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The Asymmetric Warrior

Shooting Long Range With Ashbury Precision
Ordnance’s .338 Lapua Rifle.

Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO) is an upscale, highly technical and innovative company that, among other things, manufactures the SABER-FORSST modular rifle chassis system. They are also the main distributer of the Vector series of rangefinder equipment.

Some people shoot beyond the crowd who “sight in 2 inches above the bull at 100 yards, and it is good for 250 yards.” In fact, at the ranges people are shooting these days the kit requires a decent rangefinder, ballistic software, great optics, and the gun itself must shoot better than very well.

But what if your rangefinder would reliably range objects as far away 6 miles, your ballistic software could take instructions from the rangefinder, and the rifle could make a 1,500-yard shot?

APO markets one. I tested it over a 3-month period here on the coast at 75 degrees and in Montana at 7,000 feet and 35 degrees. The rifle is APO’s .338 Lapua Magnum mounted in their modular chassis system stock and sporting a 5-25x56mm PM II Schmidt & Bender scope, a Surgeon action, and a hand-lapped, match-grade barrel.

The Surgeon action is smooth and up to the task for the big cartridge, and the 2-stage trigger was reasonably light with no creep and very slight overtravel. The action is bedded to the modular stock as-is with no bedding compounds. The rail is one piece from the action to the front of the carbon-fiber forearm, to which a bottom rail had also been added. Rails can also be added to the sides for lights or other gear.

The rifle weighs in at about 15 pounds without the scope, rings, sling and loaded magazine. The mag took 10 rounds. The folding buttstock is easily removed and so is the forearm and barrel. The chassis system is also available for other action configurations.

APO sent several rounds of RUAG’s 300-grain ammo. I spent some time on several occasions shooting at 100, 600, 1,000 yards and points in between. The ammo printed less than 1 inch at 100 yards, but I had a bit of difficulty at longer ranges. I could not determine why. Jacob Bynum of Rifles Only loaned me some Lapua 250-grain Scenar ammo, which solved whatever problem I was having. I had good luck as well with Black Hills 300-grain Match ammo. The Lapua 250-grain Scenars printed 3.7 inches at 600 yards, which is little more than 0.5 MOA. We shot at 600, 700, 800 and 1,000 yards at steel, hitting them reasonably well in about 0.8 mils of wind at 1,000 yards.

The temperature was about 80 degrees and the elevation approximately 75 feet. The Surgeon action continued to work flawlessly. The edges of the barrel’s lands are the sloped variety, and looking through my borescope, they are a little worn. I assume this rifle is one used for demonstration and consignment to writers. Still, the rifle shot well.


This A2 model carries a 10-round magazine and an adjustable field monopod in the
front with a tactical bipod up front. The white paper on the side, just above the
magazine, is a quick guide if the decision is made to use the S&B hashmarks instead
of dialing the elevation turret.


Jacob (standing, middle) and fellow shooters getting their dope figured out at 1,000
yards in the hills of Montana, having just arrived from the coast of Texas. APO’s
.338 Lapua Magnum Asymmetric Warrior is out front. Photo: Bruce Smetana.


Waiting for the long shot, APO’s Asymmetric Warrior in .338 Lapua Magnum is up
to the task. The Vector 21 long-range rangefinder is an able companion, offering
ranging capabilities out to 7+ miles.

It was mid-November, and temperatures were running from about 30 to 45 degrees with some brisk winds. I had made a guess on my ballistic software of 30 degrees and 7,000 feet prior to leaving Texas, which turned out to be right on the money.

My spotter called low and gave me a 1-mil come-up. I shot high, came down a bit for the second and then a bit more on the third shot, finally hitting the steel at 1,000 yards. I looked at the dial and then the software. Identical.

I left the setting as-is and let two other guys in the party shoot the rifle. All were hits after that on the 1,000-yard steel. At 7,000 feet and 3,000 fps velocity, it took 6 mils to make the hit at 1,000 yards. The software read 22.9 barometric pressure, whereas it was 29.92 in Texas. In Texas at 60 feet elevation and about 80 degrees it took 6.5 mils to hit. That is an 18-inch difference. Enough for a substantial miss. There is another interesting point to be made. Many use a lethality factor for elk of about 3,000 if adding velocity and energy together. In Texas that would be around 1,150 yards. However, in Montana the range would be extended to 1,400 yards. The velocity in Texas at 1,150 yards is 1,600 fps. In Montana at 1,400 yards it is 1,600 fps. That is, the lethality factor is much extended at the higher altitude.

The rifle is heavy enough and the muzzlebrake works well enough to see splash. That is a big plus with a 250- to 300-grain bullet moving out of the muzzle at about 3,000 fps. When shooting long range, you need a rifle that moves straight to the rear and without muzzle rise, giving you the opportunity to see where the bullet hits. If not, you need a very experienced spotter to do that for you.

You also need a lot of practice to make hits. Try that with a light thunderboomer. If a fellow shooting a 7-pound rifle in the big magnum class shoots more than 20 to 30 rounds per year, I would be surprised. If you have a friend with one who says the rifle does not shoot well, try this: Offer to load single rounds on the loading ramp while he is shooting. After doing a few like that, put a fired case in the chamber without his knowledge. You may see immediately why the rifle does not shoot well.

The Ashbury Precision Ordnance Asymmetric Warrior is an extraordinary rifle. It was designed and built with long-range precision shooting foremost in mind. It took many long years of thought, input and trial and error machining until it is the rifle of today. APO only uses very high quality products in and on their modular chassis.


The forearm of the chassis system uses carbon fiber to reduce mirage off the barrel
and dissipate heat. Rails ride the top and bottom. Rails can also be added to the
sides to accommodate lights, NVD, infrared or the like. Note also the several holes
in the both the rear and the front of the rifle to accommodate a sling. In this
view there are three in the bottom rail and one just behind the carbon fiber.


The butt folds forward to reduce length. This feature is employed with the press
of a button. The button is very secure, making it nearly impossible to fold without
meaning to do so.

Jacob Gottfredson


Here, the foldable stock has been rotated into the firing position. The cheekpiece is
lowered or raised by turning the screw shown in the detent of the cheekpiece.


The bolt handle side of the rifle is where the buttons are located to raise the
heekpiece and change the engagement height of the buttplate. The rail has a
slope of 40-MOA for long-range shooting.


The buttplate is raised and extended using the two buttons in gray. The monopod
folds up nicely when not in use. This system is extremely flexible, fitting
almost any body size or shooting technique.

ASW Precision Tactical Rifle

Maker: Ashbury Precision Ordnance Mfg.
P.O. Box 8024
Charlottesville, VA 22906
(434) 296-9260

Action: Bolt action, Surgeon XL-II Repeater
Caliber: .338 Lapua Mag (tested), .223, 6.5 CM, .308 Win, .300 WM, .338 NM, and .50 BMG
Barrel: 27 inches, integrated muzzlebrake and suppressor system
Trigger: Huber Tactical 2-Stage
Scope rings: SABER EO
Scope rail: 30 MOA Standard, 0, 20, 40, and 60 MOA optional
Hand grip: ErgoGrip, Magpul M1AD
Grip angle Adaptors: 17.5 degrees standard, 11 and 27 degrees optional
Surface coatings: MIL-STD 810G Corrosion Resistant, Dull and Non-reflective
Color: OD chassis & barreled action (tested, other colors available)
Weight: 15.5 pounds, 27-inch barrel (approx.)
Price: $8,550 (base), $8,750 (A2 Model tested)

Black Hills Ammunition
3050 Eglin St., Rapid City, SD 57703
(605) 348-5150

Lapua Ammunition
Graf & Sons, Inc.
4050 S. Clark, Mexico, MO 65265
(573) 581-2266

Vectronix Inc.
19775 Belmont Executive Plaza
Suite 550 Ashburn, VA 20147
(703) 777-3900

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The Two-Kahr Family

Peach Of A Pair: The Full-Size CT45 And
Compact CM45Provide Big-Bore Punch In
Accurate, Smooth-Shooting DAO Platforms.

Although Kahr’s comparatively compact CM45 has been around for a while, it now has a full-sized stablemate. The CT45 is a more recent addition to the company’s lineup, so let’s look at it first. In the price category, it occupies the “less expensive” area. With Kahr, though, this doesn’t mean it is less carefully made. You still get the quality and dependability the Massachusetts-based company built its considerable reputation on. Both are chambered in the hard-hitting .45 ACP.

The CT45 is a full-sized pistol, but the polymer grip-frame is very slim in cross-section. The single-row magazine holds 7 rounds. The grip-frame is ample for even the largest hands. The front and back have very effective checkering, and there is a deep incurve at upper rear. And, saints be praised, there is no silly “hook” on the front of the triggerguard.

Another thing also mercifully absent is a magazine-disconnect safety. If the magazine is lost in a scuffle, you can still fire a chambered round. With the double-action-only trigger system, there is no manual safety. On the inside, the striker is automatically blocked until the last fraction of the trigger pull.

That trigger pull, by the way, is marvelous. When the slide is cycled, the striker is set in an intermediate position. As the trigger is pulled, the sear rolls over, taking the striker rearward then letting it go. To my trigger finger, this operation felt awesomely smooth. On my Lyman Electronic Scale the measured let-off averaged 5.5 pounds.

The trigger surface is plain, with no annoying ridges. The other controls are the push-button magazine release in the usual location and the slide-release latch. When the slide stays open after the last shot, you’ll find the latch is perfectly located for quick access—at the top of the grip on the left side. It is within easy thumb-reach, without having to shift your hold on the gun.

The sights are square-picture and the dovetail-mounted rear can be drifted laterally. Long ago Kahr hit on a good sight pattern. The front has a white dot and the rear has a white square below the notch. Just put the dot on top of the square and there you are. At 7 and 15 yards, I found both pistols shot to point-of-aim, with no adjustment needed on my part.

All of the features mentioned are essentially the same in the compact CM45—except, of course, its actual size. The shorter barrel and grip frame make it much more concealable (a factor that will be important for some users). Also, as it falls into the next Kahr price category, it costs a little more than the newer CT45.



The shorter grip-frame means a 5-round magazine. However, the 7-round magazine from the CT45 works just fine in it. Thus, if you have both guns, the magazine from the big one could be used if necessary. Even though it is significantly smaller than the CT45, I should mention that the grip-frame of the CM45 has room on the frontstrap for all three fingers of my average-sized hand.

There is one caveat I’d like to make about selecting the smaller CM45. If age or injury has weakened your grip (or your arm), you’d better try it before you decide. The shortened recoil spring system results in pronounced resistance as the slide is retracted to load. This factor is present not only in the Kahr, but in many of the small pistols. Of course, the macho guys will say, “Oh, racking the slide ain’t very hard to do!” Still, if you have diminished strength in your hand or arm, you should try things out before you make the call yourself.

