Firing Line: 08/05
Re “A Baer of a Decision: Monolith, Ultimate Master, Or Premier II,”
I have owned a Les Baer Concept III for over a year, having won it in an NRA/ILA sweepstakes. Your article on the Les Bear Custom 1911s is accurate in every respect except one. You mentioned in your review of the Premier II that the Concept I and II include a smooth frontstrap. Mine, produced in 2003, has a 30-lpi frontstrap. The Les Baer website states that the Concept I and II have smooth frontstraps, but the rest of the Concept line has the checkered 30-lpi frontstrap. I have found this pistol to be totally reliable, with many upgrade options available. The Les Baer pistol is a quality product that does what it says it will do. A rare item in today’s marketplace.
Re “A Baer of a Decision: Monolith, Ultimate Master, Or Premier II,”
The trigger pad came loose (and off) the trigger bow on a gun that costs almost $2,500? How does Les explain that since he test shoots and inspects every gun that his company makes? It’s no laughing matter. I know I’m not the only person who thinks that a gun called the Ultimate Master and costs $2470 should not fall apart during testing.
Sumter, South Carolina
Cleanliness Is Next To…
Do you guys clean guns yourselves? I need to have my .45 professionally cleaned. If not, do you know of any place that I could send it?
Any qualified gunsmith can do the work, but Briley Manufacturing does a lot of cleaning/reconditioning. Contact them at (800) 331-5718. —Todd Woodard
Re “9mm Pistols for Deep Carry: Kahr, S&W, Kel-Tec Shoot It Out,”
I think your rating of the Kel-Tec P11 pistol as a “conditional buy” is exactly right. Please let me share my experiences of carrying it almost daily for about four years, in a Kramer Confidant (tank-top) rig, under a loose-fitting work shirt. If anyone ever noticed I was carrying, I haven’t been told about it.
I chose this pistol because of its small size, light weight, low cost, and simple operation. It seemed to be the best available of the guns approved for +P 9mm Luger ammunition, my personal minimum for serious defensive use. My regular carry load is Remington Golden Saber 124-grain +P’s. Functioning is 100 percent with anything that has a rounded ogive bullet shape, but I get occasional misfeeds with truncated-cone bullets. Recoil is a little snappish, especially with +P loads, but not painful.
I have added factory tritium sights and had the slide nickel-plated, because I was constantly fighting surface rust on the original blued slide. Not much of a criticism, really. If you were a piece of steel, you would likewise find my armpit a tough place to spend a Texas summer.
My only criticism of the pistol is its mediocre (but mission-adequate) accuracy. I’ve never been able to get magazine-writer groups, even from a sandbag rest. But I can often keep all my shots in the 13-inch “5-point” ring of the Texas CHL qualifying target, standing, two-handed, timed-fire at 15 yards. That’s not stellar performance, but it’s probably good enough for almost any realistic civilian self-defense situation. I’m sure the long, heavy (but quite smooth) DA-only pull is a big factor in these unimpressive results.
During the CHL classes I teach, I’ve let my trainees try shooting it. Inexperienced shooters of either sex, especially older folks with a little arthritis in their hands, and almost all women, find the trigger too heavy to cope with.
For my purposes, using the P-11 as a specialized deep-concealment piece, I find it suits me just fine.
Cedar Creek, TX
Re “9mm Pistols for Deep Carry: Kahr, S&W, Kel-Tec Shoot It Out,”
On page 21 it is stated that the decocker/safety lever can be changed to the right side for left-handed shooters for the S&W 908S 9mm. I called S&W customer service with the question on how to do this. The woman was clueless. Can you tell how this can be done? This gun really interested me after reading the great review. I was looking at the 3913TSW because of the ambi decocker/safety lever, but it costs about $215 more.
Wayne Lefty Marshall
We called Smith & Wesson and asked for repair and spoke with the same rep we had previously. To clarify, the modification actually is from left-side-only to an ambidextrous setup. This is due to the way the safety is mounted inside the slide. The cost for this procedure is $115 plus shipping. Turnaround time is three to four weeks. If you shop around, you might come out ahead by buying the 3913TSW. —Roger Eckstine
Re “A Roller-Locked Trio: H&K-Type Variants for .308, .223, 9mm,”
Thanks for reviewing the roller-locked trio. I had requested a review like this some time last year; it’s nice to know you guys listen to input from your Gun Tests readers.
