July 2003

Firing Line: 07/03

Beretta Accuracy Questioned
Re June 2003, “9mm Pistols: We Compare Beretta, SIGArms, and Magnum Research”:

On page six, you show the SIGArms P226 with the smallest groups all the way down the chart. However, in the text you write, “Despite the Beretta 92F being the accuracy winner….” You have me confused.

-O. Thomas Rork
Topeka, KS

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SIG The Tightest?
Re June 2003, “9mm Pistols: We Compare Beretta, SIGArms, and Magnum Research”:

You wrote that the Beretta is the accuracy champ of these three, yet the SIG shot the tightest group (1.8 inch vs. a best of 2.5 inch for the Beretta), and had the tightest average groupings (1.8, 2.4 and 2.0 inches compared to the Beretta’s 2.5, 3.2 and 3.3-inch groupings).

-Hugh Brownstone
@earthlink.net


The words “accuracy champ” do not appear in the text. I have checked my original manuscript against what was published and can find one problem, which is likely the source of this confusion. The final paragraph of the Beretta section in my original manuscript doesn’t say that the Beretta was the most accurate or anything to that effect. It does, however, say that more accuracy is available. From here I go on to talk about the Army Marksmanship Unit version of the 92. This paragraph, originally in the main text, was cut and turned into a sidebar that had the sentence, “Despite the 92FS being the accuracy winner of this test….” Our muddled point was that the Beretta can be turned into a much more accurate product, if the owner is so inclined. That’s not what the accuracy table clearly shows about the test guns themselves—the SIG was better than the Beretta. -Roger Eckstine

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Mine Doesn’t Malfunction
Re June 2003, “9mm Pistols: We Compare Beretta, SIGArms, and Magnum Research”:

Your sidebar review of the CZ P01 was most interesting. I purchased one about three months ago for approximately $80 less than the listed price. It replaced a CZ without a decocker. That weapon was absolutely reliable, except when using a .40 dummy-shell casing for clearing drills. (Not recommended for the faint of heart.)

My P01 has yet to experience an ejection failure. The only failure to feed was an error on my part — failed to properly seat the magazine (corrected by a tap, rack, bang drill.) I have four magazines, two provided with the weapon and two from the previous CZ. All operate reliably with the gun.

The gun is lightweight, easy to carry, and shoots better than I can. The only problem is finding a good holster to fit that is not a “Yaqui Slide” style. The front of the gun is wider than my previous CZ and wider than a Government Model .45. Most holster makers do not have models yet for this model.

-Tom Krupp
Director of Investigations
Clarence M. Kelley and Associates, Inc.
www.cmka.com


For an updated review of the P01, please check the 9mm subcompact article in this issue. -Todd Woodard

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.30-Caliber Browning Machine Gun
Re June 2003, “Collectible Firearms: The Ohio Ordnance Works Browning 1917 Is a Winner”:

Regarding the 1917 Browning your crew was trying to take apart, I wondered if after they removed the backplate with handle and the bolt spring they tried to trip the accelerator. It should have pushed the two lower blocks out the rear and moved the barrel extension. It should have worked, rusted or not. I generally soak those kind of stuck parts for a few days before working on them.

I had a very fortunate experience in the Army. I was already a tested and experienced machine gunner when I was sent to Ft. Benning, Ga. I was assigned to the Machine Gun Committee under Col. Brown and a Maj. Pemberton. These men were long-time students of John Browning and were walking libraries regarding machine gun ordnance, tactics, and political use of automatic weapons. I have seen Maj. Pemberton give a 40- hour block of instruction in one hour.

If you desire more background information for research on this type of matter, you could consult the U.S. Infantry School or even West Point. I would always be glad to help, but I am just an old man with a little gun store. Most of us who used guns like this are dead.

