Rifles, Other

2018 Guns & Gear Top Picks: Firearms

December 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

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, and Ralph Winingham 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.

38 Special Problem in 357 Mags

December 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

I enjoyed the article on 38 Special lever-action rifles, but I think you missed a very important warning. The 38 Special and 357 Magnum are not interchangeable, for reasons other than the strength of the action. I have a Marlin lever action in 357 caliber. I decided to sight it in with 38 Special rounds and then change to 357 and adjust the sights. After about 20 or 30 rounds of 38 Special, I switched to 357. When I tried to rack in the second round, it wouldn’t seat. The problem was that the 38 Special rounds carboned up the chamber, and when the 357 round was extracted, only about half of the cartridge came out. I had to have a gunsmith remove the front half of the casing. I only shoot 357 rounds in my rifle and revolver since then. I have never seen this in any article which discusses using 38 Special ammo in a 357 chamber.

Cowboy Up with Lever Guns From Cimarron, Uberti, Taylor’s

November 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Good, modern-day cowboy-action shooters can push lead out of lever-action rifles at about 10 shots in two seconds. That’s fast. Tuned guns help. SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) rules allow only original or replica centerfire lever- or slide-action rifles that reflect the period between 1860 and 1899. Caliber can be the minimum, 32, to the largest, 45. Rifles must have exposed hammers, tubular magazines, and barrel lengths longer than 16 inches to qualify for matches. That means clones of the Winchester Model 1866, Models 1873, and Model 1892, are contenders, as well as the Marlin 1894 and reproductions of the Colt Lightning. Many competitors run reloaded 38 Special to the minimum velocity. SASS rules require rifle ammunition to have a maximum muzzle velocity of 1,400 fps or less. The 38 Special has other attributes that make it popular, such as mild recoil, less cost, and ease of reloading.

September 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

September 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

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.

VALUE GUIDE: Bolt-Action Rifles (Multiple Chamberings)

March 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Log on to Gun-Tests.com to read complete reviews of these products in the designated months. Highly-ranked products from older reviews are often available used at substantial discounts.

VALUE GUIDE: Semi-Automatic Rifle Results

February 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Log on to Gun-Tests.com to read complete reviews of these products in the designated months. Highly-ranked products from older reviews are often available used at substantial discounts.

Rifles Not Ready for 50 States

August 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Please consider the following. The issue of gun control, regardless of degree, is a cultural issue — not a national safety issue. When the Constitution was written, less than 15% of our population lived in urban areas. Today, approximately 80% of our population is urban. However, cities account for only about 5% of the geographical landmass of this country. We now have two opposing gun cultures in this country — with urbans believing guns are only for killing people and rurals viewing them as tools, much as a rod and reel are for fishing.

July 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

July 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Brownells recently rolled out the BRN-22 Receiver for custom rimfire rifle builds. The BRN-22 is fully compatible with the popular Ruger 10/22, so you can choose from the many barrels, stocks, triggers, and other custom components for the 10/22 platform. According to the Brownells website, the BRN-22 receivers are machined from 6061 aluminum billet “to exacting tolerances.” Brownells touts the machined receivers as better than forged, and points to the smooth, clean interior “to realize that a machined receiver can be held to much tighter tolerances for a precise fit with other parts.” After machining, BRN-22 receivers get a matte-black Type 2 hardcoat anodized finish.

June 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

June 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

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.

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

June 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - 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.

New Rifle Introductions for 2018

April 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Gun Tests reporters and editors on the scene at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas scoured the show for new rifle, pistol, shotgun, and accessory entries for our readers to consider this year. For what seems like a long time now, new rifle introductions have been dominated by variations on the AR-15/AR-10 platform. But for 2018, we’re also seeing the emergence of more dedicated long-range precision sport and hunting rifles. Here’s a rundown on quite a few just-introduced rifle choices for 2018, some of which we’ll be looking at later this year.

