September 2019

So Many Good Guns

As you know, Gun Tests is different from other firearms-aficionado magazines because we test and recommend products that sometimes don’t do so well. It is rare to see other gun magazines show stoppages, misplaced groups, faulty manufacturing, and other quality aspects that turn those writers off enough to say, “Don’t buy this one.”

But I believe real-life owners of guns — purchasers — usually tell more truth about product performance in the comments sections of various retailers. I assiduously read such comments, looking for online complaints that are worth checking out when I buy our guns and shoot them head to head. If we can’t duplicate an issue that has come up, we don’t report it — it’s just gossip if we can’t document it ourselves. But, occasionally, a nugget will drop out of the online compost, making the experience worthwhile.

Todd Woodard

It was in one of these deep dives that I realized an unmistakable trend had surfaced: A lot of folks were really happy with their purchases, and our own independent reporting was showing a lot of As. Guns are a lot better now than even 10 years ago, across the board.

Example: Ruger and Savage, to name but two companies, have created suspension systems in their rifle stocks that improve accuracy by insulating the barrels from pressures created by the stocks. In a bygone age, that required a gunsmith or handy shooter to free-float barrels and put in pillars.

Elsewhere, drop-in aftermarket triggers are becoming standard equipment. I have admitted in these pages that I am a trigger snob, a taste that has been formed over hundreds of thousands of smallbore rifle rounds and dry firing. Now, many rifles come with really good triggers as standard equipment, or as options you can order direct from the factory. I will not be surprised when handgun makers start using Apex or other triggers as standard equipment.

Further, technology in shotgun stocks now allow the user to adjust fit, a crucial part of being able to hit moving targets. Likewise, in handguns, replaceable backstraps make fitting a handgun to the shooter possible, even easy.

At Gun Tests, we actually enjoy guns, and it is getting ever easier to find rifles, shotguns, and handguns that many people will like and shoot well. Even low-cost products, such as the Iver Johnson PAS 12 gauge in this issue, or the Springfield Armory 40 S&W handgun reviewed on page 6, offer refinements that force other makers to adopt the upgrades to keep up. That moves the window, and shooters who love to buy and shoot firearms are the beneficiaries. 


Comments (11)

Agreed - on the whole, guns today tend to be much better in both performance and quality. Often the problem arises thanks to gunowners who are often inveterate tinkerers. We read something and suddenly we are better qualified than the team of professional engineers employed by the manufacturer. Plus we can buy another trinket and then brag about how superior our gun is.
While I am also a trigger snob thanks to nearly 40 years of Bullseye (aka Precision Pistol) competition, when it comes to my EDC, it's the factory trigger - PERIOD. No less an authority than Mas Ayoob has written that, despite improving a shooter's facility with a handgun, only factory triggers are defensible.
That said, today some triggers today are too light for carrying, thanks to manufacturers listening to customer demands. Under stress there's an adrenaline dump that, among other effects, increases strength and reduces fine motor control. So, before deploying that EDC with the beautiful trigger, do your research and choose wisely.

Posted by: | October 12, 2019 1:16 AM    Report this comment

Todd, you are technically correct, but I must admit I seem to get the exceptions to the rule more often than not, especially when it comes to Taurus handguns. The vast majority of the ones I've owned had reliability problems right out of the box. Like the kid who keeps shoveling manure from the stable on Christmas Day, I keep buying them, thinking there must be a pony in here somewhere.

Posted by: Colonel K | October 10, 2019 9:34 PM    Report this comment

I bought a Ruger GP 100 in 44 special and have sent it back TWICE now for the same problem.
After 10 rounds (cowboy loads at that....not even "hot") you can NOT close the cylinder and can see it is crooked.
When It comes back this time I am trading it off as I no longer trust it.
I think I will look for a USED 686 that is PRE gun lock BS.

Posted by: Cava3r4 | October 10, 2019 6:06 PM    Report this comment

In my latest edition of Gun Tests magazine you tested the Smith & Wesson model 27. You down graded it for trigger pull. I have two older Smith revolvers of the same frame size and the trigger pulls are much less than on you test version. You mentioned rust on the serial numbers so I was wondering if the rust was also in the trigger mechanism. In my experience the Smith & Wesson's usually have the best triggers out of all revolvers.

