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TABLE OF CONTENTS
30 CONTENTS COVER STORY 30 Daily Carry Solution
The Taurus Spectrum makes
looking for solid handguns for
more than a fashion statement.
less than $500, you’ll like these
By Richard Schutz
about the SIG 365 9mm. Now it’s
By Brian Schraeder
By Jason Davis
FEATURES 8 The “Sensible” Mouse Gun The S&W Shield EZ .380 is an
64 Full Spectrum
Everyone likes a deal. If you’re
You’ve heard the crazy chatter time to get the full story.
24 Bargain Buys
44 Security 9 Tackles Gunsite Just how did Ruger’s Security 9 handle Gunsite? Find out, as we put it to the test. By Mike Detty
50 Affordable Carry
Set Up for Success If you’re looking for the perfect holster, this story is a must-read. By Dave Dolbee, Ph.D.
88 Ultimate Fighting Pistol The Arex REX zero 1 S 9mm may be the ultimate defense
easy choice for beginners and
Ruger’s EC9s is a little gun that
production-class pistol. Find
shoots like a big one.
By Jeff John
By Bob Campbell
By Brian Schraeder
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102 High Performance Discover why the Les Baer name is synonymous with high performance. By Wilburn Roberts
116 1911 in the Modern Age Quality trigger. Fast-acquisition front sight. .45 ACP. American Tactical’s FXH-45 brings it all. By Dave Dolbee, Ph.D.
Cover Photo: Montage
Cover Design: Malik Calimbas
36 56 80 94 108 122
Subcompact Semi-automatics Compact Semi-automatics Full-size Pistols 1911s Compact Revolvers Medium Revolvers Full-Frame Revolvers
Photo By: Manufacturers
COLUMNS 06 Front Sights 128 Mission Ready 130 Final Shot HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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ALLURE OF A PISTOL S
outhern California was burning. My Wrangler isn’t accustomed to rolling across miles of LA freeways with the windows up, but today they had to be. Seemingly, brushfires were destroying hillsides everywhere, and smoke filled the hot summer air. When I arrived at my destination, it was a little after 5, and I slowly rolled up to the gate. I pressed the button, and a woman answered. “Hello, can I help you?” “I have an appointment for photos at 5:30 with Sgt. Davis.” “Come on in. He is expecting you.” The iron gate rambled open, and I drove to the east side of the police lot, away from the cruisers. I was about to get up close and personal with the SIG 365, and I couldn’t wait.
Pure Excitement I stepped out of my Jeep as Sgt. Davis approached. “Wait until you see this gun,” said the Sergeant, even before he said hello. “This is awesome.” This, from a man who has carried 1911s or Glocks for just about forever. They shot well. They carried well. He had no reason to look elsewhere. Until he saw the new 9mm. And that’s before he picked it up or even fired a shot. Smaller, lighter, a textured grip, the night sights, the accessory rail, a 10-round magazine. He couldn’t get enough. Then he took it to the range, where he had a ragged hole with the first 10 rounds. When all was said and done, he was so impressed that his wife became the proud owner of a SIG P365 in 9mm.
Creative Moments One of the many benefits of the job is to see reactions like this. The dazzling product pumps everyone up, so the creative juices start flowing before the camera starts clicking. Then the ideas start flying, like PRIME ammunition on the range. “Let’s try this.” Or, “What do you think about this?” “Check this angle.” It is very cool when a manufacturer generates this type of excitement with a new gun. And it all stems from the allure of a pistol. —Doug Jeffrey
Grand Power P11 Mk12 in 9x19
WINTER 2018 EDITORIAL Doug Jeffrey Editorial Director David Dolbee, Ph.D Editor Kelly Nomura Executive Managing Editor Margaret Kavanagh Managing Editor DESIGN Malik Calimbas Art Director CONTRIBUTORS Gus Alonzo, Bob Campbell, Jason Davis, Mike Detty, Jeff John, Wilburn Roberts, Brian Schraeder, Richard Schutz ADVERTISING Gabe Frimmel Ad Sales Director (714) 200-1930 firstname.lastname@example.org Casey Clifford Senior Account Executive (714) 200-1982 Mark Pack Senior Account Executive (714) 200-1939 Spencer Redmond Account Executive (919) 771-8919 John Bartulin Account Executive (866) 866-5146 ext. 2746 Eric Gomez Advertising Traffic Coordinator MARKETING Michael Chadwick Digital Marketing & Media Coordinator OPERATIONS Surajpal Singh Bisht Prepress Manager Devender Hasija Newsstand and Circulation Analyst Shailesh Khandelwal Subscriptions Manager Alex Mendoza Administrative Assistant Manish Kumar Mishra Operations Specialist Victoria Van Vlear Intern Program Manager EDITORIAL, PRODUCTION & SALES OFFICE 17890 Sky Park Circle, Suite 250 Irvine, CA 92614 (714) 939-9991 • Fax: (800) 249-7761 www.gunworld.com www.facebook.com/eembybeckett Handgun Buyers Guide is published by Engaged Media Inc., LLC, 17890 Sky Park Circle, Suite 250, Irvine, CA 92614. © 2018 by Engaged Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from this issue in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. CUSTOMER SERVICE Engaged Media, Inc. 17890 Sky Park Circle, Suite 250 Irvine, CA 92614 Subscriptions, Address Changes, Renewals, Missing or Damaged Copies (800) 764-6278 (239) 653-0225 Foreign Inquiries email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Back Issues: www.engagedmediamags.com Books, Merchandise, Reprints (800) 764-6278 • Foreign (239) 653-0225 Letters to Editor, New Products, or to Contribute a Story or Photo email@example.com
ENGAGED MEDIA INC. Pinaki Bhattacharya CEO Nathaniel Phillips HR and Office Management Jason Mulroney Director of Content Philip Trinkle Newsstand Sales Director Syed Nazir Razik Digital Marketing Director This magazine is purchased by the buyer with the understanding that information presented is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by Engaged Media Inc., as to the legality, completeness or technical accuracy.
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The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ is a belt-size 8+1 .380 Auto pistol living up to the “EZ” name in all respects.
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SENSIBLE “MOUSE” GUN For Beginners, Seasoned Shooters and the Recoil-Sensitive, the Light-Kicking, Hard-Hitting S&W Shield EZ .380 Auto is a Perfect Choice STORY & PHOTOS BY JEFF JOHN
oo many guns deemed “suitable” for self-defense require masterful dexterity and muscle to operate and control during firing. You’ll need less of both if you choose the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ in .380 Auto—(a caliber once more commonly known as the .380 ACP). There have been few pistols that people with infirmities—due to injury, age or simply the time and ability to train constantly—could operate safely and competently. Thankfully, whether or not you are able to operate a pistol can be discovered before purchase. How it “kicks” is subjective, but you will only find out on the range. Here, the S&W shines because its design minimizes felt recoil, and you can adjust the kick further with ammunition selection. Today’s defensive ammunition is far better than it was just 20 years ago, because bullet technology has advanced so far. Minor calibers that combat impresarios often deride as “mouse guns” (generally defined as those in the power class of the .380 ACP and below), now deliver far better terminal performance. They won’t replace “major” calibers of 9x19mm Luger and up, but if you can’t operate them, the point is moot. In the following story, we’ll take a close look at the S&W Shield EZ .380 Auto.
Ease of Operation Confidence begins with the ability to work a firearm’s mechanism easily and safely. The ability to shoot for proficiency, without learning bad habits or tiring so much that you loath
practice, is also a concern. Such a gun has to be heavy enough that recoil isn’t severe, and light enough to shoot without tiring. For defense, such a gun needs a cartridge of sufficient power, should be of a size and weight appropriate for comfortable carry, and be clean and easy to operate. Smith & Wesson charted a course to reach all those goals with the Shield EZ, and it did. It starts with .380 ACP ammunition, vastly improved since its pre-WWI origins, fired in a locked-breech, semi-auto system, rather than the traditional blowback used in most .380 pistols. This means the recoil spring can be lighter and the slide easier to operate. The slide on our test EZ took 11 pounds, on the nose, to pull back far enough for the slide stop to lock, tested both with the hammer cocked and fired. An RCBS Military Trigger Pull gauge was used to pull the slide three times, with the hammer cocked and uncocked. Just as important for easy slide manipulation are its gripping surfaces. The EZ features two small wings at the back of the slide (where the serrations end) giving better purchase for the fingers. This doesn’t sound impressive, but if any handstrength issues are present, those two projections provide welcome additional leverage, and their utility is greater than their size, or my ability to explain. Sights are of the 3-dot variety, and the rear is adjustable for windage only. Under the slide is a hex nut (the hex key is included). Loosening the hex nut allows the rear sight to be moved by finger pressure to adjust windage, and it can be done at the range.
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THE SENSIBLE "MOUSE" GUN Hammer Fired Instead of a striker, the EZ uses an internal hammer. A hammer helps make the slide easier to operate, since you don’t have to compress the striker spring in addition to the recoil spring. Likewise, takedown is safer because you don’t have to pull the trigger to take the slide off the pistol. One option is a thumb safety, which I always prefer. This one is frame mounted, on right and left sides, operating in the familiar up for on and down for off, just like the 1911. The thumb safety goes on and off with a positive snap. Unlike the 1911, the chamber can be cleared with the safety applied. An-
the way to the rear. Unlike most polymer arms, the trigger does not have a pivoting safety. It does have a trigger stop molded into the back of the trigger guard to prevent trigger overtravel—a nice touch and one unusual in this class of arm. The trigger breaks cleanly at 5.5 pounds, but feels lighter than that. The polymer frame is gently stippled for a firm grip, the angle suitable for natural pointing, and it’s long enough for the fingers of even a large hand to wrap around comfortably. There is a short rail at the front for a light or laser.
“ … THE S&W SHINES BECAUSE ITS DESIGN MINIMIZES FELT RECOIL, AND YOU CAN ADJUST THE ‘KICK’ FURTHER WITH AMMUNITION SELECTION.” Magazines
other similarity with the 1911 is a grip safety. I found it didn’t require much pressure in use, and stayed depressed even when I shifted to thumb-over-safety, or shot weak hand. An internal safety prevents firing pin travel until the trigger is pressed all
The magazine release is reversible, easy to switch if you’re a tool-using animal, and easy to reach. Magazines (two are provided) drop free when the button is pushed, and the generous mag well makes for fumble-free reloads. The armed EZ will fire with the magazine removed. In case you forget, it says so in bold letters on the frame. The magazines are also easy to load. I didn’t find it necessary to use the button on the left side of the magazine to depress the follower during loading—even at the end of long-range sessions—but it’s there if you need it. This button does double-duty by activating the slide stop after the last round is fired. This button is metal, and should give lasting service. The body of the magazine is numbered on both sides from 1 to 8, and has the caliber marking at the bottom. The wide base pad aids in seating the magazine, and an orange, polymer follower helps smooth loading and feeding. The magazines are easy to disassemble, and will need cleaning if you drop them in the dirt during practice, since the generous window for counting the cartridges allows dirt to enter, too. Externally, the slide stop itself looks like a simple rounded piece of sheet metal. However, it is nicely serrated for a sure
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Red Laser Or Green? Choices abound in lasers these days, and the quality has never been better. Size matters in small arms, and our choices for this test include the Crimson Trace Rail Master green laser and LaserMax Uni-Max Micro red laser. LaserMax bills theirs as the “smallest, most lightweight rail mount laser,” and I can’t argue, but the Rail Master isn’t much bigger. Both units feature a 5mW laser with the LaserMax using red and the Crimson Trace in green. Green lasers are more expensive than red (a $70 difference between CT models, and $60 in the LaserMax) and green offers a brighter, more easy-to-see laser in daylight situations. I find these claims to be true in my backyard test. For
home defense, usually occurring at night (but not always!), either color would serve fine. For daytime use, the green laser is more visible against lightly colored backgrounds than red. The Crimson Trace Rail Master comes with four plates to adjust the laser to differently sized rail stops to put the laser’s activation levers within easy reach. Dot size is roughly 1/2 inch at 50 feet, with a run time of about 2 hours constant. The laser shuts off automatically after 5 minutes. Held by two screws, I found it more difficult to install, since you have two side plates and the laser to stage, but solid once tightened. The Crimson Trace Rail Master weighs 0.7 ounces, and sells for $229.
The LaserMax Micro was easy to install. Remove the single cross screw, slide the Micro on (it took some force) and then replace the screw. The Micro runs 5 hours with an automatic shutoff after 10 minutes. The LaserMax Micro weighs 0.5 ounces, and sells for $129. Both units share some features: On/ Off paddles on both sides; bottom access battery cover so the unit stays zeroed during battery changes; polymer housings; a single 1/3N 3v lithium battery. Both housings are made of plastic, as is the pistol’s rail. Don’t overtighten the screws! They don’t snug to a “stop” like screws do in metal-on-metal surfaces.
(above left) The Crimson Trace Rail Master doesn’t add much bulk or weight to the front of the Shield EZ. (above) The LaserMax Micro is the smallest, lightest unit around. (left) The Crimson Trace Rail Master comes with three extra bases to fit the laser activation paddles within easy reach on small or large pistols. The Rail Master also comes with two swabs for cleaning the laser and a key to adjust the aim. The LaserMax Micro is designed to fit the short rails on compact firearms (other models are available for bigger guns) and comes with a key for adjusting aim. Both models can be had with red or green lasers.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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THE SENSIBLE "MOUSE" GUN The top of the slide has windage-adjustable 3-dot sights, and the extractor doubles as a loaded chamber indicator. Controls on the frame include (from right to left) a grip safety, a thumb safety, a slide stop, a magazine release at the back of the triggerguard, a takedown lever, and a rail (here, mounted with a Crimson Trace Rail Master).
SPECS & CONTACTS Gun: M&P 380 Shield EZ Maker: Smith & Wesson (800) 331-0852 Smith-Wesson.com Action: Locked breech semi-auto, internal hammer fired Caliber: .380 ACP Capacity: 8+1 Barrel Length: 3.675 inches Overall Length: 6.7 inches Sights: 3-dot, windage adjustable Weight: 18.5 ounces Barrel & Slide: Stainless steel Finish: Armornite Grip: Polymer Price: $399
feel, unobtrusive, yet easy to reach and just as easy as the rest of the gun in operation, whether pushing it up manually, or down to charge the pistol. Since the Shield EZ is a hammer-fired pistol, no cocking indicator is present, a device of dubious utility anyway. There is a chamber-loaded indicator atop the slide as part of the extractor. It rises high enough to give visual and tactile indication of a loaded chamber. It, too, is of dubious utility to those raised right—those who treat every gun as if it is loaded all the time, and who routinely perform chamber checks.
Shooting The Shield EZ is very easy to operate, and because it is a belt-size pistol, it is also easy to shoot. The Shield uses a grip angle of 11 degrees, allowing you to point the gun with a straight wrist. Unless you have preconceived notions of pointability ironed into your DNA from shooting thousands of rounds, the Shield EZ should point with sights aligned just about perfectly, the first time you raise it. Putting a full magazine in place with the slide closed is the only thing resembling effort, using the EZ. The top round must depress the magazine spring slightly as the mag is pushed home. Empty mags drop free, and if the slide is closed, they rocket out. During the 350+ round test, 10 brands—including American Eagle, Black Hills, Federal, Fiocchi, Hornady and Speer—were tested. Only two malfunctions occurred, both on the last round in the magazine. One Hornady FTX and one American Eagle FMJ popped straight up, and the slide closed with the bullet
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Inside the Ammunition I alluded to power ranges in the .380 ACP, and there are substantial differences even among loads operating in the narrower standard-pressure range approved for the Shield EZ (no +P). A bonus with the EZ is its slightly longer barrel gives higher velocities than other compact .380s. Top honors for the least kick go to the Fiocchi topped with the 90-grain Hornady XTP hollowpoint and the Black Hills Honey Badger load. The most unique load tested, the Honey Badger is topped with a Lehigh Defense 60-grain non-expanding bullet. Instead of a hollowpoint, the Lehigh bullet is 4-fluted, and upon encountering soft tissue, the flutes redirect the body’s own fluids to create the wound cavity. The bullets have been proven in the hunting fields, and perform well against barriers without over penetration. The 60-grain bullet traveled the fastest of all loads, and shot only a little lower than the standard 90-grain bullets. Accuracy was excellent. The other Black Hills load and the Fiocchi feature the time-proven Hornady 90-grain XTP. The bullet feeds flawlessly and expands reliably. The Fiocchi load traveled the slowest of all the HPs tried, but also was the softest
shooting. Both Black Hills loads are in brass cases, and the Fiocchi in a nickel-plated one. The loads from Speer and Federal gave eye-popping performance. The Federal HST load had the heaviest bullet, highest velocity and greatest energy of those tested, followed by the Speer load, which this little Shield showed a preference for. While neither was unpleasant, recoil and noise was greater, and I wouldn’t start a beginner with them. I would certainly encourage growing into them, since both nip at the heels of the 9x19mm, and are by no means uncontrollable. The Federal HST had the heaviest hollowpoint of all tested at 99-grains, and it is designed for reliable expansion, weight retention, and to give the desired penetration for self-defense without over-penetration. The Speer Gold Dot bullet has proven itself in defensive situations, offering nearly 100 percent weight retention due to its construction. Because copper is electrochemically applied to the lead alloy in the Uni-Cor process, Gold Dot bullets experience no core/jacket separation on expansion. Both loads come in nickel-plated cases.
This 8-shot group convinced the author that the sights should be regulated for the Speer Gold Dot load.
Falling in the median power range are two loads from Hornady with recoil just a little greater than the Black Hills load also featuring the XTP bullet. The American Gunner from Hornady is topped with the 90-grain XTP (the same as the Fiocchi and Black Hills), and the Critical Defense features the newer 90-grain FTX bullet. The FTX bullet has a plastic tip filling the hollowpoint to aid expansion and keep the hollow cavity from filling with material that might restrict expansion. The bullet has proven itself through a variety of barricade tests for expansion and weight retention. American Gunner is in brass cases, and Critical Defense ammo comes in nickel-plated brass, loaded with low-flash propellants. Nickel-plated cases are more corrosion resistant than plain brass, and offer a slicker surface for feeding and extraction. Personally, I’m happy with the load that shoots best in my pistol, rather than case finish. The bullets used in all the ammo tested are first class. Still worried about which to choose? If using brass-cased ammo, cycle them out of the rotation sooner, and shoot them in practice.
With the sights moved, the EZ shoots Black Hills 60-grain Honey Badger into a nice 17-yard group, albeit just below point of aim (the red dot). The distinctive X-shaped bullets cut a wicked hole in the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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THE SENSIBLE "MOUSE" GUN
Sights on target, the bullet has left, and the slide is just unlocking.
Presentations from the GrovTec Multi-Fit holster were quiet and quick, and reholstering was easy using only one hand. Usually, I don’t expect something called “Multi-Fit” to fit anything well, but in this case, the Shield EZ was a perfect match. Another plus was the muzzle did not protrude from the holster’s open bottom. For $23.99, it’s a good buy. Of all the rounds tested, three stood out. The overall accuracy winner was the reasonably priced Speer 90-grain Gold Dot. Just behind it was the Black Hills 60-grain Honey Badger load. The Federal HST gave good accuracy, and the greatest power of the three. While all the loads gave acceptable accuracy, these three get preference in my Shield for accuracy, reliability and performance. I priced the ammunition at Brownells for comparison purposes, since they stock all three. The Speer PERFORMANCE DATA Gold Dot load, which sells for $17.99 for 20 rounds, delivered a gradu.380 ACP Factory Ammo Performance ation group of nine shots into 3.5 Load Velocity Energy Group Size inches, with seven of those in 2.125. (Brand, Bullet weight, Type) (fps) (ft-lbs) (inches) The Federal HST delivered a fine Black Hills, 60-grain, Honey Badger 1,120 167 3.25 3.625-inch five-shot group with four Black Hills, 90-grain, XTP 921 170 4.5 of those in 2.25 inches, and is $23.99 Federal, 90-grain, HST 1,028 232 3.625* per 20. The Honey Badger ammo, at Fiocchi, 90-grain, XTP 924 171 3.75 $25.57 per 20, delivered a nine-shot Hornady, 90-grain, XTP 955 182 3.5 group of 4.5 inches with five of those Hornady, 90-grain, FTX 968 187 3.25 in 2.25 inches. This is one “mouse Speer, 90-grain, GDHP 1,034 214 2.5 gun” I’ll feel reasonably protected by if any of those three loads are in the Notes: Groups are the product of 5 shots at 17 yards. Chronograph screens are set magazine. 10 feet from the muzzle. *HST put 4 shots into 2.25 inches. As a final graduation exercise,
pointing skyward. I shot three FMJ loads to familiarize me with the gun and give it a bit of a break in. I merely plinked with the FMJs, and didn’t put them on paper. Two featured 95-grain bullets (Fiocchi and American Eagle), and one topped with a 100-grain FMJ (Black Hills). The three loads averaged 850 fps combined, and all generated mild recoil. No bit of clay pigeon on the berm was safe from any of them. All the other rounds went in and out on schedule, and the empties went into neat little puddles just forward and to the right, with the distance from the gun depending on the power. Brass from the hard-kicking Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST landed a good 2- or 3-feet further than the others.
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several magazines were loaded with a mix of all the loads tested, and the arm fired both strong and weak hand. No malfunctions occurred. If you’re recoil-sensitive, try the Fiocchi topped with 90-grain JHP. It was the softest shooting load, closely followed by the Black Hills 60-grain Honey Badger. I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce a new shooter to centerfire defensive arms with either load.
