June 2016

Make America's Guns Great Again

I am rarely worried when I write these editorials, but this time I am. Here, we are all Brothers and Sisters of the Gun, a community of folks who like to read about, shoot, maintain, accessorize, and buy and sell handguns, rifles, shotguns, and parts. There are few, if any, anti-gun readers sitting in their parents’ basements in their pajamas — really, what would be the point of subscribing? So, with that said, I’m simply doing my job here and filling this space with gun-rights-related material because, sadly, politics matter in our ability to enjoy firearms freely.  But any time Donald J. Trump’s name gets mentioned, folks tend to get agitated for him, or about him, or against him. I’m merely making sure that my readers know what the putative Republican presidential nominee has to say about firearms because it might get overlooked otherwise. Straight from his website, here are the major points of Trump’s recently released gun-policy ideas headlined “Defend The Rights of Law-Abiding Gun Owners.”  All in, I’m heartened by Trump’s positions. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on these ideas, and please suggest any others you might want to see him adopt if he wins the general election in November.   More...

Debugging a Cranky Llama

Subscribers Only — Maybe, just maybe, doctors should focus on the fact that more innocent people young and old die at the hands of doctors each year than by children getting into unsecured guns at home. It is simply not their responsibility to counsel our young on this subject as in many cases they don’t have a clue about firearms in general. I applaud you Todd Woodard, please keep up the good work! As an avid shooter and a physician, I am really bothered by the idea that physicians need to ask about the presence of firearms and the safety measures in place in the home. Don’t get me wrong, this is an important issue, but it shouldn’t have to be handled during the annual physical. First, most docs will admit that they are totally naive about firearms and firearms safety. Second, patients have no obligation to be honest. Third, if a patient reveals firearm(s) in the home and that information winds up in the electronic health record, it’s there for good. Who has access to this information and for what purposes will it be used? Last, remember the Freakonomics piece about the biggest threat to your children on a play date? Yes, the swimming pool is 100 times more dangerous than the handgun. The swimming pool is infinitely more dangerous than the properly secured firearm. Should I also ask patients about the absence or presence of a swimming pool and how it is secured? Where does this conversation stop? — Posted by: FirearmDoc   More...

American-Made AK-47 Rifles Compete

At one time AKs were made from de-milled parts kits or shipped into the U.S., then rebuilt with a specific number of U.S. parts to make it 922r compliant, and they still are today. But depending on what company remanufactured the rifle, the rifle might look like an AK-47 semi-automatic, but not work like one. In recent years the cost and availability of quality AKs have gone up and good ones can sometimes be difficult to acquire.  Two U.S. manufacturers, however, have seen the need to fill shooters’ demands for a well-made AK-47 that has all the durability of the iconic rifle and at a reasonable cost. It seems an oxymoron to say “American-made AK,” but Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory (PSA) are building AK-47s out of 100-percent U.S.-made parts. These are not former military or new import weapons made 922r compliant, but truly U.S.-made AK rifles built in Vermont by Century and in South Carolina by PSA. The two companies designed their rifles using an amalgamation of AK designs from a variety of countries including Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, China, and others, taking what was best and incorporating the good ideas into the domestic designs. [IMGCAP(1)] We wanted to look at this new breed of American AK, so we scrounged up a pair of Palmetto State Armory rifles and a Century rifle. The rifles ranged from two that were set up with modern Magpul polymer furniture and a third with a more traditional wood appointments. The AK-47 was designed and prototyped in 1947 and adopted by the Soviet Union in 1949. The design actually borrows from the M1 Garand and German Sturmgewehr StG 44, both of which were issued in WWII. The M1 Garand saw extensive service with G.I.s, while the StG 44 saw limited service when it began to be issued in 1943. The AK design incorporates a long-stroke gas piston and rotary bolt. The idea behind the AK-47 was to design a weapon that was reliable, durable, simple to maintain, relatively accurate, and inexpensive to manufacture. The AK-47 meets all those criteria hands down. Like the StG 44 and M1 Carbine, the AK-47 was a turning point in military weaponry. Shorter, more compact weapons with close to mid-range accuracy was the way wars were being fought. Heavy, large-caliber rifles were not as effective. The AK-47 shoots the 7.62x39mm cartridge, which was also influenced by other countries, namely the cartridge used in the German StG 44, the 7.92x33mm Kurz, and the U.S. M1 carbine in 30 Carbine. In terms of power and trajectory the 7.62x39mm is similar to the venerable 30-30 Winchester. Some AK characteristics that U.S. shooters need to get used to is the bolt does not lock back on the last shot fired; the safety is a large lever located on the right side of receiver; magazines need to be rotated and locked in place; and the magazine may need to be stripped away, as some magazines fall free when the magazine is released and some do not. The open sights on all AKs, even these three, looked slightly bent. The sights were perfectly zeroed, but slightly bent sights are another characteristic U.S. shooters must acclimate to. The three rifles tested all used stamped receivers, which was what the original AK design called for. Milled receivers were used in the interim. Century offers a line of milled-receiver AKs in the C39v2 line. Milled receivers offer less flex than stamped receivers during recoil, which can aid in accuracy. Milled receivers are also heavier, so felt recoil is lessened. Milled receivers are also more expensive compared to stamped receiver models. There can be strong opinions about AK-47s from U.S. shooters, but the fact is the AK is probably the most prolific combat rifle currently fielded. One of our team members who is a Gulf War veteran said if he could have only one gun it would be an AK-47 due to the rifle’s reliability and the better terminal ballistics of 7.62x39mm compared to the 5.56x45mm NATO/223 Remington. Yes, there is more recoil with the Russian cartridge, and it is not as accurate as the 5.56/223, but it has more power, and typical accuracy is 4 minutes of angle (MOA), which is plenty accurate for defensive purposes and hunting at moderate distances. We also had diehard AR fans in our test group who gained a respect for the AK platform. In terms of performance, there was nothing lost in translation with these AKs as testers grew a little more tolerant. We fired the three AKs using open sights, with some members using a Strike Hard (StrikeHardGear.com) AK chest rig. The rig uses an x-harness and holds four magazines with a shock cord retention system. The weight of fully loaded magazines is comfortable with the rig. Here are the details about how each rifle performed during our head-to-head testing.   More...

