Category Archives: Editor’s Picks

Counting On A New Number

MY New-Found Appreciation
For The .32 Sixgun.

When the .44 Magnum first arrived in my area the local range, Shell’s Gun & Archery Farm, rented it out to all who were brave enough to shoot it. It was a 4-inch Smith & Wesson pre-Model 29, which in those days was simply known as the .44 Magnum. We were then teenagers who always shot together, and we each paid our fee—I think it was 50¢ for six rounds—and proceeded to go where no man had gone before.

Up to this time we mostly shot .45 ACP and .45 Colt for big-bore guns as well as an assortment of .357 Magnums mostly using .38 Special brass with the Keith bullet and the Keith load. After we all shot our six rounds out of the new .44 Magnum in that beautiful S&W sixgun, we all tried to hide our discomfort, all lied and said it wasn’t bad. Actually we didn’t lie—it wasn’t bad, it was horrible.

Later on I would read Elmer Keith saying it was not as bad as shooting a .38 Chiefs Special, while at the same time General Hatcher at the NRA said it felt like getting hit in the palm of the hand with a baseball bat. At the time I definitely leaned more to General Hatcher’s thinking; however, as I progressed I found the truth was more in between what these two fine gentlemen had to say.

After those six rounds I knew I did not want a S&W .44 Magnum. However, when a Ruger .44 Magnum Flat-Top Blackhawk showed up at the same gun shop I bought it. I had read, I believe it was in an article by Lucian Cary, the Ruger had the same grip frame as the Colt Single Action Army, which everyone knew was very user-friendly. Upon firing, it would simply slip in the hand and minimize recoil. I actually bought into that until I fired my first round.

Perhaps the grip frame did work with standard .45 Colt loads, however, when I touched off that first .44 Magnum in the Ruger the barrel rotated 90 degrees (probably more) and the hammer dug into the back of my hand drawing blood. I hung that gun on a couple of pegs in my bedroom where it stayed for quite a while.

No one likes to admit defeat and I wasn’t about to be conquered by the .44 Magnum. I bought a 6-1/2-inch S&W and found the answer was different grips. Herrett’s was marketing their smooth Jordan Trooper stocks and that proved to be the answer. I added thicker stocks to the Ruger Flat-Top, and subsequently purchased a Ruger Super Blackhawk and a 4-inch S&W .44 Magnum. These four sixguns were the subject of the first article I ever wrote entitled “4 x 44 =Fun” way back in 1967.

Being a teenager I was not in on the ground floor of load development for the .44 Magnum, however I do believe I was the one of the first, if not the first, to publish load data for the .44 Magnum using 300-grain bullets. That was just the beginning and I went on to work with virtually every big-bore cartridge offered over the next three decades working out extensive loading data for each one of them.


John’s growing battery of .32’s now includes (left to right) an S&W K-32 .32 S&W,
a Gary Reeder custom Ruger .32 H&R Single-Six and Bisley Model, and an S&W .32
H&R Kit Gun.

Although I had great pleasure doing all of this, and definitely earned my spurs, I paid a high price for all this “fun.” My hands, fingers, and wrists would be in much better shape today had I not shot so many of these loads. If you are working with any of these, just as with about everything else, the key is moderation. Elmer Keith tried to tell us, however we just didn’t pay attention. After waiting nearly 30 years he wrote an article one year after the introduction of the .44 Magnum saying he had fired his first gun a total of 600 rounds the first year, meaning he fired 12 rounds per week.

After Roy Huntington at American Handgunner talked of his .32’s, I started doing an inventory of my own. My first introduction to the .32 was the Ruger Single-Six .32 H&R Magnum. My friend Joe had purchased one with a 9-1/2-inch barrel and I immediately thought of it as a toy. However, I decided to go along with him and searched the cupboard for some suitable targets for his JHP handloads. One of the targets I found was a can of split pea soup (way down the list of things I find edible).

The can was set up at 25 yards with me shooting and Joe photographing. That first shot changed any thoughts I had about the .32 being a toy. That JHP dead-centered the soup can and seemed like the whole world turned green. I was splattered with little blobs of green as well as was my red Bronco. A whole new world opened up to me.

About the same time Elgin Gates, who was then the president of IHMSA (International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association), sent me a new sixgun designed for an offshoot of long-range silhouettes, namely Field Pistol using smaller targets, at shorter ranges and shot standing only. That first dedicated Field Pistol was an 8-inch Heavy Barreled Dan Wesson .32 Magnum. It was extremely accurate with virtually no recoil. That was my first .32 but definitely not my last. I bought two Ruger .32 Magnum Single-Sixes and they were sent off to gunsmith Andy Horvath to be converted into Perfect Packin’ Pistols. Andy shortened the barrels to 4 inches, round-butted both grip frames, one of which was the Bisley-style, tuned, tightened and refinished both of them. They remain favorites to this day. S&W made a .32 Magnum Kit Gun for only one year and for some reason never cataloged it. It also has a 4-inch barrel and makes a PPP.

Lately, I am more drawn to used guns, especially smallbores. I found a Ruger .32 Magnum Single-Six while a friend in Texas found two .32 Bisley Models for me. All three were sent to Gary Reeder for full customization. The Single-Six now wears a 9-1/2-inch barrel, the two Bisleys, (one fixed-sight and the other adjustable), are both now 7-1/2-inch sixguns. Gary reblued them as only he can and they are all excellent shooters. At the same time I had him rechamber of the cylinder of a second Dan Wesson .32 H&R to .327 Magnum.


John’s rare Dan Wesson .32-20 shoots superbly.


Today’s .32 cartridges include (left to right) the .32 S&W,
.32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum and .327 Federal Magnum.

The New .32’s

Today it is difficult to find new .32 sixguns. Ruger offers the SP101 and GP100 in .327 Magnum, while Freedom Arms has the best .32 ever offered with their little Model 97 which can be ordered with at least three cylinders in .327 Federal, .32 H&R and .32-20. The .32-20 is an old Winchester rifle cartridge first chambered in the Colt SAA. For a very short time Colt offered their 3rd Generation SAA in .32-20 and I feel very fortunate to have been able to come up with a 5-1/2-inch version. Uberti has offered replicas in .32-20 for some time and I’ve found all to be quite accurate. I have also had both Hamilton Bowen and John Gallagher build me custom .32-20’s on Colt and Ruger Single Actions respectively. Both are excellent small-game pistols.

Lately I’ve been looking for older double action .32’s. One of the hardest .32’s to come up with, at least at any kind of a reasonable price, is the Smith & Wesson K-32 Target Masterpiece. Thanks to a reader I now have one at an almost unbelievable purchase price. In the past couple of months, as I have been recuperating from knee surgery, I have hobbled into a couple of local gunshops and come up with several .32’s from the beginning of the 20th century. One is a very small Colt Pocket Positive .32 S&W and two of them are Colt Army Specials, which were the forerunners of the Official Police. They are both chambered in .32-20, one with a 4- and the other a 6-inch barrel. Both are in excellent shape and were very reasonably priced.

Big-bore sixguns are a grand choice for various serious situations, however they can also be loaded down to a more pleasant level. The .32’s, even in their heaviest versions, are always pleasant to shoot without a kick in a carload and they do very well for punching holes in paper, tin cans, varmints. Should the need arise, they could certainly be used for self-defense.

Elmer Keith’s first sixgun was a 7-1/2-inch Colt Single Action .32-20, which he used to take several mule deer. This was his start and he then went on to big bores. I did it backwards and now find myself with a small, magnificent obsession.
By John Taffin

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Tactical Tips

Well, Tactical-ish, At Any Rate.

I get a lot of questions about “tactical tips and techniques,” some specific and some general. Those who ask the latter kind just wanta be entertained. They don’t care how long it takes; they’ve got lotsa time. For them, I lean forward, lower my voice and pause for dramatic effect. Then I whisper, “This… is the best, the least-known, the most esoteric piece of tactical wisdom I can give you: Never be in a shot-up, blown-out, cheese-holed all-concrete building when it decides, ‘Nah, I’m done ’ and collapses on you.”

I get some weird responses. A typical one is, “Huh? Is… Is that all?” I wave a hand over my body and ask, “What, you wanta wind up like this?” Then I laugh. Occasionally they do too, after a moment. Mostly not, but I don’t care.

