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HANDGUNS

®

Nov./ Dec. 2018 • Volume 39, Issue 4

FEATURES 18 POCKET ACES Hands on three next-gen .380s from Smith & Wesson, Springfield and Taurus

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By Denis Prisbrey

CONTENTS

30 BERETTA’S EDC APX The full-sized APX now has a little brother designed for discreet carry By Garrett Lucas

40 P365 PARTNER Running Sig’s innovative pocket gun with ammo designed specifically for it By Greg Lickenbrock

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44 SEEING DOUBLE That’s right—Nighthawk Custom is now offering double-stack 1911s By Rob Garrett

56 KNOCKOUT NINES Six of the best 1911s take to the range, but only one can win By Paul Scarlata

62 POCKET POWERHOUSE Springfield’s hammer-fired XD-E is back in .45 ACP By Garrett Lucas

68 THE SCORPION STRIKES AGAIN! CZ’s next-gen 9mm returns in pistol form for home defense By Rob Garrett

80 FIGHTIN’ TITAN Atlas Gun Works’ first duty-grade pistol is ready to protect and serve By David Kenik

90 GAME TAKERS The best new hunt-ready handguns and holsters for 2018 By Jay Langston

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68 FIRST SHOT: This issue we’re celebrating the resurgence of the .380 ACP with our cover story on three new releases from S&W, Springfield and Taurus. Our head-to-head pieces have been a huge hit, so we doubled down this issue with a .38 Special “Tale Of The Tape” as well as a “Battle Royale” with six 9mm 1911s. We pride ourselves on offering a solid mix of content—more than any of our competitors—to cover all manner of personaldefense and sporting weapons, from classic revolvers and everyday-carry semi-autos to hunters and modern PDWs like CZ’s latest Scorpion. Enjoy this content-packed issue, and email us your feedback at editdesk@athlonoutdoors.com. WE STAND CORRECTED: In the Sept./Oct. issue, we said that the Steel Patriot SP200 case does not have the ability to use a security tether on page 24, but it does. Also, our review of Sig Sauer’s suppressor-ready P229 Legion was titled “Silent Legion,” but we should mention that there is a suppressor company already called Silent Legion. Sorry for the confusion. Visit silentlegion.com.


EDITORIAL DIRECTOR EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PRODUCTION EDITOR CREATIVE DIRECTOR ART DIRECTOR/COVER DESIGN PREPRESS MANAGER PREMEDIA OPERATOR DIGITAL MANAGER DIGITAL EDITOR EDITORIAL ASSISTANT CIRCULATION CONSULTANT COVER PHOTO

Combat HANDGUNS

®

COLUMNS 06 COMBAT STOCKPILE Rounding up some of the best new guns and gear available

Nino Bosaz Linas Cernauskas Greg Lickenbrock Kenneth Ross Rory Slifkin Michael Toppin Franco Nguyen Matthew Hogan Andrew Berry Richard Ortega Scott Hill/ProCirc Alex Landeen*

personaldefenseworld.com • tactical-life.com realworldsurvivor.com • ballisticmag.com EDITORIAL INQUIRIES

editdesk@athlonoutdoors.com

08 SELF-DEFENSE & THE LAW Four cases examine the realities of shooting an attacker in the back By Massad Ayoob

athlonoutdoors.com

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CONTENTS

11 CARRY & MARCH ON The 9th annual Second Amendment March in Michigan

Independent Account Representatives NORTHEAST REGION

By Andy Grossman

SOUTHEAST & UPPER MIDWEST

14 RANGE TIME Top-tier skill building at the Echo Valley Training Center

WESTERN REGION MIDWEST/CENTRAL SOUTH

By Todd Burgreen

26 RELOAD ZONE

DIRECT RESPONSE SALES

Everything you need to maximize your .38 Special handloads

SENIOR DIRECTOR MARKETING & OPERATIONS DIGITAL SALES DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING DIRECTOR

By Stan Trzoniec

36 RIGHTEOUS RIGS UnderTech Undercover makes it easy to stay armed while active

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Two new .38 Special snubbies fight for the self-defense crown By Garrett Lucas

54 AMMO BOX By Dr. Martin D. Topper

Defending yourself in the dark just got a whole lot easier thanks to XS 36 By Dr. Martin D. Topper

72 GEAR UPKEEP What you need to know to keep your magazines in fighting shape By David Kenik

76 WHEELHOUSE Ruger turns up the heat with its new seven-shot GP100 By William Bell

86 CUSTOM CORNER

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Chuck Allen Mary Lee Vanderkooi New York: 60 E. 42nd St., Suite 820, NY, NY 10165; 212-478-1910 Nashville: 2451 Atrium Way, Suite 320 Nashville, TN 37214 800-284-5668

* Consultant

66 DIY UPGRADE

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Brock Norman

SUBSCRIPTIONS / SINGLE COPIES 800-284-5668; subscriptions@athlonmediagroup.com ONLINE STORE outdoorgroupstore.com

Testing Remington’s latest barrier-blind Golden Saber line

4 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

Jim Coen 212-478-1949 Carrie Roeder

Corporate Officers

48 TALE OF THE TAPE

By Zack Carlson

Scott Buchmayr 978-462-6335 Amos Crowley 216-378-9811 Scott J. Cherek 307-635-8899 Dan Flavin 248-515-8654

ATHLON MEDIA GROUP PRESIDENT, CEO CFO/TREASURER CORPORATE ADDRESSES

By Mike Detty

Give your Glock a makeover with a Lone Wolf Damascus slide

VP/GROUP PUBLISHER Nicholas S. Seifert & CONTENT DIRECTOR ADVERTISING SALES National Office 212-478-1910; sales@athlonoutdoors.com

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TO THE READERS: Be advised that there may be products represented in this magazine as to which the sale, possession or interstate transportation thereof may be restricted, prohibited or subject to special licensing requirements. Prospective purchasers should consult the local law enforcement authorities in their area. All of the information in this magazine is based upon the personal experience of individuals who may be using specific tools, products, equipment and components under particular conditions and circumstances, some or all of which may not be reported in the particular article and which this magazine has not otherwise verified. Nothing herein is intended to constitute a manual for the use of any product or the carrying out of any procedure or process. This magazine and its officers and employees accept no responsibility for any liability, injuries or damages arising out of any person’s attempt to rely upon any information contained herein. COMBAT HANDGUNS® (ISSN 1043-7584) is published six times per year by Athlon Sports Communications, Inc., 2451 Atrium Way, Suite 320, Nashville, TN 37214. Single copy price: $7.99 in U.S.A., $8.99 in Canada. Submissions of manuscripts, illustrations and/or photographs must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The publisher assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material. Copyright © 2018 by Athlon Sports Communications, Inc. All rights reserved under International and Pan American Copyright Conventions. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. Printed in the U.S.A.


5.11 TACTICAL REMINGTON

HOGUE

Rounding up some of the best new guns and gear available BY CH STAFF

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COMPOSITE LE GRIPS Hogue’s popular Laser Enhanced (LE) 1911 grips are now available with precisioncut G10 or checkered wood laminate materials. In addition, each variation is available for both Government and Officer’s Model 1911s. These LE Grips offer three operating modes—steady, flashing and “stealth target”—and four user-selectable brightness levels. Two common CR2032 batteries hidden under the grip on the non-laser side power the unit. (hogueinc.com)

1911 R1 TACTICAL Remington’s new 1911 R1 Tactical comes with an adjustable match-grade trigger as well as a matchgrade 5-inch barrel. The slide and barrel both have a PVD finish for corrosion resistance and smooth operation. You’ll also find Trijicon front and rear night sights, an ambidextrous thumb safety, front and rear cocking serrations, VZ Operator G10 grips and a Picatinny rail for accessories. Three versions are available: single-stack, double-stack and double-stack with a threaded barrel. (remington.com)

MISSION READY CHUKAS Whether you’re standing for hours, moving through a crowd or de-escalating a situation, 5.11 Tactical’s new Mission Ready Chukas are ready to back you up. The D30 Lite EVA midsoles and Ortholite X-25 foot beds provide maximum cushioning and all-day comfort. Need more support? The Ortholite Achilles Cuff adds to your comfort level and strengthens the heel hold. And when you need to move, the Vibram Overland high-traction outsole lets you step up without slipping. These boots are perfect for complementing your tactical undercover gear or dressing up your jeans. (511tactical.com)

SIG SAUER MATCH ELITE AMMO Sig Sauer has introduced a new line of Match Elite competition ammo. This 147grain 9mm JHP load uses coated nickel cases and fast, clean-burning powder for exceptional performance and shootability when you’re on the clock. In other words, it’s designed to be light on recoil. Depending on the pistol used, velocity figures range from 860 to 900 fps with a power factor between 126 and 132, making this load legal for all USPSA competitions. Fifty-round ammo boxes are currently available. (sigsauer.com)

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ALIEN GEAR SHAPESHIFT OPTIONS Alien Gear Holsters has expanded the compatibility of its ShapeShift Modular Holster System to work with two additional handguns: the Springfield XD Mod.2 3.3" in .45 ACP as well as the Heckler & Koch VP9. Those who carry these handguns can now benefit from some truly advanced concealed-carry equipment. Essentially, one holster core can be installed on several different mounting solutions, letting you carry your gun however you want. (aliengearholsters.com) personaldefenseworld.com


SELF-DEFENSE & THE LAW

BUT IS IT MURDER OR SELF-DEFENSE? FOUR CASES EXAMINE THE SITUATION BY MASSAD AYOOB t is a prevalent myth that anyone shot in the back must obviously be the victim of a cowardly murderer. There are even some prosecutors who seem to take that as a given. In real life, however—and in real courts—the totality of the circumstances have to be taken into consideration. Consider the following.

INTENTIONAL SHOTS

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iStock Photo

Consider Case One, which took place in Brunswick, Georgia. A local businessman named Monroe Phillips was standing inside a drugstore when a man came up behind him and shot him in the lower back with a shotgun. Phillips, kidneys shredded, collapsed and lived only long enough to utter a few last words. Clear-cut murder? Not exactly. Eustace Butts, the man who triggered the fatal shotgun blast, was hailed as a hero. Phillips,

you see, had just perpetrated the infamous Brunswick Massacre. At the moment Butts shot him, Phillips had already killed five people, mortally wounded two more and injured 30 by firing a double-barreled, 10-gauge shotgun. The year was 1915. Armed citizens stopping murder rampages with their own rescuing gunfire is certainly not a new thing. A mad-dog killer who shows no signs of stopping unless he is shot down is a legitimate target from any angle. Case Two took place in Ukiah, California. Sergeant Marcus Young— along with the young police cadet riding with him—was making the “routine” arrest of a teenage female shoplifter when her 35-year-old boyfriend, Neal Beckman, attacked with a gun and a knife, pumping five .38 Special bullets into the cop’s face, chest and arms. The would-be cop-killer then knifed a security guard who was present and dove into Young’s patrol car, attempting to rip his fully automatic Heckler & Koch patrol rifle in .223 Remington from its rack. Unable to draw his own Beretta 96, Young told the police cadet how to get the pistol out of his security holster and hand it to him. Julian Covella, 17, did so, and Young opened fire.


SELF-DEFENSE & THE LAW of four to five shots per second, multiple shots can still be fired before you can physically stop manipulating the trigger. You also have to consider how fast the opponent can turn. Different studies may come up with different numbers, but as a rule of thumb, a person can turn his or her upper torso 90 degrees in about a quarter of a second, and 180 degrees in half a second. Put it all together and it’s now easy and logical for a jury to understand the human factors that can result in a shot in the back while the defender was attempting to fire at his attacker from the front.

MORE CASES His first .40 S&W rounds did not have the desired effect. The wounded but still violent felon was lying across the patrol car’s front seat, still trying to gain control of the HK rifle, when Young fired the shot that ended the fight. The bullet entered the criminal’s rectum and coursed up into the vital organs of his chest, and it was over. The fatal bullet had technically entered “behind the lateral midline” of the gunman’s body, the classic definition of a “back shot”—yet it didn’t matter. The good guys involved were recognized as the heroes they were, and none suffered any legal repercussions. Disabled by his severe wounds and forced to leave active police work, Marcus Young went on to teach officer survival nationwide through the FBI.

TURNING THE TIDE The masked intruder lunged at you with his knife. You opened fire and stopped shooting as soon as he turned and ran. He made it outside, collapsed and died. The next day, the autopsy found that one or more of your shots hit him in the back. You know the firestorm you’ll get from a clueless public, and perhaps even from the occasional clueless lawyer. “He shot him in the back! And lied about it! Liar and murderer!” How these things actually happen isn’t common knowledge and has to be explained to the judge and jury. Here are the realities that have to be put

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A back shot can occur if you fire your gun at an attacker while he is turning away. If an attacker swings his gun on you like this, your only choice is to shoot him in the back or be shot.

together for the triers of the facts to successfully find the truth. Shooting as fast as possible to save his or her life, the average person can probably fire four shots per second with a double-action revolver, and five per second with a self-cocking autopistol whose shorter trigger movement requires less time to manipulate. What often happens is that, as the attacker sees your gun coming up at him, he reflexively turns just as you break the shot. The reaction time to an anticipated response is around a quarter of a second. But if you, the shooter, had anticipated him breaking off his assault, you wouldn’t have been firing at all. So now you have to consider your reaction time to an unanticipated response, which is probably three times longer or more. Your brain now has to go through the “OODA loop” famously quantified by Colonel John Boyd. You have to Observe his turn, then Orient to the fact that the danger has abated, Decide to stop shooting and Act by ceasing your movement on the trigger. At a rate

Case Three takes us to Miami, Florida. In the mid-1980s, Florida v. Mary Hopkin became my first such case as an expert witness. Mary, 63, was a battered woman whose burly common-law husband, James Yarolem, 45, had strangled her and left her for dead. Out on bail and full of booze, he returned to Mary’s home. Mary wouldn’t let him in and warned him that she had a gun, but he bashed in the door and came at her. She fired three shots as fast as she could from a .22 LR revolver and stopped shooting when she perceived him to turn and run. He collapsed and died outside, hit once in the chest, once in the side just behind lateral midline, and once square in the back and into his heart, the fatal shot. She was criminally charged. Her attorney, the brilliant Mark Seiden, deconstructed the state’s case meticulously point by point, and I was there to help explain all of this, among other factors. The jury eventually found her not guilty. Case Four occurred more recently in 2016. In Montana v. James Stiffler, I testified to a similar dynamic when a home invader came at the defendant, reflexively turned as the homeowner raised his Star pistol and caught a bullet behind the lateral midline. The prosecutor’s murder charge failed, and Stiffler left the courthouse a free man thanks to his excellent attorney, Quentin Rhoades. So, yes, it can indeed be justifiable to shoot a violent criminal in the back. It will all depend on a phrase you’ll hear over and over in court: “The totality of the circumstances.” personaldefenseworld.com


THE 9TH ANNUAL SECOND AMENDMENT MARCH TAKES OVER MICHIGAN’S CAPITOL BY ANDY GROSSMAN ince it all started in 2009, the Second Amendment March has been growing, and founder Skip Coryell has been organizing other groups to help support and fight for the Second Amendment. Skip decided to start the march right after President Obama was first elected because he felt the Second Amendment was in jeopardy, and this year’s march was the largest one yet. Terri Stocke, the president of the Second Amendment March, estimated that around 1,000 Second Amendment supporters and firearms enthusiasts from various age groups, races and religions gathered right on the front lawn and steps of the Michigan State Capitol

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SECOND AMENDMENT MARCH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

the importance of the Second Amendment, why he started the march, and how far it has come since its inception. As the speeches went on, I noticed the crowd getting much larger. I honestly couldn’t stop checking out everyone’s guns; it became kind of a game for me. It was an incredible sight to see so many beautiful firearms being legally carried by responsible citizens. Tom Lambert, the president of Michigan Open Carry, invited anyone involved with a firearms company or contributor to the Second Amendment March to join him on the steps during his speech. It was a very powerful moment as the steps filled up with these proud men and women. Tom delivered a very patriotic and heartfelt speech asking for all gun owners to join together in an effort to educate those who oppose the Second Amendment and guns in general. The day brought out a handful of Second-Amendment-supporting and Republican candidates for a variety of offices in Michigan. The speakers were followed by Madison Rising, arguably the most patriotic band in the country. Led by Air Force veteran Rio Hiett with support from Samuel Fishman, AJ Larsen and Tom DiPietro, Madison Rising rocked the capitol for a little over an hour. Their performance was followed by a firearm law panel consisting of Dean Greenblatt, Terry Johnson and Jim Makowski, who answered legal questions from the crowd. The event was closed out with an official Michigan Open Carry march around the capitol building organized by Phil President Tom Lambert Robinson from the Michigan Liberty Militia. The gave a rousing speech day progressed perfectly without a single hitch. and asked anyone No one got shot. No guns attacked anyone. And involved with a firearms company to stand with not one anti-gunner showed up to try to cause him on the steps of the issues. Seeing so many Second Amendment capitol building. supporters show up on a rainy day to band together in our fight to protect this key amendment was both amazing and incredibly encouraging.

building. Most of the attendees proudly open carried everything from relics and handguns to rifles and shotguns, making the capitol building the safest place in Michigan at the time. Upon arriving on the lawn of the capitol building, I immediately checked out the vendor tent. I found a wide variety of local companies selling merchandise and handing out information. Michigan Open Carry and Michigan Gun Owners were definitely making a very large statement inside the tent as well. This was a very well-organized event with great speakers. Joel Fulton of Freedom Firearms was the host, and he did a wonderful job pumping up the crowd and keeping the speakers on schedule. The event kicked off in true American fashion with the playing of the national anthem. A crowd of hundreds of legally armed citizens standing tall and proud to honor our country is one hell of a sight, by the way. Skip Coryell himself spoke about

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RANGE TIME

TOP-TIER SKILL BUILDING AT THE BEST TRAINING FACILITY ON THE EAST COAST BY TODD BURGREEN

I bet all Combat Handguns readers have the best intentions to practice and train with their handguns. But quality training and practice can take second place to life’s demands, such as family and work. For many people, range access is limited and thus impacts opportunities to self-train or, more importantly, attend a course. If there were only one piece of advice I could give readers, it is to receive professional firearms training. One of the quickest and simplest ways to increase your proficiency is to

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attend a structured course by a reputable trainer. Another option is visiting a range on your own with a concise action plan to avoid mindless blasting. The Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC) located outside of Winchester, Virginia, is a great place for both of these pursuits.

A SHOOTER’S DREAM C.R. Newlin started the EVTC to satisfy his quest for a place to enjoy his passionate interest in shooting and training. There is a definite lack

of private and public ranges in the mid-Atlantic region. The EVTC was spawned about 10 years ago on the backside of a 300-plus-acre tract of land owned by Newlin. What began as a single 25-yard handgun bay has expanded into multiple ranges capable of handling dozens of students on any given day. The EVTC offers two 100-by-50-yard, graveled, bermed shooting bays; a multi-level, 300-yard, target-rich range with multiple firing positions, including two “dug in” firing points; a 360-degree “drive in” graveled range; and a 250-by-45-yard “Jungle Walk” lane next to a stream. With advanced notice, the EVTC can also be configured into a 600-plusyard rifle venue as well. The EVTC hosts numerous local, state and federal law enforcement entities, the Department of Defense, security firms and several of the most renowned private instruction organizations in the nation. The EVTC does not have its own training cadre or agenda, allowing it maximum flexibility in what courses are offered. While the firing ranges are concentrated within a certain area of the property, the full 300-plus acres can be utilized for training in terms of off-road vehicles, patrolling and even riverine operations. The EVTC has heavily invested in different types of steel targets, such as plate racks, dueling trees, poppers and silhouettes—not to mention dozens of paper target stands. The EVTC can even access vehicles for courses requiring this type of training. The EVTC’s decision to act as host for other entities translates into a variety of training opportunities spanning from team tactics to basic CCW

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instruction. Night fires and long-range patrols are frequent activities at the EVTC. The complex features multiple covered firing positions as well as two heated classrooms for presentations needing to be done off the firing line. As you can see, the flexibility and lack of dogma here provides for a range that caters to any need.

CQB GUNFIGHTING

The Echo Valley Training Center is a top destination for firearms training. In fact, it’s hosted numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as elite special operations units.

