December 2012

The ‘A’ List: 2012 Guns & Gear

Which firearms, accessories, and ammunition offer the best combinations of performance and value? We look back at the previous 12 months of Gun Tests to find out.

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work Ben Brooks, R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Ray Ordorica, Robert Sadowski, John Taylor, Tracey Taylor, Ralph Winingham, and Kevin Winkle have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.—Todd Woodard

When you buy a CZ USA SP-01 Shadow Custom No. 91029 9mm, $1200, from CZ Custom, or any custom shop, you are paying for applied expertise, not just parts. The most noticeable difference to the shooter was that the double-action first shot was not an issue. The sense of transition from DA to SA on our Custom SP-O1 was almost nonexistent. Double-action pull weighed in at 7.0 pounds, and the single-action press required only 3.0 pounds of pressure. But altogether they seemed less. This made our Double Tap test all the more exciting. Beginning with a double-action press, first shots rang out in elapsed times ranging from 1.05 seconds to 0.94 seconds. The fastest split was 0.25 seconds.

In the February 2012 issue, we also tried the Double Tap test beginning with a single-action first shot. After the initial run, our shooter’s split times dropped from 0.21 seconds to an average elapsed time of 0.175 seconds. Nevertheless, our shooter reported that his control was suffering due to the flat-sided grips. For his hands, the full-profile rubber grips were more suitable.

From the bench none of our groups were as large as 2.0 inches across. The 115-grain rounds produced an average size group measuring about 1.7 inches. We split hairs calculating averages for the Black Hills 124-grain hollowpoints and the American Eagle 147-grain rounds, 1.23 inches versus 1.29 inches respectively.

In the multiple-targets test the first two shots on target qualified as a near perfect double, with two holes touching inside the A-zone. This was also the fastest run, with the score sheet showing a 2.19-second first shot and a 4.73-second total elapsed time. Average first shot and elapsed time averaged about 2.41seconds/4.82 seconds. T-1 was scored 9 A’s and one shot less than an inch low. T-2 showed 8 A’s with one hit left of center and the other just right of center. The head shots formed about a 4-inch-wide group on both targets, but in both cases one hit was wide right.

Our Team Said: With the double-action trigger all but melted into the single-action chain of fire, this is an exciting gun to shoot. In our opinion it is well worth the cost, which in perspective, is about the same as a mid-level factory 1911.

The Walther P22 Model WAP22003 22 LR, $379, reviewed in April, is full of tactile surprises. The gun is covered with serrations, angled metal and plastic, notches, grooves, and on the grip, pebble-graining. It’s a delight to the eye, very busy yet business-like in its look.

The controls are simple and straightforward. There’s the trigger, with a usable DA and pleasant SA pull. There’s the ambidextrous safety, and though it operates in a reverse direction from that of many popular guns, it’s intuitive after a few seconds. Align it with the barrel and you’re ready to shoot. Move it down to the safe position and the hammer moves back a touch if it’s down, but doesn’t drop if it’s cocked. The safety blocks the hammer from striking the firing pin, and also locks the firing pin so the gun can’t discharge. If the hammer is cocked, putting the safety on leaves it cocked. You can lower the hammer by grasping it firmly with thumb and index finger on its sides, and pressing the trigger. Or if you’re lazy, just press the trigger with the gun pointed in a safe direction. We don’t recommend that method. Although the gun can be carried cocked and locked, it’s not a convenient safety for that purpose.

Another control is the slide lock, which holds the slide rearward after the last shot. Next is the ambidextrous magazine release, which is a latch device at the bottom rear of the trigger guard that you press downward to release the magazine. One reader wrote that he had trouble keeping the magazine in the gun whilst wearing gloves.