First point I’d like to make is in regards to the less-than-ideal trigger pulls on these rifles. Definitely true. However, to fix them, you can’t go wrong with a Williams Trigger Specialties job. I’ve had all of my HK-series rifles done up with one of their trigger jobs, and it always comes out great, quick, and very fairly priced. The website is
Second, I believe all of the manufacturers in your article are now producing variants with flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, and collapsible stocks due to the sunset of the AWB. Nice to poke a finger at the likes of Schumer, Kennedy, Feinstein, and Kerry whenever you can (and don’t forget those Beta C-Mags, which hold 100 rounds of 9mm or 5.56mm fodder!)
Finally, for anyone interested in these sorts of products, a great place to start is www.hkpro.com. It’s a super site with a ton of information and a great web board.
Jeff Gilbertson Honey Brook, Pennsylvania
Re “20-Gauge Youth Shotguns: Are They Effective For Self Defense,”
Having had many years of practical handling of weapons both military (20 years, Army) and civilian (I am so old I don’t buy green bananas), I read and re-read your article on 20-gauges for self-defense. I still can’t believe my eyes. You actually passed on, without comment, the advice of that cop who claims the Mossberg safety allows someone to “cheat” and fire faster? And, he claims slugs are a necessity as they can “penetrate doors, wall studs, kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, heavy furniture, or whatever else a bad guy might use for cover”! That is the most incredible advice I have ever heard!
Just a few points: The bad guy may have one of your kids under his arm. The court may be very interested in your claim that you shot through the refrigerator or into the next room in “self-defense.” I realize a lot of cops regard themselves as “military-type SWAT-team commandos” and have little or no regard or concern of collateral damage, but I damn sure do, and you will never find me blasting at someone I can’t see. Didn’t like it much in the military either, because another squad might have come in through another entrance. By the way, the Mossberg is user-friendly for both right and left-handed people due to the tang-mounted safety!
Your position on using birdshot was excellent. At close range it is deadly, and when spread, it will not go through the walls and refrigerators and into who knows what on the other side.
I’m fairly new to the shooting world. I only fired my first gun a year and a half ago and got myself a subscription to another shooting publication. While I’ve learned much through this and other resources, I am continually surprised by the lack of an honest opinion. Good, bad, buy, don’t buy, fair, nothing! Unless the gun is soooo good it’s unbelievable, they never speak a word. This never bothered me until I came into the market for a new rifle. One of my shooting mentors heard a lot of hype surrounding the Remington 710, so he bought one, and we went to the range. He fired a shot, and we looked at each other confused, as there was not even a mark on the target at 100 yards. We had seen a little dust to the right, so he compensated for the problem figuring that sights were just horribly off. After an hour we managed a 5.5-inch group.
My point is: He got the favorable report for the rifle from a particular unnamed magazine. I was aghast. They clearly stated the gun was a good performer, and I had the article to prove it.
When I got a chance to read your publication, I was so impressed that I knew I had to get a subscription and write to you personally thanking you for a true, honest, point-blank report on the guns I’m seeing at my local shop. It’s unique for any publication, whether for guns, cars, boats, or electronics, to give a straight answer not affected by sponsorship.
Eric Aart Konynenberg
Handgun for a Woman
I’ve been a subscriber for several years, and appreciate your unbiased reviews. In this day and age of product tie-ins everywhere from movies to fast food, it’s refreshing to find a source that maintains its independence and objectivity.
