June 2018

S&W Issues Advisory on Shield EZ

Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm. It seems the function of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol can be influenced by the type and quality of ammunition used with the pistol. In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, the company has found “that in very rare circumstances,” ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired. That could be very bad for a concealed-carry gun owner who’s depending on the EZ in a self-defense situation.   More...

Reader Renounces Ranch Rifle

I was greatly surprised by the positive review that you gave the Ruger rifle. My example would not dependably feed from the magazine, was awkward to single load, frequently failed to fire Remington factory ammunition, and arrived with a stock so warped the barrel was not free floating. When I called Ruger, they read a prepared script, which among other things advised against the use of Remington or Barnes Ammunition. I then sent the rifle back to Ruger. They returned it to me unchanged, although they did include two additional magazines. Unfortunately, the new magazines were no better than the original, and none of the problems addressed. Disappointed, I traded the Ruger for a CZ 527 in 300 BLK. I note that Ruger is now producing a version of this rifle employing AR magazines.   More...

Rifles Ready for All 50 States: Springfield, Troy, and Uintah

Subscribers Only — Innovation in firearms design has always meant finding a way to make guns more accurate, more reliable, less expensive to produce, and for the end user, easier to operate and maintain. And when it comes to trying to satisfy the restrictive demands of different state laws, the word innovation can once again be applied. Naturally, we’d like to see talented people work toward solutions without so much regulation, but we also wondered if makers seeking ways to satisfy the legalities of certain policies, a better firearm, or at least a promising new design, would emerge. For insight into the world of regulated firearms manufacture and sale, we visited Todd and Amy Arms & Ammo in Petaluma, California. A family-owned full-service gun store run by retired Marine Todd and his wife Amy, their bustling shop serves as the epicenter of gun goodies in the more-gun-friendly area of Northern California. At Todd and Amy’s, we learned that several inventors have been tackling the problem of providing workable solutions to producing 50-state-legal long guns for some time, including fixed magazines, variations on the pistol-grip stock, and even pump-action designs. In this test, we will look at three production rifles that incorporate elements of AR-type-restricted design found in states such as California, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and others. Because of constantly changing laws in these states, you must know your local regulations to see if a particular rifle conforms to your state’s regulations. We do not guarantee these firearms will remain legal to own in any state, so check before you buy. Our first choice was the $1135 CA Compliant “AR-15” Saint from Springfield Armory chambered in 5.56mm/223 Remington and featuring a full-float barrel. Next was a pump-actuated “AR-10” from WorldofTroy.com chambered in 243 Winchester. List price of the Troy Pump Action Hunting Rifle was $899. Our third test gun was a full-length bolt-action rifle from Uintah Precision chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor. Why is a bolt-action rifle in this review? Because the threaded barrel, upper, and handguard are configured as an AR platform that was designed to fit an AR-10 lower. Uintah sells the upper alone for $1295, but they were able to supply a matching lower so we had a complete rifle for our tests. Therefore, in the Uintah’s specifications chart, the term “as tested” denotes measurements taken for the upper receiver only, as your lower may vary. For ammunition supply we relied heavily on new selections from Black Hills Ammunition. Black Hills is a family-owned business that came to prominence by developing a 223 Rem. load topped with Sierra’s 77-grain bullets for the U.S. military, therefore vastly improving the stopping power of the select-fire M16 rifle and its semi-auto civilian-version AR-15. Our Springfield Cal-legal Saint was stoked with four different rounds manufactured by Black Hills ammunition, ranging in bullet weight from 60 grains to 77 grains. Much of Black Hills production still relies heavily on military contracts, and this stamp of approval is why we so often favor their ammunition. Black Hills has lagged noticeably behind other makers in offering 6.5 Creedmoor (or 6.5 CM) commercially, and now we think we know why. As of this writing, it has been announced that SOCOM, i.e. USSOCOM (Special Operations Command), is evaluating chambering 6.5 Creedmoor and phasing out the use of 7.62x51 (308 Winchester) ammunition in AR-10-type rifles. The Uintah rifle was fed Black Hills 143-grain and 147-grain ammunition, plus 140-grain rounds loaded by Hornady. Our pump-action Troy rifle was treated to three rounds from Black Hills Ammunition, each topped with Hornady bullets. The 243 Winchester ammunition featured Hornady’s 95-grain Hornady SST, 80-grain GMX, and 58-grain A-Max bullets. To ensure that our rifles had the benefit of high-grade optics, we relied upon the Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm SFP Enhanced riflescope (No. C554), featuring 0.10 Milradian click adjustments and extraordinarily clear glass. The reticle was illuminated by pressing the button at the center of the parallax adjustment turret, but “Enhanced’ might very well refer to the interaction of the big, bold reticle constructed with fine lines, maximizing the capabilities of second-focal-plane design. Overall construction was robust, but relatively compact. We also tried out the Nightforce SR 4.5x24 Competition riflescope designed for the High Power Service Rifle division when it occurred to us that the California Legal Saint AR-15 may be the gun of the future for competitors in California.   More...

