July 2010

Slapping Our Heads Over 380s

Reader Schiffmann says we’re out of touch about the popularity of pocket pistols. Reader McGehee says he’ll stick with his Balmos, thank you very much. And more Mosquito bites.

Re "Smith Lover’s Quandary: Is One Of These

9mms Right for You?" April 2010

Your review of the SW1911 9mm Pro Series was dead on every area, but I do have two exceptions. I agree with your assessment on the look, feel, including grip size and weight, slide serrations, reliability, workmanship, etc. The trigger is marvelous. However, after 3000 rounds fired through mine (many from a rest), I have determined that the gun is not bullseye accurate (not even close). Additionally, the rear sight is a proprietary mount and the last time I called S&W they did not have an adjustable sight that would fit. I have not found any other company that makes a sight that will fit this gun.

This gun is eminently reliable. In more than 3000 (various) rounds, I have not had a single malfunction. The gun is accurate enough for defensive purposes, and the low-profile defensive sights are an asset. But if someone is planning on using this gun as a range gun or for bullseye work, they will be disappointed. You may be able to have it accurized, but there are other pistols out there that are much more accurate out of the box without that expense. Frankly, I would be surprised if, with the existing sights, one could keep it on the paper at 50 yards, contrary to the review.

—David Williams

Re "Wild Bunch Pistols: Colt 1918 Leads

The Pack, But At A Price!" May 2010

Great article. I would like to comment on these pistols from the perspective of a left-handed shooter. I’ve got some experience with the 1911. I’m retired from the Army, shoot Cowboy Action, Action 2 Gun and HeMan. Dominant hand control of the mag release and thumb safety is the most efficient way to work a 1911 against the clock; so my advice to any southpaw is to get an ambi thumb safety installed immediately. This will prevent them from developing awkward, fumbling habits that they’ll only have to unlearn once they see the advantages of an ambi. On the higher priced guns, Colt 1918 and Springfield Mil-Spec, I’d order the gun from the factory with the ambi on it. On the cheaper ones, I’d have my local gunshop do the work. Yeah I know, the authentic lines of the Colt might be ruined, but who cares? You’re the one who has to shoot it under pressure with everyone watching.

This will cost you a bit more, but take heart all ye of the wrong-handed society. There is some good news for you in this Wild Bunch game. The mandatory 1897 Winchester shotgun (or reproduction thereof) is definitely designed for us lefties. No feeding over the top as our deluded right handed pards do—just slap’em straight into that gaping hole of a receiver and keep shootin’!

Oldsmar, Florida

Huh?...Say what! I was shocked to read in the Value Guide that your team regarded Ballester Molina 45 ACP pistols as guns that don’t work. Did I read that correctly? Would they like to shoot my matching pair of refinished Balmo’s that feed any ammo made in 45 ACP, shooting tight groups with one eye closed. As my ole pappy used to say, "Better lick that calf over, son!"

—Rodney McGehee
Bogalusa, Louisiana

Re "Firing Line," June 2010

Just read the article submitted by P.C. Howard of Texas and can’t let it go without a comment. P.C. indicated that he met Jimmy Clark and received a group tightener from him in the form of 90 proof and smooth. He said it helped to relax him during the matches. This is bad commentary. There are way too many impressionable people who may read this and think it is a good idea to try. Unfortunately, there are people who don’t think before doing and will try to mix the group tightener with gunpowder. Bad, bad, bad. Now, I’m not a prude and I do enjoy my sour mash and water, but I don’t use/enjoy it together with any lethal weapon, pistol, car, or angry wife.

—C H Weems
New Waverly, Texas

Just read the letter from Mr. John Jackson of Tampa. Being a 63-year-old Viet Nam vet, I have to agree with all of his observations. I also hope you have many years left, John.

—M.J. Gruff
Tamarac, Florida

Like Mr. Jackson, I too have all the guns I want (maybe a Webley 455 Auto would be interesting), but I sure wouldn’t abandon my Gun Tests subscription for that reason. The cost of the publication is worth the good reading, especially when some of the guns get ripped for malfunctioning, etc. Also, not having to put up with the kiss-butt writers who pander to the advertisers. All good, no bad. And thank God you don’t test off-road vehicles!

—Greg Fischer
Allentown, NJ

"22 LR Semiauto Shootout: ISSC, Sig Sauer,

and Walther," May 2010

Unfortunately, I own a Sig Mosquito and have sent it back to Sig Sauer twice for FTF problems. They claim it fires just fine for them. Now I read that it was given an F grade, and a premature detonation occurred during testing. I have no confidence in this weapon. Please give me some guidance regarding resolution of this problem.

—Bonnie Bassetti

Return it to the retailer and ask for your money back, or exchange the Mosquito for another gun. —Todd Woodard

Since I purchased a Walther P22 last year, I was very interested in your article. I always value your opinions and comparison tests, and have used them to help in several purchases. I purchased the P22 as a training pistol for young family members, as well as a fun plinking gun, but have been very disappointed in it on both accounts. I agree with most of your findings in the article: the P22 is comfortable to hold and shoot, due to the adjustable grips; I also dislike the re-assembly procedure and have flung that spring across the room. I don’t mind the magazine release, because I do not view this pistol as a training complement to my larger caliber pistols.

My main gripe with the P22 is its consistent failure to fire. I attempted to give it a break-in period, but after the first ten rounds, could not get it to fire any brand of ammo (no firing pin mark on the rounds), so it went back to S&W for repair. They adjusted it and returned it promptly, so I started again to break it in, with the same results after just a few rounds. It has been back to S&W five times now, with their comment that they find no further problems with it and it is within their specs. I have tried CCI, Federal, Winchester, UMC and Blazer ammo, and still have it eventually fail to fire, although it does fire the CCI’s a little better than other brands. It has probably cycled 250 rounds with no sign of settling in.

