May 2004

Short Shots: 05/04

Anti-Gun Amendments Derail Senate Efforts To End Gun Lawsuit
Anti-gun senators succeeded in derailing a legal reform bill (S.1805) that would have stopped lawsuits against gun makers by tacking on gun-control amendments, despite a plea from President Bush that the Senate pass a “clean” bill.

The bill, sponsored by a majority of the Senate, would have thrown out junk lawsuits filed as part of a coordinated strategy to financially ruin the firearms industry. It was rejected by the Senate 90-8 after amendments were attached that would extend a federal law banning cosmetic features on certain semi-automatic firearms and require background checks at gun shows when private individuals sell guns. In April 2003, the House of Representatives passed a “clean” version of the bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 285-140.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry’s trade association, strongly advocated for this common-sense legislation. The NSSF estimates that its members have spent approximately $150 million defending lawsuits it describes as frivolous because they seek to blame federally licensed firearm manufacturers for the actions of criminals who misuse lawfully sold, non-defective firearms to commit crimes.

“While we are disappointed by today’s developments we remain confident there is sufficient bipartisan support in the Congress to pass common-sense legal reform that will put a stop to predatory lawsuits that threaten to destroy our industry and put tens of thousands of Americans out of work,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF vice president and general counsel.

Keane noted that even President Bush, who supports an extension of the ban on certain semi-automatic firearms, wanted the Senate to pass the bill without any amendments. The Fraternal Order of Police, which supports an extension of the so-called “assault weapon ban” wrote the Senate urging that the issue not be taken up as part of the pending legislation.

Keane called upon the leadership of both parties in the Senate and the White House to “find a way to protect a law abiding and responsible industry and the jobs of tens of thousands of honest-hard working Americans from frivolous lawsuits.”

He said, “Congress needs to follow the lead of over 30 states that have already enacted similar legal reforms to stop lawsuit abuse and restore integrity to the nation’s judicial system.”

And it’s not only firearms manufacturers who are being sued over gun configurations and laws.

Congress determined 10 years ago, in a law with an unusual provision to expire, or sunset, on September 13, 2004, that the only difference between a semi-automatic rifle and an “assault weapon” was cosmetics. In particular, a bayonet lug, pistol grip, and flash hider found on military arms were features that could also be found one at a time on a “civilian” rifle. But, combined as two or more of these “forbidden” accessories, these features make a semi-automatic into an “assault weapon.”

Apparently hoping to force re-enactment of the law with the same kind of confusion that worked so well a decade ago, The Brady Campaign is getting media attention with a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Justice Department for “allowing gun manufacturers to make thousands of new illegal assault weapons” when manufacturers were simply referred by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to BATF regulations.

The suit stems from the procedure a manufacturer undertakes to replace the lower receiver on an AR-style firearm when it is defective. The lower receiver is the serial numbered firearm, but does not itself incorporate any of the “forbidden” features that make an “assault weapon.”

Our Take: Attorney General John Ashcroft is now being sued for the receiver replacement recommendations BATF advised, which were communicated in January 1997, when then-President Bill Clinton’s attorney general was Janet Reno. This is as ridiculous as suing gun makers for the actions of criminals.


10/17 Magnum Rifle On The Shelves?
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., says its new Ruger 10/17 Magnum Rifle should be available to consumers now. The Ruger 10/17 Magnum Rifle is designed to take advantage of the flat-shooting .17 HMR cartridge, which has performed well in Gun Tests evaluations of both handguns and rifles.

Previously, however, we’ve tested just bolt action rifles chambered for the .17 HMR. The autoloading 10/17 Magnum Rifle features a hardwood stock that’s slimmer, with an increased length of pull and a tapered forend consistent with its rifle styling. A flat, synthetic buttpad replaces the curved carbine-style buttpad on the Ruger 10/22 Magnum Carbine, and the barrel band featured on Carbine models has been eliminated on the 10/17 Magnum Rifle.

Like the Ruger 10/22 Magnum Carbine, the Ruger 10/17 Magnum Rifle features a steel receiver with integral scope mounts. Ruger scope rings, included at no extra charge, attach directly to the 10/17’s steel receiver.

Our Take: This is an upgraded treatment for the 10-series rifles, which we like. The rotary magazine gives varmint hunters and plinkers plenty of firepower. We would buy extra magazines and take them loaded to the field, and stay and shoot all day.


Smith & Wesson 1911 Recall
Smith & Wesson has received reports that the firing-pin safety plunger of the SW1911 pistol can become disabled, creating a situation where the slide may jam and render the firearm inoperable. This only pertains to certain Smith & Wesson Model SW1911 pistols bearing serial numbers JRD0000 to JRD4750.

According to the company, none of these cases have resulted in any injury, and Smith & Wesson has not received any reports of any accidental discharge associated with the functioning of the firing pin safety plunger. While the company has not received any reports of injury, a failure of the firing pin safety plunger may affect the reliability and safety of your firearm.

Our Take: S&W is doing the right thing in coming clean on a recall. Contact the company at 800-331-0852 for more information.


Sigarms Offers SEALs Pistols
Sigarms Inc. has released a limited number of specially serialized P226 pistols identical to those supplied to the U.S. Navy SEALs. Since 1986 the SIG SAUER P226 in 9mm has been the official sidearm of one of the world’s most elite warrior units and to support the families of the fallen heroes of special forces, SIGARMS will donate up to $100,000 to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

The P226-9-NAVY is made to the exact specifications of the pistols supplied to Navy SEALs, including special corrosion-resistant finish on internal parts, contrast sights, slides engraved with an anchor to designate them as Naval Special Warfare pistols and a certificate of authenticity. For commercial sales the pistol will come with two 10-round magazines. These limited production P226-9-Navy pistols will also carry a special unique “NSW” serial number starting with NSW0001.

“Every Sigarms employee is aware that our pistol is carried into battle by Navy SEALs. That is why we have committed up to $100,000 to help the families of these fallen heroes and are asking our customers to consider purchasing this very special pistol,” said Jim Pledger, Sigarms vice president for law enforcement and military sales.

Our Take: Good cause. Good gun (see article in this issue). What’s not to like?


CCI 17-Caliber Cartridge
CCI, working closely with Hornady, has created a new 17-caliber cartridge based on its Stinger .22 Long Rifle (LR) case. The round, called the 17 Mach 2, pushes a 17-grain Hornady V-Max bullet at more than 2,000 feet per second. Also, the 17 Mach 2 is twice as accurate as the .22 LR (as measured by CCI and Hornady engineers in test barrels) and is faster at 150 yards than a .22 LR is at the muzzle. The 17 Mach 2 is scheduled for production in late summer of 2004.

Our Take: This should be a serious rabbit/squirrel/small-game round. An issue of concern: What will its cost be compared to the .22 LR?


Whatta Deal!
One of the dislikes we have for over-the-counter Rugers is the factory hardwood stock design. Yes, a 10/22’s stock is inexpensive and lightweight, but the lack of a cheekrest and the shape of the grip are negatives, in our view.

Brownells, 800-741-0015, has Clark laminated stocks on close-out for $145 for some models (the Heritage) and as low as $105 for Sporters. They are inletted for Rugers and are drop-in, resin-impregnated, thermoset, laminated maple. The Heritage features a rollover cheekpiece and a flared pistol grip The Sporter features a straight stock with no cheekpiece and a sporter-style forend. Both have 14 1/2-inch LOPs and weigh 2 pounds 10 ounces.

Our Take: We long ago replaced the stocks on our 10/22s with Clark and other stocks. Being able to buy one of the Sporters for $105 is a bargain, in our view. Still, we like the Heritage design better.