Category Archives: Featured

S&W’s M&P C.O.R.E. Pistols

Fast, Fun, Flat-Shooting And Optics-Ready!

A golden moment in the Fast Glass & Smokin’ Brass saga: It’s Day Two shootin’ the new ported M&P C.O.R.E. pistols. I’m poppin’ pills into paper with increasing speed and confidence when BH arrives. Good guy; one of the best natural shots I’ve known. He recently slid up hard against 60, and his formerly eagle eyes have finally gone wonky. Like us seasoned mortals he now has that vision disorder called presbyopia, or “Pick One Outta Three,” meaning you’ve got three planes to focus on — rear sight, front sight and target — but now, you can only get a focus on one at a time, and maybe that one’s kinda fuzzy too.

In his 50-plus years of shooting handguns and long guns, including national-level competition, he had used only iron sights and conventional riflescopes; never a red dot, no zero-magnification glass at all. They just hadn’t interested him. He had heard scraps of scuttlebutt about reflex sights relieving that “Pick One” problem, and I invited him to try ’em out. Gave him a mini-brief on the optic, handed him the long-slide Nine, and I went back to work with the Forty.

I heard irregular, desultory shots and looked over. BH was makin’ molasses look zippy; dawdling over shots, holding position way too long, seemingly intent but frustrated, blowin’ steam out his ears. I asked, Wassup, Doc? He ’splained.

It was drivin’ him nuts trying to get that triangly-thing (the Leupold DeltaPoint reticle) oriented exactly dead-center horizontally and vertically on the screen, and beyond that he was also tryin’ to perch the reticle dead-bang on top of the front iron sight, and properly centered in the rear sight’s U-notch. Plus, he snorted, that reticle jittered! He just couldn’t get it dead-still. “This is stupid,” he concluded. So I ’splained.




“First,” I says, “Don’t wait for the reticle to be frozen in space. It ain’t gonna happen. That delta is 7.5-MOA, but ask yourself how much it covers at handgun range, like 10, 15, 20 yards? How much does a handgun front-sight blade cover at 100 yards? Teensy reticle jitters don’t mean squat.” Hmm, he hummed.

To illustrate the rest, I put up a fresh target with a 1.25″ black center, then target-taped over the iron sights and told him to ignore them. Then I had him concentrate only on layin’ the screen-centered reticle on the dot and squeezin’. Next, I told him to move the reticle-overlaid dot up toward 12 o’clock on the screen and shoot. We repeated this with the reticle-covered dot at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, then approached the target. Of course, there was a tight little 5-round group. He looked at the DeltaPoint as though it had turned into a baby dragon. His eyes goggled.

“Art thou a wizard, sir knight?” he demanded. “What sorcery is this?” (He talks like that sometimes.)
“Nay, my liege,” quoth I (I go along with it). “Ain’t no sorcery. It’s some enchanted glass, though. Think of it as a floptical delusion, like an optical illusion but real. Once zeroed, you just lay that reticle where you want the slug to splot. Now go forth and conquer. Work that sweet reset. And on these ported jobs, you’ll find the muzzle agreeably tamed.”

Minutes later he was cuttin’ clover-groups and chuckling. Thirty minutes after that he was hammerin’ like a belt-fed 1919 Browning machinegun, tearin’ out target centers and laughing. Ten minutes later he was shootin’ circles around me and politely hiding a smirk. Thus ended the intro to handgun optics, and acquaintance with the pleasures of a ported C.O.R.E. pistol.

Your results may vary. My results varied. I recommend three days, three structured sessions, minimum: Familiarization, Skill-Building then Speed-Work. He did it in one short session, but … The guy’s a wizard. Really. Now, back to our regular programming.



Evolution, Revolution, Etc.

I won’t go into a lot of the mech-and-tech specs of the M&P pistols, because a ton of ink has already been spilled on ’em. Relatively light, polymer-framed, strong, tough, rock-solid reliable and commendably accurate outta the box, they’re very reasonably priced for the quality. When you consider they’ve only been around for a bit over a decade, they’ve made a heck of a footprint compared to any competitor. With features including multiple frame sizes and calibers, ambidextrous slide locks, side-swapping mag releases, three grip insert sizes, options in finishes, thumb safeties or slick-sides, smooth or threaded barrels, lasers and more, it’s a smorgasbord of shootin’ sweetness, as many of you have already discovered.

Quickly following their debut, the modern iteration of Military & Police pistols tore off huge chunks of the law enforcement market, with massive consumer sales following in that wide wake. It’s a mark of having made your bones in the crucible when large numbers of competitive shooters adopt your service pistols.

Soon they began buggin’ Smith & Wesson for more refinements. The Pro Series offered 5″ “long slide” models in addition to 4.25” standards, and an additional kiss-an’-tickle from the Performance Center in the forms of slicked-up cycling and smoothed-out triggers. But they wanted more.

With the C.O.R.E. — Competition Optics Ready Equipment — models, M&P shooters in the action sports got pistols with slides already machined for fast glass, supplied with an array of adaptor plates to go under a contour-fitted, unobtrusive cap just forward of the rear sight. The Leupold DeltaPoint, which we tested, plus the Trijicon RMR, JPoint, Docter Red Dot, C-More STS and Insight MRDS are all accommodated.

A note: given a suggested retail price differential of only $80 between, for example, the Pro Series 5″ 9mm pistol and its C.O.R.E. cousin, the optics-ready model is a sweet deal. You get about $250-$300 worth of machining and adaptor plates, and when you don’t want an optic riding on it, you’ve got a smooth-topped “regular” Pro Series with taller, bolder iron sights, which sit higher to co-witness with most optics — and also will clear many suppressors.