Any of the FMJ loads are pleasant shooting for practice. As you grow, you can up the power while keeping recoil tame with Hornady ammo. Finally, you can reach maximum power while still remaining within the Shield EZ’s working range, with the snappier Speer or Federal loads. This beginner’s gun grows with you, and will grow on you with its easy-working demeanor. GW
While the S&W Shield EZ is a belt-sized pistol, it is just as concealable as the S&W J-frame .38. The power of the .380 ACP is close to the .38 Special, yet the EZ offers 16+1 rounds (with a spare mag on board) compared to five plus five in a speedloader, for the J-frame. HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SUBCOMPACT SEMIAUTOMATICS Buyer’s Guide
proliferation of legal challenges caused the courts to strongly rule in favor of the Second Amendment right to self-defense, and a citizen’s right to own and carry handguns. This gave the firearms industry an appreciated boost in sales overall. Because smaller is more concealable, the subcompact market has absolutely exploded with new innovation in smaller packages. Thirty years ago, SIG’s P228 was considered highly concealable, thanks to its shortened 3.9-inch barrel. Today, that would be far too long to earn a spot on this list of ultra-concealable subcompacts.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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blowback system uses gas pressure from the ignited cartridge and directs it through a small port in the barrel in front of the chamber. This slows down the rearward motion of the slide. A piston that is contained inside a cylinder and located under the barrel, accomplishes this. The pistol regulates the pressure long enough for the bullet to exit. Website: WaltherArms.com MSRP: $468
accurate. The grip has a builtin beaver tail design that allows the shooter to acquire a high and tight grip. The aggressive texture of the grip surface allows for comfortable and reliable operation of the pistol. The large magazine catch makes quick work of removing the six round magazine. Website: Glock.com MSRP: $619
accurate shooting. For those preferring just a bit more, the LC9s comes standard with finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine to increase comfort and improve your grip. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $449
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.54 inches Finish: Black Cerakote Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Black Cerakote Overall Length: 6.41 inches Height: 5.12 inches Width: 1.18 inches Sights: 3-dot polymer Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Ergonomic Walther grips Weight: 22.33 ounces Features: The Walther CCPâ€™s SOFTCOIL gas-delayed
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.41 inches Finish: nDLC Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.26 inches Height: 4.25 inches Width: 1.06 inches Sights: Plastic fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Stippled Weight: 16.23 ounces Features: The G43 is a single stack, 9mm Luger caliber pistol. Belonging to Glockâ€™s Slimline series, the G34 is ultra-concealable and
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.12 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6 inches Height: 4.50 inches Width: 0.90 inches Sights: Dovetailed, high-visibility 3-dot sights, adjustable rear, fixed front Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Checkered grip frame Weight: 17.2 ounces Features: The LC9s is striker fired and features a short, light, crisp trigger pull for fast
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striker and locked breech and Browning-type recoil lug. The stainless steel trigger is exceptionally smooth throughout its 3/8-inch ride from engagement to let off, with a crisp snap at the end. From muzzle to butt, Kahrâ€™s CW9 marries sleekness with power. The polymer frame is checkered and stippled for a non-skid grip under any conditions. Website: Kahr.com MSRP: $449
to improve grip retention in wet or dry conditions, providing a stable, firm grip and maximizing comfort. The extended magazine is ergonomically contoured to fit your hand. It provides a natural point of aim for a confident user experience. The Spectrum is a true double-action only trigger system featuring a nonenergized striker with no pre-cock or pre-load applied. This system adds a level of safety by ensuring there is no contact between the sear and striker. Website: TaurusSpectrum.com MSRP: Starting at $289
HEIZER DEFENSE PKO-45
Weight: 28 ounces Features: The PKO-45 or Pocket 45, is the slimmest semi-automatic .45 ACP on the market at just 0.8 inch wide and a mere 28 ounces. The PKO-45 is made from 100% U.S. aerospace-grade stainless steel. There are no plastic or mimed parts. It boasts a revolutionary fixed-barrel-under-the-guiderod configuration, resulting in less felt recoil while delivering a devastating .45 caliber punch. Website: HeizerDefense.com MSRP: $899
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.565 inches Finish: Matte stainless steel Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.9 inches Height: 4.50 inches Width: 0.90 inches Sights: Drift-adjustable white bar-dot combat rear, pinnedin polymer front Capacity: 7+1 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 15.8 ounces Features: The CW9 is double action only with an internal
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.8 inches Finish: Black Melonite or matte stainless Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Various colors Overall Length: 5.4 inches Height: 3.82 inches Width: 0.89 inches Sights: Integrate low profile Capacity: 6/7 rounds Grips: Soft-touch overmold Weight: 10 ounces Features: The Spectrum is small on price and big on features. Soft-touch proprietary polymers are used
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 2.75 inches Finish: Stainless, black, copperhead, gray and champagne Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless or black Overall Length: 6.2 inches Height: N/A Width: 0.8 inches Sights: Low-profile, dovetailed, three-dot sights Capacity: 5+1, 7+1 Grips: None
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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SIG SAUER P238 SPARTAN MICROCOMPACT
steel construction, with an oil-rubbed bronze PVD finish. The slide is engraved with the Greek phrase “MOLON LABE” (Come and take them) while the custom grips feature an inlaid Spartan helmet. With an overall length of just 5.5 inches, a height of 3.9 inches, and weighing just 20.1 ounces, the SIG P238 Spartan packs plenty of firepower in a stainless steel concealed pistol. The magazine combines a 7-round magazine tube with finger groove, providing additional control and increased capacity. Website: SigSauer.com MSRP: $1,013
The small size and light weight make the P32 the ideal stowaway that’s guaranteed to not weigh you down or print. The P32 was originally designed for plainclothes law enforcement as a backup, but the diminutive package is a favorite among civilians, too. Website: KeltecWeapons. com MSRP: $325.45
striker firing system with a mechanical firing pin block. The DB9 also features a steel magazine catch to secure a sheet metal magazine and real windage-adjustable sights. The steel trigger with dual connecting bars allows for a crisp, smooth, trigger pull. The DB9 features a FEA-designed (Finite Element Analysis) slide and barrel that Diamondback claims to be stronger than any comparable firearm, resulting in durability with less felt recoil. Website: DiamondbackFirearms.com MSRP: $309.99
Action: Single Action Made In: USA Caliber: .380 Auto Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Finish: Oil-rubbed bronze Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Oil-rubbed bronze Overall Length: 5.5 inches Height: 3.9 inches Width: 1.1 inches Sights: SIGLITE Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Spartan Weight: 20 ounces Features: The SIG Sauer P238 Spartan is all-stainless-
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .32 ACP Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.1 inches Height: 3.5 inches Width: 0.75 inches Sights: Integrated Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Textured frame Weight: 6.6 ounces Features: Kel-Tec’s P32 is by far the lightest offering covered in the Gun World Handgun Buyer’s Guide, weighing in at 6.6 ounces.
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3 inches Finish: Stainless/black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.6 inches Height: 4 inches Width: 0.80 inches Sights: Windage adjustable Capacity: 6+1 rounds Grips: Textured frame Weight: 11 ounces Features: Designed with safety in mind, the DB9 features a “ZERO-Energy”
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COLT MUSTANG LITE
protection and concealment. This John Browning-inspired design retains 1911 ergonomics and familiarity. This modern re-engineered format retains the lightweight design of the Original Mustang Pocketlite but with a lightweight polymer frame for the ultimate in portability and comfort. The unique ambidextrous thumb safety design allows the shooter to unload the pistol while the safety is still engaged. Website: Colt.com MSRP: $599
locked-breech semi-automatic pistol with a tilting barrel. The stainless steel slide is 0.25-inch shorter than its 9mm sibling, the CPX-2. The CPX-3 features a roundedoff muzzle, beveled edges, and scalloped rear cocking serrations. Website: SCCY.com MSRP: $349.99
function with unrivaled accuracy and control in the most extreme conditions on earth—the fight of your life. It’s simply the most complete fusion of confidence and concealment to ever hit the EDC category. Website: Remington.com MSRP: $436
Action: Single Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.75 inches Finish: Stainless steel Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.5 inches Height: N/A Width: N/A Sights: Fixed ramp front, dovetailed rear Capacity: 6+1 rounds Grips: Checkered frame integrated Weight: 11.8 ounces Features: The Colt Mustang Lite is ideal for personal
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.96 inches Finish: Black nitride, natural stainless Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.7 inches Height: 4.2 inches Width: 1.1 inches Sights: Steel rear sight, adjustable for windage only with locking screw Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Zytel polymer, with ergonomic finger grooves Weight: 15 ounces Features: SCCY’s CPX-3 is a
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.9 inches Finish: Anodized Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Anodized Overall Length: 5.27 inches Height: 3.86 inches Width: 0.95 inches Sights: Integrated Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Integrated Weight: 12.2 ounces Features: Every feature of the RM380 has been finetuned to deliver unfailing
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Various Overall Length: 5.1 inches Height: 4 inches Width: 0.725 inches Sights: 3 dot Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 11.5 ounces Features: The Pico is softrecoiling and makes target recovery lightning-quick after every shot, thanks to its minimal barrel tilt. This
TAURUS 180 CURVE Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.2 inches Height: 3.7 inches Width: 1.2 inches Sights: None Capacity: 6+1 rounds
Grips: None Weight: 13 ounces Features: The Taurus Curve is billed as the world’s first and only curved firearm engineered to fit the unique contours of your body. Your body has curves, so Taurus’ engineers wondered why aren’t pistols shaped to match? Their answer was the Taurus Curve. Engineered to fit the contours of your body to reduce or eliminate printing, the Curve is easily one of the most groundbreaking firearms ever conceived. An extreme departure from your typical compact .380, you’ll find the Curve takes form and
feature also makes feeding utterly reliable, even with more open hollowpoint designs or the hotter .380 commercial loads. This means that when you need it for concealed carry or home protection, the Pico will always deliver the performance you expect of a Beretta. Website: Beretta.com MSRP: $300
function to an entirely unprecedented level. With its patented, snag-free design, the Curve boasts the industry’s first-ever light and laser, built right into the frame. Exceptionally accurate and extremely lightweight at just 10.2 ounces, the Curve is one ultra-comfortable, ultra-reliable personal defense handgun that must be experienced to truly be appreciated. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $392.42 GW
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STORY BY BRIAN SCHRADER, PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE MANUFACTURERS
BARGAIN BUYS 10 Handguns for Less Than $500
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PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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“ … FRIENDS DISCOVER MY CACHE OF BUDGET ARMS AND SHOOT ME A LOOK LIKE I HAD AN UNTREATED TICK ON MY FOREHEAD.”
have a confession to make, so I suppose this is as good a place as any to make it. I have a long documented problem. In truth, it is not so much a problem as it is an addiction. Perhaps problem and addiction are really one in the same, but I digress and do not find value in arguing the semantics at any rate. My addiction is not so open that my family felt an intervention was required, although it would have the makings of a titillating reality show. You see, as embarrassing as this is to admit publicly, I like cheaply priced guns. I am drawn to the fiscally responsible firearm. I seek out the deals others scoff at or plug their collective gun-snob noses at as they pass. Like my wife after an excursion to the shoe store or jewelry store, when confronted with the evidence, I simply claim, “It just followed me home. I didn’t encourage or feed it or anything. I said no, but it wouldn’t listen. I ran all the way home and made several turns in an attempt to evade, but somehow it still followed me.” I really do not see how I am to blame given all of my efforts. Just to be clear, yes, I own, carry, and regularly shoot custom Glocks. I have a sufficient number of SIG Sauers to adequately
arm a platoon. A custom rifle (or two) may, possibly, perhaps, be tucked in the hard to reach—and harder to see, corners of the gun safes—known as the nether regions where the wife is reluctant to check. I have been known to order multiples of the same model shotgun or AR. Still, while my collection is filled with more than a few, fine shooting firearms, I am drawn to inexpensive guns. My addiction started at a young age—mostly out of need. I was a college student, loved to shoot and kept a case of Ramen noodles, figuring it could get me through for at least a couple of weeks in a pinch, but the tradeoff was worth a new pistol here and there. Times change, and hard work was eventually rewarded with a few amenities, but fond memories of cheap guns still remain. It is an addiction I am happy to let live; one that I still feel comfortable giving a home. I’ll admit it, friends discover my cache of budget arms and shoot me a look like I had an untreated tick on my forehead. However, to me, it is a tick with a name, sorta like a stray that just followed me home. Who could blame me for being a softie? If you wouldn’t, here are 10 handguns that won’t bust your budget.
MSRP: $325.45 Weighing just 6.6 ounces, the P-32 is designed primarily for plainclothes police offers as a secondary weapon, or for concealed carry by licensed citizens. The small grip size and light trigger pull also make it ideal for female shooters. The P-32 is a semi-automatic pistol, chambered for the .32 Auto cartridge, with a double-action-only firing mechanism and a seven-round capacity. Caliber: .32 ACP Weight Unloaded: 6.6 ounces Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds Overall Length: 5.1 inches Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Height: 3.5 inches Width: 0.75 inch Trigger Pull: 5 pounds Website: KeltecWeapons.com
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Taurus Millennium G2
MSRP: $319 With its lightweight 22-ounce polymer frame, thin profile, and ramped 3.2-inch barrel, the newly designed Millennium G2 is the ideal concealed carry handgun. Available in two compact models—PT 111 and PT 140—the Millennium G2 features an accessory rail, high-profile sights, an aggressive, textured grip and melted edges for added comfort and easy concealment. Caliber: 9mm Luger Weight Unloaded: 22 ounces Magazine Capacity: 12 +1 rounds Overall Length: 6.3 inches Barrel Length: 3.2 inches Height: 5.1 inches Width: 1.2 inches Trigger Pull: 2.5 pounds, single action Website: TaurusUSA.com
Hi-Point C9 Compact
MSRP: $199 Can a gun this affordable be any good? The answer is a resounding YES! For starters, The Hi-Point C-9 is well-made and has a nice feel. Performance trials reveal amazing reliability, minimal muzzle ﬂip and less felt recoil, all of which result in excellent inherent accuracy, right out of the box. Bells and whistles? You won’t find them here. What you will find, however, is a very solid handgun, with dependable performance and satisfying results that are
Diamondback DB380 MSRP: $289 Diamondback Firearms is proud to present the DB380. A micro-compact .380 automatic pistol made entirely in the USA. Designed with safety in mind, the DB380 features a “ZEROEnergy” striker firing system with a mechanical firing pin block, a steel magazine catch to secure a sheet metal magazine and real windage-adjustable sights, all in a lightweight pistol. A steel trigger with dual connecting bars allows for a crisp, smooth trigger pull. The DB380 features a FEA-designed (Finite Element Analysis) slide and
pleasantly surprising at this price range. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 29 ounces Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds Overall Length: 6.75 inches Barrel Length: 3.50 inches Height: 4.5 inches Width: 1.6 inches Trigger Pull: 8.5 pounds Website: Hi-PointFirearms.com
barrel that are stronger than any comparable firearm, resulting in durability with less felt recoil, and the absence of removable pins or tools makes field stripping easier than ever. The slide, barrel, and internal parts are coated to resist corrosion, making this pistol a lifetime investment. Caliber: .380 ACP Weight Unloaded: 8.8 ounces Magazine Capacity: 6+1 rounds Overall Length: 5.26 inches Barrel Length: 2.80 inches Height: 3.75 inches Width: 0.750 inch Trigger Pull: About 5.5 pounds Website: DiamondbackFirearms.com
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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BARGAIN BUYS Remington R51
MSRP: $448 A proud reintroduction of a truly groundbreaking design, the perfected Remington R51 has been re-engineered from the ground up, and thoroughly tested to deliver utmost reliability, and the highest level of shootability of any subcompact handgun on the market today. Because it has the lowest bore axis in its class, its intuitive accuracy is unrivaled. The low bore axis also reduces muzzle rise by 25% for faster recovery between shots. Its Pederson block design and optimized grip angle work together to dramatically diminish felt recoil. With a 3.4-inch barrel and smooth, rounded edges, it conceals easily and deploys like lightning. And it all comes with a
confidence-boosting 7+1 rounds of 9mm Luger. Updated features include a precisionbuilt, fast-reset polymer trigger, a more aggressive and durable extractor design, enhanced recoil spring and a host of other features that make it the model of dependability. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 22.6 ounces Magazine Capacity: 7+1 rounds Overall Length: 4.63 inches Barrel Length: 3.4 inches Height: 4.63 inches Width: 1.08 inches Trigger Pull: 4.5-6.5 pounds Website: Remington.com
MSRP: $379 Top-grade, reliable self-defense and home protection. The folks at Smith & Wesson have been making high-quality firearms since 1852, and they’ve never stopped innovating. The SD9 VE is another worthy notch in their legendary belt, with its SDT trigger, comfortable, ergonomic textured grip, front- and rear-serrated stainless steel slide and plenty more. It all adds up to a self-defense firearm you can depend on, from a name you know you can trust. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 22.7 ounces Magazine Capacity: 16+1 rounds Overall Length: 7.2 inches Barrel Length: 4 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.29 inches Trigger Pull: 8.5 pounds Website: Smith-Wesson.com
FMK 9C1 Gen 2
MSRP: $409.95 Now, with a Fast Action Trigger mechanism for the shooting enthusiast who prefers a quick, short trigger pull with a drop-free magazine, or the extra safe action inspired by a double-action-only configuration with a mag-out safety, FMK Firearms has you covered either way. This unique feature allows the shooter to choose which action they prefer without having to purchase another pistol. The Fast Action Trigger comes standard for most states, except CA and MA, which come with the Double Action Only trigger. Since the triggers are interchangeable, the shooter can always purchase one of the trigger conversion kits and enjoy the features of both trigger systems. Anther unique feature is the grip that has a rubberized backstrap. This backstrap not only effectively reduces felt recoil, it hugs and grips the palm of the shooting hand to provide a comfortable, positive grip. The result is a grip that seems to mold to the shooter’s hand, instead of having to mold your hand to fit the grip. The 9C1 G2 is ergonomically built to comfortably fit both large and small hands. The barrel is engineered to sit low for superior point-and-shoot accuracy and reduced muzzle ﬂip, and the 9C1 G2 has virtually no external protrusions, making it ideal for concealed carry; and of course, it’s Proudly American. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 23.45 ounces Magazine Capacity: 14+1 rounds Overall Length: 6.85 inches Barrel Length: 4 inches Height: 5.09 inches Width: 1.14 inches Trigger Pull: 6.5 pounds Website: FMKFirearms.com
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MSRP: $379 The Sarsilmaz B6 is a Turkish-made single action/ double action semiautomatic pistol designed to provide you with reliable service for many years to come. Based on the iconic CZ75 design, the SAR B6 features a polymer frame and high-quality steel slide. The polymer frame is quite easy to grip and provides you with what is considered a high bore axis grip. Additional features include a set of fixed style sights, a manual thumb safety and
Bersa Concealed Carry
MSRP: $389 The Bersa Concealed Carry is an excellent choice for plainclothes/off-duty police officers and concealed handgun permit holders. If you are not familiar with Bersa Firearms you are missing out on one of the best-kept secrets among shooters. Bersa Firearms are well-made with quality components and to exacting standards. These are feature-rich firearms with everything that shooters demand in a small, easy-to-conceal firearm. The Bersa Concealed Carry is an
Honor Guard FIST Sub-Compact
MSRP: $499 Take all the best features of the single-stack concealed carry weapons on the market, combine them in one package, and you just might wind up with the Honor Guard. This subcompact offering from Honor Defense is a polymer frame, striker fired semi-automatic with a clean, crisp 7-pound trigger pull, short reset, and a custom texture that allows a better grip in all situations. The slide catch and magazine release are ambidextrous, and the snag-free sights wonâ€™t catch on clothing during the draw.
external hammer. The SAR B6 will quickly become your favorite polymer-framed firearm. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 28.2 inches Magazine Capacity: 17 rounds Overall Length: 8.1 inches Barrel Length: 4.5 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.1 inches Trigger Pull: 8 pounds Website: Sarsilmaz.com
outstanding addition to an already impressive line of firearms. If you are looking for a well-made concealed handgun that will not let you down when you need it most, the Bersa Concealed Carry is just what you have been waiting for. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 21.5 ounces Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds Overall Length: 6.35 inches Barrel Length: 3.3 inches Height: 4.9 inches Width: 0.94 inch Trigger Pull: 6.1 pounds Website: Bersa. EagleImportsInc.com
The FIST (Firearm Integrated STandoff) frame is designed to keep the gun in battery in a contact situation. Compact and lightweight, the Honor Guard is a superb choice for concealed carry. Caliber: 9mm Weight Unloaded: 22 ounces Magazine Capacity: 7 or 8 rounds Overall Length: 6.6 inches Barrel Length: 3.2 inches Height: 4.6 inches Width: 1.12 inches Trigger Pull: 5.5 pounds Website: HonorDefense.com GW
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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DAILY CARRY SOLUTION
A New Perspective on the SIG 365 9mm
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STORY BY JASON DAVIS, PHOTOS BY GUS ALONZO
ompacts, subcompacts and micro-compacts. I’m sure there are a few descriptors I missed that ultimately describe small pistols that people carry daily in a myriad of configurations. The options and sizes of pistols on the market these days are many. The market can be summed up as, “If you can dream it, somebody has it built and put it up for sale.” This is one great arena for the consumer. For most of my career, I’ve carried a 1911-based pistol, either a full-sized Colt 1911 or the smaller sibling, the Colt Defender, as a back-up weapon and when off duty. Within the last couple of years, I have been carrying either a Glock 19 or 43 off duty, as I have found them easy to carry and relatively simple to maintain compared to the 1911s. My mind was pretty made up that I really didn’t need to look around for another off-duty pistol to carry. I had it made—9mm and .45 ACP in configurations that were easy for me to conceal and shoot. I said to myself, “Why look any further for options?” Yes, I realize that is very close-minded, and that shows that I’m stuck in my ways. Until now.
A New Outlook Then SIG Sauer dropped its new P365 9mm into the marketplace. So much for my belief that I did not need to look any further. Suddenly, I was doing just that, looking at SIG’s new pistol quite intently. SIG Sauer launched this new subcompact, striker-fired pistol at the beginning of 2018, and it has certainly made headlines. At first, when I read about another subcompact pistol coming onto the market, I scratched my head and thought how could this pistol be much different than any of the others I have carried or shot? Well, as soon as I put one in my hands, I was taken aback with what SIG Sauer had done in such a small package. One of the first lines I read about this pistol, before I put my hands onto one, was that it offered 10 rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber for 11 rounds total in a subcompact weapon. Again, I was intrigued with what I was reading. However, I was somewhat skeptical until I was able to see, in-hand, what SIG Sauer had been able to produce. After having read a fair bit about the pistol, and talked to a couple of the people back at the SIG Sauer factory in New Hampshire, I started to see what the hype was all about when I held the SIG P365.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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DAILY CARRY SOLUTION
“VISUALLY, SIG SAUER HAD BEFORE ME WHAT WAS A HIGHLY EYE-APPEALING WEAPON.”