The simplest way to describe what the EVTC offers is to list some of the courses and trainers that have provided services there in the past. Handgun training is the most relevant type of preparation for civilians and law enforcement. Ironically, proficiency with a handgun is the hardest skillset to learn, and it’s also the most perishable of gun-handling skills. You must constantly train and practice to maintain any hard-earned handgun skills. A recent Suarez International “Advanced Close Range Gunfighting” course at the EVTC stressed these items. Students were taught to always conduct a full 360-degree scan after completing every drill. This helps to limit the effects of tunnel vision and auditory exclusion that often accompany high-

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RANGE TIME

The best firearms trainers have come to rely on the EVTC’s numerous bays and flexible layout to provide their world-class instruction.

stress, adrenaline-pumping encounters. Overall, Suarez’s Advanced Close Range Gunfighting course does a good job of incorporating all types of different drills and techniques into a comprehensive skillset focusing on being better prepared for a personal-defense encounter. The EVTC layout of bermed bays allows for 270-degree target placement and thus more realistic scenario-based training. Everything I learned during the Advanced Close Range Gunfighting course was designed to increase my chances of successfully defending myself in a hostile attack. “Keeping it simple” took on more meaning under stress. Live-fire drills during this course included one- and two-handed shooting, shooting on

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the move, effectively using cover and concealment, reloading, retention drills, malfunction-clearance drills and various shooting positions ranging from supine and fetal to sitting and kneeling. One of the best trainings I participated in at the EVTC was a Graham Combat course. The EVTC staff obtained two vehicles for use during the course. Graham’s logic is that the majority of law enforcement and civilians spend a large portion of time with or around cars and thus must be comfortable in such an environment. Working around the cars during the first night’s low-light training brought home why Graham drilled and emphasized one-handed shooting in conjunction with drawing the handgun and extending it along a “rail” from the high

chest out to the target. Techniques involving a handheld light source were also covered. Graham ignited fires and flares to further provide a realistic lowlight environment—very few ranges would have offered the flexibility to do this. The width of the EVTC training bays allowed for multiple columns of shooter moving within designated firing lanes. Movement drills involving multiple targets and shooters were feasible thanks to the range layout. Pat McNamara’s two-day TAPS course at the EVTC involved both rifles and handguns. While handgun training is the focus of this particular article, EVTC’s size and layout allow for courses that incorporate both long guns and handguns. TAPS handgun basics commenced the afternoon

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of the first day, with an emphasis on accuracy. Pat’s performance-based training methodology allows the student to set his or her own goals, compared to pre-mandated standards oblivious to individual performance. This isn’t to say that the shooters weren’t challenged, only that Pat stresses there is no need to try to go faster either for ego or other reasons while still missing the target’s A-zone. Find your “lane of performance,” as he states it, and stay in it until your training and skillsets improve. Another mantra I heard repeatedly over the two-day TAPS class: “Check your work through your sights.” The EVTC range allowed for both paper and steel targets as Pat saw fit for his training methods. The criteria for selecting a range is simple: Maximize the benefits of training for your time and money. It’s all about quality, which will outshine quantity, with

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Echo Valley’s training bays are wide enough for several shooters to move at the same time.

safety an important consideration as well in terms of berm design and facility layout. Weapons are mere tools that mean nothing if we aren’t prepared to use them in any situation. Training is the

key here, and the Echo Valley Training Center has come to the forefront in the mid-Atlantic region, if not the entire East Coast. For more information, visit echovalleytraining.com.

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HANDS ON THREE NEXT-GEN .380S FROM S&W, SPRINGFIELD AND TAURUS BY DENIS PRISBREY • PHOTOS BY ALEX LANDEEN

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TAURUS SPECTRUM

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY 911

S&W M&P380 SHIELD EZ

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S&W M&P380 SHIELD EZ Aimed directly at those with lesser or diminished hand strength, Smith & Wesson’s new M&P380 Shield EZ doesn’t strictly fall into the pocket cateO C gory, although it could if the pocket’s sizable V HE enough, and there’s no law that confines it to your grandpa’s generation. A hammer-fired double-action-only (DAO) design with a durable polymer frame, and shipping with a N pair of steel eight-round magazines, this pistol THE CO has drawn a lot of commentary from those who don’t fully understand it. Very simply, it’s designed to be easy, just like its name suggests. The main feature is a very easy-tooperate slide that takes very little strength to run. The M2.0-style slide houses a stainless 3.68-inch barrel The S&W and is paired with a light single recoil spring on a poly(left) has the longest barrel mer guide rod, and the rear of the slide has charging (3.68 inches) supports behind the serrations for better traction. of the three With the proper support-hand technique, there’s and is the only plenty of real estate to hang onto, no 50-pound one with a rail. The Springfield springs to deal with, and no gorilla grip is needed to (center) and load, fire or clear malfunctions. Taurus (right) The EZ’s most controversial feature is the grip have 2.7- and safety, and it’s there because S&W left the M&P 2.8-inch barrels, respectively. family’s two-piece hinged trigger behind in favor of a

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f you were paying attention back in the 1990s, when the proliferation of “shall issue” carry permits took off like a Saturn V rocket to the moon, you could not possibly have missed the “Bigger Is Not Always Better” phenomenon that developed in the years since. With shiny new permits in hand, thousands of people from all levels of experience rushed to gun shops across the nation to buy a firearm for protection while out and about in daily life. Serious calibers in serious guns. Everybody knew a .45 ACP could knock an assailant down with one shot, every counter salesperson worth his or her salt was heavily pushing the hot .40 S&W zappers that all the cops were switching to, and everybody under the age of 30 had to have a high-capacity mag in whichever caliber, even if it was a “wimpy” 9mm. An interesting trend surfaced before long, though. In droves, new carriers discovered that after the first thrill of defensive freedom, those guns turned out to be big and heavy. Who knew? The bloom was off the rose, and when people began to leave their full-sized carry guns at home or in the glove box, manufacturers picked up on a whole new market. Classic .38 snubbies had always been always steady sellers; it was autopistols that

showed the most adaptation, and they steadily grew smaller. The 9mm became socially acceptable again, single-stack versions to reduce printing under clothes were in demand, and suddenly the lowly .380 ACP emerged as king of the pocket pistols. New advances in .380 ACP projectiles combined with new lightweight subcompacts that could actually be carried 24/7 and fired by those who might not be able to handle a larger caliber’s recoil and grip size. Pocket or purse, a diminutive .380 can go just about anywhere, and modern bullet designs make it a much more effective defensive proposition. Today, these guns are spreading like jam on toast. So let’s look at three of the latest for 2018.

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POCKET ACES |

one-piece unit, without the two-piecer’s built-in drop safety. This EZ grip safety blocks the trigger from The S&W (left) being pulled until it’s squeezed in a normal grip, and has a simple it provides the linkage to the passive internal firing white-dot front pin block. Unlike a traditional M&P pistol, where that sight while the block is linked to the trigger pull, here it’s linked to the Springfield (center) comes grip safety. The grip safety lever is deactivated with with an AmeriGlo very light grip pressure when held correctly, which tritium unit. The frees the trigger and firing pin block to fire the pistol. front sight on the The EZ is also available with a single-side thumb Taurus (right) is the hardest to safety if you need more peace of mind carrying it. find in a hurry. Even without it, though, this pistol is incapable of firing inadvertently if dropped or if something comes in contact with the trigger without depressing the grip safety at the same time. At rest, it’s a very safe design; in hand, it’s a very simple-to-use package. There’s no magazine disconnect or onboard key lock—selling points for many of us right there. E COV H The EZ is fitted with a single-side slide stop that also takes less thumb to engage than most competing pistols, a reversible magazine release, a pivoting loaded-chamber indicator N bar on top, nicely sized and visible three-dot THE CO sights and M2.0-style grip texturing that has been toned down somewhat from other M&Ps. The EZ is very well thought out. It’s truly easy to use with a polymer frame and a stainless steel slide under S&W’s tough Armornite finish to alleviate corrosion concerns; it fits my medium mitts very well; the trigger on my test sample had a 5.5-pound pull; and the ergonomics were excellent with both the slide and mag releases perfectly situated for my short thumb. At a suggested retail price of only $399, you get a solid little pistol here that most shooters of all ages and types should be able to operate.

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SPRINGFIELD 911 Springfield’s new .380 is a much smaller 1911 with certain adaptations to the classic format. Taking a metallic approach instead of polymer, the frame is made from 7075T6 aluminum and sports striking black and

silver G10 grip panels. The frontstrap and mainspring housing have Springfield’s “Octo-Grip” texturing, and between that and the G10 grips, the pistol does not wander in the hand. Truly pocket sized with its 2.7-inch barrel, the 911 has all of the usual controls in all of the usual spots, including an ambidextrous thumb safety, a left-side magazine release and a left-side slide release. There’s no 1911 grip safety; the thumb safety can be activated cocked or un-cocked, and it uses a springloaded ball bearing inside the frame for engagement, not the older 1911’s staked-on plunger tube outside the frame. Interestingly, you can run the slide to load or unload the chamber with the safety on as long as the hammer’s cocked. The hammer has three positions: cocked, half-cocked and fully down. With the safety engaged, the hammer can be pulled back to the half-cocked, but not fully cocked, position, and

The 911’s aluminum frame features an undercut triggerguard, Hogue G10 grip panels and “OctoGrip” texturing on the frontstrap and mainspring housing.

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the pistol can obviously be plugged into the endless discussions over how to carry it. The pistol feeds from either a flush-fitting six-round magazine or an extended seven-round magazine, and the barrel has a well-polished, integral feed ramp and a fully supported chamber. This is a long-established upgrade from the original 1911 barrel setup, and the loaded-chamber indicator on top and the external extractor are two additional nods to modern times. The stainless steel slide features chevronstyle cocking serrations and wears highly visible AmeriGlo tritium sights. Both front and rear sights are windage adjustable. The controls are reachable with smaller hands, the beavertail prevents slide bite in bigger hands, the mag well’s beveled, and with features that go beyond many subcompacts in its class, the 911 offers instant familiarity for those used to the fullsized 1911—all in a safer, updated package with very pocketable dimensions and a suggested retail price of $599. It comes in a nice black nylon case with loop for a spare magazine and a detachable pocket holster.

“Pocket or purse, a diminutive .380 can go just about anywhere, and modern bullet designs make it a much more effective defensive proposition.”

TAURUS SPECTRUM This new .380 ACP pistol from Taurus may look odd (and it does), but it’s a week-old bar of soap in the hand, with snag-free smoothness built in everywhere. Taurus pushed the envelope on the Spectrum in terms of ergonomics. This is one very comfortable little striker-fired pistol.

S&W M&P380 SHIELD EZ

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY 911

TAURUS SPECTRUM

CALIBER:

.380 ACP

.380 ACP

.380 ACP

BARREL:

3.68 inches

2.7 inches

2.8 inches

6.7 inches

5.5 inches

5.4 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT:

18.5 ounces (empty) 12.6 ounces (empty) 10 ounces (empty) Polymer

Hogue G10

Overmolded

SIGHTS:

Three-dot

AmeriGlo tritium

Fixed

ACTION:

DAO

SA

Striker-fired

FINISH:

Matte black

Black, stainless

Black, Flat Dark Earth

8+1

6+1, 7+1

6+1, 7+1

$399

$599

$305

GRIP:

CAPACITY: MSRP:

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The basic Spectrum features a 2.8-inch stainless barrel with an integral feed ramp inside either a black Melonite or matte stainless slide above a polymer frame. It also comes with a reversible steel mag release, two 6-round steel mags (one flush and the other with a finger rest), a left-side slide stop, a simple quarter-turn takedown button, a double-strike capability with a long 7- to 9-pound DAO trigger, an internal passive striker block, a steel guide rod for a single-spring recoil assembly, a beveled magazine well and almost a set of sights. This Taurus takes a different approach than the other two pistols. The design process obviously prioritized ergonomics. The intent was a “fits good, feels great” .380 that could ride anywhere, inside anything and absolutely never snag on the way out. Taurus succeeded brilliantly, but in the process, the machined sights on top of the rounded slide were shrunk down to mere nubs. They are there, but all black, and you won’t pick them up in a hurry, even in good lighting, under stress. More on those later. You may have noticed no serrations on the Spectrum’s slide in the photos. Another unique approach, Taurus uses “Soft-Touch” overmolded inserts on the grip and at the rear of the slide. Lightly checkered, this material gives a slightly tacky feel that works perfectly in creating just enough nonslip traction to anchor the Spectrum in the hand and to rack the slide without any abrasion. Besides the functionality, these inserts can also be ordered in a wide range of designer colors, and while I’m not personally into coral, cyan or Monster Green, you might be. Taurus sent two test samples—one all black and the other black with Flat Dark Earth inserts—but there are many color options to choose from.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 23


POCKET ACES |

:

While other M&P pistols have built-in trigger safeties, S&W decided to give the M&P380 Shield EZ (left) a solid one-piece trigger. The Springfield’s trigger (left) weighed 6 pounds while the Taurus’ (right) was heavier and longer.

PERFORMANCE S&W M&P380 SPRINGFIELD SHIELD EZ ARMORY 911

TAURUS SPECTRUM

Black Hills 60 HoneyBadger

2.69

1.63

0.69

Black Hills 100 FMJ

2.00

2.88

1.39

CCI Blazer 95 FMJ

1.75

2.00

1.13

Remington 102 Golden Saber JHP

2.38

1.88

0.94

Winchester 85 Kinetic HE

1.88

2.00

2.13

There’s no external safety, but it isn’t necessary. The small slide stop is one of the only sharp edges on the little gun, and the magazine release sticks out just enough from the frame to be usable without being liable to unintended depressions. All in all, the Spectrum is a very smooth, lightweight shooter.

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Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 10 yards.

THE CO

TRIO TESTING While they’re not intended to be target pistols or fullsized warfighters, the picture wouldn’t be complete without shooting results, so I fired all three pistols off a rest at 10 yards inside an indoor range, using the same five loads. I tested them right out of the box initially with no lube or other prep. The S&W was obviously the EZ-est to shoot in terms of grip size, slide action and recoil control. Though it’s the least pocketable, the sights were easy to use, and the gun was 100-percent reliable even with Black Hills’ HoneyBadger rounds. My groups at 10 yards were certainly respectable for the caliber and intended use. Of course, the S&W is more of a belt or purse proposition for carry, and it’s capable of realistically engaging beyond typical pocket pistol distances. Springfield’s 911 showed its more sophisticated production methods and construction in the highest price of the three, and with a serrated 6-pound trigger, serrated thumb safety and heavily textured G10 panels, it was also the least comfortable to shoot of the three. Conversely, those rough portions do solidly anchor the 911 in hand and provide very positive control. The sights are excellent—fast in a variety of lighting situations—and like the S&W, the 911 is capable well beyond 10 yards if needed. The test 911 was tightly fitted; there was zero play between the slide and frame. This led to six instances where I had to nudge the slide fully into battery, two first-strike misfires (cocking the hammer and pulling personaldefenseworld.com


All three guns came with different sighting setups. The S&W (left) and Springfield (center) are both hammer-fired, though the former’s is concealed within the slide. The striker-fired Taurus is rounded all over, even at the rear.

the trigger again fired the rounds), and two Black Hills FMJs would not chamber at all. Lubing about halfway through didn’t seem to help. The 911’s accuracy was on par with the S&W’s, and a two-finger grip with the short magazine wasn’t a handicap under .380 recoil. The Taurus Spectrum offers the fewest features of the three, the longest trigger of the three, the smallest sights of the three and, surprisingly, by far the best accuracy of the three off the bench for slow, aimed fire. Its design restricts its use at distance, but at get-off-me proximity, it’ll come out of a pocket fast and fire fast, and it won’t snag or tear up your hand in the process. The trigger was just off my 8-pound scale and only slightly gritty, and while the double-strike capability wasn’t needed in my testing—the gun functioned flawlessly with all of the test ammo—it’s a major selling point for me. I should have run the Taurus with the flush-fitting mag, but the extended mag with the finger rest just felt so good I used it instead. Excellent

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control, great recovery, astounding accuracy, perfect reliability, utter simplicity—but don’t expect to work that little slide lock for speed reloads or quick malfunction drills if needed, or find those sights in a dark parking lot. You can, however, color coordinate the Spectrum with your eyes or outfit every day of the week. With distinct personalities, and giving the Springfield a better break-in, all three are good candidates for those looking for a quality .380 ACP, for whatever reason and whatever role. Pick your favorite and jump in!

FOR MORE INFORMATION SMITH & WESSON smith-wesson.com SPRINGFIELD ARMORY springfield-armory.com TAURUS taurususa.com

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 25


RELOAD ZONE

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO MAXIMIZE YOUR HANDLOADS FOR HUNTING, PLINKING AND MORE BY STAN TRZONIEC Like many, the .38 Special was the first centerfire cartridge I ever tried out. I still can remember the day. I had just received my new Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum and was anxious to shoot it. Prior to that I had purchased a set of Lyman dies, a few boxes of .38 Special brass, Bullseye powder and a box of Speer’s 146grain hollow points. I “rolled my own” rounds with 4.5 grains of Bullseye and fired them off at a few tin cans in the backwoods. New to centerfire cartridges, my hand trembled as I squeezed the trigger. But the .38 Special turned out to be mild on recoil, and once I got over the shock of what I thought the round might deliver, I knew it was a cartridge I’d keep shooting for life. Since then, I’ve used the .38 Special

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26 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

in target matches, for small-game hunting and for backup duties while hiking in eastern mountains. There are dozens of .38 Special firearms available from all of the major players in the industry. It might be harder to find a handgun chambered only for the .38 Special, but revolvers that take it and the .357 Magnum abound. Both of these cartridges are basically the same, but the more powerful magnum is longer so it won’t fit in the chambers of older .38-Special-only revolvers. With that in mind, I’d personally

Although this die set (left) is for the .45 ACP, Redding also offers a .38 Special kit. For powders (right), start with Bullseye, Unique, 2400 or Winchester 231.

suggesting purchasing a gun that can handle both .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds because of the versatility. Additionally, picking a gun with more weight, like the S&W Model 27, will help reduce recoil.

ROLLING YOUR OWN Reloading the .38 Special is a great place to start for beginners, and it’s quite enjoyable for veterans, too. Looking back into its history, Smith & Wesson first introduced the cartridge in 1902, chambering it in its famous Military & Police revolver. All of that time has allowed numerous law enforcement agencies and sportsmen to get behind it, meaning there are hundreds of bullets and components to choose from. You can get solids, hollow points and

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special rounds just for target and cowboy-style matches. All of this variety allows you to tailor your gun and ammo for the job at hand. For example, for target shooting, I use a S&W Model 52 semi-auto that only chambers .38 Special rounds with wadcutter bullets seated flush in their cases. With a mild charge of only 2.7 grains of Bullseye for a velocity of around 700 fps, I can place five shots into a group measuring only 0.63 inches at 50 feet. For outdoor plinking, 158grain lead round-nose (LRN) bullets and semi-wadcutters fill the bill with aplomb in another gun. For serious hunting duties, jacketed bullets from 110 grains up to 158 grains are a good choice with velocities topping around 850 fps depending upon the powder choice. Loading the .38 Special is a great stress reliever. First, loading manuals are filled with hundreds of loads that fit every need. Researching all this

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The .38 Special is still going strong today thanks to its versatility. You can rely on these gun for self-defense, competition and even small-game hunting.

can be fun, especially when you’re sitting by the fire on a cold, snowy night. Just going through and looking at the choices can be mindboggling, but in the end, I would start out with a faster-burning powder. This is because the .38 Special uses a relatively small case. So, I tend to lean on Bullseye, Winchester 231, Unique and 2400 powders. Like everything else you need for the .38 Special, you’ll find these powders in most gun shops and big box stores. These powders are cheap, and with a load of only 3 grains for target shooting as an example, I can get 2,333 loads from a full pound of Bullseye. Dating back to 1898, it is one of the oldest on the market, with Unique following behind it. Noted for its ease of use, 3.9 grains of Unique makes for a nice plinking load with a

158-grain lead bullet. Winchester’s 231 is a favorite of mine because it consistently slips through my powder measure without me having to check each load, and I reserve Aliant’s 2400 for more aggressive +P loads or when I cross over to the .357 Magnum. Since it uses a straight-walled case, the .38 Special glides through a carbide sizing die without a lot of effort or the mess associated with using a lube for sizing. Again, it’s easy to purchase everything needed for the .38 Special, and I found most places offer brand-new or once-fired brass at bargain prices. If you are just starting out, I’d advise you purchase at least six boxes of new brass. With new brass selling for around $0.15 to $0.20 per case, and once-fired brass coming in at $0.08 to $0.10 per case, you can easily see just how economical the .38 Special is to load and shoot. Always follow up by checking the overall length of the case—it should be no longer than

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 27


RELOAD ZONE 1.155 inches, with a trim length of 1.145 inches, before moving on.

