February 2004

Firing Line: 02/04

Kel-Tec Sub2000 Lessons
Re December 2003, “Guns and Gear of the Year”:

I had filed my experience with the Kel-Tec Sub2000 in the “lessons learned” file and tried to forget about it, but then you went and proclaimed it a gun of the year! I wonder whether your experience is not representative of this gun, or mine was. While anybody who has high standards and buys a cheap plastic gun should expect to be disappointed, I thought I knew what to expect from your review.

My experience with the Sub2000 was dramatically different than yours. With the exception of the trigger, it appeared to have been made well. The main action was as tight as you mentioned, and all of the parts seemed to fit well. The trigger required an extremely long movement that broke less than an eighth of an inch from the grip. I had to slide my finger from the first to the second knuckle just to complete the pull, and unlike any other trigger I have encountered, this one had to be fully back and against the grip before the rifle fired. I shot a few hundred rounds and gave up. Was I going to screw with sending this gun to Kel-Tec? No. It just wasn’t worth it.

Added to the bad trigger was that “toy” of a front sight. Not only was it flimsy, it was impossible to adjust accurately. I would expect a junky, light-plastic, inaccurate part like this on a $20 pellet gun.

I think that Kel-Tec has proven it can make a good handgun. The company’s innovations and decent pricing have enabled many gun owners to have a decent back-up piece to tuck into a pocket or waistband, but the Sub2000 is a joke, and I believe it will significantly damage their reputation. A “Buy?” No way.

What lesson did I learn? Trust the guys at Gun Tests, but do your own research. You guys do a great job and publish great, thorough, accurate data, but now I know, you’re not always right.

-Tim Bjerke
Lockhart, TX

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Remington 700 Titanium
Re September and December 2003 “Firing Lines”:

I too bought a .30-06 Remington Titanium, even after I read the September comment. Had a good Leupold variable mounted. Bought two brands of premium 180-grain loads and a third non-premium box. Gave the barrel a good cleaning. Took it to the range. Fired two fouling shots. Made a sight adjustment and proceeded to fire six three-shot groups over the next 30 to 40 minutes. The worst (the first) was 2 inches (non premium load). Two were 7/8-inch (premium loads)! The others were in between. For a brand-new rifle, right out of the box, that’s decent groups! What a great gun! Weighs in at 6 pounds 12 ounces, including scope and sling!

-Dan Justice
Littleton, CO

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

I am surprised that you consider a tight pattern to be a good characteristic for a home defense shotgun. I hold the opposite view. I had a Poly-Choke installed on my wife’s 870 to achieve the desired 24-inch minimum with No. 8s at 20 feet. It’s less likely to miss a guy in the doorway or hall outside the bedroom, and wider patterns are less likely to penetrate walls. I also found it easier to convince her to actually shoot someone if a less dense pattern would be more likely to wound than kill him. I hope I have succeeded, but there’s no way to tell if you can actually do it until the situation actually happens.

-Webb Olliphant
Tacoma, Washington

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SIGArms P239 .40 S&W
Re November 2003 “Alloy-Framed .40 S&W Compacts: We Pit SIGArms Against Beretta”:

I thoroughly enjoyed the article on the SIGArms P239 .40 S&W. I had been looking for this pistol in that caliber for a few years, when I located one at a gun show last year. I bought it on the spot. The suggestion of the lighter 165-grain bullet load is just the ticket for accurate shooting.

Another great feature of the SIGArms P239 in .40 S&W is that it may be fitted with a .357 SIG barrel as well. This barrel may be purchased from SIGArms or one of several aftermarket sources. SIGArms advises that you need to buy the .357 SIG magazine to go with the barrel. Looking at the two magazines side by side, I do not see the difference, other than the caliber markings. But the SIGArms manual states that the two magazines are caliber-specific, and are not interchangeable. This could be liability related, or just another reminder to pay attention to what caliber you are shooting. As you pointed out in your August 2001 article, the .357 SIG is a necked-down .40 S&W.