While S&W recommends using CCI, I have no use for a firearm that will only eat one brand, especially a 22 LR. It will be gone from my collection as soon as possible. Please keep up the good work.

—Richard Fleck
Falcon, Colorado

Less Expensive Rifle Tests?

I have been a subscriber to your magazine for several months. The question is, why don’t you test more common firearms like the Savage, Mossberg, Thompson, etc. rifles. The average redneck has these and not Kimber, Walther, and SIG pistols. I have both, but use the rifles a lot more. Thanks for listening.

—David R. Motsinger

It may be hard to believe, but a lot of the matchups we cover in Gun Tests are suggested by readers. In fact, because of the volume of mail I’ve gotten recently, three-quarters of this issue was the direct result of reader inquiries—the 7.62 rifles, the rust preventatives, and the red-dot optics comparisons. In particular, because many shooters are feeling the economic pinch of the recession, they’ve asked for more accessories tests than we’ve run in several years. They feel like they’ve bought all the guns they can afford, but they still have a strong interest in accessorizing and maintaining the guns they have. Also, I did forward your letter to the staff with a note to consider your price points in their article development. —tw

Re "380 Pocket Pistols: CZ USA, SIG Sauer,

Walther Shoot It Out," June 2010

I often find myself slapping my forehead in amazement at things I read in the gun press, but a comment in the June issue’s "380 Pocket Pistols" review almost knocked me out of my chair. In talking about the new SIG Sauer P238, you say it’s "... a much smaller pistol with little pretense towards filling the role of a primary carry gun."

I’m willing to bet that if you took a poll of owners of small 380s, 38s and 9mms, you would find that a huge percentage of the owners carry only that gun. In fact, I’m guessing that most bought it for exactly that purpose.

Sure, we should all be carrying full-size 1911s. But the reality is that carrying a 2- to 3- pound gun around all day isn’t fun—and for that reason, it’s probable that the big gun will be left home. A 1-pound gun, like the Kahr PM9 that is my regular carry weapon, is far more likely to be slipped in a pocket every day, especially when the temperatures head for triple digits and all you’re wearing is a tank top and shorts.

In my opinion, the typical "carry" weapon is no longer a heavy wheelgun or semiauto; it’s the new wave of compact, lightweight guns that are driving the boom in gun sales and concealed carry licenses

—Bill Schiffmann
Lago Vista, Texas

Yes, when it is inconvenient to carry the primary gun, it is not uncommon to resort to packing a smaller, lighter gun such as the P238 or the Kahr PM9. Still, we were skeptical that 380s would be driving gun sales because so many shooters believe the round isn’t powerful enough for self defense. However, why not ask someone who would know? So we emailed your letter to Mike Brown, president of Camfour (www.camfour.com), and he agreed that 380s are driving sales. One of the hottest trends in firearms sales is the resurgence of pistols chambered for 380 Auto or 9mm Browning. (This cartridge is also referred to as 9mm Kurz or 9mm Short.) However, scarcity of ammunition remains a problem. We checked with several retailers and found they were hesitant to sell quantities of 380 ammunition unless the customer was actually buying a 380-caliber handgun. With so many new 380s in the offing, supply of ammunition is bound to catch up. —Roger Eckstine

Sig Sauer
Good article, but I thought you missed an important factor that might have figured into your grading. I refer to the operating principle of the pistols: blowback versus locking (or tilting) breech. I know both operating systems work just fine when you pull the trigger, but it’s been my experience that it’s much more difficult to rack the slide in blowback pistols than in locking-breech pistols and, all other things being equal, and if that’s true of the CZ, I’d have given the SIG P238 (above) a higher grade than the CZ simply for "ease of operation."

This "ease of operation" thing is a really big deal for my wife and daughter, both of whom carry, and neither of whom is particularly strong.

The tilting-breech design makes cocking/chambering easier, clearing jams easier and removing an unfired round from the chamber both easier and safer.

And the "ease of use" factor is also important because it encourages practice: You’re going to practice more with a gun that’s easy to operate than one you have to struggle with. And, of course, you should never have to struggle with a loaded gun.

After rejecting both my Walther PPK and PPK/S, both my ladies settled on the SIG P238 simply because they could operate it easily. I’ll bet there are a lot of other ladies out there who would feel the same way—ladies who would have trouble racking the CZ slide but wouldn’t be troubled by racking the P238 slide.

—Brian O’Connor
Grants Pass, Oregon

I admit to being a coot and set in my ways, but after trying several different modern 380s at local ranges, the urge to buy fades as soon as my Remington 51 or Colt 1908 exits the gun case. Any merit to comparing these old guys to the new crop in terms of reliability, accuracy, and fun?

—Joe Martin
Claremont, California

Yes, we’re always interesting in pitting old vs. new. The only issue is finding quality samples of certain guns. We prefer testing guns we know are widely available, because when we test stuff that’s hard to find, the audience gets cranky. —tw


I would like point out a mistake in my reporting. I was reminded by the good folks at Kimber that the stock of the highly rated LPT rifle evaluated in our April 2010 issue was not constructed with a synthetic stock as I mistakenly reported. The stock was in fact wood, covered with a black epoxy finish. Furthermore, the textured grip area was laser etched. This does nothing but bolster my esteem for the LPT rifle. —Roger Eckstine

Gun Tests Report Card Grading

Gun Tests Welcomes Letters