May 2016

Muzzling Docs

Subscribers Only — There’s a lot not to like in Physicians Angelica Zen and Alice Kuo’s opinion piece in The Washington Post entitled “Do you own a gun? Why your kid’s doctor needs to know.” It was published on April 1, but I’ll avoid playing on the obvious joke there. In the story, the doctors discuss the risks of having guns unsecured in a home with children and the need for doctors to talk about the subject with patients. They spend several thousand words justifying such an intrusion into my business, but, short version, I’ll take my own counsel instead of theirs, since I’m the guy who handles guns all day and they don’t. Did I take precautions when my kids were growing up to ensure they couldn’t get their hands on test guns? Well, sure. That doesn’t make me special. 99.9% of all gun owners do the same, and they’re successful at it, based on the absurdly low gun-accident rates we see these days. Perfect gun hygiene isn’t really that hard: Don’t put guns and ammunition where kids can get at them. I took the additional step that, when I was handling firearms in my home office (measurements, photos, and the like), I didn’t have any ammunition for those firearms on site. Could the 15-year-old version of Darling Daughter have bought 45 ACP at school and brought it home? Yeah. Very unlikely. And the guns were in a safe if I wasn’t home. So, there were better chances of being hit by a smoking meteor of death than her getting in my guns. Now, she’s the skeet coordinator for the National Skeet Shooting Association in San Antonio. Must be a coincidence. Number-One Son has a creative side business he calls Young Guns Media, and he’s acquiring quite the collection of firearms as his budget allows. He’s obviously traumatized by growing up around guns all the danged time.   More...

How About the .410 Derringer?

Subscribers Only — We evaluated the Bond Arms Texas Defender 38 Special/357 Magnum and the Bond Arms Cowboy Defender 45 Colt/.410 in the July 2002 issue . In that issue, we said, “In today’s world, derringers are indeed marginalized firearms for people seeking to protect themselves. Lightweight metals such as titanium and scandium have made revolvers not only pocket guns, but in some cases possibly even shirt-pocket guns (at least in terms of heft). Double-action wheelguns offer more capacity and easier handling than derringers, we found in a recent test. Ditto that with small-frame pistols.” Of the Bond Arms Texas Defender and the Bond Arms Cowboy Defender, we said “Don’t Buy” either of them for self-defense. “There are simply better, more modern guns out there that make more sense than a derringer, in our view.” We added, “If we wanted a Cowboy Action derringer, the Texas Defender, whose trigger guard can be removed, would be ‘Our Pick.’” Another gun in the test, the American Derringer DA 38, earned a Conditional Buy (probably a B ranking today). We said, “If you have to have a derringer for self-defense, this double-action model is easier to use than the single actions. But it wouldn’t be our pick for this job.” In that test, we also looked at an American Derringer Model 1 in 45 Colt/.410. Of it, we said, “Don’t Buy.” We said, “For Cowboy shooting, we like the Bond Arms Texas Defender much better and the Cowboy Defender somewhat better. For derringer self-defense, we like the American Derringer DA 38 better.” A look at the data from that test gives you some ideas about the efficacy of the .410 shotshell versus the other chamberings. A Winchester 38 Special 158-grain roundnose lead Cowboy load in the American Derringer DA 38 created muzzle energy of 178 ft.-lbs. and 169 ft.-lbs. in the Bond Arms Texas Defender. With a Federal Classic .357 Magnum 158-grain Hi-Shok JHP, we got muzzle energy of 464 foot-pounds and 439 foot-pounds, respectively, out of those derringers. A Cor-Bon 357 125-grain JHP produces 519 foot-pounds and 494 foot-pounds muzzle energies, respectively. Shotshells weren’t in the same realm in terms of energy. A Winchester Super X .410 Shotshell 000 Buckshot (three pellets) produced muzzle energies of 229 foot-pounds and 217 foot-pounds in the American Derringer Model 1 and Bond Arms Cowboy Defender, respectively. A Rexio .410 Shotshell 00 Buckshot load (four pellets) generated 130 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in the American Derringer Model 1 and 126 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in the Bond Arms Cowboy Defender.   More...

