April 2016

Scalia Dies; 2nd Amendment is in Peril

It is sad and worrisome, but nonetheless true, that four other justices did not and do not agree with Scalia’s decision in the Heller case. So his passing puts that decision, and individual gun rights, at risk again. Other than in McDonald, the Supreme Court has chosen not to harden the effects of Heller in many additional decisions. United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the Court’s landmark Second Amendment decision Heller v. District of Columbia , died on February 13, 2016, at age 79. Justice Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa in West Texas. According to the San Antonio Express-News , Scalia arrived at the ranch on February 12 and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found his body. We extend our condolences to the family.   More...

More Laments for Custom Guns

Like Grant said in last month’s letters section, I, too, lament the passing of the pride of custom-gun ownership and the common look of the Ubiquitous Black Gun. But, as was said, black guns are cheap and proven reliable. Also, I cannot justify carrying a nice custom pistol on the off chance that I might have to use it. In that case, I would have to surrender it to the police, and then it would be months at a minimum to maybe get it back by jumping through their hoops. Yes, I would rather carry a “Rolex”-quality sidearm, but I often think that if I had to give up my Valtro, I’d don’t know what I’d do. A black gun I can give up with no emotion, and go home and get another one. I always enjoy the magazine, from the editorial remarks to the last page. — Dave   More...

Four 45s Compete for Top Carry Honors

The high-end 1911 handgun continues to be popular, so popular, in fact, that folks are willing to drop well over one thousand dollars to gain what they hope is superior performance. On a high-end pistol, “performance” often means features, such as good sights, forward cocking serrations, a good trigger compression, and attention to detail. The discerning shooter is looking for reliability first, then handling, accuracy, and fit and feel, and four handguns that are reputed to have those qualities at various price tags come from Colt and Springfield Armory. We recently tested two sidearms chambered in 45 ACP from each company that would interest nearly any buyer who was in the market for a self-defense arm. The products were Springfield’s Loaded Model PX9109LP, $790; and for hundreds more, the company’s Tactical Response Pistol, the TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347. To fit in that sizable price gap in the Springfield lineup, we selected Colt’s Combat Elite 08011XSE, $1015, and the Rail Gun XSE 01070RG, $1199. These are actual counter prices from BudsGunShop.com, and our intent was to survey a range of pricing to see if additional dollars translated into additional performance that would matter to our test team of shooters. Among the most popular sidearms in terms of numbers sold are the Colt Combat Elite and the Springfield Loaded Model. A Colt Rail Gun variant is used by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Springfield Bureau Model, similar to the TRP, by the FBI SWAT team. All four are combat guns intended to give the user an advantage in the field, so our thorough test involved a number of trained shooters who were asked to push the pistols to the limit, so we could discover the boundaries of control, combat accuracy, and absolute accuracy. We should also note that the Loaded Model was a rater’s personal carry gun. The rater stated it came out of the box running and has never given a complaint, and it has some 5,000 rounds through it. Cosmetically, it was hard to assess the status of the Loaded by just looking. The pistol is finished in a dull, non-reflective Parkerized finish that doesn’t show wear very much. The other pistols were new out of the box. At this point we will mention the holsters used, as the Rail Gun demanded rail-specific holsters. The other three guns were easily passed around to the raters and standard holsters were used for them. For the Rail Gun, we had to invest in two holsters specific to it, with three raters doing most of the firing. We used Ted Blocker’s X 16 holster in both standard and 1911 rail-gun types. The holster was used both strong side and crossdraw, with excellent results. We also used a ZZZ Custom Kydex strong-side holster, which gave a good fit on the Colt’s long bearing services and is relatively compact for a rail-gun holster. The other holster was a Sweetwater Saddlery strong-side pancake design that hugs the body. At the range, we used three loads. The Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet was our training and practice load. Next, the Hornady American Gunner 185-grain XTP represented a lightweight-bullet defense load, and the Winchester M1911 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint stood in as a heavy defense load. These are affordable 45 ACP choices likely to be used by shooters. We expected that heavy bullets with a long bearing surface would demonstrate good accuracy, but in this case, the lightest bullet weight gave the best accuracy. Also, our shooters noted the heavier push of the 230-grain load. Following are objective data about each handgun, as well as the subjective opinions of our shooters based on head-to-head firing tests.   More...

