November 2016

New ‘Not Our Picks’ Guides

At this magazine, we do something that a lot of other magazines and websites do — recommend firearms that our readers might like to buy. We also do something else that most other outlets would never consider — telling our readers what guns not to buy. On the first point, we regularly run Value Guides, which are compilations of firearms that, generally, our test teams have lauded. In this issue, I’m launching what I think of as “Anti-Value Guides,” that is, collections of firearms we would not buy, which we’ll call “Not Our Picks,” for the simple reason that guns in these collections did not fare as well as others we’ve tested.   More...

Selecting Magazines Is Tough

Subscribers Only — Thanks for the evaluation of 1911 mags. It was quite comprehensive and good information, as usual. I own five 45 Commanders and two Government models, and I have settled on the Colt 8-round magazines as a standard for all. I picked those primarily because of the flush base. I love having nine rounds in the carry gun, but I don’t like an extra quarter inch or so extending beyond the grip. Previously, I used Wilson Combat mags because all the guys coming through my classes that shot Kimbers said they had to use Wilson mags with them to make them work reliably. Funny, huh? I never thought of a drop test. I did drop a couple of my Colt mags yesterday and nothing popped out. By the way, I’m using the Ruger/Polycase ARX rounds, and so far I have had no feeding issues except one in the S&W 1911 SCE Commander. The most expensive 1911 I’ve got, and it’s the one that sometimes hiccups.   More...

Modern 9mm Subcompacts: CZ-USA, Glock, Steyr Compete

Subscribers Only — It goes without saying that compact and subcompact pistols chambered in 9mm Luger are a highly desirable form of personal protection. The 9mm offers acceptable ballistics without harsh recoil, and 9mm pistols from a quality maker are famously reliable. Also, 9mm compact pistols are often based on service-size handguns in the best renditions. The action and spring rates, and making certain slide travel and barrel tilt are compatible with the compact size, is important engineering. When done correctly, compact pistols are as reliable for practical use as any full-size pistol. Accordingly, our readers often ask us for reviews of certain pistols they’ve come across and may want to buy, if testing proves them to be worthwhile. So, this time, we line up a set of reader requests to go head to head at the range. The first contestant was CZ-USA’s 2075 RAMI B 91750 9mm Luger, $530. The RAMI is similar to the original CZ 75 but represents considerable engineering changes to accommodate the short slide and frame. The CZ 75 slide rides in the frame inside the frame rails, a design feature that some feel adds to the pistol’s accuracy. This engineering lowers the bore axis as well, resulting in less muzzle flip compared to most double-action first-shot pistols. A tradeoff is that the slide is sometimes difficult to grasp and rack. Next up was the Glock G43 Lim­ited Edition ProGlo TALO Edition UI4350501, available for $489 from Slickguns.com. TALO is a wholesale buying cooperative that was started in 1965 by fishing and hunting wholesalers in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma. TALO commissions limited editions of firearms from Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Ruger, and North American Arms and distributes them to stocking sporting goods dealers across the US. Shooters who want one of these special editions will need to contact their local dealer and ask him to order the special edition firearm from a TALO wholesaler. TALO firearms are often specially designed products with top-end accessories. An example came in 2006 with the Ruger John Wayne Vaquero. The first edition of 3500 units was featured as an American Rifleman’s Magazine editor’s pick. On this Glock 43, the pistol’s slide is standard save for the sights, which are made by AmeriGlo and feature a brilliant orange post around a white-insert tritium front. The rear sight features a U-notch for rapid target engagement. The rear face of the rear sight is serrated to reduce glare. The Steyr S9-A1 9mm Luger, $483 at Buds­­GunShop.com, isn’t particularly more difficult to conceal then the RAMI, but it is not a pocket gun as the Glock 43 is. The Steyr S9A1 is a double-action-only handgun with a trigger action more Glock like than anything. The Steyr barely came in as the least expensive pistol tested. This is the largest pistol tested, but it is lighter than the RAMI due to the Steyr’s polymer frame. More effort is needed to cock this pistol due to a combination of the slide design and a heavy recoil spring. In accuracy testing from the bench at 15 yards, we used three loads. The Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P Short Barrel hollowpoint load cost us $23/20 rounds at MidwayUSA.com. The Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP ran us $14.57/20 rounds, also from MidwayUSA.com, and Winchester’s 115-grain USA Forged steel shellcase FMJs came to us from Cabelas.com (prior to the buyout by Bass Pro) and cost $36 for 150 rounds. Following is how the pistols fired those rounds, along with comments by our hands-on testers.   More...

