April 2005

Firing Line: 04/05

What Happened to Lower Cost?
As a pioneer subscriber to Gun Tests, I have always enjoyed the diversity of articles. The last few years, I have noticed a trend toward what I call the “high buck handgun” - a gun that does not always equate price to value.

Remember a number of years ago when you rated the Norinco as a better bargain, with a bit of gunsmithing, when compared to many of the high-buck 1911s on the market? Why not a review on the Rock Island $300 1911? Could that be a bargain?

These “hold the budget” articles, I believe, would even be of interest to those who wanted a reliable second plinker.

Also, what ever happened to the Kel-Tec 223 article that was listed in upcoming reviews? I was looking forward to this as a budget option. It has now disappeared from the upcoming articles box altogether.

These are minor concerns, but ones that might provide some insight into what at least one reader might like to see as more articles on lower dollar offerings.

Otherwise, I have pretty much based my purchase considerations on Gun Tests, when the price and value are right.

Willis Patterson

Patterson’s note prompted an analysis of the retail prices of guns reviewed in the last few years, and he was indeed correct. Upcoming issues will include more less-expensive guns. —Todd Woodard


The Right Solution
I’d like to request that you guys do tests of various gun-cleaning solvents and various gun lubes. There are so many products on the market, and they all make such extravagant claims that the consumer is left to either spend themselves into penury trying them all or just pick one and hope it’s the best.

For the lubes, I’m not sure how you’d quantify the performance. I suppose you could test for lubricity at various temperatures, durability of lubrication, and ability to resist attracting grit. There are probably a bunch of mil-spec tests for gun lubes, and maybe you could replicate those.

In any event, I think tests of solvents and lubes would be useful and of interest to readers.

Tony Pious

Some of these subjects have been covered and are available as back issues. Check July 2000 for “Gun Maintenance Checkup: We Pick Seven Slick Rust Preventives”; and February 2005 for “Getting Bores Clean: Copper Solvents Require Elbow Grease.” —Todd Woodard


A Question About Lasers
Friends, thanks for creating Gun Tests. When it’s time to write checks for guns, you’re the guys whose advice I rely on.

And now a question. I checked Gun Tests online for info on laser sights, but found none, so I assume your editorial policy doesn’t encompass them. If so, can you tell me where I can find some objective evaluations of laser sights for my Glock 19. I’d prefer a Lasermax product, if I have to pay hundreds. I’d prefer not to pay hundreds.

Pete Lundstrom

Check the September 2003 issue for “Looking at Laser Sights.” —Todd Woodard


.308 Rifles
Re “.308 Semiauto Rifles Revisited,” July 2000; “Semiautomatic .308s: Pick L1A1s or M1As, not HK-91s,” April 1999; and “Getting A Garand Deal: Choose Marksmanship Program Surplus Model,” June 2002”:

You’ve done excellent articles on .308 semiauto rifle tests you conducted, including reviews of the Springfield M1-A1, FAL, and Armalite AR-10. These are topnotch rifles, but why wasn’t Bushmaster included in the comparison? Bushmaster makes a very fine rifle, and I’m sure many gun owners besides me would like to know how you think these stack up against the competition.

Lewis Hart


I have been waiting on the review of the Kel-Tec SU-16 .223 rifle. Just wondering when you plan on reviewing it? Here in California, this is one of the few legally available .223 rifles, so it has a lot of interest.

Tom Eggleston

We’ve been waiting on a third gun for some months now. But the Kel-Tec SU 16, $640, and the Springfield M1A Socom 16 in .308, $1727, are both in house and I’ll schedule that piece immediately. —Todd Woodard


1911 Safety Question
I have always gone with the assumption that there were only two “safe” ways to carry a 1911; hammer down on an empty chamber or cocked and locked. I was always told that you never kept the hammer down on a loaded chamber because it could fire if dropped or bounced sufficiently. I was discussing this issue with a friend and he said that it was no longer true. He said that the modern 1911s had improved safeties so that was no longer the case. I agreed that it might be true of the Para Ordnance or the new SW1911, but not the mil-spec 1911A1s. He said all new manufactured guns. I have a new manufacture mil-spec 1911A1. What is the real skinny?

Bryan Johnson

I was curious if a 1911 firing pin could be driven forward from a blow to the hammer when the hammer was fully down, resting against the spring-loaded pin, much as a croquet ball may be knocked away by a blow to another ball held with the foot, the two balls in contact with each other. I loaded an empty .45 case with a new primer and put it into two different guns, a new SW1911 and an older, simpler, Norinco 1911. Then I beat on the lowered hammer with a stout stick. In neither case was there the slightest mark on the primer. In short, a round cannot be fired by any sort of reasonable blow to the lowered hammer, no matter whether the design is new or old, at least within my limited testing. —Ray Ordorica


Results of P220 & P345 Test
Re “Single-Stack Double-Action .45 ACPs: Sigarms Vs. Ruger,” February 2005:

Two friends and I have purchased P345s. We have used them in steel matches and IDPA competitions as well as putting them on paper. Not a hitch anywhere. In fact one of my friends traded in his 220. All three of us like the ergonomics of the pistol and have no problem with the accuracy or the pad of the trigger finger sliding through too far. I have large, slender hands and this has not been a issue. Since you found the gun to function flawlessly it seems a little unfair to put a “conditional” tag on the gun due to your inability to handle the trigger.