Touching off a .357 SIG round in the compact P239 certainly gets your attention in the hotter loadings. But what a great option. Two calibers, one pistol. Now that’s more bang for your buck.

-Joe Alarid
Santa Barbara, CA

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Which Arsenal Is Better?
Re November 2003, We Test a Trio of 7.62mm Russians: Arsenal USA’s AK-47 Wins the Day”:

Regarding your review of the Arsenal USA SSR-85B AK-47, it would appear that you either lucked out and got a good gun or that Arsenal USA has recently made major improvement on their products. The Arsenal USA rifle that I purchased earlier this year was nowhere near the quality of the one you tested. In fact, the gun I bought had a stripped bolt on it, and many of the parts were loose. So I immediately returned it to my local gun dealer and instead purchased a much better AK-type rifle for only $50 more, the Robinson Armament VEPR K Carbine. Perhaps in a future article, it would be interesting if you did a comparison between the AK-47 type rifles produced by Arsenal USA and those produced by another arsenal, Arsenal Inc? They are a direct descendent of the original Arsenal of Bulgaria and are currently marketing their SLR-101 SB AK-47 type rifle, which has a milled receiver and retails for only $25 to $50 more that the SSR-85B.

-Lance Browder
Bartlett, TN

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Accidentally “On”
Re September 2003, “Looking At Laser Sights: What’s Right for the Self-Defense Shooter?”:

One problem I would like to share with you and your readers is that of the Laser Max accidentally turning on while in the holster. I have had a Laser Max installed on my Glock 29 for a couple of years now, and finally came to the conclusion that I cannot depend on the factory switch. My wife was the first to notice the red dot following behind me. I tried three different holsters, all from quality makers, and was still not able to correct this problem. The three I have tried include The Master from Dillon and a Kydex from Fobus. Just the normal daily movements were enough to activate the laser.

I also found this happens when just shooting factory ammo. I probably could have lived with the laser coming on when shooting, but from just walking is completely unacceptable.

-Jeff Rusiecki
Ilwaco, WA

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Personal Duty Use of Lasers
Re September 2003, “Looking At Laser Sights: What’s Right for the Self-Defense Shooter?”:

I would be remiss were I not to respond to your recent short article evaluating lasers. I started my own nightly duty use a year and a half ago with the purchase of a CTC laser grip. I initially made some bad assumptions.

The biggest error was that I evaluated it as I would if I simply changed sights or grips. I should have recognized that I was adding a new tactical tool that needs professional instruction and practice.

My first step was getting the video Shots In The Dark by Clyde Caceres from Crimson Trace, published by Paladin Press. I believe that if you had seen this tape it might have helped your evaluation.

The next step was to get training from a qualified laser instructor. I was to learn the error of my ways when I found him. My first lesson started with a thorough grilling in just what made me think that I was qualified to pick and use any laser? Quite rudely, he flatly stated that based on my “excuses,” every boy who ever played with a stick or swung a baseball bat would be qualified to evaluate and use any PR-24 side handled baton, ASP Baton, or billy club! And did I also suppose we could get rid of handcuff, taser, and pepper spray training and certifications just for me?

Then I got the lecture about civilians endangering others and themselves by carrying equipment they didn’t understand and hadn’t taken the time to train to use safely.

I was ready to give up on him when I told him my situation. After 17 years as an investigator, I found myself temporarily transferred to a uniformed patrolman’s position on the graveyard shift, primarily for burglary response. My zone consists of 600-some-odd residences in the $3.5 million to $21 million range along with a few businesses of 20,000 to 70,000 square feet. It is the realm of the so called “professional burglars.” To summarize, I encounter career criminals who are willing to kill, while I am alone (no witnesses) in the dark.

I now consider my CTC laser grips the most useful new tactical tool I’ve gotten in the last ten years. I think you have a very valid statement in that you “aren’t sure you’d want lasers.” I am firmly of the opinion that no one should stake their life on equipment they haven’t taken seriously enough to be professionally trained for and practiced in its use.