Priming is next, and the .38 Special uses small pistol primers from a variety of sources, including Remington, CCI and Winchester. LOADING TIME Priming is easy, as you can combine Next up is flaring or belling the case case belling on the upstroke of your mouth to receive the bullet without press with priming on the downstroke. For the best ignition, make destroying the case in the process. sure each primer is flush or slightly I start by flaring the case ever so below the case head. slightly, taking a bullet and placing it Sized, belled and primed, you’re on top. If the flare is right, you can just now ready to drop powder charges. “click” the bullet base as it enters the All of the powders mentioned—with top of the case. Do a group of cases the exception of Unique and 2400— before moving to the next step. glide right through the measure without you having to check each one. However, in the interest of safety, I check every 10th drop just to be sure nothing has moved in the process. Additionally, when the loading tray is full (usually 50 rounds), I use a flashlight to check each case for the same powder level in each one. Finally, insert the bullet of your choice and crimp each to the cannelure or manufacturer’s specifications. This keeps the bullet from inching forward and out of the chamber, rendering the firearm useless in the field or, worse While there are a yet, creating a dangerous number of factory .38 situation. Most reference Special loads available sources I use consider today, a quick skim the .38 Special’s maxthrough a Sierra loading manual, for example, will imum overall length to offer even more options be 1.55 inches dependfor handloading. ing upon the weight and length of the bullet. One tip that has worked for me over the years: If you plan on shooting .38 Special rounds with flushmounted wadcutter bullets in .357 Magnum handguns for competition, use .357 Magnum cases to prevent “ringing” within the chamber. Longer cases fit up against the lead within each cylinder, reducing the bullet jump and thus preventing a buildup of lead within each chamber. The .38 Special is perhaps one of the most reloaded cartridges in the world. From self-defense to hunting, its versatility is unmatched even today. Happy loading!

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28 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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FIRST LOOK |

THE FULL-SIZED APX NOW HAS A LITTLE BROTHER DESIGNED FOR DISCREET CARRY

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30 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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BY GARRETT LUCAS

Though the earliest official documentation on hand is a contract for 185 arquebus barrels dated October 3, 1526, it is believed the Beretta operation began around the year 1500, making it the oldest firearms manufacturing concern in the world. In no other company can the transformation of the firearms industry and technology be better observed over the course of history than with Beretta. And one of its latest entries into the market, the APX Compact, highlights the company’s ability to move with the industry and remain relevant after all this time. A SMALLER APX Those familiar with current firearms on the market probably already have some knowledge about the Beretta APX. It is a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol in 9mm that was designed to compete in

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the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) trials to replace Beretta’s own M9 service pistol. The APX Compact is an abbreviated version of the original APX with a shorter 3.7-inch barrel and a shorter grip as well. Whereas the full-sized APX has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, the APX Compact’s magazines hold 13. Beretta also makes a Centurion model which extends the grip frame slightly and houses 15-round magazines while maintaining the same 3.7-inch barrel length. Like its older sibling, the APX Compact is a highly configurable pistol. It contains an internal serialized steel chassis that is recognized by the BATFE as the “firearm.” This chassis can be removed from the grip frame housing and swapped into a frame of a different size. This would be useful for those who want to switch between a concealed-carry-sized frame (like the APX Compact’s) and a larger frame that will comfortably house higher-capacity magazines for use at home or on duty. Additionally, with each grip

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The new APX Compact is a polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm with several modern features that make it an ideal choice for concealed carry.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 31


BERETTA’S EDC APX |

Like the fullsized APX and APX Centurion, wide grooves run along the entire length of the Compact’s slide for easy racking.

frame housing, Beretta includes three interchangeable backstraps to fit different hand sizes. APX pistols are easy to distinguish by their wide, full-length slide “serrations.” Rather than being milled into the slide, these gripping points act as ridges that stand out from the slide. Unlike the sleek and sexy lines of Beretta’s 92 series pistols, the APX line inspires quite the debate over the pistol’s visual appeal. That said, the ridges do function quite nicely in providing positive gripping points for slide manipulations. The APX Compact also hosts a suite of features that you’ll find on most modern fighting pistols. It has an ambidextrous slide stop. It also comes with a reversible magazine release for lefties in the audience. For me, this is much preferred over an ambidextrous magazine release, as those tend to not be as positive since they often push into the fingers on the opposite side of the pistol. Beretta did a very nice job with the texturing on the grip frame. It’s a subtle but very effective pattern for maintaining a grip on the pistol without being overly abrasive. Furthermore, the pistol incorporates a Picatinny rail for the addition of compact accessories such as light and laser units. THE DETAILS From all outward appearances, the APX Compact is quite similar to other striker-fired pistols on the market, but there are a few other things hiding under the hood that are worth noting. First, besides the manual

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32 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

trigger safety, the APX Compact is equipped with an active firing pin block safety. As the trigger safety is disengaged and the trigger is pulled back, the firing pin block safety is lifted out of the way to allow the striker to complete its travel. Also, the APX Compact comes with a striker deactivation button that allows the user to safely “decock” the striker to disassemble the pistol without pulling the trigger to remove the slide. Some have raised questions about whether this button could be inadvertently activated in the field, but I doubt that could ever happen. The button is recessed, and it requires a significant amount of pressure with a small punch or ball-point pen to activate. Additionally, the button cannot be activated while the slide is fully in battery. The slide must be retracted an inch or more before the button can be engaged. And for those out in the field without a punch available, the pistol can still be disassembled by pulling the trigger before removing the slide, but as always, double check to make sure the weapon is clear first. Granted, the ability to swap the internal chassis from frame to frame is a huge benefit to those who

“The APX Compact is a strong contender for those wanting excellent performance characteristics in a compact and lightweight fighting handgun.” personaldefenseworld.com


appreciate the ability to reconfigure their pistol. This lets the user have multiple options available without having multiple “firearms.” This is particularly useful in more restrictive jurisdictions. However, removing and reinstalling the chassis is a bit more complicated than one might experience with similar pistols available on the market. It requires the user to manipulate the cocking lever spring away from the rear chassis pin with one punch while simultaneously driving out the rear chassis pin with another punch. Then the user must depress the striker deactivation button sufficiently with a punch while lifting the chassis out of the frame. It’s a tricky process the first time or two, and it required the use of a headlamp for me so I could see what I was doing inside the frame. But after I went through the steps a couple of times, I adapted to the finicky nature of the process and it wasn’t too much of an issue. This can be done while keeping the frame in hand, but it’s fairly awkward. It’s much easier to have the frame in a vise while removing the chassis and helps speed up the process. Similarly, removing the backstrap has an extra step involved. The user must lock the slide back,

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SPEC BOX

BERETTA

APX COMPACT CALIBER:

9mm

BARREL:

3.7 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT: GRIP:

6.97 inches 26.4 ounces (empty) Polymer

SIGHTS:

Three-dot

ACTION:

Striker-fired

FINISH:

Matte black

CAPACITY:

13+1

MSRP:

$575

The front- and backstraps are checkered while the side panels feature non-slip texturing. Beretta also includes a small striker deactivation button on the frame.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 33


BERETTA’S EDC APX |

The APX Compact comes with driftadjustable, threedot sights set 5.7 inches apart. Just ahead of the rear sight is the firing pin block, which rises through the top of the slide when the trigger is pulled.

To switch to a different backstrap, you’ll need to remove a small retaining pin down inside the mag well. You can access it by locking the slide back and removing the magazine.

remove the magazine, and then remove the backstrap retention pin by releasing a small catch down inside the mag well with a punch. Pushing the catch to the side and downward with the punch allows this device to escape below the bottom of the backstrap where it can be pulled completely out of the gun. You can then install the backstrap of your choice. Once learned, the steps involved in swapping out the chassis or backstraps are not overly burdensome, but they don’t have that intuitive plug-and-play feel about them, either. However, for those who aren’t planning to swap the chassis out that often and have their preferred backstrap installed, this isn’t going to be much of an issue. EASY ACCURACY I remember the moment I fell in love with my first Beretta 92FS, and that was when I took it to the range for the first time and found out exactly how accurate it was. I didn’t create a smiley face with it like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, but wherever I wanted a shot to go, it went. Hit the silhouette’s

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34 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

elbow? No problem. Two taps to the sternum and one below the nose of the bad-guy target? Piece of cake. That was kind of the experience I had with the APX Compact when I took it out for a test drive. Everything about its performance was immensely satisfying. My purchase on the grip was solid and secure thanks to the very nice texturing. I also liked the wide and comfortable trigger face as well. The APX Compact’s trigger broke at just a hair over 6 pounds, and though it isn’t the lightest trigger pull on the market, there was something about it I liked but is hard to describe. It felt substantial without being overly heavy. It also had a very short reset with both a positive tactile and audible response. While it isn’t my preferred sighting option, the three-white-dot setup on the APX Compact was generously sized and easy to pick up quickly for fast target acquisitions. Despite the relatively short sight radius, I had no issues drilling staggered steel targets at 7, 15 and 25 yards. The APX Compact’s accuracy was on par with other Beretta firearms I’ve practiced with in the past. I ran the gun with four different loads from Federal Premium and Sig Sauer to measure groups at 15 yards. Two of the Sig loads tied in producing the best five-shot groups, with both measuring 1.13 inches. The 147-grain V-Crown JHPs also took the crown for best average group size. Sig’s new 365 V-Crown JHP ammo is optimized for use with shorter-barreled pistols that are generally

PERFORMANCE

BERETTA APX COMPACT LOAD

VELOCITY

ACCURACY AVERAGE

BEST

Federal 124 HST

1,140

1.83

1.50

Sig Sauer 115 V-Crown 365 JHP

1,105

1.59

1.13

Sig Sauer 124 V-Crown JHP

1,157

1.33

1.25

Sig Sauer 147 V-Crown JHP

957

1.19

1.13

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 15 yards.

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BARE ARMS’ HOLSTER TRIO

“…I had no issues drilling staggered steel targets at 7, 15 and 25 yards.” lighter and intended for concealed carry. These rounds have the same ballistics as the standard V-Crown JHP offering but reduce recoil significantly to allow for more control and faster follow-up shots. Despite its thicker width and extra weight for a compact polymer pistol, the APX Compact did seem to have a snappier, though still controllable, response with standard loads than most pistols I’ve shot in this category. The Sig 365 load did seem to dramatically reduce the felt recoil, however, and is certainly worth considering for anyone who carries a compact pistol. CONTINUING LEGACY From wheel-lock pistols and breech-loading long guns to the recently released APX Compact, Beretta has proven its ability to adapt and evolve to meet consumer demand and provide innovative products in an ever-changing marketplace. This APX is a fine example of this company’s resplendent history. The APX Compact is a strong contender for those wanting excellent performance characteristics in a compact and lightweight fighting handgun. It is exceptionally reliable, offers superb accuracy and is fitted with the features even the most demanding users would expect. The texturing and handling were impressive, as were the grippy slide protrusions, and there’s no question that Beretta went the extra mile to make the APX Compact as safe as possible. With an MSRP of $575, it offers middle-ground pricing for similar offerings on the market, though it gives a lot in return. There’s a lot to like with this pistol, and if you’re in the market for a compact and potent EDC weapon, look no further. It should be near the top of anyone’s list. For more information, visit berettausa.com. personaldefenseworld.com

Since the APX Compact is so new, there aren’t many holster options currently. Luckily for me, the Bare Arms shooting range opened in my town of Ashland, Kentucky, in 2016, and it is home to the Bare Arms Custom Holsters operation. After speaking with General Manager Mike Crawford about what I was looking for, his folks got right to work and turned out three different holsters for testing with the APX Compact. The first one they provided was their IWB model in red Kydex with a 1.5-inch, polymer, fold-over clip. The second holster was their Ultimate Hybrid IWB model in Distressed White Kydex. Finally, they also built an OWB model with a shield logo and their 1.5inch Infinity belt loops. As to Bare Arms’ workmanship and quality, according to my calipers, the thickness of the Kydex ranged from 0.085 to 0.090 inches thick. The molding of each one was superb and provided a very secure hold on the pistol yet

still allowed for a quick draw. To be honest, it was tough to pick out which holster was my favorite. The Ultimate Hybrid IWB model provides a modular backing with holes so you can adjust the holster’s position and cant for the perfect fit. The holes also allow the rig to breathe a bit, helping to reduce perspiration. But I like to keep things simple and found that both the OWB and IWB models met my needs perfectly. The Infinity loops on the OWB model are rock solid. I usually wear a gun belt that is 0.25 inches thick. The Ultimate loops are open just enough to let the 0.25-inch-thick belt run through, though it’s a snug fit and requires a little extra push. But that tight fit is going to keep the rig exactly where you place it on your waist. All of the holsters were very comfortable to wear with the APX Compact. The IWB model was quick and easy to install and remove as the situation dictated. I particularly enjoyed the OWB’s curved design, which helped keep it close to the body and out of the way throughout the day. In short, these holsters are top-tier and make concealed carry much easier. (barearmsholsters.com) —Garrett Lucas

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 35


RIGHTEOUS RIGS

UNDERTECH UNDERCOVER MAKES IT EASY TO STAY ARMED WHILE ACTIVE BY MIKE DETTY • ALEX LANDEEN PHOTOS If you spend a significant amount of time at the gym, running or even hiking, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that the lightweight nylon gear you wear makes it nearly impossible to conceal a weapon. The pocket of my running shorts won’t even support the weight of my tiny Walther TPH I sometimes carry during my dog walks. In the semi-rural desert area where I live, the coyote population is out of control. It’s not unusual for me and my dogs to see several during our early morning walks. Usually they’ll just glare at us as we walk by, but I’d like to have an added bit of insurance in the event we run across some aggressive coyotes. We’ve seen other wildlife, too—javelinas, bobcats and even a cougar—so having a defensive gun handy just makes sense. Then, of course, there are the two-legged predators. A few years back, someone who lived in my development threatened me with a gun because my chocolate Labrador was “too friendly.” His wife later came to me to apologize and explained he was undergoing treatment for brain cancer and his medications had him out of sorts. I nodded sympathetically and

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Activewear is typically thin and lightweight, which can make concealed carry difficult. But now, thanks to UnderTech Undercover, you never have to go unarmed.

said, “He must be on some very strong pain medications.” She answered yes, and I asked, “And you’re letting him walk around the neighborhood with a loaded gun?” I haven’t seen him since, but the point I’m making is that, despite your best efforts and wishes not to offend anyone, there will always be circumstances beyond your control.

36 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

GOING UNDERCOVER The simplest solution for the active concealed carrier is to use a fanny pack, which will provide you with all the space you need to carry a gun, your ID and cell phone. But then again, everyone will know you’re packing a pistol, and that’s a declaration I would rather not make. If you’re jogging, the fanny pack will also

slap against your lower abdomen and become annoying very quickly. Carrying a gun securely while wearing gym gear is nearly impossible, and for many, the easiest answer is to simply not carry a gun. You can play the odds, and you’ll probably be fine 99.99 percent of the time, but I am not willing to gamble. Thankfully, Lenny Magill has devised several alter-

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UNDERTECH BELLY BAND

CONCEALED CARRY COOLUX MESH SHIRT

native apparel solutions for the active athlete. Magill is a former competitive shooter and videographer with long standing in the firearms industry. He and his wife, Tammy, are also avid body builders and know firsthand the challenges of concealed carry while wearing workout clothing. Their solution is the UnderTech Undercover line of concealment clothing. Featuring products tailored specifically for both men and women, their clothing is designed to securely hold a weapon close to the body so that a layering garment will easily conceal the handgun. These products are made from high-quality components and feature a tremendous degree of stretch and are easily washable. Best of all, each product is fashionable with an emphasis on concealability rather than striving for a “tactical look.”

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“UnderTech Undercover

claims many of its products are in use with federal law enforcement agencies, and it’s easy to see why.” BANDS & MORE One product that will provide the simplest solution for the majority of concealed carriers is the Belly Band. Constructed from elastic, the unit fits around the wearer’s midsection and is secured with a hook-andloop fastener. The Belly Band features two holsters: one for a small revolver and the other for a small semiauto. It can be used by both right- and left-handed users and also possesses a 6-inch pocket that can be used to carry cash, an ID or even a spare magazine. This may be

the best way for bicyclists to carry, as it can be worn higher than the waist and does not interfere with the motion needed to pedal. All you need is an untucked shirt to cover the band. The Belly Band isn’t just limited to exercise activities, either. It can be worn under dress clothes and used as a money belt or a surreptitious method for carrying documents, thumb drives, jewelry, etc. It is comfortable to wear for extended periods, and most will appreciate the slimming effect the band has. In fact, all of the products mentioned here offer a compres-

sion that does wonders for the “jelly bellies” we develop after the age of 40! UnderTech Undercover’s Concealed Carry Coolux Mesh Crew-Neck shirt is designed to wick moisture away from the body to keep the user cool. The shirt features two holster pockets just below each armpit so it will work with both right- and lefthanded wearers. The shirt will accommodate most compact and subcompact pistols. The material’s four-way stretch provides for very comfortable compression that feels great even after a long day. In fact, I felt like it actually made my lower back feel better. The pocket holster brings the gun tight against my pectoral and, when wearing a covering shirt, is virtually undetectable. Available in sizes small through XXXL, this Concealed Carry shirt comes in white, black and gray. I also received Under-

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 37


RIGHTEOUS RIGS

FRONT CARRY BOXER BRIEFS

UnderTech’s comfortable Front Carry Boxer Briefs have a holster in the appendix position as well as a back pocket for things like keys and cash.

Tech’s Front Carry Boxer Briefs for men, which are made from breathable cotton and polyester—super-soft fabric with comfortable compression. It features an appendix holster pocket with a retention strap as well as a zippered pocket on the back that can be used to store your key fob, cash, ID, etc. There’s no need for a belt with the Boxer Briefs, and they’d allow you to carry even if you’re wearing scrubs. I found the briefs to be very comfortable to wear, and the material allows the skin to breathe and keeps you cool where you need to be. The briefs would be best to wear with a subcompact with a short barrel. That being said, I carried a Kahr S9 semi-auto with relative ease. My gun was secure, and even bending at the waist to tie my shoes did not cause the pistol to shift or jab me uncomfortably.

WOMEN’S WEAR The Women’s Concealed Carry Tank Top is very similar

WOMEN’S CONCEALED CARRY SHORTS

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to the men’s shirt in that it features two pockets directly below the armpits that will accommodate just about any defensive firearm. It’s compatible with both gym tanks and button-down shirts. An unbuttoned blouse will provide cover to the gun yet allow quick and easy access to the pistol. The offside pocket can be used to carry a spare magazine, passport, cell phone, etc. It’s also worth noting that UnderTech advises washing the Tank Top in cold water and air drying it, as it’s constructed from a blend of 71-percent polyester and 29-percent Spandex. Always avoid dryer use on any stretchy-type clothing, as the heat will eventually compromise its elasticity. UnderTech’s Women’s Concealed Carry Shorts are slimming and provide comfortable compression with their cotton/Spandex blend. Available in both 2- and 4-inch lengths, these shorts feature two concealed carry pockets, one on each side, in the kidney area. White, black and nude colors are available.

ORIGINAL FULL-LENGTH LEGGINGS

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38 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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“Best of all, each product is fashionable with an emphasis on concealability rather than striving for a ‘tactical look.’” UnderTech Undercover also offers compression shorts with a holster in the front appendix position as well as those with a holster on the inside of the thigh. Leggings are hugely popular with women these days, and UnderTech offers a variety of leggings to satisfy the needs of concealed carriers. Using a blend of 90-percent Supplex and 10-percent Spandex, the fabric supplies maximum stretch for even the most vigorous workouts. The Original Full-Length Leggings provide two pocket holsters with security straps: one in the front and one in the rear. There is also a hidden waistband pocket to stash a key or cash. These days we don’t think twice when we see a woman wearing leggings, but who would have thought they’d have enough support to conceal a defensive handgun? Here UnderTech Undercover provides a comfortable, easy-to-conceal and fashionable alternative to a gun belt and rigid holster. Worn with a gym tank or dress blouse, these leggings will allow a woman to carry concealed in just about any situation.

WOMEN’S CONCEALED CARRY TANK TOP

before. All of the products I examined were well made, constructed of quality materials and comfortable to wear. Having the ability to carry a defensive handgun while exercising or hiking provides an active concealed carrier with confidence and peace of mind. For more information, visit undertechundercover.com.

SMART SOLUTIONS UnderTech Undercover claims many of its products are in use with federal law enforcement agencies, and it’s easy to see why. These products provide viable carry solutions where none existed personaldefenseworld.com

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 39


CARRY READY

RUNNING SIG’S

INNOVATIVE POCKET GUN WITH AMMO DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR IT BY GREG LICKENBROCK fter seven years, I was finally free. I left the hustle and bustle of New York City, where I began my career in publishing, and moved back south to be closer to home. No longer would I have to test cool new guns in different parts of the country only to remember that I could never bring them back to my cramped corner of Manhattan. No. Things could be different. I didn’t wait long to start building my self-defense arsenal, so I did the “Striker-Fired Shuffle” like everyone else, testing Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&Ps, Springfield XDs, HK VP9s and handful of other guns before settling on the full-sized Sig Sauer P320 in 9mm.

