December 2017

2017 Guns & Gear Top Picks

Subscribers Only — Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, and Ralph Winingham have done in Gun Tests , with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.   More...

Size 9mm Striker-Fires From Ruger, S&W, Springfield

Subscribers Only — We live in a polymer-frame, striker-fire, double-stack world. At first glance, most of these types of pistols seem to offer the same features, so what separates these pistols aside from price point and manufacturer? A lot, we found out. We chose three recently introduced 9mm models for testing. The first was the Ruger American Pro Duty, which is Ruger’s new full-size striker-fire pistol with a modular grip. The second was the next evolution of the Springfield Armory XD series, the XD MOD.2 4-Inch Service, which wears SA’s GripZone texture in the grip. We previously tested the compact XD MOD.2 3.3-inch models in both 9mm and 45 ACP and gave them an A rating. The third 9mm striker fire was the new M&P9 M2.0 from Smith & Wesson. We tested S&W’s first generation of M&P9 models and found they rated from A to B+, depending on the model. All three pistols are striker-firers, use a polymer receiver/frame, are chambered in 9mm, have double-stack magazines, and are full-size pistols. For range testing, we used a combination of hollow-point and full-metal-jacket bullets in different bullet weights. Our four test loads consisted of Hornady American Gunner, loaded with a 115-grain XTP bullet, a SIG Sauer 115-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) bullet, Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense’s 50-grain hollow-point bullet, and Aguila’s 124-grain FMJ load. We tested accuracy at 25 yards using a rest, then moved the target to 15 yards for speed shooting and reload manipulations. We were paying close attention to accuracy, ease of use, reliability and consistency. As the brass cooled, here’s what we learned.   More...

Bigger ARs: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, & 308 Winchester

The history of popular firearms in the 21st Century (so far) has been indelibly marked by the rise of civilian-owned AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. What most people don’t know is that the system was originally intended to fire larger-caliber ammunition than 5.56mm or 223 Remington. Designed by Eugene Stoner, the AR-10 (the “AR” is short for “ArmaLite Rifle,” not “assault rifle” as many non-gunners believe) evolved from the 7.62x51mm NATO chambering to smaller calibers for greater reliability and practicality; in particular, soldiers were able to carry more ammunition because the bullets and magazines were smaller and weighed less. The structure of the rifle itself could be made lighter as well without the fear of receivers cracking or pins working loose. In this last regard, such was the state of metallurgy and machining in the 1960s. In today’s manufacturing world, advanced technology provides for more exacting tolerances so that finished products are more consistent. And thanks to the space program and other factors, stainless steel and other metals are more malleable and durable than ever. With the Pentagon still chasing a more effective round than 5.56/223 and the public’s thirst for a bigger bang, a return to larger calibers for the AR platform was inevitable. In this test we compare three different ways to project larger-diameter bullets. Our first test rifle (or carbine, if you will) was the $3999 MR762A1 from Heckler & Koch. As its nomenclature suggests, the MR762 fires 7.62x51mm ammunition or its American incarnation, 308 Winchester. From Core15 rifles in Ocala, Florida, we chose the $2470 Core30 Tac II chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, which fired 0.264-inch-diameter bullets. Our third rifle also shot 0.264-inch bullets, but from a cartridge case short enough to be housed in the smaller AR-15 chassis. Alexander Arms managed to stuff Bill Alexander’s invention, the 6.5 Grendel, into an AR-15 receiver and topped it off with a 24-inch-long barrel. List price of the Alexander Arms Overwatch rifle we tested was $1613. For 6.5 Grendel shots of record, we chose 120-grain American Eagle, 123-grain Hornady A-Max, and Alexander Arms’ own brand of ammunition topped with the 123-grain Lapua Scenar bullet. Our H&K MR762A1 was treated to 110-grain FB-tipped rounds from Noveske, 168-grain OTM rounds, and 150-grain HT rounds from SIG Sauer, plus a diet of Black Hills Gold 155-grain Tipped Match King ammunition. The Core30 rifle was loaded with all Hornady brand ammunition; the 129-grain White Tail Interlock, 140-grain ELD Match, 143-grain Precision Hunter ELD-X, and 147-grain ELD-Match rounds. For optics we used both a 4-16x50mm Steiner Predator Xtreme scope and SIG Sauer’s new Tango6 4-24x50mm scope. The Tango6 is a compact scope for its maximum power of 24x magnification. In our view, this makes it a good choice for semi-automatic rifles that already have a lot of mass top to bottom thanks to the pistol grip, and you don’t want the rings or mount to put weight on the handguard. Both the Steiner and the SIG were first-focal-plane scopes so we could manipulate the size of the reticle. We especially liked using the small dot in the center of the Tango6 reticle. Not really visible until reaching 8x magnification, we were able to enlarge the dot to just the right diameter to indicate dead center but not significantly block the target. Tests were performed at American Shooting Centers in Houston, Texas. Accuracy data was collected from the 100-yard benches. We also made use of the 400-yard range where a variety of steel targets stood to challenge those who dare. We fired at the 18-inch-wide by 30-inch-tall IPSC/USPSA target to test our skills. With three rifles that were different in concept and caliber, we wondered if one would stand above the others in all aspects of performance. Or would each rifle claim supremacy when viewed in a specific role. Let’s find out.   More...

Short Shots: December 2017

Following the success of the 590 Shockwave 12-gauge pump-action firearm, Mossberg has released a 20-gauge version (50657) of the 590 Shockwave, priced at $455 MSRP. Featuring a 14-inch barrel, “birds head” pistol grip and an overall length of 26.4 inches, the 590 Shockwave does not fall under the purview of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and does not require additional paperwork or the payment of a tax stamp for transfers. Federal Law does require the purchaser of this firearm to be 21 years of age.   More...

Grading the News

The New York Post reports that gun ownership in New York City (such as it is) could soon come with a warning - it’s dangerous to the gun-owner’s health. The City Council Public Safety Committee voted 6-1 Monday to require the NYPD to hand out written warnings about the risks of gun ownership to new applicants for firearm permits.   More...

We Wouldn't Buy Ruger or Howa Precision Rifles

When a firearm leaves the factory in a condition that precludes the buyer from using it as designed, that firearm deserves an “F.” I believe it is acceptable to point out whether the problem is severe or an easy fix. However, the evaluation needs to stress that the firearm should have never left the factory in the condition tested. Personally, regardless of the grades given, I would not buy the Ruger or the Howa. Keep up the good work.   More...