September 2008

Firing Line: 09/08

Re "Semi-Autos for Self-Defense, and Fun:
Pick Arsenal’s AK," August 2008

I have been patiently waiting for you guys to do a test on the new and improved Ruger Ranch Rifle. I wanted to see how the new one compares to the old, especially for accuracy, and the stringing problem when the barrel is heated. The new Ranch Rifle has been around for about two years now. So I get the August 2008 issue and you test an old model! Thanks for nothing! If you guys want, mail me the guns and I’ll do the tests!

Joel Meeter,
Maple Park, IL

Product Coordination Editor Kevin Winkle is in the process of getting a current-model Ranch Rifle.

—Todd Woodard

Re "More for the Trail: S&W AirLite Still Our Choice," October 2007

I have been following your continuing quest for the ideal trail gun, and I have come to the conclusion that there is not one specific type that will cover every application, although some have come very close—the 4-inch S&W Kit Gun in 22 LR being one of those. Although no longer in current manufacture, these were wonderful little guns. I let one get away from me in a trade several years ago, and have regretted it ever since.

As to specific situations, one aspect that you don`t see that much written about is the need for discreet trail gun carry. Many of us who hunt and shoot also fish, hike, and backpack, and these activities can often involve folks who are not familiar with firearms and don’t care to be. On these types of trips, where we are primarily on foot and concealability is paramount, I will usually carry a Beretta M21 in 22 LR or a J-frame Smith 38 Special.

If I am in a boat, I usually have a gear bag along, so I can take something bigger. I like the Ruger Bearcat for boat trips. It’s not that heavy, and it is rugged.

When I am hunting in snake country, I carry either a J-frame Smith or a Smith Model 19 with 2.5-inch barrel, loaded with 38 Special snake loads and 158-grain semi-wadcutters. The snake loads can be very effective within their range, although you may have to shoot a big snake two or three times. When I may want to shoot a rabbit for food and I cannot take a long gun, I usually carry a Smith 617.

Back in 1977, C.E. Harris wrote what could be the quintessental article on trail guns for the February issue of American Rifleman. His personal choices were a S&W Model 34 Kit Gun in 22 LR (3.5-inch barrel), a Model 43 Airweight, and a 3-inch heavy-barrel Chiefs Special. Of the current S&W offerings, a 38 Sp./357 Mag. Model 60-15 with a 3-inch barrel and a weight of 24 ounces, which Gun Tests reviewed in the September 2005 issue, would come pretty close to being Harris’s ideal all-round centerfire trail gun.

John Dean,
Lakeland, Florida

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