308 Win. Bolt Guns: Ruger’s Precision Rifle vs. Tikka T3 CTR

Subscribers Only — We admire long-range competitive shooters for doing something we mere shooting mortals find nearly impossible. Their ability to manage distance, wind, and overly complicated reticles on specialized rifles to deliver hits on targets that can hardly be seen with the naked eye is both an art and science. Usually a precision centerfire rifle is custom-made, costing upwards of $3,000 or more with a wait time that can take years, depending on the popularity of the custom-rifle builder. Adding a suitable optic can increase the cost an additional $1,000 to $2,000, plus bipod and other pieces of gear, not to mention quality ammo. All in, a shooter could easily sink $7,000 into a set up before even sending a single piece of lead downrange. Firearm manufacturers, seeing the shooting public’s interest in long-range shooting, are offering rifles advertised as “tactical” and “precision” to attract long-range hunters and weekend paper punchers. We all know that setting a barreled action in a black polymer stock does not make a precision rifle. But lately, some large firearm manufacturers have begun mass-producing accurate rifles that rival some custom-built rifles without the wait or the high cost. These mass-produced precision rifles can handle many long-range chores, and some of them come in compact lengths and have the ability to add muzzle devices, such as suppressors. We wanted to take a look at a few of these rifles to get a sense of their accuracy as well as their consistency, ease of use, ability to be customized, and cost. We began looking at such rifles in the January 2016 issue when we compared three bolt actions from Savage, Ruger, and Howa, all chambered in the very accurate 6.5 Creedmoor round. Our favorite in that test was the Savage Arms Model 12 Long Range Precision 19137, followed by the Ruger Precision Rifle 18005 and the Howa HB HKF92507KH+AB. Here we take a second look at the Ruger Precision rifle, this time in 308 Winchester, against a Tikka T3 CTR. The 308 Win. is a common and popular round, with many factory ammunition options available. We tried the spectrum of 308 Win. ammunition and bullet weights, from inexpensive Sellier & Bellot 150-grain soft-point hunting rounds and Norma USA’s 168-grain Sierra hollowpoint boattail to expensive 175-grain boattail Sierra MatchKing hollowpoints in the Federal Premium Gold Medal match ammo line, as well as Hornady 155-grain TAP FPDs. Both rifles were fired from a sandbag rest as well as from seated and prone positions. We also made sure the temperature, wind speed, and humidity conditions were similar when we shot these rifles, even though these factors have more affect on targets at farther distances than the distance tested. Barrels were allowed to cool after each string. Test firing was conducted at 100 yards, though that distance may seem short compared to what these rifles’ makers say the products can do. This is the most common rifle-range distance many shooters have access to. Members of this particular test team had experience with high-end SIG Sauer SSG 3000 and Sako TRG M10 and TRG 42 rifles, and numerous chassis-style rifles with Remington, Savage, and custom-rifle-maker barreled actions, as well as long-range hunting rifles like the Savage 11/111 models and Remington Model 700 varmint rifles. A Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm LR/T scope (Brownells.com, $900, #526-000-150WB) was moved between rifles Warne Maxima-series steel rings to ensure there was no optic variability. The Mark 4 series has been used by the U.S. Marine Corps on the M14 rifle and with the U.S. Army’s M24 sniper weapon system. One might consider it to be a benchmark in tactical scopes. It is made with a one-piece 30mm tube and a 50mm objective. The M1 TMR (Tactical Milling Reticle) reticle is located in the second focal plane, so it stays one size even as the magnification power is increased. To use the Mil-Dot ranging features, the scope must be set to the highest magnification. We bore-sighted the rifles prior to starting range work. Here’s what our shooters found out at the range.   More...

