September 2003

Firing Line: 09/03

Testing the .45-70
Re August 2003 “Trapdoor Springfields, What’s Your Best .45-70 Choice?”:

Congratulations on another great issue, that’s about 176 in a row, or thereabouts. You are absolutely right about not wanting to test the service charge of the original .45-70. Those things create about 22 foot-pounds of free recoil; they really grab your attention. I have an original, cut to a carbine for movie work. It is an absolute joy to shoot with a 300-grain cast roundnose pushed with 50 grains of Pyrodex.

-Bruce Krohn
Los Lunas, NM

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Colt SSA 1st Generation
Re July 2003 “45 Single Action Colts and Clones, USFA’s Rodeo is our Cowboy Pick”:

I really like the very candid approach of your publication, unlike all of the other magazines on similar subjects. Those others, in my opinion, merely serve their advertisers. Anyway, I enjoyed reading about the 1904 Colt SSA, because I own a Colt 1860 Army that “fought” in the “War.” I’m afraid to try to fire my Colt—the barrel is off-center, if you know what I mean.

Could you point me to a reliable dealer whereby I could purchase a nice Colt 1st generation similar to the one you discussed in your July magazine? I’ve heard for a while how the quality of the current Colts is just not what it should be—and the candor of your article fits with what I’ve seen.

-Richard A. Hutchins
@cox.net


I’d suggest Ray Meibaum, at Ray’s Gun Shop in Florissant, Missouri, for a good selection of early (and modern) Colts. Phone: (314) 837-5109. His website is www.coltsaa.com. One other source I know who deserves checking on occasional old Colts is David Condon, Middleburg, VA, (540) 687-5642, website: www.davidcondon.com. —Ray Ordorica

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No Problem with Kahr P9
Re July 2003, “Subcompact 9mm Pistols, Our Pick for Concealed Carry and Combat”:

In your review of the Kahr P9 you noted the magazines do not drop freely. I’ve owned and used a P9 since they were first introduced, have used it for three different two-day defensive and combat handgun courses, and have never had a magazine [OEM or aftermarket], either partially full or empty, fail to drop free. I should note I’ve also never experienced a fail to fire or other malfunction. Your comments about the rather difficult field strip are valid, but I think the P9’s weight, accuracy, concealability and reliability make it an ideal carry gun.

-John H. Christman
Encinitas, CA

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.32 NAA
Re June 2003 “Firing Line”:

I was interested to note your reader’s inquiry regarding the referenced recently “SAAMI-recognized” new cartridge NAA designed and developed in partnership with CorBon (www.naaminis.com/32NAArel.html).

This gun is not smaller, but is actually dimensionally identical (excepting the bore diameter) to the .380ACP version you mentioned and had earlier tested. I believe you can look forward to SIG chambering the P230 for this cartridge. Additionally, we are offering replacement barrels for this cartridge for the soon-to-be-evaluated Makarov 9x18-framed guns (Ray Ordorica might be interested to note that the muzzle velocity of this round from a 4-inch Mak conversion barrel exceeds 1400 fps). There are a variety of reasons—notwithstanding impressive ballistic performance—that we expect this cartridge to be increasingly adopted.

-Sandy Chisholm
@sandychisholm.com

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Marlin 1894CP
Re: October 2002, “Want to Win at Cowboy Action?”:

I recently bought a new Marlin 1894CP (recently discontinued) in .357 Mag./.38 Special. I had fired and liked my brother’s in .44 Mag. I like Winchester 94s and Marlin 1895s and 1894s, have some of each, but have always found the triggers on Marlins to be much better. The first thing I do with any of these rifles is install William’s aperture rear sights and a Fire Sight front.

When I bought my 1894CP, I had been shown one in the sales rack. It was very smooth in action and trigger just like other Marlins I’ve used. I told the clerk I wanted the rifle, and he said he had one still in the box and unhandled in the back and went to get it. We opened the box, and he verified the serial number for the paperwork.

When I got home and tried the action and trigger, I found the action to be very stiff and the trigger pull is worse than a $20 Chinese pellet rifle I have. Thinking it might smooth up with use, I ordered the sights from William’s, which arrived two weeks later. I fitted the front sight to the dovetail, then started on the rear, just as I have done with several other Marlins and Winchesters. Much to my surprise I couldn’t find any factory- drilled peep sight holes in the receiver. I checked the exploded drawing in the owner’s manual and the “peep sight hole filler screws” are shown on the left side of the receiver. I came to the conclusion this rifle was rough, and they had even missed drilling the holes because of some factory mistake that had slipped by Marlin’s quality control. I called Marlin’s customer service and explained about the missing holes. I thought I would be told to send them the rifle, and everything would be fixed under warranty. Instead I was told Marlin quit drilling peep sight holes in their rifles in mid 2001, and I should take it to a gunsmith. I live in a remote area (I had to drive 90 miles one way just to buy the rifle), and gunsmiths are equally distant. I don’t know if the rough nature of this rifle is an aberration, but not to drill two holes in the receiver is just ridiculously cheap. I wonder if next Marlin will stop drilling and tapping for scope mounts?

