October 2016

Meddling By BATF Halted

Ammunition makers raised concerns to ATF, and thankfully, any change in ATF’s treatment of nitrocellulose is now officially delayed. In an addendum to the earlier newsletter, ATF announced that it “will conduct further industry outreach concerning wetted Nitrocellulose. In the interim, previously authorized industry practices concerning wetted Nitrocellulose will not be affected.” While the addendum doesn’t indicate that ATF has permanently abandoned this change to nitrocellulose regulation, smokeless powder manufacturers will be permitted to continue normal operation, at least for the time being. So, yes, ammunition availability will likely stay the same, but just be aware that this regulatory effort was going on, and how it could have affected retail supplies.   More...

Hunter Quacks Over A300 Grade

Subscribers Only — I have seen and done much, but I am still amazed at how many people praise “pocket pistols” over a more substantial weapon. I have carried for about 60 years (yes, I carried when I was 11) and have used virtually every caliber. As I got older, I have gone from the 45 ACP to a Ruger SR9C in, of course, 9mm for a multitude of age-related reasons, but still consider being armed a responsibility to my family. Using the extended magazine, I am comfortable having that 16 rounds plus two spares in a custom Rick Harvey mag carrier (with the bonus of a flashlight between the mags). At 6’5” and 185 pounds, this is easy to carry (24/7/365) and conceal. During the several events whereupon it was necessary to draw my weapon (in the past four years), I never felt undergunned, but I would have felt that with just the Ruger LCP in my ankle holster. People need to face reality; real life usually dictates you need more than the rounds available in a pocket pistol. And yes, I am old and grumpy.   More...

Home-Defense Shotguns: We Compare Three Pump Actions

Subscribers Only — The shotgun is seen by many as the best choice for personal defense and especially home defense. The most powerful portable shoulder-fired weapon used for self preservation, the 12-gauge shotgun offers a multiple-projectile load that has been proven effective in close-quarters defense. With slug loads, it is even suitable for defense against large, dangerous animals. In rural defense, there are plenty of deadly predators in the country, feral dogs, mountain lions, and other dangerous animals that only an aggressive counterattack will stop. But without proper firearm and load selection, as well as training, the shotgun will be underutilized. More than one citizen has defended himself with the shotgun, and common sense tells us that we should have one in the home. In this test, the shotguns we chose are among the best in their price range. The choices range from a pedestrian bead-sighted model to a tactical model with an AR-15 type stock. While self-loaders rule the day at 3 Gun competitions and are very reliable, a dirty pump will work when a dirty automatic will not. We have seen self-loaders malfunction during our test programs, and we know the pump-action shotgun is relatively easy to master, as long as you get quality training so you’re confident in your skills and sure in your manipulation. With this in mind, we chose three likely shotguns for home defense. The top end of the budget was $450, but we would prefer to spend less to get a good pump-action gun, if we could. We fired them with practice loads, home defense loads, good loads suitable for pest and predators, and slugs suitable for defense against large animals. We used five different loads for testing these shotguns. We tried to find the most economical offerings in bulk. This included the Fiocchi 12HV75 birdshot ($97 for 250 shotshells from CheaperThanDirt.com) Fiocchi 1-ounce Aero slugs ($8.10/10 from VenturaMunitions.com), Hornady 86240 Critical Defense 00 buckshot loads ($11.08/10 from CheaperThanDirt.com), Hornady’s Varmint Express, a load using 24 pellets at 1350 fps ($16/10 from Gandermountain.com), and Winchester 3-inch 12-gauge 00 buckshot loads (No. XB12300VB, $17/15 from CheaperThanDirt.com) This selection covered the likely uses for personal defense, predators, and even large animals. Each shotgun was fired with 50 birdshot shells, 10 of each of the buckshot loads, and 10 Fiocchi slugs, for a total of at least 90 shells per gun. This is punishing work and was not accomplished in a single range session. We fired mainly the light-kicking birdshot to learn how to function the guns quickly and determine their smoothness and ergonomics. Here are the results.   More...

