April 15th, 2018 by asjstaff

Perusing the photo-pandemic known as Instagram, my heart rate kicked up and my finger slid to an abrupt stop on an unlikely image. It wasn’t the latest innovation in arms – I was getting my first look at the Hold Ur Fire Kit – a slick system for organizing, storing, and transporting your smaller arms and accoutrements!

Maybe it’s just me and my possibly undiagnosed OCD, but keeping my firearms organized, dry, and easily accessible / deployable is a priority – especially for the EDC kits I use weekly. It is true, there are many pistol storage systems out there but the simplicity, apparent ease of use, variety of mounting options and availability of extra components drew me to try this USA-made system.

Hold Ur Fire’s Complete Kit includes:

• 1 Docking Station

• 5 Transport Panels

• 20 Cinch Straps

• 4 Rubber Feet for Docking Station

Also pictured above are the Magazine Cuff and Mini-magazine Cuff (available soon).

The Hold Ur Fire docking station is molded black ABS polymer featuring five vertical slots with stopping bumpers at the rear. It’s not some cheap, thin and flimsy base; it has some decent weight to it to help keep it in place and is quite sturdy with clean and smooth edges.

The four provided black rubber feet are of great quality with 3M® adhesive backing. The foot housings are well-recessed, which helps greatly extend the life of the feet.

Or, if so inclined, you could technically drive a screw through the holes in each corner of the docking station and secure it to a shelf, floor, drawer, or other surface.

The five black ABS polymer panels that come with the Hold Ur Fire kit are 1/4-inch thick and measure 9.5″ x 11.5″. They are very rigid, even with the eight strap and accessory slots, four corner holes, and generous 4/5″ x 1 1.8″ oval handle hole. The molded arrow above the handle indicates the proper orientation of the panel.

With all five panels inserted into the base, there are 1 7/8-inches of room between each panel. If needed for larger pistols and items, forgo a neighboring panel to double the leg room. Or move panels with larger items to the outside slot.

Without any items, the assembled system measures 11″ W x 12″ D x 10.5″ H.

To attach firearms, magazines, and other items, feed the provided hook and loop cinch straps strategically through the panel – or take advantage of one of Hold Ur Fire’s mounting accessories.

The Magazine Cuff features a rigid backer with padding and slips through a panel and secures on the back side with a hook and loop closure. The eight elastic loops are designed to hold four to eight short or long single and/or double-stack magazines, or any other smaller items that may find their way into your kit.

While the Magazine Cuff is well-made, functions just as intended, and is an extremely useful accessory, some of the materials used – in particular the layer of padding behind the elastic loops – give moisture more places to gather than I’d like.

Hold Ur Fire’s soon-to-be-released Mini-magazine Cuff is also a must-have accessory when using the system. But I’m baffled as to why they chose a cotton material for the strap – it will only absorb and retain moisture. Given they provided a pre-release version, I’m hoping their final version has nylon straps.

As someone who overtly enjoys organizing, the Hold Ur Fire system was one of the most fun products I’ve tested so far this year. I had an absolute (but not literal) blast creating specific panels for the items I routinely put to use. And I was pleasantly surprised by what I could easily fit onto just one side of a single panel!

Large frame EDC w/ light panel: SIG Sauer P226R EE, Streamlight TLR-1 HD, and two fifteen-round magazines.

Small frame EDC w/ holsters panel: SIG Sauer P238 in Ultimate Holsters Cloud Tuck Hybrid holster and two seven-round magazines, one in an Ultimate Holsters Single Clip Mag Carrier.

Suppressed conversion kit panel: SIG Sauer P226 .22 LR conversion kit, Dead Air Mask HD silencer, two ten-round SIG .22 LR magazines.

Backwoods carry panel: Glock 20C and two fifteen-round magazines, one in G-code magazine holster.

Suppressed Kalashnikov panel: Dead Air PBS-1 Wolverine silencer, two Kalashnikov variant thread pitch adapters, PBS-1 tool, one thirty-round 7.62×39 magazine.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That’s a ton of stuff!…it can’t possibly card in and out of the docking station, right?

But it does. And does so extraordinarily well!

In the configuration above each board can easily be removed without snagging on its neighbors.