Those who ask for specifics really wanna know, so I’ll give them all the time it takes. Thought I’d share a few with you if that’s OK. Understand this: I have not survived because I’m a tactical wizard or a super-soldier. I’m alive only by the grace of God and the poor marksmanship, lack of discipline and staggering stupidity of my enemies. A little of what I know I’ve learned from formal training. Most, I’ve learned from observing what works—and what gets people killed.

Too Tricky + Too Fast = FAIL

“Tactical Speed Reloading” and “reloading on the move” come up frequently. I don’t do either one. I do stable, sure and certain reloads, done as speedily as I can keep them assuredly stable and certain. I’ve seen highly trained well-disciplined men fumble reloads under firefight conditions even when they were behind cover and not trying to break any speed records. That’s just a product of “combat adrenaline.” I actually try to slow myself down and get it right, not rapidly wrong. Two illustrations:

A while back I saw some footage shot but not used for a commercial “tactical” video. The Ranger-Ricky-Guy, one of these fashionable Global Ninja Operator types, was demonstrating his speed tactical pistol reloading technique. Emptying his pistol 2-handed, he suddenly drops his support hand while continuing to fire, plucks a fresh mag from his worthless-for-anything-besides-competition mag pouch, between either his pinky and ring finger, or ring and middle finger, and comes up with it just as his pistol runs dry.

He pops the mag release, catches the empty mag between thumb and pointy-digit, and is supposed to insert that fresh mag and drop the slide, all at blazing speed. He fumbled it miserably if hilariously four times, then succeeded on the fifth, but somebody on the crew yelled out “Yay! Thank God!” too soon, so the whole thing had to be re-shot. Lots of yuks and high-fives, but this was intended as training! The clip I saw was supposed to be erased. People pay good money for this crap. Go figger, huh?

Back in my callow youth, I was reclining in a ditch, poppin’ the mostly-expended mag from my rifle, peepin’ it to see about how many rounds remained, checking my other mags, then carefully inserting a fresh one. I wasn’t lollygaggin’, but had no urgent appointments, hadn’t left the bath water running back home, and my opposition was busy fruitlessly expending their ammo.

A guy we already called “Hollywood,” because he acted like he was starring in a war movie, crashed down Hollywood-hard next to me, and in a blur of movement, popped out a presumably-empty mag, sorta threw a reload into his mag well, released his bolt, exploded to his feet and charged. The magazine he had just inserted fell at my feet. He was gone. I swear, he shot me a glance as he rose, as if checking to see if I was impressed with his coolness. I survived. Lesson learned.

Whether with rifle or pistol, I grab and manipulate magazines in a solid full-fisted grip, with my thumb pointing up close to the feed lips, guiding mags into place and assuring they’re locked in. Just practice after running a 100-yard dash, while balancing on an exercise ball, reciting the Gettysburg Address, holding a live rattler in your teeth. Or, while standing athwart the prow of the Leakin’ Lena in a Force 9 Gale. That oughtta do it!

This leads nicely into reloading-on-the-move, shooting-on-the-move and other silliness, so…


Tactical Tip No. 1: Try not to wind up here.

Gonna Move? MOVE!

I know these techniques are taught by “serious people,” but so are post-modern Marxist feminism and counter-cultural guerrilla dance theatre. Just my opinion from hard experience, but unless you’re down to a choice of doing it or definitively kissin’ your butt goodbye, I advise against it. Movement under real or potential fire means getting from Point A to Point B alive. Once there, if you’ve chosen Point B wisely, you can shoot or reload. Examples I’ve seen of the folly of both are too many to share here. I’ll keep it to this:

Once, within 60 seconds, I watched two guys (fortunately, bad guys) try to shoot, and one to reload, while attempting to traverse less than about 80 meters of ground from a truck park into a treeline. The ground was “flat,” but broken in detail; the kind of surface easily crossed if you’re steaming along and keeping an eye on your footing. Both tried to get fancy, firing to their sides and one to his rear. Both tripped and fell like comic actors—and stayed there, riveted to the deck with slugs. It was entirely possible they would have made it if they’d just ran!

Unless you’re running steadily straight away from your opponent, you’re unlikely to be hit “on purpose.” To Whom It May Concern shots are somethin’ else, and lie in higher hands. None of this hunchy-shouldered, head-pulled-in, half-speed trotting either, unless it keeps you under the top level of a solid wall. Your arms should be doing nothin’ but pumpin’ in synch with your legs to wring out maximum speed—and watch your footing!

The only exception to this rule is when you must charge straight at your armed oppo, in which case shooting goes from frivolous to favored status. It ain’t foolproof, but in my experience it yields the best results of any shooting-on-the-move. And that leads into: “effective fire.”

Many teach “The only effective fire consists of aimed, deliberate shots delivered to center mass of your opponent.” Just my opinion again, but Wrong-O! Any fire which causes your oppo not to do something beneficial for them or injurious to you, or to do something tactically unsound is, in fact, effective fire. You should learn some physical dynamics of ricocheting and “skipping” shots, for example, the tendency of small arms rounds, fired at steep or shallow angles to impact and then travel along fairly close to that hard surface, whether it’s along a vertical wall or horizontal hard deck. I’ve finished two and flushed four with “skippers.”

Closing Cadence

’Nuther related thing: Be very aware of your visibility and relative position. Example: In one fight several idiots took “cover” behind a flatbed trailer. They leaned tight over the deck, kept their rifles low and heads down. They could deliver pretty accurate fire—briefly. From hips to feet they were exposed. “Shootin’ their legs out from under ’em” ain’t a figurative statement. If any part of you is visible through a crack in a door, a knothole, whatever; if there’s even a change in light through that slice, that hole, somebody can put rounds on you.

Two sayings: If all you see is a piece of your target, shoot the piece! Shoot it to pieces, then shoot the pieces; elbows, fingers, noses, whatever. They may not be fight-ending shots, but they’re life-altering shots, I guarantee you.

Second, it ain’t enough to shoot somebody until you think he’s dead. You gotta shoot him until he thinks he’s dead. But you didn’t hear this from me. It ain’t “proper” or something. Connor OUT

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The Goops, Soups & Sauces Project

For over two years now my go-to gunsmith and I have been conducting structured, methodical, documented tests of cleaners, lubes and protectants. Yeah, I know: you wouldn’t expect “structured and methodical” from me. Neither would I. But that’s where K comes in. With an extensive background in design engineering, metallurgy, precision machining and 40 years of gunsmithing, well, if you have an infestation of nits that need pickin’, he’s The Man. K will inspect, mike ’em, tune ’em up and arrange nits in neat ranks. I’m sworn not to reveal his name, because he already has to turn business away; says he can’t do any more without lowering his standards. As long as he makes time for my guns, that’s cool with me.

We’ve focused on new and “emerging” products, and even that has proved overwhelming. Some don’t take much time. If we quickly determine a product performs in the, “OK but nothin’ to write home about” range, we drop it. Real attention-getters, those producing immediate noteworthy results, then get hammered, put under the microscope, subjected to hard runnin’ in varying conditions, and proven positively. There’s far more data than we can pack into this article, and even the deep-cleaning process preceding each test would make an article of its own, but here are some highlights on our champions.


Top performers in the “New & Emerging Products” category:
FIREClean, FrogLube and SLiP2000.

The Big Three

If any product we tested rates the word “amazing,” it’s FIREClean Advanced Gun Oil. The advertising says “Cleans, Lubricates, Conditions,” and it does all that extremely well. But the big bottom line is, following the instructions, once treated and then maintained with FIREClean, carbon caking and buildup on your worst carbon-magnet firearms are eliminated. Cleanup is quick and easy, and you should never have to scrape carbon again, or even have to use a harsh solvent. Carbon residue simply wipes off.

If you have problems with hardened lead fouling—on semi-auto .22’s or centerfire guns shooting lead slugs—what would be tough lead fouling instead manifests as a soft gray moosh. In FIREClean-treated weapons, the worst lead fouling we’ve encountered could be cleaned with a cotton swab using light finger pressure.

FIREClean is non-toxic, non-flammable, odorless and biodegradable. It is expensive by the ounce, but after initial treatment only very small amounts are needed for continued excellent performance. Every DGI carbine, .22 semi-auto and the piston systems of semi-auto shotguns coming through K’s shop are now treated with FIREClean (250 per year on average). His customers have been unanimously pleased—and so have I. K calls it “a liquid tune-up for 10-22’s.”