At the range most of the shooting was done at the classic 7-yard combat distance from a standing position with a 2-hand hold. The ammo I used was mostly the standard 230-grain full metal jacket load from Magtech, but I also tried a few 165-grain +P rounds from CorBon. Both guns worked perfectly with both. Felt recoil was not unpleasant, even with the hotter CorBon load in the CM45.


From a standing position with a 2-hand hold, J.B. got 3- and 3.5-inch
groups respectively with the CT45 (above) and the CM45 (below).


My groups were monotonously good and well-centered. Usually, the first two shots would be dead center, with the succeeding ones clustering nearby. With the CT45, group size averaged 3 inches. With the smaller CM45 it was 3.5 inches, I noticed with the larger pistol, the final three shots in each group were above center—with the CM45 they were below. This was very easy to for me to watch happen on the big 8-inch black of the Champion VisiShot targets I was using.

As regular readers may know, my favorite pistol calibers are 9x19mm and .32 ACP. However, if you are a big-bore guy, you need one of these Kahrs—or maybe both. I have visited the Kahr factory, and I can attest to the fact if anything they make isn’t perfect, it doesn’t leave the premises.
By J.B. Wood
Photos By Joseph R. Novelozo


Exposing the Elements

The Kahr disassembles easily into its major components. First, as always, make sure the pistol is unloaded. Remove the magazine, and double-check to ensure the chamber is clear. I stress this not to be redundant, but because you’re going to have to press the trigger to free the striker. This way you won’t have any unwelcome surprises!

OK, once you’ve checked to make sure the chamber is unloaded, pull the slide back until the relief cut in the slide is over the slide stop (on the compact CM45 model, the spring is under a lot of tension, which is why I indicated earlier it may not be the best choice for those with little or diminished manual strength). Next, push out the slide stop. You might need to help things along by using a non-marring hammer or screwdriver handle.

Now, check the chamber again and squeeze the trigger to disengage the striker. Pull the slide off the to the front. The recoil spring isn’t captured, so keep it under control as you lift it from the rear of the slide. You don’t want it flying around the room (speaking of which, it is always a good idea to wear safety glasses when disassembling anything featuring powerful springs). Lift the barrel up and out of the slide and you’re ready to clean or perform routine maintenance chores. Reassemble in reverse order.

Click Here To View More Photos And Performance Charts

Champion Traps & Targets

1 ATK Way, Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 635-7656

1311 Industry Road, Sturgis, SD 57785
(800) 626-7266

Magtech Ammunition
248 Apollo Drive, Suite 180
Lino Lakes, MN 55014
(800) 466-7191

Maxpedition Hard-Use Gear
P.O. Box 5008
Palos Verdes, CA 90274,
(877) 629-5556

Quartermaster Knives
P.O. Box 1121
Dripping Springs, TX 78620

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HK Built The First Striker-Fired, Polymer-Frame
Pistol Decades Ago. They’ve Done It Again.
But This Time They’ve Done It Right.

We have a new generation of “millennials” among us handgunners, bless ’em, but they don’t see entirely eye-to-eye with us old folks on handguns. Many of them seem to think any handgun made entirely of metal belongs in a museum. Some of them have declared on the Internet how happy they are the stodgy old Germans at HK have finally gotten with the times and offered a striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol under their esteemed brand.

Au contraire, young Jedi knights. We of Yoda age (and wrinkles) remember when HK introduced the very first such pistol, the VP70Z, way back in 1970. Designed originally as a machine pistol, which needed a shoulder stock with integral selector switch to hit its incredibly high rounds-per-minute count, it absolutely sucked as a semi-automatic. The trigger felt like a mile of bad road, the strange “shadow” sight picture was impossible for most shooters to see, and it tended to jam on anything but RN ball ammo or Remington 115-grain JHP.

Prior to the VP70Z, HK had introduced the very first polymer-frame pistol, the P9/P9S series. With polygonal rifling (recognize another harbinger there?) and—in the Target series—an exquisite adjustable trigger complete with trigger stop, the P9S was awesomely accurate. However, its peculiar double-action decocking mechanism was the sort of thing that made firearms instructors wake up screaming in the middle of the night. The procedure entailed holding the decocking lever down, pulling the trigger and then slowly releasing the lever upward.

The pistol’s slide-mounted safety lever had to be enlarged to become really workable at speed, and like the VP70Z, it was only reliable with ball or Remington JHP if you didn’t have a gunsmith throat the feed ramp. As to striker-fired design pioneering, HK’s P7 series in that very configuration was popular for many years (and still has devoted fans).

Now, all these years later, HK has made amends for the VP70Z. Behold the new VolksPistole in 9mm, otherwise known as the HK VP9. My first impressions of it are as follows:

Coming out of the box with a nice array of interchangeable backstraps and side grip panels, the VP9 embodies recent developments in German handgun technology. Yes, it resembles Walther’s PPQ M2. But the Walther in turn resembles the earlier hammer-fired HK P30. Which in turn seemed to draw from the Walther P99, and…oh, the heck with it!

How a gun feels in your hand is, of course, subjective. But, subjectively speaking, I love the feel of the VP9. There. I said it.


The distinctive “ears” at rear of the slide (inset) aided
manipulation and did not compromise concealability.


The HK VP9 was accuracy tested with these three 9mm loads
ranging in bullet weights from 115, 124 to 147 grains.

My two problems with the hammer-fired P30 series were pretty straightforward. In the traditional double-action mode, the decocking lever seemed to have been designed more for orangutan paws than human hands, and the interior lower surface of the triggerguard—where the dual-paddle magazine release levers sit—tended to pinch my trigger finger painfully. Both of these problems are solved in the VP9 design.

The striker-fired system eliminates any need for a decocking lever. Just as with a Glock, the trigger pull is the same all the time. Apparently I wasn’t the only one bothered by the configuration of the P30 triggerguard. I hear Bruce Gray is now offering a modification of P30 triggerguards to prevent the “pinch” that some of us experience. Thirty-some years ago Bruce and I both shot on Team HK. He used his tuned and comp’d P7 at the Bianchi Cup while I shot a P9S Sport/Target. There ain’t a whole lot about HK (or SIG) pistols that Bruce doesn’t know.

The geometry of the VP9’s triggerguard seems to have been altered to where the “pinch” has been pretty much eliminated. The only time I felt it was shooting from the bench, where my rested elbows altered my wrist angle, subtly affecting how my finger sat on the trigger.

The VP9’s magazine release is a downward-pressed ambidextrous paddle on the underside of the triggerguard, which goes back through the P30 and the USP and all the way to the P7M8 of the early 1980’s. It allows your trigger finger to hit the paddle, at once getting it away from the trigger for safety and eliminating the need to shift the gun in your hand for your thumb to reach a magazine release button. The result is, simply, faster reloads.

Looking down at the top of the pistol, you’ll notice rounded-edge “wings” at the rear edges of the slide. This useful feature helps your hand gain purchase there. Unfortunately, those edges are too rounded and don’t protrude enough to catch against belt or holster for emergency slide manipulation. These wings, called “charging supports,” are removable and can be replaced with flat spacers available from HK.


The pistol’s fixed sights (above) were big and easy to see. Red dot indicates
“ready to fire.” From this angle (below) the VP9’s light attachment rail,
forward slide grooves and luminous front sight are plainly visible.


On the Range

With a Glock-ish trigger tab safety, the VP9 has a bit of take-up before it hits resistance. As is the case with all pivoting triggers, leverage comes into play. If you gauge the trigger from the toe, it takes less effort to break the shot than if your finger is in its normal position at roughly the center of the trigger. Measured from the toe with a Lyman digital gauge, the pull weight on my test sample averaged 5.28 pounds from the toe and 5.78 pounds from the center. Pulls were very consistent shot to shot. The re-set could be described as “medium.”

In loading the magazine, I noted the feed lips of the mags were sharp on the thumb, but unlike some other pistols, no great pressure was needed to get the last (15th) round into the magazine, although a magazine loading tool is available from HK.

Bore axis is slightly higher on the VP9 than on the Glock, though I honestly couldn’t feel any difference in muzzle rise. Butt to top of slide, the VP9 is slightly larger than the Glock 19 (and has the same 9mm cartridge capacity).

The VP9 comes with “luminous” sights that need to be lit up beforehand with a flashlight or some other light source. The sights glow brightly at first, but start to fade after half an hour. Scuttlebutt has it that this is due to European tritium regulations being tighter than those in the US. So if you want real night sights, plan on a tritium retrofit.

As is traditionally the case with HK pistols, the VP9’s sights were regulated very close to point of aim/point of impact, something occasionally not the case with other brands. Hits were a whisker left for this shooter’s eyes at 25 yards, but were OK for elevation with 115- and 124-grain ammo, although grouping a tad high with 147-grain subsonic loads. Accuracy testing was done from 25 yards off a Matrix rest on a concrete bench.

Federal 115-grain +P+ 9BPLE, the load the Illinois State Police and other departments made famous as a “man-stopper,” put five shots into 2.85-inch. The best four of those shots clustered in 1.85-inch, while the best three stayed in 1.55-inch. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the “best three” measurement, which tends to factor out unnoticed human error, giving a good approximation of what the same gun and load will deliver for all five shots from a machine rest.

Black Hills’ famously accurate 124-grain JHP was “Best of Test” for accuracy, with five shots in 1.95-inch (and a “best three” measurement of 1.10-inch). Winchester’s Winclean 147-grain subsonic jacketed truncated cone ammo is hugely popular in this country and famous for its accuracy. It delivered a 5-shot group measuring 2.35-inch and a “best three” of 1.20.




Twenty-five yard accuracy results (top to bottom): Black Hills 124-grain JHP,
Federal 115-grain +P+ JHP, 147-grain Winchester Winclean JTC subsonic.


Although gunwriters don’t get to test each firearm with tens of thousands of rounds, I did get several hundred rounds through the VP9. The closest thing to a malfunction was an unintended slide-lock in mid-firing cycle from the benchrest, which may have been human error due to the shooter (me) leaving his thumb in too-close proximity to the easy-to-operate, ambidextrous slide-release lever.

I spent a couple of days carrying the VP9 in a hybrid IWB holster cut for the P30 by Remora, in which it fit perfectly. Felt about like carrying a Glock 17. The side panels might be abrasive enough to cause some discomfort against bare skin, but proved to be no problem with a tee or polo shirt between grip and epidermis, and an untucked shirt or vest for concealment.


Mas demonstrates controllability of HK’s VP9: The spent casing
from his first shot (arrow) is followed by muzzle flash of the
second one, without the muzzle flipping off target.

