August 2018

Features

2015 Guns & Gear 'A' List

Subscribers Only — Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Ray Ordorica, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, Rafael Urista, Ralph Winingham, and Kevin Winkle 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.— Todd Woodard   More...

Uberti’s 1860 Henry Rifle Trumps Henry’s ‘Original’ Lever-Action

Subscribers Only — In our October 2015 issue, we took a hard look at the Henry Repeating Arms’ “Original Rifle” in a test that included a Winchester 1892, both rifles in 44-40 WCF. The Winchester won a clear victory in that head-to-head test of lever actions, but we were intrigued by the Henry nonetheless. The Henry rifle worked well enough but had a nasty job of overbuffing, we thought, that gave the brass action a mirror polish at the expense of destroying the edges of the octagonal flats of the barrel. The overbuffing also left a depression, sometimes called a “hog wallow,” where the barrel met the 5-inch sleeve at the muzzle. Partly because of that problem and partly because of the high price, $2300, we gave the rifle a Grade: C rating. That’s not enough recommendation for us to invest in the Henry “Original,” so we began looking for a similarly styled levergun and found the Uberti version of 1860 Henry for a lot less money.  Because the availability of 44-40 ammunition choices is fairly tight (MidwayUSA.com lists 10 choices, with only lead bullets, in weights from 200 to 225 grains), we figured if we found an 1860 we liked, we’d prefer to have a wider range of loads for it, so we acquired one chambered in 45 Colt (aka Long Colt), for which MidwayUSA.com lists 56 results, in bullet weights from 145 grains to 360 grains in lead, copper, even shotshells. Looking at these 1860s point by point, we realized we were looking for a rifle that would trump Henry’s Henry — and it would be no easy task for the Uberti to take down the namesake 1860. Here’s what we found.   More...

Best Holsters for Handgun Retention, Part 1

Subscribers Only — Handgun retention is serious business for uniformed police officers who, as a matter of course, practice open carry. Special holsters with retention beyond a tight fit are mandated in most precincts, yet the list of police officers killed with their own guns sadly continues to grow. So what does this mean for civilians who openly carry their firearms? On January 1, 2016 the state of Texas will join the list of states no longer requiring concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons concealed. How many Texas CHL holders will immediately change their habits from stealth carry to out-in-the-open carry remains to be seen. Gun Tests doesn’t get into how people carry and use their legally owned firearms, but we recognize that some legal gun owners will want to open carry, which creates two issues the shooter has to deal with in advance. Mainly, the gun owner must maintain control of a carry firearm while still having fast access to it.  Joe Woolley, president of Firearms Operations and Responsible Training of Texas ( FortTexas.us ), thinks the new law might prompt licensees to carry larger firearms that are ordinarily more difficult to conceal. But more important, he said, “The security level of any open-carry holster I use will need to be higher than for the concealed firearm.” To see how manufacturers provide this extra security, we assembled a collection of 12 currently available holsters that supply more retention than most concealed models — that is, they require the manipulation of a locking device to draw the weapon. We’ll cover this dozen in two parts in back-to-back issues. Our test holsters were Hogue Incorporated’s $50 ARS Stage One Carry, Galco’s M4X and M6X each priced at $45, Blackhawk’s $79 GripBreak, and the $32 Evader from Bianchi. In addition we tested three holsters from DeSantis, the $52 Facilitator, the $40 Quick Safe, and the $68 Prowler. We also tried a trio of holsters from Safariland, the $50 578 ProFit in Long and Standard sizes and Safariland’s $50 6378 ALS. Last, we also tried Blade Tech’s $124 WRS Level 3, which was much closer to being a police duty holster than what a civilian would typically wear. In this installment, we’ll tackle the Blackhawk GripBreak, DeSantis Facilitator, Galco M4X and M6X, and the Hogue ARS C. Most people think a tight fit in a typical holster constitutes Level I retention and the addition of a thumb-break strap makes it a Level II holster. That’s not actually the case, any more than adding a mechanical locking device would change its rating to Level III. Retention ratings and their corresponding tests were originally developed by Bill Rogers, a former FBI agent and pioneer in modern police training. In purchasing the Rogers Holster Company in 1985, Safariland adopted his security rating system with tests intended to simulate a gun grab. Rogers’ Retention Level I test (trademarked) “is described as applying all the force to the grip or handle of the weapon by an individual while the weapon is totally secured in the holster and mounted on a suitable belt being worn by another individual. The direction of force is unlimited, but the duration of the force is limited to 5 seconds. At the end of the 5 seconds, the weapon must still be secure in the holster and the holster must still be attached to the operator.” By mounting each holster on a Blackhawk Instructor Gun Belt ($37 from  OpticsPlanet.com ) we made sure any failure would be traced back to the holster and not to the belt. Our tests likely exceeded Bill Rogers’ protocol by wrestling to the ground for weapon control. We challenged retention using two types of grips, “educated” and “freestyle.” The educated grip describes how an instructor might handle the gun, with the trigger finger held straight alongside the frame with three fingers wrapped below the trigger guard, thumb hugging the opposite side of the pistol. The freestyle grip started with all four fingers beneath the trigger guard and thumb wrapped around the other side. We also tried grabbing the gun with the left hand from a right-hand-side-mounted holster. In the interest of security, we’re not going to tell you everything we learned about drawing from these high-retention holsters — just whether or not they might help protect you from a gun grab.   More...