Another added improvement was a new texture for the interchangeable backstraps. They’re so perfectly grippy and stick-to-the-hand, owners of pre-C.O.R.E. Pro Series M&P’s — like my son — have purchased the new backstraps and slapped ’em on their veteran M&P’s. I wouldn’t waste the words on it if they weren’t that good, folks.

Now, for you Open Division, Wizard-Class action shooters irritated with that pesky “muzzle flip” phenomenon, ported and compensated M&P C.O.R.E. pistols are rollin’ out of the Performance Center. On the 5″ long-slides, there are four oblong ports on each side of the slide measuring about .40″ long by .2″, and two slots cut in the barrel at about 10 and 2 o’clock, placed .72″ to the rear of the muzzle. Our test sample 4.25″ barreled .40 S&W C.O.R.E. had three ports per side and two compensator slots in its barrel of similar but slightly differing dimensions — and you can bet those dimensions are no whim or accidents. The slide ports are all about lightening the slide for faster cycling while the barrel cuts are tasked with the compensating, but both effects are the result of extensive testing and computer modeling for top performance.

That’s not all that’s different though. The ported C.O.R.E.’s also feature a new adjustable trigger over-travel stop, and a new trigger sear yielding a smoother pull, a cleaner break and faster re-set, all for about $43 more than their un-ported cousins. How’s that?



Ducks In A Row

Don’t ya just love it when all your ducks line right up in a neat row? Sandwiched between vicious sleet storms, we had three days of fair skies and light winds for some great range time. Our two test pistols were a ported C.O.R.E. 4.25″ barrel .40 S&W (15-1 capacity) and a ported C.O.R.E. 5″ 9mm (17+1). They both checked out terrific; smooth cycling, all systems running nominal, mags locking up tight and dropping free. The 9mm’s trigger gauged at a smooth 5 pounds 6 ounces and the .40’s trigger pull measured 5 pounds 14 ounces. Takeup was short and sweet, the break was clean on both pistols, over-travel was virtually zip, and reset was very short and easy to work. The Leupold DeltaPoint optic was a breeze to install.

We had good ammo for testing. For the Nine, some Hornady Steel Match HAP in 115-gr. and 125-gr. weights, and lots of “white box” Winchester 147-gr. FMJ Target loads. Feed for the Forty was Cor-Bon 160-gr. FMJ’s, Nosler Match Grade 150-gr. JHP’s, and Federal Premium Personal Defense 165-gr. Hydra-Shok; great stuff. What more could we ask? This:

We managed to borrow two un-ported, non-compensated C.O.R.E. pistols to match our ported C.O.R.E.’s. Yup; a long-slide Nine, a standard-length Forty — and a twin to our sample DeltaPoint! Now we could shoot both flavors side by side to test the effects of the enhancements.

We shot the ported long Nine first. Frankly, I thought, “Nice shooter, but can I really tell any difference in muzzle behavior? Huh.” Then I shot the un-ported Nine and immediately switched back to the ported C.O.R.E.; repeat-repeat-repeat. Okay, then I could tell. The action’s got a tad more zip and muzzle flip is reduced. Cool. Then we went through the same process with the Forty — and whoa. The effect was such that you wanta call strangers over and say, Dude, you gotta try this! Then you come to your senses and hog it all to yourself.

Had to settle down and run accuracy tests; almost a waste of time. At 15 yards, 2-handed, we shot 5-round groups cadenced (about one shot per 1.0 to 1.5 seconds) with groups running 11/2″ to 13/4″. Boring. Pushed it back to 25 yards and shot rested, two-handed. How’s 1.87″ to 2″ grab ya? Other than learning the Nine didn’t care much for the HAP 115’s but loved the 125’s, there were no surprises. But inherent accuracy is the sideshow in this carnival; necessary but secondary. Fast, rapid-fire doubles, triples, speed-shifting from target to target and hammering full magazine loads is where the ported C.O.R.E.’s come to life!

I’ve got more words than space allows, but check this: With the Nine at 7 yards, rapid fire — like mas rapido! — 17 rounds, 16 of ’em within 13/4″ high by 1.37″, with 15 shots touching. With the Forty at 10 yards, rapid fire, 15 rounds into 1.75″ by 1.875″, with 14 touching. You get the drift. I’ll take a little credit; I was having an excellent day, but … all those other ducks, y’know?



What’s this? Another stunning target? That’s two 17-round groups of
9mm rapid-fired at seven yards, Hornady 125’s in the clockwork, 115’s
in the pump. Disregard the little black arrow. Nothin’ to see there.
Move along.


Note the subtle, teensy arrows: That’s two 15-round .40 S&W groups
rapid-fired at 10 yards, CorBon at top, Nosler Match in center mass.

The Wrap & The Rap

If you’re a run-and-gun sport shooter or you wanta become one, a ported C.O.R.E. pistol with some fast glass on it could be your Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. If you’re new to handgun optics, I recommend three longish, unrushed sessions over three days.

Day One, zeroing and familiarization; just getting the feel for it. I’d been running red dots on carbines for years, but found my brain differentiated between long guns and handguns; experience didn’t help that much. I found myself trying to center the reticle and unconsciously defaulting to the iron sights, sometimes in mid-string; fought to concentrate. I put tape over ’em and that helped. Handling is subtly but significantly different. Remember, your eyes don’t have to dance back and forth between three planes of focus; get a visual weld on the reticle. Forgive yourself and have fun.

Day Two is Skill-Building. Do fast doubles, start rapid engagement of multiple targets. Focus on getting the web of your hand high up under that nice beavertail; it will complement the muzzle-controlling benefit of the compensation effect. Work the hinged trigger and that fast reset.

