March 2006

Firing Line: 03/06

Re “Budget .45 Colt Cowboy Guns: Heritage Comes Up Shooting”
February 2006

I just read your article comparing the Heritage Rough Rider to the Taurus Gaucho. I don’t understand how the same ammo fired through the same length barrel can produce significant differences in velocity. Can you explain that?

I recently purchased a Gaucho with case-hardened finish, and I like it a lot. I find it shoots very close to point of aim (less than 1 inch high), though I did not use a sandbag rest as you did. The fit and finish is excellent, and the light trigger pull feels like my S&W 686. I think your “Don’t Buy” rating was a bit harsh for a very nice cowboy gun. I would like to find a Rough Rider that I can test fire.

Jerry Bowman
Fort Myers, Florida


A lot of factors can contribute to variations in velocity between two guns with the same barrel lengths. Bore size is one. —Todd Woodard

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Re “Packages: Remington, Savage Square Off in Value Showdown”
February 2006

I enjoyed your review of the Savage 111FCXP3 in your comparison of budget rifle/scope combo packages. Truthfully, your favorable rating of it came as no surprise to me, as I have been very pleased with a similar, older Savage 110 combo package that has been my deer rifle for a couple years now.

Having heard of Savage’s reputation for making affordable rifles with surprisingly good accuracy right out of the box, I purchased one to see if reality would live up to the hype. It consistently shoots 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards using .30-06 Winchester 150-grain Power Point Plus ammunition (not bad for a used rifle that I bought for $200 at a pawn shop!).

That rifle’s fine performance (despite having a truly awful, gritty, old factory trigger) led me to buy a brand-new Savage heavy barrel 12 FV combo when the company introduced its new, adjustable Accu-trigger when I was looking for a .223 varmint rifle. I took that new rifle to the range and thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! Even during the barrel break-in, it was shooting 1-inch groups (using beat-up Israeli military surplus ammo I’d picked up for 10 cents a round!). The Accu-Trigger has no creep or grittiness whatsoever, and breaks like glass at 3.5 pounds (the factory setting, though it’s easily user adjustable from 2 to 6 pounds). Savage has a dedicated customer for life!

Chris Alexander
Kingwood, Texas

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Re “AR-15 Barrel Swapping: $1300 Later, We’d Pass On All Three”
February 2006

I’m a long-time reader of Gun Tests and have found most of your reviews right on. However, you dropped the ball on this one. The whole article reads like the Three Stooges Play Gunsmith. It’s a waste of time to change barrels on a 16-inch carbine unless the barrel is damaged or shot out. The barrel is too short to use the cartridge efficiently, resulting in reduced and inconsistent velocities, and a less stable bullet. The shorter sight radius doesn’t help either. An approach with a more satisfying result would be to replace the trigger. There are a number of match-grade triggers available, any one of which would improve the accuracy of your carbine considerably more than a barrel swap.

My own AR-15 is a 20-inch H-Bar fitted with an aftermarket match trigger and an Accuwedge. It still has the original barrel with thousands of rounds through it. Using my pet load the rifle has 1 minute of arc accuracy off the bench. That’s 1 inch at 100 yards.

The next time you start taking a gun apart, get AGI’s Armorer video. It would shorten the learning curve.

Lane Leifer
Roslyn Heights, New York

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As you say, the performance you observed with your replacement AR-15 barrels was pretty poor; however, I’m somewhat suspect of your test. If you are truly testing barrel performance, I would have preferred to see the test done with a scope mounted on a flat-top receiver. At a minimum, you should have used a match front sight post and match rear sight aperture. It would also have been nice to see performance with 68-, 69-, 75-, or 79-grain Black Hills or Federal match. A true match AR-15 should easily hold 1 MOA at 100 yards. My DPMS Service Rifle upper holds 1.5 MOA at 200 yards and my 16-inch stainless Wilson barreled upper also holds 1.5 MOA at 200 yards, both with Black Hills 68-grain ammunition. Neither of these are “match” barrels.

Joshua Weage

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Re “1911 Hotrods: .400 Cor-Bon, .460 Rowland, and the .50 GI”
January 2006

Lots of barrels that say they are “drop in” require some fitting. They shouldn’t but they do. I acquired a .400 Cor-Bon barrel from Cheaper Than Dirt that required extensive fitting. After being properly fitted and inserted in a commercial Colt 1911 and coupled with about the strongest Wolf spring that I could get my hands on, the barrel/gun combo works flawlessly. At least with the 135-grain bullets I use. The secret, I think, is the use of the strong spring. I don’t know how much sense it makes to neck down a .45 to .40 in the first place, but it does give you a high-velocity .40 caliber for the cost of a barrel in a .45 ACP gun. This, I think, was the idea behind the creation of the .400 Cor-Bon in the first place. Nice magazine. Keep up the good work.

Thomas Frederick
Nogales, Arizona

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Don’t Buys
I have enjoyed your magazine for a couple of years now, and used the information to make decisions more than once. However, it seems to me that you are awarding “Don’t Buy” ratings to guns that don’t seem to be lacking in “safety, function, or accuracy.” For examples, the Marlin 1894 .44 Magnum, in January 2006, and the Winchester M94 Trail’s End Octagon in November 2005. Sometimes the commentary may say that “some readers may consider this a Conditional Buy,” but after giving the gun a “Don’t Buy” in bold at the top, I wonder if it shouldn’t have been “Conditional Buy” from the beginning.

Mark Fulton


Yeah, it’s tricky. Suppose if Gun A is better than Gun B for the money, then Gun A gets a “Buy It” rating, or an “Our Pick,” or a “Best Buy.” How can we then recommend Gun B when Gun A is better? We present a definite opinion based on the gun’s test performance, which of course you are free to ignore. —Todd Woodard

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Re “Downrange”
February 2006

Right off the bat, I really do have to commend you for your fine writing overall. Certainly one of the reasons that I read your magazine is because it is well written. Maybe this is why an error on your part seems less forgiveable. In your February 2006 issue, you write, “S&W introduces [the] Walther PPK ... the pistol that helped make James Bond famous.…”

Oops. James Bond made this pistol famous, as he did the vodka martini and the game of baccarat, not the other way around.

Arthur J. Edwards Jr.

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Ammo Testing
I have been a subscriber for many years and love the magazine. Many of your articles focus on the merits of various defense rounds. One issue that is of concern is the penetration or overpenetration of a particular round. Might I suggest that you set up a typical household wall constructed of sheetrock and 2-by-4s and then fire the round into the test wall to determine its penetration. What brought this to mind was a friend of mine claims that a .223 will not penetrate a standard home construction wall. You might also add typical hollow-core doors to the test as well. Thanks for doing a great job.

Jay Mullins


These are issues of concern, but in our ammo testing, we have chosen to focus mostly on those factors that allow you to hit a given target. There’s plenty of ranting on the web about terminal ballistics, deflection testing, and media penetration tests, little of which will help you in a specific self-defense situation. —Kevin Winkle