March 2016

Good News on Virginia Reciprocity

Subscribers Only — We reported last month that effective Feb. 1, 2016, Virginia would sever concealed handgun permit (CHP) reciprocity ties with 25 of 30 states, likely affecting many Gun Tests readers. Good news: The cancellation of reciprocity was moved back a month to March 1, about the time this issue arrives in your mailbox. Also, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc., (VCDL), an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization defending the right to keep and bear arms in the state, said there was a package deal in the works between Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Republicans in the General Assembly dealing with 1) concealed handgun permit (CHP) reciprocity, 2) voluntary background checks at gun shows, and 3) those subject to a permanent domestic violence protection order.  A VCDL release said those three components would be represented by matching bills in the state’s House and the Senate bodies. Under the reciprocity section, Virginia will now honor carry permits from all states. “This is considerably better than current law and something VCDL has been trying to get for at least seven years now,” the group said in a release. Because Virginia will honor all other states, Virginia CHPs will be recognized by all the states affected by the reciprocity cancellation, plus three new states will be given reciprocity status: New Hampshire, Georgia, and Colorado. Further, going forward, the State Police and the attorney general will have no say in how reciprocity is handled. If another state requires a formal agreement to honor Virginia CHPs, the new law requires the attorney general to enter into any such agreement.   More...

Revolvers for the Elderly, New Virginia Laws, Henry Rifles

Subscribers Only — In last month’s Firing Line, reader Winslow asks for advice on a 357 magnum lightweight snubnose revolver for a 75-year-old female cousin. I would appreciate a little help. I’m wondering why these two diametrically opposed 308s were chosen to oppose one another. While I am not in one of the affected states, I am from Vermont, and we do not require a permit for CC, and no state recognizes our not needing a permit! Whatever happened to the personal pride everyone took in their ownership of not only a working tool, but also a masterpiece of design and artwork?  I have read recent Gun Tests articles on various AR rifles, so I recently built an AR with a folding stock. I was attracted to this option because I drive a sports car, and even with a collapsible stock and 16-inch barrel, an AR will not fit in the trunk. The folding stock adapter I chose was one made by Law Tactical (LawTactical.com). It was easy to install, works fine to fold the stock, and adds just a little bit of fiddling when I have to separate the upper and lower. But it is very expensive and adds no additional operating functionality to the firearm, since it should never be fired with the stock folded. Anyway, I have not seen many options for folding stocks on an AR platform, and thought that a review of adapters for them might be in order.   More...

Century Versus Diamondback: Affordable 9mms Butt Heads

Subscribers Only — The high-capacity 9mm handgun continues to be a popular personal-defense choice, for good reason. Many of the finest handguns in the world are chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge and nothing else. In a handgun of 30 ounces or so, loaded recoil is light to manageable. Practical accuracy may be outstanding. A magazine capacity of 15 rounds or more is reassuring and gives a good reserve of ammunition. With these considerations in mind, we tested two modern economy-grade 9mm handguns whose performance was acceptable, especially considering the price, though our shooters found we liked one pistol better.  These two handguns are large for concealed carry, but they are light enough and may be concealed with enough effort and an intelligent holster choice. Certainly, they can be employed in the home, where overall size is less of an issue. Those firing and using compact handguns may not realize how easy bigger handguns are to use well compared to a pocket model. One such larger handgun that is affordable to boot is the Century Arms TP9SA, which is listed in the company’s catalog as SKU HG3277-N. A similar desert tan model is HG3277D-N. We found one selling for $346 at  Budsgunshop.com  and another one on sale at Cabela’s for just under $300. This handgun is manufactured by Samsun Yurt Savunma, a Turkish gun maker, and imported by Century Arms of Delray Beach, Florida. The TP9SA and many of its accessories are marked “Canik,” for the Canik 55 division of the manufacturer. So, to be plain about it, the Century Arms TP9SA is a Canik 55 9mm pistol, similar in outline to the Smith & Wesson SW99 and Walther P99. There are enough differences between the Canik and the Walther pistol to say the former is not a clone of the latter, but the Century import is obviously similar to a comparable Walther, being a service-size 9mm with a polymer frame and mid-length slide and a 4.25-inch barrel. Our second test gun was the Diamondback Firearms DB FS Nine DB9FS 9mm Luger, which lists for $483, but which we found at Budsgunshop.com selling for $265. Founded in 2009, Diamondback Firearms is based in Cocoa, Florida.  The Diamondback DB9FS is a striker-fired polymer-frame pistol that in general outline resembles the Glock 17. Our shooters noted that the pistol feels different than a Glock, and the overall configuration is markedly different than the Glock. Here’s more about these two affordable 9mm pistols.   More...

