October 2004

Firing Line: 10/04

12-Gauge Defense Shotguns
Re January 2004, “12-Gauge Home-Defense Shotguns: Benelli Nova Tactical Pump and the Mossberg Model 500 Pump”:

I was catching up on my reading and finally got to a comparison of the Benelli Nova Tactical Pump and the Mossberg Model 500 Pump. The article made valid points about the muzzle-heavy balance of the Mossberg with an extended tubular magazine, and the fact that a new Mossberg action is not as smooth as it will become when broken in.

The muzzle heaviness is indeed a factor when swinging to a target on the trap range, but it is not noticeable with the butt of the gun tucked under the arm and shooting at 20 feet. I am also confident that anyone considering a shotgun for self defense will certainly fire his/her Mossberg enough to polish up the action as well as his/her technique.

As a shotgun instructor who teaches first-time shooters, I would like to disagree about the “cumbersome” action release and safety operation of the Mossberg. It is much easier to train new left- and right-handed shooters to safely use a Mossberg tang safety and an action release, which is behind the trigger guard.

The natural tendency of a new shooter fumbling with a cross-bolt safety or an action release in front of the trigger guard is to inadvertently allow the finger to slip into the trigger guard. Adding the stress of a confrontation could exacerbate that tendency, and increase the potential for unintended discharge of the gun.

A left-handed family member attempting to use the house gun may also have a tendency to inadvertently activate the cross-bolt safety of a gun like the Benelli Nova while grabbing the pistol grip.

While this is beyond the scope of the review, if we were to factor in affordable shotgun accessories, the Mossberg 500 is the 1911 of scatterguns. If your gun doesn’t fit, or if you decide to go duck hunting, you can add a Bantam (youth stock) or a conventional length barrel. Check www.mossberg.com/acatalog/acatalog.htm for other products.

-John McEnroe
Portland, Oregon


No Titanium Frame In S&W 4040PD
Re June 2004, “Lightweight Carry Options: A 9mm, a .40 S&W, and a .45 GAP”:

As a nitpicker of publications myself, I realize that the first duty of a nitpicker is to be right. A Ruger New Model revolver with transfer bar does not have two screws in the frame, it has two pins. Old Models with half-cock action had three screws, somewhat like a real Single Action Army.

Also, if you have a Smith & Wesson 4040PD with titanium frame, be sure you get a premium price for it when done shooting it. S&W is of the opinion that they are making that model with a scandium (aluminum alloy) receiver.

-James Watson


I read the tests published in Gun Tests of the Glock 37 and the S&W 4040PD, and I’m confused about the material description for the frame on the S&W 4040PD. The test says titanium is used “to provide the lightest metallic frame possible.” When I consult the periodic table of the elements, it shows that titanium is 60 percent heavier than aluminum alloy, which is what the frame is made of in my S&W 457, a model in the same family as the 4040PD.

-Dan Bergmen

My report describing the 4040PD as having a titanium frame is incorrect. The 4040PD is advertised as a scandium-framed gun, but Jeff Whitehouse at Smith & Wesson said the frame of the 4040PD is primarily aluminum with enough scandium added to increase the frame’s ability to withstand stress. This way the “scandium” gun offers the light weight of aluminum but properties of steel, such as the ability to deform under stress and return to its original shape. This is highly beneficial when shooting high-pressure .40 S&W defense loads. The only single-column metallic compact pistols with 3.5-inch barrels in the Smith & Wesson lineup that weigh less than the 4040PD are chambered for 9mm and carry a lighter top end. —Roger Eckstine


It is always nice to read a recommendation for a firearm I have already purchased, in this case the Smith & Wesson 4040PD. The 4040PD uses an aluminum frame alloyed with the rare element scandium, definitely not a titanium frame as mentioned several times in your review.

An elemental error, of course.

-David Armbruster
St. Louis, Missouri

-The use of scandium was just what Smith & Wesson was looking for in order to continue the AirLite concept into magnum calibers. Regular aluminum alloys have a grain structure that causes them to have limited elasticity, and they tend to weaken over time. Smith & Wesson claims adding scandium increases tensile strength and superplastic performance. Besides getting the frame material wrong, I also could have been more precise in the Materials description by listing the slide as carbon steel. —Roger Eckstine


A Note From NJ
Re “Downrange”:

I very much enjoy your editorial insights in Downrange. As this is a key election year, I wrote Frank Lautenberg concerning his assault weapons bill S.1431. I thought you might be interested in seeing the false information being disseminated by Lautenberg and his supporters concerning the “lethal hail of bullets” that will fall upon an innocent public if Lautenberg and others do not come to their aid with this life-saving legislation.