Tip: If you run select-fire weapons and suppressors hard, FIREClean is your magic juju.

FrogLube in its original paste and liquid gel forms performed impressively from the start of our project. This went up several notches when the product family was rounded out with FrogLube CLP Spray, Solvent Spray and pre-soaked FrogLube Wipes. Now it’s a complete system, and an excellent one. Thoroughly cleaned and then FrogLube-treated arms should need nothing else for long lives of hard service. Endurance testing with single applications of FrogLube exceeded all expectations. Our tests on carbines and Glock pistols were astounding.

As you might expect from a product developed by a former Navy SEAL officer, it’s a great all-around performer but turns in its best performance on weapons subjected to wet, even salt water conditions. Even with sand and grit introduced, its residual lubricating and anti-corrosive properties are tenacious. All the FrogLube formulations are “food-grade,” and completely non-toxic and biodegradable.

Initial application and occasional refreshment treatments are best done on warm or even hot components, and you should let it soak into the metal for hours or overnight. Bores and chambers should be soppin’ wet. Just wipe off the excess, dry the bore and chamber, and you’re ready to rock. You’ll have little need to refresh it through thousands of rounds, but when you do re-apply, use the liquid where it needs to migrate, and the paste on chatter-and-bash points where you want it to stick. FrogLube will not harm any known polymers or rubber compounds.
Many of K’s shotgunning clients hunt the marshlands, both saltwater and fresh. Regardless of what CLP’s he uses on the innards, he treats the exterior metal with FrogLube. Customers praise it.

Tip: Take FrogLube Wipes and cleaning gear with you when shooting. When you’re finished, while the weapon’s still hot, cut wipes into patches. Wipe the bolt face, run the patches through the bore and chamber, then run dry patches through later or the next day. You’ll be ready to rock again.

My intro to SliP 2000 EWL (Extreme Weapons Lube) came in testing a Barrett REC-7 5.56mm carbine on a morning dawning at 23 degrees F below zero, continuing into wind chills to minus 40 degrees F through the day. The weapon was lightly lubed with EWL and it ran flawlessly. On that day and on another sub-zero session, without refreshing the lube, the REC-7 was repeatedly shot too hot to hold, left with the receiver open to blowing ice dust until cold, then fired smokin’ hot again. We have since torture-tested it on several other rifles and pistols of various types and calibers, with uniformly superb results.

This is some of the slipperiest, most highly lubricious and long-lasting stuff we’ve ever used. In fact, small parts lubed with EWL are hard to hold onto and will squirt right outta your grasp. It does not thin out or gum up, and it’s very tenacious when used on components cleaned of other formulations. We highly recommend it on hot-running weapons with tight tolerances used in extreme heat and cold. K also uses it extensively inside shotgun receivers and trigger groups, especially when the user shoots notoriously dirty-burning ammo.

The SLiP 2000 lineup includes their 725 Gun Cleaner Degreaser and Carbon Killer Bore Cleaner. Both have worked just fine—no fireworks—but if you’re using EWL, keeping your chemicals in the same family is smart.

Tip: SLiP2000 EWL has become my default “add-to” lube on weapons when I don’t know what they’ve previously been treated with. I haven’t found a petroleum-based or synthetic sauce that EWL doesn’t play nice with. No gumming, separation or varnishing under load. Great stuff!


Established winners that keep on shining: The Mil-Comm family and Militec-1.

Established Goops SHARE TOP Honors

SIG SAUER uses only Mil-Comm products, from their heavy manufacturing through every firearm rolling off the production lines. It’s a huge product family, but all you need is their TW25B Light Grease, Mc2500 Oil Lubricant/Protectant (AKA “TW25B Oil), Mc25 Weapons Cleaner/Degreaser and TW25B Weapon Wipes to fill your needs. I’ve run seven SIG’s—three rifles and four pistols—on nothin’ but Mil-Comm with consistently superb performance.

Just a note: Mil-Comm is the only lubricant/protectant authorized for use on certain naval automatic weapons systems. Now that’s a recommendation!

Established winners that keep on shining: The Mil-Comm family and Militec-1.

All Kahr firearms are lubed and protected with Militec-1 synthetic liquid lubricant and metal conditioning grease from the factory. It’s a high-tech formulation called “dry impregnated lubrication,” essentially, micro particles in liquid suspension. Throughout our project, I’ve run five Kahr pistols hard on Militec-1 with outstanding results. One thing I’ve found is if you clean and maintain with nothing but Militec-1 you should never need to use a solvent, and it is particularly good for break-in work. In the tropics, Militec-1 earns praise for its retained lubricity and anti-corrosive properties under hot, steamy conditions.

A 1/3-ounce tube of the grease, a 4-ounce bottle of the liquid, and a 1-ounce bottle with their 3-inch syringe applicator makes a great initial setup.

There’s much more, but that’s all for now. The GS&S Project goes on; shootin’ cool guns and stackin’ up hot brass. It’s a tough job, but… You know the rest. Ha! Connor OUT
By John Connor

P.O. Box 192
Ashburn, VA 20146
(703) 362-3752

P.O. Box 327
Wellington, NV 89444
(855) 376-4582

SLiP2000 / SPS Marketing Inc.
4697 Fairway Dr.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 665-0592

Mil-Comm Products Company
2 Carlton Ave.
East Rutherford, NJ 07073
(201) 935-8561

Militec Inc.
11828 Pika Drive
Waldorf, MD 20602
(877) 222-5512

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Gunfighter Grip

The lightweight Key Mod rail on my Bravo Co. AR-15 upper allows the installation of a variety of proprietary accessories, such as the Bravo Gunfighter forward grip along with M1913 rail sections for other accessories. The Bravo grip is smaller than many and only fits three fingers. Even with my pinky dangling, the palm-filling grip gives me full control of the front of the rifle without the illusionary lack of confidence often given when short handgun grips leave my little finger dangling. If you prefer your pinky engaged, running your forefinger along the fore-end will give your pinky purchase. A real benefit of this reduced size forward grip is it reduces the possibility of snagging in close quarters.

The forward pistol grip installs easily. Push up the spring-loaded latch on the upper left side and rotate the pistol grip a couple of turns to free up the key mod studs for installation. With the studs engaged, rotate the grip until the latch springs into place. The grip is locked.


Jeff got the Gunfighter Grip along with two extra rail sections for his AR-build. The Key Mod
fore-end is wonderfully versatile maintaining a slim profile and allowing the installation of
accessories where they are desired. The Gunfighter Grip is compact and gives the shooter better
control of the rifle.


The Gunfighter grip installs easily and securely. Press the latch at the top and rotate the
grip, freeing the studs for insertion in the key-mod fore-end. Rotate the grip back until it
latches and the grip is securely locked. The base of the grip is hinged and hollow for storage
of batteries or parts.

At the base of the grip is a trapdoor for storage of batteries or spare parts. Simply pinch the bottom edge of the twin latches at the base of the grip and pull. The trap opens on a hinge. The space is long enough to hold one CR123A battery but will need something packed around it to keep it from rattling. There is a pocket at the base deep enough so one AA battery can be held securely enough it won’t rattle, although it was hard for me to retrieve it with my fingers.

Shooting game enthusiasts will find the forward grip offers greater control of the rifle when swinging between targets. For self-defense, the grip makes tucking the rifle into your shoulder easier, since you’re pulling straight back using arm strength rather than hand strength the conventional method involving a tight grip on the fore-end requires, translating into less fatiguing practice sessions.
By Jeff John

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The Umarex Legends Makarov Ultra

Airfun Guns Are Inexpensive
And Cheap To Shoot.

The Umarex Legends line-up of action CO2 pistols now has another worthy member. It is a spittin’ image of none other than the redoubtable Makarov PM semi-auto pistol developed in the old Soviet Union. The real powder-burning Makarov is the brainchild of one Nikolai Makarov. It first appeared back in 1948 and incorporates some of the function features of the Walther PP, with single- and double-action operation.

The Makarov pistol has seen widespread use for over 50 years as the issue sidearm of Russian military and police forces. It has also been produced and used in most former and current Communist countries. Introduced to the US civilian market years ago, the compact Makarov has also remained fairly popular in this country. This concludes the history lesson.

