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Gun/Hunting Laws From The Odd To The Absurd

Proving many game department officials know little more about firearms for hunting than politicians who think a rifle that “looks military” is fully-auto, here are a few gun hunting laws from the odd to the absurd. This little waltz in the world of words is mostly for curious conjecture. But maybe, just maybe, a reader will examine rules in his or her state and pass this on to the authorities who “make this stuff up,” for made-up, a lot of it, certainly is, with little basis in ballistic fact.

Many states demand .40-caliber as minimum for a big game muzzleloader. Lawmakers must have thought: “Wow! Forty caliber. That ought to pack a wallop. The .30-06 is only .30-caliber.” We have to deal with lead round balls because most states do not prescribe spherical or conical bullet. A 93-grain .395-inch round ball in a .40-caliber rifle, 28″ barrel, earned 1,860 feet per second muzzle velocity with 50-grains volume GOEX FFFg blackpowder and about 968 fps at 100 yards.

A .25-20, absolutely illegal in many states, generates 1,930 fps MV with an 80-grain spitzer or spire-point bullet burning 14.0-grains H-4198. This bullet is clocking 1,640 fps at 100 yards. This not to champion the .25-20 for deer, but rather to show the .40-caliber round ball is pretty small peanuts, only a cut above “squirrel rifle” authority. Having written these words I would warm up the frying pan if Don Carlos, a Mexican cowboy I hunted with in Sonora, had a .40-caliber muzzleloader. His only rifle: a bolt-action .22-rimfire. Single-shot because the magazine was lost long ago. His range for deer: veinte yarda (20 yards). One shot. One deer.

Eastern leather stocking hunters were deadly marksmen, be it buck in brush or Redcoat on the march. And so the .45-caliber ball succeeded (most popular caliber I saw in a New Jersey collection of over 300 original Kentucky rifles). Question though: Is any caliber rifle or handgun adequate in the hands of a fine hunter/marksman? Perhaps so. “During the General Season: There is no rifle or handgun caliber limitation for the taking of big game animals. Muzzleloaders, shotguns, archery equipment and crossbows are legal. The possession of a firearms with silencers while afield is illegal.” Montana.


Sam took this buffalo with one shot from a .30-06 with a Barnes 220-grain Solid. A shoulder injury prevented shooting a heavier rifle and Sam had permission to use his .30-06. Penetration: over 40″ with a rifle deemed inadequate on Cape buffalo. This is not to encourage the .30-06 for Cape buffalo, but to acknowledge bullet placement. And no game department can legislate bullet placement or hunter ability.


Faced with a charge, which would you prefer — the super high energy of a .300 Magnum loaded to maximum bullet speed, or a .45-70 with 540-grain Garrett ammunition? Interestingly, in this case the .45-70 would be allowable and the .300 not — a matter of caliber only.

The .44 Magnum?

How about the .44 S&W Magnum cartridge? It’s a whacker for sure. It’s legal in one state I checked for elk, moose and even bear. Oh, I forgot. The rule is — legal in handguns. It’s illegal in a rifle, even with powerful Garrett .44 Magnum ammunition. The supposition may be a handgun hunter knows his limitations and will get closer than the rifleman? But all in all, the .44 Magnum is more lethal in a rifle than a handgun. Period.

How about this game department rule? The conical bullet in a muzzleloader for big game must not be twice as long as its caliber? So a .50-caliber front-loader firing a bullet of 1 1/16″ length would be illegal. Well, you say, the chap who dreamed this one up knew the shorter projectile had less extreme range. So the shorter bullet is safer. Uh, not quite. In the exact same area where the muzzleloader hunter cannot use a bullet twice as long as its caliber, the .300 Magnum is perfectly legal.


Dispersal of bullet energy is another important factor in what has become known as “killing power.” Here, Hornady’s factory load with 200-grain bullet in .35 Remington destroys its target. It is very difficult to assess such energy delivery. Bullet construction always plays a role. Did a .30-caliber bullet make a 2″ exit hole in that chest-hit buck deer? Of course not. No .30-caliber big game jacketed bullet expands to two-inch diameter.


Illegal as taking money from the church collection box, these two cartridges have dropped wagonloads of game all the same. Below, the .25-20, above, the .22 Hornet. Both are legal for elk-size game where “any centerfire cartridge” is the law. Right or wrong. The hunter will have to decide for himself as to the use of small rounds such as these on big game.

.22 Centerfires

Hot .22 centerfires have always been controversial. I came into the .220 Swift in a curious way. A big-hearted reader sent a supply of beautiful new-brass handloads, plus a plethora of shiny cases. To this day I still feel sick that I could never thank him, for I found no address. I shot the Swift as a long-range varmint rifle only at the time. Then a grandson finishing gunsmithing school presented me with his first finished rifle — .220 Swift, Mauser lockup, 26″ barrel, Timney trigger, Nikon Prostaff 5 3.5X-14Xx50mm scope combining fine-tune reticule focus with parallax-defying side adjustment. The twist: 1:7.7″ for “long” bullets.

My .220 Swift is illegal in all states calling for .23-caliber or larger for big game, such as deer. In one state, the cartridge must be .23-caliber, as well as “two-inches long as normally loaded.” Comparing: the .25-35 Winchester cartridge is legal under this ruling — over .22-caliber, case length alone 2.043″. I can’t toss dirt on this cartridges since my brother and I have cleanly taken whitetails with rifles so-chambered in thicket conditions — shots around 20 to 25 yards.

Plus, the largest grizzly recorded in Utah, Old Ephraim, was put to rest by Frank Clark with seven shots from a .25-35. However, a 117-grain bullet delivers 2,300 fps MV in front of 28.0-grains IMR-4320. At 100 yards, this flat-nose bullet (due to tubular magazine) still goes 1,800 fps.