Alternate Bolt-Release Levers for the AR-15: We Test Three

February 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

When it comes to ambidextrous capabilities, the AR platform still lags behind the modern semi-automatic pistol. How would ambidextrous controls make the AR-15/AR-10 more desirable? One easy answer is to accommodate the left-handed shooter. Another reason would be to help keep the weapon in the fight should the operator be left with only one available hand. Ambidextrous thumb safeties are somewhat popular, and so are magazine releases, but to a lesser extent. The focus of this evaluation is to compare three different aftermarket products that offer a secondary method for releasing the bolt of the AR-15 or AR-10 rifle. They are the $30 Magpul BAD Lever, the $29 Troy Ambidextrous Bolt Release Lever, and the $80 BattleBar from Smith Tactics. Neither the Magpul or the Troy Industries units required disassembly beyond separating the upper and lower ends of the rifle. The BattleBar required replacement of the hammer and trigger pins with supplied components. All three units were made from aluminum.

Protocol for loading the AR-15 begins with pushing the magazine upward into the magazine well until it clicks then tugging on the magazine to make sure it is seated. Next, the bolt release is pressed to bring the gun into battery. Mounted on the left-hand side of the receiver directly above the magazine well, the release is the upper portion of the combination bolt-lock and release lever that pivots with a seesaw motion on a centralized roll pin. Throughout this entire process, the strong hand remains in place, supporting the rifle and maintaining access to the trigger and thumb safety.

By adding any one of our test products, the operator can save some time by moving the hand directly to the support position after seating the magazine. This may seem like a minor consideration, but experienced AR operators point to instances wherein the support hand is needed to push open a door or the shooter needs to fire immediately after completing a reload. Also, participants in High Power Service Rifle competition can use this feature when top-loading single rounds is mandatory. Placing a round into the chamber and closing the bolt with the strong hand is a lot easier than untangling a gloved support hand from a sling. For tests, all three components were mounted on multiple rifles to check fit and function. Let’s see how efficiently the three bolt-release levers operated.

Running the Bullpups: IWI, Kel-Tec, Steyr, and FN Compete

January 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Bullpups were designed for close-quarters battle (CQB) use in cramped environments where a longer weapon can be a liability. They are smaller and more compact than the typical AR-15 rifle. What also differs is how a bullpup functions. These firearms are configured with the action located behind the trigger group. Your nose rests above the action, not behind it like with an AR or AK. That means the magazine is aft of the trigger, not forward. Thus, your reloading technique changes. Because the action is housed in the buttstock, the overall length is reduced, yet a bullpup still deploys the same barrel length as a civilian AR-15. The balance is different with a bullpup, with the weight of the rifle in the butt, not forward of your firing hand. The ejection port is located in the butt, and each bullpup we tested had a different philosophy on how and where empty cases should be dumped. The muzzle is likewise closer, so reaching out with your support arm and pulling the rifle into your shoulder — like with an AR — is not possible, but the bullpups offer other support-grip options.

Basically, then, everything from reloading to grip and handling changes when running a bullpup, so we wanted to see which bullpup we could adapt to more easily. Our quartet of bullpups included three chambered in 5.56mm, which was the IWI Tavor X95 XB16, the Steyr AUG A3 M1, and Kel-Tec’s RDB. The fourth bullpup was the FN Model PS90 Standard chambered in 5.7x28mm. This is a nice sampling of bullpups because the AUG could be considered the Rolex of bullpups, while the Kel-Tec is the Timex at a much lower price. All performed without malfunctions, so they all took a licking and kept on ticking. One, the IWI, was modular and offered easy caliber conversion. All were optics-ready except the AUG (pronounced “A-U-G” not “awg”), which came from the factory with an optic. One, the FN, we had to study to even determine how to pick it up and shoulder it, but when we did we experienced a clear engineering solution to bad bullpup ergonomics. With the Kel-Tec, we ended up calling it the working man’s bullpup. Nothing fancy, but it kept pace with the other three. In hand, the bullpups feel like an AR-15 short-barreled rifle, or SBR, which require special tax stamps to own.