As previously mentioned, the system also works really well for related items, like the non-pew parts of an EDC kit.

Or for those pistols that simply don’t see range time anymore but aren’t worth parting with. Yup, that’s a bulb light on an xD sub-compact! Thank goodness LEDs are standard place nowadays.

And, as seen in the photo above (supplied by Hold Ur Fire), you can most certainly strap two pistols to a panel. In many cases you can even strap the pistol’s accompanying magazines to the other side of the panel.

However, I’m wholly unwilling to store any weapon with the muzzle pointed at me so that particular orientation isn’t on my list of options. Thankfully you can just flip the orientation of most pistols ninety degrees so they face up and down.

Of course, some pistols are just too large to fit within the confines of the board. One of the things I enjoy about Hold Ur Fire’s design is that it doesn’t box you in (literally). If you have the clearance around the system, there’s no reason why a pistol can’t protrude a little.

If you have a securing ring inside your safe, book case, or drawer, a simple 1/4″ cable lock can add an additional, albeit fairly useless if not rigged correctly, layer of security to your bundled items. Simply feed the cable through the holes located in the corners of the panels.

Those holes also double as hangars for anyone who wishes to mount the panels directly to a wall or other vertical surface.

Throughout the course of a month I put Hold Ur Fire’s system to the test, trying any configuration I could think of and often putting outfitted panels straight into my range bag. And while the docking station, panels, and magazine cuffs stood strong, I broke two of the hook and loop straps without much force.

In each case the heat seal simply didn’t hold and gave up the plastic buckle. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it would be great to see higher-quality stitched straps available in the future.

Hold Ur Fire’s Complete Kit storage and transportation system, accompanied by the Magazine Cuff and Mini-Magazine Cuff, makes storing pistols, magazines, suppressor systems, EDC kits, and any other small-to-medium sized items a breeze. The system is sturdy and well-designed to allow for seemingly limitless configurations of firearms and accessories on a panel.

But there are some areas where the product could be improved. Without question, the moisture-absorbing materials used in the magazine cuffs are a concern that could be easily addressed. It would be great to see additional magazine cuffs with just two or four elastic bands. And redesigning the panels to be symmetrical would allow users to mount two bases facing each other on vertical surfaces, creating horizontal shelves that slide in and out.

Critiques aside, the Hold Ur Fire system is certainly one I won’t be giving up; in fact, I can’t wait to employ several more of these kits for weekly use and long-term storage. Shooting schools that provide pistols to their students will find the system very advantageous and even FFLs might get good use out of them. And for the average guy or gal who likes to be organized, clean, and ready to deploy their tools at a moment’s notice – even if just for some weekly range time – Hold Ur Fire is a simple and efficient choice!

Specifications: Hold Ur Fire Storage System – Complete Kit

Price as reviewed: $64.99 MSRP

Design: * * * * *
Simple, easy to use, and highly flexible, the Hold Ur Fire system is well-designed for everyday use. The system is “open”, allowing larger items to protrude from the top and sides of the panels and docking station. Configuring the panels is extremely intuitive and can be quite fun.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Durability: * * * *
Hold Ur Fire didn’t skimp on the thickness of the ABS polymer docking station and panels; they will hold-up to tough conditions, heavy pistols, and loaded magazines. However, the hook and loop straps that come with the kit are somewhat weak due to their heat-sealed manufacturing process.

Effectiveness: * * * * *
The system’s flexibility in regard to mounting orientations, as well as hook and loop closure and elastic strap types, and options for mounting the docking station come together to create a system that will secure your items very well for storage and transportation.

Overall: * * * * 1/2
The Hold Ur Fire system has a simple design, yet is built tough and offers nearly limitless flexibility in terms of items and their orientation. The system also does not box you into a completely confined space – it allows for items to stick above and out from its base. Unfortunately, I have to take a half-star off for the weak hook and loop straps.

Specifications: Hold Ur Fire Magazine Cuff

Price as reviewed: $19.99 MSRP

Overall: * * * *
The Magazine Cuff is a nice reprieve from the standard hook and loop straps. Storing full or empty pistol magazines of all sizes, or any slender small and medium-sized items, is quick and easy. However, it takes up an entire board, only orients in one direction, and there’s no good way to cut it down. The reinforced and padded backer is nice, but draws concerns of water retention.