I have a 70-grain Barnes TTSX-BT (Triple Shock Technology bullet) flying at 3,700 fps MV with a handload I carefully worked up for my Swift rifle. This bullet is clocking well over 3,000 fps at 200 yards and 2,800 fps at 300. I have every confidence deer at around 200, antelope out to 300, will go down cleanly to one shot from my Swift. An Arizona game warden commissioned to dispatch deer and elk struck on the highway assured me his Swift never barked twice. These were incapacitated animals at close range, of course, but P.O. Ackley, King of the Wildcatters, had this to say about the Swift: “It has proven to be extremely deadly on deer in spite of what some authorities want to think.”

At 200 yards, the streamlined T-Shock bullet with my personal handload delivers 1,400 foot-pounds of “energy”. Some states demand 500 foot-pounds remaining energy at 100 yards to be big game legal. The “illegal” Swift so-loaded has almost three times that at 200 yards. Even before the popularity of the heavier .224″.22-caliber bullet, hot .22 centerfires with “varmint bullets” cleanly took deer-sized game at reasonable ranges where velocity remained high. Now we have the new 64-grain Nosler solid base; Winchester’s 64-grain PSP, Sierra’s 65-grain GameKing and Hornady’s 75-grain A-Max, with apologies to other fine “big game type” .224 bullets not mentioned.

The “any centerfire” rule in many states makes the .22 Hornet legal for deer. A ranch owner in Texas told me he has lost count of the deer he put into the freezer with his .22 Hornet, promising: “I never had to shoot one twice.” I have never put a deer down with a .22 Hornet and doubt I ever will. However, under certain circumstances (stand hunting) even this little popper is deadly.

But caliber rules alone make little sense. In one state .22 centerfires are legal for deer, bear and cougar. But .24-caliber is minimum for elk. Under this regulation my .220 Swift is illegal for elk, but my .25-20 is legal. I won’t hunt elk with a .22-caliber. But if forced to carry the Swift or the .25-20 for elk, it would be the fast-twist Swift with a stout bullet.


Today’s ammunition is the best the world has ever known. Improved powders, factory loading techniques, and good bullets have elevated some cartridges from so-so to pretty darn good.


An example of a modern load is Federal’s Premium in the High Energy package. The High Energy .30-06 load chronograph at 2,950 feet per second in multiple witnessed tests. Considering that the original .300 H&H load that caused a stir so long ago offered no more potency than this load, clearly shows where the ammo companies have gone. Regardless, it is impossible for game departments to make distinctions between “regular” and more powerful factory ammo.


I find no argument with shotgun-only for wild turkey ruling. Although I find the reason cited by the Wild Turkey Federation mildly startling. They feel hunters mistaken for gobblers have a better chance of survival with shotgun over rifle! My two favorite haunts for Ben’s Bird in my home state, Wyoming, are both wide open territory. I am the only hunter on the first spot, a closed ranch, and I have never seen another hunter on the other location along the Wyoming-Montana border in rolling hill country. Last season my scoped Savage bolt-action .25-20 filled my two fall wild turkey tags. However, proper bullets in any of the .22 centerfire would work here where the .22 Magnum and new .17’s and .20’s are also legal.

When the reason for classifying guns for hunting is safety, I am all for it. In certain more populated regions, shotgun-only makes sense. Most of the rules, however, have nothing to do with safety. They are simply dreamed-up concoctions bereft of ballistic backing. How about a handgun must shoot a .243+ caliber for big game and the cartridge has to be at least 1.29+” long? Rifle .22-caliber limitation. The .223 is legal in this state even for elk. One state allows subsistence hunters to use the .22-rimfire for “swimming caribou.” May sound odd, but it’s a matter of putting meat in the larder when that meat is swimming alongside a boat.

Another law: Any centerfire cartridge .22 caliber and up — no .17’s or .20’s in this state — and must be “soft-point or other expanding bullet”, no full metal jacket (FMJ) missiles. Seems like common sense would eclipse the FMJ rule. In another state, the .40-caliber muzzleloader is legal for big game. But if it’s a smoothbore, no,no, no — must be .45-caliber. Reason? Who knows?

Another state: No caliber limitation, centerfire only with “mushrooming” bullets, which puts the .17’s and .20’s right in the saddle. Another state: No .22 rimfire for deer, but it’s okay on non-game animals. Elk: Bullet must be 85 grains with 1,000 foot pounds of remaining energy at 100 yards “as determined by the manufacturer.” I wonder if game wardens check handloads?


Game departments have expressed legitimate concern over underpowered cartridges for big game, such as the .30 M-1 round shown here with a .401 Winchester on the far right. The .401, aka .401WSL, Winchester Self-Loading, pushed a 260-grain bullet just shy of 1,500 feet per second, Winchester factory load. The .401 slithers in just under the wire for states calling for cartridges 2″ long “as normally loaded.” It runs 2.005″ as normally loaded (depending on the bullet).


The .38-72 blackpowder cartridge, left, remains legal in most states due to its dimensions. But with some loads it is far less potent than rounds in the .30-40 and .303 British class, which actually have less powder capacity.

.17’s And .20’s?

And how about those .17’s and .20’s with super fast bullets? The only report I have from a hunter using a .204 Ruger was — “I don’t shoot that far with the rifle, but it’s so easy to shoot well that so far I have not had one deer move out of its tracks after the little bullet hits home. It’s a very deadly cartridge.”

A Montana hunter reported several one-shot kills with a .17 Remington, all but one doe dropping instantly. Another state calls for a .357″ bullet 1.16″ long, but not longer than 1.625″. Another state says okay to any centerfire, but the bullet must weigh 55 grains or more. That eliminates the .17’s and .20’s, which may be the reason for the rule. But it lets in varmint bullets on deer.

Then there is a rule that demands a cartridge case 1 ¼” long at minimum. The developers of this rule may not have recognized the .22 Hornet is over that length, as is the .25-20, and many other rounds considered too light for big game in many other states. The rule calling for a cartridge delivering 500 “foot-pounds” at 100 yards in one state goes to 900 FP in another state, where handguns must provide 400 FP at 50 yards. The .223 and its ilk remain illegal here, and the muzzleloader must be .44-caliber — unless it’s a musket. Then it must be .62 caliber. The reason? Who knows?