Although looking almost identical to the real 9x18mm Makarov, the Makarov Ultra from Umarex differs from the original in some key function aspects. For instance, the 9mm Makarov features single- and double-action operation. The Ultra has single-action operation only. Also, the real deal has a slide-mounted safety that also serves to decock the hammer, while the Ultra’s safety simply disconnects the trigger. Despite those functional differences, the Ultra is a superbly realistic semi-auto BB pistol.


The Umarex Makarov Ultra is an ideal low-cost training pistol also adding quite of bit of
realistic fun for recreational shooting practice, due to the recoil of the slide as it cycles.


The Legends Makarov Ultra (above, bottom gun) is a faithful look-alike of the real thing.
Both the real Makarov (below) and the Ultra can be fieldstripped the same way. The CO2
capsule fits in the Ultra’s BB magazine.


The Ultra is powered by one standard 12 gram CO2 cartridge with a rather potent blowback action and impressive recoil. The CO2 capsule fits in the detachable magazine (the latter can load up to 16 steel BB’s, by the way). Like the real Makarov, the Ultra’s slide remains open when the last BB in the magazine is fired. Tests yielded an average muzzle velocity of 355 fps with Crosman BB’s. While definitely not meant for serious paper punching, the Ultra on test-blasted empty tin cans and other traditional plinking targets at a distance of 10 yards without fail. Many of the cans—not the flimsy soft-drink kind—were drilled and bounced around by the hail of BB’s from the Ultra. The accuracy delivered by this BB-spitter is more than adequate for a BB pistol with a short 3.5-inch smoothbore barrel.
Construction of this little beauty is all cast alloy with a matte black finish. Weighing a hefty 1.4 pounds, the Ultra is just a few ounces lighter than the real thing. The grip plates are checkered plastic, like those found on the original.

The fixed sights also duplicate those of the 9mm original: basic but adequate for short-range action. The single-action trigger was a bit mushy, also comparable to the triggers I have experienced in most of the 9mm Makarovs I have fired.

I have owned several 9mm Makarovs over the years and have found they are adequate as personal defense sidearms. In fact, I know a couple of local police officers who carry Makarovs as off-duty pieces.

Another interesting feature of the Ultra is it fieldstrips just like the powder-burning original. Pulling down on the triggerguard permits the removal of the slide from the lower receiver. I think this is a nice feature and one handy for training.

There is no doubt that the Umarex Makarov Ultra is an impressive piece, suitable for both backyard plinking and firearms training. Its decidedly affordable price is another reason sure to make the Ultra popular with a lot of folks.

Makarov Ultra
Maker: Umarex USA
7700 Chad Colley Blvd.
Ft. Smith, AR 72916
(479) 646-4210
Caliber: 4.5mm (.177-inch) steel BB’s
Power source: 12 gram CO2 capsule
Mechanism: Single action, blowback
Magazine capacity: 16, Length overall: 6.375 inches
Barrel: 3.5-inch smoothbore steel
Weight: 1.4 pounds
Sights: Fixed
Safety: Manual
Price: $109.95

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In The Beginning…

There Was The Smith & Wesson
Model 1 in .22 Short.

In 1857, in a livery stable on Market Street in Springfield, Mass., Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson assembled a crew of 25 workmen and began producing the first (or at least the first of any note) metallic cartridge revolver. The concept rested upon the ownership of the Rollin White patent and a monopoly on the through-bored revolver cylinder and the rimfire cartridge developed for parlor shooting in Europe in the previous decade.

The Flobert pistols and rifles were quite popular then and have remained in production through modern times. The 6mm BB (bulleted breech) cap via Messrs. Smith & Wesson was given a longer case as well as a conical bullet to replace the roundball, becoming the Smith & Wesson Number 1 Cartridge—the black powder loaded .22 Short. The revolver itself became known as the Model 1 and it went through three variations between 1857 and 1881.

The immediate acceptance of the Model 1 and the subsequent Models 1-1/2 and 2 revolvers in .32 rimfire are a testament to the alacrity the public displayed in abandoning front-loading sidearms with their loose powder and ball or flimsy envelope cartridges. The arms were puny in the extreme. Almost 12,000 of the Mod. 1, 1st Issue were produced between 1857 and 1860. Collectors find a tedious number of sub-variations but the basic model was about 6-1/2 inches long with a barrel slightly over 3 inches and weighing almost nothing.

The second variation totaling 117,000 revolvers from 1860 to 1868 retained the brass frame, though it was now flat-sided rather than rounded and the sideplate was much larger. Sales began to taper off with the end of the Civil War, but the significantly improved 3rd variation picked up in 1868 and remained in production until 1881. A bird’s-head grip replaced the original square-butt profile, the frame was now made of cast iron and the cylinder was now fluted. Serial number ranged from 1 through 131,163 with at least one source estimating the yearly production as 10,000 units.

After 1872, when the Rollin White patent expired along its protections, the Model 1 picked up several imitators (Marlin being one prominent example). This first Smith & Wesson revolver pioneered some enduring features. The hammer stirrup/hammer/mainspring configuration resembles the set-up continuing to the present. The mainspring is tensioned by a strain screw placed through the lower front of the grip frame—a design which never required much updating.


Called “tip-up” or bottom break (above), these revolvers were strong enough for the .22 and
.32 rimfire cartridges, but it would not do to put one in your back pocket and sit on it.
The top of the hammer nose (below) impinges on this spring-loaded bolt stop and releases
the cylinder for rotation when the hammer cocked. At full cock, the bolt stop re-engages
the cylinder notch and locks the chamber in line with the barrel. The rear sight notch
is small but usable and the sights on this example were “well regulated.”




The Model 1 has a spring-loaded latch at the bottom front of the frame releasing the barrel to be tipped upward for loading. The press-fitted pin under the barrel serves as the ejector. The cylinder is removed for charging, then replaced and the barrel returned to battery. The cylinder has seven chambers and no safety whatsoever. The only safe carry option is six beans in the wheel and hammer down on the empty. This may or may not have been the prevailing practice, as Mark Twain compared the projectiles to homeopathic pills and posited all seven as the recommended adult dose. Of possible significance is the observation that the chambers on my example are tighter than on my K-22 revolver and the barrel is enough smaller that a cleaning loop fitting modern .22 barrels will not enter.

Our revolver is a Model 3, serially numbered in the 29,000 range. Best guess is that it comes from 1870-’71 period. It is perfectly timed with tight lock-up and a small barrel-cylinder gap with no end float. The chambers appear to align perfectly with the barrel. It may have been fired before I got it but if so, somebody took the unusual step of cleaning it properly. The bore, chambers and internals appear pristine. The trigger pull is nice and the rear sight—a small notch in the cylinder stop—is serviceable for those with good eyes.

Most data regarding the shootability of the Model 1 comes from Mark Twain who dedicated a significant portion of the second chapter in his book Roughing It to making fun of the weapons (and passengers) on his Nevada-bound stagecoach. One traveler had an Ethan Allen Pepperbox that either fired not at all or went off with a “rattling crash,” deploying all barrels and destroying everything in its path—including the “nigh mule of a farmer’s hitch.” One worthy carried his Colt revolver uncapped because he was afraid of it.

Twain loved his S&W Model 1 but declared you couldn’t hit anything with it including the cow he claimed they had chosen as a target. The jackrabbit he shot at departed at high speed and, “long after it was out of sight, you could still hear it whizzzz.” One modern-day gun board contributor said his shot about 7 feet high at “combat” distances.


Out to 10 yards, the Smith proved much easier to hit with than history records.


Compared to the North American Arms .22 WMR the S&W is very similar in size,
but the NAA is much more powerful.

Myth Busting

It’s not a myth—use of modern .22 Short ammunition is not a good idea. Some people do it and nobody admits to damaging one of these revolvers. Still, the thin cylinder walls and the thinner, iron rear aspect of the barrel, coupled with the narrower bore dimensions mentioned above, militate against it. It was even a bit spooky when I clocked some CCI Mini-caps. They averaged 576 fps (about what they do from a modern revolver with 6-inch barrel).