Out of the box and teamed with the right accessories from RDR Custom Kydex, the SIG 365 is ready for duty.
First Impression Out of the box, I was amazed with how compact the weapon actually is. Compared to a couple of other subcompact weapons on the market, SIG Sauer was able to make this pistol a little smaller and even a little lighter compared to the competition. Visually, SIG Sauer had before me what was a highly eye-appealing weapon. With forward and rear cocking serrations, a nicely detailed Dig Deeper and textured grip, SIG’s X-RAY3 night sights (that work very well) and SIG’s SIG Sauer accessory rail, this little pistol SIGSauer.com certainly captures the visual person’s attention. PRIME Ammunition Like most of its pistols, PrimeAmmo.com this one looks like a SIG
Sauer. More importantly, it looks like the older and bigger brother, the P320. That said, the P365 subcompact has a grip made of polymer and stainless steel, along with a stainless-steel slide. The stainless steel on these pistols is finished with SIG Sauer’s famous Nitron coating that leaves pistols very durable throughout many forms of wear. This is great for a pistol that will likely be carried daily, perhaps in a pocket or in one of the many different types of carry options seen on the market today. As mentioned previously, the P365’s trigger system is striker fired. After working with this pistol, I quickly realized SIG definitely had done something to bring smoothness into a striker-fired trigger system. What still appealed to me most, and what I had to see for myself, was the 10-round magazine. Brilliantly, SIG Sauer was able to build and craft a magazine that could be accepted into this subcompact and still have it filled with 10 of your personal favorite rounds. The design of the magazine for the P365 starts
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out as a double column at the bottom. Then, just above the halfway point, the magazine starts to taper off, and rounds are funneled into a single file. This design allowed SIG Sauer to feature a 10-round magazine in a pistol this size. Some thought and engineering went into its machine shop on this one. With all of my drooling out of the way, I took the gun apart, looked to see which parts moved and which did not, in both the frame and slide. After a visual check, I placed the pistol and two 10-round magazines in the fitted box and headed to the range for some live fire. Did I mention this pistol comes with two 10-round magazines? Along with the pistol, I grabbed a half-dozen boxes of The P365 different type of ammunition is easy to to run the P365 through a few conceal, chambered different courses of fire. Two in 9mm and loads from PRIME Ammunition rated for +P followed me: 124-grain FMJ and ammunition. 124-grain DEFENSE+, along with what my agency issues—Federal 147-grain HST. As with most new weapons, I did a bit of dry fire practice with the P365, but just enough to figure out whether there were any additional humps or long pauses in the trigger press. To my delight,
the trigger was more than satisfactory out of the box. Knowing that this pistol would be used primarily for off-duty wear, I contacted RDR Custom Kydex out of Salt Lake City, Utah, as soon as I had the pistol on order. Speaking with the owner, Jeff Wilber, I asked how quickly he could have a couple sets of holsters and magazine pouches sent to me. Jeff ’s response was, “Immediately!” Sure enough, within a matter of days, he had both a set for a right-handed person (my better half) and for me, the oddball lefty. The fit and finish on all of Jeff ‘s products are amazing, and these items for the newly released Sig P365 definitely did not disappoint.
01 02 03 04 05
At the 5-yard line, the author scored a “ragged hole” just below the 10 on the target. After a few hundred rounds, he said the P365 got hot in his hands. After all those rounds, there were “zero issues,” and heating up did nothing to accuracy or functionality. The P365 “fits more like a glove than any of the others I have tested,” he reported.
As for the X-RAY3 Day/Night sights, Davis reported that they “offer a very nice sight picture.” He said, “The sights were dead-on from up close out to 25 yards.”
Recoil was minimal, and he reported that it felt just “slightly more than a full-size pistol.”
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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DAILY CARRY SOLUTION
The handgun comes with a 10-round flush magazine and a 10-round extended mag.
Range Results As soon as I had an inside-the-waistband holster and mag pouch on my person, I loaded both 10-round magazines with PRIME’s FMJ and proceeded to the 5-yard line. Since this was my first time firing the pistol, I wanted to shoot for accuracy. I was using the NRA Bulls-eye that I often use at ranges up to 25 yards with a pistol. I wanted to get some basic accuracy with this pistol before jumping too deeply into other types of shooting scenarios. With the first 10 rounds, I printed a ragged hole just below the printed 10 on the target. Not bad, so I wanted to try this again. The same results occurred, with the hole getting just slightly larger than it was with the first magazine out of the P365. With accuracy being nice at the 5-yard line, and knowing the FMJs fed well, I started using the other two types Specifications of hollowpoints that I brought with Model: SIG P365 me for the day. Caliber: 9mm Luger Through numerous Action: Semi-auto magazine changes, Frame Size: Micro compact I pushed rounds Grip: Polymer into the two Frame Finish: Nitron magazines time Frame Material: Stainless steel after time with Slide Finish: Nitron little downtime Slide Material: Stainless steel between firings. I Trigger: Striker can tell you this: Barrel Length: 3.1 inches Over the course Overall Length: 5.8 inches of a few hundred Overall Width: 1 inch rounds in a short Height: 4.3 inches amount of time, Weight: 17.8 ounces the P365 got rather hot in my hands.
That said, zero issues were noted with the weapon, and heating up did nothing to the accuracy or functionality of the pistol. Of all the subcompact weapons I have used, the P365 fits more like a glove than any of the others I have tested. That is saying a lot, as I have size 4XL hands. Having the double-column magazine fill the grip area has a lot to do with the comfort of this pistol. Of the 10-round magazines that come with the weapon, one has a pinky extender that allows for a slightly better feel than the flush-mounted magazine. If you need it, SIG Sauer sells an extended 12-round magazine, giving you a total of 13 rounds in the weapon. While this adds a bit of length to the grip area, it does allow someone with larger hands to control and grip the weapon a bit better when firing. SIG Sauer’s X-RAY3 Day/Night sights, which come with the weapon, offer a very nice sight picture. I am not a fan of night sights. Instead, I like a simple black rear sight and something up front, preferably a gold bead. While these sights are traditional night sights with tritium ampules, the rear sight offers small ampules that can be blurred out. The front sight is installed with a green tritium ampule that is outlined with a large green circle taking up the majority of the front sight. Again, while not typically a fan of this type of sighting system, I was casually impressed with the sight picture. However, I was more impressed that the sights were dead-on from up close out to 25 yards. Yes, this pistol is a shooter out to 25 yards. Recoil with the P365 was minimal. Having now shot upward of almost 2,000 rounds through this gun, I have to say the recoil felt just slightly more than a full-size pistol. My guess is that this has something to do with the low bore axis between the barrel and the frame. This low bore axis, coupled with a double-stacked magazine that allows a better and more secure grip to this pistol, the recoil of the 9mm SIG Sauer P365 can be handled easy by most who shoot this weapon.
A Greater Influence If you’re looking for a 9mm subcompact pistol that has a barrel length of 3.1 inches, weighs just over a pound unloaded and whose 5.8-inch overall length is just slightly shorter than a couple other subcompact pistols you might carry, the SIG P365 just may be your next purchase. I was so impressed with this pistol that I had to buy another one, not for me, but for my other half, who promptly claimed the P365 on her first range day with the weapon. Obviously, the new SIG has a significant impact on others, too. GW
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What It Will Run You MSRP $599.99
As for recoil, the author said it felt just slightly more than a full-size pistol.
“ … JUST ABOVE THE HALFWAY POINT, THE MAGAZINE STARTS TO TAPER OFF, AND ROUNDS ARE FUNNELED INTO A SINGLE FILE.” HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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COMPACT SEMIAUTOMATICS COURTESY OF CRIMSON TRACE
CRAIG BERG / EYEEM VIA GETTY IMAGES
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hen it comes to firearms, concealed carry continues to be the dominant force influencing engineers and the market. Fortunately, manufacturers had their collective fingers on the pulse and ensured 2018 did not arrive without a host of new models, features, and finishes, for smaller, more concealable subcompact concealedcarry pistols. Which of these new models would you entrust with your safety and that of your loved ones? Hint: All of them!
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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GRAND POWER Q1S Action: Double Action Only Made In: Slovakia Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.35 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.7 inches Height: 4.6 inches Width: 1.4 inches Sights: Drift adjustable steel, rear Capacity: 12 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 28.10 ounces Features: The handling is simplified; the controls are
HECKLER & KOCH VP9SK Action: Double Action Only Made In: Germany Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.39 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: NATO Green Overall Length: 6.61 inches Height: 4.57 inches Width: 1.31 inches Sights: Snag-free Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 23.3 ounces Features: The VPSK has the features of the latest, state-ofthe-art handgun. All controls
HONOR DEFENSE HONOR GUARD Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.8 inches Finish: Ferritic nitrocarburized Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Ferritic nitrocarburized Overall Length: 6.8 inches Height: 4.6 inches Width: 0.96 inches Sights: Snag-free Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 25 ounces
minimal. Plus, the Q1S boasts the signature rotating barrel locking system that Grand Power owners worldwide have come to expect. The Grand Power Q1S combines the size and tried-and-true locking principle of the P11 model with a reliable strikerfire trigger mechanism. Simply put, the Q1S continues the Grand Powersâ€™ tradition of quality firearms beautifully. Website: EagleImportsInc. com MSRP: $574
are completely ambidextrous. Slide releases are present on both sides of the frame and left- or right-handed shooters can easily activate the paddlestyle magazine release. Website: HK-USA.com MSRP: $719
Features: The Honor Guard was purpose-built for concealed carry. All materials are sourced and built in the United States. It was designed with input from veterans, law enforcement and civilian instructors and is perfect for both personal protection or LE undercover concealment. Website: HonorDefense.com MSRP: $499
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COMPACT SEMI-AUTOMATICS KAHR ST9 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Black Armor Cerakote Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Kryptek Typhon Camo Overall Length: 6.5 inches Height: N/A Width: N/A Sights: Three dot Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 20.6 ounces Features: First in the TIG series, the Kahr ST9 is a limited-edition pistol
RUGER EC9S Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.12 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6 inches Height: 4.50 inches Width: 0.90 inch Sights: Integral with slide Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 17.2 ounces Features: Ruger’s EC9S is a striker-fired concealable pistol featuring a short, light, crisp trigger pull for faster,
RUGER SECURITY-9 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.24 inches Height: 5 inches Width: 1.02 inches Sights: Fixed front, drift adjustable rear Capacity: 15 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 23.7 ounces Features: Safety features include bladed trigger safety;
honoring John “TIG” Tiegen, one of hero of Benghazi. Production will be held to 1,000 pistols. Each will feature the TIG logo, TIG’s signature and the Beyond the Battlefield logo. A portion of every sale will be donated to the Beyond the Battlefield Foundation by Kahr’s parent company. Website: Kahr.com MSRP: $541
more accurate shooting. Slim, lightweight and compact at just slightly larger (less than 1 inch taller, and 1 inch longer) than the popular and incredibly compact LCP, the EC9S is perfect for personal protection. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $299
manual safety; neutrally balanced sear with significant engagement and strong spring tension; and hammer catch to help prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $379
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SIG SAUER P365 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.1 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 5.8 inches Height: 4.3 inches Width: 1.0 inches Sights: XRAY3 Day/Night Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 17.8 ounces Features: The SIG P365 is micro-compact, with an unprecedented 10+1 full-size capacity. The P365 is
SMITH & WESSON M&P380 SHIELD EZ Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .380 ACP Barrel Length: 3.68 inches Finish: Armornite Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.7 inches Height: N/A Width: N/A Sights: White dot front and rear, adjustable Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 18.5 ounces Features: The innovative
SPRINGFIELD ARMORY XD-E 45 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 3.3 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.75 inches Height: 5 inches Width: 1 inch Sights: Fiber optic front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 23 ounces Features: Chambered for the venerable .45 ACP, the XD-E provides maximum firepower
striker-fired, with the clean crisp trigger pull you expect from a SIG. Lightweight and easy to conceal, the P365 is chambered in 9mm and is rated for +P ammunition. Included standard are XRAY3 Day/Night sights, a 10-round flush-fit magazine, and a 12-round extended magazine. Website: SigSauer.com MSRP: $599
M&P380 Shield EZ pistol is the latest addition to the M&P M2.0 family and provides an easy-to-use protection option for both first-time shooters and experienced handgunners alike. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $399
in an easily concealable package. In fact, the sleek 1-inch-wide polymer frame, paired with a 3.3-inch hammer-forged barrel is ideal concealability. The low effort slide system allows for 27% easier manipulation for quicker operation when it counts, while the active grip texturing provides uniquely comfortable, yet secure, grip contact. Website: SpringfieldArmory.com MSRP: $568
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COMPACT SEMI-AUTOMATICS SPRINGFIELD ARMORY XD-S MOD.2 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 3.3 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.5 inches Height: 4.4 inches Width: 0.9 inch Sights: Fiber optic front Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 21.5 ounces Features: The latest edition of Springfield’s most popular
WALTHER PPQ SC Action: Double Action Only Made In: Germany Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.6 inches Height: 4.4 inches Width: 1.3 inches Sights: Low-profile three-dot Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 21.2 ounces Features: Signature ergonomics and smooth single-action triggers are cornerstones of the award-
WALTHER PPS M2 Action: Double Action Only Made In: Germany Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.18 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.3 inches Height: 5.3 inches Width: 1 inch Sights: Factory-installed Shield RMSc optic Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 21.1 ounces Features: The PPQ M2 is a breakthrough in ergonomics
pistol is engineered in a slim, single-stack frame, holding 6 rounds of .45 ACP and offers upgrades from the inside out. The XD-S Mod.2 features a higher hand position, enhanced grip texturing, a thinner slide, available with an Ameriglo Pro-Glo front sight with tactical-rack rear sight, and an enhanced trigger that advance this polymer-framed pistol’s acclaimed “point and shoot” ergonomics. Website: SpringfieldArmory.com MSRP: $568
winning PPQ platform. The PPQ SC provides all the features from the Legendary PPQ line, but in a smaller, more concealable package. Accuracy and concealability are perfectly meshed together in this quality self-defense handgun. The PPQ Sub-Compact is extremely comfortable and controllable thanks to the superior ergonomics and customizable fit of the included interchangeable backstraps. Website: WaltherArms.com MSRP: $649
for self-defense handguns. The sculpted grip meshes smoothly into the hand. The trigger is one of the finest ever on a polymer, striker-fired handgun. The styling is elegant and trim. What’s more, the PPQ M2 has been updated with a new, traditional, reversible mag release button. The leading edge just took another step forward. Website: WaltherArms.com MSRP: $699
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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AREX REX ZERO 1 COMPACT Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Slovenia Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.85 inches Finish: Nickel Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Nickel Overall Length: 7.1 inches Height: 5.1 inches Width: N/A Sights: High-profile white dot steel Capacity: 15 rounds Grips: zero 1, oak, or aluminum Weight: 25.12 ounces Features: The REX zero 1
GLOCK G19 GEN 5 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 4.02 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.28 inches Height: 5.04 inches Width: 1.34 inches Sights: Glock Night Sights or AmeriGlo Night Sights Capacity: 15 rounds Grips: Textured, interchangeable backstraps Weight: 23.99 ounces Features: The Glock G19 Gen5 pistol in 9mm Luger
BERSA TPR9C Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Argentina Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.25 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Aluminum alloy Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.5 inches Height: 4.75 inches Width: 1.45 inches Sights: Three dot Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Anatomically designed polymer Weight: 23 ounces
pistol does not claim to be a revolutionary breakthrough, but you will find it represents a definitive evolutionary step in modern handgun design and manufacturing. Arex has achieved improvements over some of the most popular designs, eliminating their weaknesses and enhancing their advantages by applying our expertise and state-ofthe-art CAD/CAM processes. The result is a best-in-class defensive pistol that boasts extreme reliability and accuracy, with a competitive price. Website: FimeGroup.com MSRP: $789
is ideal for a more versatile role due to its reduced dimensions. The new frame design without finger grooves still allows you to instantly customize its grip to accommodate any hand size by mounting the different backstraps. The reversible magazine catch and ambidextrous slide stop lever make it ideal for left- and right-handed shooters. The rifling and the crown of the barrel were slightly modified for increased precision. Website: Glock.com MSRP: $699
Features: Compact and powerful, the TPRC is perfect if you need stopping power without the bulk. And thanks to a Browning Petter barrel locking system, youâ€™ll see reliable feeding and ejection, time after time. Website: EagleImports.com MSRP: $508
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COMPACT SEMI-AUTOMATICS GLOCK GEN5 G26 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.43 inches Finish: nDLC Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.42 inches Height: 4.17 inches Width: 1.0 inch Sights: Glock Night Sights or Ameriglo Night Sights Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Textured, interchangeable backstraps Weight: 21.69 ounces Features: The Glock 26 is now available in Glock’s latest generation of perfection. A popular option for concealed carry, the Glock 26 now features the Glock Marksman Barrel (GMB), delivering increased accuracy with polygonal rifling and an improved barrel crown. Other features include removal of the finger grooves, an ambidextrous slide and nDLC finish. Website: Glock.com MSRP: $699 GW
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HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE 4/20/18 2:40 PM
7/31/2018 9:48:18 PM
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SECURITY 9 TACKLES GUNSITE
Rugerâ€™s New Pistol Breaks the Pocket-Size Mold, But Can it Tackle the Rigors of Gunsite
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BY MIKE DETTY PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
here was a time when every cop carried a revolver. During this period, 99% of them were S&W or Colt guns. Then, in 1972, Ruger introduced the Security 6—a heavy-duty, .357 Magnum, double-action revolver that retailed for dramatically less money than S&W or Colt. Ruger had some moderate success placing its revolver with some law enforcement agencies—most notably the INS and Border Patrol—but the Security 6’s workhorse reputation and economical price also made them an attractive option for security agencies. It is likely that Ruger’s newest pistol, the Security 9, will follow in that same path. Earlier this year, Ruger introduced a new polymer-framed, hammer-fired, semi-automatic 9mm pistol. Called the Security 9, the gun boasts a capacity of 15+1 and comes with two magazines. It weighs just 23 ounces unloaded, and has an incredibly crisp and controllable trigger. Boasting typical Ruger reliability, the Security 9 has a suggested retail price of just $359 with a real world price of $299. Recently, Ruger assembled a small group of writers at Gunsite, in Paulden, Arizona, to introduce three new guns—Security 9, Ruger Pistol Caliber Carbine, and Precision Rimfire Rifle. In the following story, you’ll see how the Security 9 fared at the legendary range.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SECURITY 9 TACKLES GUNSITE
“THE URBAN SCRAMBLER WAS DESIGNED TO TEST A SHOOTER’S ABILITY TO USE COVER WHILE FIRING FROM UNCONVENTIONAL POSITIONS, MAKING RELOADS WHERE NECESSARY, AND MOVING AS RAPIDLY AS POSSIBLE BETWEEN TARGETS.”
In testing and on the Gunsite range, the reliability of the Security 9 proved to be flawless.
Warranty work is also conducted at the same manufacturing plant that built the gun. As part of the presentation, Ruger brought the engineers who developed the Security 9 pistol. One of them told us, “It’s not a subcompact!” Ruger did not design the Security 9 to be a small pocket pistol. Ruger engineers told us they wanted the gun to be a mid-size pistol and used Glock 19 dimensions as its starting point. As one of them said, “We wanted the gun to be big enough to shoot well, yet small enough that it wouldn’t be a chore to carry.” You’ll definitely want to use a holster when carrying the Security 9. Despite the size-approximation to the Glock 19, the Ruger Security 9 is not a striker-fired gun. Its mechanics are very similar to that of the LCP, and it uses a pre-cocked hammer with a lot more engagement on the sear. It is a very serviceable trigger pull and easy to shoot. It’s crisp trigger pull, and positive reset, makes it almost feel like a single-action auto. The Security 9 also possesses a manual thumb safety located in the familiar 1911 position. Gunsite’s instructor staff left it up to us as to whether we wanted to use the safety or run the guns like Glocks. After the conversations concluded, we moved to the range.
Range Time High Goals While at Gunsite, a Ruger spokesperson told us that they are trying to introduce 40 new products a year. Most are introduced to coincide with the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in January of each year. Ruger plans to have between 2,000 – 10,000 guns ready for distributors before announcing each new product. Two days before the launch, guns are shipped to retailers. Prescott, Arizona is just a short drive from Gunsite, and this is where Ruger manufactures its semi-auto pistols. By making all of its own parts, Ruger is able to control the quality and cost.
Using holsters supplied Blade-Tech, we took our Security 9s to the range where we were introduced to the Jeff Cooper presentation from the holster, step by step. From there, we practiced controlled pairs followed by the failure drill. Hornady supplied us with plenty of its 115-grain Critical Defense FTX rounds, and the Security 9s all ran flawlessly. The gun is comfortable to shoot, points naturally, and everyone seemed to like the trigger. MGM Targets set up its new Steel Challenge Plate Racks on one of the Gunsite ranges. We ran a number of exercises with the MGM steel, and had a man-on-man shoot-off before moving over to Gunsite’s Urban Scrambler field course. The Urban
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actually feels lighter. It also has a very firm reset, which makes rapidly firing the Security 9 easier. Saying that it is 1911-like would be a stretch, but not too much of a stretch. There’s a trigger stop molded into the Security 9’s trigger guard to prevent overtravel. Like many striker-fired semi-autos currently available, the Security 9 uses a blade safety inset into the trigger face. The gun cannot fire unless this blade safety is depressed. The Security 9 uses a onepiece, hard-coated aluminum chassis to keep the parts in their proper orientation and protect the polymer frame from wear. The polymer frame has a fine texture designed to give the shooter a secure firing grip without being too abrasive or tacky enough for clothing to hang up on when worn concealed. There’s a rail When moving “off the X” from 3 yards, the author delivered hits more-thanon the gun’s dust cover for light acceptable for self-defense work. and laser units to give the gun night-fighting capability. Despite the stamped looks, the Security 9’s slide is maScrambler was designed to test a shooter’s ability to use cover chined from billet, and has wide forward and rear cocking while firing from unconventional positions, making reloads serrations. An external extractor is used on the Security 9, and where necessary, and moving as rapidly as possible between it has been designed to provide maximum contact with the case targets. Ruger representatives set up a USPSA-style course rim for positive extraction. Ruger outfits this gun with polymer afterward, and we each took turns running the high round count sights, though Ruger’s reps stated they were working with HIVstage. Each writer put at least 300 rounds through their test gun while at Gunsite. I don’t recall any of them having an issue or even jamming. The following two days, we worked with Ruger’s new long Specs and Features guns, the Pistol Caliber Carbine and the Precision Rimfire Rifle. We all had a great time at the event. Shortly after my return Manufacturer: Ruger home, Ruger sent me another Security 9 pistol for a more inWebsite: Ruger.com depth evaluation.