Game department officials cannot be troubled with checking a hunter’s ammunition. Meanwhile, a handloader can turn a .30-06 into a .30-30, as shown here, or reduce it further into a small game load. This is one more reason why enforcing gun rules is difficult to do.


This is an example of how a handloader can turn any centerfire cartridge into something it was not originally intended to be. These .30-06 cartridges are “loaded for rabbit” with 110 grain bullets. And yet, by appearance alone they are still .30-06 rounds and “by the book” legal wherever the .30-06 is legal for big game, which is essentially everywhere.


In an experiment to determine remaining energy at 200 yards using the large Oehler Skyscreens, the .30-06 case was necked all the way down to 6mm (right) and all the way up to .375 caliber — standard .30-06 round in the center for comparison. The highest remaining energy at 200 yards by actual chronograph velocity was achieved by the .375-06, with the .338-06 close behind. Some game departments use retained energy, usually at 100 yards, to admit some cartridges and deny others. They use standard ballistic tables for this. While remaining downrange is important, it varies even with different bullet profiles in the same cartridge.

Other Oddities

How about: No caliber limit, centerfire only with “mushrooming bullet.” That leaves choice in the hands of the big game hunter in this state. No .22 rimfire for deer — that is the rule in another state — for big game. Non-game animals (cougar, coyote, etc.) any caliber okay, including the .22 rimfire. In another state .24 caliber or larger for big game with an expanding bullet of 70 grains or heavier. That’s for deer and antelope. For elk and moose it must be an 85 grain bullet with 1,000 foot-pounds of remaining “energy” at 100 yards “as determined by the manufacturer.” Again, I wonder if game wardens check handloads?

How about this one: Any centerfire cartridge of .22 caliber or larger for big game. Here is the .22 Hornet again. Another state: Caliber must be .23+, overall cartridge length “at least 1″ long.” That old man Ackley thwarted the .23-caliber minimum with his .230 Ackley, “brought about,” he wrote, “since some states have enacted laws requiring a minimum of .23.” The .230 Ackley was a shortened .30-06 case with bullets of “heavy jackets in 60, 70 and 75 grain weights.” A 75-grain bullet cut the air at 3,500 fps MV. A fellow in Oregon trumped P.O. with the .243 Winchester necked down to .23-caliber and a 70-grain bullet at 3,733 fps MV.

Deer, pronghorn, and bear (yes, bear) are okay with .40 caliber muzzleloaders in one state; but elk and moose must be .50 caliber. But there’s a difference — no round balls. Bullet weight limit is 170 grains in 40 caliber and 210 grains in .50 caliber.

In another state the .40 caliber muzzleloader is legal, but a 3″ .410 rifled slug at 1,800 fps is illegal. Another state: A .23 caliber minimum; cartridge must be 2″ long “as normally loaded.” This kills the .357 Magnum, but not the .357 Herrett, which is almost 1.8″ long before seating a bullet. The Herrett drives a 180 grain bullet at 1,900 fps. The .475 Linebaugh, 400 grain bullet 1,600 fps MV in a rifle is illegal here. It’s not 2″ long “as normally loaded.” Likewise the .500 Smith and Wesson in a carbine — 500 grain bullet at over 1,500 fps MV, which whips the “legal” .357 Herrett soundly.


Over the years there have been so many changes in ammunition that game departments could never keep up with ballistics “suitable” for big game. The states that essentially issue no rulings depend upon the hunter to make the right choice for himself or herself based on familiarity and success with both firearm and hunting strategies. This photo is an example of an interesting load in a .303 British with cordite powder — likely perfectly legal just about anywhere.


Modern loads can, and often do, exceed the original ballistics of a cartridge. The .308, right, in a special factory load from Hornady, produces essentially the same ballistics as the .30-06, left, carried for decades. Meanwhile, the .30-06 in both factory and handload, can develop the same delivered energy as the original factory .300 H&H Magnum load. Game departments would be hard pressed to keep up with changes in ballistics — such as the .22-250 Remington and .220 Swift with 80-grain Hornady bullet at 3,150 to 3,200 feet per second for a delivered downrange “punch” that exceeds allowable cartridges while the two .22 caliber rounds are disallowed.


In many states, a .44 Magnum is legal in a handgun, but would not be legal in a rifle, even though the rifle would offer higher velocities and more reliable accuracy at longer ranges. Go figure!

Bows And Arrows Too?

And it’s not all guns. There is a rule on paper the big game bow must be capable of casting an arrow 160 yards. I can see it now: “Sir Bowhunter, I must test your bow to be sure it is legal for big game.” The warden reaches for his rangefinder. “That big tree over there — see it?” The archer says he does. “My rangefinder shows that tree to be 160 yards away. So please prove your bow can shoot an arrow that far.” The bowhunter, being an accommodating sort, plucks a 10 dollar arrow from his bow quiver, strings it, and lets the broadhead shaft sail over the treetop into a large meadow of high grass never to be seen again. Rule satisfied.

I am strong for State’s Rights, and therefore stand for each game department making its own rules about legal and illegal firearms for big game hunting. States having confidence in its hunters levy very few commandments, believing the hunter will not handicap himself or herself with inadequate guns or bows. Other states concoct all manner of regulations, many as useful as reading tea leaves and tossed monkey bones to tell the future.

Here’s all I ask for: Regulations based upon sound ballistic fact, not fancy, such as “the muzzleloader bullet must not be twice as long as its caliber.” No specific state was picked on. This was not a finger-pointing essay. But rather a simple call for sound reasoning to trump random coffee table talk.
By Sam Fadala

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New Life for Old Standards

Buffalo Bore’s Moderized .32 S&W Long,
.32 ACP And .38 S&W Loads.