Semi-Auto 12 Gauges from Benelli, Beretta, and Mossberg

While pump-action shotguns have long been the traditional standard for tactical firearms, for self defense and in law enforcement or combat situations, there are several semiautomatics on the market providing another option to the shooting public. Touching off a round with every pull of the trigger in a semiautomatic, rather than having to shuck a shell into the chamber each time with a pump action, just fits the tastes of a lot of shooters on the range and when there is a need for speed in self-defense situations. In most cases, semiautomatics are slightly faster and easier to hold on target than their pump-action cousins. At the request of a reader interested in semiautomatic tacticals, we were able to obtain a trio of these special firearms to test and review. The models included a Benelli Model M4, listing for $1,999; a Beretta Model 1301, listing for $1,075; and a Mossberg Model 930 SPX with a suggested retail of $836. Other than the pistol grip featured on the Benelli, the three shotguns were remarkably similar in appearance, with identical Ghost Ring rear sights. The difference in handling ability and speed proved to be the major factor separating the best from the rest. In the days of old, being quicker on the draw often meant the difference between winning and losing a gun battle — with certain caveats. Accuracy and reliable functioning of the firearm were also important in situations where a shooter’s life might depend upon a second, third, fourth, or fifth shot being fired quickly and effectively. In today’s world, self-defense scenarios in which multiple shots are required to eliminate a threat are, thankfully, rare for most law-abiding citizens. However, there can be cases where personal needs or personal desires can lead a shooter to look at the possibility of putting a semiautomatic shotgun into play. Such is the case with a Gun Tests reader who contacted us with a request for a review of three semiautomatic tactical shotguns readily available to today’s shooting public. He specifically requested evaluations of a Benelli Model M4 , listing for $1,999; a Beretta Model 1301 , listing for $1,075; and a Mossberg Model 930 SPX with a suggested retail of $836. While the price range of the three semiautomatics is quite a stretch, the appearance, handling ability, and speed of the trio are very similar. Just like in the world of clay target shooting, a key factor with semiautomatics is their ability to reliably function. Some shooters have been heard to refer to semiautomatics as “jam-o-matics” because of failures to cycle loads. On the clay target range, a jam at the wrong time can mean the loss of a target; but in a self-defense situation, a jam can leave a shooter holding a club in a gunfight. Being certain a firearm will function every time is a very important factor in a shooter’s decision to select the right firearm for the right use at the right time. To test the functioning ability, speed of fire, and speed of loading — in addition to checking the accuracy of our three semiautomatics — we selected a trio of loads that could feasibly be put into play as part of potential self-defense or possible close-combat situations. The ammunition included Remington ShurShot Heavy Dove 2.75-inch, 3.25-dram-equivalent loads packing 11⁄8 ounce of No. 6 shot with an average muzzle velocity of 1255 fps; Remington Managed-Recoil No. 00 Buckshot 2.75-inch loads moving eight pellets at an average muzzle velocity of 1200 fps; and Winchester PDX1 Defender 2.75-inch loads pushing a 1-ounce segmented rifled slug at an average muzzle velocity of 1600 fps. We used Birchwood Casey Eze-Score BC-27 Green Targets for all of our testing, with slug tests at targets set 30 yards downrange (about the maximum for a self-defense situation); and set at 20 yards downrange for the buckshot and No. 6 shot loads. Here are our findings.   More...

Full-Size 10mm Pistols from SIG, Glock, and Rock Island Arsenal

Subscribers Only — The 10mm Auto cartridge seems to be going through a renaissance. There is new ammunition being manufactured in velocities the 10mm was intended for, like in the newer SIG Elite Performance ammo, and firearms manufacturers such as Glock and SIG have offered new pistols chambered in the round, the G40 Gen4 MOS and P220-10, respectively. We wanted to take a look at the 10mm in a full-size pistol that we could easily open-carry on the back 40 or concealed under a jacket or coat for in town. Since there are numerous examples of 10mm pistols to test, we also wanted to see if a different platform favored the big-bore caliber. As we tested, we gained renewed respect for the 10mm round. Some testers even thought the round may be a liability in a self-defense situation due overpenetration. If we were in a crowded mall and were able to get solid center-of-mass hits on an attacker, we wondered whether certain loads would overpenetrate and hit a bystander. We do think it is a good round to punch through vehicles with and to stop big bears, and we also feel it is an excellent hunting cartridge if kept to bow-hunting distances on feral swine, whitetails, and small black bears. Around bystanders, we would most likely stick with the 10mm Lite or 10mm FBI loads if we carried the 10mm concealed. The 10mm Auto creates a maximum pressure in the range of 37,500 psi. Compare that to the 45 ACP, which has about 21,000 psi with 230-grain ball ammo. The round was the brainchild of Jeff Cooper and a few like-minded individuals who wanted better terminal ballistics than the venerable 45 ACP could produce. The 10mm Auto exceeds 357 Magnum power and is very close to that of the 41 Magnum. The 10mm Auto is a brute of a round with the type of recoil you would expect from a magnum revolver. The mythical Bren Ten was one of the first semi-automatic pistols chambered in the round. The pistol never really lived up to its expectations due to magazine difficulties and the 10mm Auto thoroughly trouncing the Bren Ten’s mechanism. The 10mm Auto has such a fast-moving bullet that it tends wreak havoc with the pistol’s recoil mechanism. Colt first chambered its 1911 Series 80 in the cartridge in 1987, and it caused receivers to crack where the slide stop fits into the receiver. A relief cut was made by Colt to fix the situation, and the company’s pistols in 10mm ran fine thereafter. When the FBI adopted the round after the Miami-Dade shoot out in 1986 due to agents’ underperforming handgun cartridges, the Bureau soon realized agents could not or had a hard time handling the recoil of the 10mm Auto. The Bureau had adopted the cartridge first, then adopted the S&W Model 1076, which was purpose-built for the round. The FBI’s solution was to load the 10mm light, which made it more tolerable to agents. The 10mm loads became known as 10mm Lite or 10mm FBI. We all know the light 10mm load is nothing but a 40 S&W in a longer case. The 10mm Auto produces about 300 foot-pounds more energy than the 40 S&W when the 10mm Auto is loaded to its standard velocity, and it’s even hotter with niche ammo like that from Buffalo Bore. The 40 S&W changed the way law enforcement looked at cartridges, and the 10mm Auto might have been forgotten if it were not for some diehard fans — one of whom is on the Gun Tests staff. Our shooters chose three very popular platforms to test the 10mm Auto: a 1911 design from Rock Island Arsenal (RIA), the SIG P220 model, which custom gunsmiths have been converting to 10mm for years, and the large Glock frame, which has been chambered in 10mm since 1991. All of these pistols in other calibers, namely 45 ACP, have received high grades in the past from us, so our expectation was these pistols would perform, and they did. All the pistols ran exceptionally well, with no malfunctions or jams. That says a lot because some 10mm Auto pistols are finicky because factory ammo is loaded light, standard, and heavy. We used an assortment of ammo; two light loads from Federal and two standard 10mm Auto loads from SIG in the Elite Performance Ammunition line, that are much faster than the Federal’s load. The Federal loads consisted of American Eagle 180-grain FMJs which clocked slightly over 1000 fps, and Personal Protection 180-grain Hydra-Shok JHPs, which had an average muzzle velocity of slightly under 1000 fps. The SIG ammo averaged well over 1200 fps, except for the V-Crown 180-grain JHP in the Glock. The Glock showed lower velocity across the board with all the ammos compared to the SIG and RIA. Note the Glock barrel is also half an inch shorter than the RIA and SIG barrels.   More...