40 S&W Shoot Out: Beretta, CZ-USA, Ruger, and SIG Sauer

Subscribers Only — Pistols chambered for the 40 S&W round often are the odd man out as the first choice of a citizen contemplating arming himself or herself. Most of us choose the 45 ACP for its terminal performance and the 9mm Luger for capacity. Here, though, this report is in part a continuation of 40-caliber ammunition tests we conducted some years ago. One of our raters has much field experience and favored the 45 ACP and did not give the 40 S&W much attention.  After empirical testing, he came to the conclusion that the 40 is more like the 45 than the 9mm in terminal ballistics, and that’s a good place to be. This rater also tested compact and subcompact 40-caliber pistols and came away believing that forties lighter and smaller than the Glock 23 are too much for most shooters to handle well. So, it was logical that he gravitated toward service-size 40 S&W handguns as the right fit of cartridge and pistol. Full-size handguns are among the most common 40 S&W handguns chosen for home and personal defense. They are relatively mild to fire and reliable. With these facts in mind, we wanted to test four 40-caliber handguns of different configurations to see which one suited our testers the best. Also, we went looking for value, shooting two brand-new guns against veterans which, perhaps, still had some game left in them. The two new guns were a selective-double-action CZ 75B and the double-action-only Ruger SP40, which we found listing around $580 and $569, respectively. The other choices were the double-action first-shot SIG P226R and the double-action first-shot Beretta 96 Vertec Inox, the latter a used model and the former was a factory rebuild offered by SIG Sauer. The Beretta Model 96 Vertec has received praise from us before, being named a Gun of the Year in 2005 after being evaluated in the April 2005 issue. We said then, “Alloy 40 S&W pistols have a well-earned reputation for packing plenty of power in their lightweight frames, but they are also well-known for being vicious kickers for the training shooter. However, the Model 96 Vertec was an exception.” In particular, we liked the vertical grip design that, combined with the thinner grip panels and short-reach trigger, made the pistol much friendlier to shooters with smaller hands. We liked it because its flat-sided feel and more rectangular shape were easier to index, that is, get in proper alignment faster. This time we tested the stainless version. Certified Pre-Owned SIG Sauer pistols like the P226R tested here are often traded in by law-enforcement agencies for new SIGs, and the company puts the pre-owned SIG pistols through a stringent Factory Certification process. Each pistol is stripped, refitted with original factory parts where needed, cleaned, lubricated, function tested and hand-inspected by a factory technician. Each Factory Certified pre-owned SIG comes with a one-year warranty and one standard-capacity magazine. The condition of these pistols will vary depending on the amount of wear, such as that caused by a holster and ring wear, and that condition will be reflected in the retail price. Dings and holster wear and ring scratches are not covered under the one-year factory warranty. We tested a similarly set up CZ 75B  previously (May 2009), but chambered in 9mm. In that test we noted the accuracy of the CZ was about 2.5 inches for all shots fired at 15 yards. We also noted the heavy CZ dampened 9mm recoil, and there were no problems with the CZ whatsoever. It appeared to be very well made and built to last. We looked forward to testing the 40 S&W version. Likewise,  we tested a Ruger SR40  previously, most recently in the October 2011 issue. In that review, we said, the SR40 was remarkably underrated, and it might be a plastic gun for people who don’t like plastic guns. We said, “Its slender profile makes it more controllable than most high-capacity guns, and it’s a good candidate for concealed carry, too. We liked having manual safeties even if they weren’t perfect. Though not match grade, we thought the trigger was predictable with a reasonable sense of take-up and overtravel.” That model was the BSR40, with an all-black color scheme and a 15+1 capacity, which is now listed by the company as Model 3471. This new SR40 is Model 3470, still with the same 15+1 capacity, but this time with a brushed-stainless-steel slide.   More...

