38 Special Problem in 357 Mags
Reader Carr reports an issue shooting 38s in 357 chambers. And like many others, Reader Russ wants to know more about easy-to-operate 380s. Reader Steve likes the accessory articles.
Re “Cowboy Up with Lever Guns From Cimarron, Uberti, Taylor’s,” November 2018
I enjoyed the article on 38 Special lever-action rifles, but I think you missed a very important warning. The 38 Special and 357 Magnum are not interchangeable, for reasons other than the strength of the action. I have a Marlin lever action in 357 caliber. I decided to sight it in with 38 Special rounds and then change to 357 and adjust the sights. After about 20 or 30 rounds of 38 Special, I switched to 357. When I tried to rack in the second round, it wouldn’t seat. The problem was that the 38 Special rounds carboned up the chamber, and when the 357 round was extracted, only about half of the cartridge came out. I had to have a gunsmith remove the front half of the casing. I only shoot 357 rounds in my rifle and revolver since then. I have never seen this in any article which discusses using 38 Special ammo in a 357 chamber. — Carr
Yes, shooting lead leads to leading, and shooting the shorter case can result in carbon build up. Thank you for the refresher. — Robert Sadowski
Re “380 ACP Shootout: New Models Versus a Time-Tested Veteran,” August 2018
Dear Mr. Woodard: I have subscribed to Gun Tests magazine for several years now, and find each issue to be of extreme importance and full of unbiased reviews. Several guns that I own I purchased based upon your magazine’s reviews. Could you possibly schedule an upcoming test using the new S&W 380 EZ and compare it to the Springfield 911 and a few other quality 380s? I find now, in my seventh decade of life, it is becoming increasingly difficult to rack the slides on many of my semi-automatic pistols due to advanced arthritis in my hands.
Second, I have to live in California, which is a nanny state, unfortunately. But if I didn’t, I would surely move to a more gun-friendly state where its citizens are pro-Second Amendment. California is anti-everything, and we gun owners are doing the best we can to keep and maintain our cherished Second Amendment rights. Keep up the great work testing firearms of all types and calibers. — Russ
Hey Russ: Thanks for the note. We covered both the EZ and the 911 in the August issue, which also included a Value Guide listing our most recent evaluations of 17 other 380 ACP pistols. Also, the EZ is excerpted in this issue as a Gun of the Year. — Todd Woodard
Hi, Todd. Thanks for putting out a terrific magazine. Your August 2018 article on the S&W M&P 2.0 EZ 380 interested me because I bought one this May to use in women-only pistol classes that I teach. Glad yours works. Mine not so much. From the start, mine refused half the time to hold open its slide after the last round was fired. It also occasionally stovepiped the last live round in a mag, caught vertically in the feed lips.
I began testing it by loading three rounds in the mags and shooting them dry, literally hundreds of times, many different ammos, recording all results. After a 700-round break-in (which didn’t solve anything), I sent it back to S&W without my mags. They ask that you not send mags with a returning gun. I received it back a month later with a new barrel and what appeared to be a new slide. A “Passed function test” note was enclosed.
However, after further testing on my part, I found the issue was not fixed; it had the same problems. I returned it again after 400 more rounds of testing because of the same the hold-open and stovepipe problems. Just got it back with a “replaced slide-stop” note. Again not fixed. The magazine springs have always seemed to me to be unnecessarily soft, which I thought could induce such malfunctions. I tried springs from other 380 magazines in mine, but they did not fit properly.
So I made a couple of blocks to plug the S&W mags inside between the spring and baseplate, to add compression to the spring after the last round fires. As a result, the magazine capacity was reduced from 8 to 6, but the change created an immediate cure. My mag springs are way too soft to work, and surely I’m not the only one this has happened to. If your mags worked okay, maybe they’ve put a stronger spring in later mags. Anyway, just a caution to anyone looking at this gun.
