October 3rd, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Dixie Gun Works offers Uberti’s ‘new’ Cattleman Flat-Top single action in .44/40

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

Back in 1961, Colt allowed some announcements to leak out about a new target-sighted single action they’d soon release. At the time, I’d hoped for a return of the early flat-top target model of their famous Single Action Army, but instead, they introduced the New Frontier model. And while that is an exceptionally fine revolver, it really didn’t appeal to my oldtime, traditional tastes.

Finally, a mere 55 years later, Dixie Gun Works has added the Uberti Cattleman Flat-top to their catalog, and it was worth the wait. In addition to being historically correct, this is a six-gun built for accurate and fine shooting.

The details of that historical correctness begin with the cartridges this gun is chambered for. Currently (although things can change), the flat-top Cattleman is offered only for the .45 Colt and the .44/40. Of those two cartridges, the .45 is certainly the most common today, just as it was years ago. If all of my wishes had come true, this new gun would be offered in .44 Smith & Wesson Russian/Special too. However, with the .45 Colt and the .44/40 to choose from, one of the .44/40s was my choice.

The blue and color case hardening, combined with the excellent fit and finish, make this a beautiful gun.

The blue and color case hardening, combined with the excellent fit and finish, make this a beautiful gun.

THE MOST OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE between this target model and the standard frame guns, in addition to the flat-top frame, is the sights. At the back, the rear sight sits in a dovetail and it is easily windage adjustable, with a small set screw to lock it in place. The front sight is a blade pinned into a lug soldered to the top of the barrel. Originally, the front sight could be changed, and that should be possible on this gun too (simply drive out the pin), but a new front sight blade would have to be made.

Another feature I really like is the wide trigger. Instead of the standard narrow trigger found on most Colt Single Actions and their clones, this trigger is the same width as the trigger guard. That will give the trigger finger a much better “grip” while aiming for the shot.

Interestingly enough, in reviewing some original flattops, I discovered that not all of them had the wide triggers. Additionally, a few of the models with wide triggers had their triggers checkered. To me, that’s an interesting detail about the rare original Colts, and likewise for these rather uncommon copies.

The “flat-top” is clearly seen in this image, along with the adjustable rear sight.

The “flat-top” is clearly seen in this image, along with the adjustable rear sight.

Shooting the Flat-top in .44/40 is like shooting a very rare piece. As you may know, Colt originally made only 21 of their flat-top Single Action Army revolvers in this caliber. (Of course, that doesn’t count the 78 flat-top .44/40 Bisley Models which were also made.) Most of my shooting was done with black powder loads, but that is certainly not
a requirement. I will even admit that my best shooting was done with smokeless powdered loads.

THOSE LOADS ARE GOOD ENOUGH to mention in detail. First, the bullets used for all of my loads were cast from Lyman’s mold #427098, usually out of a soft 30-1 alloy, sized to .429 inches, and lubricated with BPC lube (Black Powder Cartridge lube from Montana Armory). Primers used were always CCI’s standard Large Pistol.

The black powder load used 33.0 grains of GOEX’s Olde Eynsford powder, which fills the Starline .44/40 cases almost to the top. Then the powder is compressed simply by seating the bullet down on it.

For a smokeless powder load, all of the above remains the same except for the powder charge. Instead of using black powder, I used a charge of 7½ grains of Unique. That is basically a recommended load, not near maximum at all, and some very comfortable shooting can be done with it. That is an accurate load too, good enough for pleasing groups and controllable enough for Cowboy competition.

This gun has the “black powder frame” with the base pin held in by a screw.

This gun has the “black powder frame” with the base pin held in by a screw.

To make load identification very easy, I load my black powder ammo in Starline’s nickel-plated cases, while the smokeless load go into standard brass cases.

Both of those loads seem to hit at about the same elevation. For my “accuracy check,” I posted a couple of pistol targets at 50 feet, and fired the flat-top from a rest. While holding the sights at 6 o’clock, right at the bottom of the black, very good hits were made, mostly in the 10 ring. The smokeless load did produce a somewhat smaller group than the black powder loads, but I only made this comparison once, and I’m certain a lot of “human element” was involved.

The trigger is as wide as the trigger guard, making this revolver very comfortable to shoot.

The trigger is as wide as the trigger guard, making this revolver very comfortable to shoot.

WHAT WAS A LOT MORE FUN, as you could probably guess, was plinking with the black powder loads. One particular small target was teasing me, and that was a clothespin hanging on a wire at a distance of 25 or 30 yards. There was a good dirt bank backstop behind it, and I could spot exactly where my shots that missed actually hit. It took me only three tries to hit that clothespin, and it disassembled quite nicely on my third shot.