Legend states the original .22 Short cartridge was loaded with 4 grains of black powder. This is now a much repeated and indelible cultural artifact. The expert opinion is bereft of observation but delivered with resounding authority. It is possible to pack 2.9 grains of 3Fg or 4Fg black powder into a Short case but then there is no room for a bullet. The 100 percent density load is 2.3 grains of either granulation under the heel of the 29-grain bullet. Loaded with a generic sort of 4Fg prime, my loads were loping along in the 300 fps range. High energy Swiss 3Fg upped the average to 443 fps while the traditional and probably guessed-at velocity is given as “circa 500 fps.” I got pretty good at the black powder conversions but there is room to hope the original Shorts were a bit better than my “reloads.”

Cheerfully, it develops that Mr. Twain went a bit overboard in his critique of the Model 1’s potential accuracy. Shooting the CCI Mini-caps, I got a pretty decent group shooting at 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards. The black powder loads were just as good. I extended the range to 20 yards on a freshly painted 15×18-inch steel target, again keeping all shots somewhere on the target. I delivered my shots 1-handed just as somebody clutching a bank bag or a fist full of Crédit Mobilier stock certificates might have done.


The lock work is very simple. The hammer strut, mainspring, mainspring seat and strain
screw configurations stayed with the Smith revolvers into the 21st century.


There were several grip options including mother of pearl and ivory. These are rosewood
and like most examples, they are in very good shape. They had good varnish back then.
Metal finishes included silver plate over brass on the first variation, nickel, blue
or 2-tone on the later two.

For Science!

Shooting collectible antiques and reloading modern rimfire cartridges with black powder present certain hazards to the gun and the shooter as well, so I am not going to recommend them or describe the fairly obvious and tedious steps. The process was interesting and hopefully somewhat informative, being presented in the spirit of helpfulness and good will!
By Mike Cumpston

Model 1 3rd Issue
Maker: Smith & Wesson
Action type: Single-action, tip-up
Caliber: .22 Short
Capacity: 7
Barrel length: 3-3/16 inch
Overall length: 7.5 inches
Weight: 15 ounces
Finish: Nickel
Sights: Half moon front, rear notch on frame latch
Grips: Varnished rosewood
Price: $600 (35th Edition of Blue Book of Gun Values, by S.P. Fjestad)

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Alternate Ammo Options

Many Other Cartridges Can Improve The AR-15’s Performance.

As I am writing this, there’s news afloat about a proposed attack on “AR-15 ammunition,” namely 5.56mm. This is, of course, done with the idea that if we can’t feed a gun, it will harmlessly starve, kind of like closing gas stations to eliminate automobiles. I don’t know where it will go or what it might ultimately mean, but it made me consider that 5.56/.223 is not the only choice… Not by a stretch.

Of course, there’s 6.8 SPC. It’s been around for a while now as a “native” chambering. More on it in a bit.

I’ve experimented with alternate chamberings for my competition-use rifles, by reason I don’t really like the .223. I don’t think anyone shoots .223 Rem because they really want to. My reasons for different chamberings revolve around, and have evolved around, the need for better downrange performance. Of course. For strictly competition use, my favorite result has been from the .22 PPC. Others have had good success with wildcat rounds based on the 6.8 SPC, and derivatives of the .220 Russian/7.62×39 “AK” rounds and others. I’ve also had one done in .222 Rem which some history suggests was the original experimental round when this platform was created.

So what’s really wrong with .223, assuming it continues to be an option for us? From a cartridge design standpoint, low capacity and an effectively short case neck. Case volume is small so it won’t hold much propellant. That means there’s not a whole lot of velocity—meaning even the most aerodynamic bullets we have need cautious attention before launch. Wind will move them. A lot. I’m not just rehashing old news, but giving these instances as a base for comparison when we talk about other cartridges we can wedge into an AR-15.

The .223’s short neck, compared to casings developed for or from target use, isn’t a problem with short bullets. But it sho’ is with longer bullets, and the problem comes because of magazine box space. A round can’t be longer than 2.260 inches overall and still fit into and feed from the box. Most any bullet much bigger than a 55-grain has to be seated below the case neck cylinder, and I’m referring to a portion on the bullet that is caliber diameter, not just the boattail part, if there is one. That intrudes on case capacity, but, mostly, it violates a well-proven accuracy tenet, which is not seating the bullet into the “dreaded donut.”


The .222 Remington is a reasonable, and maybe wise, alternative to .223 for someone
willing to accept limited velocity, and who wants to use lighter-weight bullets.
It flat-out groups better, and one reason is its longer neck.


The .22 PPC (left, Pendell-Palmisano Cartridge, named after its creators) has been Glen’s
hoice for across-the-course competition, shown next to .223 Rem (right). The 6mm PPC has
dominated Benchrest Competition since its inception. Glen runs .22 PPC to get an easy
additional 150 fps over .223 Rem and accuracy (no wonder) is superb. It lets Glen shoot
80- or 90-grain 0.224-inch bullets from the magazine, and isn’t seated too deeply to
encounter the “donut.”

This little protruded ring resides inside, at the case neck/case shoulder juncture. The donut narrows the neck cylinder opening and creates additional constriction on the bullet. The ills here are compounded by the fact the severity of donuts will likely vary from case to case. Even worse, is that they get even worse… Subsequent firings and loadings tend to grow the donuts. Greater and inconsistent constriction on the bullet changes load performance inconsistently. If the bullet never gets into the donut, then it’s a non-factor, and one reason purpose-built target cartridge designs feature long case necks.
A shorter case body with a longer neck works wonders for accuracy.

There’s a big difference in case neck lengths, for instance, comparing .222 Rem to .223 Rem the .222 shoots way better groups. In my experience, .222 is an easily viable substitute for .223 for someone interested in better accuracy, and who can accept velocity in about the same range with the same bullets. That’s not the same as saying it’s recommended straight-up over other alternatives, but for varmint hunting or short-range target shooting, it’s better.

If it sounds like a contradiction to criticize a round for low capacity, and then say better things about another with even less case capacity but a longer case neck, it’s really not. Lemme ’splain: Do the X-ray vision thing on a loaded cartridge and you’ll “see” that when a bullet’s back end is dangling way below the case shoulder, it’s a huge loss of space that could be occupied by propellant. In other words, there’s not that great a difference on the amount of propellant that can occupy the cylinder comprising the case body. All you need to run .222 Rem is a new barrel.

The 6.8 SPC round is there, and available in factory-built AR-15’s. It’s a bigger bullet with more energy. But it has too much bullet to use for longer-range or competitive events, simply because the “good” bullets in .277 caliber are too heavy to be fueled from this case. The lighter, shorter .277 bullets just don’t fly far that well. Aside from competitive use, there’s good reason to consider this chambering otherwise. It’s easy enough, and ammo is available. Next…

The Grendel preceded (at least to the market) the 6.8 SPC and uses a 6.5mm (.264 caliber) bullet. This cartridge started life as a 6.5mm PPC, an AR-chassis application pioneered by Arne Brennan. Bill Alexander, the principal behind Grendel, took that round and relaxed the shoulder to 23 degrees, the same as other proven semi-auto blueprints like .223 Remington, and that, pretty much, is the Grendel. It’s a taller, more tapered PPC, with more case capacity. It’s good. Very good in my estimation, and I think it’s way better than 6.8 SPC. There’s also the “factory connection.” Ammo, components, and magazines are available from Alexander Arms. It’s easy.


It’s not at all hard to beat .223 Remington performance. The trick is beating it with
something that can work through the AR-15 system. Here’s .22 PPC. That’s an 80-grain
Sierra MatchKing, and bullet is contained fully within the case neck—cool.


Some (me for one) thought the Grendel would be better as a 6mm. Robert Whitley believed in the concept strongly enough to run with his 6mm AR project. It’s an easy package to step right into, and, yes, it may be the overall best performance anyone can reasonably get from an AR-15 chassis rifle. There are others available, including a “Turbo” version.

Is 6mm AR the “it?” I don’t know. It’s one “it.” Is it, or the Grendel, better than a PPC? Certainly, but it wasn’t for me, not all-around. I can’t say for everyone, though. I manage to get very-close-second performance from my .22 PPC at 600 yards and surrender nothing at 300. But a Big Truth of the matter is, I had already made the investment in tooling and components for PPC, and way-on beyond the same I made for .223 Remington. Plus, none of the .224 bullets get seated too deeply. All are seated too far in for 300-yard loads on the other alternative cartridges. Here’s the one thing I can say for PPC I don’t honestly believe can be disputed, or I sure wouldn’t take the bet: PPC is the best-shooting cartridge we can stuff into an AR-15 magazine box. That means it’s the most accurate. Period. The better you hold the more that matters.