Overall Assessment

HK is deservedly famous for BMW-class workmanship, and a comparable cachet. But with a retail price of $719, the VP9 dramatically undersells the similar-feeling P30. The “shootability factor” is high, and with its blend of “BMW workmanship with upper-end Volkswagen price,” I think the VP9 will make a lot of friends among American handgunners.
By Massad Ayoob
Photos: Gail Pepin

Grey Guns Inc.
33479 Hwy. 19-207
Spray, OR 97874
(541) 468-3840

Remora Concealment & Security Products, LLC
P.O. Box 990340
Naples, Florida 34116
(239) 434-7200

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The Straight Dope

Slick And Speedy, Straight-Pull Bolt Actions
Have Had Their Share Of Bad Press — The Vast
Majority Of It Unwarranted.

Many shooters react to the mention of straight-pull bolt action rifles by suggesting anybody who fires one risks their life, since the bolt can blow back out of the action. This has happened with some straight-pull rifles, most notably the Ross, designed in 1903 by Sir Charles Ross, primarily for military use. Variations of the Ross were used by Canada (the Canadians were starting to distance themselves from Great Britain, and the surly Brits wouldn’t allow them to manufacture the Lee-Enfield).

A bolt action operating on a straight back-and-forth motion would obviously allow the average soldier to shoot more often, but most wars are fought outdoors, and the outdoors is full of grit, mud and tiny particles, particularly when humans are trying to kill each other with explosives. The Ross had a rotating bolt head that cammed into place as the bolt was shoved forward. When the bolt got dirty it required disassembly and cleaning.

As it turned out, the bolt could be reassembled incorrectly, preventing the rotating bolt head from locking, yet could still be inserted into the action and fire a cartridge, whereupon the bolt would fly backwards—with disastrous results.

Like most bolt-action rifles of the era, the Ross was also made in sporting versions, some chambered for the .280 Ross, a cartridge often called “The Original 7mm Magnum.” Introduced in 1906, the .280 was the first commercial rifle cartridge to attain a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps—pretty amazing with the powders of the day— even with its 140-grain bullet. But in 1911 the cartridge’s most infamous failure resulted in more bad publicity for the Ross rifle.


Straight-pull lineup (above, from left): Swiss K31, Winchester Lee Sporter, Browning T-Bolt, Blaser R8. The Lee Navy’s “tilt-pull” action (below) locks up with a massive, square lug machined onto the bottom of the bolt, fitting into a recess in the action just behind the magazine well.


A sportsman named George Grey—brother of Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary—was hunting lions in Kenya with several companions. Back then many hunters chased big game on horseback and lions would often charge when “coursed.” According to a report in Mombasa’s East African Standard, a lion charged and Grey “jumped off his pony and awaited the onslaught. At 20 yards, he fired and the shot went into the shoulder, but without stopping the charge. He got in another shot at 5 yards, hitting the lion in the mouth, breaking two of his fangs, and injuring his jaw. The lion flung Grey to the ground, and worried him like a dog would a rat.”

The other hunters galloped over, and when the lion stood up shot it a couple more times. The lion then started mauling Grey again, and his companions stopped shooting because they were afraid of hitting Grey. The lion finally died, but Grey was injured so badly he died a few days later, but (according to other stories) not before telling his friends the incident was entirely his fault.

It also wasn’t the fault of the Ross straight-pull action, as a charging lion can outrun a horse, and hitting one with a manual repeater at 20 and five yards is very quick shooting indeed. But the .280’s bullets apparently came apart before doing any internal damage, one of many incidents giving high-velocity cartridges a mixed reputation in the first half of the 20th century.

The Canadian military dropped the Ross from regular use in 1916, but bad news impresses people more than good news. More than a century later many shooters remain suspicious of straight-pull rifles, even if they’ve never seen one.


The Swiss K31’s bolt features two integral locking
lugs. The entire bolt rotates to lock up.

seen one.


The Blaser R8 locks up with 14 splines, just behind
the bolt head, spreading into the radial recess in
the rear of the barrel.

Switzerland’s K31

Among them are the various Swiss rifles chambered for their 7.5×55 cartridge, the first pre-dating the Ross by more than 20 years. Designed in 1889 by Maj. Rudolph Schmidt, head of the country’s military arsenal in the 1880’s, the locking lugs were on the rear of the bolt. The cartridge itself was designed by Lt. Col. Eduard Rubin of the Swiss National Ammunition factory. The reason most Americans call all Swiss straight-pulls Schmidt-Rubins, even if Schmidt had nothing to do with their design.

Over the next few decades the locking lugs were moved forward, first to the middle of the bolt in the Model 1911 rifle, and then in 1931 to the front, resulting in the Karabiner Model K31. My own first straight-pull bolt action was a K31, purchased in a small gun shop in Bozeman, Mont., along with 100 rounds of Swiss military ammo for a very low price a decade ago. K31’s have a fine reputation for accuracy. Even with the issue open sights, mine puts three shots with favored handloads into well under an inch at 50 yards.

Unlike the Ross, the entire bolt body of the K31 cams 90 degrees when pushed forward, turning two stout locking lugs into place. Apparently K31 actions can come apart, but it’s extremely rare. The one report I could find during both Internet and “paper” research may have occurred due to part of the camming mechanism breaking, preventing the bolt from locking up, but a too-stout handload may have broken the part.

However, I sincerely doubt many K31’s (or other Swiss straight pulls) have blown their bolt back into the shooter’s face. Otherwise Switzerland, a very cautious and mechanically-inclined nation, wouldn’t have issued them to all their citizen-soldiers until 1958, when it was replaced by the SIG SG 510 autoloader.


The Heym SR 30 locks up via several ball-bearings
camming into recesses.


The Browning T-Bolt has a round locking lug on the
front of the hinged bolt handle, fitting into a
matching recess on the side of the action.


Like all German rifles, the Heym SR 30 has been thoroughly
tested and has easily withstood 112,000 psi.

Germany’s Heym SR 30

A couple years after purchasing the K31 I went deer-culling on the estate of the last British lord in Ireland, as one of several guests of Heym Rifles. I was supposed to use a double rifle in .308 Winchester, but when our group started sighting-in on arriving late one afternoon, the only .308 ammo available didn’t agree with the double. Instead, I ended up using the personal rifle of Liam Kenehan, the Irishman who leased the deer hunting on the estate. It was a straight-pull Heym SR 30 in .25-06 with a 3-12X Schmidt & Bender scope.

Liam’s rifle shot extremely well with Remington 120-grain Core-Lokt factory ammo, and I took a number of fallow deer, including some that might not have fallen except for the quick operation of the straight-pull bolt. (In fact my hunt was a model of multi-national cooperation, involving a German rifle belonging to an Irishman on British-owned land with American ammunition. Oh, and all the venison taken was used by Liam, the lord, and a local restaurant.)

The SR 30 locks up with several high-strength ball bearings cammed into recesses in the action as the bolt is pushed closed. Like all German rifles, it’s tested by the National Proof House, and has easily withstood 112,000 psi. My research never found any reports of bolt blow-backs.
However, I also researched reports of blow-backs with the Blaser R93, another German straight-pull rifle, which locks up with radial splines that expand into a circumferential recess in the rear of the barrel. My research came up with one rifle blow-up, conclusively connected to a way-too-hot handload. (Like Heym SR 30’s, Blaser R93’s were all proof-tested by the German government, withstanding pressures well in excess of 100,000 psi.)

One other straight-pull rifle that some people are afraid of but, again, have almost never seen, is the Model 1895 Lee Navy. Designed by James Paris Lee (the same guy who designed the action of the Lee-Enfield) and made by Winchester under contract with the US Navy, the Lee wasn’t exactly a straight pull. Instead it was a tilt-pull, with a rectangular bolt angling upward slightly as the bolt was pulled back. Rather than rotating, lock-up was accomplished by a massive, square “locking lug” on the bottom of the rectangular bolt dropping into a recess in the action, an upside-down variation of the Savage 99’s lock-up.

The standard reference on the Lee Navy is Eugene Myzkowski’s The Winchester-Lee Rifle. There never were any bolt blow-backs with the Lee rifle during its service. But it had other faults, including an extractor not actually attached to the bolt, which tended to drop off and disappear when the bolt was removed from the action. Plus, the open-bottomed magazine allowed the entry of dirt and water (it was a Navy rifle after all!), and could only be loaded with a flimsy sheet-metal clip that didn’t always work correctly and corroded in saltwater.

I experienced a lot of this myself after purchasing one of the relatively few Lee Navy Sporters made by Winchester from Capital Sports & Western Wear in Helena, Mont., a couple years ago. Original military and sporting ammo is far too valuable to shoot, but the rifle proved easier to handload for than most reports suggest (in my rifle, necked-up .220 Swift brass works fine, with no other alterations), and is quite accurate despite the typical primer-corroded bore.

However, one Lee Navy did blow up many decades after the US Navy officially dropped it in 1899 in favor of the Army’s Krag. Guess what? Somebody fired a way-too-hot handload and the rifle came apart, killing the owner/handloader.

In the history of firearms a great many have blown up, and since the introduction of self-contained cartridges, many blow-ups have been caused by handloads. In fact, one of my friends is the guy Mike Venturino calls “Shrapnel,” because he’s blown up a couple of old guns with handloads. I often shoot with Shrapnel without misgivings, because apparently he’s learned his lessons. Incidentally, neither of the guns he blew up was a straight-pull bolt action.

I know another shooter, living in the same town as Shrapnel, who almost lost a hand due to a blown-up rifle. But the rifle (once again) wasn’t a straight pull. Instead it was a single-shot black powder cartridge rifle, and the blow-up was assumed to be due to (once again) a handload.
A number of modern turn-bolt rifles have even blown up, sometimes through firing foolish handloads and sometimes by other mistakes. Quite a few “low-number” 1903 Springfields have even exploded with standard service ammo, though no doubt handloaders have done damage to a few as well.

The one rifle blow-up I’ve personally witnessed occurred during a prairie dog shoot. A friend was shooting a post-’64 Winchester Model 70 chambered for a wildcat 6mm, and the cases sometimes stuck in the chamber after firing, possibly due to being loaded a little hot, but also maybe because they’d been fired a number of times and only neck-sized. He tapped the stubborn cases out with a cleaning rod, and after one tap-out forgot to remove the rod. Boom! The scope came flying back and blinded his left eye, but it could have been a lot worse. Later, an engineer in our group did some rough calculations and concluded the pressure was well over 200,000 psi!

I also know a couple of people whose bolt-action rifles blow up because—they both claimed—the custom actions weren’t heat-treated properly. That proved true in one instance, but in the other the guy was a notoriously hot handloader. Guess what? Neither action was a straight pull.


Many straight-pull bolt-actions have had a reputation for
accuracy. These groups were shot at 50 yards with the open
sights on the Lee Sporter (above) and Swiss K31 (below).