Now that I’ve buttered you up, I hope you can help me. My wife is interested in getting her CHL here in Texas. She is relatively inexperienced with firearms, although she has done some informal plinking with revolvers and 1911-type semiautomatics (including a Beretta 92). We’re leaning towards a 9mm, or possibly a .380 caliber, probably in a compact version. Anything larger or more powerful might be a little too much for her to handle effectively. We’ve also thought about limiting the candidates to pistols that operate similar to a 1911, so she (and I) won’t get confused if we switch back and forth between weapons. I’ve never fired a Glock, for example, but my impression is that they take a little getting used to if you are more familiar with “traditional” pistols. I’ve searched the Gun Tests website looking for various references to women, ladies, and 9mm, but was unable to find much. We’d be interested in any suggestions or comments you might have.
We often have staff disagreements about what gun an individual should buy, and we usually don’t answer specific queries on that point because there are too many factors to consider. It really does depend on the woman. My personal view on this is easy to understand and defend. I prefer to start small and easy, then get bigger and more complicated as a shooter’s experience grows. Kel-Tec makes dandy pistols that are inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to use, to name one option. My preference for a new shooter is a .32 Magnum in a gun like the S&W 342PD, or to shoot light loads in a .38 Special. —Todd Woodard
Re “Mossberg Cruiser .410,”
This past year you have published quite a number of articles on guns and ammunition for home protection, but have never cited a recommendation you made in March 2001 for a .410-bore shotgun. I think that was one of the best ideas and rationales I have ever read. Have you changed your mind about the .410 shotgun as being enough, but not too much for home defense?
I purchased three of the Mossberg Cruiser shotguns for my sons and me. I equipped each gun with a loop sling, a globar front sight, and a Minimag flashlight with a pushbutton switch. The loop sling allows the gun to hang at your side in a non-threatening, ready position. The globar sight enhances aiming from hip level in daylight, and the flashlight provides target illumination and aiming in the dark. I also cut the rectangular delivery box down and covered it with a cloth bag that doesn’t look anything like a gun case for carrying the gun into motels when we travel. So far, my experience with this combination is only on the range, thank goodness, but it works great there.
I simply didn’t carry information on the Cruiser forward. It’s still a great self-defense choice, as you’ve found. —Todd Woodard
Re “Firing Line,”
In your answer to Mr. Edmondson, you write, “We’re broadening our testing efforts to look at other areas besides guns.” Considering the title of your fine publication is Gun Tests, I am hoping that you will reconsider this idea.
Recent articles on scopes, holsters, and ammo have left me with less and less to read. Even though I have very little interest in rifles and shotguns, I still find the evaluations interesting, and considering the cost of a firearm these days, I believe that your readers need all the information that they can get before making what could otherwise be an expensive mistake due to a lack of information.
David H. Manks
I appreciate your comments. But many other readers have made it clear they want accessory testing, as this issue shows. —Todd Woodard
Re “Commander-Length .45s: Para Ordnance’s LTC Is A Best Buy,”
Your lead-off review of the Para Ordnance LTC, Kimber Tactical Pro II, and RRA Commando Elite carried the caveat, “If you can find one,” for the RRA model. You might very well have added a similar caveat for the Para Ordnance: “If you can get one.”
As a member of the Alamosa County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Posse, I am obliged to provide my own uniforms and much of my duty equipment, including a double-action pistol. Having read highly laudatory reviews of Para Ordnance in more than one issue of Gun Tests and in other gun-related publications, I elected to buy an LDA High Capacity LTD in .45 ACP. Para provides what they call the “individual Officer Purchase Kit,” which I employed in ordering my gun. It was supposed to “expedite delivery from the factory.” Initially, I was told it would take two to four weeks to get delivery. In four weeks I made inquiry and was told “two more weeks.” In two weeks, I was told “two more weeks.” And so it went. It took 13 weeks to the day to take delivery of my new sidearm. I am thankful delivery was expedited, because I might have had a long wait had it not been.
But the wait was definitely worthwhile. The gun is everything you said it would be and more. Fit and finish are excellent. There are not rough spots or sharp edges. Functioning has been flawless, and the accuracy is outstanding. I have a Colt Gold Cup National Match pistol, which the Custom Shop has tweaked, and the Para Ordnance feels, handles and shoots just like it. I don’t fully comprehend the mechanics of the LDA trigger system, but it feels exactly the same as my Gold Cup except marginally heavier. Blindfolded, I would be hard-pressed to tell one from the other simply from the trigger pull.
