Firing Line: July 2001


Whither The Gun Industry?
A suggestion: You might want to test a Carbon-15 as a continuation of your Lightweight AR-15 test in the June 2001 issue. That gun has been getting a number of positive gun reviews elsewhere, which is very suspect. The gun is being sold at a significant discount by CDNN Investments, which might be an unintended indicator of quality and corporate longevity.

I called the company to ask about reliability (the ultimate test of any AR), and got an unfriendly non-answer, which might be the only test that I need.

This led me to think that it is almost impossible to get an unbiased review of guns these days outside of your magazine. I believe that the gun industry is just as responsible for the decline of the sport as are the anti-gunners. The amount of poor customer service, the number of second-rate products sold, and the outright deception from the gun press turns a lot of gunners off from pursuing the sport more actively.

I am a prime example. I was recently broken into and lost $15,000 worth of guns. Insurance was wonderful and quickly sent me a check for the full amount. At first I thought that I would go on a shopping spree. However, after reflection on the number of disappointments in recent gun purchases and frustration with poor customer service, I replaced only three of the six stolen guns ($7,000) and put the other $8,000 in the bank.

I cannot understand why we accept a level of service from the gun industry that we would not accept from any other manufacturer. It is routine to buy a Colt Government Model and then spend another $200 to make it function reliably. Would we accept that from a Sony TV?

The bottom line is that I am getting smarter about spending my dollars, but I am also getting less enjoyment from the sport.

-Steve Fleischer


Browning Hi-Power Pistol Modifications
I was really interested to read the letter from Peter Osborne (April 2001) about the problems he had when he bought a Browning Hi-Power. Prior to that, I thought that the one I bought was just a lemon (obviously, thats not the case). I purchased a 9mm Hi-Power in March 2000 (right before they disappeared from gunstores) and had exactly the same experience as Mr. Osborne: The factory springs were very stiff. On my gun, the slide spring wasnt unmanageable, but the hammer spring was much too strong. The hammer had to be cocked (using both hands) before the slide could be moved back. But the worst thing about the gun was a truly horrible trigger: It required about 11 pounds to pull and had a very jerky release (which made accurate shooting difficult).

I assumed (incorrectly) that the gun needed to be broken in. I shot a few hundred rounds through it with no improvement. I called the Browning service line to ask about the stiff springs. They offered to replace the hammer and slide springs if I returned the gun, but also said the new springs would probably be the same.

Based on that conversation, I ordered a Wilson spring set #323 (Brownells No. 965-323-00) and a service manual. Being reasonably skilled at gun repair, I assumed (incorrectly) that I could replace the hammer spring. In fact, the hammer spring is secured to the hammer strut with a round nut which requires a special tool to remove, so I had my gunsmith do it. I called Browning and asked why it was done that way, and they said they did not want the hammer springs replaced (they only sell the spring/strut assembly) and they also said that using a non-Browning spring voided the warranty on the gun. But, the gun does shoot much better with the new springs.The stock trigger is probably the worst thing about this gun. It can be significantly improved by:

1) Removing the magazine safety plunger and spring from the trigger. This thing rides across the surface of the magazine as the trigger is pulled and adds about 2 pounds of required force to the trigger and makes it hard to quickly take up the trigger slack smoothly when firing. Removal will require the services of a gunsmith, but can be done in about 15 minutes. Its definitely worth it.

2) Once the new spring set is installed, the sear face can be ground to optimize the hammer contact angle (trigger job). This has to be done by an experienced gunsmith with a cutting fixture for Hi-Powers. Done properly, the trigger force can be reduced to around 6 to 7 pounds with a smooth release. This greatly improves accuracy. Its worth noting that the stock sear is a cast piece (not forged) and does not seem to be hard enough to hold its surface well. Mine started to show trigger creep about 300 rounds after it was surfaced. Inspecting the sear face showed scored lines across it which had to be smoothed to restore clean trigger break. C+S makes an after-market sear which is forged for increased hardness (Brownells No. 206-035-031). You should definitely get the better sear if you are going to pay for a trigger job.

3) If you really want a target-grade trigger, C+S makes a replacement sear lever which has the pivot point centered on the shaft to increase trigger leverage (Brownells No. 206-035-040). This sear lever reduces trigger-pull force down to about 3 to 4 pounds. This requires a gunsmith to install because the slide has to have a hole drilled for the pivot pin. I havent tried this one, but it probably works well.

Another item that I recommend for any Hi-Power is a slide-frame shock buffer such as made by Buffer Technologies (Brownells No. 071-000-002) which cushions the impact point between the slide and frame. Its easily installed and works great.

Readers should also consider an aftermarket 9mm stainless barrel extended by 1.5″ with porting vents to reduce muzzle lift. Its made by Federal Arms Corp and sold in a catalog called Shooters ([800] 888-3006). The part number is FXOA-29785 and sells for the low price of $85. It worked perfectly with no fitting and seems to be of good quality.

Despite the work needed to make the gun usable, I still like my Hi-Power. The design is clean and free of unnecessary junk (except for the magazine safety). I also think that the matte-silver/gold trigger with black Pachmayr grips make it one of the most beautiful guns around. The heavy springs and stiff trigger are likely the result of this gun being designed for military and law-enforcement use (a heavy slide spring is chosen to accommodate +P hot loads). The stiff trigger is to prevent accidental discharges (definitely not possible with the stock gun). The fact that no new HPs are being delivered makes it possible that these could become very valuable if Browning doesnt follow through on its promise that they will start manufacturing Hi-Powers again (someday).