Day Three is Speed-Work; let ’er run with the big dogs. Screw up, make up, move on and hammer. Delight yourself. It’s like ice cream for the shooter’s soul. It may take months to make the process intuitive, but you can nail the basics down in far less — in one day if you’re a wizard, an’ got some sorcery in your pocket. That helps.
Just so you know, MSRP on either one of these beauties is $812. The dot sight costs extra.

I’ve only got two raps on these ported C.O.R.E. pistols. Number One: I’d like some serrations up front on the slide. Number Two: Packing them up and sendin’ ’em back to Smith. That sucked. Connor OUT


Leupold’s DeltaPoint Reflex Sight

Fast, Enchanted Glass

How do you pack a ton of quality, technology and toughness into a teensy package weighing six tenths of an ounce? I dunno, but Leupold did it in their DeltaPoint Reflex Sight. Physically, it’s more rugged than it looks, with a hard-coated magnesium case, DiamondCoat protection on its wide-screen 1.02″ by .75″ lens, and it’s completely waterproof. Functionally, it features a full 60 MOA elevation adjustment range matched by 60-MOA of windage, a distinctive 7.5-MOA delta-shaped (a triangle, like the upper-case Greek letter “delta”) reticle that’s easy to focus on. Many users find it far easier to track with the eye than a typical round red dot.

The techno-juju is pretty stunning. Intelligent Brightness Control (IBC) automatically adjusts the brightness of the red delta reticle, not just according to the ambient light, but “forward-looking,” so it’s assessing the light specifically in the direction of your target! Other magic turns it on, turns it off after five minutes without movement, then flashes it back to life instantly when put into play. Slip the rubber cover over it, and it goes to sleep at minimum power, to awaken instantly when the hood is removed. As you move from bright light into darkness and back again, the reticle brightness adjusts at the rate of the dilation of your pupils, so your eyes aren’t lagging or playing catch-up.

There are ten different mounting bases available for a wide range of weapons, and a cross-slot base allowing mounting to any rail system. The sight can leap from handguns to carbines to shotguns to submachineguns and back again.

Otherwise, it offers the same old boring Leupold qualities, like crystal clarity, superb light transmission, easy maintenance, a full lifetime guarantee … Yawn …

The DeltaPoint Reflex Sight lists for $564 in the “all mounts” kit, and is also available with a 3.5-MOA round dot version. It’s truly a case of “You get what you pay for” — in this case, quality.
By John Connor
Photos: Chuck pittman, inc.

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A Close Look At Knives & More

Tools And Weapons — And A Couple in-Between.

Everyone should carry a knife. With so many great makers and so many creative artists, it’s easy to find a knife you’ll like. The hard part will be not buying every knife you like. There’s a great knife at every size, in every price range and every color. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a working cop — or someone with a need for a good knife — here’s something for everyone.


From Spyderco comes a fusion of a classic American folder and a Hungarian sword — two beautiful worlds collide. It’s for those times when carrying an actual sword wouldn’t be practical. I love how I feel like I should be wearing a pelt or maybe a crown with this knife. But it looks great with a suit too.


At Benchmade, now you can make your own knife. “Building” your own custom knife on the Benchmade website is great fun! You can even upload your own logo (maybe I need my own logo?). And, all this is only around $150! Or may I humbly suggest the 665 APB assist (pictured)? Aside from being a gorgeous drop-point, it’s ambidextrous. It makes assisted push-button opening perfect no matter what hand you use.


If you’re looking for a custom knife check out DMO Knives. They’re a newer knife company, smashing their way into the custom knife arena. The Breacher showed up in its own eggshell-lined box with a Blade-Tech sheath. In addition to just being cool, DMO says this knife can chop, cut, stab, pry and break glass. Of course DMO can put your own logo, colors and anything else you want on this knife. Someone is making me have logo envy.


The Warcraft Tanto by Cold Steel is 71/2″ of pure business, tested like a warrior to withstand the elements. They start by covering it in Cold Steel’s Diamond-Like Coating. This process does a whole bunch of great things for the blade, including making it scratch- and rust-resistant. To test this coating, the Cold Steel team left this knife in the woods for three months to ensure its durability. Cold Steel claims it came out woods not only rust-free but pristine!


CRKT had me at the name of this new knife. G.S.D Get.S**T.Done. Then, CRKT said this knife was safe, functional and beautiful. I found all claims to be true. This knife is also ambidextrous, and the pocket clip is dual-positioned too. The sleek lines are industrial and modern and rugged enough to get S**T done!


Bear and Son Cutlery introduced the G13 and the G131/2 Sideliner lock this year. Although the knife is very lightweight (at 2.1 or 1.9 ounces), it’s heavy on style. The cutouts on the handle shave off some weight and add to the sleek lines. The handle gives a view filled with the blade when closed. At this weight you can easily throw one in your pocket, or wherever.


The Böker Plus Urban Survival folder is 52/3″ over-all with a 15/8″ blade is slim, trim and handy. It includes a pocket clip, blade lifter and interchangeable glass-breaker and false writing pen tip. Hiding in plain sight sort of a deal. At only 1.5 oz. you don’t know it’s there until you need it.


The CASE Patriot Kirinite line combines classic American folding knife designs with the exciting new Kirinite handle material in eye-catching red/white/blue colors. Kirinite is smooth, but never slippery and is a perfect match to CASE’s folders.


Al Mar’s new S.E.R.T. (Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team) automatic has machined aluminum scales and ergonomics providing a secure grip, important if lives are on the line. The ambi-pocket clip provides great retention and comfort, all the while allowing the knife to ride deep in the pocket for security and a low profile! Typical Al Mar high quality shows in the fit and finish.