Blaser R8

The present version of the Blaser straight-pull is the Model R8. It closely resembles the R93 but is even stouter, having been tested by the German government at over 200,000 psi with no problems (it might even withstand a cleaning rod in the bore). I’ve shot several R8’s lately because I’m starting to like the idea of an accurate, switch-barrel bolt action with a superb trigger, especially for traveling. The barrels of the R8 can be removed and replaced without point-of-impact change. In fact, when recently testing an R8 with .308 Winchester and .300 Winchester Magnum barrels, the point of impact was still close to center at 100 yards when I switched the scope between the barrels.

So far the only fault I’ve found with the R8 is it needs a firm whack on the bottom of its detachable magazine with the heel of your hand. If you don’t, the magazine may drop out the first time you work the bolt. Other than that, it’s built with typical German precision.

My latest straight-pull rifle is an original Browning T-Bolt (they’re now offering a new version) purchased from Shrapnel. I’d always heard about the accuracy of T-Bolts, and this one will put five rounds of Eley .22 LR well inside half an inch at 50 yards, even though it’s a sporter, weighing only 7 pounds scoped. The action is simplicity itself: The bolt handle’s a 90-degree angle, hinged at the angle, with a round locking lug attached to the front and fitting into a round recess in the side of the action. Pulling back on the spring-loaded handle tilts the locking lug out of the side of the action. Pushing the handle forward pops the lug back into the recess.

There’s never been a report of a T-Bolt’s bolt blowing backward out of the action. But even if it did, the bolt probably wouldn’t touch the shooter’s cheek. But I would lay considerable odds that a T-Bolt blow-back will never happen.

Why? Very few people handload .22 rimfire ammunition.
By John Barsness

Blaser USA
403 East Ramsey, Suite 301
San Antonio TX 78216
(210) 377-2527

One Browning Place
Morgan, UT 84050

Heym USA
(214) 606-2566

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A Semi-Auto Belt-Fed Machine Gun?

It’s a safe bet that some inexorable force has drawn everyone reading this magazine into considering a weapon or several weapons that made no sense when one’s “needs” are analyzed empirically. Often times these firearms are sentimental favorites based on an affiliation with an original model, but they are not readily accessible. The DS Arms (DSA) semi-automatic RPD patterned after a Polish version of the RPD light machine gun is one of these sentimental favorites.

Soviet Union-designed weapons are experiencing a renaissance/resurgence in popularity in the US. A quick preview of the AK’s growing popularity in the US reinforces this opinion. Any association as the “enemy’s” weapon does not seem to deter its growing popularity in the US. This stems from many factors: rugged reliability, price point, reasonably priced ammunition, an appreciation of 7.62x39mm terminal ballistics and the ever-increasing quality and quantity of aftermarket parts.

The semi-auto RPD from DSA is interesting on many levels for firearms enthusiasts. The DSA RPD is modified for semi-auto only and fires from a closed bolt versus open bolt automatic fire, which is associated with the original Soviet machine gun. DSA does offer automatic RPDs for qualifying individuals and/or departments. With the RPD, DSA is giving users a chance to experience the capability of a historically significant belt-fed machine gun firing the 7.62x39mm cartridge, albeit semi-auto, something most would never get the chance to do. A historical overview will set the stage for our review.


The RPD weighs almost 17 pounds empty, with a 17.5″ barrel. The RPD was/is a
complicated, expensive weapon to manufacture that had to be milled, machined and
hand fitted, with the interchangeability of parts sometimes problematic. DSA RPDs
are true to form, just as originally issued, only in semi-automatic. DSA RPDs feature
new US-made receivers, barrels and other 922R-complianct components.


The metal drums serve to contain the belt in a compact package under the RPD.

The Roots

In 1944, Vasily Degtyaryov designed the RPD (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova — “Degtyaryov’s handheld machine gun” in Russian), chambered in the then newly introduced 7.62x39mm cartridge. The DP 28, a Degtyaryov predecessor, shared similar characteristics, though fed via a top-mount drum, and was chambered in 7.62x54R. The RPD is recognized as an improvement over the DP 28, especially with its uninterrupted belt-fed operation via a shuttle-feed system, similar to most other modern belt-fed designs to come after. The RPD’s belt was a “push-through” type, as pioneered by Germany before WWII with the MG 34. The RPD’s belt is normally housed in a drum-like can that attaches to the bottom of the gun; however, this can is not a magazine but merely a container. The RPD operates by a long-stroke gas piston mounted beneath the barrel. The rear section of the piston contains the operating rod, bolt, bolt carrier and striker. On either side of the bolt are locking lugs; these relatively long locking lugs are referred to as “flaps.” The lugs swing out laterally to engage recessed shoulders in the sides of the machined steel receiver; thus the RPD’s bolt is more of a rear-locking style bolt.

The RPD was ready to be mass-produced near the end of WWII, but was put on hold because of Germany’s surrender. The RPD was finally put into production when the Korean War erupted, and became the standard light machine gun of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations. The RPD was phased out in the early 1960s with the introduction of the stamped RPK — a light machine gun variant of the AKM.

The RPK was cheaper and significantly lighter than the milled RPD. US forces were exposed to the RPD during the Vietnam War, where it served as the light machine gun of both the Viet Cong and NVA. For comparison’s sake, the RPD was shorter and had almost half the M60’s weight, though the M60 had superior range with its 7.62x51mm chambering.

The RPD was extremely successful in ambush assaults, where only two or three 50-round belts were needed before the Viet Cong or NVA faded away from overwhelming US firepower. If more than 150 rounds were fired at a time, the lack of being able to change the RPD’s barrel became a severe handicap. The wooden handguards would start to smolder or catch on fire if high rates of fire were sustained. The bipod would be the only area a soldier could grasp without singeing his hand.


The DSA RPD arrives with two drum containers and four 50-round belt
segments along with a cleaning kit, spare parts, a sling and weapon cover.


With its milled receiver, the DSA RPD is from a different era in manufacturing.

Intense Manufacturing

The RPD was designed to fire at 600 to 700 rounds per minute in full-auto mode. Converting the RPD to fire semi-auto from a closed bolt posed certain challenges to DSA in working on finding the best, most reliable way to regulate gas pressure, bolt operation and bolt group modifications. As the RPD is continuously being replaced in former user inventories, new parts-kits are available for import into the US except for receivers and some other BATF-controlled components. However, many of the parts are designed to function in the full-automatic RPD, thus neither fitting nor working in a semi-automatic receiver. Therefore, DSA manufactures these parts, making sure proper steel and heat-treating methods are used.

For example, in DSA’s semi-auto RPD, the striker is separate from the bolt group and has its own spring, so the striker is the only part that remains to the rear when the gun is cocked. The sear holding the striker has a disconnector that automatically resets the sear after each shot so the gun can’t fire in full automatic. The RPD weighs almost 17 pounds empty, with 17.5″ and 20.5″ barrels available. The RPD was/is a complicated, expensive weapon to manufacture, having to be milled, machined and hand fitted with interchangeability of parts that can sometimes be problematic.

DSA RPDs are true to form just as originally issued, only in semi-auto. DSA RPDs feature new US-made receivers, barrels and other 922R-compliant components. Each RPD unit comes with a hard case, two drums, two drum pouches, sling, bore rod, manual, carry case and two ammo belts. The weapon has a non-removable barrel with a 3-position gas adjustment valve used to control the performance of the gas system. It’s also equipped with a folding integral bipod, wooden shoulder stock, foregrip and pistol grip. The RPD strips down into the following major groups: receiver and barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, feed tray and feed cover, the recoil mechanism and the trigger group and stock.

The RPD feeds from the left-hand side from 50-round, segmented, non-disintegrating open-link metallic belts. Two 50-round belts can be stored in a metal container resembling a drum and attached to the base of the receiver. The RPD can also be fed via loose belt without a drum if need be. A roller connected to the reciprocating bolt carrier assembly operates the RPD’s feed system and the belt is pulled during the rearward motion of the bolt carrier.

To load the DSA semi-auto RPD, the steel tab on the starting end of a belt of ammunition is placed in the feed tray so the tab protrudes out the right side. The tab is then pulled out to the right as far as it will go. Once this is done, the cocking handle is pulled back as far as it will go and released to spring forward, stripping and chambering the first round. To unload, open the top cover by pushing forward on the sliding lock at its rear, then lift up the cover and remove the belt. The bolt handle must then be pulled back to extract and eject a round from the chamber.

The RPD is equipped with a set of open-type iron sights consisting of a front post (adjustable for windage and elevation) and a notched rear sight, mounted on a tangent with a sliding elevation adjustment knob and marked with range indicators from 100 to 1,000 meters. The RPD rear sight is also outfitted with a sliding windage mechanism to improve fire accuracy and ease of adjustability. The DSA RPD features a non-reciprocating cocking mechanism with a folding charging handle in lieu of earlier variants without this.


The DSA RPD should not be underestimated with its .30 caliber firepower.
There are very few items found on a car that would be able to offer legitimate cover.


The RPD was tested in a variety of positions, with the integral bipod a
benefit in terms of support and enhancement to accurately placed fire.

A Proper Range

Many are probably aware that very few non-military ranges exist that would facilitate the testing involved with a belt-fed weapon. Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC) permitted and, more importantly, is properly set up to handle extensive test firing of the DSA RPD. The DSA RPD was enjoyable to shoot, with minimal recoil. While I was not surprised at the lack of MOA accuracy, it was very possible to hit man-sized steel silhouettes placed at 200 and 300 yards. The prone position utilizing the integral bipod was predominately used for the evaluation, though standing and kneeling off-hand positions were experimented with and no problems were encountered.

EVTC has installed two permanent “foxholes,” created by turning large diameter concrete culvert pipes end wise into the ground, complete with a firing step in the bottom. The protected firing positions were perfect for evaluating the RPD in its intended fire support role. EVTC also features multi-stepped target berms strewn with reactive steel targets and fluid-drained automobiles at ranges varying from 150 out to 350 yards.

While certainly not comparable to a belt-fed, switch-barrel machine gun, a relatively large volume of fire is possible, especially with attention paid not to exceed 60 rounds per minute for any extended fire sessions. The RPD barrel is thickened, allowing for increased heat capacity during extended fire sessions. As mentioned earlier, the RPD is outfitted with a folding bipod to stabilize it during deployment assisting a squad or platoon in advancing towards its objective or defending from an attack.

The semi-automatic DSA RPD firing the 7.62x39mm cartridge is very controllable with its extra weight over the standard AK. At ranges under 400 yards, one would not be considered terribly under-gunned with the DSA RPD semi-auto. The EVTC target car placed 200 yards away could not withstand the withering RPD fire. Rounds penetrated sheet metal, seats or anything else in its path as the 7.62x39mm easily passed through the car; only the wheel rims and engine block provided a modicum amount of resistance. Multiple 7.62x39mm loads were tested with the DSA RPD such as Wolf, Tula and Silver Bear.

