October 2010

Offshore Optics: Bad Buys?

Reader Woon has had several bad experiences with Chinese red dots, and he wants to warn us away. Reader Howard questions whether Buffalo Bore’s 38 Sp. velocity is real, or a mistake.

Re "Red-Dot Sights from Aimpoint, Insight

Technology, and Vortex," July 2010

I have subscribed to Gun Tests for numerous years. I am an armorer for my police department and have been an avid shooter for 54 years. I have also done gunsmithing on a limited basis.

I would like to comment on red-dot optical sights for firearms. For my competitive shooting and hunting, I have always purchased top quality and the most expensive optics I could afford.

I wanted to advise my fellow Gun Tests readers about my experience with a made-in-China clone of the excellent Burris FastFire red dot sight. The clones of the Burris FastFire optical sights actually work fairly well in use, but they have no on-off

switch like the Burris FastFire unit. When you put the plastic protective cover on the sight, this is supposed to turn the unit off. But in my experience, the sights eat batteries like a fat boy eats a bag of potato chips.

I am using expensive high-quality lithium batteries, and they are dead in one to two months of storage in my gun safes. I suspect the unit never turns off and drains the battery while being stored in my safe until it is dead. These units are mounted on 22-cal. rimfire pistols and even though they are cheap—less than half the cost of a Burris sight—for the cost of what I have spent on battery replacement, I could have purchased a quality sight.

I have Burris FastFire red dots on four centerfire handguns with heavy recoil. I have shot all these pistols and revolvers for many hours and stored them for over two years and the batteries have never been replaced. The handguns have always held zero. They will probably need to be re-zeroed when I replace the battery.

I contacted the internet company that sold me these units, and they told me to try removing the battery after each shooting session. This requires you re-zero every time you put the battery back in to shoot the handgun. I was told by the internet company that these made-in-China units are not up to the quality of more expensive units, and they had no solution to my problem.

I talked with another avid shooter at the range recently, and he told me he had a made-in-China clone similar to mine, and it did the same thing, so he took the batteries out after each range session. Result: The screw heads get rounded off, and the threaded portion of the base gets so worn that the unit could not be tightened enough to make electrical contact. He threw the unit in the trash.

I suggest you do a test on this made-in-China junk and do a report. I have also purchased cheap scopes and red dots made in Russia, and I have a junkbox-full of these scopes. You would think I would have learned a lesson by now.

—Herman Woon
Redwood City, California

Re "38 Special S&W Snubnose Showdown:

Who’s the Top Dog?", September 2010

I really enjoyed the snubbie article and would like to see more reviews of revolvers. I’m a retired cop who still carries a 38 snub with the FBI load.

I do question one part where Ray Ordorica cited the Buffalo Bore FBI 158-grain load at 1000 fps from the Centennial Airweight. I’ve not seen this before as most loads, even 110-grain +P, moving at around 850 fps from a similar weapon.

Was this a mistake or is this load, which we were issued during my LE career (not Buffalo but either Remington or Winchester), setting new records?

By the way, I also enjoyed the ammo review for the 9mm and would like to see the same thing for the 38 Special snubnoses. Most carry these and the info available from the Internet is confusing to say the least. Thanks for the great work you do.

—Ken Howard
Alexandria, Virginia

Ray Ordorica cited Buffalo Bore FBI loads developing 1000 fps and 350 ft.-lbs. of energy in the ammo/chrono sidebar—that’s right on spec with the ammomaker’s rated velocity and energy. Ray said, "Tim Sundles, headman at Buffalo Bore, generally understates his velocities on all his ammo." At www.BuffaloBore.com, the heavy 38 Special +P loads are rated for 1000 fps and 351 ft.-lbs. They come in two versions, the 20A/20 with a soft lead semi-wadcutter

hollow cavity bullet with gas check and a 20B/20 that uses a low-velocity jacketed hollowpoint bullet that is designed to expand at as little as 800 fps. There’s extensive test data at the website. R.K. Campbell is working through a variety of handgun and rifle ammo tests, and I’ve forwarded your request for a 38 Sp. test for his pile. —Todd Woodard

I’d appreciate further clarification about a point made in Ray Ordorica’s revolver story in the September 2010 issue. The GT shooters evaluated a S&W M36 with a bobbed hammer, but they recommended against cutting a hammer for any reason. This advice runs counter to my experience. I’ve had my S&W Chief for 40 years. I carry it whenever carrying a larger piece is impractical. I had problems with the hammer spur tearing my jacket lining when wearing a belt holster or snagging my pocket when using a pocket holster. I finally solved this problem by replacing the original hammer with a bobbed one. This solution was considerably cheaper than buying a hammerless model.

I can think of no reason to cock a J-frame revolver. It’s a bad habit. Why the admonition against bobbed hammers?

—Jack Moisuk
Richardson, Texas

The owner of our test gun bobbed the hammer himself, not the simplest of tasks if you don’t know what you’re doing when dealing with case-hardened steel. I was unaware you can now buy replacement bobbed hammers. By so doing, you have retained the full collector value of your gun. The one we tested has that benefit destroyed. As to cocking the snubby, there is no better way to get the ultimate accuracy out of the gun, and sometimes you need that. Long ago Elmer Keith designed a holster, which Milt Sparks made, that had a flap of leather over the sharp hammer to protect the coat lining, The same could be done to a snubby holster. —Ray Ordorica

Re "A Hard Look at 9mm Luger Loadings:

Speer, Fiocchi Win," September 2010

I just read the informative 9mm defense ammos in my September issue. You mention you’ll re-test 147-grain loads in the future—which is good because that’s my favorite load. I find it to be the most accurate (because it’s slower?), and it hits hard for a 9mm. I tested energy by shooting cinder blocks with my Glock 17L. The 147-grain actually moved the blocks when hit, but the others only made them shake.