9mm Luger Snubnose Revolvers: Ruger LCR versus Taurus 905

Subscribers Only — The 9mm is the most popular handgun cartridge in the world, in use with most military forces and LE agencies; in fact the FBI announced in 2014 that it is switching back to the 9mm after having used the 40 S&W since 1997. When we think snubnose revolvers, we typically think 38 Special, but since the mid-20th century, revolver manufacturers have been building short-barreled wheelguns chambered for 9mm semi-automatic pistol ammunition. In the past we tested two such 9mm Luger chamberings, an S&W Model 940 (C+) and Charter Arms Pitbull (A-). We noted then that 9mm compact semi-automatic pistols have an edge over 38 Special revolvers due to the semi-automatic’s higher round capacity, but in the revolver, the playing field between 38 Special and 9mm Luger is leveled, as far as round counts go.  Now, ballistic technology has made the once underperforming 9mm better. We have done a number of tests comparing 9mm and 38 Special ammunition from short-barrel handguns, and, generally speaking, the 38 Special runs bullets with weights from 110 to 158 grains at muzzle velocities of 900 fps to 1000 fps. The typical 9mm uses bullet weights from 115 to 147 grains at speeds of 910 fps to 1100 fps. So the 9mm has a slight performance advantage over the 38 Special. A bigger nod goes to the availability and affordability of 9mm ammo, which can be found nearly anywhere in the world, and which domestically costs about 17 cents a round compared to 25 cents a round for 38 Special.  There are other reasons to look at 9mms in wheelguns. We feel the ability to swap ammo between our semi-auto and our revolver makes sense, with only one type of cartridge to purchase. New shooters usually find revolvers to be less complicated to operate, so if your home-defense backup isn’t familiar with semi-autos, you can still partner a high-cap 9mm semi-auto with a low-cap 9mm wheelgun pretty easily.  Though some testers groaned when they saw the 9mm revolvers in this test, saying they were as unnatural as three-wheel motorcycles, they put their prejudices aside and found these revolvers performed well at the range. The Ruger LCR Model 5456 9mm Luger debuted in 2014, and the Taurus 905 has been around since 2003. Unlike the Charter Arms Pitbull (which does not use moon clips, but instead employs a retention spring built into the ejector that fits under the 9mm cartridge’s rim), the LCR 9mm and the 905, like the S&W Model 940, use five-shot moon clips. Moon clips have been the standard convention when chambering semi-automatic cartridges in revolvers since 1917, when 45 ACP was chambered in S&W and Colt’s large-frame revolvers. Moon clips mean the revolver is fast to reload — nearly as fast as a magazine change in semi-auto. But, as we have found in the past, carrying a spare moon clip in one’s pocket can lead to bent clips, making them inoperable. Not that this a show stopper, just an attribute of moon clips in general. So don’t put a moon clip in your rear pants pocket and sit down. In fact we loaded both the Ruger and Taurus moon clips provided with the test guns and dropped them onto a concrete floor from waist height to see if the cartridges would fall out or the clips bend. A cartridge from each clip popped out after the drop, but there was no sign of bending. Another cost we looked at was how much moon clips go for.  Brownells.com  lists three moon clips for $12.99 (#780-001-371WB), less than one semi-auto magazine. The moon clips from Taurus and Ruger were not compatible with the other manufacturer’s revolver. We should note that single cartridges can be loaded into the chambers of the Ruger and Taurus wheelguns and fired safely, since the 9mm case headspaces on a step in the chambers. In that case however, extraction without a moonclip requires each case be pushed out with a pencil, pen, or similar skinny object.    More...