Two magazines came with our test gun, one with a flat bottom and one with a PPK-like extension. However, the latest information is that only one magazine comes with the gun. Each held ten rounds. One more control on the P22 is the takedown latch near the front of the trigger guard, which requires you to first clear the gun, then press downward on this saddle-like latch until it drops out of the way. Then pull the slide to the rear, lift it, and ease it forward off the barrel. This is similar to the takedown for the PPK, but the recoil spring is not around the barrel here, it’s on a small rod that falls out when you remove the slide. That’s the weak point of this design, because you need a “tool” in the form of a slave rod to capture the spring before you can reassemble the gun. It may be possible to do so without that tool, but we could not do it. That’s where Ruger has an advantage, which we’ll look at in a moment.

There’s also a rail under the muzzle for a light, sort of a Picatinny rail, with one notch. A variety of lights can be put on there, but we fail to see the need for a light on a 22 handgun. A laser sight there might make some sense for those with compromised vision. Walther makes it easy to install a silencer-threaded barrel where those are legal. Or you can change the barrel for a longer one, at extra cost for the extra parts.

The sights are plastic, the front bearing a numeral 3, and the rear having a windage adjustment. The gun shot a touch low for us, so we elected to change the front sight. Three sights came with the gun, numbered 2, 3, and 4. We chose number 2. Removing the original sight was easy by poking it out with a screwdriver from the inside, with the gun being disassembled. Getting the new sight in was tricky. We finally put it in location and rapped it with a stick, and in it went. Then our shots were where we wanted them on the 15-yard target. Windage was easy to correct with the screw-adjustable rear sight. The sight picture was excellent, and had three white dots. If we were picky, we’d have the rear notch a tad narrower, but as it was it was fast to use.

Besides, the three front-sight inserts, there was also a flat insert for the back of the grip, and we chose to change it out. A slight press with hand pressure on a proper-size punch got out the rear grip’s retaining pin, and we easily installed the flatter housing. There was also a key in the package to lock the gun, the slide-spring installation rod, and a wrench to remove the barrel. With the gun apart, we found excellent workmanship inside.

We wanted more accuracy than we got. With our No. 2 front sight, the gun shot just above the point of aim at 15 yards, which is what we wanted. The final choice of front sight would depend on the final selection of the very best ammo for the gun. We thought the single-action trigger was excellent on the P22. The double-action pull was good enough that we could hold the gun on target easily until the gun fired, but we did not attempt to make groups DA.

Our Team Said: The feel, function, looks, balance, and light weight were ideal for fun shooting. The good triggers, both the smooth 9.3-pound DA and clean 4.3-pound SA, made that a joy. Does it have enough accuracy? Maybe, depending on your use for the gun.

Opening the hard-plastic lockable case for the Taurus 24/7 G2 24/7-G29SS-17 9mm Parabellum, $483, we found a black polymer-frame pistol with accessory rail/dustcover and a matte stainless-steel slide. The 24/7 G2 also had ambidextrous thumb safeties that locked the slide as well as the action. In the upper left corner of the case interior we found two pairs of keys. One key fob was black and the other was gray. To the gray key fob were attached an action lock and a small flat screwdriver. The screwdriver was to be used for adjusting the windage and elevation of the low-mount rear sight. (Both the front and rear units were slotted and pinned into place.) The black fob carried an action lock and a punch. The punch was used to remove the backstrap in case the shooter wanted to change grip profile. Three different backstraps were supplied. The fit of each backstrap was seamless, if not undetectable. Two 17-round magazines were supplied. Both magazines showed loaded confirmation holes for each round plus a brightly colored follower for faster recognition.

One feature in the March 2012 issue that was invisible to the naked eye was the decocker. Pressing down on either thumb safety safely lowered the hammer for first shot double action. Two more ambidextrous features were the slide stop/release levers and the magazine release. The magazine release worked with a crossbolt action and seemed mushy at times, we thought. Partially loaded magazines were not always anxious to leave the frame, and it seemed like one magazine was more willing than the other. The PT24/7 G2 offered a loaded chamber indicator consisting of a black colored bar located atop the slide to the rear of the ejection port. A loaded chamber caused the bar to rise so that it could be quickly seen as well as felt by running a finger along the top of the slide. There was also a safety lever on the face of the trigger that, when pressed, allowed the trigger bar to operate.

