February 2003

Firing Line: 02/03

Intimidation Factor
Re December 2002, “Entry-Type AR-15s—Is One of These Rifles For You?”:

I’d like to highlight your comment about the Mini-14 being less intimidating than AR-15s. I own a Mini-14, and out here in California, where you can’t buy AR-styles exactly because they are more intimidating and imposing, the Mini-14 is a great choice if you want to avoid the possibility of your neighbors branding you “the guy with the assault rifle.” Though a Mini-14 out of the box might not be the most accurate weapon in this class, it’s reliable, breaks down into a handful of large parts with no tools for quick cleaning, and the fit and finish are outstanding. It’s a pure joy to own and operate. If I lived someplace else and had twice the cash, I’d go for one of the ARs you reviewed, but the Mini-14 is a great alternative for home defense, varmints, and small game in today’s anti-gun climate.

-Tom Fortin
San Diego, CA

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Short ARs Spell SWAT, but Ruger Mini-14 Does Not
Re December 2002, “Entry-Type AR-15s—Is One of These Rifles For You?”:

In your comparison of the AR to the Mini-14, you failed to take into consideration that the AR is a rifle that comes in a wide variety of configurations, whereas the Mini-14 does not. However, if you take the Mini-14 and upgrade it to about the same price of an AR, it will function as well, if not better, than an AR. Case in point: Note the jamming and malfunctions that occurred in Las Vegas at the USPSA shoot with all of the tricked-out ARs. From the report that I saw, not a single AR worked properly, and these were not out-of-the-box guns, but custom pieces. With the simple upgrade of shortening the barrel to 16 inches like the ARs, and getting a trigger job, bedding, and a muzzle brake, the Mini can and will function as well as an AR.

-Antonio Velazquez
E. Stroudsburg, PA

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Snobs and Guns
Re December 2002, “Entry-Type AR-15s — Is One of These Rifles For You?”:

There is a certain amount of snobbery concerning the Sturm Ruger Mini-14; one gun writer referred to it as a “Trailer Park AR.” Simply put, the Mini-14, with its 1950s-era ergonomics and inferior accuracy, cannot compete with the hyper-engineered AR rifles; the Mini-14 should be viewed as an updated version of the old M1 carbine, a short- to medium-range pistol substitute using a modern battle carbine cartridge.

The Mini-14 has a host of faults, most reparable for small amounts of money, and one great advantage: under current federal law, it is the only post-ban detachable magazine semi-automatic in .223 caliber that may legally have a flash suppressor (provided it does not have any of the other “banned” features).

What the Mini-14 really needs, as you identified in your article, is a solid, military-style aperture rear sight. Some aftermarket target sights are available, but they are not as robust as this rifle deserves. After playing around with a Mini-14 as a “project rifle” for eight years, finding a replacement rear sight has frustrated my efforts to improve this potentially very good M1 carbine replacement.

-Name Withheld

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Magazine Vs. Clip
Re Dec. 2002, “Guns of the Year”:

In the last few lines of your recap of the Valtro shotgun you mention that it comes with “multiple magazines.” In the last line you refer to it as “clip-fed.”

From what I recall from my Marine days, a magazine (be it for cartridges or for other munitions) has normally but one access point. In addition, the munition (a cartridge in this case) is usually encapsulated on all but one side. This occurs in all magazines (boxed or tubular) whereas a clip, in most cases, does not provide that type of protection for the munition/cartridge. The function of a magazine is to store the munition and keep it in serviceable condition and safe until ready for use.

Further, a clip is most often used to “charge” a magazine such as in the case with most military firearms. A good example would be the 10-round clips used to charge the magazine on today’s M16 with a charging spoon or the five-round clip used to charge an in-place magazine on the M14.

-Rich Kiselewsky
Flemington, NJ

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Review Missed Best Buy
Re November 2002, “.380 Pistols: Beretta’s Cheetah Wins Small-Gun Showdown”:

Your review of .380s was accurate — but I’m disappointed that it missed the best buy by far: the SIG P232. It’s in the same price range as the guns you tested and is available in either a lighter blued-alloy version or a heavier stainless version.

Superficially looking like the Walther PPK and PP, the SIG P232 comes without the Walthers’ cranky DA trigger that you note. While the SIG P232 comes from the factory with a great DA trigger, every Walther PP or PPK or P-38 I’ve ever tried had an abysmal DA trigger.

The P232 also feeds any good ammo, hollowpoint included, without fail. Takedown using the typical SIG takedown lever is easy.