Thank you for your good work. I am confident that any of your readers who follow your recommendations will be as pleased with their selections as I am with mine.
C. Wayne Freeark
Re “Mil-Spec .30-’06 Bolt Guns: ‘03 Springfield Vs. ‘17 Enfield,”
I very much enjoyed your article on the US Model 1903A3 and 1917 rifles. I thought you might be interested in some technical data regarding M-1903 and M-1903A3 barrels and manufacture. My information comes mostly from, The Springfield 1903 Rifles, by Lt. Col. William S. Brophy, USAR, Retired, which is considered the definitive work on the subject.
U.S. military rifles do not generally have matching serial numbers on parts. This can make determining whether parts are original to the weapon or not difficult. Your article states that the Remington M-1903A3 rifle you tested must have had a replacement barrel because it was rifled with four grooves. In fact, Remington manufactured rifles with four grooves from the start of production in May 1942 until December of that year. They then began to manufacture two-groove barrels after determining that there was no fall off in accuracy with these barrels (Brophy, p. 190.) If the barrel was of Remington manufacture, which would be indicated by the letters “RA” over an ordnance bomb and date, the barrel could well be original to the rifle. M1903A3 barrels were made by many contractors, and those manufactured by the “Broach” method instead of being cut were made with four grooves throughout the production life of the 03A3. Some six-groove barrels have even been encountered. Brophy states that he has found Remington Model 1903A3 rifles manufactured with four-groove barrels as late as March 1943.
A Civilian Marksmanship Program M1903A1 rifle I own shows the difficulty of determining what parts are original to a rifle. The Springfield Armory receiver was manufactured in 1933. The Avis barrel is dated February 1918. Remington manufactured the bolt, probably in 1940 or 1941. The stock is a World War II unit manufactured Keystone. The other parts date from as far back as 1914. It is highly likely that this rifle was built out of spare parts during the Second World War.
Your rifle’s accuracy is typical of its type. I own a M1903A3 rifle that I obtained years ago in nearly mint condition. The September 1943 two-groove barrel appears to have had very few rounds of ammunition through it. I have shot groups as small as 1.4 inches at 100 yards from the bench with this rifle, and 2-inchers are easy to shoot.
Your comments on the quality of materials and workmanship are also well taken. A modern firearm made to the standards of a typical M1903A3 would be prohibitively expensive to manufacture.
Brophy recounts the following anecdote in his section on the Smith Corona M1903A3s:
A story is told about this time, which clearly illustrates the quality of the rifles and the craftsmanship of the men who made them. It seems the factory workmen presented H.W. Smith with a rifle that was made entirely of parts rejected by overzealous government inspectors. With great ceremony the rifle was taken to the special company test range, and an ex-Marine target specialist fired five shots with it. The rifle and test target were then returned to Mr. Smith for exhibition in his office ... with all five shots clustered in the bullseye, which was less than an inch in diameter (Brophy, p. 187).
I just recently subscribed to Gun Tests. I am very pleased with the magazine and its contents. I like the way the magazine is set up for a three-ring binder so a person can set up his own reference book.
I only see one small problem: How can I find information on guns that you have already tested? There is a quantity reprint section, but I really don’t need 1,000 reprints of old Gun Tests articles.
I am planning on buying a Winchester 9410, but would like to see the test, if there is one. I would like to see tests on guns that I already own. One suggestion would be to do something like “classic Gun Tests” in each issue. Pick a test from an older issue and reprint it. Or maybe you have a book of older tests, kind of like Consumer Reports buying guide. I don’t have a computer (I buy guns, not computers) so I was not able to email my questions.
Blunt, South Dakota
Rest assured, back issues and back articles are for sale in quantities of less than 1,000. You can buy single issues or articles from our archives. We also produce books and premiums that collect several tests on a certain topic and bring them together head to head. But if you’re looking for a specific gun, customer service can help you locate and purchase articles you’re interested in. Call them at (800) 424-7887. —Todd Woodard