August 2003

Firing Line: 08/03

.380 Versus .38 Special
Re: June 2003 “Firing Line”:

I read with interest the two letters taking Gun Tests to task for daring to say the .38 Special was more powerful than the .380. The .380 (either the Colt Mustang or the AMT Backup) is certainly more concealable than the .38 special, but the round is simply a weaker load. My Colt Detective averages 955 fps with Cor-Bon 158-grain lead bullets. That is only 45 fps slower than the advertised velocity on the box, and is probably due to the 2-inch barrel. The measure of energy is 320 foot-pounds using Hatcher’s formula. (The no-longer-produced 115-grain Cor-Bons screamed out at 1207 fps for 372 foot-pounds of energy, but I preferred the heavier bullet.) In comparison, the .380-caliber 90-grain Cor-Bon load claims a speed of 1050 fps. Let’s assume it has full speed. The measure of energy comes out at 220 foot-pounds. The .380 has less than 70 percent of the .38 Special’s energy based on two loadings from one of the hottest-ammo manufacturers around.

On an unrelated topic, you dissed the .45 AMT Backup due to jamming problems, but my experience is that it took about 400 rounds to break in. After that I have had no more problems. But I fully understand why you didn’t shoot 400 rounds through it!

-Todd Vierheller


What About The Cowboy?
Re: July .2003, “45 Single-Action Colts and Clones: USFA’s Rodeo Is Our Pick”:

As an avid Cowboy Action shooter, I was very interested in your tests of the Colt and clones. Though I have had my share of clones (EMF Hartford models and Uberti Model P’s), all of which gave me good service, I’ve settled on stainless Ruger Vaqueros for their virtual total reliability and ease of “slicking up” with aftermarket parts (free spin pawl, Wolff spring kits, bullseye ejector rods and Belt Mountain cylinder base pins — all available from our good friends at Brownells) without costing an arm and a leg.

In your recent test, I think you missed something in not comparing the AWA, USFA Rodeo and Uberti to the Colt Cowboy rather than to a Colt 3rd. Gen SAA. The Colt Cowboy was brought out by Colt to compete on a cost basis with the three guns you did evaluate, so it would have been interesting to see how its “value” stacked up against the other three in the same price range.

-F.C. Gaetje
Houston, Texas

Check our online back articles section for an evaluation of the Colt Cowboy. -Todd Woodard


In Defense of the CZ P-01
Re: June 2003, “9mm Pistols: We Compare Beretta, SIGArms, and Magnum Research”:

In a “bonus test” to this feature, Gun Tests reported it had a bad experience with the CZ P-01, which is unfortunate. I now carry one as my full-time carry. My pistol has fed UMC 115-grain FMJs, Magtech 124-grain FMJs, PMP 115-grain FMJs, and S&B 115-grain ammunition without any problems. It also fired 124-grain Remington Golden Saber brass-jacketed hollowpoints in 1.25- to 3-inch groups at 25 yards. I find the trigger does have stages to the pull, which allows the shooter more flexibility rather than feeling disjointed or gritty. If pulled with a deliberate, smooth action my weapon has fired safely at every turn. The rubber grip does feel spongier than my SIG P239. However, I feel more confident in the grip, and that sticky or spongy feeling does not hinder the firing or control of the pistol at all. I also assume that the single-action pull was a typo, because at 65 pounds, that would say “Conditional Buy” to me.

I really enjoy Gun Tests every month. I was wondering if maybe some historical comparisons might be cool. The Smith & Wesson 19 versus the 686, or the Taurus 851 versus the Smith Bodyguard might be some things to consider.

-Jon Gold
Detroit, Michigan


Another “Custom” Item for the 1911
I always read the “Firing Line” section first; but I will never buy products from, or consider comments of, people too ignorant to be civil in their correspondence. Nobody likes to be a punching bag. Take note, FN USA.

As a retiree, I’m unable to support all the gun mags I used to; and many of my subscriptions have gone by the wayside. Gun Tests, however, is at the top of my “keep subscribing” list. Keep up the good work!