A

P365 Sean Utley Photo

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40 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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Sig Sauer’s new 365 ammo line includes two 9mm loads: 115-grain FMJs (shown) and 115-grain JHPs.

Over 2,500 rounds later, I’m still impressed with my P320. It fits my medium-sized hands well, hits where I aim and simply won’t stop running. It’s digested everything from premium hollow points to bargain-basement fodder without a single hitch. But the P320 isn’t meant for concealed carry. Not in its full-sized guise, at least. Sure, you can remove the fire control group, plop it into a smaller grip frame and pair it with a shorter barrel/slide for that—the inherent modularity is just plain cool—but

the resulting “Subcompact” will still be a tad wide. Then Sig decided to flip the script entirely and introduce a striker-fired “Micro-Compact.” And the P365 certainly fits that billing. THE GUN You’ve seen it and heard about it, so I don’t need to get into its specifics too much. The P365 is a tiny little gun with some P320-esque styling cues, but what really makes it so special is that it still holds 10+1 rounds of 9mm ammo. That’s right. Despite being only 5.8 inches long, 1 inch wide and 4.3 inches tall, the P365 can hold 11 rounds. Let

that sink in for a minute. Oh, and the gun only weighs 17.8 ounces unloaded as well. The trick is in the magazines, which have been described as “stack and a half” designs to hold so much ammo while being delightfully small. Seriously. Hold one and you’ll think Rick Moranis had something to do with its dimensions. (That’s a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids reference. You’re welcome.) Sig didn’t skimp on the details, either, as some other companies tend to do with subcompacts. With the P365, you get an awesome set of X-RAY3 day/night sights—better than the standard SIGLITE sights that come on the P320—as well as a fully functional slide release and reversible magazine catch. The proprietary rail up front allows you to add one of Sig’s LIMA365 red or green laser units, or a FOXTROT365 light. The grip, with highly effective texturing similar to skateboard tape, can fit all but my pinky finger. Thankfully, two 10-round magazines are included, and one included an extended baseplate that allows you to get a full grip on the gun. So your pinky can join in on the fun. Extended 12-round magazines are also available. There’s no external safety, but Sig makes up for that with a trigger that sort of rolls before hitting a wall. It’s not a light pull, but who wants that on a CCW anyway? More importantly, the trigger is predictable with a crisp reset. After a few shots, I had it down. THE AMMO So, you’ve got the gun. As part of its “complete systems provider” mantra, Sig Sauer also offers dedicated holsters along with the aforementioned light and lasers. But in case that weren’t enough, Sig has also unveiled a line of ammunition made specifically for small guns like the P365.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 41


P365 PARTNER |

Here you can see how the P365 compares to a full-sized P320. While there are some similar styling cues, the size difference is incredible.

The company’s new 365 ammo line came onto the scene back in May. Essentially, you can get 115-grain 9mm FMJs and 115-grain V-Crown JHPs that are loaded to the same pressure levels, using the same low-flash, clean-burning powders on the same machines, so that they shoot similarly. The recoil and velocity figures are the same between both loads. In fact, according to Sig, from the P365’s 3.1-inch barrel, the FMJ and JHP loads both produce 282 foot-pounds of energy at 1,050 fps. The idea is that you can train with the FMJs and switch to the JHPs for self-defense when you’re out and about without having to overcome some performance gap. You’ve heard that expression “train like you fight”? This is a very literal interpretation of that.

before sending me a P365, which arrived in an awesome hard case with a foam-lined interior. Everyone at my usual Quickshot range here in Atlanta wanted to see the

gun. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about that,” one employee said while looking over the P365. While you’ve probably read some general evaluations of the P365 by now, my goal here was to see how the gun would fare with this specifically tuned ammo. But I didn’t just limit my testing to these FMJs and V-Crown JHPs. I also ran the P365 with Federal’s 135-grain Hydra-Shok JHPs, 124-grain Syntech FMJs and 115-gain “Train + Protect” VHPs along with Sig’s very own 124-grain V-Crown JHPs, 145-grain V-Crown JHPs and 124-grain FMJs. And the gun didn’t miss a single beat. The recoil is noticeable— this is a tiny gun after all—but with a firm firing grip, the P365 is certainly controllable and effective. Despite the short sight radius, I had no problems creating tight clusters on my paper targets at 7, 10 and 15 yards. Beyond that, the large front sight tended to obscure the target for my not-

so-great eyes. But, again, this isn’t a problem because the gun is meant for up-close-andpersonal protection. And on that note, I would probably try my best to carry the gun with the extended magazine, too, just to get a little more real estate on the grip. The pistol really seemed to love the 365 ammunition. I noticed slightly less recoil with both the 115-grain FMJs and V-Crown JHPs over the heavier defensive rounds, and most importantly, I couldn’t feel any difference between the two ammo types while firing. Whatever their differences were in terms of terminal ballistics downrange, on the shooter’s side of the equation, they felt the same. And this was after running full magazines of each type—one for 115-grain 365 FMJs, the next for 115-grain 365 JHPs, etc.—and then mixing the two types within each magazine. Again, it all felt like one ammunition type, which I find very impressive. Kudos to Sig.

At the range, the P365 ran flawlessly with both of the 365 loads as well as a variety of other defensive rounds.

POCKET FIGHTER Sig sent me both types of 365 ammo just to tease me

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42 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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My next phase of the evaluation involved simply loading up both magazines with the 365 ammunition and dumping them into a target 10 yards away. In no time, I had sent 40 rounds downrange to create a large cluster right in the center of the silhouette’s “chest.” The P365 proved that it was certainly capable of “minute of man” accuracy, and with this much ammo on board, I would never feel under gunned.

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SIG SAUER 8 The P365 comes in a nice foamlined polymer case with two 10-round magazines, a cable lock, a chamber flag and a manual.

P365 CALIBER:

9mm

BARREL:

3.1 inches

OA LENGTH:

5.8 inches 17.8 ounces (empty)

WEIGHT:

Polymer

GRIP: SIGHTS:

X-RAY3 day/night

ACTION:

Striker-fired

FINISH:

Matte black

CAPACITY:

10+1

MSRP:

$600

At the Mission-critical readiness drew former Navy SEAL Mark

Hotaling to

the new Litewave H3™. The advanced marksman admires its faster target acquisition in all light conditions, thanks to sneaky-quick transition from FC[NKIJVƓDGTQRVKEUVQPKIJVVKOG6TKVKWO%QR[VJCV

NEW—LITEWAVE H3™

© 2018 HIVIZ

MORE ON BOARD Sig Sauer’s advertising slogan for the P365 is “Bring more. Everyday.” In this situation, it’s not just advertising or cheap marketing—and I am a very cynical person who has seen a lot of new firearms hit the market only to disappear a few months later, if they’re able to leave the factory floor in the first place. Instead, Sig is doing it right and leading the way. With the P365, you’re getting a fast-targeting, lightweight, easy-to-conceal handgun that holds 11 rounds of 9mm ammo. On top of that, it’s a gun you’ll actually want to carry, and you can pair it with Sig’s top-quality training and defensive ammo, too. What’s not to like? Your P320 can finally have the little brother it’s always wanted! Sig Sauer has taken a significant step in introducing the P365 and ammo specifically for it. The company is helping shooters go forth more confidently on a daily basis. But it goes beyond that. Hell, I’m excited to see how the rest of the firearms industry responds. Every other gunmaker out there has some stiff competition now in this niche of the market, and we all know that competition drives innovation. For more information, visit sigsauer.com.

SPEC BOX

BETTER BUILT & BRIGHTER + VISIBLE SOONER IN ALL LIGHT CONDITIONS + PATENTED

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 43


MAX FIREPOWER |

That’s right— Nighthawk Custom is now offering double-stack 1911s BY ROB GARRETT

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44 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

Last year, I was with Mark Stone and the Nighthawk Custom crew when Mark asked what I thought about the company building a double-stack 9mm. My first thought: Why? While my experience with doublestacks was limited, I knew that they could be temperamental and unreliable. Also, at the time of the discussion, the market was still somewhat depressed, and I questioned the wisdom of investing in a totally new project. For the record, I’m not always a naysayer and have often embraced new product ideas. However, this one seemed to be a little off base. Truth be told, I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. Several Nighthawk employees had the same concerns. But I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.

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Nighthawk recently launched the double-stack, not as a new pistol, but as an upgrade to any of its 5-inchbarreled, single-stack 1911s. The upgrade only costs $650. And for this review, Nighthawk sent me a Falcon Double Stack. Opening the Nighthawk case, I found a sleek, all-black pistol that exuded stealth. In fact, the only things that weren’t black were the markings and tritium inserts in the front and rear sights. FLYING HIGH Nighthawk Custom introduced the Falcon back in 2011, and I’ve been fortunate to review both the Government and Commander versions. The Falcon represents a blending of old-school

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design and modern quality in a very clean, functional and attractive pistol. As with all Nighthawk pistols, the Falcon is the result of hours of hand-fitting precisely made parts using old-fashioned files and sanding sticks. The Falcon’s slide is machined from a forging at the company’s facility in Berryville, Arkansas. The slide is a traditional Government Model configuration with a match-grade, 5-inch barrel as well as a traditional bushing and recoil spring system. The frame and slide are fitted and then hand-lapped for that glass-on-glass feeling. All of the internal parts are made to Nighthawk’s specifications from quality tool steel. In other words, for those who are concerned about such things, there

are no metal-injection-molded (MIM) parts in any Nighthawk pistol. The Falcon is equipped with an extended, single-side thumb safety, a beavertail grip safety and a low-profile slide stop. The solid match-grade trigger is precisely tuned for a clean trigger pull that breaks at an even 4 pounds. The treatments on the slide are a departure from other Nighthawk models. Traditional cocking serrations have been replaced with eight ball-radius cuts to provide a positive but less abrasive texture. Three more ball-radius cuts have been made along the top of the slide to help you acquire the dovetailed tritium front sight. The Falcon also features a Heinie Ledge rear sight with its own

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 45


SEEING DOUBLE | Camera One Photos

The Falcon’s slide has attractive Hi-Powerstyle bevels while the frame sports a squared triggerguard as well as a rail.

The match-grade, 5-inch barrel is handcrowned and fitted with a flush-cut bushing.

tritium insert and a vertical leading edge that can be used as a cocking surface. The back of the Heinie sight has 40-lpi serrations to reduce glare, just like the rear of the slide. The most striking feature of the Falcon, however, is the bevel treatment applied to the front of the slide. The Hi-Power-style cuts are attractive and functional because they aid in reholstering the pistol. On my first trip to the range, I ran as many different loads as possible through the pistol, from Super Vel’s 90-grain +P JHPs and 147-grain Hush Puppy suppressor rounds to a mix of loads from Aguila, Federal, Hornady, Sig Sauer and Speer. The Falcon Double Stack ate everything with ease, and with an unloaded weight of 36 ounces, it just stayed on target. The frame texture Instead of serrations, the slide has stylish ball-radius cuts. Also note the Heinie Ledge rear sight and extended thumb safety.

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46 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

provided a positive gripping surface without being overly abrasive. I also appreciated how easy it was to load the 17-round STI magazine, which was far easier than loading a Glock 17 or Sig P320 mag. As you can see, my first impression was positive, but I really wanted to learn more about the design and manufacturing of the pistol. FRAME DETAILS Having limited experience with doublestack 1911s, I spoke with Allen Wyatt, Nighthawk’s lead gunsmith. He walked me through what separates the company’s double-stack design from competitors. For example, the frame and grip were designed from the ground up by an outside vendor to meet Nighthawk’s specifications. This allows Nighthawk to utilize its standard slides, internal parts and other components. To increase reliability, Nighthawk uses a Wilson/Nowlin-style feed ramp, and the company has also designed and manufactured a new grip safety and mainspring housing for this program. Each Nighthawk double-stack comes with two stainless STI magazines. The actual frame is made from steel while the grip is made from 7075-T6 aluminum. The wraparound texturing

SPEC BOX

NIGHTHAWK FALCON DOUBLE STACK CALIBER:

9mm

BARREL:

5 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT: GRIP:

8.58 inches 36 ounces (empty) Polymer

SIGHTS:

Tritium front, Heinie Ledge rear

ACTION:

SA

FINISH:

Perma Kote

CAPACITY: MSRP:

17+1 $3,745

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PERFORMANCE

NIGHTHAWK FALCON DOUBLE STACK LOAD

VELOCITY

ACCURACY

Super Vel 90 JHP +P

1,534

2.25

Federal 124 HST

1,177

1.75

Speer 124 Gold Dot HP

1,155

1.85

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.

consists of a series of small circles that cover the frontstrap, side panels and mainspring housing. The large flared magazine well includes a lip on the frontstrap. The beavertail is precisely installed and blended, and it’s void of any unnecessary play. You’ll also notice a flat, machined-aluminum trigger with an integral overtravel stop. The triggerguard is squared and undercut so you can get a higher grip on the pistol. Finally, the slide stop and thumb safety are standard Nighthawk parts, and the dust cover has a Picatinny rail. Overall, the Falcon Double Stack is a large pistol. However, the grip feels good in the hand and does not feel overly large or cumbersome. Out of curiosity, I put calipers to the frame to compare it to my daily carry pistol, a Glock 19 Gen4. The Falcon’s frame is 1.28 inches wide at the base of the triggerguard while the G19 is 1.2 inches. Measuring from the frontstrap to the backstrap, both the Falcon and G19 are exactly 2 inches. Granted, the length of the frame and slide make the Falcon significantly larger than the G19, but I was surprised that the actual grip measurements were almost identical. BACK TO THE RANGE On my second trip to the range, I made mincemeat of a steel silhouette starting at 15 yards and working back to 45 yards. I even managed a few headshots from around the 40-yard line. The white-ringed tritium front sight was easy to track, and I liked the purchase the flat trigger allowed. The shots broke cleanly, and the reset was clean and predictable. And while I

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“THE FALCON DOUBLE STACK ATE EVERYTHING WITH EASE, AND WITH AN UNLOADED WEIGHT OF 36 OUNCES, IT JUST STAYED ON TARGET.” knew I was shooting a wide-body 1911, the overall handling was outstanding. As is my custom, I let as many friends and associates examine and shoot the Nighthawk Falcon Double Stack to get as many opinions as possible, and every person that held and shot the gun came away impressed. For serious testing, I shot the Falcon off a bench using a bag rest. With the target at 25 yards, most of my groups were around 2 inches and would have been smaller had I not ruined things with a called flyer. You can see the results in the included table. All three loads were very soft shooting given the Falcon’s 36-ounce weight and 12-pound recoil spring. I also ran several hundred rounds of Aguila 115-grain FMJ and Federal American Eagle 115-grain Syntech TSJ training ammo. Both of these loads were easy shooting and made quick splits easy. Carrying a 36-ounce pistol, especially one as big as a 5-inch-barreled, doublestack 1911, requires good gear. So I broke out an older Raven Concealment Phantom rig for a 5-inch-barreled rail gun with a SureFire X300 light. And the Falcon fit perfectly with the X300 installed. There are a number of good belts on the market today, including

Blade-Tech’s Ultimate Carry Belt or Velocity Competition Speed Belt, which feature sliding buckles that allow you to find the perfect fit. MANY MISSIONS To be honest, not being a competitor, I had never given much thought to owning a double-stack 1911. In the past, I have either carried a standard Government Model 1911 or a high-capacity Glock 19. So where does the Falcon Double Stack fit in? First, with a light, it would make a great home-defense pistol. Second, it also offers a very viable alternative for members of the law enforcement community who favor a 1911 but also appreciate the high magazine capacity of today’s striker-fired models. I’m even sure some at there would try to carry this gun concealed. Finally, there are those among us who just like the “cool factor” of owning a high-quality 1911 that shoots a lot of relatively affordable rounds. Whatever category you find yourself in, the Falcon Double Stack has a lot to offer, as would any model given the double-stack upgrade. The quality, fit and finish of my test pistol lived up to what I have come to expect from Nighthawk. For more, visit nighthawkcustom.com.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 47


S&W M&P BODYGUARD WIDTH: 1.36 INCHES

CALIBER .38 Special BARREL 1.88 inches OA LENGTH 6.6 inches WEIGHT 14.2 ounces (empty)

HEIGHT: 4.25 INCHES

GRIP Polymer SIGHTS Fixed ACTION DAO FINISH Matte black CAPACITY 5 MSRP $385

OAL: 6.6 INCHES

Two new .38 Special snubbies fight for the self-defense crown on the range | BY GARRETT LUCAS

W

hen Steve Jobs and Apple introduced the iPod to the world, it was an instant success. Yes, it could hold most people’s entire music libraries, and it was very hip looking. But there was one factor that truly beat out all others in contributing to

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48 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

intuitive, simple to load and operate (even for novices), and are very reliable. There are no safeties to fumble with, magazines to seat properly, decocking levers to learn how to use, or magazine disconnects to worry about in the heat of the moment. Recognizing this, manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Taurus continue manufacturing new models to accommodate the needs of the ever-growing concealed-carry market. The two we received for this edition of “Tale of the Tape” are the S&W M&P Bodyguard 38 and the Taurus 856, which were both announced just prior to this year’s NRA show.

THE CONTENDERS the MP3 player’s meteoric rise—simplicity. The user interface was a simple click wheel, and an individual could pick up a new iPod and intuitively use it without ever having to read the instructions. In the world of firearms, the revolver is the equivalent of the iPod. They are

Both new models are purpose-built for generally the same tasks—concealed carry and home defense. Both revolvers are chambered in .38 Special and can handle +P loads as well. But, despite their matte black appearances, that’s just about where the similarities end. Each

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CALIBER .38 Special BARREL 2 inches

TAURUS 856 WIDTH: 1.41 INCHES

OA LENGTH 6.55 inches WEIGHT 22 ounces (empty) HEIGHT: 4.8 INCHES

GRIP Rubber SIGHTS Fixed ACTION DA/SA FINISH Matte black CAPACITY 5 MSRP $329

revolver has its own unique characteristics that stand in contrast to the other, and these differences can be either a positive or negative depending your needs and perspective. The Taurus 856 is a small-framed steel revolver that is a step up in size from the Model 85. This allows it to carry six rounds instead of just five. It weighs in at 22 ounces unloaded, which can help soak up the recoil of snappier rounds, but the extra size and weight might make it a little inconvenient for someone looking for a weapon with a smaller footprint and less weight for easier concealment. On the other hand, the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38 weighs just 14.2 ounces thanks to its upper aluminum alloy frame and polymer grip. The Bodyguard also comes with a stainless steel barrel insert that some people claim is more accurate, but the jury’s still out on that one. Your own mileage may vary. The Bodyguard’s main advantage, since it only carries five rounds, is its size and

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OAL: 6.55 INCHES

light weight, making it very easy to carry all day without getting in your way. The operating systems are a bit different between these guns. The Taurus 856 is a traditional doubleaction/single-action (DA/SA) design with an external hammer. You can cock the hammer for more precise shot placement with a lighter trigger pull, but you also must recognize the possibility of the hammer snagging on clothing during the draw. Also, the practice of cocking the hammer in a defensive scenario has

the potential for legal ramifications in the case of an accidental discharge or a prosecutor’s assertion of a negligent discharge due to a “hair trigger.” Conversely, the Bodyguard has a double-action-only (DAO) system. Since there is no hammer to cock, the user must go through the heavier DA trigger pull for every shot. This requires steady hands and lots of practice to stay on target. The upside is there is an additional layer of safety with the heavier trigger and no hammer to snag during a draw.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 49


TALE OF THE TAPE

“THE BODYGUARD’S MAIN ADVANTAGE… IS ITS SIZE AND LIGHT WEIGHT, MAKING IT VERY EASY TO CARRY ALL DAY WITHOUT GETTING IN YOUR WAY.” Also, the Bodyguard can be fired from within a jacket pocket since there is no hammer to be impeded by surrounding material. This means you can keep your hand on the weapon without anyone being the wiser.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

To help reduce weight, the S&W M&P Bodyguard 38 utilizes a one-piece aluminum alloy upper frame that surrounds the stainless steel barrel. Also note that the front sight is pinned in place.

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50 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

Going to the range and putting these little shooters through the paces gave me a better understanding of what each offered in terms of features and performance. To keep the playing field as level as possible, I shot both only in DA mode. Both revolvers utilize an integral rear sight channel that is less than ideal, but these are budget-priced handguns and are also intended to be used within close proximity to a target. This is a good thing, as the black front sights on these guns are next to useless in low light. The front sight on the Taurus is also integral, but the Bodyguard’s front sight is pinned in place, meaning you can replace it with a more visible alternative. Despite the Bodyguard’s smaller size, it actually felt more comfortable to hold. There is a relief cut behind the triggerguard that is significantly deeper than that on the Taurus 856. This allows for a higher grip more in line with the barrel and a shorter reach to the trigger. Again, this could be a pro or con depending on your hand size. The DA trigger pull on each revolver was pretty standard stuff. The Taurus 856 had a pull weight of 10.25 pounds, and the Bodyguard’s was 9.51 pounds.