A Superb Straight-Pull Vintage Rifle

Our test rifle here is a Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911. These rifles were made in a variety of models and lengths, including carbines, over the years as various small improvements came along to correct some of the initial shortcomings of the rifle. Commonly available on the U.S. surplus market for many years, the S-R never sold in vast quantities despite attractive prices, most likely because the ammo was somewhat hard to get and the action didn’t permit transformation into a suitable sporterized form. Although the Schmidt-Rubin was not designed to be a sporter, we suspect a clever stock maker could make up a shorter-barrel version of this (carbines have 24-inch barrels) into an attractive custom rifle, much as Al Linden did long ago for the Krag. We tested our rifle with three types of ammo. This was Swiss Army issue GP11 with 174-grain FMJ bullets, Wolf soft-nose 174-grain bullets, and Hornady’s 165-grain soft-nose load. Here’s what we found.  Eduard Rubin ought to be a household name to gunnies the world over. Why? He invented the full-metal-jacketed bullet back in 1882. Oddly, the bullet was paper patched, much like the old lead bullets were patched for many years prior to that date, but his was apparently the first metal-jacketed bullet to be paper patched. This technique is still occasionally useful today to bump up a bullet’s diameter to make it fit an odd bore size. Along his way Mr. Rubin came up with several cartridge designs, his most famous being the 7.5x55 Swiss, which essentially has defended Switzerland since 1889. The cartridge in nearly identical form is still used today in the Swiss M51 machine gun, and by home reserve units. Today’s version of the cartridge, known as the GP11, brought out in 1911 like our test rifle, uses a boat-tailed bullet of 174 grains. That ammunition played a big part in U.S. military cartridge development. [IMGCAP(1)] During the first World War, the then-current version of the 30-06, with 150-grain flat-base bullet, was found to give poor performance at long range. This was discovered after U.S.-made machine guns finally replaced the foreign-made ones the U.S. had been using. At the time, long-range cover or blanketing fire from machine guns was key to military operations, though that is not the case today. The original 30-06 ammo was supposed to have a maximum range of close to three miles. It was found to have a true range of less than two miles. After the war the U.S. was determined to fix that, and began serious testing. In the process the Swiss GP11 ammunition, with the same-diameter bullets, was evaluated and found to be vastly superior to the 30-06. In light of the great performance of the Swiss ammo at long range, the U.S. testing team loaded Swiss bullets into our 30-06 brass and found it to be far better than even the U.S.’s specially loaded 180-grain match ammo. It was thus determined the 30-06 needed a boat-tail bullet. But what angle should the boat-tail be?   More...

