March 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
For more than a year, we have been testing and evaluating some of the most powerful and interesting self-loading handgun cartridges. These are the ubiquitous 9mm Luger, which we think has become the baseline against which all other handgun chamberings can be compared, and the far-less-common but still commercially viable 38 Super, 357 SIG, and 357 Magnum, the last of which is chambered in a Coonan handgun. The evaluation was the result of a reader request, and three of which, the 9mm, 38 Super, and 357 SIG, sometimes use the same bullets, but at different velocities.
We began with a number of goals. First, as always, reliability has to be foremost because the handguns were competing as personal-defense choices. We also viewed them as outdoors-carry choices for defense against feral dogs and big cats. We wanted to see how efficiently each cartridge delivered its power, with the idea that the 9mm set the floor. Increased flash, blast, and recoil may be counterproductive in the others, and as it turned out, we got more horsepower with less recoil than expected. The energy difference wasn’t incremental; it was profound. We didn’t choose average 9mm or 38 Super loads, but instead picked those loads that had given good results in the past. Only the top performers in 9mm and 38 Super are in this report. With the 357 SIG and 357 Magnum, we were on new ground and chose a representative sample of bullet weights. The 357 SIG and 357 Magnum enjoy an excellent reputation for terminal ballistics. The 9mm, less so, and based on previous data, we expected the 38 Super to be as effective or more than a 9mm Luger +P+ load. The primary consideration was personal defense, so control was important. The larger guns may not be ideal for concealed carry, but would be good handguns for field use or home defense. For those wishing to deploy a handgun with plenty of power and accuracy, the 357-caliber self-loaders are easier to control than Magnum revolvers. The self-loaders demonstrate less recoil due to the smaller charge of faster-burning powder and the movement of the action and compression of springs as the handgun is fired. So how would they compare to the revolver? As it turned out, these modern powerhouses outclass the 357 Magnum revolver, in our opinion, on many levels.
We collected a good supply of ammunition, five loads for each gun versus our usual three. We chose three powerful hollowpoint loads for accuracy testing, as is SOP for Gun Tests. We added a fourth load for ballistic testing to test penetration and expansion. We added an economical practice load for use in the combat-firing test phase. So, this was a thorough test requiring several months. We elected not to go lighter than 115-grain bullets in any chambering. The 357 SIG, 38 Super, and 9mm Luger are usually loaded with bullets in the range of 115 to 147 grains. We fired 125-, 140-, and 158-grain bullets in the 357 Magnum Coonan. Here are the results.
November 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, 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.
October 2015 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only
From 1958 to 1961, the TV Western series “Wanted: Dead or Alive” launched Steve McQueen’s acting career, and it also laid claim to the debut of a lever-action pistol nicknamed by McQueen’s character. Call it Hollywood magic or a TV set armorer’s clever idea, the Mare’s Leg as depicted by “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was a chopped-down Winchester Model 1892 rifle. The barrel was cut off just forward of the forearm, and the buttstock was lopped off just past the lever. The lever was also oversized, all the better to spin the shortened rifle around your hand. Please do not try spinning these shortened lever guns at home, as you might, at the very least, poke your eye out, or worse, do grave bodily harm. Also remember that Hollywood’s magic had Josh Randall, Steven McQueen’s character, wear 45-70 Gov’t. cartridges in his Mare’s Leg gun belt. The Model 1892 rifles were never chambered in that cartridge. TV Westerns back then were as popular as investigative crime shows are today and the Mare’s Leg made the lead character stand out in the crowd and leave a lasting impression.
There is definitely a cool factor with the Mare’s Leg, but it is an odd pistol to shoot. Using one hand means a shooter’s arm quickly fatigues, unless you have the biceps of a Navy SEAL. All the weight of the pistol is forward from the shooting hand, plus when shooting these types of pistols, you need to relax your wrist somewhat to absorb recoil. Mare’s Legs are heavier than a typical pistol — especially in this case, the Henry Repeating Arms Mare’s Leg Model H006MML ($975), which at nearly six pounds took some muscling to aim and fire one-handed. Using two hands on the Henry or the Rossi Ranch Hand Model RH92-51121 ($597) offered more stability, with one hand on the forend and one on the grip. We even tried shooting the pistols using a one-point Blackhawk Storm Sling (70GS12BK, $34), like you might use to shoot an AR pistol. Using a two-hand hold to pull the pistol away from our body, the sling acts like a brace for more stability. So equipped, we found these pistols shone as hip-shooting designs, lightning fast but with accuracy leaving something to be desired. Many testers with lever-action rifle experience found themselves trying to shoulder the weapon, but that is not comfortable or really doable since shouldering and then levering the action would cause the bolt to come back and poke you in the eye. Suffice it to say you can shoot a Mare’s Leg with one hand, but you need to use two hands to operate the pistol. Also, in case you were wondering, these are not NFA-controlled short-barreled rifles, which require payment of $200 for a tax stamp, approval from the BATFE and federal registration. A lever-action pistol is treated as a pistol by federal law, and most states allow the purchase of Mare’s Leg pistols. However, California and New York have banned them. We tested these pistols using the supplied iron sights and 38 Special and 357 Magnum ammo. Here’s what we found.