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TALE OF THE TAPE

“THOUGH HEAVIER, THE TRIGGER PULL ON THE TAURUS 856 ACTUALLY FELT MUCH SMOOTHER.”

The Taurus 856 is a tad larger than the Bodyguard, which helps dampen recoil and allows it to carry an extra round. Both guns are more than capable of good accuracy. The Taurus and S&W produced the top and bottom groups, respectively, at 7 yards.

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52 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

Though heavier, the trigger pull on the Taurus 856 actually felt much smoother. I could feel a little bit of stuff happening inside the Bodyguard’s mechanism that detracted a bit from the pull. Both revolvers held their own when it came to accuracy. I tested them with Winchester’s 130-grain FMJs and Speer’s 135-grain +P Gold Dot hollow points. Shooting off-hand at 7 yards, I was able to consistently get groups under 1.5 inches with each despite the lackluster sights. The Taurus definitely had the edge in the accuracy department, with its best group coming in at under an inch at 7 yards. Even though the Bodyguard is 35-percent lighter than the Taurus, I was surprised how pleasant it was to shoot, especially with the snappier +P Speer loads. I didn’t get any type of sharp or stinging sensation while shooting it. However, it was a little harder to control because of the thinner and narrower grip.

THE VERDICT As always, there are no absolutes. The best choice is going to come down to each user’s particular circumstances. Do you want the extra round and recoil-dampening heft of the Taurus or the light weight and easier concealment of the S&W? Neither is the wrong answer, and it’s always great to have options. Either way, both products will serve you well provided you pick FOR MORE the right tool for INFORMATION the right job and SMITH & WESSON circumstance. smith-wesson.com Despite the TAURUS use of 19th centaurususa.com tury technology, revolvers are here to stay for a while longer, and thankfully there are still companies providing quality products that are simple and easy to use. In terms of personal and home defense, the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38 and Taurus 856 will both provide reliable service at a price that is tough to beat.

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AMMO BOX

TESTING REMINGTON’S LATEST BARRIER-BLIND GOLDEN SABER LINE BY DR. MARTIN D. TOPPER Bullet failure was a real issue when expanding jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammo became popular in the 1960s. These earlier highvelocity loads often contained light-for-caliber bullets with relatively thin gildingmetal jackets. When these bullets hit heavy bone or had to penetrate a barrier before striking the target, their jackets often separated from their cores. This often caused the bullet to under-penetrate and presented a significant risk of failing to stop an assailant or dangerous game animal. In the early 1990s, engineers working for Remington came up with a solution for bullet failure and several other troublesome issues. Their new Golden Saber handgun bullet had a heavier jacket made out of cartridge brass, which controlled expansion better than gilding metal. It also had the added benefits of reducing chamber pressure and increasing accuracy. A few years later, the Golden Saber was modified to have spiral-shaped notches around the hollow point. This promoted better expansion. And a few years after that, Remington produced a further-refined Golden Saber exclusively for law enforcement. This bullet

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had the jacket bonded to the core for better penetration through the barriers used in the FBI’s ammunition testing protocol. Like the previous version of the Golden Saber, these bonded rounds also featured nickel-plated cases and low-flash powder.

BACK IN BLACK The Bonded Golden Saber was a good load, but engineers working for Remington didn’t stop there. About five years ago, they came up with a three-component design for a new Golden Saber bullet that featured a coreretention device they called a “Black Belt.” Essentially, they modified the bottleneck shape of the Golden Saber jacket and reshaped it into an hourglass. Then they added a belt at the waist of the hourglass to lock the jacket and core together and reinforce the bullet’s structural integrity. Remington calls this mechanical process of keeping the jacket and core

54 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

together “Mechani-Lokt.” As the front half of the hourglass begins to expand, the belt keeps the rear of the core from moving forward and squeezing out of the jacket. The Mechani-Lokt system and hourglass jacket hold a number of advantages besides simply keeping the jacket and core together. First, even though the configuration of the jacket has changed to one that is more like an hourglass than the bottleneck design of the original Golden Saber, it still retains the enhanced accuracy and pressure-reducing features of the original shape. That’s because the “driving band” at the base of the bullet remains the primary point of contact between the bullet and the base of the barrel’s grooves. This reduces the

amount of bullet shank that is deeply engraved by the rifling and provides a small but significant reduction in chamber pressure. Reduced pressure causes less wear and tear on the gun, but it does not significantly affect the performance of the cartridge. As with the bottlenecked Golden Saber jacket, the front half of the Black Belt’s hourglass jacket does not touch the bottom of the barrel’s grooves. Therefore, the front of the bullet still can move slightly as the bullet enters the rifling. This helps center it in the bore as it leaves the chamber and promotes accuracy. The third benefit of the Mechani-Lokt system is that it shifts the bullet’s center of gravity more to the center, which contributes to stability

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in flight. Given all this, the Black Belt design makes a good bullet even better.

LIVE-FIRE TESTING For testing, Remington sent me some 124-grain 9mm, 124-grain +P 9mm and 180grain .40 S&W Golden Saber Black Belt loads. I conducted several tests on the ammo at the Big 3 East Training Center. My tests included shooting into cloth-covered and bare Clear Ballistics gel, bench testing for accuracy at 25 yards, velocity testing with a Competition Electronics chronograph and two shooting drills using the 9mm loads. I used a customized S&W M&P9 M2.0 Compact and Ruger SR40 for the tests. Almost 120 rounds were fired during the tests, and there were no malfunctions whatsoever. Accuracy testing involved shooting off of a sandbag at 25 yards. The most accurate load was the 9mm +P, which produced a best group of 3.75 inches. The standard-velocity 9mm load put four shots into 3.75 inches before a flyer opened the group up by another 2 inches. The best group for the .40 S&W load was 4.75 inches. Given that I was shooting service pistols from sandbags at 25 yards, this is quite acceptable. Remington rates the muzzle velocities of the 9mm, 9mm +P and .40 S&W loads as being 1,125 fps, 1,180 fps and 1,015 fps, respectively. My results were somewhat lower. The 9mm came in at 1,032 fps and 293 foot-pounds of energy (fpe); the 9mm +P at 1,101

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fps and 334 fpe; and the .40 S&W at 914 fps and 334 fpe. I used a 6-by-6-by-16-inch block of gelatin for ballistics testing. I fired the first shot of each load through four heavy cotton T-shirt layers and the second into bare test medium. All three loads penetrated completely through the block during both tests. Therefore, I was unable to recover a slug and determine the degree of expansion. However, the bulging block of ballistic medium clearly indicates that the 9mm +P load expanded and formed a sig-

nificant temporary cavity as it passed through. You can also see a video of Remington’s own ballistic testing on the company’s website. My first drill was a timed draw and double-tap body armor drill from 10 yards using the standard-pressure 9mm load. I used a Competition Electronics timer for this portion of the evaluation, and my average time to draw and fire two rounds was 3.62 seconds. Every bullet landed in a vital area. The second drill involved starting from a low-ready position and firing

9mm +P groups on two side-by-side steel silhouettes at 20 yards. Both plates showed groups under 4.5 inches, which is very good for rapid fire on two targets. Any way you look at it, Remington’s Golden Saber Black Belt line is first-class defensive ammo. It is barrier blind in FBI-style testing and penetrates deeply enough to reach vital organs in both straight-on and angled shots. Best of all, it is available to both civilians and law enforcement. For more information, visit remington.com.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 55


BATTLE ROYALE

NIGHTHAWK CHAIRMAN RUGER LIGHTWEIGHT COMMANDER

SMITH & WESSON SW1911 PRO SERIES

SPRINGFIELD RANGE OFFICER OPERATOR

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56 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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SIG SAUER 1911 MATCH ELITE

OF THE BEST 1911S TAKE TO THE RANGE, BUT ONLY ONE CAN WIN

First of all is performance. Thanks to the development of new propellants and projectiles, the on-target performance of the 9mm now equals that of larger-caliber cartridges. So much so that many U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are currently replacing their larger-caliber service pistols with 9mms. The 9mm generates less recoil than .40 S&W and .45 ACP cartridges. Less recoil makes training easier and allows for faster, more accurate shooting. The 9mm’s smaller size also allows a 1911 to carry more ammo without any increase in dimensions, including weight. When you add up these benefits, I firmly believe that a 9mm 1911 pistol is basically a win-win. To test this theory, I sent off emails to manufacturers and received several 9mm 1911s for testing ranging from compact to long-slide models. These included the Nighthawk Chairman, Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander, Sig Sauer 1911 Match Elite, Smith & Wesson SW1911 Pro Series, Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator and Wilson Combat EDC X9.

WILSON COMBAT EDC X9

BY PAUL SCARLATA espite its age, the 1911’s popularity is greater now than at any time in its history. Over a dozen gun-makers in this country and overseas continue to produce it, and it has earned a reputation that ensures its position as one of the greatest combat handguns of all time. It is still the choice many armed professionals and competitive shooters around the world. Some of its more ardent supporters claim that the .45-caliber 1911 is the “perfect” combat pistol and brand anyone who disagrees a fool, if not a traitorous dog. Note that I said, “.45-caliber 1911,” because what I am about to say may give some ardent supporters a case of the vapors. But just about every 1911 manufacturer now offers a version in 9mm. WHY THE NINE? I don’t feel it is necessary to reiterate the myriad reasons for the 1911’s popularity—ergonomics and reliability being foremost—but a short defense of the 9mm will explain why I think it’s a perfect match for “Old Slabsides.” personaldefenseworld.com

MEET THE FIGHTERS While these six pistols all share similar features, including the 1911’s legendary operating system, controls and appearance, each was unique in its own way. First of all, of the six, two (the Ruger and Wilson) utilize aluminum alloy rather than steel for their frames. The slides on three (the Ruger, S&W and Sig) are made from stainless steel while the others are forged steel. Regarding barrel length, the Wilson sports a shorter 4-inch tube while the Ruger comes with a Commander-style 4.25-inch barrel. The Sig, S&W and Springfield are fitted with 5-inch barrels, and the Nighthawk stands out with its extended 6-inch barrel. The latter also boasts a half-dozen lightening cuts on both sides of the slide near the muzzle. These cuts helps keep the slide at the proper weight for reliable operation with a variety of 9mm loads. Their sights are also varied. Both the Springfield and Wilson sport fiber-optic front sights. The Sig, S&W and Ruger have whitedot front blades, and the Nighthawk sports a gold bead. At the rear, the Nighthawk and Sig

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 57


Becky Scarlata Photos

BATTLE ROYALE |

To see how the guns would perform on the clock, the testers ran each 1911 through three timed drills, including a steel “El Presidente” (above) and another that involved clearing a plate rack (left).

>>>>>

come with fully adjustable rear sights while the Ruger, S&W and Springfield have Novak-style fixed sights. The EDC X9 from Wilson Combat comes with the company’s U-notch Battlesight, which is adjustable for elevation. Five of the pistols have checkered mainspring housings, with matching frontstraps on the Nighthawk, Sig and S&W. The Wilson features the company’s proprietary X-TAC treatment, which consists of cross-cut grooves on the grips, frontstrap and mainspring housing to ensure a firm purchase. All of the pistols have extended thumb safeties. Those on the Nighthawk, Ruger and Springfield are single-sided; the rest have ambidextrous thumb safeties. The Nighthawk and Wilson also have extended slide stop levers. The Wilson also stands out from the crowd because it does not have a grip safety. While some may bemoan this, I’m sure just as many will agree with me that the 1911’s grip safety is an unnecessary, even anachronistic, appendage. Today, many competitive shooters and armed professionals routinely disable the grip safeties on their 1911s. Five of the 1911s are of the singlestack persuasion and have magazines

NIGHTHAWK CHAIRMAN

RUGER LIGHTWEIGHT SIG SAUER COMMANDER 1911 MATCH ELITE

S&W SW1911 PRO SERIES

SPRINGFIELD RANGE OFFICER OPERATOR

CALIBER:

9mm

9mm

9mm

9mm

9mm

BARREL:

6 inches

4.25 inches

5 inches

5 inches

5 inches

OA LENGTH:

9.58 inches

7.75 inches

8.7 inches

8.7 inches

8.6 inches

WEIGHT:

40.9 ounces (empty)

29.3 ounces (empty)

41.6 ounces (empty)

41.1 ounces (empty)

41 ounces (empty)

GRIPS:

G10

Rubberized

Blackwood

Wood

Cocobolo

SIGHTS:

Gold bead front, adjustable rear

Novak three-dot

White-dot front, adjustable rear

Three-dot

Fiber-optic front, white-dot rear

ACTION:

SA

SA

SA

SA

SA

FINISH:

Black DLC

Black, stainless

Stainless

Stainless

Parkerized

CAPACITY:

10+1

9+1

9+1

10+1

9+1

MSRP:

$4,195

$979

$1,164

$1,579

$1,039

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58 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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containing nine or 10 rounds. Once again, however, the Wilson followed the beat of a different drummer with its 15-round, double-stack magazine. RULES OF THE RING Before meeting my friends, Dick Jones and Richard Cole, for this shootout, I zeroed each pistol from an MTM K-Zone rest at 15 yards and was pleased to see that they were all capable of producing groups measuring 2 inches or less. I then field-stripped, cleaned and lubricated each pistol—the only maintenance they received the whole time. We decided to use timed drills to evaluate the six pistols, and Competition Electronics (competitionelectronics.com) kindly provided us with a Pocket Pro shot timer, Anthony Welsch at the Target Barn (targetbarn.com) gave us several IPSC cardboard targets, and once again we used a self-setting steel popper from Birchwood Casey (birchwoodcasey. com). Our drills were simple: • Steel Plate Drill: On the signal, the shooter engages a rack of six plates set up 8 yards from the shooting line. They then reload the pistol and repeat the drill three more times. Scoring includes the total time for each of the

four runs, plus a five-second penalty for any steel plate left standing. • Paper/Popper/Paper Drill: From 10 yards, the shooter engages two cardboard IPSC targets, then shoots down the popper in between them before engaging the remaining pair of targets with one round each. The popper must go down before engaging the remaining targets. They then perform a combat reload and reengage the targets. The drill is run two more times. Again, scoring includes the total time for each of the three runs, plus a fivesecond penalty for any miss. • Steel El Presidente: The shooter begins facing three steel targets 15 yards from the shooting line with a loaded pistol on a barrel in front of them. On the signal, they obtain the pistol and engage each steel target with two rounds, perform a combat reload and reengage them. The drill is repeated two more times. Scoring includes the total time for each of the three runs, plus a five-second penalty for any miss. Except for the “El Presidente,” we began each of the drills from the lowready position, and to level the playing field, the pistols were loaded with 10 rounds while all of the reload magazines

STEEL PLATE DRILL PAUL

RICHARD

DICK

NIGHTHAWK

5.88

6.97

7.08

RUGER

5.71

12.00

8.92

SIG SAUER

5.42

8.96

6.18

S&W

5.36

7.11

5.35

SPRINGFIELD

7.35

7.85

6.02

WILSON COMBAT

6.14

11.75

6.16

PAPER/POPPER/PAPER DRILL PAUL RICHARD DICK NIGHTHAWK

11.89

13.69

10.98

RUGER

12.76

14.43

11.74

SIG SAUER

12.61

15.59

16.73

S&W

11.22

13.75

11.59

SPRINGFIELD

11.32

15.16

15.01

WILSON COMBAT

12.84

13.31

15.59

STEEL EL PRESIDENTE PAUL RICHARD

DICK

NIGHTHAWK

12.10

14.49

11.03

RUGER

11.31

15.43

10.26

SIG SAUER

12.34

13.95

14.15

S&W

13.02

13.75

9.58

SPRINGFIELD

13.30

15.09

10.15

WILSON COMBAT

12.52

13.31

8.35

Note: Time results in seconds.

Becky Scarlata Photo

WILSON COMBAT EDC X9 9mm 4 inches 7.4 inches 29.09 ounces (empty) G10 Fiber-optic front, Battlesight rear SA Armor-Tuff 15+1

Author’s Note: In the “Battle Royale” for the Sept./Oct. issue of CH, we experienced a sight malfunction with the Colt Cobra, which caused us to inadvertently, and unfairly, score it with all zeros. We should have printed the following numbers: Ergonomics: 4; Trigger Control: 5; Recoil Control: 4; and Reloading Ease: 4. Colt sent us a replacement front sight, we’ll be doing a standalone review of the Cobra online at personaldefenseworld.com.

N/A

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 59


BATTLE ROYALE |

TALE OF THE TAPE

Nighthawk Chairman

Ruger Lightweight Sig Sauer Commander 1911 Match Elite

S&W SW1911 Pro Series

Springfield Range Wilson Combat Officer Operator EDC X9

ERGONOMICS

15 15

15 13

15 15

14 15

15 13

15 15

TRIGGER CONTROL

14

12

12

15

12

15

RECOIL CONTROL SIGHTS

15 11

10 10

14 12

15 12

13 13

11 11

OFF-HAND ACCURACY

15

12

14

14

13

13

RELOADING EASE

15

11

12

14

10

14

100

83

94

99

89

94

RELIABILITY

TOTAL

Note: 15 is a perfect score for each category while 105 is a perfect total score.

Becky Scarlata Photo

contained nine. Each shooter fired a minimum of 90 rounds from each pistol for a minimum of 540 from the six of them. Hornady, Sig Sauer and Winchester supplied us with 115-grain SXZ rounds, 115-grain FMJs and 115-grain XTPs, respectively. For easier reloading, Browning (brownells.com) kindly provided us with a pair of UpLULA magazine loaders. We took turns shooting while my

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60 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

wife, Becky, took photos and kept score. You can see the results of the timed drills in the included table. IN-DEPTH RESULTS Afterwards, we graded each pistol on a 1 (worse) to 5 (best) scale in seven categories: reliability, ergonomics, trigger control, recoil control, sights, off-hand accuracy and reloading ease. These

were then added together to give each pistol a final score in each category. If a gun malfunctioned, we would attempt to correct the problem and continue shooting. Of course, these results require a bit of an explanation. Reliability: We had a total of three mechanical malfunctions out of almost 2,000 rounds. One shooter had two failures to extract with the S&W and a single failure to feed with the Nighthawk, both early on in the testing. This came as a bit of a shock as we all remembered the days when just about any out-of-the-box 1911 pistol required gunsmith tuning to make it run reliably. The S&W must have had a tight or rough chamber, as it took an inordinate amount of oomph to retract the slide and extract an unfired case. Ergonomics: Since they’re all 1911s, we expected high scores in this category, and we were right. The Ruger and Springfield lost a few points, as two shooters did not care for their grip panels. We also felt that the Wilson’s lack of a grip safety was a major improvement and might be the “wave of the future.” Trigger Control: Only the S&W garnered a perfect score in this category, with the Nighthawk coming in right behind it. The other four all had heavier and/or grittier trigger pulls. We might have been overly critical, however, because we’re used to the crisp triggers on our customized 1911s. Recoil Control: As the two lightest guns, the Ruger and Wilson lost points in this category while the shooter who didn’t like the Springfield’s grips—well, he didn’t like them again. All three of us felt the checkered frontstraps on the personaldefenseworld.com


Nighthawk, Sig and S&W were a major plus while the Wilson’s X-TAC frame really helped tame the recoil. Sights: All three of us are vocal critics of the three-white-dot sighting arrangement that graces (curses?) most pistols these days. One shooter liked the Sig’s plain black rear sight and white-dot front. While the Springfield and Wilson’s fiber-optic front sights allowed for fast transitions between targets, one of us is color blind, so the Springfield’s red fiber optic appeared white to him. None of us cared for the Nighthawk’s gold bead front sight and believe a fiber optic would be a more practical choice. Off-Hand Accuracy: All six pistols proved more than adequate when it came to the timed drills. I believe that the differences in scores were purely subjective depending on how the shooters expected them to perform. Reloading Ease: The Nighthawk and S&W’s magazine well funnels, and the