Bad Blood’s David Mosier designed Drifter Tanto is a lightweight, everyday carry fixed blade, with layered G10 handle scales contoured for a sure grip. The fitted sheath is nylon-fiber reinforced and can be belt- or pack-carried. Blade length is 31/2″, overall length is 71/2″. It’s surprisingly lightweight!


SOG’s fixed blade “Tangle” is minimalist but full of tough-knife style. The paracord-wrapped handle hides the full-tang blade construction. Blade length is 4.85″ and is a coated stainless, able to withstand being thrown if the mood strikes you. The sheath offers a synthetic belt clip you can attach in place of the conventional belt loop.


This nifty set-up from Timberline (Gatco) is from their Alaskan Series. It combines the Alaskan Skinner (440 Stainless, 1/4″ thickness, 3.65″ blade) with their Alaskan Bush Pilot Hatchet, also 1/4″ stainless. Both are tank-tough and a nice change from the urban-survival EDC trend. These are serious survival/outdoor tools at home in anyone’s trunk, truck or pack.
By Aimee Grant

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Japan’s WWII Handguns

Odd — But Mostly Functional.

Like most shooters of the baby boomer generation, I grew up with a great disdain for all things Japanese. So when I began assembling a collection of World War II firearms, I made a conscious effort to avoid those from the Empire of The Rising Sun. Gun’riter bucks are just too hard to come by.

This attitude didn’t last long because it made no sense to have the weapons fielded by the US, Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union but exclude Japan’s. Still, I felt they’d be contemptible. They are not — odd, perhaps, in some regards. Poorly thought out in other matters, but when it comes to basic manufacturing quality, they are not second rate. That statement goes for handguns. “Last Ditch” rifles are another matter.

My first Japanese handgun is the one most commonly encountered nowadays and likely was during the war years too. It’s the Type 14 semi-auto, commonly called “Nambu” after the Japanese ordnance officer credited with its design.

Very vaguely it resembles a German Luger but is completely different in function. In fact Bill Ruger leaned heavily on the basic design of the Nambu semi-auto pistol when developing his very first handgun — the Mark I .22. Essentially Nambu pistols of the Type 14 and earlier are a tube inside which slides a bolt. The barrel is affixed to the tube and cartridges fed into the chamber by means of a traditional 8-round magazine inserted into the pistol’s grip. In order to strip the first round from the magazine the bolt is pulled rearward by means of a knurled endcap on the bolt. Thereafter the pistol fires semi-auto, with the bolt being retained back after the last round.


Japan saw to it every officer had two things — a sword and a pistol.


Three contemporary handguns of World War II. The U.S. Model 1911, the Japanese
Type 14 and the German Luger — very different but serving the same purpose.

First Bad Idea

Here is one of those poor design features. The bolt is held solely by the magazine and some effort is required to pull it free. The bolt then slams shut and must be retracted again to chamber a fresh cartridge from the new magazine. Type 14’s also have a disconnecting device preventing the pistol from being fired if its magazine is absent.

The Type 14’s barrel length is 4.5″ and weight is 32 ounces empty. It’s not going to gain much weight when fully loaded as its 8mm cartridge holds a 102-gr. bullet in a bottleneck-shaped case like no other in the world. According to various sources, muzzle velocity is listed at 900 to 1,000 fps. Some Type 14’s have a very oddly shaped triggerguard which dates them as post-1939 manufacture. It bulges far forward and its purpose is to allow gloved fingers to enter freely.

Most Americans equate combat with Japan to the jungles of the South Pacific but it’s a fact prior to 1940 the Imperial Japanese Army trained and equipped primarily to fight in north China and even Siberia.

Type 14 sights are a rear-machined integral with the receiver and a blade front dovetailed into a stud atop the barrel. Front sights can be drifted laterally for windage. Grips are wood with lateral serrations. Magazines have aluminum endcaps.


The basic design of the Type 14 was a bolt sliding within a tube.
Bill Ruger leaned on it for his .22 Mark I in the 1950’s.


The Japanese Type 26 revolver had one unique feature. Pulling down the triggerguard allows the
sideplate to swing away so the internal parts can be cleaned or replaced as needed.


Japanese holsters were of the “clamshell” design, covering the handguns completely.
The holster for Type 14’s actually had a special slot for carrying a spare firing pin.
(Shown lying atop the holster.)

Type 94

Japan’s other commonly issued World War II semi-auto is the Type 94, also chambering their 8mm cartridge. It’s truly one of the oddest-looking handguns I’ve ever seen. The grip is rather short because the magazine only holds six rounds and also rather small as befit the hands of Japanese troops from the World War II era. Barrel length is 3.8″ and weight is only 28 ounces. There’s also a magazine disconnecting device in this pistol.

Type 94 sights are machined as part of the receiver and have no provision for adjustment. It’s actually difficult for me to describe the exact mode of assembly of the Type 94 because it’s so unlike anything of my experience. Unlike the Type 14, its barrel is definitely separate from the frame and there’s a slide into which the barrel fits, but again it’s unlike anything we have today. Manufacturing quality of this later Japanese semi-auto is also far cruder than the Type 14. Its grips are synthetic, plastic or perhaps hard rubber.

Japan’s Hetai (soldiers) serving as paratroopers were issued both Type 14’s and Type 94’s. The Rikusentai (naval infantry) serving as paratroopers were given the Type 94’s only. They were dropped with the pistols and hand grenades with their rifles and machineguns coming down in canisters. The idea was if they had to fight in order to get to their primary weapons what they carried would suffice. Also the crews of Japanese light machineguns (LMGs) were issued pistols but in practice many crewmembers also carried carbines. Otherwise semi-auto pistols were reserved for officers and aircrew.