Also, I should mention S&W now is aware of this mag-spring defect and has a “consumer advisory” out on it. Customers can call 1-800-331-0852, press “7,” and a rep will send out two new mags. When I made the call, however, they first asked that I send in my defective mags. I said, “No thanks, send me the new mags first.” — Phil
Is the “Vengeance” rifle available with a NY-legal 10-round magazine? Thanks. — Thad
Thad, we contacted Frank Harris, VP sales and marketing for Kahr Firearms Group, for an answer. He said, “Currently, it is not, but if we have enough requests from NY and CA, we can create a NY- and CA-compliant model with a 10-round magazine. Our AOM140, the standard carbine with a 10-round magazine, is currently available for both NY and CA sales.” — tw
SIG Sauer Ask
Hi, Todd. Gun Tests is a valuable resource, one I find very helpful every month, and the same goes for Gun-Tests.com. I want to propose a possible article idea. Much of the activity in today’s handgun arena revolves around compact, subcompact, and micro-compact handguns. And SIG Sauer is a major player. An article that compares and contrasts the following pistols would be interesting, helpful, and timely. They represent striker-fired, hammer-fired, DA/SA, DAO, polymer and steel/aluminum models. In short, the pistols are valid examples of the small pistols in the universe. All of the pistols are chambered in 9mm, made by SIG Sauer: P365, P320, P224, and the P290. What do you think? I won’t get my feelings hurt if you shoot it down. — Dennis
Hey Dennis: We don’t do a lot of single-manufacturer stories, but this angle has some promise. We did look at the P290RS in the November 2012 issue. We reviewed the P320 in the November 2016 issue. We haven’t gotten around to the P365 and P224, so your idea is timely. Thanks for sending it. — tw
Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ or Rock Island Armory Baby Rock 380 ACP
Todd: I am 76 years old and have read your articles on the above firearms. I am in the market for one that is easy to rack, handles recoil well, is accurate, easy to handle, and is easy to take apart and put back together to clean. Taking these attributes into consideration, which one of the two would you recommend? — John
Hey John: The EZ is a smaller gun, but it is very easy to rack. The Baby Rock is slightly larger. I’d advocate handling both and see which one suits your needs better. That’s the only way to be sure. — tw
Different Bullet Weights and Shapes?
I first need to commend you on your objective (as humanly possible) evaluations of firearms and items associated with firearms. Your integrity and honesty are above reproach. Now for the question: This one is probably one of the most obvious answers you will ever have to respond to, as well as naive. For this I apologize. Do you ever mix cartridges of the same caliber when evaluating a firearm; for example, full metal jacket and hollowpoints in the same magazine, or just one type in a magazine? If mixed, will it throw the timing off? — W. in NY
Hey W.: We do mix cartridges of different weights and bullet shapes when we’re doing functional testing. Some guns don’t like different bullet shapes, so we intentionally mix them when we’re firing for familiarity to learn about stoppages. The bullet profiles generally don’t make much difference in how a handgun feels — a 230-grain bullet creates the same recoil impulse regardless of whether it’s a solid-jacket ball or a hollowpoint. The bullet weights and powder charges in the cases do change the recoil impulse, however. That changes the shooter’s timing and response when he or she is riding the gun shot to shot. — tw
Re “Dry-Fire Trainers: Save Money While You Gain Performance,” October 2018
I would like to commend the Gun Tests staff for the laser-dry-fire-trainer review in the October hard-copy issue of Gun Tests. This is exactly the kind of article that I am looking for and the kind that sets Gun Tests apart from the rest of the pack. I already have the self-defense firearms I need, so reviews about them are always interesting, but I don’t plan to purchase any soon. Reviews of related products are of much more help to me personally.
I did not even know these laser-dry-fire products existed and certainly did not realize they are as sophisticated as those reviewed in the article. This is something I can use with the firearms I already have. I do plan to buy a dry-fire laser set up, and I will start with the products you reviewed and research them a little more — but a purchase of one of them is certain. Thank you for reviewing related firearm products and accessories. — Steve
Thanks and you’re welcome. —tw
If you guys do a piece on hearing protection, I’ve got a couple of suggestions. I have experience with both the Walker Razor XV BT in ear and the Walker Excel BT over the ear. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but are nice quality. When the big guns come out, however, I use Howard Leight Impact Pro units, which I believe have the highest noise attenuation of any active set. They are the only headsets I don’t have to double up with ear plugs for those muzzle-brake-equipped large-caliber firearms. Keep up the superior work that you do. — Paul
Paul: We hear you. Thanks for your insights. — tw