A Closer Look Ruger has some experience when it comes to semi-autos for self-defense. The LCP connection is obvious on the Security 9 both in looks and mechanics. The LCP II has sold more than 1.6 million copies, and Ruger has done extensive surveys with its customers. One criticism commonly heard was that its less-than-desirable trigger pull. Ruger’s engineers corrected this on the Security 9, giving the pre-cocked hammer a lot more engagement on the sear. The result is shorter trigger travel and crisper pull. Trigger pull on my test sample was just 4.25 pounds, and so crisp it
Model: Security 9, #3810 Operation: Semi-auto, locked breech Caliber: 9mm, 15 + 1 capacity, two magazines included Barrel: Blued 4-inch barrel, 6-groove, 1:10-inch RH twist Weight: 23.7 ounces, unloaded with an empty magazine Overall Length: 7.24 inches Height: 5 inches Slide Width: 1.02 inches Grip Frame: High performance, glass-filled nylon Sights: Polymer, rear drift adjustable for windage Warranty: Limited lifetime Suggested Retail: $379
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SECURITY 9 TACKLES GUNSITE
Gunsite offers firearm training to elite military personnel, law enforcement officers and free citizens of the U.S.
IZ to get steel sights. Taking a quick glance at HIVIZ reveals that Ruger offers both a Litewave fiber optic sight set and Tritium night sights for the Security 9. That being said, the Security 9’s issued sights worked well. The front sight has a white dot and the rear sight has a white outline. Windage adjustment can be accomplished by loosening the rear sight’s set screw and drifting the polymer sight in its dovetail. Ruger uses a fully supported barrel on the Security 9. It has an integral feed ramp. The feed angle from the magazine to the chamber is extremely shallow, nearly guaranteeing flawless feeding. The barrel length is a true mid-size 4 inches in length. Ruger ships the new Security 9 with two magazines. Capacity is 15, giving the gun a total carry of 16 rounds. Ten-round magazines will ship with guns to states such as Colorado, New York, and New Jersey, which have restrictions in place. I shot the Security 9 for groups at 25 yards. I fired all groups from a DOA Tactical portable shooting bench and used a Millett BenchMaster to rest the gun’s dust cover rail on when firing. I fired five rounds for each group. The best group data is listed in the sidebar. I found the gun shot to point of aim and was reasonably accurate for a gun of its size and price range. Five-shot groups ranged from under 2.5 inches to just over 3.25 inches. Double-
PERFORMANCE DATA Ammo Aguila 124-grain FMJ Blackhills 115-grain JHP Doubletap 77-grain hollowpoint Federal 147-grain Hydra-Shok Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain FTX Average Group Size
Velocity Energy (fps) 1,048 1,264 1,560 938 1,207
(ft-lbs) 302 408 416 287 372
(inches) 2.83 2.78 2.41 3.02 3.27 2.87
Note: Velocities were recorded with a PACT Professional XP chronograph. The best group data from five rounds is listed.
Tap’s 77-grain hollowpoints produced the best group, measuring 2.41 inches for five shots. This load also produced the most energy-churning, up 416 foot-pounds of energy. DoubleTap’s 9mm load has been a consistent performer in other evaluations, always providing excellent accuracy and energy. During this evaluation, DoubleTap’s ammunition performed to the level of expectation, as well. Reliability of the Security 9, both at Gunsite and then during my subsequent evaluation, was flawless. Despite the use of projectile weights from 77 to 147 grains, with very different bullet nose profiles and overall lengths, everything fed, cycled, extracted, and ejected without fail. My Security 9 displays exactly the kind of reliability needed for personal defense use.
Maintenance Disassembly of the Security 9 for routine cleaning and maintenance is easy and straightforward. Begin by unloading the pistol—remove the magazine and clear the chamber. Then, allow the slide to go forward. Retract the slide approximately 1/16 inch, and use a flat blade screwdriver to pull out the take-down pin from the left side of the frame. With the pin removed, allow the slide to go forward, off the frame. Turn the slide assembly upside down in your hand, and remove the recoil spring guide and spring—the spring is captured on the guide. The barrel can then be removed from the slide. That’s as far as you’ll ever need to strip your Security 9 for routine cleaning and maintenance. Reassembly is in the reverse order.
Ideal for CC Ruger’s new Security 9 possesses all the reliability and accuracy needed for concealed carry use. Its size and ergonomics make it an easy gun to shoot well. The 15+1 capacity puts the Security 9 in the running with much more expensive polymer semi-autos. With real-world pricing at $300, you would be hard pressed to find a better gun for the money.
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(Top) The dust cover features a Picatinny rail for attaching a light or laser. (Left) The trigger was crisp enough to mimic the feel of a single-action pistol.
“IT’S CRISP TRIGGER PULL, AND POSITIVE RESET, MAKES IT ALMOST FEEL LIKE A SINGLE-ACTION AUTO.” About Gunsite Retired Marine Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper founded Gunsite in 1976. Cooper was a proponent of the Modern Technique, which he developed while competing at Big Bear Lake, CA. Borrowing on Jack Weaver’s bent elbow and push-pull grip, Cooper expounded on it and developed a curriculum designed to ingrain lifesaving skills and confidence-boosting ability in his students—in just a week’s time.
Blade-Tech holsters were used when the writers were exposed to the Jeff Cooper presentation technique.
Gunsite covers more than 4.5 miles and boasts numerous ranges, including a 2,000-yard range, classroom facilities, shoot houses, and a fully stocked pro shop. There is a campground for use by clients with RVs and campers, hot showers, and laundry facilities. Gunsite staff train law enforcement, military, and qualified civilians in the safe and effective use of firearms. To schedule a class or learn more about Gunsite, visit its website at Gunsite.com. GW
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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uger’s EC9s, a personal defense handgun designed for concealed carry, is very similar to the proven LC9s 9mm pistol. However, the EC9s features several important differences. All in all, the EC9s is an economy handgun that offers excellent performance. Let’s take our look at it.
Start Me Up The EC9s features the same striker-fired action as the LC9s and the same grip, slide (to a point), and fame. The pistol is comfortable in the hand and well-balanced. The sights, however, differ from the original LC9s. The EC9s features rugged fixed sights cast integrally with the frame. While they are not adjustable or removable, they certainly are not going anywhere. The sights feature serrations on the rear face to eliminate glare and aid the acquiring of a clear sight picture. The pistol isn’t supplied with a spare magazine. This means shelling out $28 or so for a spare. All self-loaders demand at least three magazines with one in the pistol, one resting, and one on the belt as a spare. The occasional shooter may not feel that way. After all, how many carry a revolver with no speed loader? Many.
The Ruger EC9s is a great, all-around, concealed carry 9mm.
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STORY & PHOTOS BY BOB CAMPBELL
AFFORDABLE CARRY Ruger’s EC9s Will Stop the Bad Guys Without Putting a Dent in Your Wallet HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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AFFORDABLE CARRY Just outlining the pluses and minuses of this pistol, and I am finding the plus column to be full. When you compare this pistol to those in a similar price bracket or slightly below, you will see the Ruger 9mm has much to recommend. The Ruger EC9s features a steel slide and glass-reinforced fiber frame. The slide is well-machined with a smooth, even, dark finish. The sights are cast integrally with the slide—the primary difference between this pistol and the LC9s. The EC9s features a striker-fired action. This allows a very fast lock time. The trigger action breaks clean at about 5.0 pounds. In fact, the trigger action is one of the main points in favor of this handgun. The grip is thin in cross section. This means the pistol is easily concealed without a large footprint. The grip’s thin cross section also dictates that recoil may be concentrated in the backstrap, more so than a handgun with a wider grip. Hand fit is excellent, even for those with small hands. Trigger reach does not challenge shooters with small-to-average size hands. The steel magazine holds seven 9mm Luger cartridges. The magazine’s floor plate allows a finger hold when firing. However, those wishing to obtain the maximum in concealment may remove this magazine base.
With the flush fit magazine in place, control wasn’t affected for the trained shooter. Just the same, the finger grip does make for better control. The gripping surfaces are lightly pebbled and make for a good balance of adhesion and abrasion.
Advantage EC9s The Ruger EC9s has several important features other concealed carry handguns do not. I like the manual safety. I feel that a handgun without a safety nullifies many of the advantages of the self-loading pistol. The safety is a true cocked and locked type. The safety locks the slide in place. Many pistols have manual safeties that do not lock the slide. The safety is also positive in operation. It isn’t very large, but for those who practice, it is easily manipulated. The safety is a good feature, and offers an advantage to models sans a safety. There is also a magazine safety that prevents the pistol from firing when the magazine isn’t locked in place. These safety features are appealing to many personal-defense shooters. If you prefer a handgun without a safety mechanism, simply ignore the safety. My recommendation is to practice manipulating the safety until you have the procedure mastered. In
“[RUGER’S EC9S] IS EASILY CONCEALED WITHOUT A LARGE FOOTPRINT.” The Cost Factor The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $299. Mine was purchased retail at South Carolina Gun Company for less than $235. That is a considerable break from the list price of the LC9s.
Go as crazy as you would like with the holster design, as long as it is functional and reliable.
As an example, Cabela’s lists the LC9s at $399 with the occasional sale price of $100 less. For a personal defense handgun to be used in engagements at 21 feet or so, the new sights are good. In fact, they may actually be superior in some regards, considering the beating a personal defense handgun takes over its useful life.
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the event the handgun is wrested away from you, the gun grabber may not quickly realize how to move the lever to safe. When holstering, the pistol will not fire if the trigger snags on the holster, providing the safety is engaged of course. The Ruger EC9s, in common with the Ruger LC9s, features a relatively short slide and a grip that is long enough to afford a good hold when executing a rapid presentation from concealed carry. The pistol is light, flat, and easily concealed. Unlike short fat versions of high-capacity handguns, or handguns with a cutdown service gun slide, this handgun features a slide and frame that was designed from the first for concealed carry use. Starting from a clean slate resulted in a pistol that is well-suited for concealed carry.
Range Time While the EC9s is designed for concealed carry, handling and accuracy are also important criteria. The pistol is surprisingly controllable. Of course, it isn’t as comfortable as a Ruger SR1911 or Glock 19-size handgun, but the Ruger was never uncomfortable to fire during the evaluation. The primary load used was the Black Hills Ammunition
The 9mm Luger has demonstrated poor results in personal defense with many loads. Therefore, load selection is vital. However, the single most important part of personal defense is marksmanship. Next, the load must exhibit adequate penetration to reach the vital organs. Quite a few frangible loads make ridiculous claims that are not borne out in testing. The Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP is a reasonable choice for personal defense. It is easy enough to control in the EC9s and accurate. I think +P loads may be too much for many shooters in a handgun this light. A good alternative is the Black Hills Ammunition EXP. The Extra Power load isn’t a +P, but is as fast as possible without going to +P pressure. This 115-grain loading breaks 1,180 fps—even from the Ruger’s short barrel. Choose a credible loading and shoot straight.
The Ruger compares well The Ruger compares well to the Smith & Wesson to the Smith & Wesson 442 .38 Special. 442 .38 Special.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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The safety is in the “on safe” position in this illustration.
When the whole package is weighed against the light weight and slight expense of the piece, the Ruger EC9s, which comes with one magazine, is a bargain.
Ruger Model 3283 EC9s
Caliber: 9mm Capacity: 7 plus 1 rounds Slide Material: Steel slide with black oxide finish
Slide Width: 0.9 inch Frame Material: Glass-filled nylon Weight: 17.2 ounces Length: 6 inches Height: 4.5 inches
“STARTING FROM A CLEAN SLATE RESULTED IN A PISTOL THAT IS WELLSUITED FOR CONCEALED CARRY.” 115-grain FMJ loading. This is a clean-burning and accurate loading, useful for training. I was able to keep hits in the K zone at 7 yards, firing as quickly as I was able to recover the sights after recoil. At 10 yards, I fired a full magazine as quickly as possible, controlling the sights and trigger. (The cadence of fire is never set by how quickly you are able to press the trigger, but by how quickly you are able to regain the sights. Fire, regain the sight picture as the trigger resets, and fire again.) The result was a group of 4 inches for seven shots in rapid fire—excellent for this type of pistol. The EC9s is surprisingly accurate at extended ranges. I was able to strike pinecones and dirt clods past 15 yards with attention
to the sights and trigger. The pistol is certainly accurate enough for personal defense. During the evaluation, I also used a number of personal defense loads. Load selection is critical with the 9mm Luger. A load with a balance of expansion is needed. The pistol proved reliable with loads from 77 to 150 grains. As of the end of this evaluation, some 800 cartridges were fired. The pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
Little Big Gun The EC9s is a bargain, and a little gun that shoots like a big one. And I know. I spent many hours on the range with it. GW
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The rear sight of EC9s is well-suited to personal defense.
The safety is in the fire position in this illustration.
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he changing trend in the market has caused manufacturers to go back to the drawing board to redesign pistols to be smaller and more compact. That has been great for the concealed carry market, but it has left the full-size pistol market a bit thin, with the exception of 1911s, of course. We searched high and low, found a few exceptional 1911s that did not make it in the 1911-specific section and mixed in a few target models to bring you the best of the full frames.
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FULL-SIZE SEMIAUTOMATICS Buyer’s Guide
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SPRINGFIELD TRP RMR Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: 10mm Barrel Length: 5 or 6 inches Finish: Black-T Frame Material: Forged steel Frame Finish: Black-T Overall Length: 8.6 inches Height: 6.4 inches Width: 1.3 inches Sights: Trijicon red dot, RMR mount with integrated night sights Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: G-10 Weight: 44 ounces
AREX REX ALPHA Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Slovenia Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.9 inches Height: 5.7 inches Width: 1 inch Sights: Dovetailed metallic fiber optic front, dovetailed metallic fully adjustable target rear Capacity: 17+1 rounds Grips: Wraparound textured black polymer, aluminum available
STEYR ARMS L9-A1 Action: Double Action Only Austria Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 4.5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.4 inches Height: 5.35 inches Width: 1.2 inches Sights: Drift adjustable Capacity: 17 rounds Grips: Synthetic frame Weight: 1.7 pounds Features: The Steyr L9-A1 striker-fired pistol is a full-sized, semi-automatic, double-action handgun
Features: The 5- and 6-inch TRP 10mm RMRs feature forged National Match frames and slides, precision-fit to match-grade stainless steel fully supported barrels. Frames and slides are Black-T finished to withstand heavy use and harsh environments. Website: SpringfieldArmory.com MSRP: $2,507
Weight: 42 ounces Features: The Arex REX Alpha race gun follows in the Arex tradition of providing customers with a high-quality product at a fair price. The Alpha has a suggested retail price of $1,099, which translates into real-world prices under $1,000. That makes this gun an exceptional value. Website: FimeGroup.com MSRP: $1,099
chambered in a choice of 9x19mm Parabellum with a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, or .40 Smith & Wesson with a magazine capacity of 12 rounds. With a barrel length of 4.5 inches, the L9-A1 is the largest of the Steyr pistol line. A full-length integrated Picatinny rail allows for mounting of nearly any standard light and/or laser, and two recoil groves in the rail provide adjustment. The slide of the Steyr L-A1 also features slide-racking grooves at both the rear and front. Website: SteyrArms.com MSRP: $575
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FULL-SIZE SEMI-AUTOMATICS DAN WESSON DISCRETION Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5.75 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Forged stainless Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 9.5 inches Height: 6 inches Width: 1.5 inches Sights: High (tritium) night, front and rear Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: G-10 Weight: 42.2 ounces Features: With suppressors
REMINGTON R1 1911 Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Satin black oxide Frame Material: Carbon steel Frame Finish: Satin black oxide Overall Length: 8.5 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.26 inches Sights: Two-dot dovetailed rear, single-dot dovetailed front Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Double-diamond walnut wood
MAGNUM RESEARCH DESERT EAGLE CASE HARDENED Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .50 AE Barrel Length: 6 inches Finish: Case hardened Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Case hardened Overall Length: 10.75 inches Height: 6.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Combat type fixed Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Walnut grip with
becoming more and more mainstream, the Discretion’s match-grade stainless barrel is extended and threaded to make it a ready host. Its aggressively ported slide, serrated trigger and competition-inspired hammer give it a look all of its own, making it stand out in our line of 1911s. High tritium sights allow for sighting over the top of most pistol suppressors, with a rear designed so that the slide can be racked on a belt if using the pistol one-handed. Website: DanWessonFirearms.com MSRP: $2,142
Weight: 38.5 ounces Features: The Remington 1911 R1 is a sweet-shooting advancement of America’s most reliable, accurate, and enduring handgun. It features a crisp trigger, dovetailed rear and front sights, precisionmachined slide and frame, and checkered doublediamond walnut grips. Website: Remington.com MSRP: $774
engraved Desert Eagle logo plus Hogue rubber grips Weight: 4 pounds, 5.8 ounces Features: After 25 years of being accessorized, customized and reimagined in countless movies, television shows and video games, the Desert Eagle Pistol has emerged as a pop-culture icon. All models feature a full Weaver-style accessory rail on the barrel, from the end of the chamber to right behind the front sight, and standard ambidextrous safeties. Website: MagnumResearch. com MSRP: $2,368
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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GLOCK 34 GEN 5
slide dimensions, making it a favorite among sport shooting competitors. Design enhancements include the Glock Marksman Barrel (GMB), which delivers increased accuracy with enhanced polygonal rifling and an improved barrel crown, no finger grooves, ambidextrous slide stop levers for better versatility and control, and an nDLC finish, which is a tougher and more durable finish that is exclusive to the Glock manufacturing process. Website: Glock.com MSRP: $899
BROWNING BUCK MARK FIELD TARGET SUPPRESSOR READY
Grips: Laminate cocobolo target Weight: 38 ounces Features: The Buckmark Field Target Suppressor Readyâ€™s barrel is threaded (as the name implies) to accept a sound suppressor. This is a heavy/bull barreled single-action, blowback operated, rimfire pistol with a full-length top Picatinny rail to mount your favorite optic, or you will be well-suited for the range with the standard Pro-Target adjustable sights. Website: Browning.com MSRP: $599
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 5.31 inches Finish: Matte black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Matte black Overall Length: 8.74 inches Height: 5.47 inches Width: 1.0 inch Sights: Glock night sight, modular optic system (MOS) Capacity: 19 rounds Grips: Textured with interchangeable back straps Weight: 33.16 ounces Features: The Glock 34 Gen5 MOS features an extended barrel and greater
Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .22 LR Barrel Length: 5.5 inches Finish: Matte blued Frame Material: Aluminum alloy Frame Finish: Matte black Overall Length: 9.75 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1 7/16 inches Sights: Pro-Target Capacity: 10 rounds
CZ ACCUSHADOW 2 Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Slovakia Caliber: 9mm Luger Barrel Length: 4.89 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.53 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.15 inches Sights: Fiber optic front, HAJO rear Capacity: 17+1 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 46.5 inches Features: Leave it to CZ Custom to take the Shadow
2 to the next level. To anchor the muzzle in the slide, CZâ€™s new quarter-turn 1911-style AccuBushing makes the pistol capable of sub-3-inch groups at 50 yards. A custom hammer further lightens the DA and SA pulls, while the reset is shortened with a hand-fit disconnector. Website: CZ-USA.com MSRP: $1,999
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FULL-SIZE SEMI-AUTOMATICS KAHR CT45 Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 4.04 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 6.57 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.01 inches Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear, pinned in polymer front Capacity: 7+1 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 23.7 ounces Features: The CT45 is an
NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM THE CHAIRMAN Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 6 inches Finish: DLC with gold titanium nitride barrel Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: DLC Overall Length: 9.58 inches Height: 5.75 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Nighthawk Custom fully adjustable rear sight with serrated blade Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Railscales
WILSON COMBAT VICKERS ELITE Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Carbon steel Frame Material: Carbon steel Frame Finish: Carbon steel Overall Length: 8.7 inches Height: 5.6 inches Width: 1.3 inches Sights: Battlesight with gold bead front Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: G-10 Vickers Elite Logo grips
exceptional design that is actually different and not just another copy with a different logo. Kahr took the best features of its TP-series and with ingenuity and meticulous dedication to quality and detail, it developed the CT Series. The CT45 is a concealable pistol that’s ready to defend at longer-thanaverage distances. It ships with one 7-round stainless steel magazine. Website: Kahr.com MSRP: $449
Weight: 40.9 ounces Features: The Chairman is the first in Nighthawk’s Boardroom series of pistols. The Chairman is a long-slide Government 1911 with a 6-inch barrel and is available in 9mm, 10mm, or .45 ACP. The incorporated windows and heavy angle lightning cuts in the slide allow the 6-inch slide to function reliably, while showing off the Titanium Gold Nitride Barrel. The long slide provides a longer sight radius for increased accuracy potential. Website: NighthawkCustom.com MSRP: $4,195
Weight: 41.6 ounces Features: The Vickers Elite is the natural evolution of the Wilson Combat that Bill Wilson has used as a primary training 1911 for several years. In arriving at the Vickers Elite design, Bill retained the majority of the features found on that pistol while tweaking a few others. The result is a superb 1911 built for serious use. It combines a classic look with a modern twist. Website: WilsonCombat.com MSRP: $3,960
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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WILSON COMBAT X-TAC ELITE Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm or .38 Super Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Carbon steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.7 inches Height: 5.6 inches Width: 1.3 inches Sights: Battlesight with fiber optic front Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Black G-10 aggressive starburst grips with pewter
SMITH & WESSON MODEL 41 Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .22 LR Barrel Length: 5.5 and 7 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Carbon steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.7 Height: 5.1 inches Width: 1.1 inches Sights: Micrometer click adjustable target rear, undercut Patridge front Capacity: 10+1 rounds
SMITH & WESSON M&P 45 M2.0 LE
Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 4.6 inches Finish: Armornite Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Armornite Overall Length: 7.9 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.3 inches Sights: TruGlo TFO Capacity: 10+1 rounds Grips: Textured Weight: 30.1 ounces Features: The M&P M2.0 pistol is the newest innovation to the M&P polymer pistol line. Designed for personal, sporting, and
medallions Weight: 41 ounces Features: Enhanced by Wilson Combat gunsmiths for daily carry and hard use training, the X-TAC Elite is a unique choice for shooters looking for a practical 1911-style custom pistol that comes standard with multiple cutting-edge cosmetic and tactical performance options. Website: WilsonCombat.com MSRP: $3,650
Grips: Ergonomic checkered target Weight: 44.8 ounces Features: Whether you choose the 5.5- or 7-inch barrel, when coupled with the 41-ounce heft, youâ€™ll have a rimfire ready to cut ragged holes. Adding to the accuracy potential is the crisp 2.7- to 3-pound trigger pull with almost no over-travel, which makes accurate shooting all that much more fun. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $1,369
professional use, the M&P M2.0 delivers an entirely new platform, introducing innovative features in nearly every aspect of the pistol, including trigger, grip, frame, and finish. Highlights of the M&P M2.0 pistol include an extended stainless steel chassis and high grip to barrel bore-axis ratio for reduced muzzle rise and faster aim recovery. The pistol, available in three calibers, includes four interchangeable palmswell inserts for optimal hand fit and trigger reach, and is available in matte black or a Flat Dark Earth finish. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $699 GW
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8/28/18 5:59 AM
Photo by Camilo Velasquez, Taurus Intl.