AK-Pattern 5.56/223 Rifles: We Test Izhmash and Archer

Subscribers Only — Putting new calibers in old designs is a popular trend, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks. In this test we look at the classic AK-47 platform chambered in 5.56x45mm to see if the new trick would fit the old dog. Matching a new rifle to an old favorite in caliber means keeping fewer types of ammo around the house, so we wondered how the AK would perform with the smaller 5.56mm NATO round to match our favorite AR platforms. Many AR and M4 variants are now available in a range of chambers, from 22-caliber plinkers to 300 Blackout and most things in between, including 7.62x39mm, so this switch works both ways if you want it to. We recently found two AK-styled rifles chambered in 5.56 NATO that we could perhaps upgrade into something better, if the base rifle functioned well enough to consider making the initial investment. Depending on their performance, these two AK-47 variants chambered in the NATO 5.56x45 round might be nice additions to a collection and would make a great companion to an AR in the same caliber. We found a Polish Archer, imported by I.O. Interordnance, and an Izhmash Saiga Sport, imported by TGI, Inc., of Knoxville, Tennessee, to compete in a head-to-head contest of fit, form, and function, with considerations toward making modifications. Here’s what we learned.   More...

28-Gauge Showdown: Benelli, Franchi and Weatherby Face Off

Subscribers Only — In our May 2015 evaluation of 28-gauge shotguns, we focused on a pair of gas-operated semi-automatics and found both the Legacy Sports Pointer and the Beretta Excel shotgun had a lot to offer. Our intention was to follow up with two or three more gas-op 28-gauge autoloaders, but we ran into a problem. The actual number of 28-gauge shotguns of any description currently being produced is relatively small. So for anyone looking to buy a 28-gauge shotgun, they will need to widen their search and consider not just the gas-operated semi-automatics, but also recoil-operated semi-autos and over-under shotguns as well. That is just what we did when setting up shotguns for this test. Our representative gas-operated shotgun was the Turkish-made $899 Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe. The Weatherby was actually scheduled for our 2015 evaluation, but a manufacturer’s recall prevented us from acquiring one. The Weatherby in this year’s test was an updated post-recall shotgun. Next, Benelli is famous for its recoil-operated semi-automatic shotguns, but the company has adopted a term they feel is a more-accurate description — inertia driven, which may indeed offer a more suitable description of how it operates. That is the action in the $2039 Benelli Legacy tested here, one of the more refined semi-automatic shotguns available today. To round out the crew, we chose the $1,699 Franchi Instinct L, an over/under shotgun that is still light, despite having two barrels. Both the Benelli and the Franchi were made in Italy, and, not surprisingly, they are both owned by Beretta. Our testing procedure began with patterning each shotgun from a distance of 25 yards with a Modified choke installed. Since the Franchi had two barrels and order of fire was interchangeable upon command, we patterned each barrel as though it were two different shotguns, changing to the Modified choke for each pattern. Three shots were fired on the target to give us a true reading of pattern spread and point of impact. All three guns accepted 2-inch shells, and our three test loads were each rated at 1200 fps carrying ounce shot charges. The Estate Super Sport Competition Target load held No. 7 shot. Our Fiocchi 28GT8 load delivered No. 8s, and the Winchester ammunition was loaded with No. 9s. The second phase of our tests was more fun than patterning, beginning at the self-pull stations at American Shooting Centers in Houston. From there we moved to ASC’s skeet ranges. Here’s what we learned about the shotguns on the range.   More...