AS FOR TECHNICAL INFO about the gun, the 7½-inch-long barrel is rifled with grooves .004 inch deep and a rate of twist at one turn in 20 inches. The groove diameter of the barrel is .429 inch. This gun’s front sight is a silver blade that is held with a screw in the blued steel base. The rear sight is a nice wide square notch that sits in a dovetail. It is windage adjustable and it has a set screw to hold it in place. This gun measures 13.25 inches overall, and it weighs about 2½ pounds. Dixie’s price, at this writing, is only $450.00, making this a lot of gun for the money.

Good groups! The smokeless group is on the left, and the black powder group is on the right

Good groups! The smokeless group is on the left, and the black powder group is on the right

Shooting with the Flat-top Cattleman is, for me, a real pleasure. And now, if they’ll bring back the flat-top Bisley Model, I hope my name is at the top of their list.

I also hope that I don’t have to wait another 55 years. ASJ 

It pays to enjoy your work. Here, author Mike Nesbitt grins as he fires the Uberti Cattleman .44/40 with full black powder loads. (JERRY MAYO)

It pays to enjoy your work. Here, author Mike Nesbitt grins as he fires the Uberti Cattleman .44/40 with full black powder loads. (JERRY MAYO)

 

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August 4th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

With Quality Guns Like The MCX And A Branded Line Of Pellets And Targets, SIG Sauer Is Establishing Itself As A Leader In The Airgun Market

STORY BY TOM CLAYCOMB • PHOTOGRAPHS BY SIG SAUER

It’s probably a waste of our ink and your time to remind you that SIG Sauer makes some sweet guns, or how excited I was when my friends at SIG told me that they wanted me to test their new airgun line.

SIG Sauer’s MCX (above) features the same weight as the original model, and is designed to deliver comparable handling, ensuring that it will be fun and challenging to shoot (below).

For that small minority who may not have read last month’s review of SIG’s P226 airgun, not only did SIG launch an airgun line, they went the extra mile and developed a good selection of extremely accurate pellets and a large choice of airgun targets. This was extremely smart on their part, as this new line will be a huge drawing card for kids … and grown-up kids, of course.

So with that said, let’s discuss the MCX.1608-SIG-MCX-01c

It is the same weight as the original model, and is designed to deliver comparable handling. This “real gun” feel guarantees that it will be fun and challenging to shoot, but as with the P226, it’s also great for training purposes. The MCX is charged by CO2, which is a new experience for me. Even as a kid I have never had an airgun that used a CO2 canister. My airguns have always been pump-ups, break-action or PCPs.

The MCX is quite simple to operate. To begin with, it uses a 90-gram canister instead of the normal 12-gram ones. To install a canister you remove the butt stock, screw it in and replace the stock over it. I’m sure it was designed around a larger canister because it holds a 30 shot clip. And speaking of clips, the clip pops out the same as on your regular AR. Inside is a rotary belt that you insert pellets into, which will hold 30 pellets. To load it you pull back the bolt just like on your AR. The gun does have a forward assist bolt, but it is merely decorative, not functional.

The MCX uses a 90-gram CO2 canister. To install, you simply remove the butt stock, screw the canister in and replace the stock over it.

With it holding 30 pellets and being a semiauto, that makes it a fun gun to shoot. I fell in love with it right when I opened the box, and was impressed with how solid it felt.

For the initial voyage, we went out to shoot and chronograph. There were a few ground squirrels out, but we tried to focus on the task at hand. We had a lot of guns to shoot that day and pellets to test. But we finally broke down and shot ground squirrels for a couple of hours when we were finished with the real work.

The 30-shot clip pops out the same as on your regular AR.

Although the gun is listed as shooting up to 750 feet per second, we attained only 590. But fps can vary greatly for a variety of reasons, such as if you have a fully charged canister or not, what kind of pellet that you’re shooting and variations in temperature. I think it’d be fun to chronograph it in 30-degree weather and then again in 105-degree conditions, conducting both tests on a new canister and the same pellets, and compare speeds.

I was unhappy with the groups that I was getting on the range. But I took it along when we went to the mountains for some coyote hunting, and I was able to retest in the middle of the day when things slowed down. I got a little over a 7/8-inch three-shot group at 30 feet. That’s more like it.

The SIG MCX will make an excellent training rifle, as well as a fine varmint gun.

I wrote about hunting ground squirrels elsewhere in this issue, and mentioned that on a good day I’ll get 400 to 500 shots off, so the cost of .22 ammo can quickly add up. So for close shots in a similar hunting scenario, the MCX will not only be a fun little gun to shoot, but it’s also very economical.