Posted by: Eddie Cz | October 10, 2019 12:52 PM    Report this comment

I have to agree with RugerSturmer. I've had some good ones, 10/22 and GP100, but more recently I've sent back two LCRs and an SP101. It seems that the quality control has slipped. However, I've had bad luck with RIA and bought an XTM 22 and so far it works perfectly. I'd like to see it tested since it's only one of two semiautomatic .22 mags being manufactured now.

Posted by: jwash111 | October 10, 2019 9:25 AM    Report this comment

With regard to the letter grade that you use, have you ever considered an A+ for any outstanding firearm?

Posted by: Father C | September 20, 2019 7:46 AM    Report this comment

Yeah I agree triggers are a continuing problem with pistols. Both my Glock 42 and 43 have rather heavy and long pull triggers. I'm thinking of upgrading with a trigger bar replacement kit--DOES ANYONE HAVE A SUGGESTION AS T0 WHICH AFTER MARKET TRIGGER IS BEST?

It seems gun makers are still spooked about better triggers. The whole deal with Glocks replacing so many LE revolvers and the agencies buying them were nervous their officers would shoot themselves or others. Hence the 12lb triggers, etc. Stiff triggers are especially bad when a small concealable weapon is used and cannot give a stronger "heft" to the hand. Oh, well. Gun quality overall has never been better or more affordable.

Posted by: GreyFox 73 | September 10, 2019 1:28 PM    Report this comment

I've owned 7 Rugers since February 2019. I have had to send 3 of them in for repairs for a total of 7 times. A Security 9 was sent back with a broken hammer and a broken firing pin. It was sent back a second time with a broken firing pin and "highly polished" slides. After the 2nd submission, Ruger decided to destroy the pistol, retire its serial number, and replace it with a new gun. Another Security 9 was sent in (today) with a slide-stop problem; it has never been fired. An LCP II was sent in twice for repairs. The first time was for an ejected extractor. The second time was for (1) magazine dropping after every shot; (2) racked slide would move forward with magazine drop; (3) slide hold-open only occurred half the time; (4) many occurrences of failure to feed; (5) ejected shells would fly over or hit my head half the time instead of going out to the right. My EC9s was sent back twice for repairs: striker assembly and slide were replaced twice. The LCP II and the EC9s seem to be working OK now. Ruger's customer service has been really good. I wonder about the reliability of the weapons, especially in self-defense scenarios.

Posted by: RugerSturmer | September 6, 2019 4:40 PM    Report this comment

Hmmm...I guess I'm a traditionalist and my gun buying reflects that. I love my 1948 K38 Masterpiece, 1956 Winchester Model 50 12 ga., 1943 Saginaw M-1 Carbine, 1966 Belgian Browning T-Bolt 22, old Remington 40X's (22 and 7.62 NATO), and BRNO Model 1. Not that I don't own any new or modern guns (S&W Victory 22, 686+, and Colt 1911 Competition 9mm). Give me blued carbon steel and walnut any day.

Posted by: epka1949 | September 6, 2019 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Todd, I could not agree more. New guns appear to be getting better. Malfunctions are much less common that in the past, the guns have better ergonomics - they just feel better - and the accuracy of long guns has improved dramatically. A few years ago a minute of angle accuracy was considered the gold standard; now it is routine.
Not only are firearms improving, they are also becoming more affordable. All in all it is a satisfying trend for the industry.

Posted by: Thos Pinney | September 6, 2019 11:29 AM    Report this comment

I am also a "trigger snob" but my interest is mainly hand guns, in which case I believe a good trigger is even more important than in a rifle. Fortunately most hand guns I have owned have had either good or predictable triggers.
However, my latest purchase, a Springfield Mod 2 Tactical [I hate that greatly overused word] 5 inch, leaves a bit to be desired so far as the trigger is concerned. It has a trigger pull of 6+ lbs and a nearly full length reset kind of negating the fact that otherwise, it is a fine, accurate hand gun. Gun is A/B.
Trigger is a D. My hopes for break in improvement during the next 500 rnds are rapidly fading
My apologies if this comment would be better placed elsewhere, but I figured other snobs should know.

Posted by: x211sam | September 6, 2019 10:22 AM    Report this comment

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