-Bruce Welch
Owner, Berry Creek Guns
berrycreekguns@msn.com

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Hi-Power Extractor
Re April 2003, “A Second Opinion: Smith’s SW1911 is Very Near The Mark”:

I was reading Gun Tests and saw what is getting to be a common error. Please tell Ray Ordorica, in reference to his sidebar about the SW1911, that John Browning did not design the Hi-Power with an external extractor. The original Browning design and the gun as revised by Dieudonné Saive had an internal extractor similar to the real 1911.

Only later did FN change to an external extractor, probably to reduce cost and simplify assembly, as Dan Wesson and others are doing to the 1911 now. The change was made in 1956 or 1962, depending on how you read the references, but Mr. Browning was long dead.

I have also seen this revision of history in Combat Handguns magazine and an Internet review of the SW1911. Repetition does not make it right.

-James Watson


Thank you for pointing out my error. You are correct in stating the original Hi-Power or P-35 had an internal extractor. However, you are incorrect in suggesting the design was changed to reduce costs. My research indicates it was changed because of common breakage of the original-design extractor. This change apparently took place after WWII, though I have been unable to determine exactly when. The external extractor on the new Smith & Wesson SW1911 is superb, and in recent extensive shooting tests has not given any problems. In that regard it seems to be superior to Browning’s original design, though a definitive evaluation will evolve over the years. Browning, as you probably know, designed the P-35 as a single-stack handgun, not trusting the double-row mag. Browning died before completing the design of the Hi-Power, which Saive — the designer of the FAL action — completed. Saive was John Browning’s chief design assistant at FN. -Ray Ordorica

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Pocket Pistol History
Re April 2003, “Pocket Pistol Pair-Off: We Test A Set of .380 Surplus Handguns”:

The article on the .380 pocket pistols left me a little disappointed. Who am I to complain? My background is 24+ years in the Marine Corps with tours as a tactics/small-arms instructor before moving into the logistics field. Currently, I am a CPA and work as a government employee for the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, I have a small LLC that specializes in firearms sales.

Your pocket pistol article was okay, but you could have added a lot more. A brief historical review of the Colt .380 line would have been helpful. Colt made a number of related .380s using an integrated approach and common components. There were three basic models:

• Government Model
• Mustang (Compact version of the government model)
• and the Plus II (Government Model frame with compact Mustang slide — a chopped Government Model).

Each of these models could be had in a variety of metals and finishes. Steel was the most common, with stainless and alloy being the most sought after. The alloy models, being lighter, were called Pocketlites. There were also a number of finishes available, including blue/matte, nickel and natural metal-gray beadblast on the alloy frames.

The line was discontinued in the late 1990s, and prices have been going up on the used market. New-in-box models can be had for a premium ($550 to $650 for a Pocketlite), and the average cost of the Mustang is $425 to $500. The matte finish is better for concealment, and this further drives up the price.

Pocketlite models are hard to find in good condition, especially the matte ones. Because the alloy frame cannot be blued, Colt used what I think is a baked-on finish with a clear coat of lacquer. Many blue-matte Pocketlites (including some of mine) now have a splotchy finish where too strong a cleaner dissolved the clear coat. (Gun Scrubber is basically a mild carburetor cleaner, in my view. A full-strength carburetor cleaner may be too much. Another Colt Collector once told me he watched his Pocketlite finish flake away after using such a cleaner).

Many of the Pocketlites have to have the mainspring guide rod replaced because the factory one was plastic, and they tend to get worn at the base. This is especially true of the Pocketlites because the guide rod goes through the slide. My experience is that they are a real pain. Replacement springs and guides are available from Brownells.

I have collected Colts for years and have models of each version/finish. Each has its own advantages.

Now on to your review. You were right on the mark with the Iver Johnson. The Firearms International has always had mixed results. The Mustang info was also basically good.

The accuracy results of the Colt Pocketlites is old news, and some of the old reviews in Guns & Ammo and the “Pocket Pistol” editions from G&A show a 5-inch group. The Government Model is more accurate with what I think is a better spring/guide arrangement (similar to the 1911A1). Colt never intended the Mustang to be a match pistol.