-Matt Maggio
Editor and Publisher
Alamance Independent

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Fixing Walther Triggers
Re November 2002, “.380 Pistols: Beretta’s Cheetah Wins Small-Gun Showdown”:

You state with respect to the Walther PPK/S-1 “...The double-action, on the other hand, was heavy and prone to breaking suddenly. If we chose to keep the PPK/S-1, this would be something we would have a qualified gunsmith address.”

I have two Walther PPKs and need to have this issue addressed with both of them. Can you refer me to a qualified gunsmith? I presume that such a referral would be an indication of a gunsmith who is very familiar with the PPK and thereby be able to remedy this issue.

-Dwight L. Pierce


Contact Ross Carter at (870) 741-2265 or Earl J. Sheehan Jr. at (978) 851-2656. -Todd Woodard

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Likes The Taurus
Re Gun Buyer’s Annual 2002:

I am a new subscriber to Gun Tests and recently received the Gun Buyer’s Annual 2002. As usual, your excellent reviews provide more useful information than most any other publication. But I would like to comment on your review of the Taurus PT-140 Millennium and the PT-111. These two Taurus guns are nearly identical, and I have some suggestions for those who are considering these pistols.

I purchased a PT-111 9mm last year for $300 as a personal defense weapon. I bought the PT-111 over others mostly because of the superior ergonomics. I have large hands, and some compacts are hard for me to grip firmly. My greatest reservation at the time was the long and somewhat “grabby” trigger pull. My rationale for accepting this was safety from accidental discharge. After purchase I used some 9mm snap-caps and practice-fired it daily to break-in the trigger mechanism and to get used to its longer pull. After some time, I found the trigger smoothed out considerably, and the break point became easier to feel, very predictable, and crisper. I probably worked the mechanism at least 5,000 times. I do not need to stage the trigger to get an accurate, rapid shot. Though the travel is quite long, a smooth single pull works very well for me. Follow up shots may not quite as quick as with a Glock, but on the plus side the slide does not need to be cycled before attempting to refire a failed round.

Of course your test gun was .40 S&W, and mine 9mm, so maybe there are some internal differences, or more likely your batch of S&B had some primer issues. As with any weapon one entrusts for personal protection, familiarity with operation, thorough break-in, and frequent practice is key.

-Andy Cers
Minneapolis, MN

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Auto Rim Follow Up
Re October 2002, “Firing Line”:

In the reply to a letter, Roger Eckstine wrote that “the ejector system of the 625 does not directly touch the rims of the cases and requires that the rounds of either the .45 ACP or Auto Rim be mounted in a moon clip.”

I am the owner of an S&W 625 and use both Auto Rims and ACP cartridges in it. The Auto Rim cases are indeed contacted/lifted by the ejector and work fine. In fact, I doubt that you could fit an Auto Rim case into the same moon clip. The Auto Rim cases were developed specifically to do this job, as I am sure you really do know. I just assume that everybody makes a slip now and again.

-Mert Wreford
@comcast.net


To ensure we got a definitive answer, we checked with Ross Carter at Carter Custom, rosscar@cswnet.com. He wrote, “Yes, the reader is correct that the 625 will shoot Auto Rim. The Auto Rim was produced so that the revolvers could shoot without the moon clips. The Auto Rims don’t use the moon clip; they have enough of a rim to be extracted. Also, speed loaders were available at one time for the Auto Rim ammo.” -Roger Eckstine

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A Burning Problem
Re October 2002, “Electronic Ear Muffs: Peltor Leads The Pack in Hearing Protection”:

I’ve been reading Gun Tests for two years now and value your articles very much. I was reading the article on electronic hearing protectors when I noticed something about the pictures. There stands a responsible young man with his hearing protection on securely, and his glasses in place. The glasses are canted forward just a bit so that the arms do not interfere with the seal between the muffs and his face. I remembered situating eye and ear protection the very same way once when I worked in a gun range in northwest Florida.

While working in the range, I often burned a box of bullets when business was slow. On this particular occasion, I had been running through a box of .45 ACPs, and had consumed most of the ammunition. Understandably, the spent cases sailing out of the pistol were quite warm. That’s when it happened; a spent case bounced off the stall barricade next to me and wedged itself between my glasses and my eye. In the brief time it took to make my pistol safe and remove the brass, a visible burn had appeared on my lower eyelid. Maybe if I had been wearing a ball cap, as was pictured in your article, I never would have had the problem.