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Wilson’s wide magazine well opening, Wilson’s X-TAC grip, I have to agree with allowed for fast, fumble-free reloads. This Dick. The Smith & Wesson just handled beautifully and could be reloaded could not be said of the Ruger, Sig or Springfield, with their narrow, sharp-edged smoothly. You just have to black out those damn white dots on the rear sight.” magazine well openings. Lastly, as the Sig As for me, I liked everyand S&W got dirtier, magthing about the Nighthawk azines would sometimes FOR MORE INFORMATION except the front sight. The fail to drop free and had longer barrel and slide proto be manually extracted. NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM vided a longer sight radius Extended magazine releases nighthawkcustom.com and recoil-dampening would be a big plus on all of weight. The frame checkerthese guns, too. RUGER ing and grips made it easier As I usually do, I asked ruger.com to control, and it came with my two compadres which SIG SAUER a really nice trigger. pistol they liked the best sigsauer.com Well, there you have it. and why. Dick Jones chose As you can see, you don’t the S&W, saying, “It just SMITH & WESSON smith-wesson.com need to be ashamed of fit my hand better, I really owning (or wanting) a 9mm appreciated the frame SPRINGFIELD 1911. Hopefully this report checkering, it had a nice ARMORY won’t generate too many trigger, and it’s a great deal springfield-armory.com angry responses from the for the price.” WILSON COMBAT 9mm-hating traditionalists Richard Cole said, wilsoncombat.com out there. Hopefully? “While I really liked the

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62 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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SPRINGFIELD’S HAMMER-FIRED XD-E IS BACK IN .45 ACP

Over the past few years, there has been a deluge of striker-fired pistols hitting the market. Whether they are completely new models or updates of existing lines, there seems to be no limit to the number of striker-fired pistols available for carry. They are all the rage right now, and it’s hard to argue their merits. However, there are times when I get a bit nostalgic and break out a doubleaction/single-action (DA/SA) pistol for concealed-carry purposes. They are what I teethed on when I first got into shooting, and they have their own merits as well. They haven’t gotten a lot of love from manufacturers lately, other than companies maintaining existing product lines, but Springfield Armory helped pick up the slack with the introduction of its new XD-E line of pistols. FIRST IMPRESSIONS In 2017, Springfield Armory released the first XD-E model in 9mm, but more recently introduced the .45 ACP iteration, which I received for review. At first glance, it looks like many other pistols being released on the market today. It’s black and it has a polymer frame. Nothing to personaldefenseworld.com

write home about so far, but then something caught my eye. It also has a hammer! Now, things were getting interesting. Rather than coming out with yet another “Me too!” striker-fired pistol, Springfield took a different path with the XD-E. It combined the benefits of a lightweight, polymer frame with a more traditional DA/SA operating system. The .45 ACP XD-E is a compact shooter with a slim profile that’s made for comfortable concealed carry. It weighs a scant 23 ounces unloaded, has a thickness of 1 inch and is just 6.75 inches long. The XD-E houses a 3.3-inch barrel and a dual-spring recoil system. The standard package includes one 6-round magazine and one 7-round magazine. One feature that Springfield touts about the new XD-E models is the “Low Effort Slide,” which the company claims requires 27-percent less effort to cycle than other similarly sized pistols. I didn’t have a way to measure that claim, but there’s certainly no question that the slide is fairly easy to cycle by hand and may benefit those users who have trouble with stubborn slides. Amenities include an accessory rail, rear cocking serrations and steel sights

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 63


POCKET POWERHOUSE |

“cocked and locked” like a 1911. Simply cock the hammer and flip the safety up and you’re good to go. This allows the user to experience a consistent SA trigger pull for every shot fired, though it’s advised to train diligently for this mode of carry. From all indications, Springfield put together a quality firearm in the XD-E, and nothing seems to be lacking in the feature set. And while I was surprised by the DA/SA operating system, I also gladly welcomed it because it’s a tried and true system that’s as familiar as coming home.

SPEC BOX

SPRINGFIELD

XD-E CALIBER:

.45 ACP

BARREL:

3.3 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT: GRIP:

6.75 inches 23 ounces (empty) Polymer

SIGHTS:

Fiber-optic front, two-dot rear

ACTION:

DA/SA

FINISH:

Matte black

CAPACITY: MSRP:

6+1, 7+1 $568

:

The XD-E features GripZone texturing for enhanced control, an ambidextrous safety and mag release, and rear slide serrations. Cocking the hammer provides a lighter single-action trigger pull, and you can raise the safety for “cocked and locked” carry. Also note the highvisibility sights.

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64 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

with two white dots in the rear unit and a fiber-optic insert up front. Lefties will also really appreciate the XD-E because it sports both an ambidextrous magazine release and an ambidextrous safety. Speaking of the safety, Springfield has gone all out with this model regarding what modes of carry the user might prefer. For those who want to carry the XD-E like a revolver, the safety can be left in the “off” position. But for that extra degree of protection, the safety can be flipped up to prevent the weapon from firing. Also, after you’re done firing a few rounds, the safety can be used as a decocker to safely lower the hammer. Feeling a little froggy and want to go old school? The XD-E can be carried

MAKING THE CASE When law enforcement personnel, and later civilians, made the mainstream transition from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols in the ’70s and ’80s, the design that was most prevalent on the market was the DA/SA pistol. For the uninitiated (i.e., Millennials), a DA/SA operating system simply means that the first shot (with the hammer down) requires a long and heavy pull like that of a revolver. After the shot is fired, the action of the slide ejects the spent shell and cycles another round from the magazine into the chamber. While doing so, it cocks the hammer for the next shot. And like a revolver, with the hammer cocked, the trigger pull is relatively light thereafter. Once firing has been completed and the hammer is lowered back into the un-cocked position, everything starts all over again. Certainly, there were civilians and law enforcement personnel who used semiauto pistols before this general transition, but there was a dramatic shift in the market during this time for the mainstream crowd. Some cops were die-hard enthusiasts and carried SA pistols like the 1911, but most agencies moved to DA/SA models. There are a couple of advantages to a DA/SA pistol. First, since it typically has a heavier trigger pull for the first shot than a striker-fired pistol, there are some who perceive a higher degree of safety with less chance of an accidental discharge due to the heavier trigger. A lot of striker-fired pistols on the market have relatively light trigger pulls in the 4- to 6-pound range but lack a standard manual safety. Some have trigger safeties, but those are not as effective as an honest-toGod safety mechanism that renders the weapon completely inert. personaldefenseworld.com


A second advantage is in the case of a misfire. If there is a misfire with a striker-fired pistol, the slide must be cycled manually to re-cock the striker to try again. With a DA/SA pistol, a hammer is involved rather than a striker, and if a misfire occurs, the user can simply pull the trigger again without having to manually cycle the slide. Of course, there is a downside to DA/ SA pistols. Since the first shot requires a heavy trigger pull and the second one requires only a light pull, it’s often difficult for shooters to quickly make that transition between shots. This is where striker-fired pistols have the advantage—they offer a consistent trigger pull from the first shot to the last. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for you, and to familiarize yourself with the weapon your are using and train accordingly.

recoil than one in 9mm, and most people find it a touch harder to control. That’s why I was glad to have some extra time with the Springfield XD-E. During some testing I was conducting on other compact and semi-compact pistols with a friend, we were able to compare the big-bore XD-E against similarly sized (and smaller) 9mm pistols. Oddly enough, the XD-E was one of the softest-shooting pistols in the bunch despite its compact profile. My friend confirmed my own observations. I’ll admit that when I first saw the XD-E, I didn’t think it would handle that well. The shape of the grip looked a little square and blocky to me. However, even though it doesn’t exactly mold to the hand like some “ergo” grips, whatever formula Springfield used, it worked. Shooting full-power .45 ACP loads was an almost pleasurable experience. Springfield adorns the grip with its “GripZone” texturing, which helps the user get a pretty good purchase on the pistol. The sides are left bare and can add to the user’s comfort during con-

HANDS-ON TESTING All things being equal, I prefer the .45 ACP round over the 9mm. It’s more “decisive.” Of course, all things are not equal. A .45 ACP pistol has a little more

PERFORMANCE

SPRINGFIELD XD-E LOAD

VELOCITY

ACCURACY AVERAGE

BEST

Federal 230 HST +P

862

1.79

1.54

Sig Sauer 230 V-Crown JHP

798

1.36

1.13

Speer 230 Gold Dot

697

1.61

1.34

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 15 yards.

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cealed carry since rough texturing won’t be rubbing against the body. My own druthers would be to have the texturing all around so that it’s in contact with the entire length of my fingers, but some may not like this for carry purposes. Between the group testing and the testing I did on my own with the XD-E, approximately 450 rounds were fired without a single malfunction. It was utterly reliable with ball ammo and several varieties of hollow points. Aside from its excellent recoil control and reliability, another standout feature is the XD-E’s accuracy. I tested it at 15 yards with hollow points from Federal, Speer and Sig Sauer. The normal protocol for a pistol with such a short barrel is to test its accuracy at 7 yards. However, during the group testing done earlier on, it was apparent the XD-E was quite the shooter, so I bumped the distance to 15 yards and wasn’t disappointed. For the accuracy trials, I tried some of my favorite .45 ACP loads from Sig Sauer, Federal and Speer. The XD-E performed quite well, with its best five-shot group coming in at 1.13 inches. The best average group was 1.34 inches. Both were shot with Sig Sauer’s V-Crown JHP ammunition, though the other brands were also accurate and would do quite nicely for defensive purposes. Contributing to the excellent results was the silky performance of the trigger. I’ve mentioned before that the DA trigger pull on the XD-E is as good as any stock revolver I’ve tried. It measures just 9.4 pounds. And the SA pull is even better, coming in at 3.56 pounds on my Lyman gauge. It’s obvious that the engineers used all their tricks on this marvel of technology, because there’s really not much else you could ask for out of a pistol with this type of operating system. The XD-E is a seamless blend of both traditional and modern technologies. It combines the lightweight benefits of a polymer-framed pistol with the positive aspects of a DA/SA operating system. Are you a purist who likes to rock a 1911? The XD-E has you covered. All of that gets packed into a slim package that’s ideal for appendix or inside-thewaistband carry—and you get the power of the .45 ACP to boot. For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 65


DIY UPGRADE

DEFENDING YOURSELF IN THE DARK JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT EASIER BY DR. MARTIN D. TOPPER Sheriff Pat Garrett ended the crime spree of Billy the Kid with a world-famous “shot in the dark.” However, the good sheriff actually fired two shots at Billy, and the second missed completely. In today’s crowded world, the last thing you want to do is miss, so many of us have installed night sights on our pistols. Recently, XS Sight Systems introduced its new, state-of-the-art F8 night sights, which have a number of features to enhance your accuracy in low light and promote fast slide manipulations.

GETTING ON TARGET The new F8 sights have two tritium lamps placed in a “straight-eight” configuration similar to that developed by Heinie. F8s are also taller than other night sights. These two features will help you get on target quickly. The straight-eight pattern is quicker to correctly line up in the dark than three-dot systems, and the increase in height really makes them stand out in daylight. Daytime sight acquisitions are also helped by the overhang on the backside of the rear sight, which reduces glare dramatically. In addition, the F8 rear sight notch has a U-shaped notch that lets the shooter see more of the target than a square-cut notch. When this wider notch is combined with a fairly thin front sight blade and a large photoluminescent ring around the tritium lamp, the shooter will find it

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66 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

XS Sight Systems’ new F8 sights are powered by tritium so they’re easy to pick up in low light.

The tritium inserts glow in the dark on their own, but the front lamp is surrounded by a chargeable photoluminescent ring that draws your eye in very quickly.

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fast and easy to place the dot where the shot needs to go in just about any light. The F8s also have a couple of features that promote smooth gun handling. The edges of the rear sight are nicely rounded to prevent cuts on the shooter’s hands when making a fast reload or clearing a stoppage, and the sides are cut at an angle for a better view of the target. Lastly, the front face of the rear sight has a cocking ledge to facilitate one-handed manipulations of the slide.

RINGING STEEL I compared the F8 sights with two other brands of night sights in a very dark room, and they were all equally bright. However, when I used a 500-lumen SureFire tactical flashlight to charge the F8’s photoluminescent front sight ring for two minutes, that large orange ring was very bright for at least 15. This helped me get on target more quickly than other night sights for half an hour. At the range in daylight, the tall F8 sights were highly visible when shooting steel plates at 15 yards and when shooting at a dueling tree. Overall, the F8 sights’ performance was excellent. For more information, go to xssights.com.

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“THE STRAIGHT-EIGHT PATTERN IS QUICKER TO CORRECTLY LINE UP IN THE DARK THAN THREE-DOT SYSTEMS…”

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 67


CZ’S NEXT-GEN 9MM RETURNS IN PISTOL FORM FOR HOME DEFENSE |

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68 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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For several decades, PCCs seemed to fall out of grace, but they’ve experienced a tremendous comeback in recent years. One of the companies that is taking advantage of this market is CZ-USA, especially with its Scorpion EVO 3 series. These weapons are descendants of the infamous Skorpion vz. 61 that was designed in the late 1950s. A mere 10.6 inches long with its wire stock folded, the Skorpion was initially chambered in .32 ACP before 9x19mm, 9x18mm and .380 ACP versions were offered. With a rate of fire of 850 to 900 rounds per minute, the Skorpion became a favorite of both government and anti-government forces throughout Europe. It could be considered one of the first personaldefense weapons, or PDWs. In 2009, CZ introduced the nextgeneration Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun, which eventually led to semi-auto carbine and pistol versions for the U.S. market. Which brings me to the subject of this review. I recently received two Scorpions for testing: an EVO 3 S1 Pistol with a flash can and a folding arm brace as well as a 16-inch-barreled carbine. Both are chambered in 9mm.

BY ROB GARRETT

PISTOL-CALIBER CARBINES (PCCs) are nothing new. During World War II, for example, the British-designed De Lisle was based on a Lee-Enfield Mk III bolt action but used an 8.25-inch, .45 ACP barrel from a Thompson submachine gun. The action was further modified to accept a Colt 1911 magazine, giving it a magazine capacity of seven rounds. However, what made the De Lisle so effective was its integral suppressor, making it ideal for covert raids and assassinations.

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SCORPION SPECS Each Scorpion EVO 3 takes advantage of advances in manufacturing and materials, and features upper and lower receivers that are manufactured from polymer. The action utilizes a closed-bolt blowback operating system that will lock open after the last round is fired. The charging handle is also reminiscent of the legendary HK MP5’s—it’s in the same position and doesn’t reciprocate while firing. The upper features an integral Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver, giving the user ample space for optics and other accessories. CZ includes a set of removable iron sights consisting of a front sight post and a rear peep sight. The former is adjustable for elevation while the latter is adjustable for windage. Both are protected from impacts by sturdy wings. The lower receiver has a number of advanced features that add to the platform’s handling and operation. The magazine well is flared for quick reloads while the triggerguard is enlarged for use with gloves. The pistol grip is designed with a prominent swell at the

SPEC BOX

CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1 PISTOL WITH BRACE CALIBER:

9mm

BARREL:

7.72 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT: GRIP:

21-29.4 inches 6.5 pounds (empty) Polymer

SIGHTS:

Front post, adjustable rear

ACTION:

Blowback-operated semi-auto

FINISH:

Matte black

CAPACITY:

20+1

MSRP:

$999

base. While this may not be aesthetically pleasing to some, it serves as a ledge to prevent the Scorpion from slipping out of the user’s hand. The pistol grip is also long enough to accommodate even large hands and has vertical serrations on its front- and backstraps. CZ understands ergonomics, and the operating controls on the Scorpion are designed for gross motor skills. The ambidextrous safety features a short but easily accessible paddle. I found that I was able to reengage the safety by using my trigger finger. The ambidextrous magazine release consists of a single lever at the rear of the magazine well with two wings that extend to both sides of the triggerguard. The bolt release is a large lever on the left side of the receiver, just forward of the safety, and it’s perfectly placed to drop the bolt after inserting a magazine. However, this is a single-sided control, and left-handed shooters need to make adjustments to their manual of arms. With the safety engaged, the bolt cannot be cycled. The Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Pistol that I tested features the longer forend that is found on the 16-inch-barreled carbine as well as a 7.7-inch barrel with 1/2x28 threading. It also comes standard with a 5-inch KAK Flash Can installed. While this looks like a suppressor, the Flash Can is actually designed to prevent the user’s hand from coming in contact with the gas and muzzle flash from the short

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 69


THE SCORPION STRIKES AGAIN! |

barrel. The Flash Can is easy to remove and replace with a suppressor, too. The gun also came with an SB Tactical folding arm brace that, when folded, reduces the gun’s overall length by 9.25 inches. The arm brace is easily removed by pressing a detent pin and then sliding it off of the receiver. Finally, the trigger on my EVO 3 S1 Pistol broke at 9.69 pounds of pressure with limited overtravel. GETTING SPARC’D The folks at Vortex Optics sent me one of their SPARC AR red-dot sights for testing. This lightweight, compact red dot features a 2-MOA dot reticle. You can adjust the reticle’s brightness with controls located at the rear. Ten illumination settings are available, and the lowest two are compatible with night-vision optics. Powered by a single AAA battery, the SPARC AR will shut down automatically after 12 hours if it isn’t in use. The integral mount is adjustable for height, and rubber lens covers are standard. With a street price of around $200, the Vortex SPARC AR offers a lot of value for the money. On the first range trip, I installed Sig Sauer’s excellent SRD9 suppressor on the EVO 3 S1 Pistol and ran three proven subsonic loads through the gun. (It’s also worth noting that CZ offers its own Scorpion-centric sound suppressors now.) The first was Federal’s 124-grain American Eagle Suppressor load. Traditionally, subsonic 9mm ammunition is normally loaded with a heavier 147-grain projectile. The American Eagle load averaged 1,101 fps—a little hot but still close to subsonic. This is a great plinking load that is economical and reasonably quiet. Next up were Federal’s 150-grain Micro HSTs, which were designed for compact pistols like the Glock 43 and S&W M&P

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70 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

The test Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Pistol came equipped with an SB Tactical folding arm brace (above), a KAK Flash Can (above right), an M-LOK handguard for accessories and adjustable iron sights (right) that can easily be removed if needed.

Shield. Out of the 7.7-inch barrel, the HST load averaged 933 fps and was the quietest of the loads tested. Then came Gorilla’s 135-grain Silverback solidcopper hollow points (SCHPs), which are designed for controlled expansion. This load averaged 1,016 fps. I tested the pistol at 50 yards from a benchrest. While Vortex’s website states that the SPARC AR is not ideal for use with a magnifier, I installed my Aimpoint 3X magnifier for the accuracy tests. I did not experience any serious issues, and the magnifier allowed me to get the most out of the Scorpion. As you can see in the accompanying table, my groups were all under 2 inches with the test ammunition. However, I will say that the 9-pound trigger pull proved to be a challenge for shooting groups. My initial shots did not reflect the pistol’s true potential, but after a couple hundred rounds ringing steel, the trigger smoothed up and my performance improved. The arm brace was comfortable to use and, unlike some designs, very easy to unlock and fold.

CARBINE TIME After having fun with the pistol, I broke out the carbine, which has the same features as the pistol with two exceptions. First, it has a 16-inch barrel with a muzzle brake installed. Second, the carbine comes standard with a folding, adjustable stock. As on the pistol, the stock can be removed by simply depressing a detent. Of course, it goes without saying that placing the stock on the pistol is illegal unless the pistol has been registered as a short-barreled rifle (SBR). The trigger pull on the carbine averaged 9.5 pounds and was very consistent. On the range, I used the same optic setup that I had used on the pistol, and tested the carbine with four different loads. The first was Federal’s 124-grain American Eagle Syntech training ammunition, which averaged 1,309 fps and produced a group that measured 1.7 inches. Gorilla’s 115-grain Silverback SCHPs averaged 1,282 fps with a 1.5-inch group. Sig’s 115-grain V-Crown JHPs were the hottest rounds, with an average velocity of personaldefenseworld.com


PERFORMANCE

CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1 PISTOL WITH BRACE LOAD

VELOCITY

ACCURACY

933

1.75

Federal American Eagle 124 Suppressor

1,101

2.00

Gorilla 135 Silverback SCHP

1,016

1.25

Federal 150 HST

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 50 yards.

1,544 fps and a 1.75-inch group. Finally, I ran the carbine with Sig’s heavier 147grain V-Crown JHPs for an average velocity of 1,130 fps and a 1.5-inch group. I found the carbine a pleasure to shoot, and the adjustable stock was comfortable and easy to use. Also, both the carbine and the pistol were 100-percent reliable with a wide variety of ammunition, including Super Vel’s 90-grain +P rounds, which proved unchallenging for both CZs.

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PARTING SHOTS The Scorpions have a few operational quirks that took a little getting accustomed to. First, as previously noted, the bolt cannot be retracted if the safety is on. Personally, I would like to be able to load, unload or even clear a malfunction with the safety in the “on” position. The second item I would like to see is a slightly larger grasping tab on the charging handle. I found I was constantly banging my finger on the raised ridge just below the handle.

