May 2004

Downrange: 05/04

OF AWARDS, GUNS, AND COOL CARS
At Gun Tests, there’s only one award that ultimately makes a lot of difference to us, and that’s your subscription. If you or a friend subscribe, and later renew, because you like our special brand of call-it-like-we-see-it product reviews, then we’ve done our job.

Still, I occasionally enter Gun Tests work in contests, mainly to get what I call a “fresh read” on the execution of the material. Having other professionals backstop our work can show me holes in what we do, and perhaps show me how to make the magazine better.

In March, I attended the Texas Outdoor Writers Association (TOWA) annual meeting in the friendly southwest Texas town of Uvalde, the site of several GT hunting field tests of shotguns. TOWA is a professional organization of writers, photographers, editors and broadcasters devoted to reporting on the outdoors, outdoor recreation and conservation in Texas.

Gun Tests, of course, is a national magazine, and it is very vertical, which in magazine parlance means it deals with just a few subjects, in our case, firearms and firearms-accessories evaluations. But I entered the magazine in several categories nonetheless, and here’s how we did:

• Outdoor Publication, over 25,000 circulation: Honorable Mention.

• Outdoor News Reporting, over 25,000 circulation: 2nd place, “New York City’s Latest Gun Misfires.”

• Outdoor Opinion Writing Over 25,000 circulation: 3rd place, “Firearms Industry Wins Victory.”

• Web Page: 2nd place, www.gun-tests.com

• Special Projects: 3rd place, Gun Tests direct mail piece.

Also as part of the TOWA annual meeting, there were manufacturer demonstrations of products. On the shooting breakout day, I had a chance to fire Winchester’s new 25 WSSM cartridge in a lightweight Model 70 rifle. I previously have written about the promise this round holds for aficionados of the .25-caliber cartridges, such as the .250-3000, the .257 Roberts, and the .25-06. Shooting standing, I hit four of five clay targets at 100 yards. Obviously, I liked the way the gun shot. I did notice the big-butted cases didn’t always push down into the magazine properly, but they fed and extracted okay.

On a Five-Stand setup, I shot a Beretta 391 Urika autoloader alongside a Browning Cynergy over/under. Setting aside the obvious action differences, there’s no question I would buy the Beretta for myself — it fit and handled much better than the Cynergy. (An apples-to-apples matchup of the Browning Gold Sporting and Urika appears later in this issue.) I’ve shot the Cynergies (Cynergys?) on two occasions now and have been underwhelmed. They feel bulky and slow in my hands. But Shotgun Editor Ralph Winingham and his San Antonio test team will give the new Browning o/u a proper test later in the year.

And though I am abundantly aware we test guns in Gun Tests (thus the name), I’d like to relate my impressions of a slick new “gun carrier” I had a chance to test-drive: The Chevy SSR convertible pickup. A yellow version of this round-top descendant of the El Camino is featured in current Chevrolet commercials, wherein the vehicle backs onto a moving trailer loaded with cars.

I didn’t attempt that stunt, which was set up and filmed by the director of the Matrix movies, I was told. The red model I drove had tight, quick handling, a lockable hard-top bed cover much like that found on the Avalanche pickup, and, of course, the convertible hard-top, which at the touch of a switch folds down into a compartment between the bed and the passenger compartment. Very bling-bling.

So I called the wife and explained to her how the SSR would make a great addition to our lifestyle — for the low, low price of only $41,000 American! She asked how many seats it had, and when I responded, “Just two,” she snorted.

“You can’t carpool a softball team with just two seats,” she pointed out. So we compromised.

I bought two red-mesh shell bags and a Winchester T-shirt in the TOWA silent auction. Price: $41. She was very happy, and, when she’s happy, well, of course, I am happy, too.

-W. Todd Woodard