I wish I could convince an arms manufacturer of the wisdom of just a slightly scaled-up AR-15 receiver set and bolt carrier assembly so we could shoot 6BR and 6XC… Now that would be something!


Here’s a donut. They can even be in unfired cases. Glen made this one visible by running an
inside case neck reamer through a carefully sized case neck. Seating a bullet down into this
ain’t good. At best accuracy suffers. At worst, pressures spike.


Here’s Grendel. Bill Alexander developed what amounts to a taller, more tapered PPC-based
cartridge with a 0.264-inch neck opening. For any use, field or competition, it’s a harder-hitting,
better-flying alternative to the .223 Remington. It’s also been fully standardized. Magazines,
brass, dies and all else needed, are readily available.


For comparison, here’s a .223 Remington (left), a 6.5mm Grendel (center) and (right) a 6.8mm SPC.
The 6.8mm (.277 caliber) was developed to dazzle up the punch from an AR-15 in a combat environment.
It does. The bigger bullet hits a lot harder. It also travels a lot slower. In some parts of the
country the 6.8 SPC has legitimized the AR-15 as a whitetail deer harvester—one of its most
sound attributes for the civilian owner.

Shameless Self-Promotion

The preceding is a specially adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, Top-Grade Ammo, by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Visit or call (662) 473-6107.
By Glen Zediker

Alexander Arms
US Army, Radford Arsenal
P.O. Box 1
Radford, VA 24143
(540) 639 8356

AR-X Enterprises LLC
199 North Broad St.
Doylestown, PA 18901
(215) 345-4181

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Dissecting The 3-Gun Game & Equipment

Part III: The Shotgun.

Since I’ve been a lifelong clay target shooter, you’d think the shotgun stage of 3-Gun would be my favorite. But this type of shotgun shooting is not even remotely close to what I grew up with.

For starters, the shotguns used are dramatically different than those used for trap, skeet and sporting clays. In those types of traditional shotgun games you see a variety of guns in different gauges—over/unders, side by sides, single shots, pumps and semi-auto’s—many with beautiful custom wood and high-end engraving.

But in 3-Gun it’s all semi-auto—except for Heavy Metal, where it has to be a pump action. None of the guns have fancy walnut or engraving. Remember, this is a run-and-gun game. When you’re done with the gun, you throw it into a barrel. As in the other stages, the shotgun event is about speed—how fast you can load and acquire the next target.

A good, reliable semi-auto is the only gun used, but the same principles apply when looking for a shotgun to use in 3-Gun as in the other games. That would be good fit, a smooth action, how easy and fast the gun can be loaded and most importantly—how well it points. And it’s mostly a 12-gauge deal. You can go smaller, but you’ll be at a definite disadvantage.

Recoil-operated and gas-operated are the two main actions. Each come with their own pros and cons. Recoil-operated shotguns are the most reliable—a huge advantage in 3-Gun. Malfunctions cost time and points. The downside is they have more of a kick and tend to cycle slower than gas guns… at least the older long-recoil guns do. Gas-operated actions have less kick and muzzle rise, allowing you to acquire subsequent targets faster. But the chance of a malfunction is higher—usually a product of “load sensitivity” and neglecting to keep the gas system clean and free of carbon buildup.


Browning’s A5 Stalker in dead-stock factory trim requires little in the way of modification,
except for installing an extended magazine and opening up the magwell.


Tes and Shari both prefer the reliability of the recoil-operated A5 Stalker. Recoil may be
stouter than a gas-operated gun, but neither shooter found it objectionable.


Pro shooter Tes Salb loads her Browning A5 while negotiating a shotgun stage.

I’m probably going to take heat for this next statement, but the cycling rate of a semi-auto shotgun is not all that important when it comes to 3-Gun competition. If you’re fast enough to outrun and outshoot the cycling rate of your shotgun, you don’t belong in 3-Gun. You belong in the Olympics.

There are a lot of brand options in 3-Gun. Benelli, Mossberg, Browning and a few more manufacturers are all making semi-auto’s specifically geared for the game. Knowing I was giving up recoil for reliability, I tried a number of inertia-driven guns and borrowed a Browning A5 Stalker with a 26-inch barrel from another shooter.

When I first shot the gun, I was prepared for a heavier kick and more muzzle rise and was surprised when I didn’t get it. The felt recoil was minimal. So, I checked my ammunition. We all know a shotshell’s payload and powder charge plays an important part in recoil, and I was sure I was shooting a light load—not what I wanted to shoot in competition. But that wasn’t the case. Plus, the gun wasn’t all that heavy, which again surprised me because I expected more recoil from a relatively lightweight gun.
I’m a snobbish shotgun shooter and I believe a gun needs to be custom fitted, so I checked with the owner of the gun and was even more surprised when I was told it was stock—no modifications had been done except to open up the mag well and add an extended magazine.

But the A5 Stalker moved and pointed as if it were custom. When I shot 1-1/8-ounce, 3 dram 7-1/2 loads, my perception of felt recoil was minimal. I was able to get on target quickly and accurately. Conventional shotgun shooting requires pointing, not aiming. But when running and gunning—and not being able to take the time ensure a good mount—point of aim is a critical factor. For me, the Browning A5 Stalker was ideal.

There is much more information on the 3-Gun game than I’ve been able to give in this 3-part series. To cover it all would take up an entire issue. It’s a complicated game and an addictive one.

But if you love to tinker with guns and gear, this is the game for you.


Bare-bones must-haves include belt, magazine carriers, extra pistol and
rifle magazines and your choice of shotgun shell caddies.

Absolute Necessities

Peripheral gear for 3-Gun is plentiful and you can spend a lot of money getting what you think you’ll need. You don’t really need all of it, but there are a few must-haves—not including the very basics, like eye and ear protection and, of course, the guns and ammunition.

Shooting Belt: Not only will your belt carry a fully loaded pistol, but it’ll be carrying a lot of extra magazines and extra shotgun shells, depending on the stage you’re on. So a sturdy belt capable of holding a lot of weight is vital. Comfort is key as well. While you’re negotiating the stages, wearing a belt that slips or doesn’t fit right is distracting. I tried a few different types before finding Safariland’s Equipment Locking System, which is the most popular. Featuring two rows of pre-cut holes running the full length of the belt—so the ELS Receiver Plates can be attached in different locations and angles—the belt was everything I needed. The Receiver Plates are used for attachment of the other accessories.

Holster: More than an accessory, a holster is mandatory and there are rules that must be adhered to. The holster must cover the triggerguard completely. This is for pure safety, so the gun doesn’t accidentally discharge during the draw or while being reholstered. Retention is another factor. You’ll be running pretty quickly through stages, kneeling down, standing up, moving in, out of, and around obstacles. So your pistol must be secure. If it falls out of the holster, you’ll be disqualified, but more importantly, it’s dangerous. The make and model of your gun will determine the holster used.

Pistol/Rifle Magazine Carriers: Most handguns come with two magazines, but you’ll want a lot more for this game. Four or five more are needed and, believe me, you’ll use them. For the rifle, one or two extra will do. There are a number of polymer magazine carriers available. Most are designed for a specific magazine type.

Shotgun Caddie: This is a vital accessory and you’ll probably need more than one. The shotgun stages are all about speed, not just in the actual shooting but in the loading as well. Which caddie you use depends on the loading technique you’re most comfortable with. The most popular technique is dual loading—when you grab two shells that are stacked vertically and load them into your gun in one smooth move. The faster you load, the faster you can shoot. No matter which type of caddie you choose, speed only comes with practice. I spent many an evening practicing loading with dummy rounds.

Baggage Cart: Competing on the USA Shooting World Cup team gave me the opportunity to see the other shooting sports. The rifle event was always interesting. But what really fascinated me were the “little red wagons” the rifle competitors used. Yes, Olympic rifle shooters have so much gear the use baggage carts to haul it all around. So it is with the game of 3-Gun. Since each stage typically requires the use of all three guns, leaving equipment/ammunition back in the car and going back and forth to get it is not an option. You have two choices for carrying equipment. A backpack-style range bag long enough to carry both long guns and most of your gear is one option. But lugging around 40 pounds of guns and ammunition on my back all day does not enhance my shooting. There are several different types of carts, so it’s basically personal preference. Those Olympic rifle shooters knew what they were doing.

