October 2017

Over-the-Counter Exotic Shotguns from Mossberg and Century Arms

Pistol-arm braces for AR and AK pistols have been one of the more controversial issues in the shooting industry and public for the past few years. The ATF flipped-flopped its stance on what an arm brace is and what is does when it is attached to a pistol, confusing not only manufacturers but shooters as well. Is a brace legal to attach to a pistol? Can they legally be placed against the shoulder to shoot the pistol or does that make the weapon an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle)? Also confusing was the recent introduction of short-barrel shotguns that look like a Class 3/NFA firearm. We decided to take a closer look at the ATF’s definitions of these exotic firearms and chose the Century Arms RAS47 AK Pistol and Mossberg Shockwave shotgun to see what the current status of these hybrids is. We also know that exotic does not necessarily mean practical, so we tested these guns for home-defense use. We naturally acquired an arm brace for the RAS47 and decided to throw in a 75-round drum magazine. Why? Because we can and it is legal in the state we tested the guns. With the Shockwave, we wanted to better understand why it does not need a special stamp to purchase it. Doesn’t a shotgun need an 18-inch barrel to be legal? Please note that we are looking at these firearms from the federal/national level. We cannot provide legal advice nor do we profess to have the last word on the legal status of these firearms. Our intent is to understand current ATF statues so we can follow the law to the letter. Where you live—the state, county or city—may have specific laws pertaining to these firearms. It would be wise to check with your state police on the status of the Shockwave and an AR/AK pistol in your local area. Where we tested the Shockwave and the RAS47 pistol in North Carolina, both were transferred over the counter without any additional paper work. As responsible shooters, we need to know our local laws and abide by them. As an example of how state and local laws can affect ownership of the Mossberg 590 Shockwave even though it was being sold elsewhere in the country, it took passage of House Bill 1819 in the 2017 Texas legislative session to make ownership of the shotgun legal on September 1, 2017. From a company release: “Thanks to efforts by members of the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate, House Bill (HB) 1819 passed in May 2017, the Mossberg 590 Shockwave will be legal in the state of Texas, beginning September 1, 2017. The legislation was advanced through the combined efforts of Senators Charles Perry and Craig Estes, Representatives Poncho Nevarez and Drew Springer, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) and clarified Texas state laws concerning the purchase of suppressors and certain firearms, including the 590 Shockwave pump-action. The change in the law hits close to home for Mossberg as the company proudly manufactures the 590 Shockwave at their facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, which is also the home district for Representative Nevarez. “All of us at Mossberg recognize that this bill would not have passed without the efforts of many,” said Joe Bartozzi, Mossberg executive vice president and general counsel. “We were proud to add our small role in the effort and are pleased to recognize the tremendous efforts of Senators Perry and Estes and Representatives Nevarez and Springer, the NRA and TRSA.” Mossberg introduced the 590 Shockwave firearm at the 2017 SHOT Show, accompanied by a determination letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), defining the pump-action as a “Non-NFA Firearm.” The 590 Shockwave comes from the factory with a 14-inch barrel, Shockwave Technologies Raptor grip and overall length of 26.5 inches. Because the 590 Shockwave is not capable of being shoulder-mounted and meets the overall length requirement of 26 inches, it is defined as “firearm” under the federal Gun Control Act (GCA). Did we rest the arm brace on our shoulder when testing? How easy was it to shoot a shotgun with a 14-inch barrel loaded with 2.75-inch shells? All hype? Any substance? We’ll start by saying this match up caused a permanent grin on some testers because the guns were fun to shoot even if they might keep someone at ATF up at night.   More...