Rifle Stats: Schmidt-Rubin M1911 7.5X55mm Swiss, $350

Subscribers Only — Once again we have a really snappy example of the species for our test. The bore, all 30.7 inches of it, looked like it was new. The muzzle was fitted with a clever snap-over cap, made of brass and spring steel, to keep crud out. The light-colored stock, most likely some form of birch, was decent looking with what seemed to be its original finish, though it had plenty of small dings and nicks. The metalwork and bluing were also in very good condition, retaining about 90 percent finish. The detachable magazine held six rounds and was extremely easy to load. We thought the metal finish was pretty good, not a shiny finish nor entirely dull, most certainly not crude, generally well done, and essentially equal to the finish on many modern rifles.  Rudolf Schmidt designed this action, and the great Swiss craftsmen brought it into a viable form that lasted a long time. To operate the rifle, the soldier did not have to learn how to twist a conventional bolt. All he had to do was grab the twin knobs on the right side of the action, heave them straight back, and shove them straight forward. This was undoubtedly faster for the average man to operate than all but the most skilled conventional-bolt operators. We kept trying to twist the lever downward after a new round went home, but we quickly adapted. Despite the great length of the rifle we did not find it to be clumsy, though it took some getting used to its 51.5 inches of length. We thought the sights were on the small size for fastest use, but serviceable. The rear was graduated out to 2000 yards and had a small U-notch, and the front was a flat-top post in a dovetail. The stock went almost all the way to the muzzle, and covered the barrel all the way but for the last 2.5 inches. That long, slim stock was just over 48 inches long. It was of hard wood, and had a pistol-grip insert added. The upper hand guard was just over 21 inches long. There was a bayonet lug on the forward barrel band and a stacking hook under the muzzle affixed to that same band. The forward barrel band was inletted into the wood. It was fitted with a stout screw to retain it, and opposite the screw was a hinge to permit removal of the band. All the visible numbers were matching including on the magazine. Even the curved and coned steel butt plate held the last three digits of the serial number.   More...

Range Data

Subscribers Only — Empirical testing, under the direction of Col. Townsend Whelen, of a variety of bullets having boat-tail angles from 2 to 12 degrees determined that 9 degrees was the best. The cartridge redesign was finalized in 1925 (under Julian Hatcher) and became known as 30-06 M1 Ball ammunition. It shot a 174-grain, 9-degree boattail bullet at 2700 fps, and had a maximum range of about 3.3 miles, a big jump forward from the 30-06’s performance over the trenches in WWI. So it’s in large part thanks to the Swiss and to Mr. Rubin for the highest mil-spec development of the 30-06, the M1, which lived from 1925 to about 1940. Incidentally, much of the early testing of U.S. mil-spec ammo was done at the annual matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, and on Daytona Beach in Florida.   More...

Derringer Shoot-out: DoubleTap, Cobra, American Derringer Co.