The PT24/7 G2 was a lot of fun to shoot rapid fire, and we were able to holster it with the safety on between runs. But the PT24/7 G2 is not designed to be carried cocked and locked. Put in the magazine, rack the slide, and the gun goes to first-shot double action. Only by firing a shot will the trigger of the PT24/7 G2 transfer to single-action mode.

Our benchrest session was performed single action only except for the first shot of each group. The 9.0-pound double-action trigger was manageable but we liked the single-action trigger a lot better. The 6.5-pound single action trigger presented a brief takeup and little negative interference. Our PT24/7 G2 liked the powerful 124-grain +P hollowpoints best, with groups ranging from 1.8 inches to 2.9 inches across measured center to center. Average size was 2.3 inches.
During offhand shooting, we found that once in single-action-only mode (after the first shot), we could easily adapt to the shorter stroke. And we could safely and accurately pick up on the reset point, making for some very fast transitions.

Our Team Said: The fast action of the 24/7 G2’s SA trigger was remarkable and begged for cocked-and-locked carry. But this would require a redesign or willingness to discharge the weapon and leave the firing line cocked and locked. We’d like to see the magazine release improved; otherwise, this gun appears to be a great value.

The Remington Model 1911 R1 Enhanced No. 96328 45 ACP, $940, reviewed in May had a great finish, seemed snugly assembled, and had a great trigger. We liked the dull-black finish, and the pebbly-surfaced wood-laminate grip panels. By the way, there’s no stainless Enhanced version, only a blued one. The slide serrations, front and back, were appropriately sharp and easily used to lock back the slide, pick up a round, or (using the forward serrations) press-check to see if a round is in the chamber. There’s a slot at the back of the barrel that lets you check the chamber, but we are not used to those. There were two well-made eight-round magazines in the fitted hard case. The magazines both had slam pads and had numbered holes to show how many rounds are in there. There was also a decent instruction book.

The front strap had vertical serrations that helped keep the gun from twisting in the hand on recoil. The rear strap was straight, with a checkered-steel hammer-spring housing. The checkering extended to the protruding portion of the grip safety, a nice touch, we thought. The grip panels were checkered in 10 lines per inch, which gave an interesting and solid feel to the gun. The left panel was cut away slightly to permit access to the extended magazine release, which was vertically serrated. The Videki-style trigger had three holes for lightness and an adjustable stop. By the way, it does no harm to remove that stop screw entirely. Some gunsmiths do that to be absolutely certain the screw won’t vibrate back and prevent the gun from firing. There was only one safety, which some of us prefer. It had an extension which made it easy to use, and we found it comfortable if you choose to keep your thumb on it while shooting, as many do. The barrel was stainless steel, another nice touch. Remington says it’s match grade, and we believe it.

The rear sight, apparently made by Remington and bearing that name, was adjustable for elevation with a large, fine-slotted screw. Windage was by drifting, which means tapping with a hammer and brass rod. The forward surfaces of the rear sight permit easy and cut-free clearing of stovepipe jams, and at least some effort was made to smooth the edges of the ejection port to alleviate getting cut there, too. Someone at Remington was paying attention to these small details that can make or break a good design. The hammer was easy to thumb cock, and the beavertail was very comfortable for us. Also, we found it easy to use the grip safety.

Then there’s the question of the front sight. The intent was good, which was to suspend a red, light-gathering plastic element up front to act as a glowing dot seen easily against a variety of backgrounds, and in that light it is excellent. In order to get light to it there has to be cuts made in the front blade, and those are okay too. But the rear-most supporting element leans to the rear, like an undercut Patridge front blade, and that’s all wrong. If that rear element slanted the other way, it’d be a much better sight. As it is, it’s death to any leather holster. It also makes a mighty nice gouge which you can use to open veins, rip your clothing in a stylish manner, cut boxes — heck, the options are many and varied, limited only by your imagination. Three white dots would have been better, we thought, with a normal forward-slanted front blade. And tritium ought to be an option, we thought, which it now is not.

