Firing Line 10/99


More On The 696
I read your July 1999 review of the .44 Special wheel guns with great interest, since I own a S&W model 696. A word on the 696 from my experience: The one I have has been an excellent revolver, and Ive not had a problem with it since the day I bought it. I have had a little trigger work done to smooth out the trigger pull a little, but that was done for personal taste rather than being a necessity.I have shot several different brands and loads of ammunition and have not had a problem. Now, Im not the greatest shot in the world, but I find that it is accurate with everything Ive used in it. I do find it to be a great concealed-carry gun. From my experience, I dont think it is too heavy. Try concealing a Colt Anaconda with a 4-inch barrel.

As far as being a five-shooter, so what? One bullet more or less doesnt mean much since the vast majority of defensive situations use two to three rounds, if there is any shooting at all.

Your test of the Model 696 makes me think you may have gotten a lemon on an otherwise fine revolver model. Letting a few bad products get out of the factory and having one of the bad ones get reviewed by a bunch of great reviewers like yours could give a usually good gun an unnecessary bad rap.

James W. Williams
Carrollton, Texas

Get the Lead Out
Your recent articles on ported revolvers (August 1999) reminded me of my experiences with them, in particular my .45 4-inch Anaconda, which I had Magna-ported. It leads badly with cast bullets and squirts molten Pb out the ports after just a few rounds. Needless to say an afternoon of plinking is out of the question (because accuracy goes to hell in a hurry) unless I use jacketed bullets.

If at all possible test the Taurus .45 Colt model 450ti with cast bullets and report the results in an upcoming article.

Dwight Lowie

There are many factors involved in shooting lead in a ported gun. Leading is a product of more than one factor. Certainly the hardness of the bullet is one. You have to recognize that most leading occurs from the base of the bullet, where the surface is heated by the burning powder. Fast-burning powders like Win. 231 will melt away some of bullet and leave it behind. A slower-burning powder will produce less heat. In larger bullets like .41 and .45 LC, there is that much more lead exposed to heat. To get the most from your porting you should be using a lighter bullet with a slower powder. This allows the most expanding gases to reach the ports. Certainly jacketed bullets are preferred in ported guns, but lead will do just fine if the bullet and powder is matched to the preferred velocity.

If you are looking for a real hot load with lead, youll need to clean the ports frequently. Cleaning the ports can be easily achieved with or without a solvent by using brass stock. In sum, fouling and leading are just facts of life. For more loading insights, try calling Carrol Pilant at Sierra Bullets (660) 827-6300 or

Downrange Remarks
I just read your July 1999 Downrange editorial. I agree with you 100 percent on all the points you made. Its the thing to do. However, I dont ever expect to see it happen. When you really get to it, the struggle has nothing to do with peoples rights. Its all about money and power. I really dont expect to see any firearms dealer, manufacturer, publication, etc. give up any share of the market for me.Lets take Gun Tests for instance:

Colt was reviewed in this issue. Colt is one of the promoters of the smart-gun technology that they keep trying to ram down our throats. The whole thing is a fraud, but the government keeps giving them money to develop it. Colt could care less about us as long as they keep getting the money from the government for M-16s and smart guns. Do you really think they will risk losing any of this for me? Will your publication take a position to not review Colt because they dont support us?Glock wants the biggest piece of the law-enforcement market it can get. Do you really think they wont supply the market just to protect my Second Amendment rights. I dont think so. So will Gun Tests be a leader and recommend that people not buy products from manufacturers that dont support our rights?

Richard W. Bryant

We relearned a valuable lesson during the impeachment hearings: Polite people dont discuss politics, religion, or the appearance of other peoples kids. Call us wimps if you like, but well stick to evaluating steel and lead, and leave boycotts to someone else.

Regarding your 180-degree turnaround from the July 1997 thumbs-up report on the Smith & Wesson Model 696 to the thumbs-down report on the same revolver in the July 1999, hows a person to have any confidence in any of your tests?

Robert L. Berger
Lake Worth, FL

Answer: We test the products we have. If we get a lemon, we report what we find. Since the gun failed in testing, what other conclusion could we have come to, even considering our own testing history on the product? Also, titanium didnt exist as a gun-materials product two years ago. Are we not to consider how existing models stack up in terms of new ones, and update our advice as a result?

Taurus 445
Received my July 1999 issue and was very interested in the review of the .44 Special revolvers. The Taurus 445 has really perked my interest, but the review states that the cylinder binds with heat due to the close tolerances.

In the Recommendations section, it states, We feel the heat-driven lockup problem can be addressed inexpensively. How? If I purchased one, would I send it back to the factory? A local gunsmith? What would I ask them to do? I dont know what to ask either the factory or a smith to do to cure this problem. Also, what do you estimate the cost would be to have this done, since you state this can be done inexpensively.

Keep up the great reviews. They have really helped me steer away from some guns in the past.

Randy Coutre

The cure: Widen the cylinder gap. This can be done by a good gunsmith or machinist. Pricing will be based on local shop rates, but $50 seems about right.


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