July 2018

Features

Three More Midsize Forties: SIG, FNH-USA, and Walther

To expand the coverage of 40 S&W semi-automatics we have tested recently, our test team recently looked at three midsize pistols we thought would be worthy challengers to the Glock 23 Gen4 40 S&W, $650, evaluated in the May 2013 issue. In that test, our team gave the G23G4 an A grade, effectively setting a standard for other pistols in this category to try to reach. So we threw an array of other pistols at it, going from a budget discontinued model (the FNH-USA FNP-40 No. 47832, $450), to a longtime competitor (SIG Sauer’s SP2022 No. E2022-40-B, $570), to a model introduced in 2011, about a year after the Gen4 was released (Walther PPQ No. 2776481, $680.) The latest three polymer test pistols have similar stats for size and weight, but fit, feel, function, and design varied greatly, with the last consideration playing more of a role than we initially expected. To recap why we graded the Glock so highly two months ago, we noted that the different back-strap contours allow the owner to easily find the best fit for his or her hands. The grips allowed good control. The Glock had a minimum of controls, rivaled in this test only by the PPQ, which had a trigger safety like the Glock and just ambi slide releases beyond that. The Glock’s magazine release was reversible, a feature duplicated on the FN and SIG guns, and possibly topped by the two trigger guard mag-release levers on the PPQ. The Glock sights had a wide, square, U around the rear notch and a white dot on the front, while the newest guns all had three-white-dot sight arrays. Dimensionally, the guns were close in size. In overall length, the numbers were 7.2 inches for the Glock, 7.4 inches for the SIG, 7.25 inches for the PPQ, and 7.4 inches for the FN. Overall heights (measured from the top of the sights to the bottom of the magazine or magazine extension) were Glock 5.0 inches, FN and PPQ (5.4 inches), and SP 5.5 inches. The barrels were all right at 4.0 inches (Glock, Walther, FN), or nearly so, 3.9 inches for the SIG. Loaded weights were 32.1 ounces for the 13+1 Glock, 33.6 ounces for the 12+1 Walther, 37.0 ounces for the 12+1 SIG, and 37.2 ounces for the FN, which partially reflects its larger capacity of 14+1. Functionally, during our shooting, we had perfect reliability from all the pistols. Elsewhere, the Glock had a tactile loaded-chamber indicator in the form of a slight step on the extractor that could be easily felt with the (right-hand) trigger finger, with a similar feature duplicated on the PPQ and FN. On top of the G23, the slide was smooth enough not to cut the hands during clearance drills, and the new guns were likewise dehorned, except for their sharp sights. Takedown was simple, and likewise easy on the FN and SIG, but much more complicated on the PPQ. Workmanship inside all three guns was excellent, just as it was on the outside. Thus, these midsize guns were more than a match physically for the Glock, but would they bring positive individual differences to the fray and overcome the Austrian? We find out below.   More...

A Pair of All-Steel 9mm Pistols Are Definitely Not Turkeys

We recently had the opportunity to shoot and thoroughly test two pistols imported from Turkey, and they were alike in ways other than sharing a home country — the two towns where the handguns are made sit about 523 km apart on the south side of the Black Sea. The Canik55 Stingray-C 9mm Luger, $370, imported by Century International Arms, is made in Samsun by Canik55, a police- and military-arms builder established in 1998. This DA/SA semi-auto is a CZ-75 clone made of steel with a hard-chrome finish, and it tips the scale at a hefty 38 ounces unloaded weight and 45 ounces loaded weight with 16 rounds aboard. It stands 5.25 inches tall and is 7.1 inches long. The AR-24 Pistol Compact 24K-13 9mm Luger, $550, is made by Sarsilmaz in D zce and is imported by ArmaLite of Geneseo, Illinois. It is a hoss as well, weighing in at 36.2 ounces unloaded and 42.4 ounces loaded. The AR-24 is 7.5 inches long and stands 5.2 inches tall and carries 14 rounds as its total payload. The pair also had traits that separated them. Cosmetically, they were night and day. The hard-chrome finish of the Stingray practically glowed in the dark, but it also wore very well, showing no dings or scratches by the end of our test program. The AR-24, in contrast, has a military-grade manganese phosphate and heat-cured epoxy exterior for outstanding corrosion resistance and a low-glare dark-grey finish. The ArmaLite pistol comes in four variations, the largest being the AR-24, a full-size recoil-operated modified-Browning locked-breech 9mm. Our test gun, the AR-24K, is a compact version of the same gun. Tactical Custom versions have windage- and elevation-adjustable rear sights and checkering instead of grooves on the frontstrap and backstrap. Canik55 produces several lines of pistols, including the MKEK, Shark, Piranha, S-FC, Dolphin, and TP series, along with the Stingrays. The Stingrays are chambered in 9mm Luger (Para) and come in full-size versions (up to 19-round magazines) and compact Stingray-C models in both chrome- and black-chrome plated finishes. To collect bench-accuracy data, we set up at Tactical Firearms in Katy, Texas (TacticalFirearms.us) and fired five-shot groups at 15 yards using the supplied open sights. On the bench, we used sandbags to support the guns and the shooter’s arms. We recorded velocities using a PACT Professional XP with infrared screens with the first screen set 12 feet from the muzzle. Our 9mm Luger ammunition samples were Winchester USA 115-grain full metal jackets, Federal American Eagle 147-grain full-metal-jacket flat points, and Hornady Steel Match 125-grain HAP hollowpoints. Here is how we judged each gun when they were compared head to head.   More...