I have only used Crimson Trace Laser Grips and can’t comment on the others except to say that I ruled all the others out for my purposes because I wanted the control of simply tightening my grip (as I naturally do) as I prepare to fire; after I have clearly identified my target and the requirement to shoot.

I am required (by law and department policy, to protect the innocent) to announce my presence and identify myself as I enter each area. I use a very bright TAC light for suspect location and identification. Considering this, there’s little chance that any suspects present don’t already know my location. There’s no chance my laser can give away my location; it isn’t on until I’ve already given away my position by annunciation and the much brighter TAC light.

I had a good chuckle out of the observation about lasers forcing you to take your focus off the sights and focus on the target. That’s precisely why I wanted one. In a possible life and death encounter I want to be focused on my target. I need to be focused on the suspect for threat assessment and the appropriate controlled response.

-Name withheld by request

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AWA Peacekeeper
Re July 2003, “.45 Single-Action Colts and Clones: USFA’s Rodeo Is Our Pick”:

I was just looking over your test report on the AWA Peacekeeper. It reads, “The hammer required by far the least effort to cock of the four test guns, yet all rounds fired perfectly, so it clearly had enough spring force.” You were lucky.

I also noticed the very light mainspring in my Peacekeeper, and the trigger was also very light, too sensitive for me to feel comfortable with. After experiencing several misfires with it, I had my local gun shop — where I’d bought it — send it back to the factory. AWA phoned back to the shop and insisted the owner of the gun (meaning me) had damaged it with amateur gunsmithing adventures, and they considered the warranty void!

The shop owner, who knew quite well that I hadn’t tinkered with the gun in any way, gave them a stern talking to, and he finally got AWA to replace several parts in the gun, including both the hammer and mainspring. (Incidentally, the replacement hammer is not as nicely checkered as the original. It looks more crudely scratched than checkered.) After getting it back I found the mainspring still felt weak, and it still suffered a few misfires. At this point I was beginning to regret my purchase.

I searched around the internet, thinking I would buy a heavier mainspring for the gun. I soon learned I was not the only person who had a similar problem with the AWA Peacekeeper. One fellow reported on Usenet that he had fixed his by replacing its spring with one from Brownells. I checked the the Brownells website, but the part had been discontinued, and instead it tried to point me toward a “reduced power” spring kit. It seems the current fad among cowboy shooters is the extra-light mainspring, and those were nearly all I could find for sale. Wolfe is another company that now lists only reduced-power mainsprings for the SAA. I eventually stumbled across the website of Wisner’s Inc., and was able to get a medium spring there.

Since getting the new spring swapped in, the action feels much stronger, primer imprints are deeper, and I’m pretty sure misfires will be a thing of the past. The trigger is considerably stiffer than before — but still crisp. That’s OK, I can live with a heavy trigger. I can’t live with misfires.

-Tony Belding
Hamilton, TX

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Beretta Upgrades
Re December 2003, “Guns and Gear of the Year”:

In this issue you had a article on the Beretta 92FS handgun. You mentioned an aftermarket solution to refine to match grade performance the 92FS. Could you send me more specific information on what items were used and how to get those items?

-Eddie Mulhern
@verizon.net


One of the armorers who has developed the accuracy of the Beretta is Tony Kidd. Since leaving the service Kidd has set up shop in McQueeney, Texas (830-560-1044). Turning your 92 series Beretta into an AMU replica model costs $1250, but the result is a pistol that will shoot a 2-inch group at 50 yards. —Roger Eckstine

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Letter From Iraq
Re September 2003, “Armed, and Safer, Iraqis”:

I am a military policeman in Baghdad, Iraq. You are correct in your statement that only “law abiding” Iraqi citizens would turn in their weapons. However, the true “weapon of choice” against Coalition Forces here and elsewhere is not an AK-47 but I.E.D.’s (Improvised Explosive Devices), RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades), and hand grenades. No amount of “gun control” could fix that. The weapons are cheap: AK-47s cost $20 to $75, an RPG launcher costs $15; RPG grenades cost $3, and hand grenades cost $3 apiece respectively. They are also plentiful (most were free for the taking when Iraqi soldiers dropped their arms and uniforms in the streets of Baghdad), and these weapons will be problematic for Coalition Forces far into the future.