During World War II the Japanese Army and Navy fielded three basic models of handguns.
The Type 14 8mm (top) was most common. The Type 94 8mm was mostly issued to air crew
and the Type 26 9mm revolver (right) was issued to NCO’s.


This odd shape of the Type 14 is for easy access with a gloved finger because prior
to 1940 Japan planned mostly for its aggression to be in North China and Siberia.

Type 26

But there was another handgun seeing considerable service in World War II, although it had been declared obsolete long before hostilities commenced. It was the Type 26 9mm revolver. And when I say 9mm we are talking about the 9mm Japanese revolver cartridge and not the 9mm Parabellum adapted to revolvers, as happened with the .45 ACP.

The Type 26 was introduced in the 1890’s for Japanese cavalry troops. In form and function it seems to have been derived from American S&W .44 Russian top break revolvers, which the Japanese purchased thousands of in the 1880’s. Barrel length is 4.69″ and weight is 2.25 pounds. Sights are groove milled into the topstrap with a half-moon-type front sight forged integral with the barrel. The sights too are very reminiscent of Smith & Wesson revolvers from the timeframe. Cylinder capacity is six rounds. Grips are checkered wood.

Now we get to the differences. The Type 26 is double-action-only. In fact the hammer has no spur on it at all. And the sideplate on the left side of the frame is definitely unique. If the trigger guard is pulled down, the sideplate swings back like a door. The inner workings are exposed for easy cleaning and repair. Whereas Type 26’s were originally issued to cavalrymen, according to my research in World War II they were reserved for non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

The Japanese fielded many other handguns: earlier versions of Nambu’s, .455 Webley’s captured from the British at Hong Kong and Singapore and .44 S&W Russian top breaks. Lt. Col. John George, in his book “Shots Fired In Anger” said he saw Colt Single Action Army revolvers recovered from the bodies of Japanese officers on Guadalcanal. The three described here are typical of those manufactured in the home islands.


Duke’s 8mm Japanese Nambu handloads with an original military round a
US Marine brought home from Iwo Jima.


This photo shows a 9mm Japanese revolver cartridge in comparison with a
.38 Special cartridge. Brass for the 9mm can be made by shortening .38
Special cases and narrowing its rim.


In RCBS’ special order section, Duke discovered a bullet mold specifically
for the 8mm Japanese Nambu.

Ammo and Holsters

I’d like to mention just a bit about their ammunition and holsters. No factory ammunition is available for 8mm Nambu or 9mm Japanese Revolver. Cases for the 8mm made by Starline exclusively for Huntington Die Specialties are available, and RCBS even has the proper bullet mould in their special order section. Cases for the 9mm Revolver are not commercially available but they can be made from .38 Specials trimmed to 0.08″. Then their rims must be thinned to 0.05″. For bullets, the 147-gr. roundnose lead type of 0.356″ diameter as sold for regular 9mms works well.

I load the 8mm Nambu with the above bullet over 3.5 grains of Titegroup powder. For the 9mm revolver I use 2.7 grains of Bullseye, again with the mentioned bullets. Velocities are pretty near exactly what military loads are rated.

Like most military holsters, the Japanese preferred the clamshell style covering and protecting the pistol. I have the original holster for the Type 26 and a replica from World War Supply for the Type 14. Both holsters have built-in pouches for extra ammo, and the one for the Type 14 even has a slot for a spare firing pin. Unlike most military holsters the Japanese did not design them to be carried on a person’s belt. They had a long strap and were carried over the shoulder, hanging down near the belt. Officers and NCO’s were also issued swords. I suppose those had to go in the belt.

The Type 94 shown doesn’t belong to me. I still can’t make myself shell out bucks for one. But the Type 14 and Type 94 are mine and I shoot both. It’s hard to quantify the level of accuracy given by the revolver since it’s double action only, but the Type 14 is capable of fine precision. I can whack dueling tree paddles quickly with it. The only trouble is they don’t move much after being hit.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino

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The Star Model B 9mm

For Those Who Prefer — “Cocked-And Locked” Carry. It’s Perfect.

After 104 years, one might think the old US Government Model 1911 would be relegated to the antique realm. We all know how that turned out, don’t we? It’s a tribute to the design genius of John Moses Browning. Even so, for some of us, it’s a problem. Factor in age, physical problems and hand size, and sometimes the felt-recoil of the .45 Auto cartridges is a bit too much.

Yes, the old fellow has been made in 9mm chambering, but the “big name” versions are quite pricey. Thanks to Century Arms, there’s an economical alternative in the Star Model B. There are some internal differences, but in its appearance and operation, it’s a GM 1911. Externally, the only difference is a good one — there’s no grip-safety. John Moses would have approved. He never liked it and it was added only at the insistence of the Army.


Compared to a 1911, you can see while similar, the Model B has no
grip safety and other minor mechanical differences — mostly better!


Taken down, the Star Model B shows classic GM 1911 construction in its
major parts, however, the trigger pivots and there is no slide stop
plunger tube on the frame, among other differences.


Even during the unpleasantness of a civil war in the late 1930’s, there were three Spanish handgun makers that never let the quality slip. Astra, Llama and Star. The Star firm was founded by Bonifacio Echeverria in the early years of the last century, and lasted until December, 2000. The final blow was denial of export permits by the local government. Hence, no money.

Let’s get back to the pistol. According to the serial number, my sample Model B from Century Arms was made in 1945, at the end of World War II. The finish is an even matte blue, and it has only commercial proof marks. There’s no indication it was used by the military or the Guardia Civil, or the post-war German police.