NRA Annual Meetings 2013

The recently concluded National Rifle Association 142nd Annual Meetings & Exhibits, held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston May 3-5, set attendance records that are likely to stand awhile. More than 86,000 Second Amendment supporters attended the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston last month, shattering the previous attendance record by almost 15,000, said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.   More...

38 Specials for Snubbie Carry: We Test Eleven Head to Head

A hot topic among serious personal-defense shooters is ammunition for the handguns that we really carry. It is fine to consider the ballistic differences between all calibers, but when it gets to brass tacks, the snubnose 38 Special revolver is a handgun that all of us know and use. The 38 snub is still the most popular backup handgun and the one that makes the most sense. While the 38 Special may be a backup for armed professionals, the 38 is a primary handgun for shopkeeps and armed citizens. The 38 is a particularly good choice for female shooters. When the assailant is at bad-breath range and the action becomes intimate, the only answer is to press the handgun against the attacker’s body and press the trigger. A self-loader would jam after the first shot. A peace officer who is defending against a gun grab would be in much the same situation. The 38 Special snubnose revolver is often criticized as being inaccurate and difficult to handle, but it is all in indoctrination. We think that sometimes the shooter attempts to go too light. A steel-frame handgun is by no means too heavy if proper attention is given to concealment leather. A good-quality holster that properly conceals the snub 38 and keeps it in place will take care of the characteristic sag of a heavy handgun. When you put a steel-frame revolver in the pocket, the pocket droops. The pocket also droops with a lightweight handgun, only less. With the steel-frame revolver and practice, good shooting may be done. The 38 Special is simply too good a choice to ignore.   More...

Historic Bolt-Action 22 Rifles: Remington Versus Winchester

For this test of vintage bolt-action 22 rifles, we had the loan of two old-timers, a Remington Nylon 12 and a Winchester Model 69A. We tested with three types of ammo, Wolf, CCI Velocitor, and Blazer, all in Long Rifle persuasion. Both rifles were supposed to handle Shorts and Longs too, so we also tried a few of them. Both rifles fed Long Rifles, Longs, Shorts and also CB caps perfectly. The Winchester’s longer barrel made lots less noise with Shorts and especially the CB caps than the Remington. The report of CB’s out of the long-barreled Winchester was just a click. Are these old rifles worth looking into? Let’s see what we found.   More...

Boot-Gun Revolver Showdown: 38 Specials Take on 9mms

The 38 Special revolver has long been a standard as a back-up and concealed-carry handgun. As part of our new Bargain Hunter series, we wanted to challenge the conventional notion that a wheelgun chambered in 38 Special should be the de facto winner of any boot-gun showdown simply because it has always won those battles in the past. In the same power range as the 38 Special is the 9mm Luger (aka 9mm Parabellum or 9x19mm), which has the added benefit of being loaded more widely, often at less cost per round, than the 38 Special. Also, many carbines are chambered for 9mm, which makes it a handy choice for a long gun/handgun duo, even if the handgun is a revolver. To be fair, the 38 Special is also chambered for long guns, primarily lever guns. On the 38 Special’s side is the fact that dozens of revolvers from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Rossi, Charter, Taurus, and many others are chambered for the round, compared to a paltry few 9mms, some of which must use half-moon or moon clips to function. In this two-way test, we evaluated four handguns, three revolvers chambered for 38 Special and two revolvers chambered for 9mm Luger. Certainly, the best gun would win and earn our favor. But we also looked at the cost of consumables to see if, over time, one cartridge had an edge.   More...