Specifications: Hold Ur Fire Mini-Magazine Cuff

Price as reviewed: MSRP TBD – PRODUCT AVAILABLE SOON!

Overall: * * *
The Mini-Magazine Cuff is a nice accessory for the Hold Ur Fire system. It can easily be mounted to the storage board in a multitude of ways and retains the majority of pistol and rimfire magazines very well, as well as slender silencers and many other “pocket sized” items. A significant deduction was given for the use of moisture-absorbing materials used in its construction.

Posted in Handguns, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 19th, 2018 by asjstaff

There is a lot of love for semi-auto pistols nowadays, but it is hard to beat the reliability, power and clean manufacturing of a revolver. In this TFB Review, we take a look at the stout Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum with a 2 3/4″ barrel.

model 66 Specifications

The Smith & Wesson Model 66 comes in two different configurations of barrel lengths from the factory. Consumers can either choose a 4.25″ or a 2.75″ barrel option. The specific variation of the Model 66 that we took to the range is the 2.75″ option.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The rundown of specifications for both Model 66 revolvers follows as such with only the barrel and overall length differentiating the two options:

  • Caliber: .357 Magnum / .38 Special + P
  • Capacity: 6-Round Cylinder
  • Barrel Length: 2.75″
  • Overall Length: 7.8″
  • Front Sight: Red Ramp
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable Black Blade
  • Action: Single-Action / Double-Action
  • Grip: Synthetic
  • Weight: 33.5 Ounces
  • Cylinder, Barrel & Frame Material: Stainless Steel
  • Purpose: Competitive Shooting, Home Protection & Recreational Shooting

The MSRP of the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is $849.

The Model 66 is a K-frame revolver by Smith & Wesson. The K-frame was originally introduced in 1899 specifically for the .38 S&W Special cartridge. So to see the Model 66 in a K-frame size as a .357 Magnum is pretty unique even if the outward appearance is pretty unassuming. It also boasts a 2-piece barrel, a full-length extractor rod, and a ball-detent lock-up mechanism.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 barrel compared to S&W Model 66 2-piece barrel

Overall, the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is very close in size to a Smith & Wesson Model 686. Most people should appreciate the leaner K-frame of the Model 66 versus the beefier L-frame of the Model 686 if you are contemplating purchasing a shorter barrel length like this revolver we reviewed.

Trigger time

Unboxing the revolver at the range, it comes with your standard issue of contents. You receive an owner’s manual, cable lock, red chamber flag (plastic disc to set on the cylinder facing when closed) and a key set for the internal lock. From the factory it comes clean and dry; not excessively oiled or lubed.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

To get a good feel for this revolver, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum target rounds were fired. The .38 Special rounds were very enjoyable, controllable and light to shoot. The .357 Magnum rounds were still controllable but had a lot more snap. The snap was not surprising, but the fact that it was easily controllable with the moderate-sized handle was a pleasant surprise. The power of the .357 Magnum cartridge hit your hand hard, but the dexterity from the rubber grip and its length helped control it.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The single-action trigger pull of the Model 66 was very light and crisp. The break of the trigger was definitive and clean. Even with the shorter 2.75″ barrel, essentially anywhere I aimed I was hitting that mark perfectly.

The double-action trigger pull was consistently heavy from the initial pull up until the break of the trigger. So while it was heavy, there was no feeling of stacking or a compounding resistance that would make you squirm wondering when the double-action trigger may finally fire. The break of the double-action trigger pull, just like the single-action, was definitive and smooth.

After methodically firing 100 rounds (50 rounds of .38 SPL and 50 rounds of .357 Mag), I gained a few other impressions and thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum.

post-range thoughts

After all of the firing stopped and the earmuffs came off I had a few more thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver. For one, I would have liked to have seen the rear sight have a white outline of some kind.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 rear sight compared to S&W Model 66 rear sight

I hail from MN so this range day was conducted indoors and most indoor ranges (ironically enough) have really poor lighting in the shooter’s bay, but phenomenal lighting out by your target. As a result, even with young eyes, you have to work to drop that red ramp front sight exactly where you need it to be.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The Smith & Wesson Model 686, by comparison, comes with a white outline rear sight standard. I would believe these sights should transfer over easily enough and I would like to see those on the Model 66 as well.