Compact 45 ACP Shoot-Out: Glock, S&W, and Springfield

The compact self-loading pistol is easily the most popular personal-defense handgun in America. Shooters realize that small-bore handguns may not have sufficient potential for personal defense. The 9mm Luger is the baseline for personal defense in most shooters’ eyes. The 40 S&W isn’t as popular due to the stout recoil it produces in compact handguns. After all, many 9mms and 40s are built on the same frame. The 45-caliber compact is slightly larger, and the lower-pressure 45 ACP gives a hard push in recoil rather than the sharp jolt experienced with the 40. To see how our shooters rated a trio of smallish 45s, we acquired three handguns based on the service-size Glock 21, Springfield XD, and S&W M&P handguns. l From Glock comes the single-stack polymer-frame G36, which is popular, reliable, and well suited to personal defense. The Glock G36 PI3650201FGR 45 6R FS, $561, isn’t the most popular Glock by a long shot, but a number of Glock fans, as well as 45 ACP fans, like the Glock 36 handgun for its simplicity and ease of use. l Another gun in the test was Springfield Armory’s XD-S, a downsized XD with a slim single-stack grip. The Springfield Armory XD-S 3.3 XDS93345BE 45 ACP, $419, is even more compact than the Glock, with a short grip frame and a five-round magazine. l The latest arrival in the polymer-frame 45 single-stack scene is the Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield 180022, $399. The Shield series have been popular and well accepted by concealed carry handgunners, so making a 45-caliber version of it is a natural choice. We test-fired the pistols with a total of five loads. The first was a handload with Magnus Cast bullets (#803 225-grain Flatpoint) and 4.8 grains of Titegroup powder. Our other test loads came from CheaperThanDirt.com. One was the HPR 230-grain JHP 45230JHP ($38/50 rounds), a Hornady 200-grain XTP ($15.28/20), a Hornady 230-grain XTP +P 9096 ($16.25/20), and a Fiocchi 230-grain Extrema JHP 45XTP25 ($17.24/25). We fired the handload during the combat firing test stage, shooting 50 cartridges in each pistol. We also fired a magazine of the Hornady 230-grain +P in these stages to evaluate recoil in each handgun. The HPR 230-grain load, the Hornady 200-grain load, and the Fiocchi 230-grain Extrema were used in accuracy testing. During the course of our testing, the three pistols never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject, so reliability isn’t an issue. As may be expected, these compact 45s are popular with fans of each company’s full-size 45s. But that isn’t the whole story. As we discovered, fans of the full-size Glock may prefer the XD-S and our Springfield XD fan preferred the Glock 36 compact, and so it went. The primary difference was in handling, we found. Here are our findings.   More...

We Like Ruger’s Enhanced 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Rifle

Subscribers Only — In the January 2016 issue we published a test of bolt-action rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, including a Howa Austrian Brown Cerakote, a Savage Arms Model 12 LRP, and a Ruger Precision Rifle. All three rifles were impressive, but since then Ruger has released an Enhanced version, so we thought we’d better get one and see if the new features were worth the extra $200. The model number for the (original) 6.5CM Ruger Precision Rifle previously tested was 18005. The Enhanced version is number 18008. Both rifles utilize a 24-inch-long medium-contour cold-hammer-forged barrel with a 1:8 twist. It is attached to an adaptation of the Ruger American action fed by a 10-round removable box magazine. The fully adjustable butt stock was the same, and so was the adjustable trigger. Our earlier test gun came trigger-pull weight adjusted to 2.6 pounds, with variation measured to be 1.4 ounces. Despite the owner’s manual claiming that the adjustable range was 2.25 pounds to 5.0 pounds, our Enhanced rifle arrived with a 2-pound trigger with variation of only about 0.8 ounces. We left the pull weight as set for fear of losing the overall feel of the trigger that we thought was clearly articulated. The 18008 (Enhanced) rifle weighed about 0.1 pound more, even though the Samson Evolution Key Mod handguard was replaced by Ruger’s trimmer RPR Short-Action handguard, which also does away with the integrated top rail. We guess that whatever weight the 18008 gives up in top rail it gets back plus a little more by adding Ruger’s proprietary Hybrid Muzzle Brake plus Ruger’s Billet Aluminum Bolt Shroud, which replaced the plastic shroud.   More...

Bigger 9mms Handguns: SIG, Arsenal, and Beretta Go At It

Subscribers Only — As noted earlier in this issue, 9mm auto-loading pistols are among the most commonly purchased firearms in America for pleasure, competition, and defense. These guns are offered in many styles and price points, ranging from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars. While the handguns in this comparison are not top-end, highly customized pistols costing thousands of dollars, they are generally marketed as being well above average quality in fit, features, and capabilities. In this comparison, we test five pistols, three of which were built by SIG Sauer, one by Beretta, and one newcomer from Arsenal. The SIGs tested are the classic P210, the P226 MK25 used by the U.S. Navy SEALS, and the relatively new P320. The Beretta tested is the recently updated M9A3. The fifth gun is the new Strike One from Arsenal. For our evaluation, we used three different 9mm loads from three different manufacturers in two different weights and two different bullet styles. As always, the guns in question were shot by multiple testers (this time three men and three women) of different backgrounds. We did our accuracy testing at Boyert Shooting Centers, an indoor range in Houston, and followed the standard accuracy protocol of collecting five 5-round groups at 25 yards from a rest for each pistol/ammunition combination. For this test, we also performed a speed drill. The speed drill involved starting from a low-ready position, shooting twice to the chest and once to the head of a silhouette paper target. This test was performed at 7 yards by one experienced tester with large hands. The speed test was performed after the familiarization shooting, but before the accuracy testing. The tester was given only one opportunity to perform the test. As these pistols are supposed to be superior to the average offering, our team expected above-average results and graded accordingly. Though all five pistols turned in good results and had their fans, the testing yielded one clear surprise winner.   More...

Ruger Introduces a Bevy of New Rifles and Pistols Mid-Year 2016

The American-made LCP II is built on a one-piece precision-machined anodized-aluminum chassis with integral frame rails and fire-control housing. Additional features include a through-hardened alloy steel slide; a black, one-piece glass-filled nylon grip frame; a textured grip frame to provide a secure and comfortable grip; a finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for comfort and more secure grip, and a blued, alloy steel barrel. The LCP II ships with one 6-round magazine.   More...