We tested all except the AUG with either a SIG Romeo4B or a Mepro Tru-Dot RDS. Both are red-dot sights that excel at close-to-medium range. At ranges out to 100 yards, the dot suffices for most targets, but a crosshair reticle would shrink groups. The Romeo4B allows the user to toggle between four different reticles: 2-minute-of-angle dot, 2-MOA dot with ballistic holds, 2-MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot, or 2-MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot with ballistic holds. The ballistic holdover points are calibrated for 5.56 NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. A feature we liked was the activated motion sensor that immediately powers up illumination when the red dot senses motion and powers down when it does not to extend battery life. The Mepro Tru-Dot RDS we like and have used it for a number tests on AR-style firearms. It features a 1.8-MOA dot reticle and is constructed with an aluminum body and tough polymer frame around a large viewing window. This sight is easy to use when shooting with both eyes open. It runs on one AA battery, and you don’t need any tools to change the battery or adjust the sight. It also turns off when not in use to conserve battery life. Both are good choices for AR applications, and as we found out, these bullpups, like ARs, have a straight comb and optics needed to be mounted high. Be aware that a bullpup is capable of hitting targets at the same ranges as an AR-15 with an appropriate optic.

Two of the bullpups — the IWI and Kel-Tec — are compatible with standard AR-15 magazines, which we appreciated since we have plenty of AR-15 magazines on hand. We used Brownells’ aluminum-body magazines (Brownells.com, $14) Magpul Pmags (Brownells.com, $12.30), and Hexmag tubes (Brownells.com, $12); all were 30-rounders. The AUG and FN used proprietary magazines. Like an AR-15, the FN, IWI, AUG, and Kel-Tec allow the operator to keep his firing hand on the grip while performing a reload with the support hand.

The three brands of AR-suitable ammunition we tested included Aguila 5.56mm NATO with a 62-grain FMJ bullet, 223 Remington Federal Fusion loaded with a 62-grain soft point, and SIG Sauer’s 223 Remington ammo loaded with a 77-grain Open-Tip Match (OTM) bullet. For the FN, we used FN 5.7x28mm 40-grain V-Max and Federal American Eagle 40-grain FMJs. We noticed big differences in recoil and muzzle blast between the 5.56 NATO and 5.7x28mm ammo. The 5.7x28mm ammo was similar to shooting 22 Magnum ammo — minimal recoil and not as much muzzle blast as the 5.56mm NATO.

2017 Guns & Gear Top Picks

December 2017 - 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, and Ralph Winingham 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.

We Wouldn't Buy Ruger or Howa Precision Rifles

December 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

When a firearm leaves the factory in a condition that precludes the buyer from using it as designed, that firearm deserves an “F.” I believe it is acceptable to point out whether the problem is severe or an easy fix. However, the evaluation needs to stress that the firearm should have never left the factory in the condition tested. Personally, regardless of the grades given, I would not buy the Ruger or the Howa. Keep up the good work.

Savage Introduces the 10/110 Stealth Evolution in Six Calibers

November 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

Savage has introduced the 10/110 Stealth Evolution chassis rifle chambered in six popular long-range calibers, including the all-new 6mm Creedmoor. The rifle is available in both right-hand and left-hand models. Shipments are currently being delivered to dealers.

The 10/110 Stealth Evolution pairs a heavy fluted barrel with a monolithic aluminum chassis finished in rugged bronze Cerakote. The polymer-ceramic coating enhances resistance to abrasion, corrosion, and impact. The rifle also sports a factory-blueprinted 10/110 action, zero-tolerance headspacing, user-adjustable AccuTrigger and 5R button rifling. The company claims the rifle will produce sub-MOA accuracy at extreme range right out of the box.