The “double-diamond” pattern of the walnut grips adds to its classic GM 1911 appearance. The position and operation of the slide latch, manual safety and magazine release button are exactly the same. The magazine holds eight rounds of 9mm. The weight and length are very close to the 1911, and at 5″ the barrel length is identical. In cross-section, it’s a little thinner, at just a hair over 1″.


The Star Model B’s external extractor differs from
the Colt 1911 yet seems to work just fine.


This 1945 vintage Model B in 9mm showed top-quality construction
and felt somewhat slimmer in the hand than a 1911.

Minor Things

Now, the small mechanical differences. The trigger is a pivoting type, not sliding like the old GM. On this sample, average release is 6 pounds, with minimal take-up and no over-travel. Gone is the little tube-that-comes-loose on the left side of the frame. The manual safety and the slide latch have their own internal positioning plungers and springs.
The manual safety is actually stronger. The one on the old GM interposes a small tip to block the sear. The Star rolls a large steel cross-bar into a matching recess in the hammer. There’s no way this system could ever break. Thus, for those who prefer “cocked-and-locked” carry, it’s perfect.

One word of caution: European police and military often specify that issue pistols must have a full-reach, non-inertia firing pin, and the Star Model B has one. So, you must never carry it with the chamber loaded and the hammer fully down. The “half-cock” notch would also be inadvisable, as a drop could break the sear, or the sear-step on the hammer. So, empty chamber, or cocked-and-locked, okay?

At the Big Tree range, I tried the Model B with one of my favorite loads, the 147-gr. JHP from Black Hills, in deference to my eyes, I opt for 7-yard, standing these days, with a two-hand hold. That’d get the job done for me! The square-picture sights are good, and the rear one is laterally adjustable by drifting. On this pistol, that wasn’t necessary. As expected, the felt-recoil was mild.

Slow firing gave me consistent tight groups as you might imagine at that distance. Rapid-fire ones opened up a bit, of course. Reloader-friendly, the Model B tossed the empty cases into a small area, about 8′ feet to right rear. I’ll bet, with the right ammo and good eyes (!) this might be a 4″ or 5″ gun at 25 yards. Not bad for a bone-stock military auto over 70 years old!

For more info:; Century Arms, Ph: (800) 527-1252.

By J.B. Wood
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Why Do We Shoot?

A Culture Of Marksmanship

I enjoy shooting. More specifically, I enjoy hitting the target, hearing the gratifying clang of steel or watching a reactive target do its work. Millions of other people do as well — but surprisingly few marksmen ever ask: why do we shoot?

This question first occurred to me while testing a new rifle at our Oregon ranch. Using a field position (I can freely admit: there wasn’t a bench at the intersection of the state and county road!), I had just hit a 12″ plate three times out of three at 880 yards. Right then, my father drove up, and apparently I still had the silly grin slapped on my face, prompting him to ask what I was smiling about. His own smile belied the practiced grumpiness in his voice.

With ill-disguised false modesty, I relayed my triumph in the blandest terms possible — something about proving my new 168-gr. handloads. With a noncommittal grunt, Dad cautioned me about wearing out the barrel and drove off, leaving me to ponder a dilemma.


The explosion of interest in the AR (Modern Sporting Rifle) has introduced tens
of thousands of new shooters to the fun of precision rifle shooting.


The ability to shoot a rifle with precision can yield results like this. Suzi Huntington
with a custom Model 70 Winchester in .30-06 in Nambia proudly posing next to her trophy Gemsbok.

Mixed Feelings

As I packed the Robar custom rifle in its case, I realized I had mixed feelings. Certainly I was happy with the gun, my handloads and my performance. But I couldn’t help but wonder why did I feel so good? It was something more than simply hitting a relatively small target at half a mile.

Part of the reason, obviously, was the immediate feedback: I knew instantly whether I’d been successful. But what was it about ringing the gong three times in a row to make it feel so rewarding?

Unable to answer this question, I began trying to dissect my marksman’s emotions. The deeper I delved into the subject, the more complicated it became. Clearly I needed help — a larger sampling.

So in 1997, I began taking an informal poll, asking dozens of marksmen from various disciplines — including archery — why they liked to shoot. What is it about hitting a mark with some type of projectile to make it so appealing? After the first few responses I realized some restrictions were necessary if the survey were to hold any relevance. I began narrowing the focus, eliminating generic responses such as “It’s fun” or “I can get away for awhile.”

At this point, I began getting nowhere incredibly fast. When shooters were asked to be more specific, the inevitable response was a prolonged silence, following an “I’ll have to get back to you.”

One important factor emerged early: concentration. As the legendary Rob Leatham says, “When I’m shooting I can’t think about anything else. I have to focus on what I’m doing, and that’s relaxing for me.” Any serious marksman agrees: mortgages, appointments, and politics simply vanish for the duration of the shot or series of shots. Therefore, shooting is relaxing.

“But,” exclaim the antigunners, “so is golf or tennis or tiddlywinks.” Which may be true, as shooting holds some of the attraction found in other accuracy games, but there’s a sensory difference: “Shooting is like golf, only much louder,” according to a Florida pistol competitor.

An Arizona marksman agrees, saying, “The stronger the stimulus, the stronger the response.” Another Arizonian flatly explains, “I like recoil.”


“Why we shoot” is often simply because “messing around” with guns is interesting. Learning
the accessories and even how to build guns similar to this model from Daniel Defense, can
be rewarding. Photo: Robbie Barrkman


Husbands and wives have found spending time honing marksmanship skills can make
a nice change from the routine!


Many competitors say the focus needed to compete helps them to relax and forget the
daily grind. Here, Roy Huntington, editor of Handgunner, takes a turn at the Colt
side match at a recent Bianchi Cup.