Benelli's Over/Under Shotgun Can’t Beat Browning

Subscribers Only — When a firearm manufacturer with a reputation of producing high-quality, durable semiautomatics ventures into the under/over market, a lot of shooters will take notice. Such is the case with the new Benelli Model 828U that made a big splash at the January 2015 SHOT Show. The company’s first attempt at offering shooters a stack-barrel, rather than a semiautomatic, prompted our readers to call for our shotgun test team to put together a match-up of the Benelli 828U with a comparable model made by another firearm manufacturer. The recent release of the Browning Citori Model 725 Field seemed to be perfect timing for the head-to-head competition. We pitted the Benelli 828U, retailing for $2,500, against the Browning 725, retailing for $2,470, both at the clay-target range and on the patterning board to see if the new smokepole performed as advertised against a proven product sitting in the rack beside it. While pump-action and semiautomatic shotguns are the overwhelming favorite field guns throughout the shooting community, over/unders are the kings of clay-target shooters. Because of reasons like their better handling ability, two-choke option, and the fact that most clay target shooting is limited to taking only two shots at a time, stackbarrels reign over clays. That truism may be one of the reasons why the release of a first-ever over/under produced by veteran semiautomatic manufacturer Benelli was greeted with such fanfare. Shooters of all ages seem to be fascinated with new toys from names they know — particularly if the latest and greatest will help break a few more clays or help fill up the game bag a little quicker. When the new Benelli Model 828U was introduced, devoted fans of Benelli semiautomatics rushed to get more information. At the same time, and with a lot less fanfare, over/under manufacturer Browning Arms introduced a field version of its popular Citori Model 725, which is the latest in the Citori Model 25 line that dates back to the 1970s. A tweak here and a tweak there have been billed as making the new Model 725 Field a top pick for clays and birds. We should note that the version of the Benelli made available to us was a 26-inch-barrel anodized-aluminum receiver model, while the Browning provided featured 28-inch barrels and a silver nitrite receiver. We made allowances in our testing for the slightly better handling characteristics that are generally attributed to longer barrels and a heavier gun, ensuring these factors did not influence our evaluation. The ammunition we selected for our testing on the target range and at the patterning board was Winchester AA Extra-Light Target 2.75-inch loads packing 1 ounce of No. 71⁄2 shot with an average muzzle velocity of 1,180 fps. Also, we fired 2.75-inch Nobel Low Recoil Target loads with 7⁄8 ounce of No. 8 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps. Here are our findings.   More...

New Long Guns Coming for 2016

Subscribers Only — 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 rifles, rifle ammunition, shotguns, and long-gun accessories we found interesting. If there’s something in particular you want us to test, please drop me a note at GunTestsEditor@icloud.com. Barnes Bullets has added two new loads to the VOR-TX line of premium ammunition. The first is a 130-grain Tipped Triple Shock load for the 308 Winchester. It is rated at 3,170 fps, and it takes the 308 Winchester into a new realm of velocity. SRP: $45.69 for a 20-round box. The second load is an 190-grain LRX bullet for the 300 Winchester Magnum. This bullet’s ogive and cannelure design gives it a high B.C., and the nose cavity engineering ensures it expands reliably at lower velocities. It is rated at 2,860 fps. The Woodsman rifle is new from Bergara. This bolt-action hunting rifle weighs 7.4 pounds in long action and 7.1 pounds in short action. It has a hinged floor plate and comes with a 22- or 24-inch, No. 3 contour barrel. The stock is American walnut, and available chamberings include 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag., 308 Win., 30/06, and 300 Win. Mag. Browning’s biggest shotgun news is that the Sweet Sixteen is back. Like its most revered predecessor, the new A5 Sweet Sixteen is built on a smaller, lighter receiver for reduced weight and a sleek feel. The A5 uses kinetic energy to power the recoil-operated Kinematic Drive System for reliable function with any load and under the full extremes of weather, temperature, moisture, or grime. The A5 16-gauge receiver is constructed of aluminum with a black anodized bi-tone finish. The stock—shim-adjustable for length of pull, cast, and drop—and forearm are gloss finish walnut with a close-radius pistol grip and sharp 18 lines-per-inch checkering. The gun uses Browning’s Invector DS choke system; three chokes will be supplied with 2 -inch chambered barrels in 26- or 28-inch lengths. Weight: 5 pounds 12 ounces.   More...