June 2004

Firing Line: 06/04

New York Times Reporting?
Re “Two .338 Winchester Magnums Vs. Remington’s .338 Ultra Mag,” March 2004:

Your .338 article reminded me of something I might find in the New York Times on the tenth page: Well hidden from the casual reader, yet possibly of some interest to a certain cadre of subscribers. The evaluation of the Ruger and the Winchester were good. I noticed a certain rough spot in a .25-06 Model 70 I purchased a couple years ago, in the same spot you mentioned as the bolt was pushed closed.

I wonder, though, if you had wanted a better looking firearm, why didn’t you just purchase one with the walnut stock and bluing, as it would have compared favorably with the Ruger for appearance. Of course the Winchester shot the best, something I have always noticed in out-of-the-box rifles.

Getting back to the subject: Hidden in the very last part of the Remington evaluation was the rather startling statement that this rifle only yielded a 2.5-inch or even worse group with the ammo used. Seems to me that the price of this firearm would dictate better accuracy than that. Therefore, I’m wondering why you would give this firearm a “buy” rating with this kind of accuracy evident in your test rifle? If I recall, this has been a deciding factor in many previous evaluations. Back issues indicate that many firearms have gotten a “don’t buy” because of accuracy problems. Why the different approach with this particular rifle?

-Jack Gilbert


Because we could get only one type of Remington ammunition for the .338 Ultra, we thought it fair not to condemn the rifle because it didn’t exactly shine with that one load. Also, a .338 intended for large game would not need the tack-driving accuracy of a lesser rifle to do its job properly. Concerning the Winchester, we had tried for months to get a walnut-stocked one to match the Ruger on hand, but ultimately had to test with what we could get. —Ray Ordorica

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A Big Strike Against .32s
Re “Pocket Pistols: Kel-Tec’s .380 And .32 ACPs Versus NAA,” March 2004:

In reading your recent review, you did not mention what I consider to be a major drawback when evaluating the Kel-Tec P32. The semi-rimmed .32 ACP round can lock up the pistol if care is not taken to place each round in front of the preceding one when loading the magazine. If you manage to get the rim of a round behind the rim of the round beneath it in the magazine, that top round will catch on the one below and lock up the pistol. I had this happen to me once while practicing with my P32 at the range, and have become quite anal about carefully loading the magazine to avoid it ever happening again While this is a drawback of the round rather than the pistol, it is worth mentioning since you are equally dead regardless of what incapacitated your self-defense pistol in your time of need.

On the pistol itself, my only complaint is that the magazine-release button has a nasty habit of getting pressed while in my pants pocket, popping the magazine loose and turning my P32 into a single shot. I would much rather Kel-Tec had gone the European route and opted for a heel clip rather than a button near the trigger guard to release the magazine. The Europeans liked the heel clip for its reduced likelihood of an inadvertent magazine release, and so do I. I concede a heel clip makes a magazine swap much slower, but I don’t think that will be an issue. Given the extreme close range at which these pistols are likely to be used, the fight is going to be over by the time I’ve emptied a magazine. I’d rather have reliable operation with the first magazine than quick change-out to a second magazine that I don’t need.

-Chris Alexander

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.32 ACPs Weights
Re “Pocket Pistols: Kel-Tec’s .380 And .32 ACPs Versus NAA,” March 2004:

I have been a loyal customer for a good number of years and look forward to the magazine each month. However, I think there was a clerical error regarding the weights of the three guns discussed. You stated in the statistical column that the P32 and P3AT weighed 13 ounces and 14 ounces, respectively. When I weighed both guns (I own both), I found the P3AT weighed 8.5 ounces with an unloaded magazine and 10.9 ounces with seven Golden Sabers. The P32 weighed 8 ounces with an unloaded magazine and 10 ounces with eight 65-grain Federal Hydra-Shoks.