The Marlin is at a gunsmith’s now, but the more I think about it, the more I wish that I had bought a Winchester Trapper.

-Gary Brush
@meadowcrk.com

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Stopping Power
Re: August 2003 “Firing Line, .380 Versus .38 Special”:

You made some comments about the writings of Marshall and Sanow.

Let me start out by saying that I too have some questions about the accuracy of their work. However, when you write “They were based on issues that they wanted to push...” and also quote Chuck Taylor as saying, “...its real focus is to lend credence to the pet theories of its authors...,” I find myself wondering just what those issues and pet theories are. If the issues and theories are merely that we can learn something (not everything) about stopping power by studying past gunfights, then we are probably all guilty of that. We simply have different records and methods of analysis. Marshall is quite willing to post gelatin data, so he obviously thinks that it too tells us something.

For those who say that Marshall and Sanow are “pushing” the idea of a particular caliber/weight/velocity as being more effective, we should note that they show the best .45 ACP loads as a tie between the 230 gr HydraShok and the 185-grain Golden Saber. A similar tie exists in 2-inch .38 Special between the 158-grain LHP and the 125-grain SJHP. Other combinations can be found in their data.

They generally show that hollowpoints are more effective than non-expanding bullets, but the difference varies considerably from one cartridge to another.

Many years ago, I remember reading an article by Marshall that explained why his .41 Mag with SWC bullets would be superior to any .357 Mag with hollowpoints. But when his data started to show the reverse, he was willing to admit it. His first published data for the 9mm 147-grain JHP showed nine stops for 10 shootings, and he wrote something like “I don’t think that this round is really so good, but that’s what the data shows so far.” Sounds honest to me.

As previously mentioned, I believe that Marshall and Sanow’s methods and statistics are far from perfect. But to simply dismiss their work because it disagrees with our intuition, or because we could perhaps do a better statistical analysis, is just as foolish as to pick ammunition from their tables based on a 1 percent difference between loads.

-Jim Downing

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S&W 396-1
Re March 2003, “Big Bore Snubbies: Smith & Wesson, Taurus Go Head To Head”:

You state that the S&W has a titanium frame and scandium cylinder. Is this correct?

-Nathan Smith
@alltel.net


The listing of a Ti cylinder and Sc frame in the module was correct. Unfortunately, the inversion of this information in the text seems to have escaped our eagle eyes. —Roger Eckstine

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

Mr. Parr should not be so insensitive toward you publishing the mark up of firearms. While I am sure price gouging is a common practice in California, it is not the practice of all firearm retailers. I have worked for one dealer and have assisted another in their day-to-day operations. I talk to many of the managers of Wal-Mart sporting goods and Academy sporting goods stores. The mark up among them all is usually no more than 30 percent, with 10 to 20 percent being the norm. All a customer has to do is pick up a copy of Shotgun News and they will see many of the wholesale prices. The American consumer is not stupid. Many of them do research prior to buying. If Mr. Parr is marking up his firearms 50 to 100 percent, then more power to him, and I wish him well. The rest of the “retail industry” seems to be doing well with the lower prices. Also, many of the retailers know that if the prices are lower, then they will get many repeat costumers who spend more. Here in Slidell, there are three firearms shops, two Wal-Marts and one Academy Sporting Goods, and they are all doing well, and they are not only keeping the lights on, they are making a profit.

-Eric Jones Sr.
@aol.com

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Springfield XD .357
Re July 2003, “Subcompact 9mm Pistols, Our Pick for Concealed Carry and Combat”:

After reading your reviews on the XD pistol I purchased one in the .357 caliber with the 4-inch barrel.

Your reviews have been right on with this pistol. (I believe you last tested a .40 version) I can’t believe how accurate this pistol is with the .357 round.

I have routinely owned Glocks in the past. As a matter of fact I am on my eighth one. The Springfield may have stolen my heart away. At my range in the Tucson Mountain Park I have developed a new form of golfing! I throw golf balls out and use them as my targets. I used to do well with my Glocks, but the Springfield takes the cake. Today, with witnesses, I tossed a golf ball out and popped it. I was using S&B 140-grain full metal jackets. The ball sailed out to 95-plus yards, stopping just short of the 100-yard berm. I said what the heck and for kicks kept shooting at the same golf ball. To my surprise I was able to first bracket the ball, missing by inches, then I hit it within the next seven or eight shots and sent it flying over the top of the berm! There were two witnesses who saw the shot. Just in case it was a fluke, I tried the same thing with another golf ball and was able to knock the ball over the berm again within 2 1/2 clips. What an accurate pistol the XD is in .357. I have now put about 300 rounds through my new pistol and have not had one failure with it.

After many thousands of rounds of shooting Glocks, the Springfield has converted me.

-Greg Woznick
Tucson, AZ

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S&W 1911
Re April 2003 “Smith & Wesson’s New 1911 .45 ACP”:

Having recently purchased one of the S&W 1911s; I re-read your article with great interest. Your mention of the lack of a bushing wrench did come as a surprise to me because such a small item being excluded from a high-quality package as this one seems to be more of an oversight than a cost-cutting measure. Upon receipt of my pistol and a check of the case, I was pleasantly surprised to find that 50-cent wrench you wrote of was included. I guess someone at S&W is reading your articles. My thanks for a great article and fine publication.