Roger Hooker
Tucson, AZ

The P345 tested in this issue with different ammunition performed better than in the previous test, and got a “Buy” recommendation. —Todd Woodard


Rethink Kel-Tec As Gun of the Year
Re “Best of ‘04: Handguns, Rifles, and Shotguns Worth The Money,” December 2004:

I was horrified to see that you had chosen the Kel-Tec P3AT as one of your guns of the year. Because of this selection I felt that I had to convey my experiences with the P3AT. I bought a P3AT based on your initial recommendation, and after my experience and research I question the validity of your analysis. My P3AT fired seven rounds before it refused to extract any round from the chamber. The next 18 rounds were fired one at a time with a stoppage between every shot. Each time the empty case was partly extracted from the chamber, and the next round was jammed under it as slide tried to feed the next round. After trying a total of 25 rounds from three different manufacturers and with a blister on my thumb from operating the slide, I gave up. When I got home I went on line and found that most of the questions on the discussion sites were on how to get a P3AT to run reliably. Of the four people that I know that own one, I know of none have succeeded in getting theirs to operate with any reliability. I am thinking of sending mine to the factory to have them work on it, but I am not sure that it will be worth the cost of postage.

I am greatly disappointed with Kel-Tec for the poor quality of a product that they are marketing as a backup weapon for law-enforcement personnel. Given the rate of failures that I found, if you tested another example of this model I am sure that your recommendation would be a “Don’t Buy.”

Doug McKenzie
Idaho Falls, Idaho


Outrageous Deals
Re “.308 Tactical Bolt Actions: Package Versus Custom Built,” November 2004:

I just wanted to pass on some information regarding the Savage package rifles. I purchased one last year, largely based on your reports, and have not been disappointed. I have the .243, and it was shooting 1-inch groups at 100 yards right out of the box. This model does have the Accutrigger, which is a wonderful thing.

The reason I wrote is that I was at a local Gander Mountain store in Wisconsin and found incredible deals on these guns. Since it is the end of gun deer season, they are selling all of their Savages and package guns at a clearance price of $299! A local dealer said Savage just doesn’t have a good resale price - hard to believe based on their performance.

Keep up the good work. I work for a local sheriff’s department and have been sharing issues with other officers. Most were unaware that such a publication existed for firearms.

Lyle Clayton
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin


Your Recommendations
I have recently been in the market for a couple of handguns and possibly a target rifle. A sales rep at Gander Mountain recommended that I look at your publication to gather information on gun comparisons. I am very impressed by the detail in your sample articles; however, I need further assistance to help narrow down the selection of articles that I should consider.

My primary interest is to be an amateur marksman, but I definitely want a handgun for home protection. I noticed on your website that you are now selling your “Best of 2004” issue and was wondering if this is the best place to start? Perhaps you could recommend some current or relevant past articles that may better suit my needs?

To give you an idea of the types of guns I am looking for, I was thinking that I would start out with a .22 LR target pistol and a .40 S&W handgun for personal and home protection. I have been told that a .40 S&W is the happy medium between a 9mm and a .45 caliber, and the rounds are more affordable. I am also interested in a target rifle, but the handguns are my priority. This is particularly true since I am going to be taking a CCW class very soon, and would like to have my own gun for the class.

Any suggestions you could offer will be greatly appreciated. My goal is to have a reasonable idea of what’s available in order to avoid being sold a bill of goods. Just looking at the large handgun selection at my local Gander Mountain left me feeling vulnerable.

Jim Sands

We get a lot of requests like yours, but it’s not a question we can answer for you. I advise getting with a local instructor and shooting a selection of handguns, including revolvers, to narrow down the field of choices. Our staff carries a variety of handguns, from .32 H&R Magnum lightweight revolvers to full-size and Commander-size .45 ACPs, because our needs are very different. For strictly home defense, we might have some agreement that a shotgun is the best course. Personally, I don’t think the .40 S&W is the best first choice in a first centerfire pistol; 9mms are easier to shoot, and ammo is much less expensive. Another good choice would be light-load .38 Specials in revolvers. —Todd Woodard


HK Bias?
I love your magazine, but over the years it has become clear to me that you guys have a clear-cut dislike for H&K and H&K firearms. Not sure where that comes from, and we can argue the point until we’re blue in the face, but that’s the clear message that has come through, at least in my view. The latest example of the unreasonable prejudice against the finest firearms in the world, a perspective shared by many military folks in the special operations world, (I carried an H&K USP .45 Compact in Afghanistan and would have no other), is your failure to note that both H&K as well as Sigarms received the largest pistol contract in federal law enforcement history from DHS. I might have missed it in an earlier issue (in which case shame on me), but the fact is that both Sig and H&K received the contract for their DAO pistols, H&K for the LEM trigger P2000 and Sig for various models with the DAK trigger. As an aside, you’ve never reviewed the P2000 LEM, P2000 TDA, or the P2000SK, nor have you looked at the Sigs with the new DAK trigger. Instead we’re treated to a steady diet of Glock, 1911, and a collection of cheap guns like Kahr, Taurus, etc. How about a look at the cutting-edge defensive weapons that are the choice of elite military units and law enforcement organizations?