When it comes to accessories, take your time. You can spend a lot of money on stuff you won’t need once you fully understand the game… and it’s money you could have spent on more important things—like ammunition.
By Shari LeGate

A5 Stalker
Maker: Browning
One Browning Place
Morgan, UT, 84050
(801) 876-2711

Action: Short-recoil semi-auto
Gauge: 12
Capacity: 4
Chamber: 3 inches
Choke: F, M, IC tubes supplied
Barrel length: 26 inches
Overall length: 51-5/8 inches
Weight: 7 pounds, 7 ounces
Length of pull: 14-1/4 inches
Drop at comb: 1-3/4 inches
Drop at heel: 2 inches
Sights: Fiber-optic front on rib
Finish: Matte blue barrel, matte black receiver
Stock: Black synthetic (Dura-Touch armor coated)
Price: $1,629.99

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Ruger’s Petite Perfect Packin’ Pistol

John Had Been Wishing For An Adjustable-
Sighted Bearcat For 57 Years. Now He Has Number 1!

That wonderful year was 1958. Ike was in the White House and thousands of young girls all around the country wept as Elvis was inducted into the Army. The Yankees beat the Braves in the World Series, a really nice house would cost the buyer $8,500, Chuck Berry told us about Johnny Be Good, and Connie Francis asked Who’s Sorry Now? My teenage life was changed dramatically as I met a blonde teenage girl now known as Diamond Dot. On the sixgun scene Ruger brought out the slickest little .22 single action which not only fit very small hands, but somehow even felt good to someone as ham-handed as I.

The .22 Bearcat had standard fixed-sights such as those found on the Colt Single Action, and did not even have the windage-adjustable rear sight of the Single-Six. The problem with fixed-sighted sixguns is the fact they do not always shoot to point of aim, and even if they do with one type of ammunition, they may not with another. Everybody does not see and hold a sixgun in the same way, which also affects point of impact. For whatever the reason, Ruger never saw the need to put adjustable sights on the little Bearcat. Several gunsmiths have corrected this problem over the years, however, every Ruger Bearcat, whether it was the original, the steel Super Bearcat, or the stainless steel Super Bearcat, came with standard fixed sights. This has gone on for well over 55 years.

Kids and .22’s go together. They always have and they always will; that is, unless political correctness totally corrupts us. Great memories come from friends and families enjoying things together and firearms and being outdoors are grand memory builders. No firearm is as good as a .22 for building those memories. Inexpensive to shoot and having low recoil, they are great for families on a budget and with young kids not ready for anything larger.

My first revolver was a .22 Ruger Single-Six in the mid-1950’s and in the 1970’s, my son was 10 years old and ready for his very own revolver. I knew it had to be a .22 single action and it had to be a Ruger. The bargain we struck together then was I would pay half if he would save up the other the other half. It took him quite a few odd jobs to come up with his bucks, but on his 10th birthday we walked into The Gunhaus and bought a brand-new Ruger Bearcat.


Ruger’s Ken Jorgensen presents John with the first adjustable-sighted
Ruger Bearcat. Photo: Gary Gelson

The shop owner threw in a box of .22’s, I fashioned a belt and holster, a friend made custom grips, and another generation was ready to enter the satisfying world of sixgunning. He still has that Bearcat. My granddaughter, his youngest, also has a Bearcat as her first firearm as I presented her with one of the Lipsey’s Ruger stainless steel, roundbutt Shopkeeper’s Models. Diamond Dot also has a Super Bearcat and my old Bearcat is well-worn but still shoots the way we expect any Ruger to do.

If there is anything more enjoyable—and at the same time more simple—than shooting .22’s at tin cans, I do not know what it is. If I could somehow capture the enjoyment we experienced as teenagers gathering together to shoot Marlin lever action .22’s and the then-new Ruger Single-Sixes and spread it from one end of the country to the other, it would certainly have a most positive effect on people’s attitudes. We must not listen to those who would have us believe times have changed to the point that kids and guns no longer go together. That is total nonsense. Kids and guns have always gone together, at least since the invention of the .22 rifle and the later advent of so many wonderful revolvers and semi-auto pistols chambered in this most popular of all cartridges.

I can’t emphasize enough that kids, and quite often women who are beginning to shoot, should be started on the right track with revolvers that do not beat them up. I remember from my silhouetting days how often men would have their kids shooting their big-bore Unlimited handguns. Daddy may have been proud, but junior, and often Mom, were getting beat up and quickly learning that shooting was not for them. Kids should be started young, but they should also be started easy.

When Ruger switched to New Model production with a transfer bar safety in both the Single-Six and Blackhawk series, they elected to drop the Bearcat rather than adding a transfer bar. The Bearcat was resurrected in 1993 complete with a transfer bar safety, however, unlike the Single-Six and the Blackhawk sixguns, the Bearcat features a 1/2-cock notch on the hammer.

Many of us repeatedly requested adjustable sights over the years, however, no one seemed to pay any attention. Then this past summer Ken Jorgensen of Ruger contacted me to see if I would be willing to be interviewed to be on the Ruger Inside and Out TV show. I expected Ken to show up at the house with a handheld video camera, spend a half hour or so, and be gone. Instead the cameraman filled my family room and most of my office with equipment and we spent the whole morning filming, then went out for a very satisfying Mexican lunch, and then it was off to the range for an afternoon of shooting and filming. It was a most enjoyable day.


Taffin’s youngest granddaughter (above) with a Ruger Bearcat more than 10 years ago. The new Ruger is safe
to carry with six rounds (below) while the old pre-transfer bar safety Super Bearcat should only be carried
with five rounds and the hammer down on an empty chamber. Notice the difference in sights and hammer in
comparing the new Bearcat with the Super Bearcat.


As we talked during the morning, Ken asked if I could have any Ruger what would I like to see produced. I did not hesitate to say an adjustable sighted Bearcat. Ken’s immediate response was: “It’s coming.” He made my day! Little did I know how quickly it would be coming and what the occasion would be.

Two of my friends worked for nearly a year contacting others in the industry and result was an elk and buffalo hunt for me followed up by an appreciation dinner two weeks later. I was stunned and humbled when over 250 people, both local and from around the country, showed up for the dinner. Ken Jorgensen of Ruger went to the podium, looked down at me sitting with all my family, and asked, “Do you remember what Ruger you said you’d like to see when you are interviewed a few months ago?” “An adjustable-sighted Bearcat,” I replied. And with that Ken left the podium, came down to my table, and presented me with the very first adjustable-sighted Ruger Bearcat. I was stunned. After nearly 60 years we now have the finest little .22 single action “kit gun” which is now a Petite Perfect Packin’ Pistol.

Ruger did not just adapt the regular Bearcat frame to accept an adjustable rear sight as many gunsmiths do by removing metal from the top back of the frame to accommodate the sight. Instead, Ruger redesigned the frame to incorporate the same ears on both sides of the rear sight as found on all of their Blackhawk Models. The sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation and mates up nicely with the ramp front sight.

I said “fully adjustable,” however, there were two minor problems with the adjustment. The elevation screw would not go down far enough to bottom out the rear sight, and if it did the rear sight prevented the hammer from going all the way forward. My gunsmith Tom at Buckhorn quickly fixed both problems. Now the sight is fully adjustable and it does not interfere with the hammer.

The Bearcat is a joy to shoot and, as I have mentioned, it is basically a one-size-fits-all as it’s a rare hand that doesn’t feel comfortable wrapped around the Bearcat grip frame. It shot very well with many of the 5-shot groups in the 1-inch range at 20 yards. CCI Mini-Mag HP’s really stood out clocking over 1,060 fps and grouping in 5/8 inch.


Targets fired with the adjustable sighted Bearcat (above) show it is quite a capable little revolver.
The new Ruger Bearcat rides safely and securely in this holster (below) from Chisholm’s Trail.


The Bearcat is rarely seen in holsters. Instead in can be found in backpacks, fishing tackle boxes, pockets, anywhere a small space is encountered which will accept this diminutive .22. The reason very few Bearcat holsters are seen is because it is very difficult to make a holster for such a small revolver. When my son got his Bearcat I managed to fashion a belt and Threepersons-style holster for it. There is so little cylinder and frame to wrap the leather around it takes a special leathercrafting skill to come up with a holster. Chisholm’s Trail specializes in historical style leather and came up with a beautiful rendition of a Mexican-style holster for the little Bearcat. There is nothing more worthless for carrying a firearm, especially when roaming the sagebrush, foothills, forests, or mountains than a loose fitting holster. Chisolm’s Trail makes tightfitting leather, which secures the sixgun in practically any situation. The Bearcat will not fall out of this exquisitely built little holster.