Getting Philosophical

Addressing the inherent appeal of accuracy, an attorney places shooting in context, “A whole category of games are based on accuracy: taking this object here and placing it accurately there. Not just combat-based games like archery, but horseshoes, tiddlywinks, darts, bowling, pool/billiards and golf. We like those things because they’re hard to do, and there’s satisfaction in doing something difficult. Getting this ball from here into a little hole over there, 300 yards away, is hard, especially with — as Mark Twain said — ‘an instrument totally unsuited to the purpose.’

“Shooting has the appeal of an accuracy sport as well as a power sport. In addition to controlling power — like motorcycles, horses and airplanes — you get to exercise control of self, another of the essentials of our human-ness.”

Consider this from Seth Nadel, a retired Customs agent, competitor and instructor who compares shooting to other sports. “Why is shooting fun? Why is golf fun? (No really, I’d like to know that one.) Why is horseback riding fun, or skydiving, snorkeling, bike riding or any sport?

“Actually, shooting and riding horses are similar, in we learn to control a lot of power in either case. Politicians crave power over people. Most of us want to have control over some form of power, and guns offer the additional benefit of allowing us, in extremis, to control our environment. While satisfying our desire for control, we also can learn to use safety equipment to save lives.”

Others cited less tangible reasons, such as a California instructor who eloquently replied, “I enjoy the rich history of skill at arms, as well as appreciating the engineering genius behind the birth to these artifacts. My involvement in shooting makes me feel part of the continuum of history and gives me a greater appreciation of the works of historical figures.”


Old-school rifle shooting can be relaxing and a good way to experience some
historical perspective on shooting. This is a Shilo Sharps rifle in .45-70.


Why shoot? For the owner of this Colt Navy, it was to protect themselves. This is
one of a pair of Colts belonging to Wild Bill Hickock. It’s at the Cody Museum,
in Cody, Wyoming.


For many shooting means time spent on ranges with friends.


More and more women are embracing shooting at every level. Here, Suzi Huntington
takes aim at a Missouri deer while hunting from a blind. Pistol is a
Thompson Center Contender.

Some Common Trends

Delving deeper, two key factors emerged from the poll: distance and control.

Shooting has to do with action at a distance: “You do something here, something happens over there,” says a civilian marksman.

A military professional agreed, “Man is a control freak. Not only does he want to be in control of himself, but also over everything he can manage … even at extended ranges.”

Control — especially self-control — is a recurring theme. A Marine Corps sergeant explained, “I think it has to do with man overcoming and controlling the forces or laws of nature. Taking it a step more, I’m sure some would say it all boils down to control.”

Almost as important as common trends, like control, were the omissions. Several respondents listed more than one factor, but nobody cited hunting as a major reason for why they enjoy shooting. While many shooters are hunters, not all hunters are recreational marksmen. Even though filling the stew pot is rewarding for many people, it has little to do with the specific attraction of shooting well.

The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gassett wrote in Meditations on Hunting, “One does not hunt in order to kill; one kills in order to have hunted.” Clearly, the same applies to our survey: thousands of accomplished shooters have never used a firearm to kill anything.

Similarly, the few references to power seemed to belie the old claim firearms represent a surrogate for sex. Presumably, the subject had been put to bed — so to speak — when psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud reputedly wrote in General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, “A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.”

A word search of the 1920 text produces several weapons references but not the specific phrase. However, online citations indicate he might have made the statement in a previous lecture or a later edition.

In any case, apparently Dr. Freud — who almost certainly was not a shooter — understood what marksmen know empirically: shooting is a mental exercise. The payoff occurs above the neck, not below the belt.


The skill and discipline it takes to learn to safely handle a gun and to hit the target
is almost universally enjoyed by kids. Taking the time to teach gun safety and how to
properly handle a gun is time well invested for any adult. Here, Jack takes very careful
aim during his first lessons with a Savage Rascal .22 rimfire.


A proud Jack shows off his first-ever target!


The challenge of hunting big game will always be a draw as to
“why we shoot.” Here’s a nice Kudu in Zimbabwe.

Inside The Mind

The shooting scribe best known to the public is Pulitzer Prize winner and novelist Stephen Hunter, author of the immensely successful Bob Lee Swagger sniper series. A serious student of the game, he’s devoted considerable thought to the psychic aspects of marksmanship.

“To people who know nothing, we shoot for a sense of power, domination, destruction. We smell blood. We’re on some twisted macho death spiral, carrying ourselves and our civilization to oblivion,” he says.

“I wish it were that interesting! In fact, I shoot not for the inflation of ego, but for its deflation. Next to the gun, I am nothing and my real life, with its complexities, ironies, betrayals, regrets, failures and disappointments, goes away. The gun is a psychic steam bath to cleanse and refresh and reboot. I love the fact Steve Hunter vanishes and there’s only some narrow intellect guiding a somewhat shaky physical plant to achieve the classic strength, calm and perfection of the shot. I’ll never get there, but trying is almost a faith. It purifies you not in the accomplishment, but in the effort.”

Because challenges begin in the mind, a frequently cited reason for shooting is the personal test it presents. Jim Coxen, a Vietnam veteran and cofounder of Oregon IPSC, says, “Some people like to challenge themselves to do something well. With me, it was shooting.

“The challenge is always there to learn to do it better and not to let your performance slide. With me, at least, there’s also been an admiration for warriors and a very strong desire to be one. I fired expert the first time I qualified with a rifle in the Marines, and every time after. I would have been very disappointed in myself if I had lost my qualification.

“I believe when anyone does something well they usually enjoy doing it, which has led me to shooting for fun most of my life. Knowing what I am capable of with a gun also gives me a certain peace of mind.”