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FULL SPECTRUM Taurus’ Spectrum, a Solid Carry Handgun, Makes a Fashion Statement STORY AND PHOTOS BY RICHARD SCHUTZ STOCK PHOTOS BY CAMILO VELASQUEZ, TAURUS INTERNATIONAL
Spectrum: “A band of colors, as seen in a rainbow…”
here is no question regarding why Taurus named its new .380 micro pistol Spectrum. Designed, engineered and manufactured in the United States of America, it is (or soon will be) available in three frame colors, two slide colors and 20 soft-touch panel colors, for a total of 120 possible color combinations. When was the last time you saw a factory firearm of any type with that many color combinations? The only thing that might come close is a 1911 with blued or stainless slide and frame and custom grip panels. I did find it a bit ironic, however, when the first Spectrums offered for sale were triple black in color. Hopefully, by the time you read this, some color combinations will be available.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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“IT…WILL BE AVAILABLE IN THREE FRAME COLORS, TWO SLIDE COLORS AND 20 SOFT-TOUCH PANEL COLORS, FOR A TOTAL OF 120 POSSIBLE COLOR COMBINATIONS.”
The Taurus Spectrum, as the name suggests, will be available in a variety of colors. Photo by Camilo Velasquez, Taurus Intl.
OPERATION AND FEATURES This non-energized, striker-fired polymer pistol uses a double-action-only trigger. As expected, the trigger pull was long and broke at an average of 8.38 pounds — not bad for a DAO trigger. It does have double-strike capability. The Versaflex soft-touch inserts in the frame’s grip and slide felt good to the touch and helped provide a solid purchase on the grip and slide, while the extended magazine gives the shooter a place to rest the pinky finger. It’s a small gun, so every little thing that improves the shooter’s grip is important. I did not miss slide serrations or grip checkering.
Even though the Spectrum is quite small, it really isn’t significantly different in size and weight than some of its competitors. The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380 and the Ruger LCP II are almost identical in size and weight. As one would expect on a pistol of this size, the slide stop lever and magazine release are both small, but they are still relatively easy to manipulate. The magazine release is reversible, but I could not find anything in the instruction manual explaining how to do so. It appears that all that is required is to reach up into the magazine well, unhook the mag catch spring (a straight rod), remove and reverse the magazine catch, and reinstall the spring. The integral fixed sights are small and very difficult to pick up, especially in low light conditions. Some would argue that sights on a close-in pistol like the Spectrum are superfluous, but I would like to see at least a contrasting color front sight. An option for night sights would also be a good idea. The “melted” or “dehorned” treatment does its job keeping the Spectrum from snagging on clothing when being deployed and when re-holstering. I prefer to use a flat baseplate magazine on most carry guns to minimize the possibility of “printing,” but in the case of the Spectrum, I would elect to carry it with the extended magazine installed to improve my grip on the draw.
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Fit and finish on the Spectrum seem appropriate for the price point. I really found nothing at all to criticize regarding the design and construction of the pistol; it appears to be well designed and manufactured. The only area where I would want to withhold judgment is on the soft-touch panels. Only time will tell how well they maintain their color and stay attached to the pistol.
VERSIONS AND ACCESSORIES Additional versions of the Spectrum are not available at this time, only many color combinations soon to be available. Because it doesnâ€™t have an accessory rail for mounting lights or lasers and the sights are fixed, there are no accessories other than holsters available either.
AMMUNITION The Spectrum is chambered for the .380 Auto cartridge. Taurus prohibits the use of +P or +P+ ammunition. The instruction manual also warns against using reloaded ammunition and further disclaims damages due to the use of reloaded ammunition. During my evaluation of the Spectrum, I fired factory new ammunition from five different manufacturers. This assortment included two FMJ loads and three defensive hollowpoint loads. Bullet weights ranged from 90 to 95 grains. All three brands of the defensive ammunition used operated flawlessly.
THE SPECS Model: Taurus Spectrum Caliber: .380 Auto Action Type: Double Action Only (DAO) Firing System: Striker-fired Frame: Polymer with Soft-Touch overmold inserts (Versaflex thermoplastic elastomer) Slide: Carbon steel with black melonite or matte stainless finish Sights: Integrated low-profile Safety: Integral Length: 5.4 inches Height: 3.82 inches Width: 0.89 inch Barrel Length: 2.8 inches Weight: 11.6 ounces, with empty magazine Trigger Pull: 8 pounds, 6 ounces (for 10 consecutive pulls using a digital Lyman trigger pull gauge) Magazine Capacity: 6 (7 with extended magazine) MSRP: $289 (standard colors), $305 (house colors)
The Spectrum uses a tilting barrel design.
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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FULL SPECTRUM I did have two failures to fire using Blazer #3505 95-grain FMJ ammunition. The primer strikes were not what I would consider light (there was a significant indentation in both primers), but it was not hard enough to ignite the primer. Both rounds fired when struck a second time.
TAKE-DOWN Field stripping the gun does not require pulling the trigger. Just make sure that the gun is unloaded, remove the magazine, and with the slide in battery, turn the takedown pin one-quarter turn counterclockwise using a screwdriver or the rim of a casing. The slide assembly then slides off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is not captive on the recoil rod, so use caution when removing it. Also, it can be a little difficult to reassemble, especially with a film of oil on it. The barrel hood is round instead of square as on many pistols, so it rotates when you are reinstalling the recoil rod and spring assembly, making it difficult to get everything aligned properly. When replacing the slide onto the frame, just slide it all of the
SPECS AND FEATURES PAIR THAT SPECTRUM WITH THE RIGHT HOLSTER It didn’t take long for holster makers to tailor some of their best-sellers to the new Spectrum. DeSantis offers both the Super Fly ($39.99) and Nemesis ($25.99) pocket holsters for the Taurus Spectrum. The Nemesis has an exterior material that keeps it in place in your pocket and a slick cloth interior material that allows a low friction draw. There is also an extension or hook below the trigger guard that catches on the front pocket opening to prevent the holster from being drawn with the pistol. The Super Fly starts off with a holster similar to the Nemesis only with a “stickier” exterior material, and adds a removable outer flap that is intended to better cover the outline of the gun and make it look more like a wallet. I have used a Super Fly for years and find it an excellent pocket pistol holster. I used a CrossBreed horsehide IWB holster ($84.75) for inside the waistband carry. This rig works well but is almost too much (and too expensive) for a pistol as small as the Spectrum. Crossbreed uses leather backing with a molded and mounted Kydex pocket. As with any leather holster, it takes a while for the leather portion to break-in and conform to your body, but once it does, it fits like a glove. The Kydex pocket guarantees a secure fit tor the gun. The belt clips are adjustable for ride height and cant.
way back and the locking pin will rotate into position on its own.
RANGE TIME Due to its small size and light weight, I can’t say that the Spectrum was fun to shoot at the range, but it didn’t raise any blisters and was controllable for followup shots. I’m not a fan of DAO triggers, even on defensive pistols, but no one will pull this trigger far enough back to fire the gun unless they truly intend to do so. If you are used to a standard striker-fired pistol with a short reset for follow-up shots, make sure that you let the trigger of the Spectrum travel all of the way forward before pulling it a second time. People with large diameter fingers may have trouble operating the trigger due to the size and shape of the trigger guard and the forward position of the trigger when reset. Groups fired using three different brands of defensive ammunition averaged 3.27 inches at 15 yards for three five-shot groups. This may not impress competitive shooters, but it is entirely acceptable for a pistol of this size. Magazine changes were uneventful and reasonably quick for a micro pistol. The slide release lever (more of a bump than a lever) is small, but it works when you need it to and it isn’t going to get in the way. I was able to draw from a Crossbreed IWB holster and engage a USPSA/IPSC target at 7.5 yards and put all six shots in a 6-inch group in the “A” zone as fast as I could pull the trigger.
CONCEALED CARRY As it should for a micro pistol, concealed carry is where this gun shines. The Spectrum is easily concealed with almost any type of clothing due to its small size and light weight. Most
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men will probably find pocket carry using a minimalist type holster the most convenient method. Women will be able to carry it either on their person or tucked away in a dedicated compartment of even a small purse. The Spectrum is so small and light that after carrying continuously for a day or two, you will forget that you are carrying it. Just don’t get so used to it that you take it into a prohibited area.
FINAL THOUGHTS The Taurus Spectrum is not the type of gun that you will take to the range every weekend and put a couple of hundred rounds through it, so I have to believe that it will last for many years of everyday carry. It is small and light but so are other micro pistols.
What sets the Taurus apart from the others is its DAO trigger and the colored soft-touch panels. Many people will be Most men are pretty content with a matte black, blued or stainless-steel frame and slide or some combination thereof. I don’t see a lot of men buying a Spectrum with a white frame, matte stainless slide and turquoise soft-touch panels. But I could be wrong. Others, however, might be in the market forWhat I do see is women wanting an EDC gun that they can customize to match their personality. Also, at a street price of $260 to $275, I can see women folks buying more than one Spectrum in different color combinations. Taurus may have just found a new niche market with the Spectrum. GW
“WHAT SETS THE TAURUS APART FROM THE OTHERS IS ITS DAO TRIGGER AND THE COLORED SOFT-TOUCH PANELS.”
(opposite page) The top of the Spectrum’s slide shows the integral, “speed bump” style sights. (above) The Taurus Spectrum in triple black shows the diminutive magazine catch, magazine release, DAO trigger and integral low-profile sights.
SOURCES Taurus International www.TaurusUSA.com DeSantis Gunhide www.DeSantisHolster.com CrossBreed Holsters www.CrossBreedHolsters.com
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SHOOTING RESULTS Ammunition Hornady Critical Defense #90080 90 gr. FTX SIG SAUER #E380A1 90 gr. V-Crown JHP Winchester “White Box” 95 gr. FMJ Blazer #3505 95 gr. FMJ (aluminum case) Black Hills 90 gr. JHP
Avg. Vel. 899 844 804 849 858
E.S. 52 93 85 59 80
S.D. 15.1 26.8 28.7 21.6 25.8
Sm. Grp. 2.59 3.09 2.34 3.18 3.26
Avg. Grp. 2.63 3.46 3.65 3.69 3.72
Velocity is the average of 10 consecutive shots as measured and calculated by a LabRadar device. Group sizes are for three, fiveshot groups fired at 15 yards. Sm. Grp. is the smallest of the three groups fired. Avg. Grp. is the average for three, five-shot groups for that particular type and brand of ammunition.
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(left) The fieldstripped slide shows the non-captive recoil rod and spring, barrel and slide assembly. The firing pin (striker) block can be seen at the lower right of the slide assembly. The striker cannot move forward unless the trigger is fully depressed and the block is elevated. (below left) The outer cover of the DeSantis Super Fly holster has been removed to show the solid fit of the Spectrum. A flat flap attaches to the holster with hook and loop material and folds over the holster to help disguise its outline. The Super Fly is the author’s favorite pocket holster. (below right) This view from the operator’s end of the Spectrum shows just how small the sights are.
“THE VERSAFLEX SOFT-TOUCH INSERTS IN THE FRAME’S GRIP AND SLIDE FELT GOOD TO THE TOUCH AND HELPED PROVIDE A SOLID PURCHASE…”
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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The Journey to the Perfect Holster Takes Time & Eﬀort … but It’s Well Worth It
SET UP FOR SUCCESS
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STORY AND PHOTOS BY DAVE DOLBEE, PH.D.
he “hell” drawer. It’s that drawer full of holsters we bought with high hopes, but just did not work out for one reason or another. If you do not have one, you are likely new to the shooting sports or carrying a firearm. The reason the hell drawer exists is because we all have different body shapes. We move in different ways. Our level of daily activity and types of activities vary. We did not do our homework before slapping down our money. This article will help with avoiding that last one. I recommend trying out several different holsters before you decide which one will work best for you. This will limit the size of your hell drawer and dollars spent on populating it, but make no mistake, over the years, you’ll buy more than one holster. That is not to say the first one was a bad choice. Instead, over time, the weather or seasons may change, your work or recreational attire will differ, and a whole host of other factors will come into play that will influence your carry preferences. Do not be afraid to upgrade your equipment as necessary or retire a trusted holster that has served faithfully for months or years. That is what the hell drawer is for, in part at least.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SET UP FOR SUCCESS
This model from Clinger Holsters allows you to carry on the right or left side and quickly convert the holster from an OWB to IWB. You can’t get better versatility from a single holster.
“LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND THOSE WHO CHOOSE OPEN OR CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY, WILL BE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO HAVING THEIR FIREARM STRIPPED FROM ITS HOLSTER.” Material Leather or a molded plastic, primarily Kydex, are normally your two best bets for holsters. Both have their pros and cons. For example, leather requires a break-in period. This is less ideal in the beginning, but makes the holster feel like a trusted friend over time. Should the holster become stretched to the point that it becomes loose or sloppy, all you have to do is to submerge it in water for 20 or so seconds and let it dry over night. This will cause it to shrink, but you may loose a bit of the color in the process. Thermoplastics such as Kydex, come readymade to fit your firearm like glove. The tight fit, or mechanical operation, offers additional levels of retention. Their durability is nearly unsur-
passed, but the drawbacks of this system do exist. For example, the holster is very stiff, offering less comfort to the wearer. However, thermoplastics are molded to shape by heat. While it should never happen, all I will say is do not leave a Kydex holster on the dashboard of your car on a hot day… Another weakness to thermoplastics is movement. Any part of the holster that flexes, such as a belt clip, will eventually fail.
Retention Plainly stated, the purpose of a holster is to retain the firearm. You need a balance between retention during movement, struggles, physical confrontations where the bad buy may try to disarm you, and your ability to quickly deploy your firearm when
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needed for self-defense. Law enforcement, and those who choose open or constitutional carry, will be more susceptible to having their firearm stripped from its holster. If you are overly active or athletic while carrying a firearm, you may also want a holster with a higher retention rating. Let’s not forget the FBI agent who decided to do a backflip on the dance floor of a nightclub. An innocent bystander ended up being hit by the “accidental discharge.” Whichever level of retention you choose, ensure you have done your homework before the purchase and spent plenty of time practicing with a triple-checked, unloaded firearm afterward. Your hand’s motion while drawing the firearm from the holster needs to be as smooth and intuitive as your spoon going into your mouth.
Position Right-handed people most often wear their holster on the hip in the 3 to 6 o’clock position. This is ideal for fast access and offers easy concealability from a cover garment, such as a jacket, hoodie, vest, or long-tailed shirt. Carrying a firearm inside the waistband will require pants about 2-inches wider than your normal pant size—if you want them to button comfortably that is. A regular dress belt simply will not do. Sure, it will give the holster something to hold on to, but a gun belt is required. A gun belt is typically thicker and stiffer than a dress belt. A gun belt has less slop, or play, in the belt loops and is less susceptible to twisting. This adds up to a belt that is more reliable for a quicker draw. This is so important that it can be the difference between winning and losing the gunfight. Do not skimp on the gun belt.
Diversion packs, such as this model from BLACKHAWK! offer the user the ability to mingle with a crowd without drawing attention to the hidden firearm. While access is not as fast as on-body carry, you will still be able to react in many scenarios. Pocket holsters can be a viable alternative to an IWB or OWB holster.
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SET UP FOR SUCCESS
If you are going to be spending a lot of time wearing your holster, why not spend a few dollars more and get a chocolate leather model from a custom manufacturer such as D.M. Bullard.
Outside the Waistband (OWB) OWB holsters are likely the most popular style. This is in part due to duty holsters worn by law enforcement, but they are also typically regarded as being more comfortable to wear. With an OWB holster, the gun is farther from the body and sits higher above the belt. These factors make the OWB fast to the draw. The OWB’s main drawback is concealability. Among my favorite OWB holsters are those featuring a 15-degree forward cant. This is often referred to as the FBI cant. The forward cant aids in concealment by changing the angle of the butt of the pistol. The cant also makes the pistol easier to quickly draw from the 4 o’clock to 6 o’clock position than other options.
Inside the Waistband (IWB) Inside the waistband holsters are certainly giving the OWB a run for the most popular carry method thanks to increased opportunities for concealed carry across the nation. As previously mentioned, you’ll need to wear your ‘fat pants’ with an IWB holster, but the advantages you’ll gain in concealability are more than worth it—especially in warm weather environments where a jacket or some other cover garment would make you uncomfortable or look out of place.
Shoulder Holsters Shoulder holsters have not been cool since Sonny Crockett wore one on Miami Vice in the 1980s. However, they do offer extreme comfort and concealability for those who wear business
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attire, such as a suit, on a regular basis. While shoulder holsters do suffer the disadvantages of all crossdraw holsters, they allow you to carry a full-sized firearm for maximum firepower and handling.
Pocket Holsters Pocket holsters have gained a bad reputation over the years. This was not due to a flaw in the design. Instead, it was the lack of a holster or the wrong holster. When selecting a pocket holster, there are a few important facts to consider. The pocket holster must protect the trigger from being activated. In part, simply covering the trigger is enough, but there is a catch. The holster has to be reliable enough (stiff) to not bend or fold in a way that it could activate the trigger when the gun is being inserted. Other than that, pocket holsters are ideal for summer wear, in shorts or other limited clothing options.
difference between comfort and feeling like you were hobbled on a chain gang. The padding determines the difference between
Experienced law enforcement officers are likely to be your best source for a holster recommendation. Odds are, they have carried a variety of firearms under different conditions that include both carrying openly and concealed, for professional and personal reasons. The primary considerations you’ll need to understand before making a decision: • • • •
Method of carry Position of carry Firearm size and accessibility requirements Physical attributes or limitations
Ankle holsters are all about the padding. Padding is the
“PADDING IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMFORT AND FEELING LIKE YOU WERE HOBBLED ON A CHAIN GANG.”
The Squared Away Customs Kydex holster features good molding and well-designed adjustable belt loops.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SET UP FOR SUCCESS
When shopping for a new holster, pay attention to the details. The Nightingale Peregrine features solid stitching and sturdy attachment points. Both are the mark of quality you want to see before the sale.
a secure rig and the gun riding on your anklebone. Speed and accessibility are the two main drawbacks. If you opt for an ankle rig, you’ll need to be very spry. Your only way to access the firearm will be a severe bend at the waist or while on the ground. Both are overt, and neither is a position you want to be in during a fight. I do not wear an ankle rig often, but it is a viable solution for a backup gun (BUG), in my opinion.
Off Body When not wearing a firearm on my hip, off-body carry is by far my favorite choice. The manner of carry is only limited by your own creativity. Firearms can be carried in a briefcase or closed binder/notebook. Companies have devoted entire lines
to hidden or diversion packs. BLACKHAWK! makes diversion packs that simulate a tennis racquet bag or skateboard bag that will covertly harbor an AR-15 pistol with an optic and magazine inserted, backpacks with easy-to-access hidden pistol compartments, cross-body bags, and cellphone cases—just to name a few.