Montana-based, Buffalo Bore uses state of the art components to produce a comprehensive line of defensive ammo with variations suiting just about anybody’s personal theory of stopping effectiveness. CEO Tim Sundles has stayed ahead of the market surges and still finds time for load development. Recent activity has produced a number of loads for the once-popular .32 and .38 S&W handguns. Traditionally limited by marginally effective ammunition, no longer trendy but high-quality examples are still present in huge numbers.

.38 S&W/Colt New Police and .38/200/.380 Revolver Mk IIz

Developed in 1877 for S&W top break revolvers, it continued to flourish into the hand-ejector era and a few hinged and solid frame models were manufactured into the 1960’s. It’s shorter and larger in diameter than the .38 Special and uses a .360″ bullet. Current factory ammunition is loaded with a 145-grain RNL bullet with the WW cartridge averaging 642 fps from an Enfield MkII with 4.9″ barrel. Working with low flash powder and staying within the industry standard 13,000 CUP, Sundles’ new load drives a 125-grain “Keith” bullet at 874 from a 2″ barrel to over 1,000 from a 6″ Regulation Police. The load is not for the old top breaks, only high quality, solid frame or Enfield /Webley revolvers only.

From our test Enfield, the .38 S&W load delivered 982 fps and about 2″ at 25 yards.


Buffalo bore brings new life to these once-state of the art
defensive handguns. Many such languish unloved because of
absence of effective ammunition.


Left to right: .38 S&W 125 grain “Keith” bullet, .32 S&W Long 100 grain wadcutter
and 115 RNFP, .32 ACP 75-grain hard cast flat point and 60-grain Barnes lead-free.
The Barnes bullets perform like this across a wide range of velocities and expansion


The full wadcutters and flat point loads lend a definitive slap to the
1896-vintage .32 long. Teddy Roosevelt made this the first official NYPD
revolver cartridge and probably would have approved of the Buffalo Bore

.32 S&W Long/Colt New Police

This is a lengthened .32 S&W cartridge developed in 1896 for Smith and Wesson’s first solid frame “hand-ejector” revolver. It became a standard police cartridge and was popular for target shooting Worldwide.

The standard 98-grain RNL bullet loaded by PMC averaged 784 fps from a Colt Police Positive.
The Buffalo Bore 100-grain full wadcutter and 115 grain flat-point are very accurate from my 1938-vintage Police Positive. Velocity for the 100 grain wadcutter was 929 fps with 1.7″ at 25 yards. The 115 grain lead flat point gave 845 fps and about 1.3″ (!) at 25 yards.


The .32 ACP +P loads.


Sundles has found the hard cast semi-wadcutter accurate in his Smith
Regulation Police revolvers. This is a 25 yard bench group from a nice
1940-made Enfield MKII double action.


This 75-year-old Colt Police Positive shows why the .32
long was a popular competition and small-game load.

.32 ACP

My Interarms Imported Walther PP was made in 1968. This was well before anybody envisioned anything beyond the original 71grain FMJ designed by John M. Browning. It functions reliably fully loaded with the 75-grain lead flat point and with the 60-grain Barnes HP loaded down one round from maximum magazine capacity. While the loads are +P by domestic standards, they are right in line with expectations from some European brands. This PP clocked 926 fps with a Dynamite Nobel load and 1,124 fps with Yugoslav ball.

The 60 grain Barnes Buffalo Bore load went 1,102 fps with 2.9″ at 25 yards, while the 75 grain lead FP load delivered 1,040 fps and a 2.4″ group 25 yards.

Note: 25 round groups were from a Caldwell pistol rest.
By Mike Cumpston

100 grain lead wadcutter Velocity Energy Spread (10) Standard Deviation Group 5 at 25
929fps 191 ft/lb 32 11 1.7-inches
115 grain lead flat point 854 186 49 14 1.3
60 grain Barnes 1102 162 89 27 2.9
75 grain lead FP 1040 180 44 13 2.4
38 S&W (38/200,.380 Revolver CTG) 982 268 49 13 2.0

Velocities at 10 feet Competition Electronics Pro Chronograph.
Groups 5 rounds at 25 yards from Caldwell Pistol Rest.

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The Diamondback Arms FS Nine

‘Everyman’s’ Tactical Handgun

You can take the boys out of the second grade but you’ll never take the second grade out of the boys. Back in the Stone Age when I wore a uniform, the hangar that housed my Army Aviation unit developed a bit of a mouse problem. The obvious solution was a half dozen Wal-Mart mousetraps or perhaps even the acquisition of a unit cat. What my guys devised, however, was markedly more elegant.

I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice to say a couple of pieces of sheet metal, some rubber insulation, a circuit breaker wired to 220 volts, and a gobbet of peanut butter later we never lacked for entertainment. Soldiers came from all over post to pull up a lawn chair and watch our diabolical mousetrap at work. Our mice were some brazen rascals and would venture out as soon as the trap was baited and armed. The resulting electrical arc would throw the little monsters’ lifeless corpses truly remarkable distances amidst copious smoke and the inimitable odor of burned hair and ozone. Even the most ardent animal rights activist would acknowledge the little guys didn’t suffer. There were undoubtedly easier ways to rid ourselves of vermin but that we solved the problem with style was indisputable.

Fortunes have been invested and lives spent in the quest to build the better mousetrap. Catching the mouse is a given. It is simply that some tools are more inspired than others. Now how might that relate to guns, you ponder?

Gaston Glock’s polymer marvel is an indisputably elegant piece of work. His Austrian handguns fill the holsters of 65 percent of the cops in America. While every proper gun maker on the planet produces plastic pistols these days, an adolescent company from Florida makes them just a little bit differently.


The new FS Nine from Diamondback Arms is a lightweight,
high capacity, polymer-framed handgun with an unusual
slide-forward design. This feature keeps the center of
gravity as far forward as possible to minimize muzzle
flip and facilitate faster follow-up shots.


