August 2004

Firing Line: 08/04

Confused? Don’t Be
Re “Firing Line”:

I’m confused. You give the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 a good report, and then a writer to Firing Line says his specimen is a hunk of junk. You report lousy accuracy with the Remington 700 Titanium, yet a writer to said column reports excellent accuracy and thinks it is a “great gun.” You give good marks to the AWA Peacekeeper, and then one of your readers reports all the problems with his and a snotty factory to boot. Apparently, all your reports in Gun Tests should be taken with several grains of salt, since everything seems to depend upon which sample of a particular firearm is the subject of evaluation.

-Bill Heubaum


We report what we find about a gun. Can sample quality vary? Of course. That’s why we balance our reporting with opposing viewpoints from our readers. — Todd Woodard

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Home Defense Shotguns
Re “Shotguns, Slugs, Buckshot: What’s Right for Effective Self-Defense?” July 2004:

Not a bad article, but there is another shotgun in the same price range you should have included. The Winchester Defender is well made, with double action bars for reliability. I don’t know about the Benelli, but I believe the Mossberg only utilizes one. I attended a law-enforcement armorers school some years back, and it was stressed there that action construction is what separates the best from the rest.

-Robert Blatz


The Winchester Defender was most recently reviewed in the May 2002, January 2001, and February 2000 issues. — Todd Woodard

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Kel-Tec Clips
Re “Pocket Pistols: Kel-Tec’s .380 And .32 ACPs Versus NAA,” March 2004; and, “Is Pocket Carry Safe? Getting A Hold on Pocket Holsters,” March 2004: Nice article on the Kel-Tec pistols. They are the best design yet for a backup. Somehow I was able to buy one last year in .32, but the same dealer now will not provide the .380. Probably was a mistake on his part because neither gun is compliant with our Attorney General’s unique firearms requirements.

Are you aware of the neat little clips that rapidly attach to the Kel-Tec pistols (check their site under accessories)? I have one on my .32, and when the clip is used, the pistol will sit inside the waistband of my pants, barely showing the top of the slide. If the clip is under the belt, then it is hardly discernable. Drawing is simple; just push on the fabric under the front of the slide and it comes right up. Also, for larger pistols there is the Clip-Draw, which I have on a standard Glock. The P-32 belt clips can be ordered through Kel-Tec’s sales department at (800) 515-9983 ext. 2 for $12.75.

-A Gun Tests Reader

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Turkey Gun Test Article
Re “12-Gauge Turkey Hunting Shotguns: H&K Versus Fausti Traditions,” April 2004:

In your recent article on turkey guns, it is apparent that none of you are spring turkey hunters, nor fall turkey hunters. Normally that would not be a problem in critiquing a gun, but here I would say it is. Turkey hunters actually hunt the turkeys; they walk great distances. In the fall I may walk 10 miles in a day, day after day. This is six or seven hours of walking, and even though I am fairly fit, I insist on a light gun. I use a Benelli 20 gauge in the fall. The true turkey hunter will only get one clean shot. There will be no wing shooting, no running target; he will be sitting with his back against a tree and his gun bench resting on his bent knees. The few inches that he may be able to move his gun from side to side requires a short barrel that will not hit on a sapling. The spring turkey hunter does not care about gun balance, as he is a bench rest shooter, and he does not care about recoil any more than an African big-game hunter cares about the recoil of his double rifle.

In the spring I have used the Remington 870 SP turkey with great success, but the foregrip rattle caused me to retire it. Then I cut down the barrel on a 12-gauge Benelli M1, but it was still too big and long. I am now using an H&R single barrel in 12 gauge with a .665 Briley choke. It’s short, light, patterns great and it will rock your world when you shoot it with your back to a tree.

Your article mentioned poor shot patterning in the turkey target neck area, and on that alone I would fail the gun, but on the length, balance, recoil and swing, hey that’s the cost of a turkey gun, and a spring turkey gun should be just that, a one-shot turkey killer. It should not have other chokes, it should be single minded to kill the very wary spring gobbler.

-A Gun Tests Reader


None of our test shooters have experience hunting turkeys in Virginia, but here in Texas we don’t walk 10 miles a day. We also don’t enjoy shooting shotguns that “rock our world,” and we can always find a place to call up a spring tom where we can shoot a shotgun so that we don’t hit a nearby tree. Among the opinions we collected were those from several veteran turkey hunting guides and state champion callers who can consistently bring a tom turkey within a few feet of their camouflaged hunters. Short-barreled, lightweight shotguns would be acceptable here as turkey killers if they pattern well, are well made and properly perform basic shooting functions. The two test shotguns received low marks in most of these categories. By far the most popular turkey guns favored by veteran turkey hunters in Texas, and in most other states, are semiautomatics or pumps with 26-inch to 28-inch barrels. —Ralph Winingham

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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 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 them, not do gunsmithing! What a disgrace! Further on I read about two “turkey guns.” Aptly named indeed! A 15-pound trigger pull on a $1300 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!