There were a few spots here and there on the R1 that were sharp, or had sharp corners that had not been broken. Some were at the bottom of the grip frame around the magazine well, and more were on the edge of the barrel bushing, These can be easily fixed by the owner, though Remington should do so. The slide-to-frame fit was snug, but not sticky. We loved the trigger pull. We suspected the gun might shoot very well, but we must say we liked the Remington R1 a lot before we ever shot it.

We tested with MFS 230-grain hardball, Winchester BEB 185-grain ammo, Cor-Bon’s 185-grain JHP, and with a handload consisting of the H&G number 68, cast-lead 200-grain SWC in front of five grains of Bullseye, CCI 300 primers in mixed cases. We found the Remington worked perfectly with everything. There were no jams, no failures to eject, no problems whatsoever. It fed and fired everything we threw at it. Even better, it put most of them into increasingly smaller groups as we went along.

Our Team Said: As it was, we thought the Remington R1 Enhanced was an excellent 1911. It had very good accuracy as it was, plenty enough for anything short of a target gun, we thought. It worked perfectly, looked just great, had an exceptional trigger, tight fitting, superb workmanship, and a fine historic name on its side. We confess the front sight worked very well as it was, gave an excellent sight picture, and the red dot was easy to see in most any light outdoors short of darkness.

The Cimarron Evil Roy No. ER4104 357 Magnum, $770, tested in August, is made by Uberti, the Italian maker of many replica brands of revolvers from the percussion age of the 1830s as well as cartridge guns from Colt, Marlin, Sharps, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, and into the early 20th Century. It’s made to the specifications of world champion “Evil Roy” Gene Pearcey, who notes in his classes (EvilRoyShootingSchool.com), that SASS competition boils down to speed — hit all the metal plates as fast as possible. Among the speed improvements, the front and rear sights are slightly wider than normal, thus faster to acquire. Roy’s front sight measured 0.096 inch wide, and the rear notch measured 0.142 inch wide.

Internal tuning by the Cimarron gunsmiths became obvious when we started to shoot. The trigger was lightened to just 2 pounds, and the cylinder rotation was especially smooth for firing, loading and unloading. Our testers praised the smooth 0.125-inch-wide, lightened trigger, and they found that the Evil Roy shot to point of aim without adjusting the sights.

The slim checkered European walnut grips, case-hardened-color frame, and blued barrel give the Evil Roy an authentic look, while the tuning has it weighted well for a good feel. We had no functional issues with the Evil Roy: the hammer did not hit the webs of our hands, cylinder rotation was smooth, and the ejection rod swiveled away from the barrel, protecting our fingers from barrel burn. The fit and finish on this gun was excellent. The Cimarron proved to be the most precise revolver in the test, showing both accuracy on target and consistent groups. With this gun, we shot the smallest single group and average group size with the Winchester .38 Special +P at 1.6 inches, and 1.9 inches respectively. The Evil Roy also shot the highest average velocity with all three types of ammunition.

Our Team Said: The Cimarron Evil Roy was our favorite because of the smooth function of the action and accuracy.

Charter Arms’s Bulldog Model 14420 44 Special, $414, reviewed in July, is the latest version of the popular Charter Bulldog. It was evenly finished in matte black, with black-rubber finger-groove grips that fit our hands well. We thought the overall workmanship was very good, with no visible problems anywhere. There were some little touches that we appreciated, like the beveled front edge of the cylinder and the rounded chin of the barrel shroud, and also the angled-rearward front edge of the front sight, all of which make holstering easier and less damaging to a holster — or your pocket if that’s how you carry it. Another touch was the beveled crown that makes the hole in the front of the barrel look that much bigger.

The gun felt a touch on the just-finished side in that all the movements were slightly scratchy, waiting for a little use to smooth them up. We anointed the gun (both guns, actually) with some NanoLube with its tiny round diamonds and worked this in until the gun was smoother. This will happen naturally with normal wear, but we wanted to speed the process. We noted the lockup was dead tight with the hammer and trigger in the firing positions.