$400 Snubnose Revolvers: Rossi, RIA, and Charter Arms

Subscribers Only — We felt all of these were well made, and we believe these revolvers will perform their designed task of self defense. They are also safe to carry fully loaded and concealed, since they are equipped with internal safety systems that require the trigger to be pulled fully to the rear to fire a round. If accidentally dropped, none of them will fire.  Snubnose revolvers like these three offer the user simplicity since there are no manual safeties, magazine-release buttons, slide stops or any other controls on the revolver other that the cycler latch. There is no magazine to lose since the revolver feeds off an attached cylinder. The double-action trigger pull on all three revolvers provided enough resistance — some were easier to press than others — so that in a high-stress situation, we felt they would be quite adequate and be less likely to be accidentally discharged. All were metal-frame revolvers chambered in 38 Special and sported 2-inch barrels. The Rossi and Charter Arms models have 5-round capacities, while the RIA can carry 6 rounds. Because we also wanted to carry these revolvers, we looked at spurless and concealed-hammer models, which were the RIA and Charter Arms, respectively. The Rossi was a traditional SA/DA revolver with an exposed hammer with spur. After running these revolvers, we found we liked a lot about all of them, but, as always, we noted some specific details about them we did not like. Our biggest gripes were the trigger pulls and grips, as we note below. Accuracy with some of these short-barrel protectors was a pleasant surprise.  All three were marked 38 Special, and we read the manuals to see if the guns were safe to use +P ammo. The Rossi manual stated it was compatible with +P ammo, but not to use +P frequently. We decided to test with 38 Special regular-pressure ammunition only, and acquired some Federal Champion 158-grain lead roundnose (LRN) cartridges, some Armscor 158-grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) rounds, and Hornady Custom fodder loaded with 158-grain XTP hollowpoints. Felt recoil with this ammunition varied widely. A $400 revolver will exhibit some characteristics, such as fit and finish, that are not going to be nearly as nice as a revolver costing twice as much because finishing a firearm can be labor intensive and costly. What we concentrated on were the functional aspects: triggers, sights, grips, accuracy, concealability, and ease of use. Here is what we discovered.   More...

Practical Target Guns: Kimber And Springfield Go Head to Head

Subscribers Only — In this installment, we pit two practical target guns against each other. By practical target guns we mean accurate and useful 1911 handguns suitable for personal defense, hunting, and some forms of competition. They are not so specialized that they are not holster guns or unreliable for general use. Some target guns simply are not as robust as these handguns.  Fragile sights that overhang the slide too far, as an example, are counterintuitive in an all-round packing gun. If an adjustable sight loses its zero in competition, you will lose the match. Losing zero in a personal-defense situation carries a stiffer penalty for failure. Getting down to the nitty-gritty, fiber-optic front sights are not always desirable in a hard-use handgun because they tend to be fragile, even if they deliver superior targeting performance. On the other hand, a service pistol or a hunting pistol with adjustable sights is desirable given the wide range of bullet weights and velocity available with the 45 ACP cartridge.  Gun Tests  readers already know that the 1911 Government Model platform is a versatile, go-anywhere do-anything handgun; but the question is, can target per­formance translate to de­fensive reliability and handling?  When the Na­tional Matches got into full force after World War One, improvements were undertaken on the 1911 handgun. Barrels were welded up and carefully fitted, and high-profile sights were fabricated. These improvements led to the Colt National Match pistol’s introduction in 1933. The National Match featured a hand-honed action and two-way adjustable sights. Law officers and outdoorsmen also adopted this relatively expensive handgun. Changes and modification led to the Colt Gold Cup. The sights were fragile in many renditions — not the case in the newest models — so the shooter wishing to own a service-grade handgun with target sights had to take the custom route. Expedients, such as fitting Smith & Wesson revolver sights to the 1911 slide, were not always successful, but the Bo-Mar sight was an excellent addition to any 1911. High-visibility adjustable sights are a good thing to have, provided they are reliable in keeping zero, are not fragile, and aren’t likely to be damaged. Today, we have the best adjustable-sight 1911 pistols yet from the factory, and our two tests guns put them to excellent use. Here’s how they performed.   More...