-Lawrence Barden
@hotmail.com


The spring scale I used to gather the guns’ weights wasn’t calibrated properly, thus the error. The weights you list above are very close to the factory specs. I’ve since changed to a digital scale to resolve the problem. —Roger Eckstine

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S&W .500 Mag. Addendum
Re “S&W .500 S&W Magnum X-Frame,” February 2004:

I would like to add some information to your Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum article. Many shooters have wondered what exactly this revolver is meant to do other than be the biggest gun out there. In answer, if you live in a state that precludes the use of centerfire rifles for deer hunting because of population density but allows the use of shotguns or handguns for deer or other large game, this revolver has merit and purpose. When compared with similar, but now obsolete, cartridges, the shooter will see that the .500 Magnum, when loaded with the heavy 440-grain bullets, has ballistics nearly identical to the .50-70 Government cartridge of old but without the long-ranging capability that cartridge affords when it is fired in a rifle.

The lighter 275- to 350-grain .500 Magnum loads can be compared ballistically to the old Winchester .50-95 and .50-100 Express cartridges fired in the 1876, 1885 and 1886 model Winchester rifles, yet again without the long-ranging ability the rifles afford. This revolver places a powerful, capable cartridge into the hands of handgun deer hunters and, like the lever-action repeating rifles, offers the ability for relatively fast repeat shots should they be necessary. When iron sights are used, the 275- to 350-grain bullets can be counted effective to 50 yards.

The 440-grain loading will extend this range to 75 yards with the iron sights, however, adding a quality handgun scope to this pistol will double the effective shooting range of the lighter bullets to 100 yards and will extend the maximum effective range of the 440-grain bullet loadings to 125 yards. If the shooters eyes are better than mine, these effective ranges may be realized without the scope, but I’m betting most shooters will want to use the scope.

Past these distances the cartridge is still capable, but trajectory and energy retention begin to drop rather quickly. The gun has merit in the facts that it is lightweight and more portable when compared to a rifle in a similar caliber, and its cartridge is just as effective but without the worry of ranging a bullet into the next county.

I also agree that this handgun’s recoil is more bearable to tolerate than the .454 Casull when the lighter bullet loadings are used. The .440-grain bullet loadings are unpleasant, especially when fired off the bench while sighting the revolver in.

Should one feel compelled to buy one of these revolvers, one should choose a high-quality handgun scope and mounting arrangement, pick out a bandoleer holster that suits the shooter’s needs, (bandoleer holsters are really the very best way to carry these guns), and find the ammunition that best suits the type of shooting that is anticipated.

Many of us asked “Why?” when this revolver first appeared. Having shot one, I now know.

-Milo James

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M21 Tactical Rifles
Re: “Magnificent M21s: We Find Fulton Armory’s Peerless Is Peerless,” December 2003:

I just finished reading your article on the M21s. It was an article that was impressive as well as informative and in depth.

It appears you had the fortunate opportunity to have a stable scope mount and rings from Springfield, Inc. during your testing. My previous experience with these aluminum mounts and rings was less than stellar. They would shoot loose even after following the manufacturers recommendations and repeated calls to their tech department. I then purchased an ARMS #18 steel mount with the appropriate steel 30 mm rings (detachable rings specifically), and it was a spectacular setup. After about 4000 rounds, the mount has never failed or lost zero. I would like for you to test the various M-14 style mounts and rings for a future article, e.g Springfield, Brookfield, S & K, etc. Ron Smith, whose www.smithenterprise.com site is worth exploring, also makes a steel mount and rings that is claimed by some to be very good although I do not have any experience with it. Yes, I do agree the Springfield M-21 does have a beefy wood stock. I guess I did not notice until you folks pointed it out.

Springfield will install a McMillan stock if the customer so desires, of course adding extra dough to the total cost. Contact them and maybe they could clarify that issue and report the findings in the future.

Additionally, Springfield makes an M-25 Tactical rifle with the McMillan M3A stock. From what I have read, this machine is lovely. Maybe Gun Tests could try that rifle on for size and see if it shoots as stated by Springfield. I am curious to see if it will shoot as well as the Fulton Armory M-21. Please hurry with the testing because I am hungry for the truth. Another interesting article you could discuss is receivers. Fulton Armory, Springfield Armory, and Armscorp make excellent receivers for their rifles. However they are cast steel and not of original forged steel as the military requested. Although the debate over cast and forged is not my cup of tea and is subject to heated debates, I do believe current cast receivers are very strong. The forged receiver of course is a stronger steel. To get to my point, a company is making a forged receiver apparently to military specs (LRB Arms at www.lrbarms.com). I have considered buying at least one of their receivers/rifles but I would wait for your unbiased report. Keep up the good work.