The Charter website claims there are three lockup points, with an arrow pointing to the front end of the ejector rod. But there is no lock there, just the security of the shroud. (The first iteration of the Bulldog didn’t have a shroud.) However, the lockup was mighty tight with the back of the cylinder secured by the axis pin slipping into a hole in the frame, and the ejector sleeve slipping into a notch in the crane just below the rear of the barrel.

We thought the sight picture was excellent. The front sight is a serrated steel ramp, integral with the steel barrel, and it’s devoid of any red or gold inserts. The rear sight was cut into the frame and was wide and deep enough to give good, fast sighting. The recessed rear of the rear sight caused it to be in the shadow in most light, which greatly increased the clarity of the sight picture. Those wanting a red front sight can resort to the old standard of nail polish, or if skilled, cut a notch and solder in a brass insert.

The trigger pulls were very good, we thought. The DA pull was smooth and took about 12 pounds. The SA pull was a delight at 3.8 pounds clean.

The kicker, so to speak, was the Bulldog’s narrow rubber grip tended to twist in our hand from recoil of our heavy handload. The cure will be to get a set of Pachmayr Compac grips, which are fatter but smaller, and we suspect they will be best for this gun. Another good grip replacement would be to get a set of the original wood grips, commonly found on eBay.

These do nothing to cut recoil, but do give the gun its smallest and slickest size for better concealment in the pocket. By the way, the trigger guard and grip frame are an aluminum alloy. There is not much need for the strength of steel in those places, and the light metal helps keep the gun’s weight to just 19.6 ounces empty. Shooting our heavy handload made the twisting gun jam our trigger finger into the sharp inner edge of the trigger guard, so we took a file to it, and now it needs a touch of black paint.

Our Team Said: We like the Charter a lot. With our heavy hand-load it vastly outshines any and all 38 Special or 357 Magnum loads for self-defense use.

The Remington 597 Stainless HB TVP No. 80852 22 LR, $595, reviewed in April, is a Heavy Barrel Target Varmint Plinker that offered a third way to stock a rifle. Its bold laminate stock was referred to as Shady Camo, and it offered a large rubber buttpad and a generous sloping saddle–like comb on which to rest the cheek. The pistol grip was fully defined as the greater interior surface of the stock was open. If we were to cut away the comb and the connecting length below, we thought the 597 might resemble one of Remington’s XP100 pistols that were sometimes referred to as hand rifles. Distinctive in appearance and comfortable to shoulder, we found this design appealing.

The heart of the 597 was a matte-stainless barreled action. The barrel was 20 inches long with a medium heavy contour. The scope mount, bolt, bolt handle, and trigger were rendered in a contrasting black, as was the polymer trigger guard. There was a crossbolt safety at the upper rear corner of the trigger guard. The magazine release was located on the right side of the action just above of the trigger guard. It was nestled inside a cutaway of the stock that was artfully contoured to accommodate its operation, which required sliding it to the rear. The aluminum magazine was a double-column design with a removable polymer basepad. Ten rounds were held inside its stubby 2.3-inch-tall body. In a category where the general standard of performance is high, small features show up big. Among our three rifles, living with the Remington’s magazine was the most pleasant and trouble free.

Takedown of the 597 began with separating the action from the stock by removing two takedown pins located fore and aft of the trigger guard area. The action had two major parts, the receiver assembly and the housing. Two more pins were removed, and the housing was able to pivot downward and out from beneath the bolt. The next step was to remove the two guide-rail bolts from the receiver. After cycling the bolt a few times, the guide rails began to protrude from the receiver. Once the guide rails were pulled free and the bolt handle removed, the bolt can be removed. We thought it was helpful that the trigger housing could be taken out as a unit.