By the time you read this I expect the adjustable-sighted Bearcat will be in standard production. My son started his shooting with a Bearcat and many of the grandkids also spent learning time with the little .22 single action. Not only did I have a fabulous hunt, a very humbling dinner, and the presentation of the first adjustable sighted Bearcat this past year, my grandson and his wife also presented us with our first great grandchild. As Miriam Rebecca grows she will learn to shoot with this new Bearcat, and when she is old enough it will become hers. The family tradition will continue.
By John Taffin

Chisholm’s Trail
P.O. Box 162
Newman GA 30264
(678) 423-7351

.22 LR Factory Ammo Performance

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Dreams, Realities And Memories

These Are The Things That Matter.

I have often written of the “4 F’s.” Those four things which are extremely important in my life, namely, faith, family, friends and firearms. At this stage of my life I am blessed by the fact my cup runneth over with all four. Just before Christmas I was e-mailing back and forth with two very dear friends. One is custom gun maker Gary Reeder out of Flagstaff, Ariz., who I have known for at least 20 years, and Jim Taylor who I first met in the mountains of Oracle, Ariz., around 35 years ago. Currently Jim and his wife Twyla are serving on a mission station in Mozambique. Gary and I try to support Jim financially as much as possible.

By e-mail the three of us were discussing old friends getting together and I told Gary I figured this would be pretty much impossible at least on this side of the River. Gary thought about that for several days and decided to do something about it. Jim and Twyla were going to be in the country for Christmas visiting family. Gary talked to Jim and made arrangements for him to fly up from Texas while Gary would drive up from Flagstaff. Everything went smoothly and we spent three wonderful days together reminiscing and building memories.

Gary’s everyday carrying gun for the past 30 years has been a .45 Star PD. This gun dates back to 1975 when it was originally imported from Spain and as far as I know was the first real attempt to downsize the 1911. I very much liked the looks and feel of Gary’s PD and since I did not have a semi-auto worked over by his son Kase I sent my PD home with Gary to be upgraded.

My first thought was to have Kase do a little tuning and engrave the slide to match Gary’s, refinish the slide and polish the alloy frame. After Gary and Jim had left I got to thinking about what wonderful memories I would have from this get together and decided to commemorate the time with the Star PD. I doubt very much we will have trouble remembering our time together, but one never knows as we get older. So instead of the original plan I asked Gary to mark one side of the slide with our three names and the other to be engraved “Until We Cross The River.” He thought that was an excellent idea and added the thought we should also date it, another excellent idea, which I thoroughly endorsed.

As I thought more and more about this, and in spite of Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man, which are based on the physical, I thought of the emotional and realized we basically spend our life in three stages none of which are exclusive but rather exhibit considerable overlapping. Those three stages are dreams, reality and memories. Most of our younger life is spent dreaming while our middle year’s are busy with reality and then when we get to our so-called golden years (who in the world ever came up with that obviously was not there!) memories are extremely important. So much so sometimes they are all we have to hold onto.

When do the dreams actually start? How old do we have to be to begin looking to the future? For me, it was my grade school years—at least that is my first recollection—and many of the dreams were built by the old outdoor magazines of the time. I devoured all of them. I dreamed of someday hunting Canada. It never happened, however the walls of my bedroom were covered with maps of each province. As a frustrated artist I spent much time drawing pictures of myself living in the wilderness with my dog, my Jeep, a good rifle and snowshoes for traveling in the worst weather.


A handgun hunt in Africa was a long-awaited dream, became a reality (above),
and is now a memory. Rex Applegate (below) became a regular correspondent
with John—a grand part of John’s memories.


In my early years such writers as Jack O’Connor really stimulated my dreams. Every month he was hunting in a different exotic locale such as Alaska, Canada, India and Africa. I collected pop bottles and old newspapers to come up with 25¢ every month to pick up the current copy of his magazine. I dreamed of hunting lions and tigers and monkeys and bears… well not so much monkeys, and every day I redesigned my future trophy room planning just exactly where each trophy would go. These dreams carried on into my high school years and beyond, however they began to fade as reality set in. Reality began with Diamond Dot.

I was probably still mainly in my dream stage when we were married, however that soon became reality when I was responsible for providing food, clothing and shelter. At the time I had the best job in the world in charge of unloading boxcars and trucks as the foreman of a crew, although I was still a teenager. It was a great job, however it just didn’t pay enough to support a family. Reality said find another job, which I did—a job which paid three times as much. That was the upside. The downside was I hated every minute working in that factory but it provided the opportunity for me to go to college full-time while working a full-time night shift. If you want a perfect definition of reality that is it! We had three kids while I was in this reality phase and I was definitely pushed to the limit; however, Diamond Dot was totally supportive, never complaining about the fact we never actually did anything except survive.

Reality, of course, continued as after graduating from Kent State University. Diamond Dot and I packed up our three pre-school age kids, hooked a small U-Haul to the back of the ’65 Ford Station Wagon and headed for Idaho. It was definitely dreams which made me choose Idaho, as I had now been reading Elmer Keith for more than 10 years and I wanted to live in Keith Country. Part of the reality of that move was the fact my first Idaho teaching job paid just a little more than half of what I had been making. It was a struggle for sure, however we did make it and that first summer in Idaho we lived in the Payette National Forest and a great dream I had begun came true as I wrote my first article for a gun magazine. Since that time, the reality has been seven books and more than 2,000 articles and my dream has definitely been fulfilled.

The fulfilling of the dream as a gunwriter has led to the reality of building many memories. I know many who are envious of the fact I have the opportunity to test so many firearms, however, that is not the best part of this job. Yes, it really is a job although a real dream job. The best part of my being a gunwriter for nearly 50 years is all the people I have met many of which have now crossed over the river.

Not only do I have great memories of Elmer Keith due to reading every sixgun article he ever wrote, I think of the day in 1968 when Diamond Dot and I spent the day with him and his wife Lorraine in his home in Salmon, Idaho. They were a most gracious couple. I think of Skeeter Skelton and the first time I met him at an NRA Show. I showed him a picture of the barrel of a Colt Single Action Army marked “S&W Russian and Special .44” and he grabbed me by the arm and said: “Let’s go find a quiet place to talk.”


Favorite memories include meeting Elmer Keith in 1968.

I think of evenings spent with Jeff Cooper and Bill Jordan and I was certainly in a dream world visiting one-on-one with these two fine gentlemen. In their later years both Bill Jordan and Col. Rex Applegate called me on a weekly basis and we had many fine conversations. There are many others such as Deacon Deason, Hal Swiggett, John Wootters, Jimmy Clark, Bill Grover, Gary Sitton… however, as too often happens to a writer, I am constrained by space.

Now the reality is I am in the twilight of my years. There are very few dreams but lots of memories and a grand reality is after so many years of struggling we are now financially able to have everything we need and a lot of the things we want. Actually, the only thing we, mostly me, really want from time to time is some firearm (usually one of the old classics). The reality is I can now not only afford just about anything I want, I don’t—as so many men seem to have to do—hide any purchases from my wife. Another part of this reality is the fact we have been blessed with three great kids, which is actually six when we include their spouses and eight grandkids, which becomes 11 with the spouses of those who are now married. Since we have so few wants, one of the wonderful realities is we have been able to help several of the grandkids through school.

Not only do I spend much of my time with memories connected with firearms I also think quite often of family now gone on, grade school days and the friends I made, and some of the really fine teachers I had in high school. I wished I had taken the time to tell them how much they were appreciated.
By John Taffin

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Load Velocity Group Size
(brand, type) (fps) (inches)
American Eagle HP 978 1
CCI Blazer 1,019 1-1/2
CCI Mini-Mag HP 1,016 1-1/2
CCI Mini-Mag +V 1,065 5/8
CCI SGB 959 1-1/4
CCI Pistol Match 893 1-3/8
CCI Standard Velocity 904 1-1/2
CCI Green Tag 889 1-3/4
CCI .22 Short HP 1,024 1-3/4