All-Round 308 Winchester Rifle Shoot-Out: Not Our Faves

Subscribers Only — Looking for a go-anywhere do-anything 308 Winchester-chambered rifle? If so, in this article we test Remington SPS bolt guns in two variants, a Tactical version with a carbine-length barrel at 16.5 inches and the 26-inch barrel SPS Varmint, to get a good look at opposite ends of the length spectrum. Then we added two rifles with more traditional barrel lengths, the 22-inch-barrel Savage Axis and a semi-auto, the Browning Automatic Rifle Stalker, also with a 22-inch tube. The truth is, these rifles will fire most of their cartridges on a range. This means we’d like them to be comfortable to shoot and deliver satisfying accuracy. Hunting is a consideration, of course, so the rifle should be useful for thin-skinned game to 200 yards or more. The adage of “200-pound game at 200 yards” will apply here. In a dangerous world in which it may be the only self-defense option for some homes, the rifle should also have some utility as an emergency rifle or for area defense. It should handle quickly enough for boar hunting, or varmints and pests, such as coyotes if need be. Area defense simply means that those of us with a larger homestead or a potential campsite do not wish to be helpless if we encounter adversaries. And we’d prefer our choice not cost as much as a Scout. Obviously, then, we want a dependable, easy-to-shoot, easy-to-carry rifle that’s well made. Doesn’t sound that hard because we are not expecting to be able to light a match with each round, but we do want to hit the K zone at 200 yards. Some shooters have claimed that shorter, stiffer barrels like that on the Tactical shoot as well as a longer barrel, like that on the Varmint. We are going to see how velocity varies as well, and to compare the chronograph stats bolt guns develop in terms of velocity to that of a semi-auto. We do not want a 4-foot-long 12-pound rifle, but we wondered if we would have to compromise on weight (that is, go heavier) if we do not get the accuracy we want. We are not holding out for accuracy for 50 continuous shots and do not need a heavy target barrel, but, instead, we’re looking for a rifle capable of delivering good accuracy for a dozen shots or so. Durability and quality are important. The rifle should last for the shooter’s entire life. Also, to save money, we looked for used rifles in Like New or better shape, a standard which all four members of the quartet met. We elected to fire the rifles in four drills. We would fire quickly at human-silhouette targets at 25 yards, for the SHTF situation. It is also a drill that has some merit in learning to snap-shoot predators and coyote. At 50 yards, we used the Innovative Targets (Innovative Targets.net) steel gong. While we fired for precision, we also wished to test speed to an extent in this drill and fired a combination of standing and kneeling. We would expend 20 rounds in each pursuit, at 25 and 50 yards, for 40 rounds. We also fired 10 rounds at 100 yards offhand. Finally, we fired three three-shot groups for accuracy at 100 yards with three different loads, alternating between rifles to let the barrels cool, firing from a solid rest and attempting to obtain the best accuracy possible. During the offhand firing stages, we used Fiocchi 150-grain FMJs for the 25- and 50-yard work. For firing offhand at 100 yards, we used a handload consisting of the Hornady 155-grain SST and Varget powder for 2750 fps. For benchrest accuracy testing, we used three loads. The Hornady 168-grain ELD Match, Federal 165-grain Trophy Bonded, and Gorilla Ammunition’s 175-grain Sierra MatchKing load. Here’s how they performed. All the cartridges tested gave good-enough results as far as baseline expectations, we thought. That is, we had no failures to feed, fire, or eject in the test. And all three produced a level of accuracy we want to see—1 minute of angle, or 1-inch groups at 100 yards—in at least one rifle. For example, the Gorilla Ammunition 175-grain rounds gave the best results in the Remington SPS Varmint at an eye-popping 0.9-inch average group size, then the SPS Tactical at 1.2 inches, the BAR Stalker semi-auto at 1.6 inches, and the Savage at 1.9 inches on average, far behind the leader. We saw the same pattern with the Hornady ELD Match 168-grain Polymer Tip load, with the Varmint again shooting under MOA with a 0.9-inch average group, the Tactical at 1.4 inches, the MK3 BAR at 1.5 inches, and the Axis coming in at 2.3 inches. Likewise, the SPS Varmint lead the parade with the Federal Trophy Bonded 165-grain Polymer Tip load, shooting 1.0-inch average groups. The BAR jumped into second place with this load, shooting slightly better at 1.7 inches than the Tactical’s 1.9-inch average. The Axis was fourth again with an average group size of 2.2 inches.   More...

Micro 9mm Pistols From Kimber, Springfield Armory, and SIG

Subscribers Only — We’ve received emails specifically requesting we review the Kimber Micro 9 and SIG P938. Readers wrote that they “like the idea of guns made out of actual metal that operate in a very similar manner to a M1911.” So we obliged and assembled a pair of 1911 micro-9mm pistols, a Kimber Micro 9 Desert Tan (LG) with laser grip and a SIG Emperor Scorpion P938. We also added to the mix a new polymer-frame 9mm with a DA/SA trigger, the Springfield Armory XD-E. It is not a 1911 platform at all, but the XD-E is a pistol in the same size class as the Kimber and SIG. All are chambered in 9mm Luger, have barrels that measure from 3- to 3.3-inches in length, employ single-stack magazines, and are designed for concealed carry. For speed testing, we performed the Bill Drill at 7 yards firing a magazine as fast as we could while still keeping hits in an 8-inch circle. The intent with this drill is to improve speed without eroding accuracy. It also helps us run the pistol dry, check for slide lock back, perform numerous magazine changes, and repeatedly use the slide release as well as test rapid sight alignment and trigger press. We start at the low ready position. All three pistols performed reliably and consistently. The micro 1911s look similar to a 1911 pistol, but the operating systems are quite different. The Kimber and SIG 1911s are scaled down for conceal carry and have 1911 design elements such as the controls, single-action triggers, and grip angle to create a true back-up-sized 1911. If you are familiar with a 1911, then the transition to one of these micro 1911s will be seamless. The thumb safety, slide release, and magazine release are just like those in the 1911 design. These mini 9mm pistols disassemble with ease, so maintenance is not a chore. We found we liked the mini 1911s in 9mm, and the vote was evenly split between the SIG and Kimber. The XD-E is an entirely new beast that one tester said looks like a DA/SA trigger mechanism placed in an XD-S receiver mated to a MOD.2 slide. Maybe that’s how it got drawn on a cocktail napkin? Who knows. Our team thought the XD-E needed a few tweaks, though it proved to be a capable shooter. Here are the details on all three.   More...

Another Disaster, Another Column

In the November 2005 “Downrange” column, I wrote to you after the arrival of Category 5 Hurricane Rita, discussing what our go-to guns were when we were considering bugging out of Houston. Now we’re dealing with the remnants of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, and the water is Biblically high. Our gun-column angle for this disaster are the legal ramifications of moving guns during emergencies.   More...

Grading the Grades, Part II

Dear Todd: I sincerely hope you don’t change the grading scale to what is effectively pass/fail. Larry brings up an interesting point that would provide one way of comparing future evaluations, although comparing future with present and past scales could be unduly confusing. Personally, I thought the old scale was just fine, though I have adjusted to the new one.   More...