A new addition to the 7.62x39mm ammunition realm was also accessed. I’m talking about Century International Arms’ Red Army Standard brand. Red Army Standard 7.62x39mm ammunition will be offered in handy Range Packs (180 rounds) as well as 30-round boxes. This packaging allows the consumer to purchase multiple boxes of ammunition in a convenient, easy-to-carry/use format. Red Army Standard is manufactured by the same factories that produced billions of rounds of ammunition for the Soviet Red Army and Warsaw Pact nations. The Range Pack boxes indicated Romanian and Ukrainian manufacturing. Century International Arms Red Army Standard will be available in many popular Warsaw Pact rifle calibers such as 7.62x39mm (123-grain FMJ), 7.62x54R (148-grain FMJ) and 5.45x39mm (69-grain FMJ). Loads hovered in the 3 to 4″ accuracy range with the ammunition tested. I found this acceptable considering my aging eyes and the non-target style battle sights found on RPD.

The sights were zeroed right out of the box. The trigger was smooth and had reasonable pull weight, measuring slightly over 5 pounds. The DSA RPD took time to get broken in. What do I mean by this? Two to three belts were cycled at what seemed an excruciating slow place, with numerous reliability hiccups. However, one could tell the issues started to span more and more rounds in between stoppages.

Some will be attracted to the DSA RPD for its proven potential as a weapon even if confined to semi-automatic mode, while others will find it the closest opportunity they will have to own a working replica of a historical firearm. There is no doubt that the DSA RPD was both a potent and enjoyable rifle to shoot. The DSA RPD has an interesting firearm development history and can still perform on the range. DSA fully supports this by offering “modernized” RPD models featuring rails and collapsible stocks so users can configure as they see fit with optics, red dots and other accessories. This is a strong indicator of the RPD’s overall performance if DSA finds it worthy to continue enhancing the RPD.
By Todd Burgreen

For more info

DS Arms
P.O. Box 370
Barrington, IL 60011
(847) 277-7258

Echo Valley
Training Center
467 Hooks Mill Rd.
High View, WV 26808
(540) 450-7998

Stonewall Arms
2426 Valley Ave.
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 535-2190

Wolf Performance
P.O. Box 757
Placentia, CA 92871
(888) 757-9653

Century International Arms
430 South Congress Ave. Suite 1
Delray Beach, FL 33445
(800) 527-1252

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Upscale Black Lightning

Michell’s .22 WMR Carbine Easily
Lends Itself To Accessorizing.

A couple of years ago, in these pages, Holt Bodinson covered the Black Lightning in his Rimfire column in the January 2012 issue (available free at Since then, numerous accessories have been added to the line, so we thought it was worth another look. Essentially, it’s a beautiful semi-auto carbine in .22 WMR chambering. The most notable feature is a fluted stainless-steel barrel with a diameter of around 7/8 of an inch.

A stock of glass-reinforced polymer encloses the steel and alloy internals. The 9-round magazine is enclosed in the pistol grip, with a lower-rear catch. From that point to about halfway back on the stock, there is a sweeping connector that adds to the space-age look. For loading the magazine, Mitchell includes a nice little gadget you insert through the follower to pull it down.

In case you missed Holt’s original article back in 2012, I’ll repeat some of the other features here. On the left side at the top of the grip are the two controls, the bolt latch and the manual safety. When the safety is moved downward to fire position, a red dot is exposed. If you lose or damage the magazine, you still have a single-shot, as there is no magazine-disconnect safety.

The bolt stays open after the last shot, and the engagement of the bolt latch is very positive. After reloading, I found that it’s easier to release the latch by just pulling back slightly on the bolt handle. The manual latch is useful, though. It could be used to set the bolt open for cleaning.


Mitchell’s Black Lightning comes sans sights but with plenty of
Picatinny rail space to mount the sighting arrangement you prefer.

On the Lyman Electronic Gauge, the trigger pull of my Black Lightning averaged 6.5 pounds. There’s around 1/8-inch take-up, then a crisp let-off. With some use, I think it will probably lose another pound of pull. In a semi-auto, you don’t want a super-light pull. However, if you wish, a competent gunsmith could lighten it a bit. Actually, the wide smooth-faced trigger feels OK.

There are no sights, just an 18-inch standard rail on top. Also, each side of the stock at the front has a numbered rail for mounting of a light or laser. A set of 1-inch scope rings is provided with the gun, and this brings us to the list of optional accessories. Mitchell offers three good scopes at moderate prices, varying in size and power.

If you’d like to give your carbine an M-16 look, there’s a front and rear sight set that does this, and they are easy to attach to the rail. Also, there’s a very nice bipod that attaches to the front sling stud. On all of these items, check the Mitchell website for the prices.

A recent addition to the accessory line is an excellent “red dot” sight. Besides the red dot, you can change the lit image to crosshairs, a circle, or a combination of those two. If you buy this “SightMark” sight separately, it’s $125. Order it with the gun, and you get it for just $99. Either way, it’s a bargain.

Before I get to trying out the Black Lightning, I want to give a credit line to the designers, Larry Grossman and Larry Gilliam of Excel Industries. Hey, guys—that marvelous fluted bull barrel was a great idea! The extra weight keeps the whole thing steady as a rock. And, mechanically, the rifle works every time.

At the range, I tried the carbine with regular rifle .22 Magnum loads from CCI and Federal. Standing position, 25 yards. All groups were well centered, and measured mostly 2.5 to 3.5 inches. There was no place to rest the bipod, or I might have done even better. If you want a handsome carbine in .22 WMR, this is it.
By J. B. Wood

(817) 225-0310


The M-16-style aperture sight installs easily on
the rail. There’s a matching front sight unit for
those preferring iron sights.


The excellent optional red-dot sight is available from
SightMark or Mitchell. Mitchell gives you a discount if
you order it through them along with the rifle.


The controls, including trigger, bolt latch, safety, are
easily acquired. J. B. found just pulling back on the
locked open bolt less troublesome than using the bolt
release to charge the arm.


The simple loading aid slides through the magazine
follower and then pulls down to ease insertion of

Black Lightning
Maker: Mitchell Manufacturing
17622 metzler ln
(800) 274-4124

Action: Semi-auto
Capacity: 9 rounds
Caliber: .22 WMR
Weight: 6.8 pounds
Length: 32.6 inches
Barrel length: 18 inches
Sights: None, Picatinny rail provided
Stock: Synthetic
Price: $595

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A Mightier Mouse Gun

Browning’s 1911 .380 ACP Delivers
Top Performance In A Familiar,
Easy-Shooting Platform.

Long known for knives, outdoor clothing, boots, safes and shooting accessories, Browning’s new Black Label line of self-defense gear will premiere the new 1911 .380 as its flagship firearm. Ease of shooting, greater power and compact size are all key attributes of the pistol, which is based on the popular 1911 .22 A-1 rimfire, introduced several years ago. Both the .22 LR and the .380 ACP versions are 85 percent the size of a standard 1911.

The key attribute of this little pistol is the locked-breech 4-1/4-inch barrel, capable of squeezing more power out of today’s high-performance .380 ammo, since most other .380’s have barrels in the 2-3/4- to 3-1/4-inch range. Personally, I have no .380’s in my battery, mostly because every one I’ve shot previously has been snarky enough in recoil to make me prefer a .32 ACP—or to just step up to a bigger 9mm.

However, the Browning 1911 .380 is one sweet-shooting pistol. The locked breech, longer barrel and amenities such as a beavertail grip safety, ambidextrous thumb safety, light single-action trigger and easy-to-acquire snag-free sights make this .380 comfortable enough to shoot all day.


The Black Label line of self-defense gear can be sized
appropriately to its flagship 1911 .380. The line includes
a variety of knives, such as the Submission Spear Point
G-10 folder and flashlights using common AA batteries.
Photo: Browning


Anyone familiar with the venerable Government Model
1911 will have no problem fieldstripping the Browning
1911 .380. Note the barrel does not use the swinging
link of the original 1911 and the recoil spring guide
is synthetic. The frame is polymer. The material under
the pistol is the piece of denim and T-shirt used in
front of the ballistic gel in the penetration tests.

More importantly, a pistol this easy to shoot and hit with means longer productive practice sessions. You’ll not put it down from fatigue or because it drew blood on your shooting hand. In fact, this pistol is ideal for those with weak or arthritic hands because the slide is easy to rack even with the hammer down. Cock the hammer first and the slide is even easier to work.

Capacity is 8+1, weight is a wispy 15 ounces and overall length just 7-1/2 inches. The 1911 .380 is a pistol anyone could learn to shoot well. An added bonus is the fact you can get all four fingers around the grip—which always gives me immediate confidence I’m in control of the gun—even before squeezing off the first shot.

I first saw the 1911 .380 last summer at Browning’s Morgan, Utah, facility. These pistols were very close to what will actually be on dealer’s shelves in Spring 2015, although they did feature some parts still deemed to be in the prototype stage. Because of this, we will do a follow-up in a few months when off-the-shelf production pistols are available.

We didn’t do any benchrest shooting, just offhand shooting at 8-inch plates at 25 feet. It was no problem to quickly knock them down. The little scaled-down 1911’s proved reliable, and were neither oiled nor cleaned during the plate-shooting session. The magazines were easy to load (another plus for those with weak hands).

Incidentally, the Browning 1911 .380 does feature a magazine disconnect, and needs a mag in the well to lower the hammer. But never place your trust in it—it can be defeated! Always check to ensure the chamber is unloaded before doing maintenance, or simply handling the pistol.


Launching Browning’s new Black Label line of arms and
accessories is the 1911 .380 pistol, a scaled-down copy
of the Government Model .45. Hats, ear protection and
Blade-Tech holsters are just of the Black Label line
of self-defense gear. Winchester’s Train & Defend line
of ammunition includes FMJ and JHP bullets designed
to function identically in the pistol and shoot to
the same point of aim.

All the ammunition used in the test was the new Train & Defend line from Winchester (see sidebar). The Browning 1911 .380 is only rated for SAAMI spec ammunition. Since SAAMI has not listed a specification for +P .380 ACP, Browning will only warrant the pistol when fired with standard-pressure ammunition. Fortunately, there are plenty of loads available from nearly every ammo company, and the longer barrel will boost velocity significantly to enhance bullet performance.

This is a small pistol. Shooters with large hands found they could induce a malfunction if they shot with their thumb straight along the slide bumping the slide stop up during cycling. Keep your thumb bent down and you’ll be OK. My hands are medium-sized and I had no problems in this regard. The reach to the trigger isn’t very far and this pistol should fit even small hands well.