Here’s what he wrote me:

From: Thank you for contacting me about the “Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003” (S. 1431). I am proud to be the sponsor of this bill, and I appreciate hearing from you on this most important issue.

Assault weapons possess unique, military-bred, anti-personnel design characteristics. These features, taken together, make it easy for a shooter to point — as opposed to aim — the weapon and quickly spray a wide area with a lethal hail of bullets. These features make assault weapons especially attractive to criminals and distinguish them from true hunting or sporting firearms.

Unfortunately, would-be criminals have demonstrated the current ban’s limitations. These limitations include: a gun manufacturer’s ability to modify a characteristic of an assault weapon slightly so as to evade the ban’s coverage; the sale of “parts kits” which permit criminals to assemble unlawful assault weapons; and various reports indicating the continued use of these weapons in the senseless killing of local law-enforcement personnel.

The need for an effective assault weapons ban cannot be overstated: a Violence Policy Center analysis of FBI data found that one in five law-enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 2001, was killed with assault weapons. There is no question that the elimination of assault weapons is not a cure all to the problem of crime prevention. Clearly, we have to get tougher on criminals who traffic in firearms, and we must continually improve our law-enforcement system. But the “Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act” is a step in the right direction.

BS! This aggressive gun control, which will lead to registration and confiscation, will be our fate if John Kerry is elected president. I’m sure that I don’t have to remind you that a Kerry presidency will be one of the worst things to happen to gun owners. If being a gun owner is tough now, imagine what will happen in a political system run by Lautenberg and other senators like him: Kerry, Edwards, Kennedy, Clinton, Shumer, Pelosi, Feinstein and company.

So I wrote him back this note:

I disagree with the tenets of S.1431 and the rhetoric behind this unnecessary and unconstitutional legislation. The very term “assault weapon” is scare language designed to conjure machine-gun-like images in the minds of those who are not familiar with firearms. In fact, semiautomatic rifles are used safely by trained sportsman in organized competitive shooting. Semiautomatic rifles do not “quickly spray a wide area with a lethal hail of bullets” as you erroneously state, but rather shoot one bullet with one pull of the trigger. Please keep in mind that fully-automatic machine guns are already banned, and that the firearms targeted in your proposal are used in less than 2 percent of crimes. Although I am confident that this request will go unheeded, I urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and to, instead, direct your attention to combating the pressing realities of reducing violent crime.

-Dr. Paul Petruzzi
Changewater, NJ


Switchable Ejection Port?
Re July 2004, “A Brace of Odd .223 Autoloaders From Robinson’s and Bushmaster”:

I have been enjoying your publication for years and have made several purchases based on your reviews. I was particularly interested in your recent review of Odd .223 Autoloaders. It seems you failed to mention one very important factor concerning the Bushmaster Bullpup. With the ejection port so far to the rear of the weapon, how does this affect us lefties? Can the ejection port be relocated to the other side? Again, thanks for providing the best gun consumer resource publication on the market.

-Thomas E. Saunders
Burlington, North Carolina

-Our resident lefty didn’t try the Bullpup, so we phoned the maker. A Bushmaster representative told us the company does not consider the Bullpup suitable for lefties. The port is 6 inches in front of the buttplate, and a long-necked shooter can easily get his face farther forward than that. There are no plans currently to make a left-handed version. —Ray Ordorica


S&W “Inertial” Firing Pin
Re: May 2004, “Versatile Four-Inch Forty-Bore Revolvers: Big ‘Snake’ Charms Us”

I’m sure that I am not the first one to point out what I believe to be a fairly serious technical error in this article. You state that in the current S&W design, such as that found on the Model 610, the “. . . firing pin rests in a channel and requires a hammer strike of significant velocity to overcome the spring that holds the firing pin back from the primer.”

Indeed, as I’m sure you are aware, almost all current auto pistol designs have inertial firing pins that work exactly as you describe.

Ahem. But not the current S&W design. Try the experiment that I am doing as I write these words: Take a current S&W, open the cylinder, depress the latch while cocking the hammer, and then pull the trigger while very s-l-o-w-l-y dropping the hammer. Voila! No matter how slowly you drop the hammer, the firing pin protrudes through the recoil shield to strike the primer. The geometry of the S&W design does not rely on the firing pin to “fly” and strike the primer; the hammer follows the pin all the way to the primer strike. So, the dual S&W safeties (I.e., the hammer block and rebounding slide) are the only things that protect the current design from an exterior blow striking the primer, just like the old hammer-nosepin design. I’m afraid your article is wrong on this point; the new design is no safer. I note that my three-year-old Python Elite has exactly the same design characteristic. I’m betting if I go to the safe, my Super Redhawk would too.