Subscribers Only — Meet the derringer, an anomalous little pocket pistol of which there are many types. Gun Tests tested 3 of these handguns to see if they are worth the purchase. Turns out, they might be better for show than for showdown. The original derringer was a product of one Henry Deringer, a 19th-century maker of small muzzleloading pocket pistols. His original Philadelphia Deringer percussion-lock pistols were usually 41 caliber and varied in length from 1.5 to 6 inches. The most notable use of a Deringer was by John Wilkes Booth, who shot President Abraham Lincoln. Once cartridge guns came into being, Deringer’s name was misspelled often enough to become the generic description of a small pocket pistol of limited capacity, often with a sliding or pivoting breech block. They commonly carried two shots, although some were designed for up to four shots. They were sometimes called “muff pistols” because they were carried in a muff or hand warmer used in the winter. Also, the derringer became a backup favorite of Western marshals and outlaws alike.   Among the most successful of these handguns was the Remington Derringer. In fact, the Remington’s profile is associated more with the derringer than Deringer’s original single-shot black-powder pistol. The Remington doubled the payload with twin barrels in the over-and-under fashion. The Remington barrels pivot upward to load and unload, and a pivoting cam on the firing pin fired first one barrel then the other. The Remington Derringer was made of iron, never steel, and was manufactured from 1866 to 1935. That is a long run for a relatively primitive handgun. The .41 Short Rimfire it fired was no powerhouse, exiting the Remington barrel at 425 fps. There have been many copies of the Remington, and two of the pistols tested in this report are copies of the Remington, namely the Cobra Enterprises CB9 Big Bore Derringer 9mm Luger, $151; and the American Derringer Company Standard Model 38 Special, which we bought used for $212. The third gun in the test was a new take on the derringer concept, the DoubleTap Defense Tactical Pocket Pistol in 9mm Luger, $499 MSRP and a $345 counter price from Cheaper Than Dirt!  The derringers were all easy to carry well, and the balance and flat profile make for a nice pocket or vest pistol. However, after testing both the derringer concept and the individual derringers, we think the money spent on these handguns would be better used elsewhere. But we graded on a “derringer” scale relative to each other, even though none of our test shooters would buy one. Here’s what we found.   More...

Handgun Stats: American Derringer Co. Standard Model 38 Special, $212 (used)

Subscribers Only — The American Derringer Company handgun is a very good upgrade of the original Remington design. The construction is robust, and the pistol is well polished. The grips fit well. The plunger to release the barrel lock is an excellent addition to the derringer design, and the hammer block really sold us on the pistol. While we question the viability of the derringer for personal defense, they are still popular handguns. If you must purchase a derringer, this is the one to have.   More...

Range Data

Subscribers Only — To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups off a solid bench rest. Distance was 5 yards. We recorded velocities with a Shooting Chrony Master Chronograph. The first sky screen was set 10 feet from the muzzle.   More...