In Search of the Best 12 Gauge

For those who are not in restricted states, magazine-fed shotguns can quickly switch from sporting uses to home defense and competition with some minor adjustments. In the November 2012 issue, we test-fired four high-capacity products with an eye mainly toward effective home defense, which is often done with shotguns that hold 5, 6, 7, and 8 rounds, usually in tubular magazines under the barrel. But there are bigger-capacity shotguns out there, so we examined the Akdal Arms MKA 1919 3-Inch 12 Gauge, a Red Jacket Saiga RTS-SBS-12 Short-Barrel 12 Gauge, the Kel-Tec KSG 3-Inch 12 Gauge, and the Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge.  The KSG (Kel-Tec Shot Gun) was a bullpup pump shotgun whose short overall length tallowed for greater maneuverability, making it suitable for close-quarters combat. The KSG weighed a shade over 7 pounds and measured only 26.1 inches in length. The internal dual tube magazines held an impressive 14 rounds of 12 gauge 2 3⁄4-inch shells (seven per tube) or 12 3-inch rounds (six per tube). Because different types of loads can be placed on either side, the shooter can switch between tubes depending on his needs. There are many good fighting shotguns on the market, but no others are quite as handy and possess as much firepower as the Kel-Tec KSG, we found. Another recommended shotgun from that test, and our favorite, was an older Saiga 12, graded as in Very Good used shape. It was manufactured at the Izhmash Factory in Russia and imported through EAA Corp. What we believe is an identical gun, the IZ-107 12 Gauge, is available from K-Var Corp. of Las Vegas ( K-Var.com ). Designed as an all-purpose shotgun, the Saiga comes with a chrome-lined barrel, which allows the use of many different types of ammunition, including steel. This shotgun was manufactured utilizing the Kalashnikov gas system, which reduced felt recoil dramatically over the KSG pumpgun. The Saiga shotgun was capable of cycling both 2 3⁄4- and 3-inch magnum shells. As with all Saiga 12s, this shotgun is not designed to use low-pressure shells. Saiga 12 gauges now come standard with a bolt hold-open feature, which allows for quicker magazine changes. Since our last test, market availability for the Saiga 12 has tightened, making these shotguns difficult to come by and rather expensive — Gunbroker.com prices average around $1300 for an Izhmash-branded Saiga. We wanted to see how a Saiga-style shotgun, but made in China at less than half the price, would hold up to the real thing, so we acquired Catamount Fury and Fury II shotguns and put them through similar tests as the Izhmash Saiga. Here’s what we found.   More...

AK-47 Accuracy

Recently, a Gun Tests reader requested that we gauge the accuracy of 7.62x39mm loads in the AK-47 rifle, with an eye toward evaluating the AK for ad hoc hunting, if the opportunity arose. Many of these rifles are in use in America, so determining the ability of the rifle to humanely harvest a deer or hog seemed like a good idea to check out. The 7.62x39mm cartridge is often compared to the 30-30 Winchester in power, and if the AK-47 and its loads were accurate enough, then the pair could be counted upon to take thin-skinned game at moderate distance.  The question is, how accurate is commonly available ammunition in an average AK-47 at 100 yards? To find out, we obtained an AK-47 from the used rack at a pawn shop. The rifle featured an NDS receiver and seemed well put together. While we were there, we also grabbed an SKS chambered for the same round, in this case a Chinese rifle in excellent condition with matching serial numbers on its parts.  Benchresting the AK and its long magazine produced some difficulties. We found it is not an easy rifle from which to coax accuracy. The SKS was easier to use well off the bench, especially when using the onboard iron sights. After initial sighting work at 50 yards to get on the paper, we fired a succession of three-shot groups at 100 yards, sighting both at the base of an 8-inch bull. At the end, we found the SKS to be slightly more accurate with the ammo we selected. In broad terms, then, we think most shooters can get commonly available AK-47s to shoot around 4-inch groups at 100 yards, good enough to take game at that distance. We had slightly better results with the SKS, and would think of it as a 3.5-inch gun at that range. Also, we found a few rounds these guns preferred, so if you’re attempting to knock a hog in the head, you might consider starting with our winners in your own AK or SKS. Following are our ratings for eight ammunition choices suitable for the AK-47 or SKS variants, and you can also scan the results in the accompanying table.   More...

New Handguns at SHOT Las Vegas 2016

At the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Gun Tests staffers ran across many dozens of new products that we’re working to include in future tests. Following are some of the handguns, handgun ammunition, and handgun accessories we were interested in. Next month we’ll look at new long guns and new options for them.  Given the growth of the AR-15 pistol market, aftermarket supplier ATI sees an opportunity to help users of the popular Ruger Charger get more enjoyment out of its use. The AR-22 Pistol Stock System features a polymer receiver chassis and a T2 pistol grip as well as a six-sided aluminum free-floating forend that sports an FS8 nose cone. The T2-style pistol grip lowers a shooter’s hand to align the finger with the trigger, and the sure-grip texture helps reduce recoil. In addition, the stock also features a 16-inch aluminum Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver and forend for trouble-free optic and accessory mounting.  The biggest ammunition surprise might be the news that Browning is now offering, via licensing, a full line of ammunition manufactured by Olin-Winchester. The BXP Personal Defense X-Point defensive handgun loads are loaded in black nickel-plated cases, with bullets utilizing the X-Point technology. There is also a line of Target Performance BPT loads for defensive handguns. The usual chamberings are represented in both lines, with one load each in 380 ACP, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, and 45 Auto. Browning is also offering rimfire loads in 22 LR. They have a distinct black-oxide coating on the bullet and will be offered in 100- and 400-round packages.   More...