Combined with the 1911 22 A-1 as the first stepping stone, the 1911 .380 is the perfect upgrade to a more powerful pistol for entry-level shooters, or aging shooters suffering from declining manual strength.

As ammunition and bullet-design technology continues to advance, the .380 ACP is becoming more than just a “Best Mouse Gun Caliber.” Combining ease-of-shooting along with the ability to make productive hits at more than 7 yards, the Browning 1911 .380 is a serious defensive alternative to smaller, more difficult to master .380, 9mm and .40 S&W pistols.

1911 380
Maker: Browning
One Browning Way, Morgan, UT 84050
(801) 876-271

Action type: Locked breech, semi-auto
Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 8+1
Barrel length: 4-1/4 inches
Overall length: 7-1/2 inches
Weight: 15 ounces
Finish: Matte blue
Sights: Fixed 3-dot
Grips: Plastic
Price: TBA


Penetration in the Clear Ballistics Gel was a minimum of
7-1/4 inches up to 11-1/2 inches for an average penetration
of 9 inches for 7 rounds. The ammo was fired through barrier
material of denim and T-shirt.


Winchester’s Defend line of .380 ACP ammo expanded to
0.630-inch when fired into Clear Ballistics Gel at 7 yards.

Winchester Train

The ammunition we used represents a new concept from Winchester. With so many new shooters appearing on the scene, Winchester found the common acronyms usually found on ammo packaging to be too confusing. So Winchester designed “ballistically twinned” ammo, topped with identically shaped bullet profiles and weights in a “Train” version with full metal jacket bullets, as well as a more expensive jacketed hollowpoint in the “Defend” version. The Train line comes in a 50-round box, and the Defend line in a 25 rounder. Currently offered in .380 ACP, 9mm, .38 Special and .40 S&W (a .45 ACP will be offered soon), the bullet weights chosen are the heavier styles offered (except for the .38 Special, which uses 130-grain bullets) and the .380 uses a 95-grain bullet. Winchester claims these loads generate less recoil, and if my experience with the Browning 1911 .380 is any indication, they have certainly succeeded.

The Defend line is made to expand reliably using long-proven Winchester bullet technology. Designed to achieve 950 feet per second from today’s short-barrel crop of .380’s, the ammunition delivered about 40 or 45 fps more in the Browning’s 4-1/4-inch barrel. At 995 fps, the ammunition delivers 209 foot-pounds of energy.

While that figure may not make you forget the .45 ACP 230-grain bullet delivering 369 ft-lbs at the muzzle, a .380 is a lot easier to pack and shoot quickly.

In testing in Clear Ballistics gel—a synthetic version of traditional ordnance 240A ballistic gelatin—the Winchester Defend ammo penetrated an average of 9.05 inches for seven shots and bullets expanded from 0.355-inch to 0.630-inch.

In shooting, both the FMJ and JHP shot to the same point of aim, and both fed and extracted reliably. The Train line features lead-free primers in brass cases, since it is more likely going to be used in indoor ranges. The Defend line is loaded in nickel-plated cases to make each round identifiable at a glance.

The packaging on the boxes is different from what we are used to seeing. It basically just has the caliber and either a “T” for Train or “D” for Defend on the box. Other information such as bullet weight is listed atop the box, but the packaging otherwise is mostly gun-jargon free.
Story And Photos By Jeff John

Clear Ballistics LLC
P.O. Box 723
Fort Smith, AR 72901
(888) 271-0461

Winchester Ammunition
600 Powder Mill Road
East Alton, IL 62024
(618) 258-2000

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Big-Bore With Bite

Need A Shot-Loaded Rattlesnake Stopper?
Maybe Just A Powerful, Easily Packable
Sixgun? You’ll Find “Less Barrel” Can
Be More When It Comes To Shortly
Single Actions.

Have you ever just “known” by a gun’s look that you wouldn’t like it? Then found out you had been totally wrong about it?

After buying my first Colt SAA .45 in 1968 I became fanatical about owning each of the standard barrel lengths—4-3/4, 5-1/2 and 7-1/2 inches. My first one wore a 5-1/2-inch barrel. My next two had 4-3/4-inch barrels. Finally in 1976, I got one of the very first 3rd Generation SAA’s to appear, this time with a 7-1/2-inch barrel.

But for some reason, I did not want a 3-inch Sheriff’s Model. It just seemed unattractive and impractical. In the 2nd Generation SAA era (1955 to 1974), Colt produced 503 .45 Colt Sheriff’s Models, but I never actually saw one. Then in the 1980’s they made a large run of them with .44 Special and/or .44-40 cylinders. For the uninitiated, besides the short barrel, Sheriff’s Models have no ejector rods or housings, nor any provision for mounting them on the frame. Fired cases must be pushed out of chambers with a stick, pen or pencil. That was a large factor in my decision to ignore that particular model.

Evidently, there were other Colt SAA fans of a like mindset, because those 3rd Generation .44 Sheriff’s Models did not sell well. At Montana gun shows in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s new-in-box ones were fairly common. As with so many things in my life, happenstance played a factor in changing my mind. In 1991 I was at a gun show with a bit of spare cash in my wallet, but I already owned most of what was on display, I didn’t reach toward my hip pocket. Not at first, anyway. But then I ran into a fellow I knew who had one of those .44 Sheriff’s Models in NIB condition. He must have needed funds because he offered it to me at a price that made it far more attractive than it would’ve been normally.


Reptile repellent: Yvonne actually carries Duke’s Colt .44 Sheriff’s
Model more than he does. It goes with her when she’s spraying weeds.


Prairie rattlers often show up around Duke’s house. They’re the reason
Duke is so fond of CCI shot capsules for his shorty single actions.

I still have it 23 years later and consider it one of my favorite single actions. It did not come with dual cylinders, being in .44-40 only. It’s blued with a color case-hardened frame. At first it wore those “too-thick” factory-issue hard rubber grips, but that changed as soon as I got a set of rosewood blanks from Eagle Grips and had them fitted when I had the action smoothed. I went to this extra trouble because upon shooting the gun for the first time, it hit right at point of aim at 50 feet with my favorite .44-40 handloads.

Then it dawned on me. This would be the perfect rattlesnake gun. In my drawer full of spare parts resided a 3rd Generation SAA .44 Special cylinder. It turned out to be a perfect fit for my new Sheriff’s Model. Set up so, it has done for many rattlers in the ensuing 23 years. Usually it is loaded with either my homemade shot loads, carrying tiny No. 12 shot, or CCI’s factory capsules with No. 7-1/2 shot. Mine are more effective, but factory ones are more convenient. I usually just carry the revolver in my hip pocket with five rounds loaded and the hammer down on the empty 6th chamber. Actually Yvonne packs it more often during warm months because she’s frequently out on our property spraying weeds. She prefers a belt holster. You never know where a rattler is going to turn up around here, so shot cartridges are much safer than bullets.

With my bias against short-barreled single actions dissolved, I began acquiring more. In exchange for work, a gunsmith friend traded Hank Williams Jr. for a nifty .45 Colt SAA. The singer had had it custom built on an 1890’s vintage frame with a specially altered 3-3/4-inch barrel complete with ejector rod and housing. Plus it had the flat, wide-style Bisley spur grafted to its hammer. I traded it from the gunsmith and everyone who saw “Shorty” wanted it too. After two decades of fending people off, I finally let a friend have it.

Likewise, with another abbreviated .45 Colt SAA. At a Las Vegas gun show I encountered a dealer who obviously had connections with someone in the Colt Custom Shop. That was because he had a table full of custom SAA’s with 3-1/2 and 4-inch barrel lengths, and all of them were fitted with ejector rod assemblies. They were in a variety of blue/color case, full blue and full nickel finishes. After much reflection, I ended up buying a blued/case colored one with a 3-1/2-inch barrel and ivory grips. Again, this one too gained so many admirers in my circle, I eventually let one buy it.


Duke’s current shorty battery includes (from left): an Italian replica
of the Colt Richards .44 Conversion built on a Model 1860 cap-and-ball frame,
a Colt Sheriff’s Model .44-40/.44 Special and a U.S. Firearms Sheriff’s Model
in .45 Colt.


A Sheriff’s Model has no ejector rod (above), so empty cases must
be punched out with a rod of some sort. Duke likes to pack a shorty in
his hip pocket (below) with the hammer down on an empty chamber, of course!



Duke’s Colt Richards .44 Conversion has an 8-inch barrel to
go along with the 2-3/4-inch one. It must be loaded with heel-base
type bullets shown in front of a vintage UMC factory load (inset).

Stoudenmire Special

This next one is my most exotic “Shorty.” Long ago I had read of an 1880’s El Paso City Marshall named Dallas Stoudenmire who packed a short-barreled Colt .44 Conversion in a leather-lined hip pocket. When I decided to have a .44 Conversion built upon an Italian cap-and-ball Model 1860, I mentioned Stoudenmire’s .44 to the gunsmith. He replied that he had a spare Model 1860 barrel that was ruined near the muzzle. He asked me if I’d like him to cut it to 2-3/4 inches and have a second barrel to go with the standard 8-inch one. I agreed immediately.

This project came out beautifully. The gunsmith cut away the rear of the frame and mounted a “recoil plate” that contained a firing pin and loading gate (a rear sight sits atop the plate). The cylinder was built brand new, as were the ones Colt put in their factory conversions. The spare barrel was bobbed off and the loading rammer recess filled. A small blade front sight was dovetailed in the barrel. Then the frame and hammer were color case-hardened and the rest of the revolver given a nice blue finish.

The gunsmith could have lined the barrels down to .429 inch making it possible to use standard bullets meant for .44 Special or .44 Magnum. However, I decided to stick with the original design, which meant using a heel-base type bullet, wherein a reduced diameter shank fits inside the cartridge case while the bullet’s full diameter is the same as the outside of the cartridge case. If this sounds confusing just look at a round of .22 Long Rifle—you’ll see it’s still loaded with a heel-base bullet.

Rapine, a now-defunct custom bullet mold manufacturer, made a proper one for a 210-grain heel-base bullet, which I still use. Cases can be made by trimming .44 Special brass from 1.16-inch to 1.10-inch and narrowing the rim diameter from 0.514-inch to 0.483-inch. Firing a full case of 27 grains of Goex FFg black powder with bullets cast of 1:20 tin-to-lead alloy from gives good accuracy out to 25 yards. (I have not revealed the name of the gunsmith who produced this fine .44 conversion because he is no longer in the business.)

And that would likely have been the end of my shorty single action story if U.S. Firearms had not left the single-action world. For several years they made some of the nicest traditionally styled single-action revolvers I’d ever seen, and I bought several over the years.

But if there is any reliable truism about the gun business, it’s that anything gone from production will jump in value. And USFA’s single actions are doing just that.

Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to buy a friend’s USFA .45 and it just so happened to be a “shorty”—a typical 3-inch Sheriff’s Model with no ejector rod or housing. This particular one is USFA’s “Rodeo” version, meaning it has a full matte blue finish and their standard hard-rubber grips (I don’t mind them because they are much thinner than the Colt’s).

Many times over the years since becoming a fan of “shorty” single actions I had lamented about never getting one of those 2nd Generation .45 Sheriff’s Models. Now I have one as good or perhaps better. It shoots just a pinch high at 50 feet but is centered for windage with 250-grain lead bullets. However, it also serves as a back-up rattlesnake sixgun when stoked with CCI shotshells.

My change of heart on the Sheriff’s Model concept proves not all preconceived notions are forever. Mine certainly took wing after learning a bit about shorty single actions.
Mike “duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino

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Striker-Fired Magic

SIG SAUER’s New P320 Pistol Is
Shape-Shifting-And Superb.

I’m rarely accused of being sharp, so I’ll be blunt. (I’m good at that.) I’ve happily shot the snot outta the new SIG SAUER P320—to the tune of about 1,200 rounds and counting now—and here are the bullets:

First, this is a sweet, sweet shooter; strong, simple, comfortable, safe, accurate and reliable. Second, it may not be truly “ground-breaking,” because the SIG P250 already broke the modular, multi-caliber, shape-shifting size-changing ground some years ago, but the P320 has taken the concept and not just kicked it up a stair, but booted it all the way up to the next landing on the modular-morphing-mutant staircase.

I know. Professional gunwriters aren’t supposed to spill the beans right outta the gate. Readers are supposed to be spoon-fed tantalizing tidbits as the music builds to a crescendo of conclusions. But I’m not a PGW, and this is how IWO’s—Itinerant Weapons Operators—do it when you find a pistol like the P320; one you can take from the box, ensure there are no accidental bore obstructions, check for proper light lube, load up mags and commence shooting several hundred rounds with complete comfort and growing affection.

There’s no “break-in”—it’s good-to-go out of the box. It doesn’t “settle down” because it’s already settled. The trigger pull doesn’t change, nor do the excellent sights have to “grow on you.” You just get better, faster and more confident with it. With a 10-second reading of instructions, you’ve mastered every important aspect of operation and fieldstripping. In another 20 seconds reading you can tear it down to the level a unit armorer would. You can change the grip ergonomics with an inexpensive, simple swap and take it from full duty-size to compact or sub-compact size and legally still have only one “firearm.” Hyperbole? Bold talk? Nope. Just straight talk.



Fixed Siglite tritium-powered night sights are optional on the P320.
The front sight is drift adjustable for windage (left) as is the rear.
The sight radius is 6.6 inches. Note the slide stop just below the
beginning of the slide serrations.


The P320 has a generous ejection port lower on the right.
Note the window on the frame. Inside the window is the
serial number on the module of the fire system. It allows
the P320 to be converted easily into a carry or compact version.


The takedown lever operates only when the slide is pulled
back—allowing you to verify the pistol is unloaded. It
depresses the striker bar on activation meaning there is
no pulling of the trigger to begin disassembly.

The design concept is stunning in its simplicity. On the topside, you have a more or less conventional slide, recoil spring with captured guide and barrel. What in other pistols would be called the “frame” and constitute the serial-numbered “firearm” is, in this design, the grip module. It is a featherweight but tough polymer component which, aside from the magazine catch, has no pinned-in or pressed-in “action things & springs,” widgets and sprockets; not even metal rails to mate with the slide.

The entire fire control works including the trigger are contained within a single, slab-sided stainless steel modular unit not unlike a cassette-type, drop-in replacement trigger for an AR, but thankfully, far easier to remove and replace. With the slide removed, the user simply rotates the takedown lever while pulling it out, then lifts the fire control unit, which SIG calls the “frame assembly,” up and out. Lift it, tip it, juggle it. Nothing falls or pops out. It’s unitized, with all parts captured. If you enjoy searching for teensy parts under your workbench, you’ll have to get ’em from another pistol.

That’s it, folks. You can change grip ergonomics, calibers and conformation from full “duty-size” to compact to sub-compact using a single fire control unit/ frame assembly. The serial number is on this assembly, by the way, and shows through a window in the grip module.

When the P320’s full panoply has rolled out you’ll be able to jump from 9mm to .357 SIG to .40 S&W to .45 ACP, with small, medium and large grip modules to choose from in full (duty) size, another three in Carry size, and three more in Subcompact, including standard smooth, tabbed or “short” triggers, and plain or threaded barrels. Looks like the old LE problem of standardizing sidearm systems for uniformed patrol, plainclothes/investigations, off-duty and undercover, and fitting petite, delicate digits to ponderous paws can now be solved with a 1-stop shopping trip at SIG SAUER. Hey, you might like that kinda flexibility too, huh? Fancy that…


SIG SAUER’s take on the striker-fired DAO is a gem for many
reasons, most of which are “under the hood.” The inclusion
of a 5-slot Picatinny rail is a plus. The knife is a Columbia
River Knife & Tool Burnley Obake.


The P320 is a mechanically-locked, short-recoil-operated, double-action-only pistol, and SIG’s only striker-fired design since the 1930’s. Like SIG’s first foray into Gene Stoner’s AR design, the SIG516, it looks like SIG has taken the original concept, strengthened or eliminated its weaknesses and incorporated innovative new details. Obviously aimed at the law enforcement market, the P320 does not require pulling the trigger at any point in fieldstripping; it can’t be stripped without locking the slide to the rear, which ejects chambered rounds and provides a clear view and finger-check of the chamber. Safety mechanisms prevent discharge with the magazine removed and when the arm is even slightly out of battery. Those features alone could eliminate about half of all accidental pistol discharges suffered by LE agencies. Their liability lawyers will love that—and officers will love the way she handles and shoots.

The first wave of P320’s from the factory—and our test sample—are all full-size, with medium-contour grip modules, chambered in 9mm. Topside on the black Nitron-coated stainless steel slide are drift-adjustable SIGLITE tritium-illuminated sights and deep, angled slide grooves front and rear. The slide travel is notably smooth and even throughout its cycle. The ejection port is capacious and cut so it’s angled rearward on the lower right to prevent any problems with kickin’ out empty cases. At the rear of the slide a well-fitted plate helps seal the innards from dirt and debris. The slide is just 1.06 inches wide.

The grip module tells me SIG has done another superb job of “human engineering.” There’s just enough upswept beavertail to snug the web of your master hand right and tight under it without becoming an impediment. Four sections of the grip are nicely rough-textured, with coarser texturing on the front and back straps, and finer texturing on the side panels. It sits very solidly in the hand and grip is sure and certain.

As noted, our sample sports the medium dimensioned grip of the full-sized pistol, and the geometry is almost perfect for me. It makes me anxious to try the “large” variant of the carry grip module. At its widest point front to back the butt is 2.0 inches, thickness side-to-side is 1.33 inches and butt girth, measured rough with a fabric tape, is 5.6 inches. The trigger “reach,” from where the web of your hand meets the underside of the beavertail, to the front surface of the trigger, is 2.7 inches—pretty short, and it should accommodate even smaller hands. Compare those dimensions to the grip of a pistol you already like.


The slide is sculpted for easy holstering and
features fore-and-aft slide serrations.


The smooth, wide trigger gives the illusion the
pull itself is lighter than the scale says.


The grip is rough-textured with coarser
texturing on the front and back straps.

Note the recesses on both sides of the bottom of the butt. Our magazines dropped free every time, but if you have MBDS interference—Mud, Blood, Dirt and Sand—jamming a mag, they provide an easy “pinch” grip on the mag base plate so you can rip it free. The magazine release is reversible and well placed. There is a full 5-slot Picatinny rail to mount even the largest accessories, and there’s even a small oval slot at the bottom rear of the grip if you wish to attach a lanyard. The only other widgets on the sides are low-profile ambidextrous slide locks and the nicely contoured takedown lever. I found the rear of the takedown lever makes a great positioning and stop-point for my support-hand thumb when shooting 2-handed.

The triggerguard is very generously sized, providing over an inch in height and 1.25 inches in length between the forward inner surface and the face of the trigger; plenty of room for thick and even gloved fingers. Magazines are typical SIG highest quality, Italian-made, seamless, strong and smooth, with easily removable base pads. In 9mm, the full-size mags hold 17 rounds, the Carry holds 15, and the Subcompact holds 12.

The trigger is an absolute treat. If you’ve never liked the feel or travel of the typically segmented multi-part triggers on striker-fired polymer pistols, you owe it to yourself to try it. Our test sample, like virtually all the first-run P320’s, is equipped with the “standard” smooth, 1-piece trigger, and I recommend it. In my opinion it’s the best off-the-shelf production DAO trigger I’ve encountered on a striker-fired pistol and very nearly as good as some high-dollar aftermarket triggers I’ve tested.


A relatively high bore axis could mean excess muzzle flip—but doesn’t.
Slide is back in full recoil, with empty brass emerging (above).
Muzzle flip was minimal. A split second later, with the empty
cartridge flying, the muzzle is right back on target.


The trigger is a tale of quarter inches: Take-up is 1/4-inch, travel under pressure to the break is the same. Re-set is crisp, tactile and audible, and measures—taking any guesses?—1/4-inch. The trigger pull weight, measured on a Lyman electronic gauge, is a tad over 7 pounds but feels much lighter, no doubt due to the smooth trigger’s width. If you’re a fan of controlled, accurate rapid-fire, the P320’s performance is right up there with fine-tuned single-action pistols.

Firing the P320 was almost anticlimactic. I don’t think that’s the right word though, because ain’t nothin’ “anti” about it. She shot exactly as you would expect from the run-up, without a choke, cough or stutter from round one through 1,200; pointing and presenting beautifully, behaving superbly under recoil and delivering almost boringly accurate performance. Some of the first fumbles I look for in a new high-capacity pistol is failing to completely feed the first round up from a fully loaded mag after the round “up the pipe” is launched, and double-feeding when you’ve shot down to the next-to-last round. Never happened.

Firing with the pistol canted at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and at steep angles didn’t faze her, nor did shooting mixed types of ammo in the same magazine. The P320 is as good at focused aimed single shots as it is at rapid doubles and groups.

We shot two flavors of premium defensive ammo for record: the new SIG Elite Performance 124-grain “V-Crown” JHP’s, and Federal Premium Personal Defense 135-grain “Hydra-Shok” JHP’s. Both are excellent choices for carry and home defense, featuring rapid expansion, low flash, and minimal ricochet hazard. They both grouped tight and functioned flawlessly. When your average of 5-shot groups, 2-handed at 15 yards is under 2 inches, that says it all. In addition to the defensive ammo, we put hundreds of rounds of Winchester “white box” 147-grain flatpoint target FMJ’s and remanufactured 115- and 124-grain ball through her with no complaints.

