February 2018

Gun Rights Wish List Bogs Down

We’re already into the second month of the year, and 2018 is looking like 2017 regarding gun legislation. To see how far gun legislation advanced, I checked the January 2017 “Downrange” column, which had a wish list of efforts for gun owners — and saw that not much is moving, or what is moving continues at a glacial pace.   More...

‘Championing’ a Ruger GP100

I just read your review of the Ruger GP100 Match Champion compared to the Smith 686. I know the review is three years old, but I hope my experience will be useful to other readers. I dithered over purchasing the 686 or the GP100 for months. I dry-fired every one I could find of each. Every single 686 in single action had a nearly perfect trigger pull off the shelf. The GP100s ranged from as good as the 686 to almost as good.   More...

AR-10s in 308 Win. and 6.5CM: $995 E.R. Shaw Is a Best Buy

Many people would agree that the AR platform is the most versatile of all rifle designs. Created for military combat (as many sporting rifles were originally), Eugene Stoner’s design can be long, short, scoped, topped with iron sights, and maintained by novice operators with just a short list of tools. Also, the design allows for a choice of cartridges, for it is the chambering that defines what it can effectively be used for. In this test, we pitted a gas-impingement-operated 308 Winchester AR-10 against a piston-operated 308 and a gas-impingement AR-10 chambered for what is becoming a popular standard cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor. Our 308 Winchester AR-10s were the $3955 BDR10-3G Black/Blue Splash direct-impingement system and SIG Sauer’s $3108 716G2 DMR piston-driven system. A new rifle from the makers of E.R. Shaw Barrels, the E.R. Shaw ERS-10 chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition was a direct-impingement firearm carrying a list price of $995. We chose four different rounds for collecting accuracy data from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Centers in Houston. The 308 rifles were fed SIG Sauer’s 150-grain HT and 168-grain Open-Tip Match (OTM) ammunition, and two rounds from Black Hills Ammunition. They were the 155-grain Sierra Tipped MatchKing (TMK) rounds and the 175-grain boat-tailed hollowpoints (BTHP). Our 6.5 Creedmoor selections for the E.R. Shaw rifle were Federal’s 140-grain soft-point “Non-Typical” White Tail rounds and three varieties from Hornady. They were the 140-grain Extremely Low Drag (ELD) Match, 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and the 147-grain ELD Match rounds. For optics we relied upon our Steiner 4-16x50mm Steiner Predator Xtreme first focal plane scope mounted inside a pair of 30mm Warne rings atop a riser from Yankee Hill Machine. Let’s find out which of our rifle trio was most accurate, reliable, and versatile.   More...

Service-Sized 9mm Handguns Shoot It Out for Carry Honors

Subscribers Only — We recently tested a quartet of 9mm-chambered full-size firearms suitable for daily carry: the Lipsey’s Glock 17RTF2 Vickers FDE based on the Glock 17, a Beretta 92FS with Wilson Combat upgrades, an Arex Rex Zero 1 Standard, and a CZ-USA CZ P-10 C. Each one could be thrown into any mix of handguns and do well. But there are specific differences that will make one pistol or another preferable for an individual, and that is what this shoot out is all about. Full-size 9mm handguns have an impressive reserve of ammunition, they handle recoil well, and offer real power with +P loads. For home defense, a 14- to 18-shot 9mm handgun is effective, perhaps the best all-round home-defense handgun for a trained shooter. In this test, each pistol is an example of a popular carry gun as well, with many shooters concealing a Glock 17 or even a Beretta 92FS for daily carry. Here, all had faultless reliability, which is a prerequisite for a defense firearm in our testing. We also learned the Lipsey’s/Vickers Glock gave excellent results on the combat course, and the Wilson Combat-upgraded Beretta aced the field in accuracy. We trust these pistols, but only one was the best performer overall for our shooters. For certain preferences and duties, each has advantages, which we note in detail below. All handguns tested for personal defense must be proven on the firing range. We tested two examples of upgraded service pistols. A special-run RTF texture Glock 17 from distributor Lipsey’s has a Vickers Tactical package added to it, with components suggested by or supplied by well-known trainer Larry Vickers. Likewise, we tested a Beretta 92FS updated with Wilson Combat parts. The results for both are better range performance, especially when performing rapid magazine changes because each package features a magazine guide and magazine base pads. We matched the Glock and Beretta against the new CZ P-10 C, a polymer-frame striker-fired pistol, and the Arex Rex Zero 1 Standard, which is considered by some to be an improvement over the SIG P226 9mm handgun. We had a mix of two double-action-only polymer-frame striker-fired pistols, a double-action-first-shot pistol with a decocker, and a selective-double-action pistol with decocker. In the end, the Glock’s highly advanced sights provided excellent results on the combat course. Perhaps the RTF frame was another plus. The Beretta 92 provided exceptional accuracy, which we felt was due to the improved trigger action. The CZ is an affordable and reliable handgun, and the Rex Zero is a good example of European craftsmanship. All in, it was hard to isolate a winner among these top-flight handguns with good performance. We think that most shooters will find the Glock 17 to be the best overall handgun for personal defense and home defense. Just the same, the CZ P-10 C is a good buy. Those seeking top-flight accuracy will find the Beretta to be a good fit. The Rex Zero has a quirk we did not like regarding reach to the magazine release, but the Arex is a good performer for some shooters, outperforming the Beretta in combat shooting. As usual, the devil is in the details, so here we go.   More...