Other than that, I had a lot of fun with the Scorpions. In fact, I’m looking forward to testing the newest version of the Scorpion—the EVO 3 S2 Micro—which comes with a 4.12-inch barrel for an overall length of just 16.35 and 23.35 inches with the stock closed and extended, respectively. This should make for a great briefcase and console gun. Pistol-caliber carbines are here to stay, and CZ-USA is clearly at the forefront of the market. In many situations, these are viable options to a rifle caliber. Given the option of a suppressor and the wide variety of 9mm loads, the Scorpion has a lot to offer. With a rich heritage and a diverse product line, CZ-USA continues to expand its offerings to meet the ever-changing U.S. market. If you haven’t looked at the company’s catalog lately, make sure you visit cz-usa.com.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 71


GEAR UPKEEP

dual carriers that face both magazines in the same direction, or carry two single-pouch carriers.

DURING THE FIGHT

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO KEEP YOUR MAGAZINES IN FIGHTING SHAPE BY DAVID KENIK

Label your magazines so you can keep track of any problems that develop. The author uses “C” prefixes for his carry mags and “P” prefixes for his practice mags.

Proper magazine management will ensure that you have a working magazine where you need it and when you need it. This encompasses how you test, label, carry and utilize your weapon’s magazines. Most instructors state that spare magazines should be oriented in the carrier with the bullets facing forward. That was my unbroken mantra as well until I met a shooter who carried spare magazines with the bullets facing backward, and he was able to consistently reload

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72 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

very quickly. Now I believe bullets can face whatever direction that you prefer. However, regardless of which direction they face, spare magazines must always be carried in the same direction. When your life depends on a fast reload, you don’t want to have to slow down to look at your magazine to figure out which way it is facing. The same goes for dual magazine carriers. Some manufacturers actually make dual carriers designed so the magazines face opposite directions. Don’t use these. Use only

During practice, as you would during a gunfight, when the gun runs dry, the empty magazine should be dropped to the ground and a fresh one inserted. If a reload is needed in a fight, the most important thing is to get your gun recharged and ready for use as soon as possible. Don’t take time to store empty magazines on your body, as that takes precious time away from your ability to defend your life. Empty magazines have no value to you whatsoever in a gunfight. If, after the fight ends, you decide to recharge your gun that has a partially loaded magazine, the partial magazine, unlike an empty one, does have value since there are still cartridges in it. Some shooters like to store partial magazines on their body to keep them within reach if needed. While that does makes sense, the time that you spend trying to get the partial magazine into your pocket or carrier increases the amount of time that your gun has a loaded chamber but no magazine. If the fight erupts again during this magazine transition, you could get caught short-handed on ammunition. The best practice is to drop the partial magazine to the ground and reload your gun as fast as possible. Afterwards, if it is safe to do so and there is enough time at that point in the fight, bend down and pick up your partial magazine and store it in a pocket. This approach should be used on the practice range as well, as you will fight the way you train. Partial magazines should not go back into your magazine carrier. They should go in a pocket so that you know that all of the magazines in your carrier are always full. Likewise, when you pick up your empties, don’t put them in your carrier.

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Do you carry spare magazines with the bullets facing forwards or backwards? It doesn’t actually matter as long as you are always consistent.

TOTAL RELIABILITY The weakest point of all semi-auto firearms is the magazine. It is important to understand that magazines are disposable. When they stop working perfectly, they should never be used for defense. But don’t just throw them away. They still have great value

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on the range. Defective magazines offer a great opportunity for training to clear jams and reload. Since the proper way to reload is to drop empty and partial magazines on the ground, these magazines will get damaged. Dents in the body, bent feed lips and broken baseplates are common. Because of this

damage, it is vital to have a set of magazines for carry that are separate from the ones used for practice. Your carry magazines should be tested to be sure that they work, then shot every few months to confirm that they still function perfectly. Carry magazines must be pristine and need to be treated with the utmost care, never dropped on the ground. Your life depends on them functioning flawlessly when you need them. It’s good practice to exchange the springs every year or so to ensure that they are always good and strong. As your carry magazines age and wear, turn them into practice magazines and buy new ones. With gun control legislation and so-called “assault weapon” bans a never-ending threat, I suggest buying numerous spare magazines so you don’t get caught short when the supply gets expensive or dries up completely. There is no point in having a firearm for which you can’t buy magazines. Since magazine failures are a fact of life, it is important to keep track of which magazines have problems. Use a silver leafing pen, a label maker or a self-adhesive sticker to mark the basepads. My carry magazines are labeled C1, C2, C3, etc., and my practice magazines are P1, P2, P3, etc. When I have a failure, I check which magazine it is and keep a mental note. A single magazine failure could be a fluke or an ammunition problem, but if I get more than one failure on the same carry magazine, it is immediately relegated to practice range use only and replaced with a new one. New magazines, like new guns, should be tested before you rely on them for defensive purposes. I have had new magazines with followers jam and new loaded magazines with loose rounds rattling around inside. Test them fully loaded a few times and also check them several times with just one round loaded,

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 73


GEAR UPKEEP

MUST-HAVE GEAR

1

1 • ARREDONDO

MAG CLEANING BRUSH Arredondo’s magazine cleaning brush works equally well on both magazines and the pistol’s magazine well. Its synthetic bristles won’t scratch surfaces, and the end of the handle features a post to ease removal of magazine baseplates. (arredondoaccessories.com)

2 • CALDWELL

MAG CHARGER UNIVERSAL PISTOL LOADER Caldwell’s Universal Pistol Magazine Loader fits any magazine. Loading 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and .45 ACP rounds, the Universal Loader uses a rotating sizing wheel to adjust for various magazine widths. Accepting both single- and double-stack magazines from all manufacturers, magazines are quickly locked in place with knob. After dropping a round in the loading port, all it takes is a squeeze of the handle. (btibrands.com)

by spacing two of its four carriers in a stacked configuration. Two sets of dual carriers are mounted to a curved support to keep the carriers close together and easy to reach. The curve in the support makes it comfortable to wear. Available for both right and left sides, there are 10 sizes available to fit numerous magazines. (comp-tac.com)

4 • ELITE TACTICAL SYSTEMS

RAPID RECOGNITION SYSTEM Elite Tactical Systems’ Rapid Recognition System (RRS) consists of a set of colored followers and base inserts designed to fit ETS’ Glock magazines. Available in green, orange, yellow, blue and red, the RRS allows quick and easy magazine identification. If you use different magazines for various bullet types or powder charges, the RRS will make keeping track of them easier. They are also available for the AR-15. (etsgroup.us)

magazines, protecting them from banging around in your shooting bag. Adjustable hook-and-loop tabs allow the tote to fit most magazines. (goutdoorsproducts.com)

BELTFEED MAG POUCH

5 • GPS

6 • MAGPUMP

Belt space is limited, and that can be an issue for shooters who carry more than two spare magazines. Comp-Tac’s Beltfeed quad magazine carrier is designed to eliminate belt congestion

PISTOL MAGAZINE TOTE

9MM MAGAZINE LOADER

Magazines don’t function well with dents and bent feed lips. Supplied to me by Brownells, the GPS Pistol Magazine Tote safely carries 10

After much success with its AR-15 loader, MagPump has introduced a model for 9mm magazines. The major advantage over other loaders is that

3 • COMP-TAC

as that is the point where the spring CHANGING MAGS places the least upward pressure When a gun locks back on an empty on the follower. Make sure that they magazine, most shooters I see drop feed properly and that the slide locks the magazine, then reach for their back on them when empty. It’s OK to spare. I recommend doing so in test your gun and magazines’ the opposite order. functioning with range I teach that the spare ammo, but it is imperative magazine should be obtained to also test them with the Feed lips before ejecting a magazine same ammunition you are easy to from the gun. It is not actually carry in your gun. It is vital damage, so keep an eye important when changing an to ensure that your carry on them. empty magazine, but it is vital ammo works in both your when changing out a partial gun and your magazines. magazine. Since you will do on Never underestimate the the street what you train to do power of Murphy’s law.

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2

on the range, all reloads, from empty or partial magazines, should be done the same way. The fresh magazine should be obtained before dropping a partial magazine because there is a possibility that the spare magazine may not actually be there when you need it. In the “fog of war,” you may have forgotten that you already reloaded, the spare may have fallen out in the preceding scuffle, or you many have actually forgotten to put the spare in your carrier. Yup, I have done that. Partial magazines should not be ejected until you are sure that a spare

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3

5

7

6 8

4

7 • RECOVER TACTICAL

MAGAZINE CLIPS

there is no need to hand-feed rounds into the loader one by one. Just dump up to 50 rounds into the hopper and load them with a single push of the lever. The pump-action lever self-sorts ammunition in the proper direction. The MagPump 9mm Magazine Loader includes six adaptable retainers to fit various pistol models from CZ, Glock, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson and Springfield Armory and can load up to 30 rounds in 30 seconds. (magpump.com)

is available. Train the same way with empty magazines so you execute the same action the same way all the time, without needing to think about choosing which method to use. For the fastest magazine change, train to eject your magazine just after you grasp your spare magazine. Then bring your spare magazine up to the gun while the ejected magazine is falling to the ground. Some of the points that I brought up may seem insignificant, but the reality is that in a gunfight you want to have all of the advantages, no matter how small, on your side.

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Recover Tactical’s Magazine Clips allow you to carry spare magazines without the need for a magazine carrier. The Magazine Clip is a combination of a magazine baseplate and a clip that replaces the standard factory magazine baseplate. The clip offers the ability to carry a magazine in a pocket, on the belt or clipped to a carrier or gear bag. An adapter is included to replace the clip when not needed. Recover Tactical offers versions for the G17, G19, G21 and G43 as well as the S&W M&P Shield. (recovertactical.com)

8 • TTI/BROWNELLS

BASE PAD KITS Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI) is offering Brownells-branded Base Pad Kits for Smith & Wesson M&P and Glock pistols. Available in black, red, blue and gray, they are CNC-machined from billets of aluminum. The extended bases add five to six rounds and include extra-long magazine springs. The pushpin design makes it easy to attach and remove these add-ons. The extended pads can be used for both carry and competition. (brownells.com)

Join the community for Gunsmiths, Hobby Gunsmiths and Serious Firearm Enthusiasts!

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 75


WHEELHOUSE

RUGER TURNS UP THE HEAT WITH SOME NEW .327 FEDERAL MAGNUM FIREPOWER BY WILLIAM BELL From the mid-1800s to about the mid-1900s, .32-caliber handgun cartridges were pretty popular for target shooting, self-defense and even law enforcement. The primary reason probably had to do with the small handguns produced to take cartridges like the .32 S&W, .32 Long and .32 ACP. Attitudes towards what kind of calibers were truly effective man-stoppers began to change, however, and today these mostly obsolete cartridges and the guns that shoot them have been thrown into the “mouse gun” category. One of the .32 cartridges that challenged this classification was the .32-20 Winchester, a rifle/ handgun round that packed a pretty good punch. Another try was the .32 H&R Magnum that came along over 30 years ago but has fallen into virtual obscurity. Federal pioneered the newest .32—the .327 Federal Magnum—and it’s more along the lines of the .32-20. This cartridge provides some pretty impressive ballistics and lands somewhere between the .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum. It’ll launch a 0.313-inch jacketed bullet weighing between 75 to 120 grains at roughly 1,400 to 1,700 fps from a handgun, and it does so with minimal recoil. This makes it a good option for shooters who are recoil sensitive. The .327 Federal Magnum can also be chambered in small-frame revolvers, upping the

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round count from five to six, and it’ll make a mid-sized revolver a sevenshooter instead of a sixgun. One such revolver is the Ruger GP100, a traditional DA/SA design that was originally introduced in 1985 as a .357 Magnum for the law enforcement market. Now, in an exclusive agreement with well-known firearms distributor Lipsey’s, Ruger is producing a special-edition GP100 in .327 Federal Magnum with a seven-shot cylinder. This mid-sized wheelgun features a 5-inch barrel with a full-length rib on top and a half-lug on the bottom to protect the ejector rod. The Patridge-style front sight has a gold bead, and the rear sight is fully adjustable with a white

outline around the notch. What’s more, this blued-steel beauty comes with a fine set of smooth walnut grips.

BLUED BEAUTY I first laid hands on one of these revolvers at a media event at Gunsite Academy in sunny Arizona late last year. I’m a big fan of 5-inch-barreled revolvers with blued steel and fine wooden grips—I had to have one! So, later, I received one for testing. It came in a gray plastic case with a security padlock, an owner’s manual and a takedown pin. A quick once-over showed that the Ruger was a top-quality piece. The grips felt good in my hand,

The seven-shot cylinder’s locking notches are offset for increased strength. Also note the thickness of the frame, the long ejector rod and the stainless hammer.

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and the gun’s balance is out front where I like it. The DA trigger pull was smooth while the SA pull was crisp at 5.47 pounds. The trigger is also smooth-faced, nicely rounded and stainless like the hammer to contrast nicely with the rest of the metal components. The .327 Federal Magnum cylinder will also accommodate .32 H&R Magnum, .32 Long and .32 S&W cartridges. With the .32 S&W, it’s like shooting a .22 rimfire—great for beginners. There seems to be a renewed interest lately in the .327 Federal Magnum, and it’s not difficult to find ammunition for it. Since it is a Federal creation, I wanted to begin with the company’s 85-grain HydraShok JHPs and 100-grain American Eagle FMJs. I also used Speer’s 100-

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SPEC BOX

RUGER GP1OO CALIBER:

.327 Federal Magnum

BARREL:

5 inches

OA LENGTH: WEIGHT: GRIPS:

10.38 inches 39 ounces (empty) Walnut

SIGHTS:

Gold bead front, adjustable rear

ACTION:

DA/SA

FINISH:

Blued

CAPACITY: MSRP:

7 $869

grain Gold Dot HPs and two loads from DoubleTap: one using 75-grain TAC-XPs and another with 120-grain Hard-Cast Solids. Finally, I downsized to the .32 H&R Magnum and used Black Hills’ 85-grain JHPs. The 5-inch barrel makes for a challenge when buying a holster. I wanted a strong-side belt rig that would ride high and even offer some concealment, which led me to a Sourdough Pancake from Simply Rugged Holsters. Crafted from cowhide, it has a deep fit that covers the triggerguard and keeps the gun secure but a wide-open top for quick presentations. The bottom is also open, giving moisture and debris a way out. Finally, with its black finish, the belt slots allow for strong-side or cross-draw carry on the hip.

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WHEELHOUSE

:

The 5-inch barrel has a full-length rib and a full underlug to protect the ejector rod. Up front you’ll find a gold bead sight.

The author tested the GP100 with a set of R7-327 speedloaders from 5 Star Firearms, which came with a helpful aluminum loading block.

I also chose a pair of seven-shot aluminum speedloaders from 5 Star Firearms. The R7-327 loaders fit my GP100 to a “T” and allows me to quickly load seven rounds by just inserting the noses of the cartridges in the chambers and giving the activation knob a slight twist. The loaders came with a handy aluminum loading block, forming an impressive set.

PUNCHING PAPER At the range, I chronographed each load for velocity figures and then set up my sandbag rest to obtain some groups. I shot three 5-shot groups in SA mode at 20 yards with each load. And right off the bat, I noticed that all of the loads shot close to the point of aim. My best five-shot group measured 0.98 inches with the Federal American Eagle rounds, which also had the smallest average group size. Second place went to the DoubleTap 120-grain Hard-Cast Solids, which created a 1.36-inch cluster and had the second best average group size. I had one hiccup—one of the American Eagle cartridges was a flat-out dud— but as you can see in the table, none

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78 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

of my groups were disappointing. The .32 H&R Magnum load was also very mild in terms of recoil, while the DoubleTap 120-grainers had the most recoil. However, none of the loads produced a huge muzzle flash. Next, I loaded the GP100 and my 5 Star speedloaders with the American Eagle rounds and strapped on my Simply Rugged holster. I set up a Birchwood Casey B-27 silhouette target at the 3-yard line and went through a combat qualification course.

Of course, since this GP100 holds seven rounds, I used seven instead of the usual six cartridges per stage of the course, which consisted of strongand support-hand-only point-shoulder shooting at 3 yards, then moving back to 7 yards and shooting three doubleand triple-taps, then a body armor drill twice. The last stage involves a barricade set up 15 yards from the target. I fired two shots from the left side while standing, three from the rights side while standing and two

PERFORMANCE

RUGER GP1OO LOAD

VELOCITY

.32 H&R Magnum Black Hills 85 JHP

1,015

ACCURACY AVERAGE

BEST

2.02

1.44

AVERAGE

BEST

.327 Federal Magnum DoubleTap 75 TAC-XP

1,702

2.33

1.83

DoubleTap 120 Hard-Cast Solid

1,447

1.70

1.36

Federal 85 Hydra-Shok JHP

1,436

1.93

1.71

Federal American Eagle 100 FMJ

1,543

1.51

0.98

Speer 100 Gold Dot HP

1,538

1.79

1.61

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for three 5-shot groups at 20 yards.

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more while kneeling on that side. All of the shooting started from the holster, and between strings I lowered the gun but performed a 360-degree threat assessment. I ended up scoring a 344-15X out of 350 possible points. I managed to blow a shot out into the 8-ring. The Simply Rugged holster worked well; I had no trouble drawing or reholstering without having to look at the rig. There were also no ejection fumbles or malfunctions;

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reloading was smooth with the easyto-use 5 Star speedloaders. In the end, the GP100 performed like a champ. It pointed naturally, which I credit to its balance and smooth grips. Thanks to the gold bead up front, finding the sights was easy, even in somewhat subdued lighting. The weight of the gun and grip design also took care of any recoil and muzzle flip. I was impressed all over again by this Ruger revolver. As I said, I had shot this GP100

before at Gunsite, but this was my first go at paper targets instead of steel, and I came away pleased. I tested the GP100 in colder weather and found that it would conceal rather well under my usual coats, and it even did OK in a windbreaker. I’m also very impressed with the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge as a whole, and shooting an animate target, I’m not so sure there’d be a substantial difference between it and the 9mm, .38 Special +P or even the .357 Magnum depending on the load used. It’s all about shot placement. I really think this seven-shooter could be good all-around choice for home defense and, given the right carry mode, self-defense outside the home. And I can tell you right now that Lipsey’s is not going to get this test gun back! For more information, visit ruger.com and lipseys.com.

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HIGH-SPEED 9MM |

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80 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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he Titan Operator is Atlas Gun Works’ first foray into defensive handguns. The company originally built its reputation by crafting race guns for IDPA and IPSC competitors. Atlas Gun Works was born out of the owner’s frustration with his competition guns breaking repeatedly. Adam Nilson started shooting in USPSA matches in 2009 with a Sig and then moved to a Glock. Not long after that he switched to a used STI Edge that he purchased from a classified ad. When that pistol started having problems after a couple of months, Adam replaced it with another used gun. He made his way to the Nationals, but that gun developed problems during the competition. So, Adam decided that he needed a new pistol. He discussed the long wait required to

T

ATLAS GUN WORKS’ FIRST DUTY-GRADE PISTOL IS READY TO PROTECT AND SERVE BY DAVID KENIK

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have one built with his machinist friend, Tod West, who suggested that they build one themselves. The resulting gun ran perfectly. In 2012, Adam and Tod explored the idea of building guns professionally. But they decided against it because the market was crowded. Then, in 2013, Adam had Tod install a Phoenix Trinity steel grip on one of his guns and other competitors took notice. Tod came to understand that steel and aluminum grips flexed less than typical polymer grips, and were a real game changer for the platform. The thought of building guns professionally sizzled once more, but again they held off. A problem with a shooting partner’s new gun (not built by Tod) in 2014 proved to be pivotal. Tod’s shooting partner brought the gun to Al Zitta of ZM Weapons for repairs. Al quickly got the gun running perfectly. Tod’s shooting partner then announced, “I understand the difference between a $4,000 gun and a $5,000 gun.” With that in mind, Adam and Tod conceived the idea of a forming a company to make the best guns possible. Tod spent some time with Al Zitta, learning his techniques, and thus Atlas Gun Works was born.

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FIGHTIN’ TITAN |

:

The U-notch rear sight, with its glarereducing serrations, is paired with a fiberoptic front sight. Also note the ambidextrous EGW thumb safety and skeletonized hammer.