It’s remarkable that all the other gun magazines get guns that function perfectly.

-Greg Fischer

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Kids and Guns
Re “Downrange,” July 2004:

To this point, I have only given editorial feedback regarding guns. However, after reading the article titled “Kids and Guns,” I have to give feedback.

Let me start by saying that I own a large long-gun collection, and I have several defense handguns. Not one of my guns is left unlocked, yet the guns I have in my home that are for defense can be in hand within 2 or 3 seconds. The argument that there are comparatively few deaths due to children killing themselves with guns compared to other causes of child deaths is incredibly irresponsible and does nothing but give the anti-gun side “ammunition” to use against us. Any death of a child due to a child getting hold of an unsecured gun is tragic and could have been avoided.

The argument that educating your children not to touch guns will keep them out of trouble is flawed. You might be able to teach your children, but what about their friends? Last Christmas, I got my brother a quick-open gun safe. At first, he was less than enthusiastic about the safe. I told him that he had a young daughter to protect, at which point he stated that he had taught her to never touch his handguns (which he had left loaded in the top drawer of his night stand.) First, I told him that if any child were hurt or killed with one of his unsecured handguns, that he would be held responsible both legally and financially. Then I asked him, “what about her friends?” It turned out that there had already been an incident where one of his daughter’s friends wanted to play with my brother’s handguns when mom and dad weren’t home. Fortunately, for whatever reason, the neighbor child stopped short of actually getting the handguns. My brother now keeps both of his loaded handguns in the quick open gun safe.

The argument that locking a gun makes it less than useful for defense is also flawed. Let me explain. I’m guessing that on average, the cost of a defense handgun is about $500, excluding accessories or upgrades. I use a Deluxe GunVault to keep my defense handguns safely locked away. I can open the safe in 2 seconds. It would take at least that long for most people to open a drawer and find their handguns. There are various manufacturers of small, secure, quick open handgun safes. Various safes like GunVault (www.gunvault.com), BioSaf (www.biometricsdirect.com) and BioVault (http://web.sequiam.com/biometrics/biovault.asp) are just a few examples of the small, quick-open gun safes that are available. Depending on the model, each of these safes can be opened very quickly by either using a finger combination that you can program or by simply putting your finger on a scanner. Depending on the brand and model, with a little online price shopping, you can get a safe like one of these for anywhere from about $100 up to $600. They are small enough to be able to keep them secured under a bed, mounted in a drawer, behind a piece of furniture, in a closet on the wall, etc. Many of the units can use both battery and AC to power the unit. They are designed to be vandal “resistant” (even a $4000 gun safe can eventually be broken into) and some can even tell you if someone tried to get into the safe.

If on the sad note, you don’t care about a child being hurt, look at it this way: It’s cheaper to buy the safe and use it than to have to pay for the doctor bills, the lawyer fees, the court costs and fines, not to mention the lost income due to the jail time that you would serve.

The technology is available and affordable. Spending $100 to $600 is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that you are ensuring that no child will be hurt or killed due to an accident with one of your guns.

-A Gun Tests Reader


I didn’t seek to minimize the tragedy of gun-related child deaths, merely to report that they aren’t as common as many people believe. In fact, I wrote, “The overwhelming majority of gun owners must be extremely careful or such gun accidents would be much more frequent.” Also, the facts as cited in Lott’s book are extremely persuasive, and perhaps unassailable. Unquestionably, there’s a trade-off between accident potential and access for self-defense, and the relatively low, and in fact miniscule, chances of an actual accident occurring are almost certainly outweighed by the need for self-defense in some neighborhoods. To argue differently simply ignores the reality, however unpleasant. — Todd Woodard

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Wilson KZ45 Compact’s Capacity
Re “Commander-Sized Poly 1911 .45s: Kimber, Wilson, and STI Face Off,” March 2003:

Read your online article on the Wilson KZ45 Compact, and when I went to a dealer and also called Wilson they said the compact model only held nine rounds in the magazine, not 10 like in the article. The full-size KZ45 holds 10 rounds and one in the chamber.

-A Gun Tests Reader

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Will They Hold Up?
Re “Compact 9mm Pistols: Sigarms P226 Is Our Pick Over Taurus, FN,” May 2004:

Your comment that Sigarms began building its own forged-steel slides because Sig’s “sheet-metal” slides wouldn’t hold up for U.S. shooters gave me palpitations of the heart. I recently bought a 1978-vintage Browning BDA (really a Sig P220) .45 and a Sig P225 9mm that probably qualify for the “sheet-metal” category. I have yet to fire these 99 percent-condition “acquisitions,” but I’m not worried about how well they will withstand casual shooting. I do wonder, however, what lifespan I should expect from them in terms of thousands of rounds.

I don’t question that Sig slides are sheet metal, but are there visual clues to tell the difference between them and Sigarms’ forged-steel ones? How do sheet-metal slides stack up against cast (including MIM) and forged slides?

-Bob Easton


I put in a call to Sigarms, and according to the customer service representatives I spoke with, the model P220 utilizes a slide composed of two pieces of carbon steel stamped into shape and fit together. This process has led to it being referred to by some as sheet metal. (The P220ST uses a stainless steel slide that was milled from solid stock). I was informed that other models currently fitted with carbon-steel or sheet-metal slides are the P225, P228 and P245, and that the switch to one-piece forged or milled stainless-steel slides in 1999 was for strength and durability in handling the .357 Sig and .40 S&W cartridges. Furthermore, the P226 was also given a forged-steel slide for continuity and ease of production. The word stainless is being stamped on all current models, but another visual clue is a solid rather than hollow slide pin. Sigarms does not use MIM or cast slides because they consider such parts to be less able to handle stress than either forged stainless steel or carbon steel. Regarding your vintage guns, the .45 ACP P220 and 9mm P225 undergo less stress than .40 S&W and .357 Sig models. But, shorter practice sessions that generate less heat will likely result in longer life. —Roger Eckstine

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Diagnosing The AG 42B
Re “Vintage Semiauto Battle Rifles: We Test Three Proven Designs,” February 2004:

In your article you mentioned that the test rifle, the AG 42B doubled on one occasion. Having owned several of these rifles and had one field-strip itself catastrophically, this should be a warning sign to the shooter.

The AG 42B uses an inertia-type firing pin. The doubling experienced is in effect advanced primer ignition: In other words, firing before the action is fully locked. Over time the strength of the firing pin rebound spring weakens, allowing the pin to protrude slightly with the forward motion of the breech block. In the extreme case the spring may fail to retract the firing pin and detonate a cartridge primer as the cartridge is stripped from the magazine. The result is spectacular.

A simple way to check for this condition involves using a primed cartridge case. (Do not use live ammunition for this test!) With the rifle pointed in a safe direction and the shooter wearing appropriate eye and ear protection, cause the AG 42B’s action to be held to the rear. Chamber the primed cartridge case, and pointing the rifle in a safe direction, allow the action to go forward on its own. Should the primer fire, you know you have a problem. If it doesn’t, check the primer for a firing-pin impression. A noticeable firing pin impression should mean it’s time to have the spring changed.

-Bill Sopiro

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.17 HMR Cylinder Binding
Re “Small-Frame .17 HMR Revolvers: Two Guns We Can Live Without,” July 2004:

The biggest problem with rounds like the .17 HMR in a revolver is that the shoulders prevent the cases from sliding forward after the rounds have been fired. The case is pushed back and the brass case fire-forms to the dimensions of the chamber as the gun is fired. When a straight-wall cartridge is being used after the pressure subsides, the case just slides forward to relieve the pressure on the breech face. But in the case of a cartridge with a shoulder, the case cannot slide forward. The result is binding.

It looks like Taurus tried to get around this by chamfering the shoulder. I could not live with gun that split the brass every time it was used. It may not be dangerous, but it would drive me nuts.

Maybe it would be possible to put a highly polished, shallow ramp on the chamber face directly behind the barrel. As the cylinder rotated, the fired cases could slide backwards a few thousands of an inch and relieve the pressure causing the binding. It would probably be too expensive to machine in, though. For right now I agree with your conclusion that the best solution is to avoid revolvers chambered for rounds with a sharp shoulder or taper.

I would like to buy a .17 HMR handgun, but I want one that works. I do not think there is going to be a quick solution to the binding problem, so that leaves semi-autos and single shots. I would like to have a semi-auto, but I am skeptical that the .17 HMR or M2 will generate enough recoil to reliably operate a semi-auto pistol. As these become available I hope you give testing them a high priority.

I have subscribed to your magazine since 1989, since it is the only one that will print a negative review on products that deserve it.

-Doug Livezey

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R Stands for “Rimfire”
Re “Small-Frame .17 HMR Revolvers: Two Guns We Can Live Without,” July 2004:

I thought the R in “.17 HMR” stood for Rimfire instead of Rifle, but I agree the 2- and 4-inch revolvers are the answers to questions nobody has asked. The “Hummer” is a fine little round, but it needs a good rifle and a scope that costs twice as much as the rifle to bring out the cartridge’s potential. Either of the Taurus pistols would be fine trail guns in .22 Magnum, .32 H&R, or even .38 Special, but not chambered for the Hornady Magnum Rimfire round.

-Jerry Elam