June 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

Leupold & Stevens, Inc. has expanded its catalog of ring mounts with the introduction of the new QRW2 and PRW2 lines. Based on the familiar cross-slot design, both the QRW2 and PRW2 mounts are all steel. The QRW2 and PRW2 lines are precision machined to offer universal cross-slot compatibility on Weaver and Picatinny rails. The QRW2 line is a detachable option. The PRW2 line is meant for a more permanent mounting solution. Both the QRW2 and PRW2 ring mounts are available now in Low, Medium, and High configurations in many finishes. Both series are made in the U.S.A. and are backed by Leupold’s full lifetime guarantee.   More...

Personal-Defense 9mm Handgun Shoot Out: Smith’s M2.0 Wins

Subscribers Only — The most popular concealed-carry and home-defense handgun in America is likely the 9mm self loader. There are service grade and service-size pistols, compacts, and subcompacts available in this chambering, which has gained popularity because of improved bullet function. In this installment, we are firing purpose-designed compact handguns that are derived from service-size handguns. When the Glock 19X was introduced, with its Glock 17 grip and Glock 19 slide, our shooters knew it would be a hot new gun to test, but we did not quite know what to match against it. The editor dubbed it a Commander-size Glock 9mm, so we found a 9mm 1911 Commander to brace against it — the Ruger SR1911 Commander. The SR1911 Commander is, after all, a full-size Government Model pistol with the slide shortened three-quarters of an inch. The Glock 19X is a Glock 17 with a short slide and full-size grip. Bingo. European compacts generally have both the slide and the butt shortened. One example is the SIG P225A, a short version of the SIG P220 9mm handgun. Today, SIG offers an updated and revamped P225-A1. We added this double-action-first-shot pistol as a counterpoint to the double-action-only and single-action pistols tested. Next, we added a true compact with both a short slide and short frame, the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Compact M2.0. It seemed fitting to match the M2.0 M&P9 against the Glock 19X Gen5 gun.   More...

June 2018 Short Shots: Pistols and Pistol Accessories

Through June 30, 2018, shooters who purchase any new Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro laser sight and light will be eligible to receive a free Crimson CWL-100 Tactical Light. The CWL-100 ­features ­an operation­ pressure ­pad­ and ­corded ­attachment ­cap,­ and­ it­ can­ also­ be ­converted ­into­ a­ hand held flashlight with­ a ­second ­provided­ endcap.­ The ­CWL-100­ metal attachment­ bracket­ is ­designed­ to­ fit­ most­ Picatinny­ or­ similar accessory rails. To receive the free Crimson Trace CWL-100 tactical light in this offer, purchasers must complete and submit to Crimson Trace­ the­ proof­ of­ purchase­ form­ found at CrimsonTrace.com ­along ­with ­the­ receipt.   More...

Best Reloading Scales: Programmable Automatic Powder Dispensers Compete

For tests we acquired Hornady’s $235 Lock-N-Load Auto Charge Powder Dispenser, Lyman’s $275 Gen6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System, and the $300 RCBS Chargemaster Lite. We challenged each machine to deliver a starting load for 40 S&W handgun and a starting load for 6.5 Creedmoor rifle. We asked each machine to drop 4.8 grains of Winchester Super Target (WST) smokeless powder for our handgun loads. Despite being listed as a ball powder, it was plain to see that each particle of WST appeared to be disc shaped. Next, we asked our machines to drop 40.2 grains of Accurate Reloader 17 (RL17) for our rifle rounds. Granules of RL17 resemble tiny lengths of a very fine single-filament wire, sometimes referred to as a “stick”-type powder. Our choice of powders was based strictly on our needs at the time, determined in advance of ordering our test units. We later learned that stick-type powders were among the most troublesome for use in automatic dispensers. The Lyman manual didn’t mention RL17 by name, but revealed that their machine was fit with a special adaptor for the fill tube when using such powders. In terms of cleanup, the RL17 powder was easier to evacuate than the granules of WST, which had greater surface area and a more porous texture that was slightly dusty. Given these factors alone, it looked like our three machines were in for a challenge.   More...

2018 Best New Optics for Rifles, Handguns, and Shotguns

We’ve had a chance to use quite a few new optics this year, including red dots, lasers, scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes, while we have performed firearms testing for future issues. We shoot a lot of firearms every year, and with that round count comes the insight that what’s on top of the guns matters as much as the gun itself in many cases. Following are a few recommendations for optics that have proven themselves as worthwhile complementary products in firearms evaluations, but which we haven’t tested in head-to-head comparisons as yet.   More...