Options in Precision Rifle: We Test Desert Tech, Howa, Ruger

November 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Trends in firearms sales reflect the needs and interests of the buying public. Whereas the AR-15 or “black rifle” market has slowed down considerably, the popularity of rifles that are capable of accuracy beyond the 300-, 600-, or even 1000-yard range is still going strong. Referred to as precision rifles, the traditional configuration of a barreled action bedded into a wood or fiberglass stock are being challenged by aluminum and synthetic chassis rifles. What’s more, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is rapidly becoming a favorite round. In this test, we decided to review three different types of rifles chambered to propel 0.264-inch diameter bullets that represent options to satisfy the long-distance enthusiast.

In this test, the traditional bolt-action rifle was represented by a new offering from Ruger that has, to the best of our knowledge, received virtually no press. Our $1139 6.5 Creedmoor Hawkeye MkIV Varmint Target boasted a 28-inch-long barrel, the longest tube we’ve heard of in quite some time. Howa’s $1450 HCR (Howa Chassis Rifle) was next up, featuring a fully adjustable buttstock from LUTH AR. Finally, we tried a unique design by Desert Tech. The $4995 Stealth Recon Scout (SRS-A1) lives up to its name by offering a 26-inch-long barrel packed into a compact profile.

For optics, our rifles shared a Steiner 4-16x50mm Predator Extreme scope. We also took turns looking down range with a Kahles 3-12x50mm scope supplied by Desert Tech. We painstakingly took time to break in the barrel of each rifle and then fired from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Center in Houston to collect basic accuracy data. For shots of record, we chose Winchester 140-grain Match, Hornady 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and the new 147-grain ELD Match rounds. We also shot a variety of rounds left over from previous tests to perform break in and for general comparison. What were the strengths and limitations of these three different platforms? Let’s find out.

Ruger Recalls Most Mark IVs

August 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

Ruger has issued a wide recall of all Mark IV and 22/45 models because of a problem with the safety and sear and has told owners that the pistols should not be used.

The issue is: In some cases, if the trigger is pulled while the safety lever is midway between the “safe” and “fire” positions and not full engaged in either, the pistol may or may not fire when the trigger is pulled.

If the gun doesn’t fire when the trigger is pulled, it may fire if the user then pushes the safety to the “fire” position without the trigger being activated.

Here’s a statement from a Ruger press release on the company’s website:

“Although only a small percentage of pistols appear to be affected and we are not aware of any injuries, Ruger is firmly committed to safety and would like to retrofit all potentially affected pistols with an updated safety mechanism. Until your Mark IV pistol has been retrofitted or you verify that it is not subject to the recall, we strongly recommend that you not use your pistol.”

Ruger says they have received a “small number” of reports from the field indicating the problem exists. Additional testing confirmed the issue and the recall was issued.

Big 9mm Pistols Tested? Yes!

May 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

The March 2017 issue compared “Forward-Mounted-Mag 9mm Pistols from SIG, Zenith, & CZ.” The  three super-sized pistols tested included the Zenith Firearms MKE Z-5RS with SB Brace, the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1, and the SIG Sauer MPX-PSB. The Zenith and SIG came with braces, while the CZ did not, but one could be purchased separately. All three proved to have good accuracy and reliability as defensive firearms. We preferred the Zenith, though the SIG and CZ performed well. As a subscriber, log on to Gun-Tests.com and read the entire review, either the online version or download the whole issue as a PDF.

New Rifles at SHOT 2017

April 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

At the 2017 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas in January, Gun Tests staffers saw that although new modern sporting rifles do not dominate the introductions of rifles this year, another major manufacturer has entered that AR-15 market with a product that’s selling well. So now’s the time to buy your AR because prices should be falling.
Of course, you should find plenty new to like elsewhere in the 2017 rifle world, with new rimfire offerings, new youth offerings, and plenty of threaded muzzles for those suppressors that may be deregulated soon.