The MCX comes with a 1-4×24 SIG Sauer scope, and I was impressed by how crisp and clear it is. The crosshairs have marks for distance and windage. The only downside is that the scope is a 1-4x; as I’m shooting small targets and pushing the limit on yardage when I’m hunting with my airguns, I wish that it was at least a 3-9x.

The trigger was really rough at first. But while I was trying to measure the poundage, it leveled out and pulled straight through at 6.25 pounds. Maybe it just had to break in to get smooth. Obviously, if it had a better trigger, I know that I could tighten my group.

SIG Sauer’s MCX provides shooters with a “real gun” feel and the easy-to-use benefits of an airgun.

But despite the minor issues with the trigger and scope, it is a great little gun, and as soon as the ground squirrels come out in full force I’m going to burn the barrel out. Shooters of all ages will certainly enjoy it, but as with most modern airguns, it is definitely not a toy. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more, see sigsauerasp.com.

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April 22nd, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Review and photographs by Frank Jardim
995ts-11

When Winchester produced its famous 1873 lever-action rifles and carbines, Colt wasted no time in chambering its single-action Army revolver in Winchester’s calibers from .44-40 down to .32-20. There are times when the quick handling and easy portability of a handgun is of paramount importance for self defense, but when faced with dire threats cowboys knew it was much better to have a repeating rifle. A handgun and longarm in the same caliber was a winner on the American frontier. From a self-defense standpoint, today’s shooters can find a practical, cost-effective, modern parallel to the 19th century Colt/Winchester pairing in Hi-Point carbines and pistols. Hi-Points are chambered in popular pistol cartridges such as .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm Luger and soon .380 ACP, and the .40 S&W and .45 ACP model carbines and pistols even share a common magazine. I tested a model 995ts carbine and C9 pistol chambered in 9mm and was favorably impressed.

Hi Point GUN REVIEW 1

The author shooting a Zombie Shooters United course of fire located at the Knob Creek Range in West Point, Ky. You can visit them at zombieshootersunited.com

It is known that you can get a Colt Defender pistol and Model 6951 AR-15 type carbine in 9mm; however, this combination will cost you about $2,000. The Hi-Points I tested cost less than $500! That puts Hi-Points into a unique niche as the least expensive centerfire firearms on the market. There is a lot more to the differences between Colts and Hi-Points than price, so to narrow the focus of the discussion, I will evaluate the Hi-Points as personal home-defense firearms. In this respect, based on my testing, Hi-Points represent an exceptional value.

Hi Point C9 Cutaway

Hi-Point C9 Cutaway

Be careful not to make the mistake of assuming inexpensive means poor quality. Hi-Point firearms are engineered to be inexpensive. When I disassembled them, I was struck by the clever way parts were designed to serve multiple purposes and the use of highly efficient manufacturing techniques like metal stamping, zinc alloy casting, metal injection molding, button-rifled barrels, powder coating and injection-molded plastic. The martial spirit of the highly effective Soviet PPSH-41 submachine gun and the clandestine American FP-45 Liberator pistol of World War II are channeled through the Hi-Points. All of these firearms let the ease of manufacture and effective function dictate their form.

An important consumer byproduct of the care taken in designing the Hi-Points is that the production cost of parts is so low, the firearms are warranted forever. Not just for the original owner, but every owner (the instruction sheet with older production guns may still indicate the warranty is limited to the original purchaser, but the distributor at MKS assured me that is not the case). If any of Hi-Point’s firearms has a problem, it will be repaired by the factory free of charge. From my research, they are living up to their promise, and their reputation is excellent.

If Hi-Point’s design has a negative, I believe it is the trigger pull. The one I tested initially was heavy and erratic. Sometimes it let go crisply; other times it creeped one or two times before it released the sear. This trigger spoiled a lot of groups. I think the crux of problem is that by design, each pull of the trigger is doing a lot more than just releasing the sear. When you take the gun apart you’ll see what I mean. It is what it is, but take heart! If your trigger is stiff and creepy like a zombie, I found that dry firing the action a thousand times, like I did while I watched a TV show, improved mine significantly.Hi Point GUN REVIEW 2

The 995ts carbine is a good choice for targets from 15 to 50 yards. It is probably effective at ranges greater than 50 yards, but if you are shooting at someone that far away, it may prove difficult to make a case for self defense in court. It comes with a 10-round magazine and mine had a very handy factory two-magazine clip. This clip attached to the web of the stock allowing me to carry 30 rounds total, in and on the gun. The buttstock had a recoil-absorbing butt pad that was probably more important with the .45 ACP version than it was with the 9mm I tested. The carbine was pleasant to shoot and the military aperture sights were easy to adjust and use. This model has plenty of surprisingly rugged polymer tactical rails to mount all of your accessories and they make a nice-looking vertical foregrip and muzzle-brake, which I did not test.