-Chester Simpson


Cowboy Guns
The March 2001 issue came in today, and I went straight to the Cowboy gun article over lunch.

You point out some shortcomings of each rifle that can be avoided by picking another model of the same basic design. Some may come from a different importer, but very likely from the same manufacturer, usually Uberti. I dont know if you want to add that to your report of the individual rifle that you shot, but here are the ones I know of:

If you like the looks of the Henry, but not the 9-pound weight, there are carbines and Trappers available from Cimarron and Navy Arms that will save on length and weight.

On the other hand, if you want something steadier than a 19-inch Cimarron 73, they also offer the Short Rifle with 20-inch octagonal barrel or the standard 24-inch rifle. There is even a 30-inch-barrel version in the Cabelas catalog, but I think that is too much of a good thing.

Likewise, Winchester 94s are available in 20-inch carbines and 24-inch Legacy models, which are steadier on target and hold more rounds. Lots of cowboys wrap their lever loops with rawhide to cushion their knuckles on this and other rifles.

I think an article on shotguns suitable for Cowboy Action Shooting would be in order. That would cover double barrels, hammer or hammerless with plain extractors (or with readily removable ejector springs to comply with rules); the new Australian-made 87 lever action shotgun, and the repro 97 pump – if you wish to give the Communist Chinese the publicity. A sidebar on an original 97 and a quality older double in the price range of a new Cimarron rifle would be interesting, too. I shot a friends real 73 recently. It was not in as nice a shape as the one you describe, but it was still as accurate as the new repros you tested, and had a lot more character.

-Jim Watson


Dont Paint It?
I read with relish your test of Cabelas Millennium: If the brass is a bother, dont paint it! There are some nice chemical blackening agents, e.g. Blackenit, which can produce the required effect. These are available from craft stores and other retailers.

-George M. Adamo


Two On-Target Reviews
I was reading the September 2000 article about .375 H&H Magnum rifles. I had to chuckle a bit. I own a five-year-old Ruger .375 H & H Magnum and a Winchester .458 Winchester Magnum. Like other readers, I have found specimens of firearms I like, but the examples you reviewed made you cringe. That certainly can happen. More often than not, your reviews tend to be quite close to my experience with a lot of firearms.

My Ruger .375 is smooth and well made, just as your article said your test gun was. It will put three Barnes X bullets (270 grains) into 0.75 inch. The fourth tends to open up to about 1.25 to 1.5 inch. That is excellent accuracy in my book. You are also correct, in my experience, that the Ruger is quite heavy. The Ruger is quite comfortable to shoot as a result, though.

The Winchester started as a problem child. Guess what! It did the same thing your .375 example did. I did manage to relieve the inside rails that hold the rounds into the magazine so that as they move forward with the bolt, they are released more quickly to the claw bolt controlled feed. Now my rifle feeds very smoothly.

Thanks for the info on the single screw that holds the rear sight on. I didnt know that it was so fragile. I think Ill replace it with one from New England Custom Gun (NECG).

I actually like both rifles, but everyone isnt willing to take a file to an expensive rifle like I did with the Winchester .458. Taking off too much metal will cause the rounds to come flying out of the magazine when the bolt is cycled. Id recommend a good gunsmith do the work.

-Kirk Hunter
Long Beach, Indiana


Best Scope Mount for M1A
I have purchased an M1A and would like to know which mount would be the best for the price. Also would you please tell me which scope rings would be the best.

-James McGlone
U.S. Army (ret.)

I had the best mount in the world on my M14 custom (similar to your M1A), and that was the Brookfield mount. This attached to the receiver with the use of a wrench. I was quite sure that if a truck ran over the rifle the scope would break, the rings would crack, the stock would break, and the barrel would bend. However I was equally sure I could unbolt that mount and use it again with no problems. Only thing is, the base (no rings) cost about $250 several years ago, and not everyone has it for sale.

Also, I wanted to be able to remove the scope, so I found another solution. I believe a better mount, because of its versatility and much lower price was made by S&K Scope Mounts, RD2, Box72E, Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, 16350-9201, telephone (814) 489-3091, (800) 578-9862, fax (814) 489-5466, www.scopemounts .com. I like the S&K mount because it attaches/removes with a thumb screw. If you want to secure the base for long-term use, you can snug it down with pliers around a piece of leather. I dont keep the scope on the rifle, so I use finger pressure and its tight enough. The base keys into the slot on the left side of the receiver. I use a 2-8X Burris Signature scope with it in S&K rings.

-Ray Ordorica


Readers Holster Picks
Of all the gun publications that I subscribe to, yours is the one that I read cover to cover. Keep up the good work!

You recently evaluated several holsters, but you didnt mention two of my personal favorites, Ted Blocker and Fobus. I like Ted Blockers all-leather X-16 for my Colt 1911; its pretty rigid, but comfortable and holds the gun high on my waist. Great for concealed carry. The Fobus is Israeli and made of strong plastic. It holds my .45 in place even without a retention strap.

Both belt and paddle models are available for most calibers, and makes. Fobus also makes magazine pouches from the same material.

-Robert Fisher
Litchfield, CT


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