Alternate Bolt-Release Levers for the AR-15: We Test Three

Subscribers Only — When it comes to ambidextrous capabilities, the AR platform still lags behind the modern semi-automatic pistol. How would ambidextrous controls make the AR-15/AR-10 more desirable? One easy answer is to accommodate the left-handed shooter. Another reason would be to help keep the weapon in the fight should the operator be left with only one available hand. Ambidextrous thumb safeties are somewhat popular, and so are magazine releases, but to a lesser extent. The focus of this evaluation is to compare three different aftermarket products that offer a secondary method for releasing the bolt of the AR-15 or AR-10 rifle. They are the $30 Magpul BAD Lever, the $29 Troy Ambidextrous Bolt Release Lever, and the $80 BattleBar from Smith Tactics. Neither the Magpul or the Troy Industries units required disassembly beyond separating the upper and lower ends of the rifle. The BattleBar required replacement of the hammer and trigger pins with supplied components. All three units were made from aluminum. Protocol for loading the AR-15 begins with pushing the magazine upward into the magazine well until it clicks then tugging on the magazine to make sure it is seated. Next, the bolt release is pressed to bring the gun into battery. Mounted on the left-hand side of the receiver directly above the magazine well, the release is the upper portion of the combination bolt-lock and release lever that pivots with a seesaw motion on a centralized roll pin. Throughout this entire process, the strong hand remains in place, supporting the rifle and maintaining access to the trigger and thumb safety. By adding any one of our test products, the operator can save some time by moving the hand directly to the support position after seating the magazine. This may seem like a minor consideration, but experienced AR operators point to instances wherein the support hand is needed to push open a door or the shooter needs to fire immediately after completing a reload. Also, participants in High Power Service Rifle competition can use this feature when top-loading single rounds is mandatory. Placing a round into the chamber and closing the bolt with the strong hand is a lot easier than untangling a gloved support hand from a sling. For tests, all three components were mounted on multiple rifles to check fit and function. Let’s see how efficiently the three bolt-release levers operated.   More...

Revolver Holsters: Balancing Comfort, Speed, and Retention

Subscribers Only — Revolvers remain an important part of the personal defense scene. In some shops, the majority of handguns sold for personal defense are revolvers, usually small-frame 38s and compact 357 Magnum revolvers. The 357 Magnum remains a popular handgun among a large and loyal group, such as for outdoors carry and animal defense. Still other shooters deploy big-bore revolvers in 44 Special and 45 Colt chamberings. In all these cases, the shooter has to have a good holster to carry these handguns. The design of a holster is important, and there are features specific to the revolver. A high ride keeps the revolver cylinder off the belt line. The revolver handle must be tilted into the draw, so the cant of the holster is important. The holster must retain a balance of speed and retention. The revolver cylinder presents a problem with concealment. The cylinder bulge inhibits the design of an inside-the-waistband holster, as an example. If the cylinder bulge rides below the belt line too much, the draw is affected. One of our senior raters noted that in the early days of police transition to the self-loader handgun, many of the holsters offered were simply revolver holsters without the cylinder bulge. The difference in balance and center of gravity wasn’t understood or tended to. In this evaluation, we considered that the modern revolver holster should be an individual design. Our focus is on concealed carry, with consideration given how revolvers might be used in the field. We tested a number of holsters from major makers and found them satisfactory to excellent in fit and function. The fit of the holster should be sufficient that the revolver may be carried during normal day-to-day movement, even a brisk walk or run, with no danger of losing the handgun from the holster. The holster should allow a good sharp draw. After the revolver is drawn, the holster must not collapse, and the user should be able to re-holster the handgun without difficulty. Here’s what we found.   More...