Mid-Size Compact Forties: Smith & Wesson Edges Out Kahr

Gun Test’s Idaho test team has spent a lot of time looking at relatively tiny 9mm handguns over the past year. We’ve found there are a few good designs that permit the use of some relatively hot ammo in the small 9mm packages. But some people want still more power, so we’ve decided to sample a few of the forties out there. For this test we looked at a S&W M&P Compact 40 ($569) and a Kahr CW40 ($485). They are a bit larger than the tiny nines we’ve been trying, and there are good reasons for that. The 40 S&W is a lot more cartridge than the 9mm Parabellum, and when forties get smaller than these two test guns, recoil is entirely unfriendly. However, Kahr and a few other makers do offer smaller guns in this caliber if you must have one. We tested these two compact forties with three types of ammo, Remington 155-grain JHP, Black Hills 165-grain JHP, and American Eagle 180-grain FMC. Here’s what we found.   More...

One More Nine: Springfield EMP

A couple of months ago, a third gun showed up as we were wrapping up our test of two carry 9mm Lugers, the SIG P239 and H&K’s USP Compact. This was the Springfield EMP, which has a stunning MSRP of $1345. This pistol was a little smaller than the other two, and had a very simple and familiar mechanism. It was basically a small 1911 built around the 9mm cartridge. The barrel was 3.2 inches. The side of the slide was marked with a logo of the letters EMP done in a manner that left the sides of the letters off. While that was clever, we wondered what else had been left off of this small nine that maybe ought to have been there. Frankly, boys and girls, for that price there better be exactly nothing left off.   More...

12-Gauge Semi-Automatics: Benelli Ultralight Wins Again

Benelli’s super-lightweight shotguns, the Ultralight line, are touted as being the lightest semi-automatic shotguns in production. Because a lighter gun does not always leave a shooter happy after a long day in the field or an afternoon shooting sporting clays, there are good reasons why shooters would prefer a heavier classic model, such as a favorite of many shooters, the Remington Model 1100. The Model 1100 was first manufactured in 1963, and with more than 50 years of production under its belt, it has earned seniority over newcomers like the Ultralight. But, because age is just a number and the new challenges the old every day, our shooters wanted to see for themselves which gun they would buy. Toward that end, we asked Winkle’s Great Guns to get us a Benelli Ultralight Model No. 10802 12 Gauge, $1649; and Remington Model 1100 Sporting No. 25315, $1211, for this showdown.   More...

Personal-Defense Handgun Pick: 9mm Luger or 357 Magnum?

It is true some prefer the revolver and some prefer the automatic regardless of cartridge, but sometimes the handgun is chosen on the basis of its chambering. The 357 Magnum revolver is often chosen over the 9mm pistol for the former’s terminal ballistics. Shooters might honestly prefer a self-loader, but they are hedging their bets and obtaining a cartridge with a proven defense record. They realize the 357 Magnum handgun is limited in capacity from five to eight rounds, and the eight-shooters are pretty big guns. In reality, most personal-defense Magnums are five- or six-shooters. The flash, blast, and recoil of the Magnum and its smaller reserve of ammunition at the ready are deemed justifiable trade-offs for more power. In contrast, the 9mm is available in a myriad of pistol choices, and some revolvers. There are 357 Magnum self-loaders as well, but they are pretty heavy propositions. For defensive use, most carriers choose the 9mm for its low recoil, good control, and adequate downrange ballistics. Some like the idea of firing a group on the target that is well centered, while others feel that a single heavy hit in the X ring is the way to go. It should be noted that the 357 Magnum is among a very few “small-bore” revolvers that has earned a good reputation for performance even with non-expanding bullets. The 160-grain SWC at 1300 fps or so, used by professional lawmen from 1935 on, was deemed a good choice for police work for a reason. With the heaviest loads, the Magnum certainly lives up to its reputation for excellent penetration. As a caliber for defense against animals or against light cover, the Magnum has no peer. The 9mm, however, has relied upon reasonably good ballistics and fast repeat shots to do the business. Each has its adherents. However, the situation has changed to an extent, as far as the performance of each cartridge. It’s true that 9mm ballistics have been improved considerably, with some loads operating at +P and +P+ pressures and topped with great bullets. At the same time, the 357 Magnum is no longer a proposition only for heavy revolvers; relatively light five-shot revolvers with short barrels are widely available, so some versions of the Magnum cartridge have been loaded down for personal defense. So, if we compare the handguns that are purpose-designed for defense use, does the Magnum really have that great an advantage? That was the question we wanted to answer. To make the comparison fair, the pistols would have to have similar barrel lengths and be geared toward personal defense. We were not concerned with penetration against animals; we have done that with the 357 Magnum and found that the full-power Magnum as loaded by Cor-Bon and a few others is a credible and effective loading for this purpose. Rather, we were interested in comparing the ballistics of loads intended for personal defense.   More...

