Beware Online Gun Purchases

Reader William advises taking great care before buying guns online. And we second that wisdom. Reader Bill wonders if we might include shorty shells in shotshell-firing gun evaluations, and we might.


Dear Todd: As a long-time reader and subscriber to your magazine, I value it as the only “source of serious, objective evaluations” of firearms available. That said, I would like to offer my concern, which is not about any specific firearm, but rather about a new trend that I have come to observe in online firearms purveyors. After reading any one of the many advertisements that I receive every day, I have often found one or more firearms that interest me. After being burned, several times, I now type into my search engine, “(Fill in the gun company) reviews and complaints.” The responses are amazing to me!

Some average one star, with the frequent complaint that it is impossible to award fewer than one star. Also, there are complaints about unethical dealers offering guns that they do not have in stock; some delaying shipment for weeks if not months; and many complaints that one of the CZ sites is totally fraudulent, and not being associated with the CZ company at all! There are many others that collect complaints. Even some of the so-called “better” sites have horrible reviews and criticisms, sweetened with what I believe are phony positive reviews, that the companies themselves have submitted.

I would caution anyone who goes to purchase any firearm from any online site to check reviews and complaints about that site. I am surprised that none of the better online dealers haven’t taken any action to prevent these sites from operating. I am sure that publishing this in your informative and honest Gun Tests magazine will save many a reader from annoying hardship. For my part, I have had great success with Bud’s Gun Shop. — William

Hey William: Thanks for the note. Yes, the online gun world is the wild, wild West of gun retailing, and we are not immune from having problems. In this issue, in fact, Robert Sadowski notes in his single-shot shotgun article that he couldn’t get responses from the FedArm company about problems he was having with a tested shotgun. In fact, the shotgun we tested isn’t listed on the FedArm site any longer. It’s a big problem. Like you, we’ve had good success with Bud’s, and also Brownells, Midway, and many others. I even ordered 9mm ammo the other day at a local Academy store. Worked great — all my selections were in stock, and I picked them up curbside the same day. I think your advice to other Gun Tests readers is solid — check the online reviews of a retailer before pulling the trigger on a gun or ammunition purchase. It can save you a lot of heartache. — Todd Woodard

Re “12-Gauge Firearms: Armscor, Garaysar, Remington Compete,” November 2022

Hi, Todd, I really enjoy the magazine because you say the bad things as well as the good! About the three shotshell-firing firearms, the elephant in the room with close-contact shotguns are whether they will fire and cycle mini-shells. The capacity is increased using them, of course, but the question is, can the shorter shells be used directly, or can they be made to work with an adapter? The Mossberg advertises they work. It would be good to check them all for their ability to use the mini shells, both 00 buck and slugs. — Bill

Bill, you are probably right, but I have reservations. In the August 2020 issue, we tested three brands of mini shells. Only one made the grade. The Nobel Sports load was a reliable option, whereas Aguila’s Minishell and Federal‘s Shorty shotshell, not so much. Firing the Aguila 12-gauge 1.75-inch Minishell (5⁄8-ounce mixed load of No. 4 and No. 1 buckshot), for example, we found that “Most of the time, if we worked the action vigorously, we could convince the first shell to feed and fire. But after that, we seldom made it through a magazine without either the shell failing to completely eject or failing to feed. The last shell in the magazine was especially prone to a nose-up failure to feed. Though the shotshell is rated at 1.75 inches in length, that’s the expanded length of the case after firing. Crimped length of the unfired shell was 1.36 inches, compared to the 2.75-inch shotshells’s 2.32-inch unfired length.” They would not feed in pump-action shotguns, and in self-loaders, they would not function because of the low recoil impulse.

Federal’s 12-gauge 1.75-inch Shorty Shotshell with No. 4 buckshot fed no better than the Aguila overall, we found.

The Nobel Sport Italia (NSI) MiniBuck 6P 2.25-inch shell was loaded with six 00 buckshot. It worked flawlessly. The shell is advertised at 2.25 inches in length for the fired case, and unfired, it comes in at 2.19 inches, or 0.13 inches shorter than the unfired length of 2.32 inches for a 2.75-inch shell. After the Covid, however, they became danged hard to find. Still, I’ll discuss with the staff testing with the shorter shells with the shorter shotshell-firing devices. — tw

Re “Four-Gun Shoot-out: 1911-Style Personal-Defense 45 ACPs,” July 2021

In early fall 2022, I received an email ad from Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore hawking the Tisas Duty B45 for $400. I read the full ad and the customer reviews and then searched the Gun Tests online database for the gun and was surprised to find an extensive review of it in the July 2021 edition, ranking it as a “Best Buy.” Ultimately, I was able to catch one at Sportsman’s for the $400 sale price.