I’m a fan of the unmodified 1911A1 with all its shortcomings, but my grip slips on the slide when I rack it without first cocking the hammer. It would be nice if my stainless Springfield Armory MilSpec 1911A1 had a “ribbed” slide from the front sight back to the ejection port. I apologize for “plugging” my Springfield Armory MilSpec .45, but I love it! Even the hammer sides are inletted to avoid “galling” the slide. I think this method of reducing hammer/slide friction is as effective as skeletonizing the hammer to increase hammer speed.

-Bob Easton
Lancaster, Ohio


Glock 26 — No Surprises
Re: July 2003, “Subcompact 9mm Pistols: Our Picks for Concealed Carry and Combat”:

The content and conclusions of the article on the Glock 26 (G26) did not surprise those of us who own this very reliable pistol. It is an easy to shoot little handgun with excellent accuracy. Four years ago, my wife qualified for her CCW license with the Glock 26. What is interesting about this was that to my wife, the G26 was a new, out-of-the-box pistol, and she had never fired it prior to the day she qualified. Her qualifying score was very high (the only other handgun she had fired prior to the G26 was a Colt Trooper). The limited grip area of the G26 is easily overcome through the use of a grip extension. I have the Pearce grip extension on each of my G26 magazines, and it provides an ergonomically correct resting place for the pinky finger and it does not interfere with the concealment or with the presentation of the pistol. The various grip extensions that are available could be a subject for the “Short Shots” section of Gun Tests.

-Don Smith
Dallas, Texas


Winchester 62A Fan
Re: June 2003, “Pump-Rifle Probe: Are They Any Good?”:

I prize your magazine, been getting it for years, save every issue. Great work, and influential in many of my gun purchases. Just one gripe, and probably not much you can do about it. Tomorrow is June 1, and I got my June copy yesterday. I’ve got a friend in Tucson who also gets Gun Tests, and he gets his two or three weeks before I do. What gives? You think New Mexico is a foreign country? Our last names both begin with “H,” so I know it’s not an alphabetical thing. I’m 300 miles closer to Greenwich, Connecticut, than he is, so I can’t figure it out.

I loved the article comparing the three models of pump .22s, and though I agree with your statement that the purpose of shooting is to hit, how can you say that ugly Henry is your pick? It bears little resemblance to the classic Winchester, and hardly looks like a slide action at all. I am the proud owner of two Winchester 62As, and I love these old sweethearts.

Let me say one thing about accuracy: I own 11 or 12 .22 rifles (nothing so nice as an Anschutz or Cooper), and only two will shoot the wonderful little Colibri cartridge — the Winchesters. That little cartridge shoots a tiny bullet out of a case utilizing only primer, no gunpowder. Makes hardly any noise, but at 300 fps, I’ve knocked down many a pesky grackle in my backyard (they spread parvo while scavenging dog food and kill many puppy litters annually here). Much quieter than an air rifle. No good upsetting the bird-hugging neighbors!

-Dave Homberger

Differences in mail delivery actually have to do with postal routes. Timing on presorted mail can vary depending on how far away from a regional post office you live. Also, the magazine is actually mailed from the printing plant in Missouri. -Todd Woodard


First issue
Re: June 2003, “Pump-Rifle Probe: Are They Any Good?”:

Wow, you sure know how to get a new subscriber’s attention! I own a Winchester Model 62 .22, and I was very impressed with the article comparing it to the Henry and the Taurus. It has to be one of the earlier models, because I remember it as a little kid, (I’m 62), and it was the one I learned to shoot with. My dad passed away in ’54, and I was left with several classic guns. I still love to shoot the 62. Thanks for the great article.

-Wm. S. Savage


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

Just finished subject article and have to laugh. Why would anyone who prefers a semi-auto choose any of those clunkers and/or high-priced items over a single-stack Makarov with all its great features, including price, chrome-plated barrel and chamber, greater safety, DA for first shot, accuracy, slightly higher power, and legendary reliability. I can give examples of at least six of them, made variously in East Germany, Russia, and China. All will digest any 9x18 ammo (handloads or commercial) and have never once failed to feed, fire, or eject. At least two of them fired more than 2,000 rounds each in various defensive-pistol programs. Yes, the Makarov is a little heavier, but in a proper holster you never notice it. Price of the Makarov is less than $200, and the one I have, plus aftermarket Novak sights, has cost me less than the least expensive one reviewed. At 25 yards it groups equal or smaller than the 15-yard groups in the review.