-Jack E. May, Jr.
Columbus, OH

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No Rings?
Re “Ansch tz, Ruger, Marlin & Savage: .17 HMRs Meet Head-to-Head,” April 2003:

Your article on the Savage Model 93R17 left something out that was important. My wife bought me one for Christmas based on this article. This gun, as you know, has no sights and must be used with a scope. Savage does not supply scope rings with the gun, which means you can’t shoot it out of the box.

I tried calling customer support, only to find out they were closed for two weeks. I went online, and they had a notice saying that they were no longer accepting emails due to high volume. I eventually contacted customer service after waiting 25 minutes on hold, and they told me a rep would call me back. I still haven’t fired my new gun.

Savage not only doesn’t supply the rings for the gun, they don’t even make them for the gun nor was there any info in the owner’s manual where I could find them.

-T. Hogan

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.44 Mag. Review is Right On
Re “Practical Big-Bullet Revolvers: Steel and Titanium .44 Magnums,” January 2004:

As owner of two of your three tested revolvers, please be advised that your assessment of both the Ruger Redhawk 5.5-inch .44 Magnum and the new S&W 329PD .44 Magnum are most accurate. A simple trigger/action job and Pachmayr Decelerator Grip on my Ruger makes the package complete. This revolver will handle even the most brutal Garrett .44 Magnum loads and is a pleasure to shoot with .44 Specials and moderate .44 Magnum loads. I had tritium inserts put on the factory front and rear sights, and I use that revolver for back-up while rifle hunting.

With respect to S&W 329PD, a couple of points must be made; my experience with the same PMC .44 Magnum load was the same as yours, the cases were stuck in the cylinder. Using the corner of a plastic table at our indoor range, I managed to push the cylinder past the stop and gouged both the cylinder and frame. S&W sent me a postage-paid Fed-X package and returned the revolver in two weeks, restored. Went to the range immediately and shot 12 rounds of Federal Premium 240-grain Hydra-Shok JHP .44 Magnum loads and 12 rounds of Winchester 240-grain jacketed soft point loads (my deer hunting load) with absolutely no failure to eject. This revolver came from the factory shooting at the point of aim, and the sight picture is excellent. For reasons I’ve yet to understand, the wood grips seemingly make that revolver easier to shoot with magnum loads. Maybe the revolver simply rolls in my hand instead of “getting a running start” with those rubber grips.

The .44 Magnum loads are no fun to shoot in that 329PD; however, shooting Specials is quite comfortable, and that is all that is needed for personal protection or deer-sized game.

-Ken Wilpitz
Norman, OK

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Springfield M6 Scout
Re “Survival Rifles: What to Choose When the Stakes are Highest,” March 2003:

I had to go out and buy a Springfield M6 Scout. I found a way to mount a sling swivel stud on the rear. Just remove the stock screw in the toe of the butt stock and replace it with a 3/4-inch-long wood screw detachable stud. It threads into plastic and was a little tight, so I just heated the threads of the stud and it screwed in nicely.

Now I can use a quick-release swivel. Also, my rifle is in .22 Hornet, and, unfortunately, it shot high, so there was no filing the front sight. I silver soldered the aperture in and redrilled a new one. I hit it right on the money the first try.

I didn’t like switching from the.410 sight to the .22 Hornet. Instead, I measured the distance up from the base to the center of the aperture, transferred that measurement to the .410 sight, and drilled a new aperture. Now it’s sighted in for both barrels. I get very good groups at 50 yards.

-Bryan James
Virginia, MN

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Kel-Tec Sub2000 Lessons
Re “9mm Carbines: Kel-Tec’s Sub Rifle 2000 Is Affordable, Reliable and Totally Trick,” February 2003:

I purchased my Sub 2000 in April 2003. The Sub 2000 is made well. In my view, that includes the trigger and the sights.

The trigger pull is not what I call long. I’d say it feels pretty close to the single action of my Beretta 92FS, with a little bit more of a bite when the trigger breaks. The feel and responsiveness of the trigger was one of the reasons I bought the Sub 2000.