First, I would note that Tisas must have read your review, as did I. The pistol is now equipped with a green-fiber-optic front sight and a fixed, beveled, black U-notch rear sight. The grips are now G10 with finger relief. Also, I attempted to measure the trigger pull with a Wheeler trigger gauge, and I’ll be damned if I could get it to give me the same measurement twice. However, I will note that I am a 75-years-old runt, and I found the trigger pull quite accommodating.

On my first, and thus far only, trip to the range with the Tisas, I was quite pleased with the gun’s accuracy right out of the box. I do not shoot with a pistol rest, so I consider my groupings sufficient if they make holes in the paper. I shot starting at 15 yards and moved into 10 yards and then 7 yards.

Did I mention that I’m 75? Anyway, thank you for the write-up. I have a Springfield Armory Range Officer Target on which I had the target sights replaced with Harrison Custom night sights and a Springfield Armory Mil Spec, as well. I love 1911s. — Jeffrey

Hey Jeffrey: Age is just a number. I hope to still be out there banging with my 1911s and other firearms in a dozen more years. I would point out to the rest of the readers that Jeffrey bought the Tisas, which was a Grade B gun that indeed got a Best Buy rating. Very unusual. Of the Tisas Duty, Bob Campbell wrote, “We felt that with a smoother or lighter trigger action, the pistol may have demonstrated better accuracy results. Combat shooting results were behind the others, but it wasn’t bad. In common with the Kimber, the pistol fired low. One of the raters remarked that considering the features of the Tisas Duty, it would be worthwhile to address the trigger action. In the end we rated the Tisas Duty down a half grade each on the heavy trigger action and sub-par accuracy. Even so, we thought it was the Best Buy of the test.” Have a great time shooting that handgun. — tw

Re “Firing Line,” September 2022

Todd: In reference to the letter from John in the September 2022 issue, if you can contact him, I would suggest he sign up for the Smith & Wesson forum ( and inquire about the handgun chambered in 356 TSW. John did not mention if he had a revolver or semi-auto. There were two models chambered in that cartridge, the 3566 (semi-auto) and the 940 revolver. Both are uncommon, and I am sure someone on that forum could give guidance on the value, and perhaps be interested in buying it. Hope this can help him out. Love the magazine, keep it up. — Jim

Smith & Wesson Model 3566 356 TSW

Thank you, Jim. I’ll pass that along. I believe it was a pistol. Because of the correspondence regarding this handgun, I was interested in it and learned the Model 3566 was introduced in 1993, and some units were distributed by Lew Horton. Smith & Wesson began shipping the Model 3566 in 1994. According to the website, “The double-stack single-action pistol was tuned for high-level USPSA competition. It was a pistol that was going to dominate the new Limited division, with the capacity of a standard 9x19mm handgun but enough power to qualify for Major. And then in February 1995, the USPSA Board revised their rules to require a minimum bullet diameter of .40 inch for any Major caliber. Was S&W unfairly screwed by USPSA? Or was S&W trying to exploit a rule loophole contrary to the spirit of the game? Either way, the victim was the 356 TSW cartridge, which had a lot of potential but was basically dead on arrival because of the USPSA rule change.” This sounds like a round that needs a reintroduction. — tw

Re “Drop-In Glock Triggers: Apex, OverWatch, Timney Compared,” January 2023

Hi: I do indeed love your magazine, but I’ve been waiting for months to see the “Drop-in” bang switches for Glock etc. testing. So far (for months) the back page of your magazine keeps saying the article is “coming.” My question is when? I’ve been patiently waiting for a long time. — Pat

Hey Pat: See last month’s issue. Sorry for the delay. — tw

Shotgun Suggestion

Love your magazine. Have been a subscriber for many years. I think you are missing a part of the gun hobby, though. I understand that you guys (and most people these days) are predominantly black-rifle and black-pistol aficionados, so most of your articles will be about those, with a few revolvers and hunting rifles thrown in once in a while. It seems that if you do cover any shotguns, they are tactical, or once in a while, some hunting shotguns get covered.

But there is a sizable community of competition shotgun shooters (trap, skeet, and sporting clays, as well as the international sports of International Skeet and Trap, known as bunker trap and FITASC) out there that would appreciate a little love, too. There are also the “vintagers” with their side-by-side shotguns and dangerous-game rifles. I know you might have to enlist some new testers with different skill sets, but you do have a lot of resources near you. Briley Manufacturing is right there in Houston, as well as the Dallas Safari Club, and the National Shooting Sports Complex is in San Antonio.

If you need a suggestion for your first subject, you might do a comparison between some of the less-expensive Turkish over/under shotguns compared to a Browning and a Beretta O/U. It is a hotly debated topic on that could use some actual testing rather than opinion. Thank you for your consideration. — Gregg

Hey Gregg: Good advice. I program the magazine heavily with reader-submitted ideas. We have done competition guns in the past, but I just don’t get much call for them. But here you are. We’ll see what we can do. — tw


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