I view the Smith & Wesson Model 686 as a benchmark of features and quality for revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum. So a lot of the comparisons I make will treat that as the yardstick.

A 2nd item that differs from the Model 66 in comparison to a lot of the other revolvers Smith & Wesson puts out is the black accents. On most Smith & Wesson revolvers the trigger, hammer, cylinder release and potentially other small pieces will be case-colored; that swirled look of almost running water on metal. It can be very beautiful when done well, but I thought the black accented features on the Model 66 was a refreshing change from what has become standard protocol for Smith & Wesson.

Model 66

[Bottom Left to Top Right] S&W Model 66 (note black accents) versus S&W Model 686 (note case-colored accents)

As you can see above, on the Model 66 the extractor rod, cylinder release, trigger, and hammer are all accented black. They appear more pronounced in a profile image like this and better match the black grips. In comparison to the Model 686, the case-colored pieces get almost washed-out when paired with a brushed stainless finish and are not as easily noticed or appreciated.

Another attribute of the Model 66 I liked was the satin stainless finish. You might be thinking that is not a big deal, but let me explain. Once again, a standard Model 686 provides a brushed stainless finish. Often times, you can see actual brush marks on a brushed stainless finish leading the user to almost believe a new revolver is… used. The satin stainless finish appears cleaner, exhibits no finishing marks and its matte appearance looks clean even after shooting a lot of rounds.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 (note brushed stainless finish) versus S&W Model 66 (note satin stainless finish)

A final thought I have on the Model 66 is the black rubber grip. The rubber material is very tacky and gives you great dexterity when shooting .357 Magnum rounds. So all-in-all, the large grip accomplishes what it sets out to do which is give the user a sturdy purchase to control and accurately fire the revolver.

Since this is only a 2.75″ barrel, I would have liked to potentially see a little smaller grip even with all of those positive, previous comments. I would not put this specific variation of the Model 66 into the category of a range pistol even though it shot really well. Its outward appearance and likely intended purpose would be for carrying; whether that is concealed or open. So to have a shorter handle would benefit anyone trying to carry it.

In summary, I believe the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver is a well thought out pistol. The MSRP of $849 is still within a tolerable range for most people’s checkbooks and my few complaints about a possibly shorter handle and improved rear sight are more personal opinions than engineering flaws.

If you are contemplating purchasing the Model 66, I can confidently say after spending significant time with one that you would not be disappointed.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , ,

February 7th, 2018 by asjstaff

The Fabulous .41 Remains A Preferred Caliber For The Discerning And Serious Shooter

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVE WORKMAN

Author Dave Workman is a devotee of the .41 Magnum, including this vintage S&W Model 57 with a 4-inch barrel.

Author Dave Workman is a devotee of the .41 Magnum, including this vintage S&W Model 57 with a 4-inch barrel.

Despite hitting harder than the .357 Magnum (with a bigger bore), and shooting flatter (to a slight degree) with less recoil than the .44 Magnum, the .41 Remington Magnum has been unfairly overshadowed since hitting the American landscape back in 1964. But the truth is, it just might be the best of a pretty good bunch.

Let’s be honest. The .44 Magnum is a fraud, being a .429 in true caliber, while the .41 Magnum is the real McCoy. With comparable loads, the .41 Magnum can do anything the .44 Magnum can do, and it is a real survivor.

The popularity of the .41-caliber Magnum seems to ebb and flow, but those who have stuck with it make it as versatile a choice as its siblings. I’ve carried the .41 Magnum for personal protection, killed a couple of deer with it, shot long-range targets (it’s a favorite among silhouette shooters) and had it in the backcountry as a utility gun.

I like to think the really smart handgunners prefer this to the everybody’s-got-to-have-one .44 Magnum. And a lot of guys who have been around the block a few times have come to the same conclusion I did more than 30 years ago: It’s a damned fine cartridge.

Last year, I visited my friend Jim Zumbo at his place in Wyoming, and the former hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine had a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum parked near the front door. Veteran gunwriter Dick Metcalf and the late Bob Milek also wrote often about this caliber, and I always figured that this trio of wordsmiths were on to something.