The Diamondback Arms FS Nine feeds from a slightly
modified M9 magazine with a 15-round capacity.
Magazines drop free and an oversized mag base
facilitates manhandling if something gets stuck.


While most everybody ships their guns in plastic
carrying cases these days, the case for the Diamondback
FS Nine is built like a tank. You could eject this case
from the International Space Station and have the gun
arrive on earth intact.

Diamondback Arms

Diamondback Arms cut its teeth on cute little .380 pocket pistols sporting a characteristic slide-forward geometry. I carried one for several years myself and found it to be controllable, reliable and practically weightless. I never found fault with the piece. The grip-to-frame angle most closely approximates that of the revered 1911 but the slide rides just a little bit farther forward on the frame than what we might expect from a more traditional handgun. The new FS Nine mimics this layout, only now in a full-figured, high-capacity 9mm.

This slide arrangement is a bit tough to describe but it’s the first thing you notice when you look at the gun. For a corn-fed American gunman raised on the 1911 and M9 the slide-to-frame relationship on Diamondback pistols just seems a little bit, um … wrong. However, once I invested some effort studying the gun and then launched a few rounds downrange I came to realize what at first seemed aesthetically incongruous is actually pretty darn cool.

The slide-forward design puts the center of gravity of the gun as far forward of the shooter’s grip as practical. It also lowers the line of recoil as low as possible to the user’s arm without snipping skin as the slide cycles. What this equates to is decreased muzzle flip and faster follow-up shots.

Call me a heretic but I’m not an accuracy hound when it comes to combat handguns. If I wanted to shoot Truman out of a dime at 25 meters I would bring a different tool. That said, the FS Nine was completely reliable, surprisingly accurate, and pleasantly comfortable during our testing. It groups as well as or better than any other plastic handgun in my collection and the unique layout gives the gun a legitimate edge in fast tactical drills.

The slide release is a bit bigger than most and the slide pops back into battery more readily than is the case with its competitors. There is a loaded chamber window and the striker protrudes out the back of the slide when cocked. The obligatory railed dust cover is a genuine picatinny design accepting most anything you might hang on your tricked-out AR. The checkering sports a cool snakeskin motif and the grip incorporates the most delightful palm swells that interface perfectly with the human hand.

The drop-free magazine is a slightly-modified M9 mag with an oversized baseplate. The grip includes a pair of dimples to facilitate manhandling the magazine should it ever get stuck, and the magwell is beveled. The gun sometimes dropped empty cases on the top of my head during rapid fire drills but that happens with a lot of handguns.


While there are no interchangeable backstraps, the
grips on the FS Nine are nicely contoured and well
proportioned. Whether it be my big monkey mitts or
those of a smaller-statured female shooter — like
our sample here — the gun feels good in the hand.


The grips on the FS Nine (L) are slightly smaller
than those of the Glock and they incorporate some
pleasant palm swells.


Sights on the Diamondback FS Nine are no-snag
and low profile with three white dots.


There will be inevitable comparisons. The Glock is a little fatter and the triggers differ in nuance between the two platforms. While both are striker-fired and similar the trigger take-up on the FS Nine is smoother than the Glock while the actual break is just a little bit coarser. The full-length guide rod is metal and that’s a nice touch.

I prefer the classic 1911 grip-to-frame angle embodied in the FS Nine over the Georg Luger-inspired Glock but that is nothing more than a personal taste. I have a passion for Count Chocula breakfast cereal and like a little butter on my hamburger buns as well. Variety is the spice of life.

The slide-forward architecture really grew on me. After living with the gun for a while it gives me a sort of Robocop vibe I now find aesthetically appealing. The action is exceptionally smooth and the details well-reasoned. In this case I saved the best part for the end. The MSRP on the FS Nine is only $483. Considering the shop price will likely be even lower, the FS Nine brings you everything the Big Guys do at a reasonable cost. Is it the better mousetrap? Pick one up, launch a few rounds downrange, and decide for yourself. Compared to other contemporary tactical handguns, it won’t cost you much.


The slide release is oversized and easily accessed.
The magazine release is not reversible but is sized
just right. The snakeskin checkering feels good and
looks cool.


Operation is identical to any similar plastic handgun.
The primary safety is a discreet blade incorporated
directly into the trigger.


The slide-forward geometry of the FS Nine combined with
a very low bore axis make for faster recovery, less
muzzle flip and quick follow-up shots.


The full-length picatinny rail on the dust cover will
mount any standard accessory. Winchester’s 147-grain
defensive loads make the Diamondback FS Nine an
effective and controllable defensive handgun.

Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs

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Exclusive: Which Gun for Sarah?

This morning I received an email from Sarah, my cousin. She’s getting a concealed pistol license and wanted to know what gun to purchase. Here’s how I replied.


!DSC_0342Hi Sarah! Thanks for writing! The short answer to your question is, “Whatever is comfortable for you to carry, shoot accurately, and practice with regularly.”

Now here’s what I mean by that…

Comfortable: You should be able to pick up and carry and draw your gun, knowing that you can shoot all the rounds and even reload quickly without being overwhelmed by the process of shooting or reloading. You should carry it virtually every day and everywhere you go so it’s got to be the right size.

Accurate: You should be able to put all the rounds into a paper-plate sized target at distance of 21 feet.

Practice: Picking out a gun for concealed carry is not a one-time event. It requires time, money, and a commitment to practice well. If possible, plan to shoot 50 rounds about every month or two.

!640Now, as far as which gun to buy, usually this boils down to deciding between a revolver or autoloading pistol. Autoloaders are great for many reasons, but for a basic, everyday carry gun, I recommend you consider a small revolver. If you think this is too old-fashioned or old school then you’ve been watching too many Hollywood movies or CSI. I carry a revolver most days (today, a Smith & Wesson 640 Pro Series). There’s a reason smallish revolvers like this one are still — after decades of service — one of the top choices for concealed carry and backup guns.