At the bench we discovered that our 597 liked lead bullets best. We could blame it on gusts of wind that were more prevalent during the test of our Remington rifle, but the high-velocity copper-plated ammunition landed groups that often measured in excess of 1.1 inches across. The Federal Auto Match ammunition delivered most of its hits inside of a 0.75-inch circle, including a best five-shot group measuring about 0.5 inches center to center. This exceptional accuracy was repeated with other lead-topped ammunition, including subsonic target rounds. The trigger was also very helpful. Of our three rifles, the Remington 597 was the one most comfortable being manipulated in a technique of press, hold, release until reset, and press again.

At the Varmint Village we fired standing unsupported. The balance and ergonomics of the 597 TVP made up for the lack of sling studs or other means of attaching a sling. Firing in this manner further underscored how smoothly the 597 cycled. In our view, perceived recoil generated by the bolt changing direction from open to closed was distinctly less when firing this rifle. Another impression we had from standing and shooting the Remington was that it was okay to cant the rifle.

Our Team Said: We liked the big cheekpiece and the way we could play with the reset of the trigger, too. Handsome and well balanced, this rifle was a conversation starter. That it preferred lead bullets could mean more attention should be paid to keeping it clean. Whereas the other rifles may be adaptations of other more traditional designs, we enjoyed the Remington 597 because it made us feel that it was designed to be a rimfire rifle from the ground up.

The Adcor Defense Brown Enhanced Automatic Rifle (B.E.A.R.) #201-2040E 5.56mm NATO/223 Rem., $2214, was reviewed in the January 2012 issue. In the Bear, the gas block is attached to the rail rather than the barrel. Having the gas block separate from the barrel allows the barrel to be free floating, which should improve accuracy.

Next, an ambidextrous forward-placed charging handle/forward placed assist permits the operator to charge, clear, or forward assist the weapon without losing engagement with the target. The operator reaches forward and pulls back on a handle (which can be located on either side of the weapon) without losing sight of the target. If the carbine jams, the same handle clears the carbine with a single pull. The handle is equipped with a spring that returns the handle to a locked position after use, and the handle folds forward into a recessed area to keep it out of the way. To use the handle again, the operator reaches forward, swings the handle outward and back in a single motion. The handle does not move back and forth when the weapon fires, but only engages when the operator charges or clears the weapon. It also allows the shooter to work the bolt without raising his head. In particular, this feature helped our shooters in prone. Usually, we have to roll onto the left side to clear a stoppage. The forward handle allowed us to keep the rifle on target during stoppage drills.

A spring-loaded dust cover mounted on the carbine’s bolt carrier keeps contaminants out of the area between the receiver and bolt. On the Adcor, each time the weapon fires and the bolt carrier returns to the ready position, the dust cover moves into the ejection port opening, flush with the outside geometry of the carbine. The cover seals the ejection port when closed, preventing foreign material from entering the action.

The key-locked rail system mounts seamlessly to the upper receiver. The design ensures proper alignment of the rail with a redesigned boss, spline, and groove system. The rail will not loosen over time, Adcor says. The upper handguard supports the piston system, and with the piston rod, guides the carrier. It also is dovetailed into the lower handguard, which can be easily detached from the upper guard to expose the gas system for maintenance.

The Bear wears a Magpul telescoping six-position buttstock and Magpul pistol grip. The grip has a storage compartment inside. The rifle also comes supplied with two Magpul P-Mag magazines.

Our Team Said: The Adcor Bear had a unique feature set that gave it an edge.

When we reviewed the Thureon Defense Carbine 9mm, $700, in the June issue, we asked why not simply choose a 9mm upper for your AR-15? There are several good replies. First, we may not have an AR-15. Second, we may not wish to own a .223 rifle. Perhaps the most pertinent answer is that a rifle with two uppers is still just one rifle, and two rifles are two rifles. The Thureon carbine looks like a blend of a Sten and a Colt AR-15. This 9mm has purposeful lines, but it isn’t pretty. The original Thureon used modified UZI magazines, but our carbine was Glock compatible. We remember the 9mm Colt and its seemingly nonexistent replacement magazines, so using the UZI magazine was a good thing. But in the interest of availability, the Glock is even better.