Mid-Caliber Bolt-Action Rifles From T-C, Browning, and CZ USA

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Recently, we assembled a panel and arrived at what could be described as a list of practical considerations for choosing an all-around rifle. Not a specialty piece, mind you, but a “daily driver,” so to speak. Our test team came up with three considerations we wanted: power, accuracy, and portability. We agreed that in terms of power, we’d like to be able to hunt at least some deer-sized animals, but not with so much power that the rifle was too heavy to carry or generate so much recoil that it was unpleasant to shoot. To us, this meant short-action calibers greater than 223 Remington but less than 308 Winchester. In terms of accuracy, it wasn’t long ago that producing a 1-inch group at 100 yards (1 minute of angle) was a high standard. Certainly 1 MOA is still a benchmark, but recent state-of-the-art machinery has made it possible to buy such guns over the counter. And last, but certainly not least, there’s portability. Today, that is just as likely to mean aboard an ATV as it is over the shoulder. Either way, slender and compact is still the desired profile. Thus, the focus of this test became four bolt-fed short-action rifles in medium or midrange cartridges. The lineup was as follows:

We had intended to keep the maximum length of our rifles to less than 40 inches, but we decided to include the 41.5-inch-long Thompson Center Compass because we were eager to find out if this $399 rifle chambered for 22-250 Remington had recovered since its sudden recall for safety issues. Adding to its appeal was its threaded barrel, ready for a suppressor or muzzle brake.

Our shortest rifle was also chambered for 22-250. The $859 Browning X-Bolt Micro Midas offered a Grade 1 satin-finish walnut stock with 12.5-inch length of pull and about one additional inch of stock spacers. The Micro also weighed the least, as little as 6.1 pounds unloaded.

In the middle we chose the newest model 557 from CZ USA. The Sporter Short Action chambered for 243 Winchester was perhaps the most traditional rifle, with a checkered walnut stock.

The least traditional rifle, at least in terms of appearance, was the Howa Mini Action rifle from Legacy Sports International. Its multi-cam finish, 6.5 Grendel chambering, and 10-round detachable box magazine set it apart from the others. The right size overall, we hoped the big magazine sticking out the bottom would not make the Howa too difficult to pack.

Reproduction M1 Carbines: We Test Auto-Ordnance and Inland Manufacturing Models

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

The M1 Carbine was adopted during World War II, then proceeded to arm our soldiers during the Korean War and Vietnam War, making it one of the most widely produced of all U.S. Military rifles. Millions were produced, and at one time, surplus models were quite common and inexpensive. Try finding a vintage M1 Carbine today, and you will pay close to $1000 for a well-used specimen. Costs, however, will vary dramatically depending on which manufacturer produced the M1 Carbine, the model, features, and condition.

We opted to test two new M1 Carbine reproductions, the M1 1945 Carbine from Inland Mfg. (not the original Inland Mfg. but a new company) and the M1 Carbine Paratrooper from Auto-Ordnance (A-O).

We looked at these two Carbines for historical accuracy, for competition use in M1 Carbine Matches, and as a home-defense choice. In our opinion, the Inland is suitable for all three, where the A-O is not competition ready, but it satisfies the other two roles pretty well. Bottom line, our test team found these two carbines to be reliable, depending on the ammunition employed, offer good performance if the cartridge is used within its limits, and unlike some other M1 Carbines our testers have fired in the past, these two reproductions are accurate enough for nearly any use.

Trump's Gun Agenda and Gun Tests' Glossy New Look

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Dear Mr. Woodard: First, let me compliment you on the continued publication of your fine magazine! Just read your editorial concerning the presidential election. I don’t know how many people understand how clear the correlation between Ms. Clinton’s vehement anti-2A views and her loss of what should have been a slam-dunk win. If the numbers are remotely correct, there are 80 million gun owners in America. This number presumes that most of those folks are adults and not felons; therefore, they were potential voters. Another stat says that roughly 1 out of 20 Americans have a concealed-carry permit.

2016 Guns & Gear Top Picks

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, and Ralph Winingham 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.