Pistol-Caliber ARs: We Pit the Stag Arms 9T, Tresna Defense

Subscribers Only — Carbines chambered in 9mm with AR-15 controls have been around since the 1980s, when Colt developed the Colt SMG, a select-fire carbine. Since military and LE agencies were familiar with the AR platform, it made sense to create a rifle that offered less penetration, less perceived recoil, less muzzle blast, and better short-range control. Today’s advances in ammunition technology has nearly made the overpenetration problem moot. Load an AR chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO with the right bullets and you can control overpenetration, and, of course, the same can also be said with newer 9mm ammo. However, if you’re trying to decide on whether to add a 5.56 carbine or a 9mm carbine to your home-defense plans, the muzzle blast from the 5.56x45mm NATO causes some shooters to flinch. The 9mm produces nowhere near the muzzle blast. You pay a penalty for that ballistically, because there is a chasm between the 9mm pistol round and the 5.56 rifle round, which is why the Colt SMG was and is primarily used as an entry weapon to provide a high volume of firepower that can be effectively controlled. If you can’t decide, there are plenty of kits that allow a user to adapt a 5.56 AR lower and put on a 9mm upper receiver and a drop-in magazine block to make the 5.56 magwell compatible with 9mm magazines. What a 9mm AR really offers is a long gun and handgun that share the same ammo. That concept has been around since the days of the Old West because it made sense then and it makes sense today. Another factor to consider is ammunition cost; 9mm ammo, in some cases, is nearly half the cost of 5.56 ammo, and a fairly good assortment of 9mm can usually and easily be found in big-box stores as well as your local mom-and-pop gun store. These rifles also offer nearly the same amount of customization as a standard AR-15 carbine — pistol grips, handguards, BUIS, optics, charging handles, safety selectors, triggers, muzzle devices — allowing nearly an unlimited amount of personalization. We recently tested two 9mm ARs that look like and have the same controls as an AR-15, but their operating systems were quite different. The Stag Arms 9T and the Tresna Defense JAG9G BU use simple blowback mechanisms, not a gas-impingement system or a gas piston system like on an AR-15/M16 rifle or carbine. In a blowback action, there is no gas block, gas tube, or a piston, and the bolt-carrier group is noticeably different. The AR’s bolt-carrier key is not needed, and the bolt carrier is heavier on a 9mm AR compared to a traditional AR-15 bolt carrier. Because the blowback system works off the resistance of the bolt and recoil/buffer spring, a heavier bolt carrier is required. You can feel the effect when the rifle cycles. The bolt and recoil spring move rearward from the force of a shot fired to eject the empty case and cock the hammer. They then move forward via the recoil spring in the buffer tube, with the bolt pushing a cartridge out of the magazine and ramming it into the chamber. Since 2003, Stag Arms, located in Connecticut, has been manufacturing Mil-Spec AR-15 rifles in a variety of furniture and caliber options; in addition to 9mm, the company offers 5.56mm, 300 BLK, 6.8 SPC, and 22 LR. Stag also makes left-hand variants with the ejection port located on the left side of the rifle. Stag Arms manufactures 80 percent of its parts in house, with only the plastic pieces and some of the small springs manufactured by other vendors. Tresna Defense introduced its civilian rifles in 2014. Located in Georgia, Tresna (which means tool in Basque) makes models compatible with 9mm or 40 S&W magazines from either Glock or S&W M&P pistols. So, depending on your handgun brand and caliber preference, you can have a Tresna rifle that uses the same magazine. Both of these ARs are dedicated 9mm platforms, meaning they are built specifically to fire 9mm ammo with a dedicated 9mm upper and lower. There are other similarities. Both featured a 16-inch barrel with an A2-style flash hider, A2-style pistol grip, single-stage trigger, and each came in a hard case with one magazine. From there, the rifles’ features diverge. The biggest difference between these two rifles is the Stag Arms uses a Colt-style stick magazine, while the Tresna Defense uses Glock Gen4 9mm magazines. We found that the ability to use the same magazines in our handguns and rifles offered a lot of flexibility. Another difference is the Stag Arms 9T is ready to be used out of the box, due to the flip-up sights being included. The Tresna Defense JAG9G BU does not come with sights, so that can become another way for consumers to separate these two highly-ranked products.   More...

Range Data

Subscribers Only — Tresna Defense JAG9G BU Stag Arms Model 9T     Atlanta Arms 9mm Luger 147-gr. FMJ Average Velocity Muzzle Energy Smallest Group Average Group   1014 fps 336 ft.-lbs. 0.8 inches 1.0 inches 1024 fps 342 ft.-lbs. 0.7 inches 1.1 inches     Winchester 9mm Luger 147-gr. JHP White Box Average Velocity Muzzle Energy Smallest Group Average Group   1019 fps 339 ft.-lbs. 0.9 inches 1.2 inches 1339 fps 458 ft.-lbs. 0.4 inches 0.7 inches     Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger 115-gr. FMJ Average Velocity Muzzle Energy …   More...

Mission First Tactical Introduces TEKKO Free Float KeyMod Rail System

Subscribers Only — Mission First Tactical, a USA-made rifle/carbine accessory maker, has released the $200 TEKKO Metal AR Free Float 13.5-inch KeyMod Rail System. This all-metal free-float rail system (TMARFF13KRS) allows secure mounting for KeyMod accessories such as MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny Rails, tactical accessories like vertical grips, bipods, lights, lasers and other rail mounted kits. The free-floating nature of the rail allows for less torque on the barrel, making it easier to shoot tighter groups. The rail is made out of Type 3 hard-coat-anodized aluminum.   More...