Final Thoughts While I like all of these commercial options, they are just that—commercial. That means you are not as convert as you’d like when a manufacturer’s logo or the design is recognized. That being said, commercial designs are worthy of a look. You can then take the inspiration, and buy the necessary holster components to create your own covert carry solution. GW
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1911 HANDGUNS Buyer’s Guide
hey have stood the test of time because they are that good and that popular. Available from a variety of sources, the 1911 handgun comes as a factory model, as well as custom and personalized versions available from the best gunsmiths. The pistol has a number of variations in form and function, including singlestack and double-stack, and it comes in many calibers. The 1911 is used for defense, hunting, plinking, and by the military. Browse through the following pages. You’re sure to see why their popularity is not decreasing.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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AMERICAN TACTICAL FXH HYBRID Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: QPQ Black Nitride Frame Material: 416 stainless steel Frame Finish: Flat Dark Earth, polymer Overall Length: 8.7 inches Height: 5.4 inches Width: 1.1 inches Sights: Fiber optic front, accepts Glock front and rear Capacity: 8+1 rounds Grips: Black polymer
CABOT GUNS GENTLEMAN’S CARRY Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP or 9mm Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: USA sourced billet 416 stainless steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.85 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: ACE fixed rear Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Checkered walnut
CABOT GUNS ICON GOVERNMENT MODEL Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP or 9mm Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Monochrome Frame Material: USA sourced 416 stainless billet steel Frame Finish: Monochrome Overall Length: 8.72 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: ACE fixed read Capacity: 8 rounds
Weight: 27.5 ounces Features: The FXH-45 is a Hybrid 1911 with a polymer frame featuring two metal inserts for added stability and durability. Made in similar fashion to our ATI’s other hybrids, this unique firearm has a steel match-grade barrel and a custom designed steel slide. The frame was built to have an ergonomic feel with built-in finger grooves. Website: AmericanTactical.us MSRP: $599.95
Weight: 33 ounces Features: Cabot’s Gentleman’s Carry optimizes the 1911 for concealed or open carry. Its Commanderlength barrel is mated to a bobtail frame for a pistol that won’t print under clothing, but quickly clears leather for a fast draw. However, as a Cabot, functionality teams with luxury, as can be seen in every detail. Website: CabotGun.com MSRP: $4,795
Grips: Cabot stainless steel monochrome Weight: 39.5 ounces Features: Crafted from a single block of stainless steel, the Icon exemplifies the potential for perfection possible through simplicity. The elegant, meticulously refined pistol is available in a 5-inch Government Model or the 4.25-inch Commander, in either .45 ACP or 9mm. Both versions come with an accuracy guarantee of 1.5 inches at 25 yards. Website: CabotGun.com MSRP: $4,795
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1911 HANDGUNS CHARLES DALY 1911 SUPERIOR GRADE Action: Single Made In: Turkey Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.63 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Fiber optic, front Capacity: 8+1 rounds Grips: Diamond checkered walnut
TAURUS 1911 COMMANDER Action: Single Made In: Brazil Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.9 inches Height: 5.8 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Drift adjustable Novak Capacity: 8 rounds Grips: Checkered black Weight: 38 ounces Features: Destined to become the standard that all
COLT CUSTOM COMPETITION PISTOL Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless Overall Length: 8.5 inches Height: 5.8 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Fiber optic front, Bomar rear Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: G-10 Weight: 41 ounces
Weight: 2.57 pounds Features: Charles Daly entered the 1911 market with a full-size model that incorporates all of the essentials in an affordably priced variant. That is no small feat when you have the reputation to protect of being one of the world’s most recognizable handguns. Website: CharlesDaly.com MSRP: $699
1911 pistols are compared against, the Taurus 1911 starts with a hammer-forged (not cast) ordnance-grade steel frame, slide, and barrel. Every part is then machined to tolerance levels that surpass today’s industry standards. Available in the powerful .45 ACP, this aggressive, rock-solid firearm is ready to go right out of the box. The Taurus 1911 is an unbeatable gun that is also an unbeatable value. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $609
Features: A true competition 1911 that’s ready for the battle against the timer. The Colt Custom Competition pistol is made from corrosionresistant stainless steel and features custom G-10 Grips, an upswept beavertail grip safety, and undercut trigger guard to keep the pistol low in the hand for increased control. Also included is a National Match Barrel, while the Series 70 Firing System ensures a clean, crisp trigger pull. Also available in .45 ACP and .38 Super. Website: Colt.com MSRP: $899
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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ROCK RIVER ARMS 1911 POLY Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Polymer Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.9 inches Height: 5.8 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Dovetail front and rear Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: RRA Overmolded Weight: 30.4 ounces
KIMBER KHX PRO (OR) Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.7 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Milled for red dot Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: G-10 Weight: 38 ounces Features: OR stands for “optics ready,” so grab your
KIMBER MICRO 9 DESERT NIGHT (DN) Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 3.15 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Aluminum Frame Finish: Desert Tan Overall Length: 6.1 inches Height: 4.1 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: TruGlo TFX Pro Day/ Night Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Hogue WrapAround Grip
Features: Small for easy concealment, but big on features, the Rock River Arms 1911 Poly 4.25-inch also offers the convenience of a lightweight polymer frame for enhanced comfort—all welcome features for an everyday carry pistol. Website: RockRiverArms.com MSRP: $1,075
favorite Vortex, Trijicon, or Leupold red dot and head for the range. The KHX is equipped with stiplex front strap stippling for extra grip and confidence and features hexagonal slide serrations for fashionably secure hand purchase. Website: KimberAmerica.com MSRP: $1,087
Weight: 15.6 ounces Features: Yeah, yeah, yeah … the Micro 9 DN is not technically a 1911. If you already knew that, you have a sharp eye and have probably done your homework. However, in look, feel, and operation, the Micro 9 is so close to a 1911 that it merited inclusion. The easily concealed Micro 9 features mild recoil, a smooth trigger pull, and the intuitive operation of a 1911—‘nuff said. Website: KimberAmerica.com MSRP: $755
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1911 HANDGUNS LES BAER THUNDER RANCH 25TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 8.5 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Night
MG ARMS WRAITHE 1911 Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP or 9mm Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: PTFE or Cerakote metal Frame Material: Aluminum or titanium angle cut Frame Finish: PTFE or Cerakote metal Overall Length: 8 inches Height: 5.25 inches Width: 1.25 inches Sights: Night Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Custom Weight: 25 ounces
NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM – AGENT 2 Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP or 9mm Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Smoke Cerakote Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Smoke Cerakote Overall Length: 8.59 inches Height: 5.81 inches Width: 1.29 inches Sights: Heinie Ledge black Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Railscales G-10 Weight: 40.1 ounces
Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Checkered walnut Weight: 36 ounces Features: Commemorating the 25th anniversary of one of America’s most-respected firearm’s training facilities, this offering of only 250 pistols will feature checkered grips with the Thunder Ranch logo and special serial numbers with a “TRXXV” (Thunder Ranch 25) prefix. Website: LesBaer.com MSRP: $2,520
Features: This handgun has everything you expect from MG Arms, quality, accuracy, and performance. While you cannot put a price on your life, you can on the firearm you choose for defense. MG Arms’ Wraithe shaves critical ounces for a comfortable carry, without sacrificing quality or features, such as the meticulously hand-fitted/ lapped slide and a match grade. Website: MGArmsInc.com MSRP: $2,895
Features: Nighthawk Custom pistols are meticulously crafted utilizing the “One Gun, One Gunsmith” approach. Built completely in-house, parts are built oversized and then handfitted to push the boundaries of what is possible with the 1911, in both form and function. The Agent 2 is the next evolution of collaboration between Nighthawk Custom, Agency Arms, Railscales, and Hillbilly 223. Website: NighthawkCustom.com MSRP: $4,495
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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SPRINGFIELD EMP 4 CONCEALED CARRY CONTOUR Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Satin stainless Frame Material: Forged aluminum Frame Finish: Black hardcoat anodized Overall Length: 7.5 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.5 inches Sights: Fiber optic front, low profile combat rear
REMINGTON R1 1911 ULTRALIGHT EXECUTIVE PISTOL Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Lightweight aluminum Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7 inches Height: 5.5 inches Width: 1.4 inches Sights: Front/rear tritium night sights
SPRINGFIELD 911 .380 Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .380 Barrel Length: 2.7 inches Finish: 416 Black Nitride Frame Material: 7075 T6 anodized hard coat aluminum Frame Finish: 416 black nitride Overall Length: 5.5 inches Height: 3.9 inches Width: 1.1 inches Sights: Pro-Glo tritium/ luminescent front, whiteoutlined tritium night sight rear Capacity: 6 standard, 7 rounds extended
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Capacity: 9 rounds Grips: Checkered black G-10 Weight: 30.5 ounces Features: The all new EMP 4-inch Lightweight Champion with Concealed Carry Contour model improves on the original by combining a longer barrel with a frame trimmed for ultimate concealment. The rounded contour molds to the shape of the shooter’s hand, preventing “palm bite.” The contoured shape prevents snags during the draw and virtually eliminates the telltale bulge under a cover garment. Website: SpringfieldArmory.com MSRP: $1,220
Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: G-10 Weight: 28 ounces Features: Remington launches a new line with the Ultralight Executive, featuring an aluminum frame for weight reduction and a rounded frame for snag-free operation. Other custom features like an extended beavertail, bobtail frame, and checkered frontstrap promote superior operation. Website: Remington.com MSRP: $1,250
Grips: G-10 Weight: 12.6 ounces Features: A small package that is easy to operate, the Springfield’s 911 .380 is rated to handle the most advanced and modern .380 defensive ammunition. The 911 comes standard with a flush 6-round and 7-round extended magazine allowing you to opt for a smaller profile or the added comfort of an extra round of ammunition. The Springfield Armory 911 is also offered with integrated green Viridian grip laser. Website: Springfield-Armory.com MSRP: $599 GW
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8/27/18 5:44 AM
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STORY & PHOTOS BY BRIAN SCHRAEDER
rex may be a name you are not familiar with, but that is a shortfall this story is meant to correct. New to the United States, Arex is a renowned company that has already earned its good reputation in the European defense industry. In fact, Arex has been creating and manufacturing defense products for more than 20 years. The REX zero 1 was Arex’s first pistol, but do not discount the quality or craftsmanship. Built in Slovenia, the Arex is the product of the best German and Austrian influenced manufacturing processes and standards. The REX zero 1 does not claim to be a revolutionary breakthrough. Instead, its influence can be traced to many of the finest designs on the market today. When you first hold the Arex REX zero 1, you may instantly recall a familiarity of the SIG Sauer P226 or CZ 75. After a bit more work with zero 1, feelings of the Beretta 92 may bubble up. The reason is simple. Elements, or more accurately influence, of each of these designs can be seen in the zero 1. Imagine taking the best features of each of these venerable designs, adding in a few of your own improvements, and using the best suggestions and feedback from users over the years to create a new pistol, and you’d have the Arex REX zero 1—the best-in-class defensive pistol that boasts extreme reliability and accuracy, along with a competitive price. Let’s take a look at it.
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING PISTOL
The Arex REX zero 1 S 9mm Service Pistol Takes the Best of Proven Designs to Create the Ultimate Defense, Production-Class Pistol HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING PISTOL
The zero 1 features a Picatinny rail on the dust cover for tactical lights, lasers or combination units.
First Impressions The Arex REX zero 1S is billed as the first handgun manufactured solely in Slovenia. For those in need of a geography lesson, Slovenia is bordered by Austria and Croatia, with Italy to the south. Arex has considerable experience in manufacturing military gear and parts. Although privately owned, Arex is an ISO 9001:2008 certified military contracting company established in 1994 with more than 120 employees and 80,000 square feet of production area. The pistol has a strong resemblance to the SIG P226—particularly on the outside. That was a smart move. When designing your first offering, it makes sense to start with a proven model, or multiple proven pistols in this case. This lowers the risk of a design or materials failure. To accomplish this, Arex looked for affordable performance and features of other popular firearms and then kept the best to create the REX zero’s unique design. Shoot it once, and you’ll know Arex succeeded. The zero 1 S operates on the locked breech short recoil principle—no surprises there. The pistol is fired with a long, double-action trigger press that cocks and drops the hammer.
The slide recoils cocking the hammer for subsequent single-action fire. There are, however, operating differences between this handgun and the SIG. Some may find the differences offer an advantage over the SIG. If you attempt to handle the pistol like a SIG P226, you are OK—to a point. Attention to detail is always necessary. As a rough analogy, unlike the many 1911 clones that handle in an identical manner, the various SIG clones—and near copies in common with CZ clones—have different features. That being said, if you like the SIG P226, you will like the Arex REX. The controls of the pistol are in the same location, but they serve different purposes. For example, an ambidextrous manual safety is located in the position occupied by the SIG slide lock. I mention the SIG often, as I make no pretense that this is not a SIG clone. For the SIG fan boys, me included, this is a good thing. The zero 1 features a 3-dot sight design with a u-shaped rear sight. In testing, this provided fast target acquisition and easy alignment when moving between steel targets.
“THE REX ZERO 1 DOES NOT CLAIM TO BE A REVOLUTIONARY BREAKTHROUGH. INSTEAD, ITS INFLUENCE CAN BE TRACED TO MANY OF THE FINEST DESIGNS ON THE MARKET TODAY.” 90
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There are forward cocking serrations that could Load Velocity 5-shot group 15 yards be an advantage when operating hot and humid DoubleTap 77-grain Lead Free 1,414 fps 2.3 inches weather or when engaged DoubleTap 115-grain (all copper) 1,240 fps 2.25 inches in wet work. There is a Hornady 115-grain XTP 1,149 fps 2.0 inches loaded chamber indicator Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense 1,170 fps 2.5 inches offering a tactile chamHornady 124-grain XTP 1,090 fps 1.8 inches ber check. The extractor Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P 1,189 fps 2.25 inches is well fitted. The barrel Winchester 115-grain Silvertip 1,170 fps 2.4 inches locks into the slide solidly Winchester USA Forged 9mm 115-grain FMJ 1,140 fps 2.5 inches without eccentric play. Winchester 124-grain PDX +P 1,199 fps 1.75 inches The sights are adequate and proved well-regulated Handloads for 124-grain loads and 124-grain TCB Bayou Bullets WW WSF powder 1,005 fps 2.2 inches the standard six o’clock 147-grain FB Bayou Bullets WW W213 powder 850 fps 1.5 inches hold. The rear sights are of the low-profile variety. The frame is aluminum. The stippling front and rear is well-turned-out with good adhesion. The safety may be applied with the hammer down or cocked. The plastic grips are lightly pebbled. This gives the handgun plenty of versatility. As an example, even The magazines are well-made and finished with no weld or if you prefer off-safe carry and rely on the long, double-action polishing marks. Each holds 17 rounds. The floor plate is an aid trigger as a safety feature, once you have fired the first shot and in rapidly seating the magazine. Fieldstripping is the same as the engage in tactical movement, the safety may be applied. There SIG. A takedown lever is rotated to the 6 o’clock position. The is no need to decock and then have to manage another long slide is then easily removed. trigger press. The guide rod and recoil spring are conventional. When If you have attended training classes with the SIG pistol in the piece was field stripped, there were no apparent tool marks. attendance, or watched certain shooters in competition, you may Quality of fit and finish was high. The pistol features a light rail. have noted that all but the best trained SIG shooters sometimes The extended frame gives the pistol a monolithic look. ride the thumb on the slide lock and prevent the pistol from locking on the last shot. This is often a holdover habit from practice with a 1911. This will not happen with the REX zero 1. Performance Notes The slide lock is a combination lever located where the SIG Before taking the pistol to the range, I spent some time dry decocker normally rides. The lever functions normally as a firing the piece. The double-action trigger press averaged about decocker to safely lower the hammer from full cock. There is also a firing pin block, which adds an additional measure of safety to the design. The decocking lever is pressed upward to lock the slide. When the slide is locked to the rear, the combination lever is pressed to lower the slide. A hard press to lower the slide doesn’t decock the hammer. When loading, I locked the slide to the rear and pressed hard on the combination lever. The slide fell and loaded the pistol. I released the lever and then decocked the hammer. The Arex REX zero 1, in my opinion, is a neat improvement over the original SIG Sauer design. Testing on a rack The magazine release is fully ambidextrous. The grip frame is of steel targets, large for my hand, and I could not actuate the magazine release the Arex REX Alpha gave good without shifting my grip (using my firing hand thumb). I could results. easily move my forefinger to actuate the magazine release button. As I mentioned, the pistol has a unique manual arms and must be taken on its own merits. The slide is similar to the P226, well-made and finished.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING PISTOL FAST FACTS WEB RexFirearms.com MSRP $589 and up
The controls of the REX zero 1 vary from a standard SIG P226. You’ll notice the safety in the “safe” position just behind the decocker. Moving toward the muzzle, you’ll note the slide stop and takedown lever.
Arex REX Alpha Competition The REX Alpha is all about performance. The trigger mechanism is factory tuned for each pistol to deliver a smooth double-action pull and short trigger reset. Finding a better out-of-the-box competition grade trigger, would be akin to coming home to find a unicorn and winged Pegasus in your driveway. The full steel frame incorporates oversized ambidextrous manual safety levers, flared magazine well, aggressive checkering in front of the grip, extended magazine release, fiber optic front sight, and a fully adjustable, black rear sight for windage and elevation. The overwhelming impression of the REX Alpha is that this is a pleasant firearm to use.
12.5 pounds with minimal stacking, using a Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. The single-action trigger was a solid 4.8 pounds. I lubricated the long bearing surfaces and took the pistol to the range with a good supply of ammunition. These included lead bullet handloads, FMJ training loads and defense loads. Initial firing was undertaken with a handload using the Hornady 124-grain XTP bullet with enough WW 231 powder for 1,100 fps. The pistol came out of the box running with no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject with this load. Recoil was mild and practical accuracy good as I fired at man-sized targets at 7, 10 and 15 yards. I switched to the Hornady 115-grain XTP/1,180
fps WW 231 powder load. It was more of the same with good accuracy and function. Next, came the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P. This is an excellent personal defense loading. A magazine of this load was expended at the plates with good results. While recoil was greater than the other loads, the REX zero 1 remained controllable. You cannot do a thorough evaluation of a new handgun based on one range trip. I have fired over 2,400 cartridges in this pistol. The above results are simply from the last outing. A new handgun from a lesser-known maker isn’t given an easy pass. I have fired the pistol with service loads and +P and +P+ loads. The first 300 cartridges were fired without cleaning. After cleaning, I conducted an accuracy test, firing at 25 yards. Service gun accuracy potential is about firing at known and unknown ranges and hitting small targets, but bench rest results are interesting and show something about the pistol’s fitting and quality.
Top Quality I used a target with a bright orange center and took every advantage possible. As the table shows, the pistol is accurate enough for service use and would be competitive in 3 Gun or IDPA competitions. If you like a DA first shot 9mm that is remarkably easy to use well, with little muzzle flip and recoil, the Arex REX zero 1 S is a contender. The controls are an improvement over the SIG pistol. Quality seems comparable to, or in many cases better, than any handgun on the market. The pistol isn’t cheap, but it is affordable. The REX zero 1 S gets a greenlight for service use.
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The REX zero 1 comes standard with two 17-round magazines. The author was prepared to purchase extras for competition, but realized the magazines were interchangeable with the REX Alpha!
“THE AREX REX ZERO 1, IN MY OPINION, IS A NEAT IMPROVEMENT OVER THE ORIGINAL SIG SAUER DESIGN.”
Specifications Arex REX zero 1 S Caliber: 9x19mm Action: DA/SA, semi-automatic Trigger Pull Weight: 12.5 pounds DA, 4.5 pounds SA Barrel Length: 4.3 inches Overall Length: 7.7 inches Height: 5.7 inches Width: 1.1 inches Weight: 29 ounces Capacity: 17+1 rounds GW
The Fime Group, importer and distributer of the REX zero 1, sponsored the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2017 3-Gun Fantasy Camp. The REX was the official pistol, participants and pros sung the zero 1’s praises.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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COMPACT REVOLVERS PHOTO COURTESY OFMARIE KAZALIA / EYEEM VIA GETTY IMAGES
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n the semi-auto side, compact and subcompact pistols are the force driving the market. This is primarily due to the increasing opportunity and popularity of concealed carry guns for self-defense. This trend of smaller, more concealable handguns isnâ€™t new of course. The mini wheel gun, commonly known as the snubnose revolver, has been a staple of law enforcement officers, and more than a few bad guys, throughout history. Semi-automatic pistols are useful, but not without limitations. They are more susceptible to mechanical issues and operate under a variety of different manuals of arms. Therefore, many experienced concealed carriers don a snubnose revolver as backup gun (BUG). If you are not already a fan, you should be.
