September 2018

Taurus Model 66 38 Sp. +P/357 Magnum, $325

When we began testing the 4-inch 357s, we wondered if a longer barrel, such as the 6-inch Taurus 66 357 Magnum, might give us the best of both worlds. It is a K-frame revolver like the Combat Magnum, but a 6-inch barrel might give us good velocity and accuracy. We were disappointed in its performance. Still, we would have got our money’s worth for a modestly priced recreational and home-defense revolver.   More...

Problems with SIG’s P320

We recently published a news item that updates our readers on legal troubles the SIG Sauer P320 is encountering. Most recently, the Loudoun Times-Mirror website is reporting that a Loudoun County (Virginia) deputy has filed a lawsuit against SIG Sauer alleging that her fully-holstered P320 duty weapon discharged and sent a bullet into her leg. According to the newspaper’s account, the incident occurred this year on Feb. 7, “… when 37-year-old Loudoun County Deputy Marcie Vadnais went to the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy to attend a general instructor course.” The Times-Mirror further reported, “In accordance with academy policy, Deputy Vadnais began removing her firearm from her belt when she arrived.” According to the lawsuit, as she fed the belt through the holster’s first tooth, her SIG Sauer P320 somehow “fired one nine millimeter bullet, which hit her in the upper right thigh.”   More...

Reloading Advice from Veterans

I want to thank you for publishing the article on automatic powder dispensers. Although I think you may catch some flack for those who think Gun Tests should just test guns, and maybe ammo, I find that articles such as these are very helpful and informative for those of us who pursue reloading, gunsmithing or other peripheral “hobbies.”   More...

300 Win. Mag. Bolt Rifle Test: Savage, Steyr, Barrett Shoot Out

Subscribers Only — Rifles set up for long-range precision shooting are specialized instruments with features that allow the user to consistency wring out accuracy at or beyond 1000 yards. We recently looked at three precision rifles in the big-boy cartridge of 300 Winchester Magnum to see what hit our wallets had to take to get in on the fun of precision rifle shooting. At the low end of the price range, we tested a Savage 110 BA Stealth and two that were nearly four times the cost, a Steyr SSG 08 and Barrett MRAD. After the dust had settled, we determined the cost of the rifle did not make much difference in its accuracy performance. All rifles grouped sub minute of angle, requiring us to measure to two decimal places, or hundredths of an inch, to determine the top gun in accuracy. Spoiler: We shot the smallest group with the Savage. What separated the low-cost 110 BA Stealth from the premium-priced Barrett and Steyr were features that made the premium rifles easier to shoot or were more adaptive to the user’s needs.  We went to MidwayUSA.com to fit the rifles with two affordable variable-power scopes and mounts. The first was a Bushnell Engage 4-16x44mm with Weaver Tactical Skeleton rings. The second was a Leapers UTG Accushot 4-16x56mm scope with a Bobro 1-Piece QD mount. The Engage scope uses what Bushnell calls a Deploy MOA reticle. We felt this scope offered clarity and sharpness. The locking turrets were easy to use and require no tools to adjust windage and elevation. We also liked the parallax adjustment, which we feel is a requirement for long-range shooting. The eyepiece was also easy to adjust and allowed different testers to dial in sharpness for their individual eyes. The magnification had just the right resistance so we could be on target and adjust magnification by feel, but not have to move out of position to make the optical changes we wanted. The Weaver rings are also a low-cost option that easily dealt with the recoil of the 300 Win. Mag. Since the Weaver set up used separate rings, we were able to ensure the Bushnell was well attached to the Picatinny rail of the Savage. The Leapers UTG Accushot 4-16x56mm performed similarly to the Bushnell but offered an illuminated reticle in either red or green, which some testers liked. A black reticle can be more difficult to aim on a black target. It featured a mil-dot reticle with a bubble leveler, letting the user know if the rifle is canted, which could affect the shot. Both scopes featured a second-focal-plane reticle, so the magnification needs to be set on a specific magnification for the reticle to be used in range estimation. The Bushnell needs to be dial to 16x, the highest magnification, and the Leapers needs to be dialed to 10x. In our opinion, the reticles and magnification ranges were suitable for long-range work, well over the yardage found at most public shooting ranges. We were pleased at the performance of both scopes.   More...