 

Hodgdon’s H110 is a favorite propellant among handloaders for the .41 Magnum

Hodgdon’s H110 is a favorite propellant among handloaders for the .41 Magnum

IT’S A GEM FOR HANDLOADERS too. Thanks to modern powder research, there are more than a few propellants that make this round sizzle. My two favorites are Hodgdon’s H110 and Alliant 2400.

There are several good bullet choices in the 200- to 220-grain field, and I’ve had great results with the 210-grain XTP from Hornady, the 210-grain Nosler JHP, and the 200- and 220-grain halfjacketed semi-wadcutter projectiles and a 210-grain Gold Dot JHP from Speer. In addition, Barnes offers a 180-grain solid-copper hollowpoint, and Sierra has two pills, a 170-grainer and 210-grain bullet, both hollowpoints.

Thanks to updated reloading data in the Speer, Nosler and Hodgdon manuals, I’ve been able to tinker with the cartridge over the past couple of years, and especially since last summer when I bought a little-used and nearly new-inbox 1980s vintage Smith & Wesson Model 57 in .41 Magnum.

There are plenty of factory loads available, including Winchester Silvertips, and JHPs from Remington, Federal and other manufacturers. When I acquired that 4-inch S&W last July, it came with four boxes of factory BVAC (Bitterroot Valley Ammunition) loaded with 210-grain semiwads.

With a belt full of cartridges, one can do a bit of shooting with a pair of double-action magnums.

With a belt full of cartridges, one can do a bit of shooting with a pair of double-action magnums.

I’VE OWNED RUGER BLACKHAWKS and two S&W Model 57s, the first of those being a 6-inch version I’ve shot a few times in the annual Elmer Keith long-range handgun shoot just south of Spokane.

Keith is largely recognized as having been primarily responsible for the .41 Magnum, along with a man named Bill Jordan. It was originally intended as a law-enforcement caliber, but it proved to be a bit much for some lawmen, especially those of smaller stature, to handle. If that sounds like a similar story to that of the 10mm Auto, it is. But while the latter round led to the development of the .40 S&W, nobody bothered to create a .41 Short, so the original cartridge has remained the same since birth.

Of the two deer I killed with a 6.5-inch Blackhawk single action, the muley was the more memorable. Two shots downhill dropped the forkhorn. One bullet went clear through and the other was a perfect mushroom recovered just under the hide on the exit side.

While I prefer the longer barrel for precision shooting and hunting, in recent years I’ve opted for shorter-barrel versions. They’re lighter, they can ride on my hip in a truck, and they’re more concealable. A couple of years ago, I swapped out the alloy ejector rod housing on my 45/8-inch Ruger for one made from steel.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my loads lose 50 to 100 feet per second out of the shorter barrels, though that probably won’t make a lot of difference to anything I shoot within, say, 100 to 150 yards.
THE .41 MAGNUM IS CAPABLE of some impressive ballistics. With lighter bullets, it can warp along at more than 1,650 fps, and my favorite handloads zip out in the 1,250 to 1,600 fps range, depending upon the bullet weight, powder charge and barrel length.

When I shoot Alliant 2400, I stick with standard large pistol primers, but with H110, I always use magnum primers. Other powders are also good choices, including Winchester 296, H4227, Blue Dot, Lil’ Gun, Unique and Vihtavouri N110.

Soon after Workman acquired this revolver, he knocked together the holster.

Soon after Workman acquired this revolver, he knocked together the holster.

The cartridge case should measure 1.290 inches, and the overall length for cartridges should not exceed 1.590 inches. I have two sets of carbide dies, one from Hornady and one from Redding, with the seating die from each set for a different bullet, because they each crimp at a slightly different depth.

I’ve built gunbelts with ample cartridge loops for the .41 Magnum. One needs to use a slightly tighter loop for the .41 than the .44 (.429), and they need to be well-oiled. Mine are all individually hand-stitched rather than looped in and out of the belt.
AS A FIGHT-STOPPER, the .41 Magnum is no slouch. A cartridge that will knock down a black bear, big buck, caribou or bull elk is also fully capable against predators of the two-legged variety. This is a defensive round that should be approached with a little caution, of course, due to the potential for overpenetration.