Despite my comments, I’m still happy with your magazine. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than most of the other gun rags out there.

John Taylor

On the DHS item, credit Sig with having better public relations than H&K. More broadly, we do tend to undercover military and law enforcement guns simply because those products’ availability may mean that most GT readers can’t buy them. Personally, I’d love to cover full-auto rifles and machine pistols because they’re fun to play with. But most readers can’t buy or possess those guns, so they would ask, legitimately, why we were writing about guns they can’t own. —Todd Woodard


Mossberg Safety
Re “20-Gauge Youth Shotguns: Are They Effective For Self Defense?”, January 2005:

I just received my first issue, and am generally satisfied. However, your evaluation of 20-gauge shotguns shows that, like all other gun magazines, you totally ignore left-handed readers.

Mr. Hoffner’s opinion that crossbolt safeties are safer only holds true for right-handed shooters. They are worse than a royal pain in the ass for lefties. For many years, my home-defense shotgun has been a Mossberg 500 20 gauge. The safety is ambidextrous and silent, unlike the safety of a Remington 870, which clicks audibly.

I recently acquired a truly ambidextrous shotgun at a gun show. It’s a Remington Model 10, with bottom ejection and a Garand-type safety at the front of the trigger guard.

I have a challenge for you: include a left-hander in all your gun tests, and provide a “Southpaw Shootability Index” for every weapon tested. I’d like to know if any semi-auto pistol is truly suitable for left-handed shooters.

Denton Warn
Hutchinson, Kansas


Kel-Tec Fan
Re “9mm Pistols for Deep Carry: Kahr, S&W, Kel-Tec Shoot It Out,” January 2005:

I’ve had my Kel-Tec P11 for almost two years now, and I must have bought mine at the right time (before the heavy “lawyer triggers” were in production). The Kel-Tec does have a long trigger pull, and it took about 800 rounds and two months of practice before I felt comfortable with its trigger. I checked my trigger pull a couple weeks after getting the gun, and it broke at less than 6 pounds. I can’t imagine the pain (literally) with a long 10-pound pull. The last time I checked the Kel-Tec website, they offered a 5.5-pound trigger kit. I would buy it if I had a 10-pound trigger.

Overall, I really like this little powerhouse. At 14 ounces (before ammo), and 10+1 of 9mm Luger, there is no reason not to go armed where it is legal, even when wearing light summer clothes. I will also recommend the Parkerized finish. It requires no oil on the outside to help protect it, and it seems to be keeping its good looks even in our humid Kentucky weather.

Gary R. Smith


Smith’s PPK
Re “Short Shots,” January 2005:

The item about the new S&W PPK was interesting, but may be somewhat misleading. I bought one of the new guns, a PPK/S model (with factory laser eagle and scroll engraving) rather than a PPK. The magazine capacity for this model is seven rounds, not eight. There was no edge break on either the frame or slide, and the enhanced recoil system consists of a recoil spring with nine rather than eight coils. This serves to make it difficult to retract the slide for loading due to the small size of the slide.

The single-action trigger runs 5.5 pounds, the same as a previous Interarms model, while the double-action pull is quite smooth, at 12.5 pounds. The gun fed Winchester and Remington 95-grain ball without a problem, but didn’t do at all well with Wolf steel case ball, failing to extract and feed one or two rounds in each magazine load (most likely due to the heavier recoil spring). The extended beavertail keeps it from biting the hand that feeds it. The frame is laser-marked S&W HOULTON ME USA.

Wes Romberger


Re “Range Bag,” March 2005:

In our recent evaluation of the FN 5.7X28mm pistol, our only real complaint was the limited choice of ammunition. The single round available to civilians was a “ball” ammunition that despite its hollow point would not expand when fired into a block of Simcast ballistic material. Instead it tunneled and weaved through the media in much the same manner as a typical rimfire slug. The military ammunition was designed to create a larger wound canal by tumbling, but now an expanding-tip projectile in this caliber is being offered to the public. The SS196SR Sporting Round utilizes a 40-grain Hornady V-Max bullet. Cartridge weight is listed as 105 grains, and muzzle velocity is a claimed 1650 fps. In our view this should make the low-recoil, high-velocity FN 5.7X28mm system even more appealing. For more information visit www.fnhusa.com and refer to product number 10700014. Or call 703-288-1292. —Roger Eckstine