As for which caliber, some will argue for nothing less potent than a .38 Special. I’ll offer that a .22LR is totally fine if it meets the criteria I mentioned above (comfortable, accurate, and regularly practiced). Better to hit your target than not. That’s the whole point, right? For the record, the S&W revolver I’m carrying is loaded with .38 Special but I have two reloads of .357 Magnum as backup.

!DSC_0343Other benefits of small revolvers: They run the gamut of pricing — I’m sure you can find a good one within your budget — and are incredibly customizable. One change I made to the S&W 640 Pro was to swap out the stocks for a set of Hogue Extreme Grips, their Bantam Pirhana G-10 G-Mascus ($79.95). They offer great purchase (quality of grip) but still hide easily and look great.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. Let me know your comments or questions. Glad to discuss as long as necessary!

— Mark Kakkuri


Exclusive: Favorite Holsters, Part 1

The answer is: “It depends.”

The question is: “What’s your favorite holster for concealed carry?”

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question, I’d be … well, I’d be almost to eight bucks. Nonetheless, I like to answer it, because it’s a legit question. And it has legit, but complex, caveat-filled answers. That’s why this article will be Part 1 of a never-ending saga of answers to the question.

What’s my favorite holster for concealed carry?

a!DSC_0318Say I’m carrying a Kimber Ultra Carry II Stainless. And say I want a Kydex holster that goes on and off easily, with minimal fuss and even less weight. Let’s say the only retention I need is the friction of holster on gun, further held in place by the tension of a gun belt. Let’s also say I may want to appendix carry or cross draw carry or carry at 4 o’clock. Holster-wise, that gun and those criteria will yield this favorite: the Detroit Concealment iNfil with the appendix cut. Retailing at $55 for basic black and up to $75 for the one you see here — this one has the Kryptek Typhon pattern, a $20 option — the iNfil appendix loves the Ultra Carry II. And vice versa.

a!DSC_0321I have no problem exposing so much of the Kimber. Stainless steel can take whatever environment it’ll be in. Besides, the holster — especially the belt clip — will absorb far more punishment than the gun. And this belt clip offers a robust hold and grabs a gun belt with gusto. But it pries away nicely with the built-in finger!square

Just because the iNfil can be carried at the appendix — 1 or 2 o’clock, if you prefer the analog clock locater — doesn’t mean it’s the best way to carry. Generally I’ll do appendix carry only if I’m standing up, and really more around 2 to 2:30. Sitting while carrying at the appendix breaks one of the gun safety rules, allowing the muzzle to cover my femoral artery or other parts of my body that I don’t want to risk sending a .45 ACP round through.

INfil carries the Kimber superbly at 4 o’clock. And that keeps the muzzle pointed at the ground no matter what I’m doing.

!DSC_0325Other three-inch barreled 1911’s fit the Detroit Concealment iNfil, but none as well as the Kimber. And if I’m carrying the Ultra Carry II Stainless, that’s the holster in which it rides.

One last thing: Got a question about concealed carry guns and holsters? Put them in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do about getting some answers in followup articles.

— Mark Kakkuri

The Metro Arms-Eagle Imports MAC 1911 Classic

An Affordable Match-Grade 1911— Nicely Optioned!

Metro Arms Company of Manila founded by Hector Rodriquez, a former competitive shooter, has been supplying 1911 pistols to a number of North American companies for quite a while. They are now marketing pistols under their own mark in partnership with Eagle Imports of Wanamassa, NJ. The major lines include the American Classic Series, the upscale, full- featured MAC models and the wide-body, high-capacity SPS that has established a following among European Action Shooters. The American Classic line features affordable 1911 designs in various sizes and configurations. They are well distributed locally and at prices well under $600 are quite popular among bargain-conscious shooters. Dealers and end-users give them high marks for reliability and accuracy.

The MAC 1911 are geared toward competition shooting, featuring match grade barrels, hand lapping of slide and frame and focused attention from skilled gunsmiths. We borrowed the MAC 1911 Classic Model stipulating the optional Hard Chrome finish. Hard Chrome is a very durable and usually expensive treatment but in the case of the MAC Classic, it added only $74 to the base price. Other salient features include a bushing-less bull barrel fitted to the slide and a full length guide rod. The sights are Bomar Pattern fully adjustable rear and fiber optic front. The trigger pull weighs 4.5 pounds out of the box. Grips are attractive reptile scale Philippine hardwood and it has a flared magwell
Overall fit was attractively done and tight as is expected from a match grade 1911. The surface treatment and application of the hard chrome were, to employ the overused Internet term, “Flawless!”


The MAC 1911 Classic with hard Chrome finish. It features
hand-fitted competition quality components.


Features include flared mag well, trigger adjustable for over-travel,
Bomar Pattern rear target sight with fiber optic front, ambidextrous
safeties, lowered port and beaver tail grip safety


A 25 yard Bench Group. The MAC “liked” the premium Remington defense rounds.

Range Work

After initial lubrication and a modicum of shooting, the Classic became reliable with the loads I had on hand and was inclining in that direction with loads using more abruptazoid projectiles. One shooter had a couple of malfunctions with the Hornady Steel match but it was 100 percent reliable during my shooting. It was very closely fitted and, initially the slide would require a gentle nudge for complete lock up. Groups with the three premium loads and one favored handload quickly established best groups ranging from 1.4″ to 2.5″ for five shots from a Caldwell rest at 25 yards.

These were single-effort groups as any attempt on my part to produce significant multi-group averages only tends to accentuate my unimpressive bench rest capabilities. Conversely, my generally accurate lead round nose “softball” load delivered unimpressive accuracy and multiple attempts did not improve them. Nevertheless, any time I can deliver comfortably sub-2″ groups with an auto-pistol, I know I am dealing with a very precise instrument.