When it was first introduced, proponents suggested it would be a good load for law enforcement officers to shoot through the windshields of fleeing getaway cars or to foul up an engine block on similar vehicles.

When I carried my 6-inch Model 57 in an old Safariland shoulder holster, I always had a couple of HKS speed loaders stoked with factory Remington ammo because the bullet shape contributed to quicker reloading than a wadcutter. Under a winter parka, that big gun disappeared, and nobody was any the wiser.

So why doesn’t the .41 Magnum get more respect? The reason is probably as simple as Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan firing a .44 Magnum on film. But even if it won’t fire out of the “most powerful handgun in the world,” it has become something of a cult favorite with people who like to shoot metal chickens and rams, as well as discerning handgunners who don’t choose to follow the herd.  ASJ

The N-frame Smith & Wesson is the perfect platform for the .41 Magnum. As the can attests, the gun can shoot, too!

The N-frame Smith & Wesson is the perfect platform for the .41 Magnum. As the can attests, the gun can shoot, too!

Posted in Handguns Tagged with: , , , , ,

December 31st, 2016 by asjstaff

The Ruger 3-inch LCRx remains an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun or for home defense.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ROB REED

Recently, the Ruger LCRx with a 3-inch barrel transformed the popular lightweight revolver design from a snub-nose carry gun into a handy general-purpose revolver.

The Ruger LCRx in .38 Special.

The Ruger LCRx in .38 Special.

The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a five-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.

The author tested the LCRx with .38 Special loads from Hornady.

The author tested the LCRx with .38 Special loads from Hornady.

In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.

The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer fire control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily fluted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack finish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.

1701-ruger-lcr-03THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip fits onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the fire control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.

The first thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.

The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.

I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.

I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.

I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then fired for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All firing here was single-action.

The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.

Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.

The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.

1701-ruger-lcr-04

The revolver is a great choice for shooters of smaller stature.

Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-fire shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual firing at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry fire with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identified and compensated for the issue. At first the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one flyer that messed up an otherwise good group.

1701-ruger-lcr-05

The author achieved good results shooting at 25 yards while seated.

IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the flagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.

The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.

The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ

Posted in Handguns Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

December 10th, 2016 by asjstaff

Ruger’s GP-100 in .22 LR is a large, solidly built stainless-steel revolver. 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY BOB SHELL

Ruger always seems to be coming out with new products, and many of them are very interesting and desirable. Some are variations of previous successes, such as the popular GP-100 in .22 LR. This gun is part of a family of sturdy-framed double-action revolvers that evolved from Ruger’s early 1970s introduction, the Security Six.

The author firing the sturdy stainless-steel revolver in the field.

The author firing the sturdy stainless-steel revolver in the field.

As you can imagine, this revolver is very large for its caliber. You’d expect a double-action GP revolver from Ruger to be large and sturdy, and it is. If you are looking for some power when you go plinking, this could be the gun for you.

According to my trigger pull gauge, the single action broke at 6 pounds, while the double action broke between 19 and 20, which is certainly extreme. It has a 10-shot cylinder, and since it is a .22, recoil is virtually nonexistent. I wouldn’t recommend dry firing it much, if at all, because, as with all rimfires, if the firing pin hits the edge of the chamber some damage may occur.

It is a massive, well-built revolver made from stainless steel, which means that weight may be an issue for those who may plan to carry it a lot. The rear sight is adjustable, and the front is a fiber optic, which makes it easier to pick up, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions. It comes in the durable case and, of course, the ever-present lock is included. The grips have a wood center panel and rubber on the outside where you hold it, and they are both comfortable and attractive. It also comes with Ruger’s patented transfer bar mechanism, which provides an unparalleled measure of security against accidental discharge.

 

A close-up of the cushioned rubber grips with wooden inserts.

A close-up of the cushioned rubber grips with wooden inserts.

SINCE IT IS SO STURDY, I’d like to see it chambered for the .22 rimfire Magnum, either as a replacement cylinder or as another variation of the gun. While the cartridges will chamber, it isn’t a good idea to shoot .22 rimfires in a magnum cylinder. The .22 LR ammo may split, and wouldn’t be accurate even if they don’t.