Ruger Introduces a Bevy of New Rifles and Pistols Mid-Year 2016

October 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

The American-made LCP II is built on a one-piece precision-machined anodized-aluminum chassis with integral frame rails and fire-control housing. Additional features include a through-hardened alloy steel slide; a black, one-piece glass-filled nylon grip frame; a textured grip frame to provide a secure and comfortable grip; a finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for comfort and more secure grip, and a blued, alloy steel barrel. The LCP II ships with one 6-round magazine.

We Like Ruger’s Enhanced 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Rifle

October 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

In the January 2016 issue we published a test of bolt-action rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, including a Howa Austrian Brown Cerakote, a Savage Arms Model 12 LRP, and a Ruger Precision Rifle. All three rifles were impressive, but since then Ruger has released an Enhanced version, so we thought we’d better get one and see if the new features were worth the extra $200.

The model number for the (original) 6.5CM Ruger Precision Rifle previously tested was 18005. The Enhanced version is number 18008. Both rifles utilize a 24-inch-long medium-contour cold-hammer-forged barrel with a 1:8 twist. It is attached to an adaptation of the Ruger American action fed by a 10-round removable box magazine. The fully adjustable butt stock was the same, and so was the adjustable trigger. Our earlier test gun came trigger-pull weight adjusted to 2.6 pounds, with variation measured to be 1.4 ounces. Despite the owner’s manual claiming that the adjustable range was 2.25 pounds to 5.0 pounds, our Enhanced rifle arrived with a 2-pound trigger with variation of only about 0.8 ounces. We left the pull weight as set for fear of losing the overall feel of the trigger that we thought was clearly articulated.

The 18008 (Enhanced) rifle weighed about 0.1 pound more, even though the Samson Evolution Key Mod handguard was replaced by Ruger’s trimmer RPR Short-Action handguard, which also does away with the integrated top rail. We guess that whatever weight the 18008 gives up in top rail it gets back plus a little more by adding Ruger’s proprietary Hybrid Muzzle Brake plus Ruger’s Billet Aluminum Bolt Shroud, which replaced the plastic shroud.

American AK-Mag Variants II: Century, RRA, CMMG Go At It

June 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

Last month, we began testing AK-pattern rifles built in the U.S., which itself is important to a lot of Gun Tests readers, but also because we wanted to take an in-depth look at the category of what we hoped might be “improved” domestic variants of this famous rifle. Over the years, we’ve admired various AKs for their reliability while we’ve criticized their accuracy, fit and finish, and shooter-experience packages, such as crappy triggers and uncomfortable stocks. That said, we were very pleased with three rifles we tested in the June issue, rating one as a Grade A gun (Palmetto State Armory AK-47 MOE Edition 7.62x39mm, $749), a second as a Grade A- rifle (Century Arms RAS47 Magpul-Zhukov 7.62x39mm, $800), and the third a B+ (Palmetto State Armory AK-47 Gen2 Classic Red 7.62x39mm, $849).

This time we pit what are probably the two most significant military rifle actions of the 20th century against each other, the Kalashnikov and the Stoner. But there is a twist: All four rifles are American made, are chambered in 7.62x39, and use Kalashnikov-pattern magazines. The two Kalashnikov actions are made by Century Arms and look very much like standard AK-pattern rifles. The two Stoner actions, made by Rock River Arms and CMMG, for the most part look like the AR-15 platform familiar to many shooters but have some unique features. The Kalashnikovs have a well-deserved reputation for reliability, and the Stoners have a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. So, how would they do head to head?

To find out, we fired all four rifles in both cold and hot conditions, and because we expect these rifles to be used both as plinkers and for hunting or rural self defense, we used four different types of ammunition for this test: 122-grain FMJs, 123-grain plastic-tipped hollowpoints, 124-grain soft points, and 154-grain soft points. Due to the fairly big groups shot with open sights at 100 yards last time, this round we fired five-shot groups at 50 yards and measured them from center to center. Here’s what we learned.