I was able to produce decent and repeatable accuracy shooting unsupported one and two-handed from 25 yards and, as is frequently the case, there was not a great deal of on-target difference between the two modes. At the range, I encountered a couple of very squared away active duty airforce guys practicing with their personal carry pistols. Captain Jake Ivie USAF, shot the MAC in his “tactical” mode from 30 feet producing a silver dollar-size cluster.


The Classic gave excellent performance with these quality
factory loads as well as my hard ball handload.


One-hand “slow fire” at 25 yards.


The coned, bushing-less barrel and captured one-piece recoil spring/guide
rod enjoy their own very special take down procedure. They display a bit
of individuality on re-assembly too.

Plus and Minus

On the negative side, I found the full-length guide rod somewhat tedious. It’s the only way to go when you have a coned-bushingless barrel fit but dismounting requires capturing the spring assembly with an L-shaped wire and re-assembly was inexplicably difficult given that there is really only one way to complete the assembly. The guide-rod spring assembly tied up preventing full travel of the slide until it decided, on its on, to re-assume normal function.

The rear sight is, of course, adjustable for windage and elevation. I found the entire assembly to be quite tight. The windage adjustment turned with some difficulty and backing off on the elevation adjustment merely raised the screw above the sight body. It required manual assistance to get the sight to actually move. The elevation setting lacks any positive indexing and it is not possible to determine if spring pressure alone will be sufficient to maintain adjustment when the unit loosens up. In any case, the sight presents the preferred wide and serrated rear aspect standard on high grade bulls eye pistols and the front sight is of the appropriate width with visibility enhanced by the fiber optic element.


Dovetail mounted front sight with fiber optic element.
It is very easy to pick up.


The rear sight is a near-copy of the superlunary Bomar product.


It’s always refreshing to find a member of any industry that regards good manners and excellent customer service as virtues rather than, is often the case, signs of weakness. Both Eagle Arms and Metro are dedicated to providing support for their products. Eagle maintains a comprehensive network of authorized repair stations. The warranty/repair expert in this area is John Ridlehuber, a master gunsmith, instructor and action pistol competitor. He does custom work on 1911’s and can use and carry any gun he deems appropriate. On a recent visit to his isolated rural location, I noticed a Metro 1911 in his holster. He told me the Metro pistols in general, provide excellent service and that Eagle and Metro work well in concert and are very responsive to his requests for product support.
For more info:, (732) 493 0302.
By Mike Cumpston

Metro Classic MAC 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Length: 8.88″
Barrel Length: 5 inches coned, fully supported full length guide rod.
Height: 5.56″
Width: 1.25″
Weight: 40.6 ounces
Sights: Bomar-type Metro adjustable
Frame: 4140 steel
Slide: 4140 Hammer forged
Safeties: Ambidextrous , grip safety
Capacity: 8 round magazine
Finish: Hard chrome.
Price: $1,112 ( blued -$1,038 )


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Beretta USA Presents Next Generation Handgun to US DOD

After delivering over 600,000 M9 pistols to the DOD and on the heels of being awarded a new contract for up to 100,000 M9s, Beretta USA announced today the presentation of the M9A3 to the US Army. The M9A3 introduces major improvements to the M9 that will increase the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of the weapon. The improvements include design and material enhancements resulting in increased modularity, reliability, durability, and ergonomics. They are being submitted via an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) in accordance with the terms of the current M9 contract.

Made in the U.S.A. by an American workforce since 1987, the M9 has been the sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces for nearly 30 years; serving with U.S. service men and women in training and combat operations throughout the world. The M9A3 is designed for the next 30 years – delivering 21st century capability and features while increasing usability and reliability.

“The M9A3 represents the next generation military handgun utilizing the best of the legacy M9 combined with proven COTS modifications that increase performance and durability” stated Gabriele de Plano, Vice President of Military Marketing and Sales for Beretta USA. Mr. de Plano added, “After listening closely to the needs of U.S. Army and other Service small arms representatives, we determined the M9, much like its counterpart legacy weapon systems (M4, M16, M240, etc.), was capable of being upgraded through material and design changes. The resulting M9A3 we are offering to the DOD will likely cost less than the current M9 and answer almost all of the Services’ enhanced handgun requirements.”

The M9A3 features a thin grip with a removable, modular wrap-around grip, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail, removable front and rear tritium sights, extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use, 17-round sand resistant magazine, and numerous improved small components to increase durability and ergonomics, all in an earth tone finish.

“Furthermore, the M9A3 benefits from having a law enforcement and commercial variant that will be launched at S.H.O.T. Show 2015 in Las Vegas, NV” stated Rafe Bennett, Vice President of Product Marketing for Beretta USA. Mr. Bennett added, “The M9A3 offered to the DOD is the exact gun that consumers will be able to purchase in the second quarter of 2015.”

Exclusive: Nano a Nano

I told you how the Beretta Nano and its Beretta IWB holster were a great match. They still are. Out of the holster, the Nano impresses me, confidently delivering six or eight rounds of 9mm down range, effectively causing the steel plates to sing aloud. In the holster, the Nano rides comfortably and securely. Its Nano girth (< 1 inch) hardly registers. Same for its Nano weight (< 20 ounces). If things get crazy, I can drop the six-round magazine and pop in the eight-rounder, which also provides a place for my pinky to rest.

DSC_0188It’s difficult to imagine improving on this gun and holster combo. Well, maybe there’s one thing: If the Nano had a Crimson Trace Laserguard affixed to it, that would rock. And, Beretta offers exactly that in its BU-9 Crimson Trace Nano which retails for $650.

DSC_0189The Nano feels virtually the same with the CTC laser as without. The CTC laser attaches beneath the muzzle, in front of the trigger guard, and is smooth and inconspicuous. Simply grasp the Nano’s stocks and your middle finger automatically activates the pressure switch that sits on the front strap. The result: bright red dot on target. There’s no on/off switch. Just grasp and it’s on. Easy!