This gun is built so well that I don’t think it could be worn out regardless of how many rounds are put through it, especially since the .22 is a low-pressure round that enhances the life of any gun chambered for it. Because the DA trigger break was so high, I did the majority of my shooting single action. I don’t possess strong hands and can’t get any accuracy shooting DA. Hitting cans is easier using single action even out to 25 yards, and better shooters will be able to extend that range, as the gun has excellent accuracy.

The sights are easy to pick up, which is always an asset when shooting or hunting in reduced light. I have chronographed many calibers in both rifles and handguns, and depending on the load and other factors, velocity is commonly from 200 to 400 feet per second faster in the long gun as the shorter barrel and flash gap reduces velocity. During my testing of the GP-100, the ammo was about 200 fps slower than from a rifle.

Making reloaded rimfire ammo isn’t worth the time, trouble and expense involved, so factory loads are your best bet. As with any gun, this one will show a preference to a specific load or loads, and there are a variety of good factory ones to test what this particular revolver likes.

A size comparison of the .22 LR cartridge (above) and the .22 rimfire Magnum.

A size comparison of the .22 LR cartridge (above) and the .22 rimfire Magnum.

I consider the .22 RF round as one of the most dangerous in existence. Because it is small, people tend to underestimate it. But it is dangerous at longer distances, and you should never shoot it at a flat surface, as it will ricochet like any other cartridge and the shooter has no control as to where it will go.

The .22 LR is a decent small game load. I have shot a lot of squirrels and rabbits with it, especially when using hollow points. The .22 is also good for training someone because the lack of both recoil and muzzle blast will not intimidate a new or younger shooter. In addition, the .22 RF remains less expensive than centerfire rounds, even though they have gone up in price in the last few years.

There are several excellent factory .22 LR rounds available, including the Gold Medal UltraMatch cartridges from Federal Premium. (FEDERAL PREMIUM)

There are several excellent factory .22 LR rounds available, including the Gold Medal UltraMatch cartridges from Federal Premium. (FEDERAL PREMIUM)

If you shop around, good deals are available, especially for 500-round bricks. Such purchases will cut down the cost on shooting and for most uses the inexpensive ammo works as well as the pricey stuff. I have shot a good amount of rimfire ammo, and the cheap stuff is nearly as accurate  as the pricey fodder, especially in  noncompetition guns.

When it comes to having fun shooting there is nothing like a .22 rimfire. It is easy on the ears and pocketbook, and a family can buy a 500 pack of ammo and shoot all day. Many shooters, including yours truly, started with a singleshot .22 rifle.

I always ask other shooters for input during a gun test, as people tend to have different preferences. For example, I have a single six with both cylinders and I prefer it for daily carry, as it is lighter and more compact. But the GP100 could be ideal for someone who shoots often because I don’t believe you can shoot it enough to wear it out. It is one rugged design, and most of the shooters I spoke with liked it.

A brick of Remington’s Thunderbolt cartridges will provide plenty of practice with the GP100. (REMINGTON)

A brick of Remington’s Thunderbolt cartridges will provide plenty of practice with the GP100. (REMINGTON)

At the conclusion of any gun test, I have the choice to either return the gun or buy it. But sometimes someone I know will purchase it if they want it, and that is exactly what happened to this gun. ASJ

The Ruger GP100 comes in a durable case.

The Ruger GP100 comes in a durable case.

Posted in Handguns Tagged with: , , , , ,

October 3rd, 2016 by asjstaff

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)

 

Posted in Handguns Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

July 28th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Taylor’s New Model #3 Frontier

 

Story and photographs by Mike Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt

There are some, perhaps several shooters, who say the old Smith & Wesson New Model #3 was the finest single-action revolver ever made, and I’m certainly one of them. I have had two of the originals, both in .44 Russian, and that’s why this new copy of the original New Model #3 feels so good in my hands. Holding and shooting this version from Taylor’s & Co. is like shaking hands with an old friend.