September 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

The Smith & Wesson Performance Center and Thompson/Center Arms announced the launch of a new bolt-action chassis-style rifle — the Performance Center T/C Long Range Rifle (LRR). Co-developed for extreme long-range shooting, the Performance Center T/C Long Range Rifle is built on an aluminum chassis stock and is available in 243 Winchester, 308 Winchester, and 6.5 Creedmoor. Tony Miele, general manager of the Performance Center, said, “With the growing popularity of long-range precision shooting, we wanted to ensure our customers had an option available from the Performance Center. The new Performance Center T/C Long Range Rifle also includes a 20-MOA Picatinny-style rail and a 5R rifled, fluted barrel.   More...

Double-Action 357 Magnums: Ruger & S&W Revolvers Tested

Among the most popular revolvers is the double-action 357 Magnum, and shooters can confirm this because Smith & Wesson recently reintroduced the Combat Magnum and Ruger has introduced a seven-shot GP100 357 Magnum. Those companies wouldn’t (purposefully) add a couple of dogs to their inventories. Shooters like the 4-inch 357 configuration because these revolvers make for excellent all-round hunting, personal defense, and target guns. Some revolver fans also favor them for concealed carry. Also, they will stand up to long-term storage and come up shooting. It is interesting that a number of special teams in Europe and the U.S. Military keep the 357 Magnum in inventory for this reason. Readers have asked us to revisit the category with an eye toward picking a used wheelgun that could save them a couple hundred bucks — that is, they wanted us to go bargain hunting. So we purchased a quartet of used revolvers from major brands that included adjustable sights with 4-inch barrels capable of serving for some types of hunting and for home and auto defense. In other words, we wanted the best go-anywhere do-anything revolver, not a specialized concealed-carry type, such as the Ruger SP101. The 357 Magnum is a great defense cartridge and also a fine pest and varmint round in accurate handguns. With the proper loads, the cartridge is versatile and will take deer-sized game at modest distances. Also, a major advantage of the 357 Magnum is the ability of the revolver to chamber 38 Special +P or stouter cartridges, but as important, softer-shooting loads as well. A practice regimen of twenty 38 Specials for every Magnum is recommended by most trainers. We elected to test the revolvers with both 38 Special and 357 Magnum loads and also to include handloads that have proven themselves. Interestingly, the two Ruger GP100 revolvers, one in stainless steel and one in blued finish, showed practically the same firing line and absolute accuracy performance. However, the two Smith & Wesson revolvers, also one blued and one stainless, had considerably different characteristics. The test firearms started with the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum, $800 used. This particular Combat Magnum came with a display case and a knife with matching serial number — pretty neat, but also pricey. The Combat Magnum name gave way to the Model 19 designation in 1957, the year when Smith & Wesson changed from names to model numbers. It has always sold well with a 4-inch barrel, in either bright blue or nickel finishes. Other barrel lengths have appeared as well, with 6-inch (1963) and 2.5-inch (1966) barrels showing up as mainline production guns. There is also a rare variation of the Model 19 with a 3-inch barrel. The Model 19 was dropped from the line in 1999 as police agencies migrated to semi-autos, but Smith & Wesson reintroduced the Model 19 Classic (4.25-inch barrel) at the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits (Model No. 12040, MSRP $826). There’s also a Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp No. 12039 (MSRP $1092) with a tritium front night sight, custom wood and synthetic boot grips, and a 3-inch PowerPort vented barrel for recoil management. The revolver features a trigger overtravel stop and Performance Center tuned action. We previously tested a less-expensive Model 19-4 nickel-finish variant in the March 2015 issue, giving it an A grade. Next up was a silver-skinned copy of Model 19, the stainless-steel Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum 38 Special +P/357 Magnum, $420. In July 1971 Smith & Wesson announced its first stainless-steel 357 Magnum, the Model 66. Like the blued Model 19, the Model 66 was a favorite of everyday cops who wanted a Model 19 that was rust resistant. The 4-inch-version, like the one we tested, was the most popular. It stayed in continuous production until 2005, when Smith & Wesson dropped the Model 66 at its 66-7 iteration. Then production on the handgun was restarted in 2014, with the 66-8 unit, which is still in the catalog as Model No. 162662, with a suggested retail of $849. In the June 2001 issue, we tested a 2.5-inch-barrel M66, saying of it: “Even with the small problems we encountered, this is a superior weapon, and few revolvers can match this incarnation of the snubnosed K-frame.” In the April 2002 issue, we tested a 4-inch Smith & Wesson M66-2, $219. That Smith & Wesson Model 66 was gauged to be in 95 percent condition, which would bring a Blue Book price of $300 at the time. It earned a “Buy It” recommendation.   More...