The carbine used in this test had several hundred rounds through it before I formally evaluated it. I’ve been using it during our local Zombie Shooters United competitions in central Kentucky for over a year and it has never malfunctioned in competition. I do recall, when I first zeroed it for 25 yards, that the trigger pull was quite heavy. However, during my test for this story the trigger seemed a lot better.

As one would expect, ammo matters. The best of the three different loads I tested was remanufactured semi-target-grade, 124-grain, full-metal-jacket ammunition from AwesomeAmmunition.com. The average 50-yard, open-sight group from five separate five round strings was 2.25 inches, which is pretty darn good for a pistol cartridge at that range. The velocity through the carbine’s 16.5-inch barrel was 1,143 feet per second and was measured 12 feet from the muzzle.

Of the 115-grain full-metal-jacket factory ammo I tested, Winchester Target was clearly the better of the two. It was close behind Awesome Ammunition’s magic beans, with an average group size of 2.98 inches and 1,332 fps. The Winchester groups were more than an inch tighter than another popular low-cost factory ammo. This pattern of performance held for the C9 pistol too. Awesome Ammunition was the most accurate, this time a 124-grain, jacketed hollow point, followed by Winchester and the other famous brand, coming in at a distant third place.

Don’t expect the C9 pistol to shoot like a Colt Gold cup. It’s no target pistol, but it will be head-shot accurate at 7 yards and center-mass effective to 25 yards. I was able to easily put five shots through a green bean can at 7 yards with one hand after I broke in the trigger. When I bench tested at 7 yards, I found the same Winchester load I used in the carbine, printed groups averaging 1.62 inches and had a velocity of 1,104 fps. That cluster of 25 test rounds left a ragged hole in the target which you could cover with the bottom of a soda can. That’s pretty impressive for a $140 pistol. As a point of interest, I shot groups with this same load benched from 25 yards both before and after I broke in the trigger and the difference was dramatic. Breaking in the trigger shaved 2 inches off the group size, dropping it from an average of 9.74 inches to 7.75 inches.

The Hi-Points are heavy guns, but they are reliable, bargain priced, decent shooters and all American made. Without a doubt, they will be the best home-defense guns you will ever own for the money. ASJ

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April 17th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Tough Guy Equipment

Review and photographs by Danielle Breteau

Pros:TOPS Knives Tanto (2)-min

The Packaging: I know, I know. Who cares about the packaging? But wait, it comes in a suede and sheepskin-lined zippered pouch. Nice touch!

 

TOPS Knives Tanto (4)-min

 

Appearance: Looks great. It’s a tough, sturdy looking knife with a great design and ergonomics.

Finish: Good meaty blade with a magnetized powder coat that is sprayed on and then baked for good measure. This finish is on both their black and tan models. The ergonomics of the handle and blade are very comfortable and feel exceptionally solid but then all the TOPS Knives I have owned or tried have that solid you-can’t-break-this feel. TOPS Knives Tanto (7)-min

Function: I’m not going to cut open a soda can or saw through the tree in my front yard to test this knife because that is not what I would use it for, unlike some kitchen knives. This knife will be carried day in and day out and be used for either self-protection, skinning something I want to eat or opening boxes. I usually assign my knives a job in the beginning and try not to waver. It confuses them.

TOPS Knives Tanto (5)-minThis is not a spring-assist knife. It has a nice sized thumb extractor allowing the user to readily crack open the blade just enough to get that hand-flick-open dynamic for quick and immediate access. I noticed that when I pushed on the thumb extractor, the blade exited the housing and stopped at what felt like a natural safety point, as if it had a hesitation. This, I found out, was intentional because it is a tip-up design. This keeps the blade from falling open when removing it from your pocket. I liked it because I don’t like knives that float freely from the housing, they feel wishy-washy to me. This natural break area is at the perfect point for the transition from thumb pressure to wrist flick moment.

As a woman, this MIL-SPIE 3.5 Tanto is a bit big for me to carry around as a daily pocket carry because I wear fitted pants. My knives need to be a bit slimmer. This would not be a problem for most men whose pants are baggier and have larger pockets.

Cons:
The handle gets a bit slippery when wet and I’m sure blood would be even worse so if there is a downfall, that might be it. Then again, I don’t swim with my knives and if I have to kill something, I will only need to use this knife once. It’s that tough. ASJ

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