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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CHARTER ARMS BULLDOG Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .44 Special Barrel Length: 2.5 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Stainless Overall Length: 6.7 inches Sights: Adjustable Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Full Weight: 22 ounces Features: The Bulldog line gets another big-bore option with the .45 Colt variant. In addition to the
KIMBER K6S CDP Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Black DLC overbrushed Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length:6.62 inches Sights: Night sights Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Laminated wood with Kimber logo Weight: 23 ounces Features: Putting the C in CDP (Custom Defense Package) are upgrades like fancy stocks and a two-tone
CHARTER ARMS UNDERCOVER Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .38 Special +P Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 6.5 inches Sights: Adjustable Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Compact or full Weight: 16 ounces Features: Charter’s mainstay concealed-carry revolver, the Undercover, gets some
.44 Special offering Charter has maintained for decades, the historical .45 Colt now has a home in the company’s Bulldog revolvers. Website: CharterFirearms. com MSRP: $405
appearance, but don’t overlook the functional upgrades like night sights and a smooth, non-stacking trigger in the new CDP. Website: KimberAmerica. com MSRP: $1,155
swanky upgrades with a high-polish stainless finish and attractive wood grips (not shown). Everything you’d expect in a carry revolver is present—five shots, short barrel and fixed sights—but this one looks nice. Website: CharterFirearms.com MSRP: $348
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COMPACT REVOLVERS CHIAPPA FIREARMS RHINO 20DS Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Italy Caliber: .40 S&W Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Aluminum Overall Length: 6.5 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Neoprene Weight: 24.60 ounces Features: The Rhino holds six shots of either .357 Magnum or .38 Special (.40 S&W and
COLT NIGHT COBRA Action: Double Action Made In: USA Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 2.1 inches Finish: Ion bond stainless steel Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 7.25 inches Sights: Night sight front, frame trench rear Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Hogue overmolded Weight: 25 ounces Features: For 2018, Colt’s latest iteration of its Cobra
CHARTER ARMS POLICE UNDERCOVER Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 2.2 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 6.5 inches Sights: Adjustable Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Full Weight: 20 ounces Features: The Police
9mm will be available in the future) and comes with a 2, 4, 5, or 6-inch barrel. Because the gun shoots out of the lower cylinder, the barrels all have a tall rib to make up for the low position of the barrel on the frame. Website: ChiappaFirearms. com MSRP: $839
line of revolvers is the ideal companion for the concealedcarry licensee, thanks to its corrosion-resistant coating, tritium front sight and an elongated trigger guard, which allows use of gloves. Website: Colt.com MSRP: $899
Undercover takes a backseat to no one! Built on the same frame as Charter’s popular .44 Special Bulldog, the Police Undercover features the same styling and rugged construction as the classic Undercover. The Police Undercover is compact, easy to shoot, and draws and points effortlessly. Ideal features for concealed carry or as a backup gun. Website: CharterFirearms.com MSRP: $390
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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RUGER GP100 Action: Single/Double Action Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 2.5 inches Finish: Satin stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 9.50 inches Sights: Fiber optic front Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Cushioned rubber with hardwood insert Weight: 36 ounces Features: A shorter barrel isn’t all that the latest addition to Ruger’s popular GP100 line has to offer. Other
NORTH AMERICAN ARMS WASP Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .22 WMR Barrel Length: 1.13 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 4.63 inches Sights: Half-Moon Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rubber pebbled Weight: 6.2 ounces Features: North American Arms’ .22 Magnum Wasp features a vent rib and a skeletonized hammer. It also includes a .22 LR conversion
TAURUS CIA MODEL 2-850 Action: Single/Double Action Made In: Brazil Caliber: .38 Special +P Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Blue Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 6.5 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 21 ounces Features: The CIA was designed for concealed carry and a hassle-free draw. The fully enclosed hammer
practical concealed-carrybased options include a highvisibility front sight and an extra round of fight-stopping .357 Magnum. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $899
cylinder. Website: NorthAmericanArms.com MSRP: $301
eliminates a potential snag when under pressure and forced to draw your firearm. Thanks to the lightweight construction, you’ll hardly even notice you are carrying! The Taurus CIA sports five shots of .38 Special. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $379
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COMPACT REVOLVERS NORTH AMERICAN ARMS SIDEWINDER Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .22 Magnum Barrel Length: 1.5 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Overall Length: 5 inches Sights: Stainless post Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rosewood Bird’s Head Weight: 6.7 ounces Features: The single-action Sidewinder Mini Revolver features a swing-out
TAURUS 85VTAP Action: Double Action Only Made In: Brazil Caliber: .38 Special +P Barrel Length: 1.41 inches Finish: Matte stainless, pink Frame Material: Aluminum Overall Length: 5.67 inches Sights: Fixed serrated ramp Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Checkered plastic Weight: 9 ounces Features: The Taurus 85-VTA “The View” revolver sports a double-action-only trigger with a spurless hammer that integrates a safety lock—a long-established factory
ROCK ISLAND M206 Action: Single/Double Action Made In: Philippines Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Parkerized Frame Material: Steel Overall Length: 9.25 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Checkered wood Weight: 25.44 ounces Features: The M206 revolver is ideal for self-defense and concealed carry. With a 2-inch fully shrouded barrel and spurless hammer, along
cylinder connected to a frame-mounted crane arm. This feature makes reloading a much faster and simpler process. This model Sidewinder is available in .22 Mag only with a 4-inch barrel, stainless-steel frame, laminated rosewood grips, and a stainless steel post front sight. Website: NorthAmericanArms.com MSRP: $449
feature of Taurus firearms. When engaged with a factory-issued key, the safety lock will prevent the sear from working; an excellent solution should the gun be stored for long periods of time, unloaded and with no possible use in sight. Even in the event of a theft or an unauthorized access (e.g., by a child), the gun will remain inert and harmless until the safety lock is disengaged by the key holder. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $599
with a fixed front sight with smooth channel frame-cut rear sight, it’s designed to perform when it counts. Chambered in .38 Special, this firearm comes equipped with a checkered wood grip and a Parkerized finish. Website: Armscor.com MSRP: $280
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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S&W MODEL 340PD Action: Double Action Only Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 1 7/8 inches Finish: Matte black Frame Material: Scandium alloy Overall Length: 6.3 inches Sights: HI-VIZ green dot Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Synthetic Weight: 12 ounces Features: The Model 340 PD is a variation of the Model 40 Centennial AirLite that integrates the time-tested
EAA 2" WINDICATOR Action: Single/Double Action Made In: Germany Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Nickel Frame Material: Steel Overall Length: 7 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 1.8 pounds Features: This revolver has a long and proud history in the world of small arms. Known for its rugged dependability and consistency; depend on the Windicator for your
CHARTER ARMS: ROSEBUD UNDERCOVER LITE Action: SA/DA Made In: USA Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 2 inches Finish: Pink anodized Overall Length: 6.75 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Combat style Full Weight: 12 ounces Features: The Rosebud sports a smooth, anodized rose-gold frame with a high-polish stainless-steel barrel and cylinder. It features combat-style grips with a
features of the original, with modern advancements including HI-VIZ Fiber Optic Green front sights. This revolver is a favored back-up and concealed carry firearm due to its lightweight, enclosed hammer, and reliability. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $1,019
revolver needs. Itâ€™s not the sleekest, or the lightest, or even the prettiest, but the Windicator is ready when you need it. With its six shot, double/single action, the Windicator gets the job done. Website: EAACorp.com MSRP: $442
standard hammer for singleand double-action use. Website: CharterArms.com MSRP: $446
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8/27/18 5:46 AM
HIGH PERFORM A STORY AND PHOTOS BY WILBURN ROBERTS
Les Baer Produces 1911 Handguns To Compete Against Worthy Rivals
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es Baerâ€™s background in building high-performance race engines led to a wonderfully wellmade and fitted handgun. Their 1911s are tight, very tight, but reliable. A tight fit results in less eccentric wear. With less looseness in the fit, the pistol returns to the same place and tight lockup, time after time. This aids accuracy and also results in less wear over time. So, how do they do it? By using the same quality that went into their other endeavors.
Precision Engineering Les Baer 1911 handguns, such as the Concept VI illustrated, are guaranteed to group five shots into 3 inches at 50 yards. That is startling accuracy, when you experience it. A great deal of experience, hard work, and attention to detail goes into being able to fire a handgun this accurate. If you cannot hold 3 inches at 25 yards, then perhaps you should wait a little while for the Les Baer. Then again, it is your money, and everyone should experience a truly superior handgun. There are pistols called precision 1911 handguns. These include the Colt Gold Cup and other handguns. The Les Baer bullseye guns are match winners. Baer also builds excellent tactical handguns. The single-stack magazine 1911 Government Model is among the best service pistols available, and Les Baer arguably offers the rendition of the breed.
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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“THE SINGLE-STACK MAGAZINE 1911 GOVERNMENT MODEL IS AMONG THE BEST SERVICE PISTOLS AVAILABLE, AND LES BAER ARGUABLY OFFERS THE RENDITION OF THE BREED.”
Forward cocking serrations are an aid in manipulating the Les Baer slide.
Les Baer pistols are not inexpensive at around $2,000, but precise engineering and a lot of hand-fitting goes into the Les Baer 1911. There are several variations of the Les Baer 1911, including a 6-inch-long slide handgun and models with adjustable sights. The Concept pistols, including the Concept VI, start their life with National Match specification frames, slides, and barrels. The frame is the base for every other part and the part to which the slide is fitted. The barrel is tightly fitted to the frame. Consistency from gun to gun is excellent. I feel the tolerances are the tightest among 1911 makers. All Les Baer frames feature a beveled magazine well. The slides are hand-fitted to the frame. While all I have examined are good, tight hand-fitted handguns,
there is the possibility one is fitted more tightly than the other. The slides are also impressive. These parts all not outsourced, but produced by Les Baer at his facility. The slide rail interface is very precise with a good, hard fit. There is no firing pin block or drop safety. The pistol features a 9mm-type firing pin—not uncommon with high-grade 1911 handguns. The firing pin features an extra-strength firing pin spring to prevent an accidental discharge if the piece is dropped. The slide features forward cocking serrations. The ejection port is the lowered design adopted by almost all makers of modern 1911 handguns. The barrels are fitted with the right contact points—barrel bushing, upper and lower lugs. When fitting custom-grade barrels, it isn’t always easy to get a proper
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Les Baer Magazines The magazine is responsible for a lot of function problems with the 1911 handgun. With the Les Baer magazine, these problems are mitigated. Les Baer magazines are a result of in-house development and design. The inside of the magazine is highly polished, which means the ammunition supply does not meet any friction. The polymer follower and base pad fit well. Perhaps best of all, the magazine isn’t difficult to field strip.
fit and a center firing pin hit. Often, the firing pin hit is off a bit and while the pistol still works, this isn’t ideal. The rear locking lug controls the firing pin hit. The extractor, safety lever, and other parts are also manufactured in the Les Baer facility. The extractor exhibits excellent fitting and has shown no tendency to clock in its channel after firing several thousand cartridges, including a goodly number of +P loads. The pistol features a Les Baer-designed ambidextrous safety. The safety is similar to the original Swenson design and is very crisp and positive in operation. The grip safety prevents the pistol from firing by locking the trigger. When the grip safety is depressed, it releases its hold on the trigger about halfway into travel. The memory groove bump on the grip safety is an aid in the proper index. This makes for a good grip for those of us using the thumbs-forward grip (who occasionally allow the palm to rise off of the grip safety when firing).
Barrel-to-barrel bushing fit is tight.
Trigger compression is set at the factory at 4.0 pounds. There is a slight take up, very tight, with no creep and no backlash. The trigger grooved in to less than 4 pounds after the break-in period. The wood grips are nicely checkered. They offer excellent abrasion and adhesion when firing. The Concept VI, one of their long-standing handguns, is intended as a personal defense handgun, rather than a target pistol. The sights are high-visibility fixed types. These sights are rugged, will not go out of zero, and offer an excellent sight picture. The frontstrap is checkered in high-grade 30-line-persquare-inch checkering. The mainspring housing is checkered at 20 lines per square inch. This is ideal for getting a good grasp, especially if you did not get a perfect grip on the draw. The combination of checkering is very well turned out. The stainlesssteel frame, slide and parts are well-fitted and polished. And I had the chance to test this at a range.
On the Range The Les Baer Concept VI did not need a break-in period. I lubricated the pistol heavily and used full-power handloads in the initial firing. There have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject in firing several-thousand rounds of ammunition. The pistol is as reliable as a machine can be. The 1911 operates in a controlled-feed manner. The slide recoils as the pistol fires, the spent case is pulled from the chamber, and the ejector kicks the fired cartridge case away. As the slide goes forward, the cocking block catches the rim of the .45 ACP case and strips the cartridge from the magazine. The cartridge moves forward as the rim moves under the extractor. The case rim is “snugged in” as the bullet nose meets the feed ramp.
The author found that the rear sight offered an excellent sight picture.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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Break In the Action The Les Baer has been widely regarded as needing a break-in period of 100 to 200 cartridges before it is reliable (although the author did not need a break in for the Les Bauer Concept VI). There is some truth to this, as two previous pistols needed a modest break-in. All well-fitted 1911 handguns may need a break in to settle parts in and eliminate slight burrs from the manufacturing process. Good lubrication and full-power ammunition are required.
strate, the Honey Badger has caused dynamic bursting in water jugs during my testing. Gelatin also showed good wound potential. The Honey Badger weighs 135 grains and exits the Concept VI barrel at over 1,200 fps. I cannot equal the 3-inch, 50-yard group at 50 yards, on demand. However, when using the Bullshooter’s rest from Brownells.com, I have fired 3-inch, 50-yard groups with the Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain JHP. At 25 yards, 1.5-inch groups are common—when I do my job correctly. This is a pistol that will challenge the finest shot.
Reliable, Rugged The Les Baer pistol combines service grade reliability and ruggedness with target-grade accuracy. This is an uncommon combination. The Concept VI suits my needs best. These handguns are works of art in some ways and tools in another, but they are worth their price. And now you know why the Les Baer name is synonymous with high performance. GW
The cartridge then moves forward into the chamber. The extractor controls the movement of the cartridge. The cartridge headspaces on the cartridge case rim in a properly set-up handgun. The Les Baer handgun is well-set-up and has proven reliable. Test-firing the pistol has been interesting and An ambidextrous enjoyable. A steel frame 1911 Government Model safety is a tactical doesn’t generate uncomfortable recoil and may be advantage of the Concept VI. controlled by those who practice. For most of my evaluation, I have used handloads and the Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain FMJ loading. The standard 830 fps hardball loading offers excellent feed reliability and good accuracy. The load demonstrates limited muzzle flash, with only a few sparks. While the wound potential and penetration of this load are proven, public safety and wound potential is improved by the use of expanding bullets. Another excellent choice is the Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain JHP. This load breaks at over 860 fps. Accuracy is match grade with excellent potential. Penetration is on the long end at about 18 inches with expansion to over .70 caliber. This is the duty and defense load I prefer. A choice I have tested, and found viable, is the Black Hills Ammunition TAC +P, using an all-copper bullet. This load, at 1,050 fps, offers good expansion, while offering modest recoil. I would be comfortable with this loading, but prefer the 230-grain JHP. A newer choice I find very interesting is the Black Hills Ammunition 135-grain Honey Badger. The Honey Badger features a machined all-copper bullet with flutes cut into the bullet. The whirling bullet offers a cutting function and also uses fluid dynamics to press fluid in the body, creating a more complex wound. This bullet creates damage as soon as it contacts a body. While such a function is difficult to demon-
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“THIS IS A PISTOL THAT WILL CHALLENGE THE FINEST SHOT.”
(Above) Black Hills Ammunition provided excellent results in the Concept VI handgun. (Below) Les Baer magazines are well-designed and reliable.
Going With Leather I prefer the 1911 handgun above all others. As a result, I have quite a few holsters on hand. For serious, concealed carry use, the inside the waistband (IWB) holster is ideal. I have tested several from the reputable makers with good results. Among the better examples is the Lobo Gun Leather IWB with dual loops. The loops on a wing design spread the weight of the handgun out on the Lobo gun belt—a must-have for carrying a serious fighting handgun. The loops have a special crimped design that keeps them in place and makes for good belt attachment. After a modest break in, the holster is fast with a good balance between speed and retention.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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MEDIUM FRAME REVOLVERS Buyer’s Guide
PHOTO COURTESY OF RUGER FIREARMS
ome women prefer to have a handgun that they can quickly access around the house for self-defense. They do not shoot often, and prefer a mid-size revolver’s weight and simplicity in a crisis situation. The barrel is long enough to provide adequate accuracy within the home, and small enough to be easily carried in a purpose-built handbag. The problem is determining what, exactly, is a “medium frame” revolver. For many, any revolver that is bigger than a S&W J-Frame Airweight, and smaller than a steel N-Frame .44 Magnum, can be considered in the medium-size range. In other words, medium-sized revolvers typically have a barrel that is between 2.5 inches and 5 inches long. What’s your preference?
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MEDIUM FRAME REVOLVERS
HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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SMITH & WESSON MODEL 19 CLASSIC Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: Highly polished, blued Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Highly polished, blued Overall Length: 9.9 inches Sights: Black adjustable rear sight, red ramp front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Walnut Weight: 37.2 ounces Features: The Smith &
TAURUS 82B4 Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Brazil Caliber: 38 Special +P Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Stainless Steel Frame Finish: Blued Overall Length: 9.25 inches Sights: Hooded front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 36.5 ounces Features: These revolvers are a longtime favorite of security personnel and perfect for Homeland Defense
SMITH & WESSON MODEL 69 MAGNUM Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .44 Magnum Barrel Length: 4.25 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Satin Overall Length: 9.75 inches Sights: Ramp front with orange insert, adjustable rear Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 37.2 ounces Features: Smith & Wesson
Wesson Classics series of revolvers have been enhanced with modern internal components, but mimic the look and feel of classic models. The Model 19 Classic revolver features a handsome set of walnut grips, 4.25-inch barrel, black adjustable rear sight, and red ramp front sight. The revolver dons a highly polished, blued finish and traditional thumbpiece for a classic look. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $1,092
Forces. With a choice of .38 Special +P (Model 82) or .357 Magnum (Model 65), this medium frame, 6-shot revolver features comfortable rubber grips and a deep, lustrous finish. With fixed sights and a custom single action/double action trigger for improved accuracy and speed, the Model 82 is a perfect partner for whatever trouble lurks around the corner. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $499
L-Frame revolvers are built to suit the demands of the most serious firearms enthusiast. Available in sixand seven-shot cylinders, the L-Frame has a strong, durable frame and barrel built for continuous Magnum usage. As police officers and hunters will attest, this firearm is made to withstand heavy use. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $849
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MEDIUM FRAME REVOLVERS TAURUS 4510SS6MAG Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Brazil Caliber: .45 LC/.410 Barrel Length: 3 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless Overall Length: 9.5 inches Sights: Red fiber optic front fixed sight, fixed rear sight Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Ribber Weight: 36.8 ounces Features: Also known as the Taurus “Judge” Magnum, this
CHIAPPA RHINO 30DS Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Italy Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 3 inches Finish: Black Frame Material: Aluminum Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 7.5 inches Sights: Ramp front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 1.7 pounds Features: The Rhino 30DS features a 3-inch barrel. The cylinder is matte black. The ergonomic, wood grip ties
CHARTER ARMS TARGET PATHFINDER PINK LADY Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: USA Caliber: .22 LR Barrel Length: 4.2 inches Finish: Two tone, matte stainless barrel and cylinders Frame Material: Aluminum Frame Finish: Pink, anodized Overall Length: 8.5 inches Sights: Ramp front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 24 ounces
is one of the most popular modern double-action revolvers on the market today. With the capability to chamber either a .410 shotshell or .45 Long Colt cartridge, you have a solution for just about any self-defense scenario. Additionally, the Judge makes an incredible pest-control firearm around the ranch or the farm. Just having the ability to utilize a .410 shotshell in a compact package that you can carry on your hip is a game-changer for most people. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $629
everything together and compliments the theme and colors of this unique and appealing handgun. The 3-inch barrel length is great for both concealed carry as well as home defense. Website: ChiappaFirearms.com MSRP: $1,125
Features: When you need a versatile revolver for the range or the field, this one provide 6 rounds of easyto-shoot accuracy. All-metal construction with superior materials and engineering offers the look, feel, and weight of larger caliber revolvers, without breaking the bank. Website: CharterFirearms. com MSRP: $425
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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EAA 4" WINDICATOR Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Germany Caliber: .357 Magnum or .38 Special Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Steel (.357 Magnum) or alloy (38 Spl) Frame Finish: Blued Overall Length: 8.5 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity:6 Grips: Rubber Weight: 1.9 pounds Features: This revolver has a long and proud history in the
TAYLOR’S & COMPANY 1873 RUNNIN’ IRON DELUXE Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 Long Colt Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Case hardened Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Case hardened Overall Length: 9.1 inches Sights: Fixed front blade, rear frame notch Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Checkered one-piece walnut Weight: 2.4 pounds
NAA MINI-MASTER Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .22 Magnum Barrel Length: 4 inches Finish: Stainless Frame Material: 17-4 pH stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless Overall Length: 7.88 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 10.8 ounces Features: The Mini-Master Mini-Revolvers evolved from North American Arms’ popular .22 Magnum frame series and includes the time-
world of small arms. Known for its rugged dependability and consistency; depend on the Windicator for your revolver needs. It’s not the sleekest, lightest, or even the prettiest, but the Windicator is ready when you need it. With its six shot, double/single action, the Windicator gets the job done. Available in .38 Special or .357 Magnum. Website: EAACorp.com MSRP: $392
Features: Offered in stainless steel or blue finish, Taylor’s & Company 1873 Runnin’ Iron Deluxe features a low-andwide hammer spur, checkered one-piece walnut grip, and wide trigger. These features make the Runnin’ Iron the lightest and most efficient mounted-shooting gun on the market today. The Taylor Tuned Runnin’ Iron comes out-of-the-box ready to shoot and features hand polishing and custom springs. Website: TaylorsFirearms. com MSRP: $624
tested design characteristics that are incorporated in all NAA Mini-Revolvers. The result is enhanced stability and accuracy for the shooter. The Mini-Master features a Heavy Vent Barrel, Bull Cylinder, oversized black rubber grips, and comes with either adjustable sights for elevation or fixed low-profile sights. Website: NorthAmericanArms.com MSRP: $298
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MEDIUM FRAME REVOLVERS ROCK ISLAND ARMORY M200 Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Philippines Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 4.02 inches Finish: Parkerized Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Parkerized Overall Length: 8.78 inches Sights: Fixed square rear, ramped front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Combat polymer Weight: 1.76 pounds Features: The M200 Revolver is ideal for self-defense with a 4-inch semi-shrouded
CIMARRON NEW SHERIFF Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 Long Colt Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Blue steel Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Case hardened Overall Length: 9 inches Sights: Blade front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: One-piece smooth walnut Weight: 2.2 pounds Features: Just the right size to drop into your frock, coat or duster pocket, and mighty
TAYLOR’S & COMPANY SHORT STROKE RUNNIN’ IRON BLACK ROCK Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .45 Long Colt Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Black Rock Nitride Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Black Rock Nitride Overall Length: 9.05 inches Sights: Blade front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Checkered one-piece walnut Weight: 2.35 pounds
barrel for better accuracy and handling. Includes a fixed front sight with smooth channel frame-cut rear sight for durability and constant holster use. Chambered in .38 Special, it can be fired in single or double action. The M200 also features a combat polymer grip and parkerized finish. Website: Armscor.com MSRP: $275
handy for Cowboy Mounted Shooting, the New Sheriff is reminiscent of those shortbarreled peacemakers turned out in the 19th century and carried by lawmen, kept under the counter by storekeepers and other folks who wanted to keep a powerful six-gun close by, but out of sight. The New Sheriff is chambered in .45 Colt, .44-40, or .38 Special/.357 Magnum cartridges. Website: Cimarron-Firearms. com MSRP: $552.50
Features: The Short Stroke revolver is an improved single-action revolver perfect for competition shooting or the avid arms collector. It can be built with the low-set Smoke Wagon hammer or the lower and wider profile Runnin Iron hammer. For shooters that prefer a larger grip, the bigger, army-style Gunfighter grip is also an option. The finish allows for less lubrication, less cleaning effort, a smoother surface between parts for an even smoother action, and extra resistance to any damage. Website: TaylorsFirearms.com MSRP: $734
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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CIMARRON LIGHTNING Action: Single Made In: USA Caliber: .38 Special Barrel Length: 3.5 inches Finish: Standard blue Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Color casehardened pre-war style Overall Length: 8.75 inches Sights: Blade front Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: One-piece walnut Weight: 1.79 pounds Features: Designed along the lines of the classic Colt 1877 double-action revolver, Cimarron has improved this
SMITH & WESSON PERFORMANCE CENTER M&P R8 Action: SA/DA Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Mag Barrel Length: 5 inches Finish: Black matte Frame Material: Scandium alloy Frame Finish: Matte black Overall Length: 10.5 inches Sights: Front adjustable, rear adjustable v-notch Capacity: 8 rounds Grip: Synthetic Weight: 35.9 ounces Features: The cylinder and barrel of the M&P R8 are built
RUGER VAQUERO Action: SA Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Mag, .45 Colt Barrel Length: 4.62 to 5.5 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Alloy steel Frame Finish: Blued, highgloss stainless Overall Length: 10.25 to 11.12 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Hardwood Weight: 40 to 45 ounces
handsome small-framed revolver by maintaining the grace and beauty of the 19th century model, but in a much more reliable and durable six-gun than the 19th century model. Produced in barrel lengths of 3.5 inches, 4.75 inches, 5.5 inches and 6.5 inches, Cimarronâ€™s Lightning is available in .41 Colt, .38 Special, and a 10-shot .22 Long Rifle, depending on barrel length. Website: Cimarron-Firearms. com MSRP: $551.20 and up
from stainless steel while the frame is made from scandium alloy to reduce weight. Offers an eight-round capacity and an accessory rail under the barrel for mounting lights and optics. Also includes a PC-tuned action, PC trigger and trigger stop and black synthetic grips. Website: Smith-Wesson.com MSRP: $1,329
Features: Combines traditional single-action design with the safety of a transfer bar and loading gate interlock. Patented reverse indexing pawl allows for easier loading and unloading and a traditional beveled cylinder simplifies holstering. Barrels are cold hammerforged. Available in blued and high-polish stainless as well as a Bisley version with simulated ivory grips and a two-gun (consecutive serial number) SASS set. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $829 to $1,699
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MEDIUM FRAME REVOLVERS
TAURUS MODEL TRACKER 627 Action: SA/DA Made In: Brazil Caliber: .357 Mag Barrel Length: 4 to 6.5 inches Finish: Stainless steel
Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Matte silver Overall Length: 8.75 to 10.75 inches Sights: Adjustable Capacity: 7 rounds Grips: Ribber Weight: 28 to 40.8 ounces Features: The Tracker 627 is relatively
lightweight and compact for a medium-frame revolver, making it a solid choice for backwoods carry. It offers a seven-round capacity, barrel porting, adjustable sights, black rubber grips, a transfer bar and Taurus’s TSS system. Website: TaurusUSA.com MSRP: $709 GW
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1911 IN THE MODERN AGE STORY & PHOTOS BY DAVE DOLBEE, PH.D.