The factory sets the laser to point of aim at 50 feet, which is just right for this kind of gun. Adjusting the laser to point of aim, if needed, requires a couple of twists of an included Allen wrench. That laser will last for four hours on a 1/3N 3V Lithium or two .357 Silver Oxide Batteries. And it’s covered by a three-year warranty.

DSC_0194My only gripe — and it’s a minor one — is that with the laser it doesn’t fit that Beretta holster. Sure I can put the Nano with the CTC in a pocket holster and off I go. I just really like that Beretta IWB holster… A real dilemma, right?

Some holster makers have taken note of the popularity of add-on lasers and offered holsters to accommodate them. And it’s a great thing when those are available. Until then, I’ll have to weigh the benefits of having the right holster vs. having an effective laser aiming solution — Nano a Nano.

— Mark Kakkuri


Exclusive: Home, Home or the Range

Springfield Armory’s 1911 Range Officer, chambered in 9mm and retailing for $977, offers one of the best shooting experiences money can buy. A Government-sized, 41-ounce, steel beauty, the 1911 Range Officer indeed excels on the range (static shooting or competition) where it delivers rounds with only a little more drama than an autoloading .22 target pistol but with equal control and therefore accuracy. But because it’s so solid and smooth, it’s also a terrific house gun. I think it’s twice as good a house gun as it is a range gun.

DSC_0165This Range Officer carries nine rounds of 9mm (Hornady Critical Duty these days) in a single magazine. Of course you can go 9+1 if you want to max out its capacity before you need a reload. And since the gun comes with two magazines, you can have 19 rounds at the ready. That should be more than enough for most home altercations while still fit for useful practice sessions and some competitions.

DSC_0162The Range Officer comes with a paddle holster and belt slide magazine carrier. Secured by a gun belt, these handy accessories make house duty delightful. The paddle holster provides a slight forward cant and a secure ride, including a tension-adjustable draw. Despite the Range Officer’s 41 ounces, the fact that it is long and thin allows it to carry easier than something that is small and chunky. I’m talking about open carry in a house, of course. You can carry this gun concealed — and it’s easier to do so than you think — but it’s not ideal carried that way. Besides, it’s cool to show off those Cross Cannon Double Diamond Cocobolo grips.

DSC_0159The fully adjustable target sights offer a simple black-on-black sight picture, which I love. Coupled with the Range Officer’s superb balance, its 1911 feel and controls, and so-easy-to-shoot character, this gun gets the nod for house duty more than most other pistols. Oh it’s great on the range — what’s not to love about being able to shoot more and shoot accurately? But the Range Officer is in its element and on duty even more so at home.

— Mark Kakkuri

CMMG Inc. Mk47 Mutant

CMMG Inc. today announced the release of the Mk47 MUTANT – an all-new rifle platform that combines the accuracy of the modern sporting rifle and relentless AK47-like reliability with the legendary 7.62x39mm caliber.

Engineered from 7075-T6 billet aluminum, the Mk47 MUTANT features a uniquely designed upper and lower receiver built to manage the dimensions and pressures of the 7.62x39mm tapered cartridge all while keeping the weight of the rifle at a minimum. Remarkably, the Mk47 MUTANT (while unloaded) weighs just over seven pounds.

The Mk47 MUTANT utilizes a unique bolt carrier group derived from the massive AR10 group, which aside from being shortened to a length of eight inches, retains all of the material on the bolt face for added durability and strength.

The lower receiver is designed to accept existing AK magazines, which are widely available, inexpensive and extremely reliable. A standard ambidextrous hook and latch system makes reloading fast and intuitive. The rifle comes with one Magpul PMAG® 30-round AK/AKM MOE® 7.62×39 Magazine.

A full-length Picatinny rail runs atop the Mk47, making it easy to mount your preferred sights or optics. CMMG’s RKM KeyMod™ Hand Guard is exceptionally light and ergonomic. It also gives users the freedom to mount a wide array of accessories using the KeyMod slots found in the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. For accessories that are not yet KeyMod compatible, CMMG offers 5-slot accessory rails.

The Mk47 sports a 16.1” free floated barrel with a 1:10 twist and runs on the proven carbine-length direct impingement gas system. By effectively maximizing the accuracy and harnessing the knockdown power of the 7.62x39mm, the Mk47 is an ideal rifle for a variety of sporting and defense applications.

The Mk47 MUTANT is available in three different configurations:


  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm
  • Barrel: 16.1″ medium taper profile
  • Muzzle: A2 compensator
  • Hand Guard: CMMG RKM15 KeyMod
  • Upper Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Lower Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Trigger: CMMG Single Stage
  • Furniture: A4 6-Position Collapsible Stock, A2 Pistol Grip
  • Weight: 7 pounds (unloaded)
  • Length: 32.75 inches (stock collapsed)
  • Magazine: Magpul PMAG® 30 AK/AKM MOE®
  • MSRP: $1,499.95


  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm
  • Barrel: 16.1″ medium taper profile
  • Muzzle: CMMG SV Brake
  • Hand Guard: CMMG RKM15 KeyMod
  • Upper Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Lower Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Trigger: CMMG Single Stage
  • Furniture: Magpul CTR® Butt Stock, MOE® Pistol Grip
  • Weight: 7.2 pounds (unloaded)
  • Length: 33.5 inches (stock collapsed)
  • Magazine: Magpul PMAG® 30 AK/AKM MOE®
  • MSRP: $1,649.95


  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm
  • Barrel: 16.1″ medium taper profile
  • Muzzle: CMMG SV Brake
  • Hand Guard: CMMG RKM15 KeyMod
  • Upper Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Lower Receiver: 7075-T6
  • Trigger: Geissele SSA® Two-Stage Trigger
  • Furniture: Magpul CTR® Butt Stock, MOE® Pistol Grip
  • Weight: 7.2 pounds (unloaded)
  • Length: 33.5 inches (stock collapsed)
  • Magazine: Magpul PMAG® 30 AK/AKM MOE®
  • MSRP: $1,849.95