Blimey, you say: Why the heck would S&W increase the part count with this design change if it wasn’t safer? You can be certain it boils down to cost. I’m not a production engineer, but I strongly suspect that the matter relates to MIM not being able to easily/cheaply/reliably fabricate the very fine precision “slot” in the old forged hammer for the nose pin.

-Gary Bliss

According to Herb Belin, handgun product Manager at Smith & Wesson, on the current Smith & Wessons, the hammer and the trigger are MIM parts. The advantages of using MIM parts include reduced labor cost since parts rarely if ever need to be machined or handfit. Also, every MIM part is the same. This means more uniformity of function from gun to gun. In the long run, MIM parts may be cheaper to make, but producing a mold can cost as much as $70,000 per part. In Belin’s opinion, the primary reason Smith & Wesson went to the “independent” firing pin was to increase the pressure limit of the overall firearm. “You get to a certain pressure point where you will actually extrude the brass primer material back through the firing-pin bushing hole and that pressure point is significantly higher with an inertial firing pin system than with the hammer nose system,” he said. —Roger Eckstine


Wildey Survivor
Re June 2004, “Big-Bore Semi-Automatic Pistols: Desert Eagle, Wildey Face Off”:

I have had a Wildey Survivor in .45 Winchester Magnum with a 5-inch barrel for more than 15 years. I bought it well used and did not like the way the hammer worked. I replaced the hammer and a few other parts and it has worked without any malfunctions since then. The magazine has never come loose.

To dry fire it, just leave the magazine in the gun and thumb the hammer. Oh yes, you do need a glove when shooting that beast.

The people at Wildey are the best people to do business with. Did you meet and talk to them at the SHOT Show? I did, and they gave me a T-shirt. I guess they felt sorry for an old fart like me.

You put out honest reports. I like that.

-Jim Dent


.416s: No Best Buy?
Re: August 2004, “Big Busters, We Test .416 Rigbys From Dakota, CZ, and Ruger”:

How could you compare a $5,795 Dakota bolt action to a $920 Ruger single shot and then declare the Dakota a “Best Buy”? Ruger makes a fine bolt-action rifle in .416 Rigby, the Ruger Magnum Rifle, which would be much more appropriate to test against the Dakota. Also, your description of “Best Buy” states, in part, “costs less than others in its class.” You should have called the Dakota “Our Pick,” which states, “without regard to its cost”. After all, the difference in the price of the Dakota and the other two rifles is over $4,800!

Otherwise, keep up the good work. I look forward to reading your magazine monthly. The only problem is that it’s not big enough and I finish it too quickly!

-Stan Maskas

We tested the Ruger Mark II Magnum .416 Rigby bolt gun in the November 2000 issue. Priced at $1,550, it earned a Buy It rating. However, Ray Ordorica mentioned in that review that the Ruger’s buttpad was very hard, a complaint he has mentioned in several other reviews of Ruger big-game guns. Also, that gun’s trigger needed adjustment. For the full review, log on to . Also, Ordorica said, “Concerning the Dakota .416 as a Best Buy, the only thing potentially as good (and the Dakota was far better than the Ruger bolt rifle) would cost about $30,000.” As a result, he feels the Best Buy rating is justified. —Todd Woodard


.416 Rigbys (Rigbies?)
Thank you for your article comparing rifles chambered in .416 Rigby. I own a Ruger #1 Tropical in .416 Rigby and have found it to be perfect for my uses. I would like to offer the following observations:

First, I enjoy “recoil therapy” as a means of stress relief. There’s nothing that settles the soul better than putting some rounds through the old #1 at lunch. I previously used an Interarms Mark X Mauser in 7mm Remington Magnum for this purpose, but found it wanting, even given the factory original steel buttplate and lightweight barrel profile.

I suspect the Ruger buttpad is also steel, but find the rubber coating to be very effective in providing a little traction. It’s reminiscent of the solidified rubber “pad” that can sometimes be found gracing Enfield Jungle Carbines.

You didn’t mention the cost of .416 Rigby rounds. I’ve found that they tend to be priced out of context, being roughly double the cost of .458 Winchester Magnum rounds. Naturally, reducing the cost of recreationally shooting the Rigby by reducing one’s inclination to continue is an advantage of the Ruger.

Ammunition costs also mandate that the recreational Rigby user reload. It is regrettable that you characterize the “shell catcher” as a design defect. It is even more ironic that my early production #1 flings empties well back of my position, while your example has a properly adjusted shell catcher.