For its Power and Light Weight, American Tacticalâ€™s FXH-45 is Very Suitable for Self-Defense
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HANDGUN BUYERâ€™S GUIDE
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1911 IN THE MODERN AGE
“… ATI’S FXH-45 BREAKS THE COMMON CONCEPTION OF WHAT IS POSSIBLE WITH THE 1911.”
merican Tactical Inc. (ATI) made its reputation by supplying quality, innovation, and value. While many of ATI’s previous offerings have been diamonds in the rough, the FXH-45 1911 raises the bar—both for American Tactical and its competitors. There is no other way to say it, but ATI’s FXH-45 breaks the common conception of what is possible with the 1911. The FXH is a hybrid 1911, but do not be too quick to dismiss this as a true 1911. The FXH features a polymer frame with two metal inserts that add stability, as well as durability, and a steel, match-grade barrel. “Old Slabsides” the FXH-45 is not, but it is compatible with most, if not all, of your favorite 1911 parts. A few decades ago, the naysayers made the argument against the first polymer handguns. Today, polymers dominate the market for a reason. Polymer offers advantages over aluminum or steel. Polymer frames are built using an injection molding process. The process results in cost savings, both from materials and machining. The cost savings can then be passed on to the consumer. The polymer frame offers other advantages the buyer should consider, as well. The first is weight. Less mass weight is easier to hold at arm’s length for extended shooting sessions. It is more comfortable to carry, either on or in the waistband, or with off-body solutions, such as a purse, briefcase, or diversion pack.
When moving “off the X” from 3 yards, the author delivered hits more-than-acceptable for self-defense work.
American Tactical FXH-45 Specs Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel Length: 5 inches Overall Length: 8.7 inches Weight: 29 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fiber-optic front, notch rear Action: Single action Finish: Matte black Capacity: 8+1 MSRP: $600
First Impressions Any time I hear “hybrid” and “1911” in the same sentence, the butterflies in my stomach start working overtime. John Moses Browning produced the design over a century ago, and it has survived for a reason. Upon my first introduction last fall, I was immediately relieved. The FXH-45 offers a true 1911 experience. The controls, feel, and operation are all classic 1911. However, ATI has put a few unique touches on the FXH. Already covered was the polymer construction, which reduces the overall weight by about 10 ounces, when compared to a similar steel model.
Slide The stainless steel slide is decked out with a black nitride finish for durability. The custom touches on the slide do break from traditional 1911 lines. The front of the slide is notable, both for the forward cocking serrations and ports to reduce the forward mass. It is important to note that the ports are cut into the slide; the barrel is not ported. This allows the FXH to be used in USPSA’s single-stack
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a consideration for tactical or law enforcement applications. Finally, the ejection port of the slide is lowered and flared. This, too, is a feature that is more common among recent 1911 designs. The primary advantage is reliability.
The coned barrel and barrel crown are expertly done.
division or IDPA competition without sacrificing a competitive advantage. The rear of the slide adds five more cocking serrations to ensure solid hand purchase whether your hands are dry and sandy, wet, or even oily after a good cleaning. ATI includes a simple, yet highly effective sight system with an easy-to-acquire red fiber optic front sight and a wide, steel, U-notch sight for the rear. The steel rear sight is also stout enough to rack the slide one-handed in an emergency using a pant pocket or tactical vest. The rear sight is drift adjustable, and for those preferring something different, the groove is cut to accept Glock-compatible sights, opening your FXH to a host of offerings. For those wishing to run the FXH with an optic, the top of the slide is drilled and tapped. Simply mount an appropriate adapter plate and optic, and you are ready to head to the range and sight in. During testing, I fired 250 rounds with a Trijicon RMR I had on hand, but the American Tactical Optic Mount is also built to secure a Burris FastFire Reflex sight. The optic held tight with a mix of 230-grain FMJ rounds and +P self-defense loads. Because the mounting is not recessed, when using an optic, the fixed sights are not available. This is not an issue for target use, but it’s
The lightweight sideplates on the grip are suitably checkered and offer good purchase without becoming uncomfortable during recoil. They are hand-filling for those with medium-to-large hands, and can be readily replaced if you’d prefer to swap them for one of your favorite aftermarket options. The trigger guard has a notable undercut that leads to the integral finger grooves in the frontstrap of the frame. The metal backstrap is also checkered. Combined, the features proved capable on hot days with sweaty hands, or while wearing tactical gloves. A Picatinny rail is integrated into the dustcover. This makes ATI’s FXH-45 ripe for those ready to run a tactical light, laser, or combo unit. The skeletonized trigger offers a pleasant aesthetic, but under the hood it is pure performance. The trigger is adjustable for overtravel. I tested the trigger using a Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. An average of 10 readings has my FXH at 3 pounds, 14 ounces—perfect!
Controls I find an ambidextrous safety to be a necessity these days for any firearm designed for self-defense or law enforcement. First, it makes the weapon southpaw friendly. Second, it is a huge benefit whenever the piece must be operated using my weak hand, such as certain stages during tactical pistol competitions, and during weak-hand drills. I certainly would not want to be without an ambi safety, should I ever be injured and forced to defend my family or person. On the rear of the FXH is the beavertail grip safety. Included is a tactical speed bump. The feature is hardly noticeable to the eye, but for those who practice, it will be immediately noticeable when your grip has shifted, or you are not suitably high enough on the grip. On the range, this could mean needlessly lost points; in a self-defense situation, it could be difference between winning and losing the fight.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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1911 IN THE MODERN AGE
For those wishing to run the FXH with an optic, the top of the slide is drilled and tapped, making the addition of a Trijicon RMR or Burris FastFire quick and easy.
ATI FXH-45 Range Data Black Hills Ammunition 185-grain TAC +P Average Velocity: 1,021 fps Muzzle Energy: 428 foot-pounds Smallest Group: 2.5 inches Largest Group: 3 inches Average Group Size: 2.8 inches Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ Average Velocity: 866 fps Muzzle Energy: 382 foot-pounds Smallest Group: 2.6 inches Largest Group: 3.4 inches Average Group Size: 3 inches Winchester Kinetic HE 185-grain Average Velocity: 974 fps Muzzle Energy: 384 foot-pounds Smallest Group: 2.2 inches Largest Group: 2.9 inches Average Group Size: 2.55 inches Winchester Super X Silvertip HP 185-grain Average Velocity: 1,030 fps Muzzle Energy: 435 foot-pounds Smallest Group: 2.1 inches Largest Group: 2.6 inches Average Group Size: 2.3 inches
Given the 5-inch barrel and quality trigger, I walked onto the range with high hopes. ATI’s FXH-45 did not disappoint, performing as well, or better than, any of my other government model-size 1911s. The big difference was in the weight. Recoil reminded me that I was shooting a .45 ACP. Otherwise, due to the lighter weight, it was more in line with a 9mm 1911. Even so, the FXH-45’s weight felt more like a Commander than a full-size 1911, but it balanced better. The 1911s are notorious for requiring a break-in. I started, prepared to fieldstrip and lubricate the piece. However, upon inspection I noted that it was wet from the factory, so I loaded the two included Mec-Gar magazines with Winchester and Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ ammunition. Firing slowly and deliberately from the 5-yard line, when the shooter did his part the FXH-45 performed admirably. After a few more magazines, I settled in and started tearing a hole in the target. Next, I engaged targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards with a variety of self-defense ammunition—including mixed lots within a single magazine. While I would never choose to carry this way, it is useful to ensure your defense handgun can handle a steady diet of different rounds and feed them reliably. The FXH-45 handled everything I gave it. There were no failures to feed or eject. I noted one failure to fire with steel-case Brown Bear ammunition (known for having extremely hard primers). In this case, I would be more likely to blame the round than the gun. Tight groups were no longer the main objective as I “got off the X” and began movement drills. Firing on the move and from behind cover, I ensured the piece would reliably fire and eject the cases from all orientations spanning 9 to 3 o’clock. I then moved to double taps and, finally, complete mag dumps. During these drills, I concentrated heavily to maintain a strong grip. I have heard far too many complaints that blamed the gun
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for failing to eject a round when the culprit was actually due the operator’s weak grip. No failures to feed, fire, or eject were noted during this phase of testing.
Conclusion ATI’s FXH-45 1911 Hybrid is a gun for all occasions. The quality trigger and fast-acquisition front sight make it suitable for local competition in IDPA or production classes. Just as accuracy is appreciated on the target range, it is demanded for self-defense or
law enforcement. Some may counter that at under 4 pounds, the trigger might be too light. With proper trigger-finger discipline, this should not be an issue, but it is easily addressable to meet department minimums, if required. Whether as a duty weapon or for those who prefer to carry a full-size, full-power handgun for self-defense, the lighter weight will be appreciated as the hours wear on. For an out-of-the-box 1911 with a street price well under $500, the FXH-45 is the mark other manufacturers will struggle to compete against. GW
“FOR AN OUT-OF-THE-BOX 1911 WITH A STREET PRICE WELL UNDER $500, THE FXH-45 IS THE MARK OTHER MANUFACTURERS WILL STRUGGLE TO COMPETE AGAINST.” The FXH-45’s grip safety is designed with a tactical speed bump. The feature is hardly noticeable to the eye, but for those who practice, it will be immediately noticeable when your grip has shifted, or you are not suitably high enough on the grip.
The orange front fiber optic assisted in acquiring a fast sight picture after the draw and during recoil.
American Tactical Inc. 231 Deming Way Summerville, SC 29483 (800) 290-0065 Website: AmericanTactical.us
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY ATIL
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FULL-FRAME REVOLVERS Buyer’s Guide
ans of the fighting revolver often lament over the declining number of manufacturers offering quality wheel guns these days. In fact, some would proffer whether the revolver is a relic that has outlived its usefulness. I agree; that is nonsense! Wheel guns are akin to a scalpel—they are built for a purpose. And when it comes to full-frame revolvers: monster magnums, purpose-built hunters, 9-shot 9mms and a host of other options fill the niche on the target range, hunting grounds, or in the bedside safe.
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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HERITAGE ROUGH RIDER .22 Action: Single Action Made In: USA Caliber: .22 LR Barrel Length: 6.5 inches Finish: Blue Frame Material: Alloy Frame Finish: Blued Overall Length: 11.8 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Cocobolo Weight: 33.4 ounces Features: This is a revolver to beat all, as grandpa saidâ€” affordable not cheap, reliable,
RUGER SP 101 .357 MAGNUM Action: Double Action/Single Action Made In: USA Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 2.25 inches Finish: Stainless steel Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Satin stainless or black Cerakote Overall Length: 7.2 inches Sights: Fixed Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Hard rubber Weight: 26 ounces Features: Vault tough, rugged, with a smooth action
RUGER BLACKHAWK .45 COLT STAINLESS Action: Single Action Made In: USA Caliber: .45 Colt Barrel Length: 7.5 inches Finish: Blued Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless steel Overall Length: 12.37 inches Sights: Fully adjustable Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Wood Weight: 48 ounces Features: For outdoors use, hunting, hiking and
accurate enough for many chores, and it even features a manual safety. The Heritage Rough Rider is the one gun everyone should have and the one gun we can all afford. Website: HeritageMfg.com MSRP: $130
and excellent accuracy, the Ruger SP 101 is the one lightweight .357 Magnum that will withstand a near-unlimited number of Magnum loads. This revolver is among the most desirable defense revolvers ever made. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $719
long-range shooting, nothing beats the Blackhawk. The Blackhawk may be the strongest single-action revolver ever built. It is certainly the widest used. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $849
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FULL-FRAME REVOLVERS KORTH NATIONAL STANDARD Action: DA/SA Made In: Germany Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 5.25 inches Frame Material: Steel Frame Finish: Blued Overall Length: 10.1 inches Sights: Fully adjustable Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 40.1 ounces Features: The Korth is legendary for its fine workmanship, accuracy, and fit and finish. A super smooth, double action
CHIAPPA CHARGING RHINO 60DS Action: Double Action Only Made In: Italy Caliber: 9mm Barrel Length: 6 inches Cylinder Finish: Silver Frame Material: Ergal Frame Frame Finish: Black Overall Length: 10.5 inches Sights: Fiber optic Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Grey laminate medium Weight: 2 pounds Features:The Charging Rhino represents a natural
DAN WESSON MODEL 715 Action: Double Action (DA or DA/SA) Made In: Czech Republic Caliber: .357 Magnum Barrel Length: 6 inches Finish: Stainless steel Frame Material: Stainless Frame Finish: Stainless Overall Length: 8.75 inches Sights: Adjustable target Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 47 ounces Features: The 715 is as it was before—designed and built to be the most accurate, rugged
revolver chambered for a powerful cartridge has much to recommend. Website: Korth-Waffen.de MSRP: $3,787
evolution of the legendary Chiappa Rhino revolver. Developed for competition shooting, the Charging Rhino was developed in collaboration with IPSC/ICORE shooters to significantly contribute to the winning combination of speed and accuracy. Website: ChiappaFirearms. com MSRP: $1,652
and versatile revolver on the market. Shipped with a 6-inch barrel, the new shroud is designated the HV6, a heavy vent shroud profile that tames the .357’s recoil very well. The double action trigger is short and relatively light, while the single action is light and crisp. The targetlike SA trigger pull made the Dan Wesson revolver a favorite among competitors and hunters, and the tradition continues in the 715. Website: DanWessonFirearms.com MSRP: $1,168
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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RUGER NEW MODEL SUPER BLACKHAWK HUNTER Action: SA Made In: USA Caliber: .44 Rem Mag Barrel Length: 7.5 inches Barrel Finish: Satin stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Satin stainless Overall Length: 13.63 inches Sights: Adjustable Capacity: 6 Rounds Grips: Laminate Weight: 52 ounces Features: The New Model
MAGNUM RESEARCH BFR Action: Single Action Made In: USA Caliber: .45 Long Colt Barrel Length: 7.5 inches Barrel Finish: Stainless Frame Material: Stainless steel Frame Finish: Stainless Overall Length: 15 inches Sights: Fixed/Adjustable Capacity: 5 rounds Grips: Rubber Weight: 64 ounces Features: Magnum Researchâ€™s Biggest Finest Revolver (BFR) is entirely manufactured in the U.S.,
RUGER SINGLE-SIX CONVERTIBLE Action: SA Made In: USA Caliber: 22 LR Barrel Length: 6.50 inches Frame Material: Alloy steel Finish: Blued Overall Length: 12 inches Sights: Front ramp, rear adjustable Capacity: 6 rounds Grips: Black checkered hard rubber Weight: 35 ounces Features: The Single-Six Convertible features a
Super Blackhawk Hunter comes with laminate grips and scope bases machined directly into an integral rib. As with other new model Super Blackhawks, the Hunter benefits from the added security of a transfer bar system and loading gate interlock. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $959
and like the legendary Desert Eagle pistol, it is designed as a Magnum from the ground up. The BFR is all stainless and has a precision grade barrel that delivers unmatched accuracy with lead or jacketed bullets. The BFR is the most powerful production single action gun made, and with 10 calibers and two frame sizes to choose from, you can take everything from grouse to grizzly. Website: MagnumResearch. com MSRP: $825
patented transfer bar mechanism and loading gate interlock that provide security against accidental discharge. The cold hammer-forged barrel results in precise rifling that provides for exceptional accuracy, longevity and easy cleaning. Plus, the extra cylinder allows shooters to change from shooting .22 LR to .22 WMR. Website: Ruger.com MSRP: $629 GW
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GAIN the ADVANTAGE With the Latest Products & Gear
Browning Black Label Decoded - Assisted Open
A pocketknife is a simple utility tool that everyone should carry. Even if the most “tactical” task of your day is opening a cardboard box, the Black Label Decoded will make the task a breeze. The assisted open design allows you to easily deploy the knife one-handed and locks open as solidly as a good fixed blade knife. Browning’s Black Label Decoded - Assisted Open knife is a modified folding Tanto design with a hollow ground 56-58 Rockwell stainless steel blade. The blade tapes out at 3.125 inches, while the overall length measures 7.5 inches. MSRP: $69.99, Browning.com
Hogue HANDALL Beavertail Grip Sleeves
While manufacturers continue the trend of making handguns that are easier to conceal, those with larger hands find them harder to hold onto during recoil. Fortunately, Hogue’s new line of HANDALL Beavertail Grip Sleeves is the solution. The new grip sleeves are designed to fit specific models of polymer pistols. The initial offerings in this series has sleeves designed to fit perfectly on three sizes of polymer firearms. The first offering precisely fits Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield (9mm and .40 models) and Ruger’s LC9. The second sleeve fits Glock’s 42 and 43. While each sleeve has been created for a precise fit on specific firearms, they also alternatively fit many other similarly sized firearms with a fully functional and aesthetic fit. The latest offerings are for the Ruger Security 9 and SIG P320 with more on the drawing board. “These sleeves also provide a very nice fit for many pistols that may not have any other alternative available on the market” said Hogue. MSRP: $9.95-12.95, HogueInc.com
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Sightmark’s Mini Shot M-Spec FMS
The Bar Has Been Raised TruGlo’s TFX PRO Sights
Some handguns come with awesome sights, others are ripe for an upgrade to fit your personal mission and preference. For the latter, TruGlo has the solution. Previously, TruGlo’s TFO sights set the bar for brightness that other manufacturers competed against. Now, raising the bar again, TruGlo has introduced its new indestructible, hermetically sealed TFX PRO sights. While providing the ultimate in reliability, accuracy, and brightness no matter how tough things get, TFX PRO sights also feature a contrasting-colored front sight ring for even faster focus, U-Notch design for fast alignment and target acquisition, and an angled rear sight edge that the operator to manipulate the slide one-handed using a pocket, belt, or tactical vest for support. MSRP: $186, TruGlo.com
The concept of running an optic on a tactical pistol has become mainstream for many shooters. The concept is simple; instead of having to worry about sight alignment, you simply put the dot on the spot and squeeze the trigger. Tactical units have enjoyed this advantage for years, and now you can, too, with Sightmark’s Mini Shot M-Spec FMS. The compact Mini Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight is the perfect optic for competition shooting and LE applications. The kit includes a low-profile mount. This rugged optic is 100% waterproof and features a durable aluminum housing with a steel protective shield. Doubling the battery life of the competition, the Mini Shot M-Spec’s extremely low power consumption provides 30030,000 hours of battery life on one CR1632 battery, while the 12hour auto shutoff prevents the unit from running out of power while you’re not using it. MSRP: $239.99, Sightmark.com
gouging, or damaging the metal liner. Quickly remove dirt, dust, powder residue, and grime that may hinder reliability and cause a failure to feed.
GTUL & Mag Brush Combo
GTUL has developed an integrated system to disassemble and clean all 9mm/.40 S&W, 10mm/.45 ACP, and Glock 36 magazines. The system addresses an often overlooked area of firearm maintenance for your Glock—cleaning the magazines. You can now take apart your magazines without marring,
The GTUL minimizes wear and maintains the structural integrity of the locking tabs and notches, and limits the force that may be applied to the magazine. It can be used to remove all standard Glock floor plates for cleaning and installation of aftermarket Glock base plates. The precise fit, and compact design allows the magazine to be secured with one hand while applying force to disengage the locking tabs. This allows the other hand to be used to depress the retaining pin (if present), and slide the floor plate off. The Mag Brush has a punch built into the handle to depress the retaining pin. The nylon bristles are then used to clean the magazine tube. MSRP: $21.95, MyGTUL.com
HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE
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You get after it everyday. You dry fire at night, plan the skills you’re going to work on at the range and visualize success. It’s what you’re all about. Performance and improvement.
PHOTO BY LARRY ATIL
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Citori White Lightning
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THE CHOSEN ONE
Selected as the official sidearm of the U.S. Army for its uniquely innovative modularity, uncompromising performance and unmatched capability. The M17 has redefined the definition of the combat handgun forever. Now, SIG SAUER® is proud to introduce the new civilian version of the P320 - M17 with the same innovation and versatility as the U.S. Army’s M17. Removable night sight rear plate U.S. Army Coyote-Tan PVD coated stainless steel slide SIGLITE® front sights (2) 17-round magazines
Learn more at sigsauer.com
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