The handguard was a circular, ventilated type that is about 1.45 inches in diameter. The 16-inch-plus barrel featured a flash suppressor. How much of an aid the suppressor was we may only hazard, but the rifle didn’t have much muzzle rise. While it isn’t an AR, it was built on similar handling and should be evaluated as such. The receiver halves fit together well. The trigger action was typical AR-15 in operation but broke cleaner than most, in our view. The buttstock was advertised with adjustments ranging from about 32 inches to just over 35.6 inches. Large- and small-framed shooters or those wearing heavy clothing or a vest will find this carbine fits them with the proper adjustment. The pistol grip, location of the safety and other controls were straightforward AR-15 design.

We think that the Thureon came on board with an advantage in the firing tests. It is difficult to find an interested shooter without AR-15 experience, and every single rater had experience with the AR-15 and plenty of muscle memory to draw from. The other guns had to hit the ground running just to keep up. Everyone liked the way the Thureon handled, which was similar to the AR-15, but most raters felt it handled even a bit faster. The charging handle on the side of the receiver was a departure from the AR-15 norm, but no one criticized. The Thureon was fired without malfunction.

With Fiocchi 123-grain FMJ ammunition, the Thureon produced 2-inch 50-yard groups, excellent for this type of rifle. This was despite the fact that some felt that the sights of the Thureon could have been better. Both the front and rear sights were located on the receiver, rather than offering a front sight mounted on the end of the barrel. That the Thureon invites the shooter to challenge the 50-yard line with only open sights is, in our view, a testament to the product.
If we may discuss intangibles briefly, there is a good chance that the Thureon 9mm, coupled with a hard-hitting 9mm loading such as the Black Hills 124-grain +P, may be a suitable weapon for taking out coyote at a long 100 yards. We feel that the 9mm Luger cartridge gives its best performance inside 100 yards, and in that range the Thureon carbine maximizes the caliber.

Our Team Said: The Thureon is the strong first choice for anyone interested in gilt-edged accuracy, allowing the shooter to explore just what a 9mm carbine will do. The Thureon is cost effective and should provide cheap, accurate plinking from long range. As a fighting carbine for the worst-case scenario, the Thureon wins by a considerable margin.

The Mossberg Model 500 No. 55216 Turkey THUG12 Gauge, $409, is the black synthetic version of a pump-action shotgun that has been a workhorse model produced by Mossberg since 1961. Millions of the Model 500s have been sold in a variety of versions, everything from standard blue receiver and hardwood stock to Parkerized or camouflaged finishes.

The simplicity of its action is one of the key features of the Model 500, and this black synthetic model lived up to the shotgun’s reputation. We were impressed with the smooth handling and reliable functioning right out of the box. Sporting a 24-inch barrel, this model was a little longer than the camouflage counterpart, with an overall length of 43.75 inches and a length of pull of 14.25 inches. The standard stock featured a drop at the comb of 1.5 inches and a drop at the heel of 2.25 inches, providing a good fit for most shooters.

Like all Mossberg turkey models, this shotgun barrel was topped with windage- and elevation-adjustable fiber-optic sights, plus a receiver that had been drilled and tapped for installation of a scope base. In addition, we liked the ambidextrous safety on the rear of the receiver. This safety could be quickly accessed in the standard stock model because the shooter’s thumb is just below it as the shotgun is gripped with either hand.

Another surprise came when we checked out the trigger pull of the standard shotgun. Featuring a Lightning Pump Action adjustable trigger, the factory setting out of the box was 3 pounds. This is the lightest setting on the LPA and makes touching off a shot a very pleasant experience with reduced chance for flinching. Most factory-set trigger pulls are in the range of 5 to 7 pounds, which can cause flinching or moving the barrel off target in anticipation of discharge of the round. While this is more important when rifle shooting, a smooth, light pull with a shotgun can help produce better target hits.

Even with the ported barrel designed to reduce recoil, firing the 6.5-pound shotgun with 3-inch ammunition was not shoulder numbing, but was not what we would call pleasant. Shooters just have to accept the fact that turkey shotguns are normally only put into play for one or two shots, so heavy recoil is just a factor that has to be accepted.