My main complaint with your review was that you had to “oil” the Pocketlite. Cleaning and assembly/disassembly checks should be SOP for every new firearm and definitely a must for used firearms. This would include proper lubrication. I have seen several firearms that were received from the factory/owner incorrectly assembled. A good function check is required, and the piece should be oiled/maintained/function tested as is recommended in the user manual or per your knowledge.

This disassembly would also have revealed the plastic parts and any wear present on them. To shoot a pistol, let alone to test one, without making sure that it is really functional should not be done unless one is in the heat of battle.

A key point is that it would have made the test pieces “equal” as far as control measures prior to the test. This is even more critical for used guns procured from sources where there is an unknown quality-control process on routine maintenance.

Additionally, ball ammo should be used first and then the +P hollowpoints. The Federal Personal Protection line is a definite test round.

As a former military officer, I normally carry my single-action semi-automatics with the chamber empty. As a result of training I can bring a piece into action very quickly. The only advantage of the revolver over the semi-auto in this caliber range is the ability to carry and fire via double-action mode.

Bottom line is that you let your otherwise fine test rigor slip on this review.

-James W. Schindler
Stafford, VA


Thank you for your insight into the history of Colt’s .380 array. We generally do not have space or time to thoroughly research a test firearm’s background, and we doubt that anyone short of a dedicated collector would find value in a historical review. Most GT readers want to know first how the guns work and shoot, so we make sure to cover that ground thoroughly at the outset.

We normally would clean a test gun before evaluation, but that particular firearm had been taken from the pocket of one of our test crew, who thought it was in perfect shape. When I saw it, I knew it had problems in light of the large amount of dust on it, so I decided to make a point to our staff member and to our readers: Clean pocket guns if you want them to work. If I had cleaned that gun, I would not have been able to prove that point.

Concerning your carrying your single-action semi-autos with empty chambers, our readers need to know that in many gunfights, one of your arms may be disabled or otherwise put out of action. Given that, how do you propose to chamber a round in your auto?

Classes offered by Thunder Ranch or Gunsite will clear up a whole lot of misunderstandings about self-defense shooting, choice of weaponry, and ways to pack a self-defense firearm. -Ray Ordorica

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No Malfunctions
Re March 2003, “Polymer .45 ACPS: STI, Kimber, Wilson”:

I’ve read the article several times but cannot determine your findings about malfunctions with these pistols. The article says, “It would be a surprise if any of them malfunctioned.”

Were you “surprised” by any malfunctions? I cannot find the answer in the text. I’m particularly interested in the KZ45.

-Joe Breton
San Antonio, TX


Given our prior experience with the full-sized Kimber Polymer and a variety of pistols from Wilson Combat and STI, we didn’t expect any malfunctions. Indeed there were none. We’ve heard nothing but praise from owners of the Wilson KZ45. -Roger Eckstine

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.50-Caliber Economy
Re January 2003, “Make a Big Racket With .50-Caliber Bolt Rifles”:

I really enjoy your magazine. You have a large range of tests. I also enjoy your Downrange editorial and the Firing Line letters section.

I would like to add my experience to what you reported in the .50s article. I own a State Arms Rebel, and it is really fun to shoot. I own a small quarry that is isolated, so I don’t have to worry about ricochets.

Blasting rocks is fun. I get people who visit me to shoot the .50, and they have a ball disintegrating rocks.

RCBS has a reloader kit with a set of dies included for less than $400. When resizing cases, I found out that if you spray the cases with Hornady One Shot and resize the case while wet, they resize easily. So I spray one case, resize it immediately, and then wipe the case off. It works great.

The barrel on my State Arms gun is 41 inches long, and when I chronograph the factory 700-grain armor-piercing rounds, I get 2950 fps. With my reloads, using pulled armor-piercing bullets and 225 grains of government pull-down powder, I get 2900 fps.

The muzzle blast is not that much on this gun. The muzzle brake is quite effective. If you do your homework, you can get the price down pretty low for reloads. The only thing a person is stuck on is primers. I buy CCI 35 primers from Natchez Shooters Supply.

-Jerome T. Jirak
Waucoma, IA