Firing Line: 05/03
.380 Auto History
Re April 2003, “Pocket Pistol Pair-Off: We Test A Set of .380 Surplus Handguns”:
I just received my latest issue of Gun Tests and read with interest the test on the .380s, as my brother swears by his Mustang Pocketlite and as I was the original owner of the Firearms International gun you tested.
With regard to the FI, it was in fact an FIE/Garcia Model D, which I purchased new in the 1977-1979 time period. At the time, gun writers were stating, right or wrong, that Colt had contracted with Garcia to manufacture a prototype of a .380 that Colt was supposedly to be considering marketing as the Colt Pony. From all reports at the time, Colt reconsidered and Garcia was “stuck” with the prototypes. Again supposedly in agreement with Colt, the prototypes could be sold, but without any markings reference to Colt or Pony, hence the absence of any identification other than the medallions on the grips.
I sent the gun to the Armoloy Company of Fort Worth (still in business according to the Manufacturer’s Directory in Gun Digest) to get it “Armoloyed,” which at the time was touted as being one of the best anticorrosion finishes for use in the wet Gulf Coast climate. Apparently, it does work because the present owner carries the gun on his farm quite a bit and it looks as good as the day I sold it. As an aside, I traded it for a long-forgotten firearm, and the present owner bought it some time later.
You can blame the insert on my home handiwork. It was my first effort at installing such inserts, and I can’t say I’m much better at it after all these years. Anyway, I find it interesting that the red insert on the front sight fell out during your tests, because the present owner has fired the gun extensively over the years and, to my knowledge, had not had any problem with it.
Enough history. Thanks for a truly great magazine.
Say It Isn’t So
Re March 2003, “Commander-Sized Poly 1911 .45s—Kimber, Wilson, and STI Face Off”:
Gun Tests chose the STI over the Wilson and Kimber? Not in the newsletter that lauds itself as the consumer resource for shooters.
The STI needed to be repaired before it operated as advertised, and you recommended it as an Our Pick? You paid over $1,700 for the new gun and feel it’s acceptable to finish the manufacturer’s work? But I suspect you think it’s okay to drive off a dealer’s new car lot and expect your new vehicle to need a tune-up. I understand it was the most accurate of the trio, but they are all carry guns with Commander-length barrels. Bull’s-eye shooting isn’t in their vocabulary.
Another vexing thing was the need for a take-down tool for both the STI and Wilson. The Kimber was nearly as accurate as the other two, costs half of the STI and less than the Wilson, and doesn’t need a tool for disassembly.
I’ll blame your blip in judgment on the cold weather. You are probably shooting indoors and inhaling lead fumes.
Thanks for being a sport. GT does provide a real need to shooting consumers. Keep up the good work and remember to turn the exhaust fan on when using the indoor range. By the way, I do not own any products from the above three manufacturers.
New York City
The necessary repair of the STI VIP was extremely minor and only affected the ease of which the slide was manually locked open. The necessity of a tool for breakdown could be a problem only when extended duty in the field is called for. Both the STI and Kimber pistols required tools that could be improvised or substituted for, however. While your disclaimer was likely intended to deflect any favoritism or hidden agenda, we wish you did own one of these guns or had at least shot them. Then we think you would have found that the Kimber was good, the Wilson very good and the STI to be exceptional. -Roger Eckstine
Re April 2003, “Firing Line: More On Makarovs”:
I agree that the Bulgarian Makarovs are excellent firearms. I came across one some time back and found it to be a very welcome addition. The Makarov has great features that are both user friendly and safety oriented. I especially like the de-cocker, which doubles as the safety, locking the trigger in the rear position, and at the same time putting a barrier between the hammer and firing pin. This gun is light weight and a good size for concealed carry. It does not fatigue you from having it on you all day.
The only two drawbacks I have with the stock version of the Makarovs, whether Russian or a knock-off version, is the 9X18 cartridge size and availability. This ammo size is not sold in a number of stores. Not to mention the 9X18 does not offer a selection of much more than ball ammo.