The only complaint I can think of involves its heel-mounted mag release, but I wonder if any of the reviewed ones will drop the magazine free with use of only one hand. Don’t believe you commented on this.

-Bill Kinter

We review a Makarov in this issue, and largely agree with your conclusions. -Ray Ordorica


Inline Muzzleloaders
Re: May 2003, “In-Line Black-Powder Rifles: Knight’s DISC Is Our Pick”:

I look forward to reading your magazine monthly , but I can’t seem to put it down until I’ve read every word. That only takes about an hour or two, so I have to wait another month to see another issue. That’s usually my only complaint.

But for the life of me I can’t see why you think the Remington 700ML is too costly? I realize there are front stuffers that are much cheaper, but you can’t argue the quality of the Remington. Having owned many Remington products that have never let me down, I wouldn’t let the price turn me away from this sweetheart of a muzzleloader.

At the present I own three 700ML muzzleloaders in various configurations and a Knight MK85, and they are all fine products. None of the Remingtons I own set me back more than $399. I realize that all the tested muzzleloaders can be purchased for much lower prices than the suggested list. My favorite front stuffer is a 700ML youth that I picked up for $300. It prints groups at 50 yards that are all tiny cloverleafs with two Pyrodex pellets and 245-grain Power Belt bullets. I shoot at 50 yards because my old eyes and iron sights don’t get along liked they used to. Any way thanks for listening, and I guess if that’s my only complaint, you guys are doing a great job.

-Randy Astalfa


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

You found loading the ten-round mags to be quite a chore. Inserting the tenth round took some muscle. It is not a chore. It is a royal P.I.T.A.! And that’s not bread.

SIGArms should be ashamed of itself. I own several SIGs. It is my favorite defensive handgun. I sold SIGs for five years as a clerk in a gun store. After my customers bought a SIG, but before he or she left the store, I told them about the magazines, and the cure. New SIG mags suck. Many will not accept the tenth round, regardless of muscle. They have been known to break an HK loading device. There is some sort of crud inside the magazine’s shell or tube. Every new double-stack SIG we sold had the problem, as well as every SIG double-stack magazine sold separately. I forget whether the single stacks, P-220, -225, -230, or -232, have the problem or not. Don’t think so.

The cure is easy. Disassemble every single new SIG magazine before loading it for the first firing. Then run a cleaning rag through the tube, base to top. The rag should not be heavily oiled, but should just barely smell of oil, or be a silicon rag. If you want, run a dry rag after the barely oily/silicon rag. Reassemble the mag. Problem solved. Why can’t SIG do that, or prevent the need for it?

-Mike McLaughlin
Bridgewater, VA


Retail Pricing Problem
Re: May 2003, “Police Trade-In Pistols: Bargains, Busts or Buyers Beware?”

I am the manager of a small retail firearms store in Southern California, and I must take exception to a practice that Gun Tests seems to be adopting.

In the May 2003 issue you test .40 caliber police trade-in pistols. The article was very informative, as most of your pieces are. However at the end of the first paragraph you give dealer prices for the firearms. Then the article states that markup is “typically 10 to 15 percent of the gun’s cost with a $25 minimum.”

You are doing firearms retailers a tremendous disservice. First, it is bad manners and unethical to disclose wholesale prices to the consumer. I do not see your publication putting out a letter to subscribers telling them how much it costs to put out the magazine, letting us know how much money Gun Tests makes on our subscriptions.

My second point has to do with your claimed mark-up. I do not know of any retail store that only makes 10 to 15 percent on firearms and manages to stay in business for any length of time. The average mark-up is 50 to 100 percent in the retail industry. We make most of our profit on used firearms, and 10 to 15 percent does not even keep the lights on.

-Jason Parr