-Robert F. Gilmartin
@outdrs.net

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More 1911s
Re April 2003 “Smith & Wesson’s New 1911 .45 ACP”:

Page 10 refers to the single-action trigger breaking at exactly 4 pounds. On page 8, the trigger pull weight (SA) shows breaking at 6.5 pounds. The follow-up second opinion by Ray Ordorica on page 9 referenced the bad stuff, “the trigger pull of this sample was way too heavy, measuring almost 6.5 pounds”.

I am on a waiting list for this new 1911. Any clarification on the trigger pull would be appreciated.

-Victor J. Miller
@att.net


Ray and I had two different guns, probably from two different runs. So, neither Ray nor my reports were actually a second opinion. It would seem reasonable to assume that initial runs of a new model include small changes and improvements. This is commonly tracked by Smith & Wesson in their revolver lineup with models like the 625-2 or 625-5, wherein the suffix denotes a separate production run. I hope you get a pistol as good as the one I had. —Roger Eckstine

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SKS Letter
Re: April 2003 “Firing Line”:

Rather than argue with M. Hoff’s theory about why an SKS shoots so poorly, I will agree that it does and offer to the millions of SKS owners an easy-to-do cheap (10-cent) solution to the problem.

After an SKS has fired a 1,000 rounds or so, a distinct front-to-back play between the entire steel mechanism and the stock will become apparent. Hold the stock at the pistol grip with one hand and the barrel in the other and you will be able to push and pull the action front to rear in the stock approximately 1/16-inch. This front-to-back play will gradually increase to approximately 3/16 inch as the SKS is fired more. With 3/16-inch play, you will be lucky to hit the black at all at 100 yards. With poor ammo, you may not be able to even hit the paper.

M. Hoff identified a culprit area, but not the real cause of the inaccuracy. The barrel hook fits under the through bolt and pulls the action down into the stock. Unfortunately, the hook opens toward the muzzle and provides no recoil transfer to the stock.

The entire recoil is absorbed by the stock at the point where it contacts the flat steel finger that extends down from the top of the action and through the trigger group (at the rear) to lock the trigger group to the action. This contact area is at the back of a clearance channel approximately 3/8-inch wide cut in the stock to allow that flat steel finger to swing through an arc as the action is installed.

As the SKS is fired, the action slams into this channel and smashes the wood rearwards. Eventually, the channel depth is increased so much that one can literally push the action into it and then pull the action forward until it is stopped by the barrel hook at the through bolt. This is the front-to-back play.

To fix this problem, make two small oak (or other hardwood) wedges with a width equal to the width of the channel. They have to slide into the channel. Length is about 3/4-inch for the top wedge and 1/2-inch for the bottom wedge. The thickness of the wedges is determined by how much front to back play there is. Make the wedges about 1/32- to 1/16-inch thicker than the amount of front-to-back play. I’ve fixed SKSs with 3/16-inch play this way.

As the action is being installed, place the top wedges on the steel finger as it starts into the stock. The underside of the overhang of the action will drive the wedge ahead of it into the clearance channel. If the thickness is correct, a rubber mallet will probably be needed to seat the action. When the trigger group is being installed, put the bottom wedge in the channel. The top side of the trigger group overhang will drive the wedge into the channel ahead of it as it is being seated. I use a 1/2-inch wood dowel and a hammer to drive the trigger group down. At this point the SKS is as tight and as accurate as a $1.29 battle rifle can be. Bedding compound installed in the channel may work but it will be tricky because the rectangular finger sweeps through an arc in the channel.

Try different “brands” of 7.62x39. There is no good foreign stuff. However, some are significantly better than others. Foreign-made ammo is so cheap that reloading is not really a significant cost saver. However, reloading will allow you to use a better bullet (American made Hollow Point). Military hard primers are available from CCI. Use Number 34 which is the same primer to use for reloading 30-06 and 308 for use in M1/M14 rifles. The cost is the same as CCI large rifle primers. Number 34 primers are a little difficult to find and may have to be ordered. They come in individual trays of 100 or in the APS strips. Both are packed in plain white boxes with black letters. SKS will slam fire even with imported mil surplus ammo. It will get your attention when it does. If it happens more than 1 out of a 1,000 rounds, you are just unlucky.

Some people attempt to mount small scopes on their SKS. Most attempt to mount them on the recoil spring dust cover either by drilling into it and adding mounts or replacing it with one that has rings. Mounting a scope on the dustcover will not work. The dust cover itself is loosely attached to the action and the scope will never return to the same place shot-to-shot. The only mount that works pretty well is made by BSquare. It uses a clever jam fit that is rock solid. Unfortunately, in order to remove the recoil spring, bolt, and bolt carrier for cleaning, you have to uninstall the BSquare. It does not return to zero when reinstalled!

Use noncorrosive ammo and you can probably get away with cleaning the action every 2,000 shots. Also note that irrespective of the 600-meter sight settings and the 250 battle setting, the SKS is a 100-yard rifle at best.

-Lance Elliott
@socal.rr.com