November 2004

Firing Line: 11/04

Good Barrel Needed
Re September 2004, “Mil-Spec .30-’06 Bolt Guns: ‘03 Springfield Vs. ‘17 Enfield”:

I just finished reading your Springfield versus Enfield article. It is too bad that you did not have an Enfield with a good barrel. I have owned both the ‘03 and ‘17 in .30-06 cal. for 30-plus years and have found them to be excellent shooters. The ‘17 made by Winchester has been the one that I have shot the longest distance. Some years ago I hit a target with my first shot at 950 yards. The sight had been changed to a Lyman 1000-yard open sight, so even though it was not military, it was a similar peep sight. Please don’t sell either one of these weapons short. They will both probably be more accurate than the average shooter is capable of being.

-Austin Dake
McKinleyville, CA

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I was somewhat disappointed to discover your review of the P17 Enfield came up so short. For about 15 years, I have owned a Winchester-produced ‘17 that is an excellent shooter with most any factory variation or reload I can assemble. It consistently shoots 1- to 1.5-inch groups all day, with any bullet weight in the 150- to 175-grain range. This particular specimen is finely blued, with only a mild bit of wear at the muzzle and front sight area, and the typical dings on the glossy dark-walnut stock. Rifling at the muzzle is very tight, and the lands and grooves are sharp and clean. I am having difficulty, however trying to locate info on the Winchester-produced specimens. Are they that rare, or just not considered worth mentioning?

-Brian Wiegert


Per Hatcher’s Notebook, Winchester made just under half a million of the 2.5 million 1917s produced during WWI. They are not rare. —Ray Ordorica

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I enjoyed the test of the 1903A3 Springfield rifle. Ray Ordorica mentioned that “the front blade sight was available in five different heights to regulate the rifle properly to the rear sight.” Does Ray know a current source for the various-height front sights or an explanation of sight markings for the various heights? Numrich Gun Parts Corporation only lists a replacement blade.

-Mitch McNabb
Pascagoula, MS


Although Hatcher’s Notebook states, “The front sight blades are furnished in five heights from 0.477 to 0.537 inches,” I do not know of a source today for Springfield front-sight blades in varying heights. Concerning our test 1917 Enfield, severe pitting and erosion a few inches inside the muzzle resulted in its poor accuracy. —Ray Ordorica

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I enjoyed your article on the Springfield 03-A3 and the 1917 Enfield. I currently own one of each. The one thing that raised my interest was the comments about the 03-A3 fragile front sight. Your weapon was incomplete. Both the 03 and the 03-A3 were issued with a snapover cover that provided protection for the replaceable blade.

-Clark L. Kershner, COL RA (Ret)
Sanford, NC

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AR-Style Pistols
Re September 2004, “We Test Two AR-Style Pistols from Bushmaster and OA”:

I just finished reading your test comparison between the OA 98 and Bushmaster 97. I own the Bushmaster. Although I’ve only fired a few hundred rounds through it, I’ve never had the problems you mention in your article. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever used the 10-round magazine. I purchased some 30- and 40-round mags. The gun is a blast to shoot, and it has functioned perfectly.

Sign me, a happy owner of a gun you don’t recommend.

-John Hood

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“Given the sound and blast from the OA 98, how and when would this gun be used?” If I were a civilian truck driver in Iraq, one of these pistols would make a fine kidnap preventer, although I would prefer a 20-round mag. It’s easy to get to and shoots common ammunition. I think the excessive sound and muzzle flash (although it needs a cone shaped flash “hider”) would serve the same purpose of a flash/bang grenade to startle and confuse an assailant while having the advantage of stitching a series of holes in his body. But then I am one of those old timers who has felt that the .223 was always underpowered for a combat assault rifle.

-Bruce Bibee

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Remington Loads
Re Sept. 2004, “Firing Line”:

Like Jimmy T. Norris, who wrote to identify problems he had had with loads for Remingtons, I had a similar issue with a Remington Sendero in .270 Win. I load two bullets, a Sierra 90-grain, which is 0.85 inch long, and a Nosler 130-grain, which is 1.20 inch long. I have the same problem, in that I cannot load the short bullet to just off the lands.

I may have identified the reason — a long chamber reamer. The industry-standard chamber length is 2.540 inches. My actual chamber measures 2.570 inches in length, longer by 0.030 inch.

If, as Mr. Norris noted, all the other Remington rifles manufactured in the past five years require loading to the lands less 0.004 inch to achieve decent accuracy, then normal factor fodder will be too short. That is, short for manufacturing tolerances (safety) plus the extra length of the cut chamber. That will result in a long bullet jump to the lands and may explain the poor accuracy with factory loads. So why a long chamber? Maybe for the same reason for heavy trigger pulls: legal liability. Perhaps Remington cuts the chamber a little long so that an inexperienced reloader who does not measure and trim fired brass won’t have a case that has grown too long and run pressure through the roof. Just a guess.

Anyway, with loads just off the lands and a reduced power charge, I have excellent accuracy.

-A Gun Tests Reader

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Federal .45 Tests
Re October 2004, “Survivor Bullet Testing: .45 ACP 230-Grain Hollowpoints”:

In your article, where you knocked the Federal Hydra-Shok and touted the Federal Classic .45 230-grain hollowpoint, you mentioned Cheaperthandirt.com as selling your favorite for $10.81 a box of 20. Local customers have been able to buy boxes of 50 in past three to five years there for $18.50, of the police-favored Hydra-Shoks, for personal use. Hydra-Shoks sell higher than your favorite and have a better track record with most local law enforcement personnel I’ve asked. The recoil doesn’t bother 99 percent of most shooters, of that round, either. Buying 50 for $18.50 is a much better deal than box of 20.

-John Clouse
Azle, TX


We chose to compare pricing for the same round counts for each brand, and not all round counts/brands were available at all vendors. And as we’ve always said, retail pricing may vary. As far as the Hydra-Shok’s performance compared to the Classic, we design tests to best serve a wide spectrum of shooters, not just law enforcement. —Todd Woodard

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Timely Test
Re August 2004, “A Pair of Tiny Pocket 9mms: We Pick the PM9 Over the R9s”:

I wanted to thank you for the timely test of the Kahr PM9 and the Rohrbaugh R9. I’m about to get my carry permit, and when I spotted a glowing test of the Rohrbaugh R9 in one of the slick monthlies, I collected my cash and was getting ready to order one. Then, I remembered that you had also tested the two guns in the August issue. I had forgotten the test you had (first, of course), and when I reread it, my entire plan changed.

After reading your exhaustive analysis, I changed my mind completely. Though the size of the Rohrbaugh is a definite plus, the slightly larger Kahr saves me money, is apparently more reliable and is easier to take down and keep clean.

My only concern with your test is that you didn’t include a range of the popular hollowpoints, which would be the most likely ammunition for the gun, given its primary role as a concealed carry, self-defense pistol. In any case, I’ll be buying the Kahr, and renewing my subscription.

-Bill Schiffmann
Lago Vista TX

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My two years with a Kahr MK9 and almost a year with a P9 closely track your test experience with the PM9. My MK9 has 1800+ rounds through it and is smooth as silk; it has been carried daily in a “Smart Carry” holster without once being detected. No problems whatsoever. The P9 is my backpacking companion — a tidy package with night sights, it’s lighter and a bit easier to shoot, although my 14-year-old daughter handles both with aplomb. One caveat when using ProMag aftermarket magazines: the P9’s magazine catch failed. It is a polymer piece with a small stainless-steel “bearing area” insert. The steel insert popped out after about 20 magazine changes with the ProMags. Close inspection revealed that the ProMags have an awkward contour upon which the catch cams over when the magazine is inserted. ProMag uses an almost flat profile that creates a shearing rather than a camming action. Kahr could avoid the problem by using an all-steel catch, and ProMag needs to reconfigure its magazines.

Also, street prices are well below your listed price. I paid $570 for the P9 at a national retailer.

-A Gun Tests Reader

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The problem that you reported on with the R9 Rohrbaugh may have a cause similar to that of the Seecamp 32 and other similar pistols. To cut down on the operating pressure in these very small handguns, the barrels are over-bored, and the bullets do not actually engrave the rifling. If I could hold my Seecamp steady enough and vertical, I could drop a .32 caliber bullet down the bore, and it would fall through without touching anything. Seecamp does not put sights on their guns and advises that sights are unnecessary at the distance at which their guns might be used. My guess is that they do not put on sights because you could then tell how poor their accuracy was. The Kel-Tec .32 with its locked breech seems like a better design, but I would not count on being able to do a head shot at 10 yards with it.

However, the R9 could have a good market niche with people who have small hands or short fingers. If the gun will operate reliably with one good brand of ammo, it could be a useful carry gun.

There are few effective gun models available for people with small hands. I like the old Astra A-70 in 9mm and the Iver Johnson Pony in .380 ACP, but the Kahr autoloaders seem to be the best current production. The S&W small-frame revolvers (J frames) are not bad, but they are difficult to shoot well. Here, I would recommend the Model 651 with a 4-inch barrel.

I would like for you to start including the grip size of the handguns that you report on. My suggestion is to measure the distance from the front edge of the trigger to the center of the backstrap in millimeters. It is easy to do by making marks on a string strung around the gun and then measure between the marks.

I have seen women with small hands attend a Front Sight pistol course carrying their husband’s Ruger 9mm autos. They had to hold the guns with one hand and pull the triggers with the other.

-J. M. Ryan
Bakersfield, CA

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Sub-Gauge Test
Re October 2004, “Small-Gauge Inserts: Briley, Seminole Products Save Money”:

I had a set of Seminole inserts that I wanted to use in my Ruger Sporting model. The 20-gauge insert (in a 12 gauge) blew out the O ring every time in 25 shots or fewer. Didn’t matter if I used the grease or wrapped it in Teflon tape.

It seemed to work OK in other guns. My guess (not even a theory) is that the Ruger with its 3-inch chamber and overbored barrel (0.745 inch I.D., 0.016 inch over the standard 0.729 inch) was so big the gases blew back and destroyed the O ring. If this is the case, the same problem might happen with the Browning-Winchester Invector Plus (overbored to 0.739 inch). The smaller-gauge inserts have more substantial O rings, and the problem did not show up in 28 gauge and .410. Hubbard Taylor Buckner

-Hero’s Arms
South Hero, VT
www.herosarms.com

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Suggestions
Re March 2002, “9mm Surplus Pistols: FEG, Carpati, and a Bulgarian Makarov All Fail”:

First, I would like to thank you for a wonderful magazine. I particularly liked the article comparing the 03A3 Springfield and the P17 Enfield. It’s too bad that the barrel on the Enfield was not up to the challenge. Both have their good qualities. I have a special interest in battle rifles of all types and periods. I shoot in my local rifle club with some like-minded indviduals.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I have some advice for Makarov owners. When I got mine for about $125, it had some flaws that are typical of Com-Bloc weapons. First, they’re not real concerned with appearance. Second, machining is generally rough. On mine, it would not feed a hollowpoint to save its life (or mine). The feed ramp was beveled too high, and my rounds would slam into the bottom of the feed ramp. Out came the Dremel tool, with which I lowered the feed ramp, and then polished it with emory cloth. I also lowered the ejection port a bit.

You can’t make that gun jam now. It feeds everything! No parts have flown off my gun either.

-Ken Soderstrom
Blue Springs, MS