The sight is made of inexpensive plastic. However, it does not reduce accuracy and is very visible. The quality of the front sight could be better, but I’ve found it to be sufficiently durable and capable of taking a fair amount of abuse.

I did have a stovepiping problem with my Sub at one point. It had to do with casings bouncing off the deflector. In new models, they’ve fixed it. On mine, I sent them an email and within the week they mailed me (free of charge) a clip (plus a few spares), which completely fixed the problem. No hassles at all.

The Sub is an accurate, reliable, +P+ capable, warrantied and manufacturer-supported folding carbine which uses the same mags (pre- and post-ban) and inexpensive ammunition as my pistol. It far exceeds $300 in value.

-Michael David
Springfield, IL

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Ruger Bird’s Head
Re “.32 Single-Action Revolvers: Navy Deluxe and Bird’s Head Shoot It Out,” February 2004.

I looked forward to reading the article on the Ruger .32 H&R Magnum. I currently have six different Rugers in .32 H&R Magnum and enjoy shooting all of them very much. When I started to read the article, I hope you can understand my level of disappointment in the technical errors that were present.

Unless Ruger changed the Single Six .32 in the last year, it is still a Single Six, which stands for single action and six shots. In two different places in the article it was stated that it was a five-shot gun.

It was stated that it had a case-hardened colored frame with a gray barrel. On mine, all the barrels are blue. Also the one in the picture appeared to be blue.

Two comments were made about the frame being smaller than the other gun tested, and this was the reason for only two screws in the frame. The fact is the size of the frame has nothing to do with the number of screws in it. Ruger’s design with the transfer bar “safety” only requires that two screws be used. Watch the details.

-Gary Hurtienne
Racine, WI


I don’t know how I managed to pull this off, but the capacity of the SSMBH-4F is indeed six instead of the reported five rounds. Perhaps if I had a sixth finger I would have gotten it right. Ruger makes three colors overall, bright or polished stainless, target gray and blue. The color blue, from manufacturer to manufacturer, (and sometimes year to year) does vary. My mistake was to judge the color by its actual appearance, and not by its official designation. —Roger Eckstine

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Less Bang For Many Bucks
Re “Expensive 1911s: Kimber, Lone Star, and Wilson Shoot It Out,” April 2004.

I am trying to figure out what is going on with the gunmakers! Your April issue features tests of three $1000+ pistols, and none of them will reliably fire! There was the $1800 STI VIP that would have required some filing to make it fully functional! Don’t those people test-fire the damn things? At those prices? All the buyer should have to do is load ‘em, not do gunsmithing! What a disgrace!

Further on I read about two “turkey guns.” Aptly named indeed! A 15-pound trigger pull on a $1,300 shotgun. Maybe the same guy did the trigger on the Makarov! Issue after issue reporting on expensive guns that don’t work!

When I bought my Python many years ago, not only was it test-fired, but a target was provided. Only $125! I bought a new Ruger Old Army a couple of years back, and it just wouldn’t fire. They sent me another one. But that was only a $300 gun, not $2,000! Sheesh! It’s remarkable that all the other gun magazines get guns that function perfectly, I don’t understand it. I think only Gun Tests has the guts to publish the truth.

-Greg Fischer

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It Would Kick Like Hell
Re “Practical Big-Bullet Revolvers: Steel and Titanium .44 Magnums,” January 2004:

I bought a S&W 329PD as soon as they became available. If I had wanted a .44 Special, I would have stuck with my Charter Arms Bulldog, which weighs 18 ounces. Some guns are fun to shoot, and some guns are made to carry. For anyone like myself who roams the north woods of Michigan with a healthy bear population, a wolf population, and supposedly a cougar population, the 329PD is an answer to a prayer. If I want to shoot a .44 Magnum a lot, I’ll use my Ruger Super Blackhawk. If I want to carry a .44 Magnum a lot, I’ll stick to my 329PD. Now I’d like to see someone build a .44 Special the size of my Charter Arms Bulldog, but out of titanium. It’ll kick like hell, but it would be a dream to carry. I solved the cartridge-sticking problem by going to H110 powder for my full-power loads. Still kicks a lot, but velocities are good.

-Brian Baker, Coleman, MI