THE ATLAS DIFFERENCE The new Titan Operator came about because of similar circumstances. Some southern California police departments approached Atlas Gun Words to build pistols with higher capacities and greater performance than standard duty-type guns. Adam and Tod took a hard look at what guns were being used and determined that many of the double-stack 1911 guns that were available were not reliable enough for duty. The 9mm Titan Operator was designed to change that. The difference between Atlas’ completion guns and the Titan Operator is that the latter is fitted with durable fixed sights. The trigger pull is also heavier—between 3 and 3.5 pounds—while Atlas’ competition guns usually sport 2-pound triggers. Slightly heavier springs are also installed to ensure flawless feeding and reliability— absolutely critical when lives are at stake. All of Atlas’ guns are 2011-style designs, with slides and frames custom manufactured to the company’s exact specifications. Adam explained to me that one of their advantages is that they are true 2011 gunsmiths. Building a 2011 is quite different than building a 1911, and it takes specialized knowledge and skills to do it right. And, unlike other builders who simply purchase parts and assemble guns, every Atlas gun is built and

“…MY INITIAL IMPRESSIONS WERE JUST WHAT I’D EXPECT FROM A PISTOL OF SUCH A HIGH CALIBER.” personaldefenseworld.com


SPEC BOX

ATLAS GUN WORKS TITAN OPERATOR CALIBER:

9mm

BARREL:

5 inches

WEIGHT: GRIP:

44 ounces (empty) Rubber

SIGHTS:

Fiber-optic front, U-notch rear

ACTION:

SA

FINISH:

Black DLC

CAPACITY: MSRP:

fitted by hand. They check and perfect every single part. Depending on the condition of the parts when they’re received, it can take between 20 to 35 hours to fine-tune all of the components and assemble one gun. Regardless of the time required, however, the end result is the same: a gun that runs perfectly. The frames and slides are purposely manufactured oversized and fitted in-house by Atlas so that they mate perfectly. This ensures that they run smoothly. It also means that Atlas’ slides and frames are not interchangeable between guns; they are custom-fitted to mate only to each other. Every Atlas slide is a tri-top design. Rather than a round top, the angled cuts add some visual appeal and help reduce weight. There are also numerous lightening cuts along the top and sides that serve the same purpose while providing a solid gripping surface for slide manipulations. The Titan Operator comes standard with a fiber-optic front sight and Atlas’ own U-notch tactical rear sight, which uses a Novak-style cut. Tritium night sights and all-black sights are also available. Like all other Atlas pistols, within the slide is a 5-inch KKM barrel. Rather than use precut barrels that only need slight modifications for installation, Atlas uses oversized barrels that have to be completely hand-fitted for each gun. The gunsmith first fits the barrel to the slide, then to the frame. This of course means greater accuracy and reliability.

8.5 inches

17+1 $3,999

frame, Atlas hand-shapes and contours the grip to fit the frame perfectly. Custom rubber grip tape is then affixed to the grip. Shooters may also choose an aggregate tape or skip the grip tape altogether. The pistol is also fitted with Atlas’ own tactical magazine well. Made of sturdy aluminum, its wide mouth is designed for quick and easy reloads. A loaded magazine will extended below the frame slightly, and contours on the sides of the magazine well make it easier to grip the magazine’s basepad for removal if needed. For controls, the pistol uses a standard magazine release and a heavy-duty, ambidextrous EGW thumb safety with wide paddles that are easy to

:

OA LENGTH:

The Titan Operator features a 5-inch KKM bull barrel, a Picatinny rail and a recoil spring assembly tuned for duty with a tool-less guide rod. The aluminum X-Line trigger, available with either a curved or flat face, is tuned for a pull weight between 3 and 3.5 pounds.

FRAME & FINISHING For the Titan Operator, Atlas Gun Works uses an aluminum Phoenix Trinity grip frame. As mentioned, metal flexes less than the typical 2011 plastic grips, increasing your recoil control. After the slide is mated to the personaldefenseworld.com

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FIGHTIN’ TITAN |

PERFORMANCE

ATLAS GUN WORKS TITAN OPERATOR LOAD

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84 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

:

reach but not too wide to get in the way. You’ll also notice an aluminum X-Line trigger. It is perfectly installed and adjusted for a 3- to 3.5-pound pull weight. Shooters can choose between both curved and flat triggers of various lengths. Once all of the components are assembled, the gun is taken down for final finishing, which includes cosmetic filing and sandblasting. The Titan Operator sports a diamond-like carbon (DLC) finish that offers a deep, rich black tone while being very scratch resistant. Unlike most pistols, 2011s do not use off-theshelf magazines. They need to be fitted to the gun to run reliably. So, Atlas reshapes the magazine bodies as needed to ensure that they drop free. The company also fine-tunes the feed lip geometry for reliable feeding and drills witness holes in each magazine body. Once complete, Atlas deburrs, polishes and assembles the parts into a completed magazine. Once back from the finisher, the guns are reassembled, bench-checked and test-fired. Rather than using just a few rounds like most manufactures, Atlas tests each Titan Operator pistol by firing 120 rounds.

During testing, the Titan Operator was light on recoil and ran flawlessly with all of the test loads. The author’s fiveshot groups were also very tight at 25 yards.

VELOCITY

ACCURACY AVERAGE

BEST

Black Hills 115 JHP

1,182

1.75

1.40

Black Hills 115 TAC-XP +P

1,270

1.60

1.25

Hornady 135 Critical Duty

1,106

2.00

1.60

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.

HANDS-ON TESTING When I got my hands on a Titan Operator for testing, I first racked the slide and found it exceedingly smooth, and the trigger was nice and crisp. The slide showed no rattle or play, and the barrel did not shift when pushing down on it through the ejection port. The grip safety was also perfectly mated to the frame, and the thumb safety required just enough force to ensure it wouldn’t move accidently, but not enough to be difficult to manipulate. The slide stop was also easy to disengage even with an empty magazine inserted. The trigger weighed 3.3 pounds. In short, my initial impressions were just what I’d expect from a pistol of such a high caliber. personaldefenseworld.com


“THE TITAN OPERATOR’S RECOIL WAS VERY SOFT DUE TO ITS HEFT AND SMOOTH CYCLING. I RAN SEVERAL FMJ AND HOLLOW-POINT LOADS THROUGH THE GUN AND NEVER EXPERIENCED A SINGLE MALFUNCTION…” While I started shooting many moons ago, my guns were all-steel back then. A few years later, I switched over to those with polymer frames. One of the first things that came to mind shooting the Titan Operator is how much I miss the feel and weight of shooting a gun with a metal frame. The Titan Operator’s recoil was very soft due to its heft and smooth cycling. I ran several FMJ and hollow-point loads through the gun and never experienced a single malfunction, as expected. The gun was also quite accurate out to 25 yards. In the end, it seems Atlas Gun Works is on par with the best in the business, and the Titan Operator is as good as it gets. If you’re hankering for metal in your hands and are looking for high capacity and high reliability, give the Titan Operator a closer look. For more information, visit atlasgunworks.com.

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The aluminum Phoenix Trinity grip frame is fitted with wraparound grip tape for enhanced traction, though other options are available.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 85


CUSTOM CORNER

GLOCKS HAVE NEVER LOOKED BETTER THANKS TO LONE WOLF’S DAMASCUS STEEL SLIDES BY ZACK CARLSON It’s easy to see that Damascus steel is more beautiful and elegant than most other mainstream materials today. You’ll generally find Damascus steel used in highend knives. A beautiful knife blade with exposed lines from the layers within the Damascus steel is something unlike anything else out there. Just looking at it, you can imagine a blacksmith working over a hot piece of metal, hammering mercilessly until layer after layer has been folded into the next. For those of you who have never seen something made from Damascus steel, the best way to describe it is to say that, instead of the uniform grain found on a normal block of steel, random layers are exposed and highlighted. I work for Lone Wolf Distributors, and we produce just about anything you can think of for Glock pistols. In 2016, I was approached by a company that made Damascus stainless steel billets mainly for the knife industry, but they were willing to make much larger pieces suitable for pistol slides. I was instantly intrigued, and visions of the many possibilities ran through my mind. I had seen 1911 slides and frames offered in Damascus, but never had I seen a Glock-compatible slide. Sometimes bravado says you can do anything, but then you start to wonder why no one else had made such a Glock slide in the past. Were there issues that needed to be worked out? Was there

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86 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

demand from Glock shooters for such an exclusive slide? Those were all questions that needed answers, but the curiosity was killing me.

MAKING IT HAPPEN Soon after that initial pitch, I had material specs in hand and quotes being formulated. I also needed to explore all that was required to machine a slide from Damascus steel. Because the material is made from multiple different metals all fused together, there are many things to be considered. The cost of the large Damascus billets required for slides is staggering, so we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. After the machinists were ready and the heat-treaters were on standby, the material was ordered. Once the purchase order was submitted, it suddenly became real. We were really going to do

this. Christmas came slightly early in 2016, as I got an email saying the Damascus material had been shipped. We were so excited to have the Damascus billets that we decided to bring them to the 2017 SHOT Show—the Super Bowl for the firearms industry. It was nice to bring the material and get feedback from our partners and customers to see what they thought of our project. Once the dust settled after SHOT, things began returning to normal at the shop. We still hadn’t decided on a particular style for machining the precious Damascus slides. After much debate, we settled on a custom machine pattern we had been previously offering for our stainless slides.

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“The end result is a classic look with an Old World craftsmanship feel.” The pattern had sold well on standard slides, so we expected the popularity to transfer to the Damascus slides as well. Now it was time to figure out how to fit the Damascus slides into our ever-busy slide production line, which is never an easy task given the few small batches we needed. In the meantime, between selecting the machine pattern and a spot opening up on the production line, doubts began to form. Would customers really want this pattern? What would the response be if they wanted something different? We always seem to release Product X, and the customers say, “Yeah, I love it, but can you do it with this or that change?” Once these Damascus slides were done, it would be very difficult to make them into something different. That was when the epiphany came. We had started making stainless slides in blank form. These blanks had all the internals machined yet had completely rectangular exteriors. These were initially intended for our industry partners that we make products for. On a whim, we decided to sell them on our website for retail customers as well, and they were a hit. So, we decided to make all of our Damascus slides in the blank format as well. This meant we could leave them alone until the exact moment a customer placed their order for a Damascus slide, allowing for on-demand builds with the maximum amount of customization possible.

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Each slide is machined from a blank to the customer’s specifications before it’s acid-etched to bring out all the layers within the Damascus steel.

Along with vertical front and rear serrations, Lone Wolf Distributors also offers scrollwork laser engraving to help the Damascus slide stand out even more.

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 87


CUSTOM CORNER

FINISHING TOUCHES This brings us to the 2018 SHOT Show, where we unveiled the slide blanks ready for final machine work. The reception was positive, and most onlookers were curious to see what the final retail price would be. Essentially, our idea to offer customizable blanks was validated. Following the show, we got to work making a few sample guns so customers could get an idea of what the final product would look like. Of course, when you finish machining a billet of Damascus, you must have it acid-etched to expose the different layers. Without fully finishing a slide, a customer would have a hard time visualizing the final product. We produced three initial samples. The first one was a G17-length slide that incorporated our wave front and rear serrations along with a 45-degree bevel along the top edges and front and rear bull-noses. This slide had the exposed layers of the Damascus fac-

To simplify things, customers can have the slide machined after one of Lone Wolf’s Signature Series patterns, such as #23 shown.

ing the sides. This side exposure gave the layers more real estate to make their statement. The top was able to stay a nice subdued gray that was not distracting to the eye while shooting. The second sample was intended for a G19 and was much like the first, but with the layers of Damascus exposed on top instead. The sides were left subdued gray, which was a prime spot for laser engraving. The third sample, also for a G19, was machined with vertical straight serrations at the front and rear. It kept the OEM-style squared-off corners and had the exposed layers facing the top. With the prime laser-engraving

Here the top of the slide is left flat and matte gray with beveled edges. Also note the wave-like front and rear serrations.

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88 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

real estate exposed, we set to work creating intricate scrollwork patterns to fill the voids. The end result is a classic look with an Old World craftsmanship feel. This particular one was so well received that it actually sold off the website before the marketing campaign could be launched.

HEIRLOOM GRADE Now that we had some Damascus slides built, we were able to photograph them and officially launch them. Customers can work with our staff to build a true heirloom pistol with a Damascus blank as the canvas for their masterpiece. For $1,500, a customer can choose between a third-generation G17, G19 or G34 slide, pick out various machining and barrel options, and have a completely ready-to-use top end that is sure to become a pistol that will get handed down to the next generation. It was a long road from inspiration to final product. I spent many hours thinking about Damascus steel. But in the end, I can say that we (Lone Wolf Distributors) created a slide that nobody has ever made for Glock pistols. That alone makes the effort worth it. For more information, visit lonewolfdist.com.

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BUYER’S GUIDE

THE BEST NEW HUNT-READY HANDGUNS AND HOLSTERS FOR 2018

If you’ve ever been hunting, you know how hard it can be to bag game. Using a handgun only makes the task more challenging, but that’s what we’re all about. You have to earn your food. At the same time, you might need protection in the backwoods from other predators of the two- and four-legged variety. Thankfully, the firearms industry has plenty of options to cover every need, and we’ve rounded up some of the best revolvers and semi-autos hitting the market with the power to stop animals, big and small, in their tracks.

BY JAY LANGSTON

BROWNING BUCK MARK PLUS CAMPER UFX SUPPRESSOR READY This new rimfire pistol from Browning is a great option for small-game hunting with a sound suppressor, as the 6-inch bull barrel comes with 1/2x28-tpi threading as well as a thread protector. This blowbackoperated pistol also has a Picatinny top rail, a TruGlo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight and a white-outlined Pro-Target adjustable rear sight. The Ultragrip FX ambidextrous grip frame and gold singleaction trigger really add to the shooting experience, too. (browning.com)

BROWNING BUCK MARK PLUS LITE FLUTE UFX SUPPRESSOR READY Another new option from Browning, this upgraded Buck Mark has a steel 5.5-inch barrel with 1/2x28-tpi threading for a suppressor. The alloy barrel sleeve is available with or without distinctive fluting. More features include a Picatinny top rail, a fiber-optic front sight and an adjustable white-outlined rear sight as well as an ambidextrous grip frame and single-action trigger. In short, this rimfire has everything you need to bag squirrels and other small critters. (browning.com)

COONAN MOT-10 While Coonan Inc. is known for its .357 Magnum 1911s, the company recently adapted its well-respected design to create a stainless steel pistol built around the popular 10mm Auto. It comes with a 5-inch barrel, a unique full-length dust cover, black walnut grips, Novak sights, a skeletonized Commander-style hammer, an extended thumb safety and slide stop, and an 8+1 capacity. The MOT 10 is 8.6 inches long and weighs 39.2 ounces unloaded. (coonaninc.com)

CIMARRON BAD BOY The new Bad Boy from Cimarron is essentially a modernized Colt New Frontier that has been beefed up to harness the power of the .44 Magnum and earn its moniker. It comes with an 8-inch octagonal barrel, a Pre-War-style frame, a Colt 1860 Army grip frame, a ramp front sight and a fully adjustable rear sight. In short, this Bad Boy is ideal for hunting, target shooting and protection from grizzlies while you’re hiking. (cimarron-firearms.com)

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90 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

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SAR SR-38 The SR-38 is a .357 Magnum/.38 Special revolver made by Sarsilmaz in Turkey and imported into the U.S. through SAR USA. Sarsilmaz has more than a century of firearms manufacturing experience and is still owned by the same family who founded it in 1880. Classic S&W fans will recognize quite a few similarities with these revolvers, which are available with either black or satin stainless finishes. The cylinder holds six cartridges, and 2.5-, 4- and 6-inch barrels are available. (sarusa.com)

EXCEL ARMS AUTO MAG The big stainless steel “Classic Edition” autoloader used by Dirty Harry is back in .44 AMP, with other versions on the way. Out of production since 1982, this big pistol has a vent-ribbed, 6.5- or 8.5-inch barrel, an overall length of 11.7 to 13.7 inches and an unloaded weight of 53 to 58 ounces. A hammer-fired semi-auto, it features an adjustable rear sight, a target trigger, textured G10 grip panels (as well as other options) and an 8+1 capacity. (automag.com)

SMITH & WESSON PERFORMANCE CENTER MODEL 686/686 PLUS For 2018, the S&W Performance Center is offering two stainless .357 Magnum L-Frame revolvers: one with a 4-inch barrel and six-shot cylinder, and the other with a 5-inch barrel and seven-shot cylinder. Both have competition-ready features such as ventribbed barrels, unfluted cylinders, chromed teardrop hammer spurs, adjustable rear sights, interchangeable orange front sights and Hogue grips. (smith-wesson.com)

JANZ REVOLVERS Made in Germany, Janz revolvers are available with either fixed or interchangeable barrels. The latter allows you to convert one of these custom-made revolvers from a .22 LR to a .454 Casull in a matter of moments. You can also choose various finishes, sights, barrel lengths and embellishment options like engraving. The Type E and EM revolvers cover the mid-sized frame options while the larger-framed Type MA series revolvers are currently available in .460 and .500 S&W. (janzrevolver.com)

RUGER SUPER REDHAWK 10MM For 2018, Ruger has added a 10mm option to its Super Redhawk lineup. The Super Redhawk is a double-action, sixshot revolver that ships with three full-moon clips for quick reloading. This 6.5-inch-barreled firearm has an extended frame with extra metal in the topstrap, side walls and barrel mounting to handle biggame loads. The rubber grip has an internal recoil cushion under the web of the hand. (ruger.com)

TAURUS MODEL 692 An exciting addition for 2018, this is a seven-shot, medium-frame .357 Magnum revolver in stainless or matte black that, with a simple cylinder change, can be converted to fire 9mm rounds using Taurus’ Stellar clips. It’s a traditional DA/SA design with a fixed ramp front sight, an adjustable rear sight and a black “Ribber” grip. Taurus offers the revolver with either a 3- or 6.5-inch barrel. (taurususa.com) personaldefenseworld.com

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NOV. • DEC. 2018 COMBAT HANDGUNS 91


BUYER’S GUIDE

FIVE TRAIL-READY RIGS DESANTIS BLACK MAMBA If you plan on hunting with a large-framed Smith & Wesson, DeSantis has the perfect solution for carrying the beast in the backwoods. Made from molded black nylon with an adjustable tension device, the Black Mamba is available for L- and N-Frame revolvers and will even manage the 4.5-pound Model S&W500. You can also order versions for right- and left-hand carry. Make sure you give it a closer look. (desantisgunhide.com)

EL PASO SADDLERY 1942 TANKER El Paso’s 1942 Tanker holster is designed specifically for 1911s. Two versions are available: One for 1911s with barrels between 3 and 5 inches long, and another for models with barrels between 5.5 and 8.38 inches long. This shoulder holster is ideal for hunters and ATV riders as your gun remains out of the way when sitting or using a rifle, but it’s still easily accessible when needed. A retention strap is also included. (elpasosaddlery.com)

GALCO KODIAK HUNTER Made from premium steerhide, the Galco Kodiak holster is designed to carry big-bore scoped revolvers in a cross-draw position with an adjustable nylon torso strap and a firearm retention strap with a glove-friendly polymer release tab. With its attractive Havana brown finish, the Kodiak will fit large-framed double- and single-action hunting revolvers from Ruger and S&W. (galcogunleather.com)

HUNTER SCOPED HANDGUN HOLSTERS The Hunter Company specializes in quality leather holsters for a variety of needs, including handgun hunting. The company’s Scoped Handgun Holsters are available in a variety of sizes to fit several double-action revolvers with scopes installed. These are across-the-chest-style rigs made from top-grain leather. A safety strap is paired with a scope cover, and you can buy these rigs with or without a shoulder strap. (huntercompany.com)

TALON CUSTOM HOLSTERS While Talon Holsters is known for producing a number of IWB and OWB rigs, the company also makes it easy for you to order a custom-made holster to suit your needs, including those large enough to carry your hunting handgun or backup. These holsters are made from premium leather, and exotic options include shark, ostrich, stingray, caiman and more. (talonholsters.com)

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92 COMBAT HANDGUNS NOV. • DEC. 2018

TAURUS RAGING HUNTER The new Raging Hunter is a six-shot .44 Magnum with a striking stainless and blued two-tone finish. It also features a Picatinny rail and an angular barrel shroud to stand out from the pack. The unique barrel system incorporates a steel sleeve inside an aluminum housing to cut down on the overall weight, making this a well-balanced hunter. To help with recoil, the gun has a cushioned rubber grip as well as factory-tuned porting and a gas expansion chamber. These also help reduce muzzle rise for faster follow-up shots. An all-blued model is also available. (taurususa.com)

TAYLOR’S & CO. DRIFTER The Drifter was developed by Taylor’s & Company Firearms for Old West enthusiasts. This version is built on a Cattleman frame and features an octagonal barrel in either .357 Magnum or .45 Colt. These barrel options help the Drifter stand apart from the standard Cattleman models, which are high-quality Peacemaker reproductions. To that end, the Drifter features a fixed blade front sight, a forged frame and other classic touches customers have come to look for. Taylor Tuning is also available. (taylorsfirearms.com)

TRADITIONS RAWHIDE SERIES Traditions Firearms is now offering six-shot, single-action, Peacemaker-style revolvers made by Pietta. While .22 LR and .45 Colt versions are also available, the .357 Magnum models are suitable for hunting with matte black finishes that are durable and corrosion resistant. These handsome guns also come with transfer bar safety systems, walnut grips and 4.75-, 5.5- or 7.5-inch barrels. (traditionsfirearms.com)

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