, fun to handle firearm that does its job and is a pleasure to shoot.

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Wilson Combat Glock Replacement, Barrel, $150
Wilson Combat (800 955-4856) offers replacement barrels for Glock with extra material surrounding the chamber so that it can be fit precisely to the opening in the slide. Additional advantages are an improved feed ramp with extra support and also rifling that will accommodate a wider variety of ammunition, even lead bullets.

We tried out a Wilson replacement barrel, starting with a Glock model GL22C on loan to us from a local police-training officer. The initial reason for the change was to make this gun legal for USPSA Limited division, the rules of which do not allow for a ported barrel.

Carter Custom performed the rebarreling job, (870) 741-2265, rosscar@cswnet.com. In deference to the desire of the owner to use both the ported barrel and the Wilson solid barrel, installing a hand-cut front sight moderated point of impact (POI).

Ported barrels cause a gun to print slightly lower, so Carter left the elevation just 0.33 inch low for the original barrel and about the same distance high for the new solid barrel (at 25 yards). The results were much better than expected. We tried three different loads with each barrel in place at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. With original equipment groups varied from 2.5-2.9 inches firing Black Hills 180gr JHP, 2.9-3.9 for the UMC 180gr FMJ, and as much as 3.5-4.2 for a handload of Hodgdon Titegroup and Montana Gold’s 180gr FMJ bullet. In each case at least one group was spoiled by a flyer. The 4+1 problem seemed at its worst whenever we shot with an emptying magazine. Groups fired with a full magazine were more consistent. This could indicate that the slide was relying upon pressure from the loaded magazine for additional support. Addition of the new recoil spring made recoil slightly easier to take but no measurable improvement in accuracy could be recorded. Average velocity overall was 936 fps.

With the solid barrel installed, average velocity increased only to 948 fps. The most dramatic change was in group size and the aforementioned POI. The Glock now shot a best group of 1.2 inches firing the Black Hills ammunition. Averages were 2.6 inches for our hand load, 1.9 inches for the UMC cartridge, and only 1.3 firing the Black Hills JHP. Inspecting the lockup with each barrel in place offered the key to this dramatic change in performance. A thin piece of paper could easily fill this crack between the stock barrel hood and the slide, but could not penetrate the tolerance of the hand-fit Wilson barrel.

Gun Tests Recommends
Wilson Combat Glock Replacement Barrel, $150. Buy It. Reliability was 100%. We highly recommend this upgrade.