I have overcome both of these obstacles. I met the gentleman who runs the web page www.Makarov.com at a local gun show. He had replacement barrels that changed the ammo size to .380 caliber. These barrels are offered in both stock length, threaded and compensated ported. I opted for the ported .380 version. The installation was very easy to do, and took me about a hour from start to finish. I feel that anyone who is a able to read and follow directions and knows how to field-strip this gun can accomplish the barrel switch successfully.
When I field-tested the firearm with the new barrel, I was very impressed. There was not much recoil from the 9X18 round before the change. After the switch to .380 ported, there was next to none, which makes for excellent, accurate, and fast follow-up shots.
Another bonus of changing to .380 is ammo selection and availability. There is an excellent selection of rounds in this size for personal protection or tactical use. Not to mention the low price of .380 ball ammo.
I have since added a second Bulgarian Makarov to my collection. The day I got it, I ordered a replacement barrel in the .380 and a complete spring kit from the web sight. The items arrived in a couple of days, with detailed instructions. My girlfriend installed this barrel and then laid claim to the gun as her own. There is a barrel press that you can rent from Makarov.com to help with the change over, or you can use a padded bench vise as well as a large C clamp. I also added grip-enhance strips on both of my Makarovs, which has made both of these great guns that much better.
SKS Articles of Comment
Re March 2003, “More SKS Rifles! Albanian and Yugoslavian Imports Slug It Out”:
I have a few comments regarding your recent SKS article. A partially expended SKS magazine can be readily replenished with loose rounds by turning the rifle upside down, unlatching and pivoting the magazine floorplate out of the way and dropping in the rounds.
SKS rifles have poor accuracy because the barrel is used to clamp the front of the receiver in the stock. It is impossible to keep many of these rifles zeroed because the zero wanders around with the ambient humidity warping of the stock.
A clever gunsmith told me years ago he was able to get an SKS to shoot 1-inch groups at 100 yards by permanently attaching a lug onto the front of the receiver, which engaged the stock’s through bolt to clamp the front of the receiver and glass bedding the action.
Also, the firing pin isn’t spring loaded, making the SKS susceptible to slam fires if ammo with soft primers is used. Probably only Mil Spec ammo should be used. The SKS is not a rifle for the reloader. Apart from the cautions concerning primers, cases get beat up from the forceful ejection. The spring which powers the extractor operates at a considerable mechanical disadvantage, so that even the slightest weakening of it will result in the bolt slamming into an incompletely ejected case, thoroughly jamming the action.
Anyone residing in a free state who possesses a Yugoslavian SKS would be well advised not to bring one into the People’s Republik of Kalifornia. A “grenade launcher” is defined so vaguely in the PRK that almost anything could be construed as such. The left-wing fascists who control this state would rather release murderers, rapists, child molesters, gangsters and terrorists from over-crowded prisons than let some poor soul who inadvertently transgressed any of the PRK’s innumerable anti-gun laws escape punishment.
SKSs Shooting High
Re March 2003, “More SKS Rifles! Albanian and Yugoslavian Imports Slug It Out”:
I read your SKS article, and it mentions that both rifles shoot high. First, I believe that the sights are set in meters. For every 10 meters, it would be 11 yards, so this would throw off the bullet at what was assumed 300 yards by 30 yards high.
I bought a Russian SKS and I believe, not for sure, that the sights on mine were set for 300 meters normally, without lifting the sights up for further shots. Also, I had read a book that told about how to set your sights on a scope to allow you to shoot at objects 300 yards out without having to figure out to hold high or low. Gist of the matter, figure out where the bullet dropped, trajectory wise 8 inches, and set your scope to shoot high at 100 yards to allow the bullet to be 8 inches low at 300 yards.
-George Bowen Jr.
That’s called point-blank range. -Todd Woodard