One more point you might consider for your next 9mm ammo tests is muzzle flash. I use Speer Lawman 147-grain 9mm ammo because it has a flash suppressant in the powder. When firing a round at night in a defensive situation, we don’t want to be blinded by our own muzzle flash, nor do we want to over-telegraph our position. Winchester Silvertips are another brand that also has a flash suppressant. I’m sure there are more brands that have this safety feature that you can discover in your tests. Keep up the great work !

—L. J. Capobianco
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Good idea on the flash test. I’ve forwarded your note to Bob Campbell, who’s wondering how he became the most popular girl at the dance. —tw

This shooter is demonstrating excellent control with the Glock 19. Control is a virtue of the 9mm cartridge.

In a future installment of your excellent Ammo Comparison series, will you please include the frangible DRT 9mm Luger cartridge? Specifically, does its exploitation of radial as well as linear momentum yield a round that, as is claimed, "...will hold supreme accuracy at long range and will outperform all other ammunition in every respect—guaranteed!"? Many thanks, and keep up the excellent work!

—Charles Sullivan

Mr. Sullivan, I am presently working on a frangible bullet comparison, and it is going well. I will try DRT again, but I fail to see how their loads could be superior to any other frangible. The last time I saw such a claim was the guy who had little razors that popped out of his bullet. He could not supply ammo and the company went away. Time will tell. But at Gun Tests, we just shoot ‘em and let the data talk, regardless of our skepticism. —Bob Campbell

Re "Personal Defense 45 Colt Loads: Some Are

Sedate, Others Sizzle," August 2010

I enjoyed your recent article on personal defense 45 Colt loads. You guys never seem to include Buffalo Bore or Double Tap in any of your reviews. DT loads several different weights for the 45 Colt, and my favorite is the 225-grain hollowpoint at 1495 fps out of a 7.5-inch barrel. Talk about sizzle—how about 1117 foot-pounds of energy!

—Jeff Rusiecki

Ilwaco, Washington

Mr. Rusiecki: I do have Buffalo Bore in the next 9mm installment. Buffalo Bore is first class, by everything I can determine. Double Tap seems okay, but in my experience, the ammo hasn’t clocked as fast as they claim. We will see in the future. —Bob Campbell

In the August 2010 issue, page 29, regarding 45 Colt loads, Bob Campbell stated: "…there are ultra-hot loads designed for hunting revolvers. The Ruger Blackhawk and the Freedom Arms 454 Casull will handle such loads. Your Uberti would probably be turned into a hand grenade."

I might have laughed, except I own a 45 Uberti and a 45 Taurus Judge with 3-inch chamber and a Ruger New Model Blackhawk 45 Colt/45 auto Convertible—all bought new in the past year.

The Uberti is a Benelli/A.Uberti 1873, and the materials in the box say not to use "high speed" or "high velocity" ammo. The Ruger and the Taurus do not have these warnings.

So, will the Uberti blow up long before the Taurus or Ruger? My internet search found nothing about Ubertis blowing up with heavy loads. Nor does the search state pressures at which any of these guns will blow up.

Do you have anything empirical or factual to back up your little joke?

—Paul J. Placek, PhD
Stevensville, Maryland

Sir, I can understand a certain confusion on 45 Colt loads. The loads I mentioned as dangerous were loads that are handloads and specially worked up for some in the Ruger Blackhawk and also the Freedom Arms revolvers. Using such a load in a cowboy-type revolver would result in the hand-grenade effect. I have personally examined a Ruger blown up in this manner by a double charge of powder, so the Ruger is not infallible, just very, very strong. The Uberti and the Colt Single Action Army are well suited to Cowboy Action–type loads, such as the Black Hills 250-grain bullet at about 800 fps. The Colt is useful with a handload reaching 1000 fps or so. But if you examine cylinder-diameter dimensions of single-action handguns, you’ll see a difference that translates into a gun’s ability to handle pressure: Colt and clones, 1.652 inch; UFSA, 1.674 inch; Ruger Blackhawk, 1.732 inch.

Speer, Hornady, and other reputable ammo companies have strict admonitions concerning the use of the loads in the Ruger Only section of their handloading manuals. Only the Ruger and the Freedom Arms 454 are suitable for such loads, which break 40,000 psi. I do not think I overstressed the point that when used with more-powerful loads, not all handguns are created equal. —Bob Campbell

Re "7.62x39mm Semiautos: Three Alternatives

to the AR-15 Rifle," July 2010

This was a very interesting article, as always. To me, the most interesting part was the photo on page seven showing the ammo used and the Swarovski binoculars, because the box of WOLF ammo is clearly labeled "WOFL." Is this a test to see if we are paying attention? Or did someone slip this by you also?

—Ron Hopkins
Binghamton, New York

I went to my ammo closet and pulled the box used in the photograph. Wolf prints its name on the top panel and three sides of each box. Sure enough, it is misspelled on one of the panels. Nice catch.

—Roger Eckstine

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