Before telling you about this new gun, let me quickly present a little bit of S&W history. After the Russian Model #3 and the Schofield version of the Model #3 had been made, the New Model #3 was introduced in 1878. This single-action revolver proved to be fairly popular, although not as popular as their .44-caliber, top-break, double-action revolvers. S&W lengthened the #3’s cylinder from 1 and 7/16 inches to 1 and 9/16 inches, adding an eighth of an inch to the length of the cartridges that could be used. This was meant to make their revolver available for the popular .44-40 cartridge, and like Colt, they called it their Frontier version. The S&Ws in .44-40 did not prove to be as popular and several of their .44-40 single-actions and were converted back to .44 Russian. By 1908, the New Model #3 was discontinued.

New Model #3 Frontier by Taylor's and Co.

This New Model #3 Frontier by Taylor’s and Co. has a 6.5-inch barrel (5-inch versions are also available), and the cylinder is removable after taking out the screw in the top strap.

One of the best options that could be found on the original S&W New Model #3 revolvers was target sights. Instead of having the tiny rear sight on the pivot point of the top latch, the target version had a very nice rear sight on the end of the top latch just over the hammer. Moving the sight to the back or rear of the top latch increased the sighting radius by over half of an inch, and it gave the shooter a very nice flat-top rear sight with a deep notch. The rear sight on the target version is adjustable for windage by loosening the screws that hold the sight in its slot and sliding the sight to the right or left, which is quickly and easily done. The new Taylor’s version copies the original model and the easy-to-see rear sight can be appreciated all over again.

Authenticity is very important to me and the profile of this New Model #3 is very good. Taylor’s selected the .45 Colt chambering because of that cartridge’s popularity in the cowboy-action arena; however, I loudly recommend they add more caliber options. For those of you who prefer maintaining authenticity, the original New Model #3 was made on special order and chambered for the .45 S&W Schofield cartridge. In fact, in the book Smith And Wesson 1857-1945, there is a picture of an original New Model #3 with target sights and a 6½-inch barrel in .45 S&W caliber, almost a twin to the replica we’re talking about now.

PHOTO 5

Mike Nesbitt sits for a shot with black powder at a distant target. (JOHN WEGER).

Even more important than authenticity is how well a six-gun shoots, and this revolver shoots pretty well. The first loads that I tried with this Colt .45 used 32 grains (by volume) of Olde Eynsford 1-1/2F under a 235-grain bullet. With that black powder load, I quickly learned to grip the gun a little tighter because the recoil caused the gun’s trigger guard to hit my middle finger hard enough to really make it very noticeable. Also, somewhat because of my relatively loose grip, those shots went high and the sights needed to be held even lower than a typical six-o’clock hold. It took a few shots to learn where the gun was hitting, and after that hits could be counted on.

John “Sepp” Weger was my partner for most of the shooting, and for him this six-gun shot much closer to his point of aim. John is younger, a lot stronger than me and he gripped the gun more firmly, which considerably decreased the muzzle’s ability to climb.

While most of our shooting was done using black-powder loads, some tamer smokeless loads were also tried. The smokeless loads had 7.5 grains of Unique under a 250-grain bullet, a comfortable load for the Colt .45. These bullets were cast from Lyman’s old standard mould, #454190, and even though we did not chronograph this load, it was definitely good for cowboy-action shooting and general use with this Colt.

PHOTO 6

Five shots were fired across a benchrest using both hands. The sights were held at six o’clock on the bullseye and I’d say we achieved a really good group, even with the low flier that happened to go right through the X ring.

Some finer shooting could be done if the easily adjustable rear sight was moved just a touch to the right to correct the windage, but an even bigger improvement would be to give this gun a better trigger pull. While Uberti is known for making fine guns, they really do need to tone down their springs a bit. This Colt has a very stiff trigger pull which simply must be fixed. This is my only critical remark.

PHOTO 1In addition to asking for softer springs and a lighter trigger pull, I will not hesitate to ask Taylor’s to follow a bit more in S&W’s footsteps and release this revolver in .44-40 caliber as well as .44 S&W Russian, or even .44 Special. Adding those chamberings, in my opinion, would increase the options for buyers to select from, and that could only increase this revolver’s popularity. I will conclude my begging by saying I hope their first New Model #3 Frontier made in .44-40 comes to me. ASJ

Author’s note: If you are ready to own a perfect replica of history that you can pick up for about $1,053, visit Taylor’s & Co. at taylorsfirearms.com.

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , ,