September 2004

Firing Line: 09/04

.338 Magnum Showdown
Re “Two .338 Winchester Magnums Vs. Remington’s .338 Ultra Mag,” March 2004:

Read your article on the .338 Magnum Showdown with some interest, especially the accuracy and chronograph data. I noticed that the Remington 700 LSS had an average group size of 2.8 inches using the off-the-shelf Core-Lokt PSP ammunition. That is not a very good group for 100 yards. Here in northwest Florida I have talked to quite a few shooters about Remington 700 rifles. Most every shooter states that you cannot get a good group with a Remington 700 unless you put the bullet to within 0.004 inch of the lands.

A case in point: Last year I bought a Remington 700 VLS in 6mm Remington (a beautiful gun). I loaded up some 55-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips just to poke holes in paper. Due to the length of the 55-grain bullets, I could get them to only 0.042 inch of the lands. I got a 2-inch+ MOA at 100 yards. Needless to say I was not happy.

I loaded some 70- and 80-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips, which I seated to 0.004 inch of the lands and was able to shoot less than 3/8 MOA at a hundred yards. Thinking that maybe I had just learned how to shoot the gun better, I tried the 55-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips again and still could get only a 2-inch+ MOA.

Many shooters in this area have noticed in the last four to five year that the Remington 700 has to have the bullets loaded as close to the lands as possible. Don’t know whether Remington has changed the throat angle on its rifles or what they have done, but this seems to be consistent. I will bet that if you load rounds for the Remington 700 .338 Rem. and seat the bullets to within 0.004 inch of the lands, you can cut that group down to 1 MOA

-Jimmy T. Norris
Mary Esther, Florida


10MM Ammo
Re “Versatile Four-Inch Forty-Bore Revolvers,” May 2004:

As a dedicated 10mm fan I really enjoyed this article. For those looking for quality 10mm ammo loads with the power the 10mm was designed, for I would recommend the following: Texas Ammunition Company and Double Tap Ammunition. Both companies load (and test) 10mm ammo that produces energy ranging from mid-600 foot-pounds through upper 700 foot-pounds. One excellent load is the 180-grain Gold Dot hollow point running at 1330 fps/707 foot-pounds from a Glock 20. Another is the 135-grain Gold Dot hollow point with readings of 1600 fps/767 foot-pounds from a Glock 20. These loads are meant only for modern firearms designed to handle the powerful 10mm. Both companies can be found on the internet. A future article on 10mm autos would be very interesting because the cartridge does have a loyal following!

-Jeff Rusiecki
Ilwaco, Washington


Re “A Brace of Odd .223 Autoloaders From Robinson’s and Bushmaster,” July 2004:

I recently had a chance to read your article comparing the Robinson to the Bushmaster Bullpup. In your summary of the BM, you refer to the British bullpup as the Steyr AUG. The British actually use the L85, which has been plagued with problems. The Steyr AUG, however, is an outstanding bullpup used by the Austrian Army (as the Sturmgewehr 77 or StG 77), Australian Army (built under contract by ADI as the F88 and F88a1), as well as a number of other nations. It is noteworthy that the AUG has a very good trigger, especially for a bullpup, and that the design of the hammer pack is so good that an almost identical type of unit is used in both the FN P90 and new Singaporian SAR-21 bullpups. I believe the new FN 2000 bullpup also uses a similar system.

Should your readers be interested in learning more about the AUG, my website (non-profit) contains a great deal of information about this gun, its variants, history, and more.

-Michael Ma

Many thanks for your kind correction. I didn’t check my sources, and “shot from the hip” on this item. Your note about the excellence of the AUG perhaps explains why they sell for fairly high prices. —Ray Ordorica


Erosion question
Re “Rifle Bullets: Who Wins The Toughest Test?”, Tools & Techniques section, (

I just read a test on the Partition, A-Frame, X, and Fail-Safe bullets on your website. I’ve had success with Fail-Safe bullets in .270. I also just took my first mule deer with a custom .270 with a Hart barrel using the newest Barnes bullet, the 130-grain Triple Shock. I had an outstanding experience with the Triple Shock in every aspect, accuracy, expansion, penetration, etc. My friend used my gun on his deer as well. My shot was at only 65 yards, but his was at 254. Lung destruction was more than satisfactory, and neither deer made it more than 10 yards or so.

However, one of my gunsmith friends who builds high-dollar custom hunting rifles stated that the “solids” are hard on the throat of the barrels, and that using a bullet like the Barnes X, even the Triple Shock, will be so hard on the custom stainless barrel that I’d be lucky to get 500 rounds through it.

When you spend into the thousands on a nice hunting rifle, you don’t want to have to replace the barrel every 500 rounds. What is your experience with this? Any recommendations, or opinions?

-A Gun Tests Reader

My experience with Nosler Partition bullets has been better than that test showed. All those I’ve recovered have shown perfect expansion, with no loss of the front lead. Velocity is the key. My rifle throws 250-grain Partitions at only 2500 fps. At long range, the Nosler Ps would have the best chance of expanding of the four bullets tested, except perhaps the A-Frame. My personal testing of Barnes’ X-Bullets indicated a huge difference in expansion with varying velocity. Don’t sell the Nosler Partition short. It’s a fabulous bullet.

But you asked about erosion from X-Bullets. I went to the best source I know in the world for obtaining information about accuracy, barrel life, and throat erosion, Don Bower of Colorado. Don has tested Barnes X-Bullets (blue-coated, flat-base) extensively in his uncannily accurate handguns, which are capable of one-hole groups at 500 yards (as reported in The American Rifleman a few years ago). He told me he has had absolutely no problems with throat erosion, or any other kinds of problems, with Barnes’ solid copper bullets. Bower does not guess, he tests, examines, and tests some more. I pay close attention to what he has to say concerning the insides of firearms barrels, because I know no better source.

To Bower’s recommendation I can add my personal experiences shooting early Barnes X-Bullets in my Springfield custom .458 extensively in Alaska, 12 years ago. My best 350-grain X-Bullet load got 2500 fps and 2-inch groups at 100 yards, aperture sights. Recently I worked up a load for my .375 H&H Mag CZ with the 235-grain Barnes blue-coated, flat-base (XLC) bullet. It gives 2700 fps and 1.1-inch groups. Barnes makes boat-tails too, and some sources state that any kind of boat-tail bullets can cause excessive erosion, but I doubt you’d see any effects in several thousand rounds, even with a strict diet of boat-tail X-Bullets. My rifles show no effects of erosion . I have no problems with Barnes’ X-Bullets.

“Solids” as the term was first used, meant a full-patch bullet designed to penetrate to an elephant’s brain. John Rigby offered steel-jacket solids for his rifles. Those steel bullets had no effect on throat erosion. However, Cordite powder did, and that may be why some believe that solids cause throat erosion.

We asked the good folks at Barnes, and got the surprising answer that their test barrels last well over 2500 rounds shooting proof-level loads. These are way above anything you could buy. If you have a hot cartridge, say 7 STW, and insist on shooting loads well over maximum SAAMI specifications, you can destroy the barrel fairly quickly. But no factory loads, or similar handloads, will have a noticeable effect on barrel life within thousands of rounds, no matter what bullet you use. —Ray Ordorica


.22 Magnum Vs. .17 HMR
Re “Anschutz, Ruger, Marlin & Savage: .17 HMRs Meet Head-to-Head,” April 2003 on

Concerning reloading for the .22 Magnum and how it stacks up against new rounds like the .204 and .17 HMR, I’ve performed several tests of my own and felt like sharing the information. The best set-up for the .22 Magnum (strictly single shot) is to pull the 30-grain bullet from a CCI plus-velocity cartridge and seat a 50-grain Speer TNT or a 40-grain Hornady V-max. The seating depth is only 0.0625 inch. Any deeper and the rims blow out. The pressure has to be extremely high, but after 50+ rounds of each set-up, none have blown. I tried the 50-grain Hornady V-max, but that set-up blew every time. Either the boattail took up too much space, or the bullet might have been pressed into the rifling, although I didn’t feel that when feeding. As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, the seating of the 40-grain V-max is 0.0625 inch, not including the boattail. I guess the 50-grain Speer TNT works OK because there’s no boattail taking up space, or because the point is thinner and not touching the rifling. Whatever the reason, it works just fine.

Now comes the best part, the chronograph results. With the chrony set at 15 feet, the results were: 2070 fps for the 50-grain TNT; 2130 fps for the 40-grain V-max. The shots were made using a Marlin 25MN (which is usually slower than almost any other rifle). The spread for these shots were 32 fps for the 50-grain TNT and 68 fps for the 40-grain V-max. I don’t know if I would feel safe shooting these loads in any gun that doesn’t have a clip you can remove. With the combination of part of the rim being exposed in a bolt action and an open space for compression to escape (where the clip fits) I feel much safer. I know I use to be real steady while shooting, but after I blew my first rim (and several others after that), it took me almost a year to steady-up. Don’t believe I’ll ever be as steady as I used to be.

Is all this worth the effort? I believe so. With the higher ballistic coefficients of the 50-grain TNT and 40-grain V-max, plus the higher velocities achieved by both, you now have a true 200 yard 22 Magnum. Let the .17 HMR put that in its pipe and smoke it!

Of course, I feel someone needs to pull that little 17-grain bullet, of the .17 HMR, and drop in a 25- or 30-grain. Then you might have something worth talking about.

-Rick Connerley
Cooper, Texas


Missed the Boat?
Re “Packing a 1911 .45 Comfortably, Or How To Live With Ol’ Ugly Every Day,” July 2004:

I believe you missed the boat when you reviewed the Milt Sparks IWB holsters for the 5-inch 1911. Though the EX and SS still generate good sales, the VM-2 with its offset loops is by far the most comfortable, stable, and popular offering by Sparks for the 5-inch 1911 today. Also, this holster offers tuck capabilities.

-Craig C. Chadwick
Lightning Arms Sports Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon


Of .45s and Shotguns
Re “Parkerized Mil-Spec 1911 .45s: Springfield Beats Auto Ordnance,” and “Shotguns, Slugs, Buckshot: What’s Right for Effective Self-Defense?” July 2004:

Your latest issue came to my house two days after I bought a new pistol. Fortunately, it confirmed that I made a good choice, although not either of those you tested. I was planning to buy an Auto Ordnance, with Springfield as a second choice, but when neither of those was readily available, I bought a Rock Island Armory mil-spec 1911, made by Twin Pines, which I understand is also known as Armscor (Arms Corporation of the Philippines). So far, it is everything I hoped for in a $500 gun, except that I paid less than $350 for it! In limited testing, it seems to be as accurate as I can shoot with the ridiculous little sights, and has been 100 percent reliable using both Wolf standard hardball ammo and my light target LSWC handloads. Even with the light loads, most of the cases were found on the back wall of the range, so the recoil spring may be a little light. Also, one case hit the top of my head, and the others were ejected mostly straight behind me, so the ejection seems to be straight up instead of off to the side. This might be a feature of an original small ejection port. The trigger, at 5.5 pounds and crisp, is excellent for a factory defense gun.

You did not evaluate, and I don’t know how to do it either, the metallurgy of the guns. Springfields are generally excellent, offering sufficient quality in both the major parts and the trigger parts so that a good gunsmith can upgrade it to top-quality Bullseye competition, as indicated by Springfield’s willingness to do it. I don’t know if my Rock Island is as good for an upgrade base, but as received from the factory I have no complaints with it. I recommend a follow-up article comparing the Rock Island 1911 to those you already tested.

Your slug-gun article has some small problems. Remington “Slugger” 1-ounce rifled slugs are Foster style, not hollow point. They are stabilized by the shape of the slug, like the early space capsules, and spin very little regardless of the “rifled” pattern on the outside of the slugs. Remington does make hollow point slugs, but they do not have the “Slugger” name. The Federal and Winchester Foster “rifled slugs” are poorly listed as “hollow point” by their manufacturers, but although they may have a small depression in the front, there is nothing that is intended for actual expansion, and expansion would not help a slug that is full 12 gauge diameter to start with. Real hollow-point slugs fit in a sabot and are extremely inaccurate unless fired from a rifled bore to spin them. The rifled bore scatters shot widely and makes the “shotgun” unusable with shot at any significant distance, although it might be good for quick shots at home-defense ranges, and these guns are not really “shotguns” at all. Which brings up the point, I didn’t notice any mention whether the Norinco Hawk “shotgun” was a smoothbore or rifled firearm. I assume smoothbore, but in a slug test I think you should have said so.

-Benjamin McLeod
Reston, Virginia

The description of the ammunition used in the field test of the Norinco Hawk pump shotgun was as listed by the manufacturers. Concerning whether the shotgun had a rifled barrel or not, if the shotgun’s barrel had been rifled, we would have mentioned it in the review. Perhaps a rifled barrel would have improved the performance of the slugs. —Ralph Winingham


.32 ACP Shortcomings
Re “Firing Line,” August 2004:

The criticism of the .32 ACP in the letters column is well founded. The small size of most .32 autos leaves little room for a stout extractor spring, and the semi-rim of the .32 ACP cartridge being extracted wants to snag on the top round in the magazine. First the rim wants to catch on the sharp edge of the case end, then on the extractor recess; both events invite the case to slip away from the extractor before making it back to the ejector.

I think it’s only fair to observe that the Winchester SilverTip round is specifically designed to solve this problem, which is why the Seecamp, NAA, and Kel-Tec are all at their best with this round. The Winchester round is crimped smoothly and heavily, not to withstand any bone-jarring recoil, but to provide a rounded edge for the rim of the next round to ride over. Similarly, the rear edge of the semi-rim is nicely rounded to enable it to ride over the rim of the next round. More powerful rounds you might choose (e.g. Cor-Bon) have a sharp edge at both points.

We sell a lot of Kel-Tec .32s, and explain to each buyer why we recommend the Winchester round. If they want to use something else, they should run at least a box of the selected ammo through the gun before they depend on it. One of our customers, an Orlando police officer, carries Cor-Bons, but he ran several boxes through his Kel-Tec before deciding that his would handle it.

Keep up the good work! Your publication is a refreshing antidote for the unadulterated hype in all the other magazines. Your experience matches ours: A lot of guns (and not just the cheap ones) have serious quality-control problems. Two observations you might want to pass on to your readers.

1) We have returned new guns to a major maker for warranty repair; then had to sell them as used when they came back seriously scuffed (like dropped several times on a concrete floor).

2) We have learned to instruct buyers of all polymer-framed pistols that the guns will jam if the shooter doesn’t really hang on. It’s amazing how many don’t get it, and we end up having to demonstrate that their jam-o-matic works fine for us. With all the Glocks out there, it still hasn’t sunk in.

-Bruce Dow
Dow Arms Room
Dade City, Florida


Lightweight Carry Options
Re “Lightweight Carry Options: A 9mm, a .40 S&W, and a .45 GAP,” June 2004”

I enjoyed your article on lightweight carry options very much, primarily because I use a S&W 908 as my primary concealed weapon, and it is very similar to the 4040PD reviewed in that article. The primary difference is that the 908 is a 9mm pistol, but the look and function of the two pistols is very similar, including the need to use a tool to depress one of the three levers when reassembling the top end. All of this time, I thought I was just incompetent!

Although you noted the absence of a hammer spur and the functioning of the decocker, these two design features combine into one significant drawback in getting the gun into action. The pistol cannot be carried “decocked and locked,” since getting the gun into play with one hand is next to impossible to do smoothly and quickly, as the strong-hand thumb would have to move the decocking lever up to activate the trigger, while the gun is being withdrawn from concealment. I found this out after carrying the gun decocked and locked for some time, before I actually tried to draw it from a holster and found I needed two hands.

The best option is to carry the gun decocked with a round in the chamber, but with the decocking lever returned to the 9 o’clock (parallel to the barrel) position, thus activating the trigger. As you noted in your firing tests, this puts you into a double action first shot before going into the single-action mode for the second and subsequent shots. I really want to commend you, then, on the rapid-fire drill you added to the accuracy testing, which realistically tested this mode of operation.

If one is comfortable with the 9mm round, I think the S&W 908 is a good choice with all of the advantages, except the caliber of the ammunition, of the 4040PD. It is 2 ounces heavier, but it can carry one additional round in the magazine, and it costs about $250 less than the titanium .40 model.

One comment on the GAP ammunition. The June issue of American Rifleman reported that Springfield is chambering the XD for this cartridge, so you are not limited to the Glock. Neither AR nor Gun Tests included any cost information on the GAP cartridge. For someone who runs through a few hundred rounds each time out at the range, this would be a consideration in buying a GAP handgun, as I would anticipate that this ammunition would be quite expensive, at least until there is a significantly larger market for it.

-James Heimer
Houston, Texas


In Defense of the A-Bolt
Re “Varmint Cartridges: The .22-250 Still Reigns; Ruger’s .204 Is Hot,” June 2004:

We subscribers love your objectivity, so it pains us when a gun is criticized on subjective (and in this case inconsistent standards). In this article, some exaggerated and subjective complaints are made regarding the Browning A-Bolt’s box magazine, bolt-release button, and safety. While A-Bolt rifles with these features were reviewed by you in the past, (see April 1998 and May 2001), you did not find fault with these features. The box magazine is a handy feature in my view, allowing very quick unloading and reloading by simply pushing a button and removing a neat little box. The utility far surpasses the slight increase in thickness of the floor plate profile. The bolt release’s position and size makes easy to push it with your left thumb while pulling out the bolt with your right hand. No other bolt I have is so easy to take off. The tang safety is in the perfect position to click off, since the thumb falls naturally right there. I tested my A-bolt with wet fingers and had no trouble clicking it on and off.

-A Gun Tests Reader

A “box magazine” is not a detachable magazine. Mauser 98s had box magazines. There is no need for the bottom of the detachable magazine to be so thick. In comparison with the other two rifles, the A-bolt looked clumsy. While some A-Bolts are fine rifles, if the reader wants to spend $741 on an ugly pup with zero accuracy, go ahead. —Ray Ordorica


Price Jump
Re 2004 Buying Guide:

After a flattering review by Gun Tests, it sure doesn’t take long for some manufacturers to raise their prices. Your Buying Guide for 2004 speaks favorably of the Savage 93R17 and notes that the MSRP is $180. Being interested in this particular gun, I checked Savage’s website today, and the price they are now showing for the model you tested is $226. That’s a 25-percent price increase.

-Scott McArthur


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

The opening paragraph asserts that a short-barreled shotgun and shotshells “are crucial elements of the home-safety system.” The article concludes with average group sizes at 25 yards in the ammunition performance summary. 25 yards? Home safety? What about group sizes at 25 feet, or 12 feet, for that matter?

The conversations I’ve had with friends about shotguns and home-defense contemplate discharging a shotgun, unaimed, into a dark room or down a dark hallway with the intention of shredding an intruder. I don’t know about your house, but my hall is more like 25 feet long, not 75 feet (25 yards). I’d want to fill my hall or living room with a wide pattern. Pattern sizes at 25 yards are useful information for planning a gun fight with the neighbor across the street, not for defending one’s family in the house.

Slugs, 00 buck, and No. 4 buck will blast right through sheetrock walls and hollow-core doors, endangering family members in adjoining rooms (if not the neighbors in adjoining houses or apartments). Smaller shot would more likely be contained in the room where the intruder is confronted. As I see it, a pump-action blunderbuss loaded with birdshot would provide effective home defense.

-George Kranen
Belmont, California

This is an excellent observation that reinforces what we stressed in the January 2004 article, “12-Gauge Home-Defense Shotguns: Benelli Nova Tactical Pump and the Mossberg Model 500 Pump.” That package covered how the shotguns performed with No. 7 1/2 shot at distances of 20 feet or less.

As you state and as we pointed out in that piece, 7 yards or less is the typical range in a home or building self-defense situation, and birdshot is a very effective load in those cases.

The July article focused more on testing how the Hawk pump, which came with an adjustable rear sight, would handle slugs and buckshot at longer ranges both in fun practice sessions and self-defense situations. —Ralph Winingham