Three More Small Nines: Ruger, Kel-Tec, And Sig Sauer Complete

The idea of a backup pistol is an old one, going back to the days of flintlocks. Modern shooters want something more useful than a single- or double-shot pocket flintlock, and there are lots of modern pocket pistols available, particularly in semiautomatic persuasion. We’ve been looking at small 9mm pistols over the past year or so, and this month we’ve added a few more to the list. These three are the new Sig Sauer P290RS ($758), Ruger’s LC9 ($443), and the Kel-Tec P-11 ($377). Some time back (April 2011) we wrung out a Ruger LC9 against the Kel-Tec PF-9 (which Ruger apparently copied), and the Kel-Tec won. We wondered if the ten-shot Kel-Tec P-11 would do as well as the slimmer PF-9. These three test guns were all DAO, which means you can’t cock them to get a light trigger pull. You simply have to heave on the trigger until the gun fires. This does nothing for helping you put your shots where you want ‘em, so that tends to make these guns best suited for close-range work. In short, we had our work cut out for us during our 15-yard accuracy testing. All three guns locked their slides back after the last round. The Sig and Kel-Tec could drop their hammers a second time if the first strike failed to fire the round. Ruger’s design required working the slide to eject the unfired round and load a new one, which tactically might be the better solution. If you have a bad round, get rid of it instead of beating a dead horse. We tested with Black Hills’ 147-grain JHP, Cor-Bon’s 110-grain Pow-R-Ball, and with the Ultramax 115-grain RN lead-bullet loads. In addition we tried several unreported types of ammo. Here’s what we found.   More...

Another Brace of Nines: SIG’s New P938 Takes on S&W Shield

Subscribers Only — Once again we look at a pair of small 9mm Luger handguns in our ongoing search for pocket-pistol nirvana. Both of these guns are relatively new designs, and we might mention we notice a strong trend in interest in these small backup nines, which every maker now seems to have in one or more versions. This time we have the SIG Sauer P938 Extreme ($823) and the S&W M&P Shield ($449 from FullArmorFirearms.com) on our plate. We tested them with three types of ammo, Russian WPA 115-grain FMJs, Cor-Bon Pow’Rball 100 grain, and Ultramax 127-grain round-nose cast lead. We were unable to obtain any heavy-bullet ammo for this test. Ammo is scarce these days. Here’s what we found.   More...

Two 30-30 Lever-Action Rifles: Winchester Vs. Ted Williams

There was time when every deer hunters’ gun rack held a 30-30 lever-action rifle, and red buffalo plaid was the only choice in a hunting coat. There are those hunters who still believe the 30-30 lever action is the ultimate rifle for a still hunter working in dense cover. The rifle’s light weight, ease of use, simple open sights, and fast follow-up shots make it a sensible choice for shots from 15 to 100 yards. Over the years, numerous manufacturers have built 30-30 lever actions — Winchester, Marlin, Stevens, Mossberg, Savage, and others. In great-grandpa’s day, hardware stores and department stores with thick catalogs also sold 30-30 lever-action rifles. These department-store rifles were made by these gun manufacturers but were sold under the store’s in-house brand names, often at a lower price than their name-brand cousins. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Sears, Roebuck and Co. contracted with Winchester to build a 30-30 lever-action rifle similar to Winchester’s Model 94. Sears called it the Model 100 or Model 54. Ever mindful of marketing opportunities, Sears signed baseball great Ted Williams to endorse its outdoor products. Ted’s signature appeared on everything from outdoor clothing to rifles. In particular, there was a Ted Williams Model 100 rifle, a dead ringer for the Winchester Model 94. Because we’re always hunting for bargains, we wanted to compare a used Sears Ted William’s Model 100 to a current-production Winchester Model 94 Short Rifle. Both of these rifles are designed around the iconic Model 94 first built by Winchester in 1894. It was the first centerfire rifle to use a then-new smokeless cartridge, the 30 Winchester or, more commonly, the 30-30. How would a 50-year-old Sears thutty-thutty match up with a brand-spanking new Shorty? Pretty dang well, as we explain below.   More...

2015 Guns & Gear 'A' List

Subscribers Only — Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Ray Ordorica, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, Rafael Urista, 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   More...