Big-Bore Snubnoses Around $500: Charter Arms and Taurus

Subscribers Only — We recently reviewed three 38 Special revolvers that cost about $400 and thought we would increase our budget and caliber size, and then sourced three revolvers each costing about $500 in three different big-bore calibers: 44 Special, 45 ACP, and 45 Colt, often called 45 Long Colt (LC) to ensure it’s not mixed up with the Auto Colt cartridge. The three revolvers included two Charter Arms products, the Classic Bulldog in 44 Special and the newer Pitbull in 45 ACP, plus the Taurus Public Defender Polymer chambered in .410 shotshell and 45 LC. Even though these were new revolvers, we still performed a range-rod test since there was a bit of side-to-side wiggle in the cylinders of all the revolvers. Range rods check the alignment of the chambers to the barrel bore. We also noted that the action of the Taurus seemed a bit stiff; our initial dry firing in double action found the cylinder would not fully index to the next chamber at times. Dry firing took care of the indexing issue, and all passed the range rod test. We also noted during the range-rod test the barrel of the Pitbull was not fully screwed into the frame. It was off by a fraction of a turn, enough to cock the front sight to the left when aiming the revolver. It is unacceptable that a gun leaves the factory in this condition. We anticipated and needed to use Kentucky windage with the Pitbull at the range. In the past Charter Arms revolvers have been favorably rated, but in these two examples we found exception. The not-fully-screwed-down barrel was also the reason the cylinder-to-barrel gap was so large. We measured the gap between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone at the rear of the barrel using feeler gauges from Brownells (606-950-252WB) and found a gap of 0.010 inches for the Pitbull and the Bulldog Classic and the Taurus at 0.005 inch. A gap of 0.003 inches is desirable for a competition revolver, but up to 0.006 inches is often found. A large gap allows more gas to escape, reducing the bullet’s velocity. It also means there is more flash, and if the chamber and cylinder are not perfectly aligned, a user might experience splash from burning powders and bits of shaved bullet metal. We did not experience any splash with the Charter Arms revolvers. We did note that the Classic Bulldog had about 30 fps more than the published data for Hornady Critical Defense165-grain FTX bullet, which is 900 fps out of 2.5-inch barrel. The 3-inch barrel of Bulldog must have helped increase velocity. The Pitbull had noticeably less muzzle velocity compared to factory data. We assumed the reduction came because the Pitbull has a 2.5-inch barrel and the factory data for the cartridges use either a 4- or 5-inch barrel. Reduced muzzle velocity also occurred in the Taurus. A common feature of all three revolvers was a safety transfer bar. This system prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. These revolvers are made for close-in work, but we still tested accuracy out to 25 yards. Since the Taurus offers the ability to fire .410 shotshells as well as cartridges, we sourced some CCI shot cartridges in 44 Special. CCI manufactures shot­shells in 45 ACP, but warns against using the the cartridges in revolvers since the crimp that holds the shot in the cartridge case may interfere with the rotation of cylinder after being fired. One of our team members regularly carries a revolver loaded with bird shot cartridges and bullet cartridges when we walks his dog in the woods. He’s equipped to deal with snakes as well as bears, depending on what chamber he lets fly.   More...

1911 Magazines: Some Are Good, And Some Should Be Avoided

Subscribers Only — Magazines for the 1911 pistol have evolved more during the past two decades than during any other time since the pistol’s introduction. The bane of the 1911 is cheaply made magazines, with poor ammunition close behind. For many years, the only choices were Colt factory magazines, which were usually high quality, then GI magazines, and poorly made gun-show magazines. Some were marked COLT 45 on the base in bold letters, and these usually meant the shooter was the real deal. At a time when new Colt magazines were around $15, aftermarket magazines sold for as little as $4, and most of them were not worth the aggravation. GI magazines were good quality, but shooters often found them bent and worn out, unless they were new in the wrapper. Quite a bit of barrel feed-ramp polish and tuning of extractors went on that probably was tied to ammunition and magazine problems. Some of the aftermarket magazines were not properly welded. In other cases, the follower was too tight in the magazine body; and in other instances, the magazine springs were weak. Others had poorly attached buttplates, that gave way when dropped on the ground during IPSC competition. Some survived, others did not. The basic construction of the magazine itself has changed from sheet steel to aluminum and plastic followers versus metal followers. We have examined quite a few magazines that invited a situation called false slide lock. The follower appeared to catch the slide lock, but the slide lock was actually on the wrong shelf, which isn’t good for any of the parts. A 1911 feeds by the loading block on the bottom of the slide stripping the cartridge forward as the slide moves forward. The cartridge case rim catches under the extractor and is pressed forward. Some feel that it is a good thing that the bullet nose snugs a little over the feed ramp and bumps the cartridge case head into the breech face as the cartridge enters the chamber. Some magazines, notably the Wilson Combat, allow the bullet nose to strike much higher on the ramp, which results in missing the feed ramp’s edges more so than others. …   More...

9mm Pistols: Uzi Mini Pro, MPA Defender, and SIG Sauer MPX-P

The civilian-available semi-auto versions of what began as expensive SBR’s (short-barrel rifles) or true submachine guns are advertised as having good accuracy and reliability while offering a more compact package than a rifle and higher round counts than most handguns. For the task of guarding the castle, we’ve been around the block a time or two, and have suitable choices for nearly anyone — great pistols, rifles, and shotguns. For this test, we had to suspend any preconceived notions of what we might prefer for home defense and test these firearms based on their own merits. Those merits, we found, are few. If you are shooting for fun and simply making brass, anything that goes bang is suitable. We’ll get into the reasons for these judgments, but we like to be clear up front. The SIG Sauer MPX-P is one expensive means of not accomplishing much. The Uzi Pro pistol has drawbacks that made shooting downright frustrating. The MasterPiece Arms Defender proved to be the best of the three and has merit in a defensive situation, within certain narrow parameters. We arrived at this decision by using personal-defense criteria as the overriding factor in providing Buy/Don’t Buy advice to our loyal readers. So, in more detail, here are our reasons for making these assessments. Our 9mm Luger ammunition for this test included a 158-grain lead round nose choice from Tomkatammo.com ($18/50 rounds). We also used Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain jacketed hollow points from VenturaMunitions.com ($14/20), a Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP, an Extra Power load not quite in +P territory, also available from VenturaMunitions.com, ($17/20), and a SIG Sauer 115-grain full-metal-jacket load from Cabelas.com ($28/50). Others included the SIG Sauer 124-grain V Crown jacketed hollow point from Luckygunner.com ($16.75/20), and the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P from MidwayUSA.com ($14.79/20). We used the Tomkat 158-grain, the Black Hills 124-grain JHP, and the SIG 115-grain FMJ load in benchrest accuracy testing.   More...