-A. Gary Nychyk
Cape Coral, Florida

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Getting A Grip
Re May 2002, “.44 Magnum Revolvers For The Field”:

In May GT you evaluated and recommended the .44-caliber Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter. Additionally, you mentioned in the article that the gun is enhanced with the addition of Pachmayr presentation grips. In fact you said the Pachmayr Model 3137 was used in your test. I have ordered several different Pachmayr grips, including the 03137, and they don’t fit. I want to replace the laminated grips with the Pachmayr grips just like you suggested.

-George Schultz
Springfield, IL


The 03137 grip I received did not fit the Ruger perfectly, but was usable with some modification. At that time I checked with Pachmayr, and the representative said they intended to produce a model that would be better suited for the Super Blackhawk Hunter and it would be available “very soon.” The difference was in frame design at the trigger guard. However, soon afterward Pachmayr elected not to produce the grip. I also called Hogue (1800 Get-Grip), and they said that a rubber grip is available for this model, product number 84000. It is also available in a variety of woods. I hope this is helpful. -Roger Eckstine

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The Wingmaster Rules
Re October 2002, “Affordable 12-gauge Pumps: How Much Is Beauty, Slickness Worth?”:

I enjoy reading your magazine, and it has contributed lots of good information to my evaluation of, and eventual purchase of, several firearms. The section on each shotgun did not say much on how long one might expect any of them to last with modest care, of course.

My father handed down a 12-gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster, which my mother gave him in 1956. I have used this gun solely since 1969 and can afford most any shotgun I wish to purchase. Many boxes of shells have been shot through this shotgun with better results than nearly all of the autoloaders and fancy named, beautiful and expensive models my friends carry to the field. I think it would be nearly impossible to wear out any of the models you tested, with modest maintenance of course. If you averaged the cost of each gun over the years I have used mine, the cost per year is, well, almost nothing. On your Remington 870 Express Magnum, that comes to $3.70 per year if averaged over the 46 years my 870 has been used.

I love to look at new guns and will some day buy a new shotgun.

-Ron Coleman
@telepath.com

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Likes The CZ
Re September 2002, “Pistol Showdown: CZ and Tokarevs Match Up in Bargain Test,” and November 2002 “Firing Line”:

The original CZ52 article, along with comments in following issues, got my interest up. Finally, I asked my gun dealer if he knew where I might go see one to confirm for myself your favorable report. It turned out the dealer had one in his safe.

After checking it out carefully, I bought it: $150 for the gun, two clips, a cleaning rod, and a leather military holster that was made to carry these items. What a bargain, especially now that I’ve also confirmed how much fun the CZ52 is to shoot.

All the good things that you and your readers said about this gun are correct, and I thank you for calling attention to this economical pistol. Please continue to report on these kinds of super deals.

-Charlie Austin
Urbanna, VA

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Editor’s Note
We had several inquiries about our test products in the January 2003 .50 BMG match up.

In that test, Arizona Ammunition supplied match and practice ammo. The cost of the match ammo was $5.05 per round, and the practice ammo was $2.75 per round. Contact the company at (623) 516-9004 or www.azammo.com for more information. Lew Horton was mentioned in the reloading sidebar. The company has dropped its price on the Talon .50 BMG ammo from $175 per 150 rounds to $159. Contact the company at (800) 446-7866 or www.lewhorton.com for more information.

SOG is selling the 1988 production, boxer-primed, non-corrosive Yugoslavian linked .50 BMG (IK headstamp) ammo for $129 per 100-round belt. We pulled the rounds out of the links by hand. Contact the company at (800) 944-4867 or www.southernohiogun.com for more information.

John’s Guns supplied the armor-piercing Incendiary bullets. The cost was $75 per 500 round can (15 cents each). The phone number is (915) 357-4546. We used Eldorado Cartridge Corporation/Precision Made Cartridges (PMC) unprimed .50 BMG brass cases. The retail cost was $110 per 100. Contact PMC at (702) 294-0025 or www.pmcammo.com for more information.

We bought CCI No. 35 primers at a retail cost of $118.95 per 500. Contact the company at (800) 627-3640 or www.cci-ammunition.com for more information.

Hodgdon Powder is sold for $138.99 per 8-pound container. Contact the company at (913) 362-9455 or www.hodgdon.com for more information.

We used Accurate Arms Company Accurate 8700 powder at a retail cost of $82.19 per 8-pound container. Contact the company at (931) 729-4207 or www.accuratepowder.com for more information on the powder.

Lyman Products supplied some of the reloading accessories. The cost of the .50 BMG Accutrimmer case trimmer was $49.95. Contact the company at (800) 225-9526 or www.lymanproducts.com for more information.