Iraq is “under control”; however, there are active and violent groups that have set themselves against Coalition Forces and the will of the Iraqi people. This will change over time, the Iraqi people will grow stronger and more confident. These other groups opposed to Coalition Forces will diminish in power, influence, and numbers. These things take time and dedication to a goal. That goal (in my opinion) is to leave Iraq and its people better off than we found them. So far this is the case—Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The rise in crime can only be blamed on Saddam, who released thousands from prisons and mental institutions onto the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

An ever increasing amount of IPs (Iraqi Police) are on the street. As their number skill and training increase, so will their effectiveness. There will be a drop in crime; it just takes time. Law enforcement is actually a new job for the Iraqi Police. Their primary detail was keeping the Iraqi people intimidated, docile and afraid for their lives. The IP was just another tool of Saddam, their original intent had nothing to do with law enforcement. I honestly love to see armed Iraqis—it does make my job easier. The problem is identifying friend or foe.

Another problem is the Iraqi citizens’ lack of “trigger control.” The Iraqis like to shoot into the air (which causes other problems when bullets return to Earth). AKs are fired at weddings, birthdays, funerals, etc. On the night that Saddam’s sons were killed, the night sky was alive with trace fire going into the air. However, the jubilation was short-lived when returning fired bullets or ricochets claimed 120 lives and wounded hundreds.

Currently only IPs and selected Iraqi security personnel are allowed to carry any kind of rifle on the streets. All other citizens may only carry handguns. These pistols (if carried) must be accompanied by a registration slip. This is available at any police station free of charge, for the asking. The carry of concealed firearms is currently forbidden, which is why the taxi driver (Mr. Rasgak) had his pistol confiscated. Had Mr. Rasgak had his pistol on the seat next to him or in a holster, not concealed in the vehicle’s glovebox, it would have never been confiscated.

-Name withheld by request
Baghdad, Iraq

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His S&W 647 Doesn’t Drag
Re October 2003, “Sticky Situations: Two Revolvers Chambered for the .17 HMR”:

I was halfway through the California 10-day waiting period when I read the article on the S&W Model 647 and its cylinder-dragging problems. I finally had a chance to fire my 647 today, and am happy to report that no such problems appeared in mine. After 100 rounds of both CCI TNT and Hornady V-Max in both single- and double-action fire, cylinder rotation remained smooth with no hang-ups. Either your gun was a fluke or S&W realized they had a problem and fixed it in a later production run. Hate to see a fine revolver get a bad rap for a problem that may no longer exist.

-Julius L. Inglima
Apple Valley, CA

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Why Were We Surprised?
Re October 2003, “Sticky Situations: Two Revolvers Chambered for the .17 HMR”:

I just read your report on the two .17 HMR revolvers from S&W and Taurus. You seemed surprised that the guns experienced setback of the rounds. When I first learned that the gunmakers were going to chamber revolvers for this cartridge, I immediately thought of S&W’s failed experience with bottleneck cartridges in revolvers in the form of the old .22 Jet round in the Model 53 and wondered what have they done to fix this issue in revolvers. Apparently physics wins again. Keep up the good work.

-Tom Rogers
Maine

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Enduring Surplus Rifles
Re March 2003, “More SKS Rifles! Albanian and Yugoslavian Imports Slug It Out”:

I’d like to see more extensive testing of these rifles. I can say that some of them can develop reliability problems after several hundred rounds of ammo have been fired, usually due to the poor quality of the fire-control parts or the gas piston “unscrewing.” I’d also like to see you review what some people consider the “Cadillac” of AK-47’s: the SA M7 series made by Arsenal Inc of Las Vegas.

-Chris Embree
Las Cruces, NM