The P320 was so pleasant to shoot we decided we had to give it a “high-volume fire test.” This consists of setting up some Osama Bin Zombie and Jingles the Zombie Clown targets at 10 yards, loading mags to the max and unloadin’ ’em on-target as fast as we could pull the trigger. It was tough, yeah, but somebody had to do it. She got hot—and kept runnin’ like a Swiss watch.


Searching for negative comments and caveats was fairly fruitless. I don’t need the grooved, slightly inset front surface of the triggerguard to perch my support-hand index finger on. I don’t use that technique, and don’t know anyone who does. Is it a problem? Well, no. My sole caveat is, with a mag in and a round chambered, the only thing between silence and bang! is your trained trigger finger. It would take some enthusiastic mishandling to touch off a round, but I don’t recommend using a soft fabric holster or dumping this pistol in a pocket or loose in a bag if it’s in a state of readiness. That said, I think due to the excellent trigger and recoil characteristics it’s a great pistol to teach a novice on.

Back in 2007 when the P250 was introduced, I thought “I’m looking at the future of fighting pistol design.” I bought two, both 15-round Compacts in 9mm, one with the “short” trigger, one with a threaded barrel and a dozen magazines. The P250 is hammer-fired, with a longish, very smooth revolver-like trigger. They have never been out of my “ready rotation.” In my opinion the under-appreciated P250 is one of the top 10 fighting pistol designs of the past 50 years. Another is the SIG P220 Combat .45, for its sheer Doomsday Gun survivability. Now I think SIG has a third on that short list. Connor OUT

18 Industrial Drive, Exeter, NH 03833
(603) 772-2302

Action: Locked breech, striker-fired DAO semi-auto
Caliber: 9mm
Overall length: 8.0 inches
Overall height: 5.5 inches
Overall width: 1.4 inches
Barrel length: 4.7 inches
Weight w/mag: 29.4 ounces
Mag capacity: 17 rounds
Sights: SIGLITE Night Sights
Grips: Interchangeable polymer
Slide finish: Nitron
Accessory rail: Picatinny 5-slot
Holster: Paddle-type OWB included
Price: $713

9mm Factory Ammo Performance

Load Velocity Best Group Average Group
(brand, bullet type, weight) (fps) (inches) (inches)
SIG Elite 124 1,154 1.25 1.437
Federal Personal Defense 135 1,089 1.125 1.5

Notes: Group size the product of 5-shots at 15 yards,
2-hand hold. Chronograph Data: Competition Electronics
Pro Chrono Digital 10 feet from muzzle.


Legos for grownups! With the full-sized P320 slide and
barrel at top for size comparison, here’s the Carry
slide below it, a threaded barrel, the “medium” grip
module, Carry magazine and the frame assembly.

Christmas In August?

I had just wrapped up the story on the full-size P320 when a box arrived from SIG SAUER. The note inside said something like “We have very few of these, so please return ASAP.” There was more, but I was busy digging in. The surprise package contained a P320 Carry-size slide and barrel, a matching threaded barrel, the small, medium and large Carry-size grip modules and two 15-round Carry magazines. Was I drooling? Sorry.

I don’t think of myself as a “toy guy,” or even as a gearhead, but—this is like Legos for grownups! I stripped the frame assembly/fire control unit out of the big duty P320, installed it in the “medium” size Carry grip module and slipped the Carry slide and barrel assembly on in about the same time it took you to read this sentence.

Oh, yeah—it’s nice. Not a midget by comparison, the Carry is 3 ounces lighter, about an inch shorter overall and a tad shorter in height, but still has a respectable 3.9-inch barrel and carries 15 rounds of Fight-Stopper on board. Besides the obvious dimensions, the only difference I see is the Carry has a dual rather than single captured recoil spring, to better manage the lighter slide mass and shorter action cycle. So, the Carry P320 is simply more agile and better suited for, well… carry.

The Full Size would be my choice for IDPA, instruction, general range use and bedside security service. The Carry seems perfect for socially-serious “out & about” encounters. I’ll be shooting it as soon as I break the chains to this keyboard.

The other grip modules for the full-size P320 and the whole lineup of Carry size gear—plus the other calibers for both—should be available by the time you read this. After that, watch for the Subcompact! Enjoy the buffet!
By John Connor

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The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide

It’s Time To Play Santa,
Ya Big Scrooge!

Here’s something for every shooter on your list, folks, and maybe, just maybe something you’d like to see waitin’ under your Christmas tree too! It’s true, “’Tis better to give than to receive,” but receiving comes in a close second sometimes. And if you’re gonna be Mr. Generous with your pals and loved ones, you deserve a little generosity yourself—right? Happy hunting!


The Can Man

To the right gunner, this could be the choice gift of the year. Joe Lake The Can Man takes new or A-1 US .50 cal ammo cans, applies tough powdercoat and Cerakote finishes in cool color combos, installs a steel lock stud and inserts precision-cut pre-perf’ed foam to accommodate two handguns, nine magazines, lights, knives or cleaning gear. Some of the colors will knock your eyes out, and of course there’s pink and white ’specially for the ladies. He even includes a small padlock and a slim “credit card knife” with each can!


Jectz Jewelry

More bling! Jectz Jewelry has dozens of designs including necklaces, bracelets, pendants, cufflinks, rings and charms of sterling silver, stainless steel, copper and brass, most featuring cartridge case heads and inset crystals, offering your choice of caliber and color. You’ve gotta go to the website to see the array of choices—and you’ll be amazed at the prices. There’s something for everyone!


Caldwell Mag Charger

Got a “high-volume” black rifle shooter amongst your buddies? The Caldwell AR-15 Mag Charger loads 30 rounds of ammo from the box to the magazine in 10 seconds or less! It holds 50 rounds of .223, 5.56mm or .204 ammo, and is compatible with all AR-platform mags, both mil-spec and molded plastic. Basically, you dump rounds from the included transfer tray into the loader, click a mag in place, then stroke the plunger, loading 5 rounds per stroke. Yeah, you can have one too…


Benchmaster USA Bison Shooting Bag

A photo can hint at the tones and grain, but can’t express the fine feel and texture of an American Bison Shooting Bag by Benchmaster USA. Made in the US of American bison hide, they have an anti-skid base, an easy-pour spout for filling and re-filling and the sueded rest won’t scratch fine rifle finishes. Made to last a lifetime, and unlike me, get better looking with age.


Concealed Carrie

For the lovely lady on your list, check out the long line of pistol-packing purses, clutches and satchels by Concealed Carrie. Fashionable, fun and highly functional, here’s their bright red leather Compact Carrie. You’re seeing the plastic, cash and accessories side, but there’s a holster for her handgun readily available in the other zippered side. Check out the full lineup on their website—and tickle a woman’s fancy!


MTM Case-Gard

From MTM Case-Gard, these new containers may be the best ammo storage and transport cases ever. The ACC45 box shown provides a double-latching locking box, seven interior 100-round boxes nestled inside, plus lots of contents and load data stickers. It fits .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and more. Other boxes, for 9mm, for example, include 10 100-round boxes for storing a whopping 1,000 rounds! The Tac Mag Can snuggles 15 20- or 30-round AR mags. Strong enough to stack from floor to ceiling, they’re all O-ring sealed—and super gifts!


Jotto Gear

You and your giftee have concealed carry permits, but sometimes you have to enter those “Victim-Rich Zones” and leave your Roscoes behind, right? Solve the security problem with the NRA Handgun Holster by Jotto Gear. Constructed of heavy-gauge steel, it is lined, padded and adjustable for a wide range of handguns. Equipped with a strong positive lock operated with a barrel key, it comes with hardware to mount it upright or at the side, and the quick-flip locking bale can be operated with either hand. It mounts in vehicles, RV’s, boats, in offices and homes. Speed and security in an official NRA-licensed product—what’s not to like?


Kershaw 3812

Nobody needs to know you paid under $40 for Kershaw’s sturdy Thistle locking folder, model 3812. Its 3.25-inch extra-wide blackwashed stainless blade, ergonomic K-Texture grip scales of glass-filled nylon and push-button lock release—to keep your fingers outta the way when closing—will hint at a much higher price. This brute’s a beauty and a bargain!


Hyskore Compact Revolver Light

The best accessory yet for the popular J-Frame revolver comes in the form of The Hyskore Compact Revolver Light. When checking out that “bump in the night,” why take up both hands with a gun in one and a light in the other? It replaces factory grips with a unit featuring a master on/off switch, intuitive activation switch on the frontstrap and a powerful Cree LED light powered by a long-lasting CR12 battery. The circuitry lives inside the checkered aluminum grip plates—fore and aft are shock-reducing thermoplastic panels—and will withstand even hot .357 magnum rounds. It’s a lifesaver that lists for $129.99.


Multitasker Series 3

I’ve used an original Multitasker for years, and now the new Multitasker Series 3 Multitool is out! Loaded with tools for the AR owner, it is of the highest quality and utility, precision-made and ultra-strong. The front sight tool pulls off the magnetic shaft to reveal a 1/4-inch bit driver, and the Series 3 includes 8 bits in a new swinging-gate bit holder. A perfect gift for an AR shooter!


ThermaCELL Heated Insoles

For your perennially frozen-footed hunting buddy, look at ThermaCELL Heated Insoles Wireless and rechargeable, they provide temperature-adjustable warmth for up to 5 hours per charge, controlled by a small remote control easily carried in a pocket. They come in five sizes, and can be trimmed to fit. They’re water-resistant and protected from moisture and perspiration. Instead of listening to Freezing Frank carping about his cold tootsies, he’ll ratchet-jaw you to death braggin’ about his high-tech heat source!


Kahr Arms Charms

For lots of folks at Christmas, the bling’s the thing, and we’ve got two great sources for you. First, from Kahr Arms, beautifully done charms featuring a Desert Eagle .50, a Kahr K9 and a Thompson 1927-A1, each rendered in solid 14K yellow gold weighing 5 to 6 grams, equipped with a lobster-claw closure to attach to any charm bracelet, necklace or key chain. And, there’s also a 14K gold open link rope bracelet to match! So, match!


Spyderco Serrata

If you know you really should, here’s a “Wow! You shouldn’t have!” gift, Spyderco’s new Serrata. Distal tapered with a thick, full flat-ground 4.6-inch blade of 440C stainless cast in a high-tech process that enhances strength, ductility and cutting efficiency, its contoured G-10 handle scales stay comfortable through long skinning sessions. This may be the best-balanced, best all-around knife—and best gift—your giftee will ever receive.
By John Connor

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Order Your Copy Of The GUNS Magazine December 2014 Issue Today!

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