The performance of the standard model featuring an extended XX-Full Turkey choke (limited to lead shot only) on the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 12-inch by 12-inch Turkey Vital Targets at 40 yards was impressive. On average, the shotgun produced 13 hits in head and neck vital areas of the target with No. 4 shot; 26 hits in the same area with No. 5 shot; and 35 hits with No. 6 shot. Only hits that would have produced a dead or mortally wounded bird were counted. The pattern with all three shot sizes was consistently centered on the target when shooting from a bench rest.

Our Team Said: At just over $400, this shotgun would be a good choice for anyone wanting to match hunting skills against the popular gamebird.

Reviewed in the April issue, the Crimson Trace Model LG-405, $299, was a one-piece unit that attached the two grip panels with a soft rubber saddle covering the top portion of the 637’s backstrap. Spreading apart the grip panels allowed easy insertion of the two batteries. Two screws were then cranked down to hold the grip/sight to the frame. These two screws also differed in size. The LG-405 was noticeably bulkier looking than the LG-105. The area under the trigger was filled in more, and it had rubber padding on the backstrap, but it was thinner than the LG-105. As mentioned the LG-405 did not require a death grip to activate for some shooters. Shooters’ middle fingers naturally landed on the activation button. Most testers felt the LG-405 was easier to turn on and off while holding the same grip. They also liked the thinness of the grip and the padded backstrap, saying they felt recoil less with this grip compared to the other two. A slight drawback was the rubber in the grip tended to slightly snag on pocket material. This is minor, and if you were to draw the firearm, your hand would be completely surrounding the rubber, so snagging would not be an issue, our team said.

A feature exclusive to the LG-405 was a master switch located in the butt. Fingernails or a fleshy finger pad could easily slide the switch back and forth. Testers liked the master switch, as the laser could be deactivated, so turning the laser on accidentally was moot. The switch is recessed in the butt of the right grip, and we think only an obstruction in your pocket could turn it on. Rule of thumb: Carry only your weapon in a pocket. The LG-405 had similar holstering issues as the LG-105.

Our Team Said: The CTC LG-405 was very easy to install and adjust. Those testers not familiar with laser sights had to concentrate on using their index finger to activate the laser, but the LG-405 was the easiest of all three laser sights to use. The LG-405’s slightly extra bulk compared with the padded backstrap and master switch feature swayed testers even though it was nearly $100 more than either the LM or CTC LG-105. We gave it an A-.

We’ve reviewed dozens of cartridges in 2012, one of the most interesting being Extreme Shock Fang Face No. 0FF05 45 ACP 185 Grain, $13.46/10. It was tested in the July 2012 issue. The Fang Face is designed for comparable penetration and effect to modern JHP bullets. Penetration was long enough to make any Martin Fackler fan pleased. The average was 16 inches, but some went 18 inches. In one case we had an 18-inch penetration with a fragment reaching a full 24 inches.

Our Team Said: The Fang Face round delivered enhanced penetration as advertised. And this is why we are doing this test, to make readers aware of the difference in frangible loads. The Extreme Shock Fang Face is difficult to assess, but there is no question that the nose blows off and the rest of the bullet penetrates some 18 inches in water.

The 2012 'A' List Firearms

CZ USA SP-01 Shadow Custom No. 91029 9MM

Walther P22 No. WAP22003 22 LR

Taurus 24/7 G2 24/7-G29SS-17 9MM

Remington Model 1911 R1 Enhanced No. 96328 45 ACP

Cimarron Evil Roy ER4104 357 MAG & Charter Arms Bulldog NO. 14420 44 Special

Remington 597 Stainless HB TVP NO. 80852 22 LR

Adcor Defense B.E.A.R. #201-2040E 5.56MM Nato

Thureon Defense Carbine 9MM

Mossberg Model 500 NO. 55216 Turkey Thug 12 Guage

Crimson Trace LG-405 J-Frame Laser

Extreme Shock Fang Face No. 0FF05 ACP 185 Grain