I’ll have to concede that you’re spot-on with respect to the sights — they are distracting to use. However, they’re completely adequate for the 25-yard indoor range where I generally use them. The Rigby is about the best conversation starter for this environment that I’ve ever used.

I would also respectfully submit that my use of the Ruger #1 as a plinker quite possibly reflects the majority of Ruger-Rigby users. After all, if one has the time, finances and motivation to arrange for an expedition to Africa, with the intent of hunting dangerous game, one will likely not be stressing over the cost differential between a Ruger or CZ versus a Dakota or similar. An analogy might be an Indy 500 driver selecting his motor oil based on a 45-cent-per-quart price advantage. If one wishes to use a single-shot firearm in order to increase the challenge, in the manner of those who hunt tigers with a wooden spear and titanium spork, one would likely be better served by a Dakota single or similar.

Naturally, when I saw that your testers had to quit shooting due to the pain inflicted by the Ruger, I puffed up and strutted about the office proclaiming loudly my matchless machismo in having out-testosteroned the professionals at Gun Tests. Imagine my chagrin when, reading further, I learned that your testers were firing the Ruger from a bench. I do not fire the Ruger from a bench and do not presently have any plans to do so.

I wonder: Would the addition of a $25 recoil pad and disabling the shell catcher have moved the product into the “conditional” column?

Anyhow, you do great work with the reviews. My Tropical is one of my favorite firearms, but that doesn’t change the fact that I found your review to be quite accurate with respect to the objective observations. I do somewhat envy your luck with the shell catcher, though. Perhaps you’ll do another test at some time and include the “yeehaw” factor, which is where I feel the Ruger really shines. My overall glowing impression may be subject to review should I unwillingly become more familiar with either loose dental work or detached retinas. With tongue firmly in cheek, sign me...

-Jim Hawxhurst

I had commented on the cost of Rigby ammo, and reloading, but they were cut due to space limitations. I have repeatedly tried to get Ruger to respond to its poor recoil pads, and discussed that in my original text. I personally shoot a double .470 for fun, and I’ve fired an 8-pound .458 with 20 full-house rounds from the bench at a sitting, so when I complain about a recoil pad, I mean it. I am fed up with Ruger’s recoil-pad attitude and will not cut them any slack in future. —Ray Ordorica


Evaluations I Would Like To See
Please do an evaluation on spotting scopes for high-power competitors and hunters. Most manufacturers have bumped their objective lens offerings as high as 80 to 82 mm. Creedmoor is offering one for $275, but to a lot of High Power shooters, the Kowa 821 spotting scope seems like the best value.

Could you also do an ‘eval’ on available electronic powder dispensing systems? RCBS has just come out with its Charge Master, and prior to that, the Lyman dispensing system was supposed to better because it was faster.

-Jack Edmondson
Huntington Beach, CA

As you can see from the ancillary product evaluations in this issue (shotgun sub-gauge inserts and .45 ACP ammo), we’re broadening our testing efforts to look at other areas besides guns. I’ve forwarded your requests to Ben Brooks and Kevin Winkle, two of the magazine’s product acquisition editors, for discussion. —Todd Woodard


Kids and Guns
Re July 2004, “Downrange”:

As a new subscriber, I missed the original editorial on kids and guns. As a newcomer to shooting (I started three summers ago), I have not resolved the accessibility versus safety issue. For now, my guns are in a safe, and if attacked, I must excuse myself for six to ten minutes while I open the safe, load, and return to the scene. I do not mean to make light of the issue, but merely want to emphasize the dilemma.

In a concealed carry class that I took, the instructor spent some time discussing stress and the human response to danger. Adrenaline is an extremely powerful hormone. I was not aware that it causes temporary hearing loss and loss of small motor control, among its many effects on the human body. Both of these effects were confirmed by my daughter, a police officer.

I point this out because of a comment in the July 2004 “Firing Line,” to the effect that the letter writer could have a gun “in hand within 2 or 3 seconds.” I assume that “in hand” means loaded, drawn, and ready to fire. I find the assertion hard to believe. Loss of small-motor control means that it would be difficult to operate any combination lock or small key lock under stress.

There is also something of a legal issue. If one has small-motor control, does that mean the person did not actually feel threatened with mortal injury? If not, the justification for deadly force is gone.

It may be outside the scope of your magazine to test gun locks. If you ever do test locks, perhaps you could simulate stress by having the tester sprint 400 yards and then immediately try to open a lock. I suspect that it would take far longer than two or three seconds.

-Paul Wille

You may want to buy the June 1999 evaluation, “Gun Locks: Don’t Buy Saf T Lok, Saf-T-Hammer, or Speed Release,” in which several gun locks were tested. It’s available on our website. —Todd Woodard