American-Made AK-47 Rifles Compete

May 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

At one time AKs were made from de-milled parts kits or shipped into the U.S., then rebuilt with a specific number of U.S. parts to make it 922r compliant, and they still are today. But depending on what company remanufactured the rifle, the rifle might look like an AK-47 semi-automatic, but not work like one. In recent years the cost and availability of quality AKs have gone up and good ones can sometimes be difficult to acquire. 

Two U.S. manufacturers, however, have seen the need to fill shooters’ demands for a well-made AK-47 that has all the durability of the iconic rifle and at a reasonable cost.

It seems an oxymoron to say “American-made AK,” but Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory (PSA) are building AK-47s out of 100-percent U.S.-made parts. These are not former military or new import weapons made 922r compliant, but truly U.S.-made AK rifles built in Vermont by Century and in South Carolina by PSA. The two companies designed their rifles using an amalgamation of AK designs from a variety of countries including Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, China, and others, taking what was best and incorporating the good ideas into the domestic designs.

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We wanted to look at this new breed of American AK, so we scrounged up a pair of Palmetto State Armory rifles and a Century rifle. The rifles ranged from two that were set up with modern Magpul polymer furniture and a third with a more traditional wood appointments.

The AK-47 was designed and prototyped in 1947 and adopted by the Soviet Union in 1949. The design actually borrows from the M1 Garand and German Sturmgewehr StG 44, both of which were issued in WWII. The M1 Garand saw extensive service with G.I.s, while the StG 44 saw limited service when it began to be issued in 1943. The AK design incorporates a long-stroke gas piston and rotary bolt. The idea behind the AK-47 was to design a weapon that was reliable, durable, simple to maintain, relatively accurate, and inexpensive to manufacture. The AK-47 meets all those criteria hands down. Like the StG 44 and M1 Carbine, the AK-47 was a turning point in military weaponry. Shorter, more compact weapons with close to mid-range accuracy was the way wars were being fought. Heavy, large-caliber rifles were not as effective. The AK-47 shoots the 7.62x39mm cartridge, which was also influenced by other countries, namely the cartridge used in the German StG 44, the 7.92x33mm Kurz, and the U.S. M1 carbine in 30 Carbine. In terms of power and trajectory the 7.62x39mm is similar to the venerable 30-30 Winchester.

Some AK characteristics that U.S. shooters need to get used to is the bolt does not lock back on the last shot fired; the safety is a large lever located on the right side of receiver; magazines need to be rotated and locked in place; and the magazine may need to be stripped away, as some magazines fall free when the magazine is released and some do not. The open sights on all AKs, even these three, looked slightly bent. The sights were perfectly zeroed, but slightly bent sights are another characteristic U.S. shooters must acclimate to. The three rifles tested all used stamped receivers, which was what the original AK design called for. Milled receivers were used in the interim. Century offers a line of milled-receiver AKs in the C39v2 line. Milled receivers offer less flex than stamped receivers during recoil, which can aid in accuracy. Milled receivers are also heavier, so felt recoil is lessened. Milled receivers are also more expensive compared to stamped receiver models.

There can be strong opinions about AK-47s from U.S. shooters, but the fact is the AK is probably the most prolific combat rifle currently fielded. One of our team members who is a Gulf War veteran said if he could have only one gun it would be an AK-47 due to the rifle’s reliability and the better terminal ballistics of 7.62x39mm compared to the 5.56x45mm NATO/223 Remington. Yes, there is more recoil with the Russian cartridge, and it is not as accurate as the 5.56/223, but it has more power, and typical accuracy is 4 minutes of angle (MOA), which is plenty accurate for defensive purposes and hunting at moderate distances. We also had diehard AR fans in our test group who gained a respect for the AK platform. In terms of performance, there was nothing lost in translation with these AKs as testers grew a little more tolerant.

We fired the three AKs using open sights, with some members using a Strike Hard (StrikeHardGear.com) AK chest rig. The rig uses an x-harness and holds four magazines with a shock cord retention system. The weight of fully loaded magazines is comfortable with the rig. Here are the details about how each rifle performed during our head-to-head testing.