Beyond the immediate satisfaction of hitting a mark, frequently sport and survival overlap as motivations. Dwight Van Horn, a former LA deputy sheriff, explains, “Between 1973 and 1976 I shot for fun and to hone my handgun skills. In 1976, I was involved in an off-duty fatal shooting which really showed me how much more I needed to shoot to protect myself and the citizens I was sworn to protect. I started shooting competitively, which gave me lots of trigger time and elevated my skill level and confidence. I shot competitively until 1998, mindful the pistol matches were my continued honing of my skills.

“I retired in 1999 after 27 years as a LEO. I still shoot quite often. In addition to the handguns I’ve always shot I now shoot rifles and shotguns as well. I still shoot to keep my skills honed and to protect my wife and me; she shoots as well.

Shooting remains fun but nowadays my reason for wanting my skills to remain sharp is to protect my freedoms — paid for in blood since 1776. I certainly hope I don’t have to spill my blood to preserve my freedoms, but if I do, I will. My 40 years of shooting will pretty much also guarantee mine won’t be the only blood spilled that day.”


This Colt Dragoon (a replica) is filled with historical significance. History
plays a powerful role in shooting for many. Photo: Jonathan Marmand


The ability to deliver a well-aimed shot at distance (“do something here which affects
something way out there”) is compelling and drives many shooters to hone their skills.

Important Takeaways

So, how do we summarize this survey? Clearly, there are a variety of reasons for shooting, and many — perhaps most — are separate from the practical applications of self-preservation. Very few marksmen directly addressed the initial question: what is the attraction of striking a target, whether at 10 yards or 1,000?

To a large extent, the question answers itself. Shooting by definition involves conquering distance. (Remember: “You do something here; something happens over there.”)
However, nobody conquers distance with accuracy unless he conquers himself, which is why marksmen invariably are “control freaks.” They possess the motivation and the discipline to control their equipment, their bodies, and — most of all — their minds. Fully 40 percent of my respondents cited control of self or their environment as a primary reward for shooting.

Beyond self-defense and hunting, shooting icon Jeff Cooper deemed mastery of firearms “a good thing and it has served to overcome the customary feelings of inadequacy and insecurity encountered while growing up.” He noted after he began shooting at age eleven he had no further nightmares.

Cooper touched upon another little-noted aspect. Other than grass eaters and meat eaters, he believed the world was populated with “copers” and “non-copers.” He wrote, “the shooting master copes, and he is thus heavily armored against those anxieties that come from membership in the human race.”

In the years since my original inquiries, the nation has changed dramatically. Like most of you, I grew up with firearms as part of the environment. To me, they were as present as airplanes — though you’ll look hard to find the phrase “airplane culture.” I hadn’t heard the phrase “gun culture” until a reporter used it when Sandy Froman was elected NRA president in 2005.

Since then, “gun culture” has largely been a pejorative term in the mainstream media, and I realized I didn’t arise from a culture of guns. (Wes Hardin famously stated, “I am a gentleman of guns.”) But I come from a culture of marksmanship.

In the end, perhaps the answer as to why we shoot can only be found within ourselves. Each marksman has a personal reason for his pursuit, and each finds satisfaction and accomplishment within the parameters he (or she) sets for himself. In the end, this is enough.

So next time you take your favorite 1911 or rifle out to the range or (if you’re lucky enough!) the backyard, take a moment to reflect on why you enjoying shooting. And then keep on ringin’ steel.
By Barrett Tillman

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Cabot Guns

Reinventing The 1911.

The best guns aren’t guns at all — they’re ideas. In addition to good parts carefully selected and well-fit — they possess a philosophical underpinning giving the gun a cohesiveness and unity transcending mere function. In the case of the Cabot 1911, this underpinning is deeply rooted in the idea of American exceptionalism, and in a belief system governing both Cabot and the company with whom they collaborate in making their 1911, Penn United.

In all candor, this was not the first thing I thought about when I saw a Cabot 1911 at the NRA Show in 2011 when the pistol debuted. Frankly, I was shocked at the price tag, starting around $4,000. Fast forward a year, and I found myself in the Pennsylvania countryside north of Pittsburgh, sitting in a conference room with Cabot Guns President Rob Bianchin and Barry Barton, the VP of Penn United, the high-precision manufacturer where Cabot pistols are actually made. Before we got into the nuts and bolts of the gun, I needed to learn something about the company.


Why They Are

Penn United was founded by Robert Becker, Charles Barton and Carl Jones, who began operating a machine shop in a 3-bay garage. The business now employs some 600 people, as well as operating LIGHT (Learning Institute for the Growth of High Technology) an onsite training facility teaching the craft to employees of both Penn United and other companies alike, and manufacturing carbide tooling and precision parts ranging from aerospace and medical industries to computer parts.

Between what they actually make and the tooling they produce, they’re fond of saying, whether you know it or not, Penn United touches your life every day. They don’t just make things, they make the things that make things. As a company intensely focused on its employees, they also shape the people — who make the things.

The employees all share in the company’s profits. “Ordinary people do the extraordinary things in this world, they just do it without a lot of fanfare,” Bianchin tells me, as we sit at the conference room’s masterfully inlaid wooden table — made by founder Carl Jones. He then adds “We want to support each other; every single person here is valued.”

“It’s everybody in the shop carrying the load everyday,” echoes Bill Jones, President of Penn United and Carl Jones’ son, “I’m just the conductor.” Perhaps also because of his own experience at the company — he started by sweeping floors at the garage shop, and had to work at another machine shop before his father would hire him at the new facility — Jones shows a genuine appreciation for the people who work there. When the economy took a sharp downturn in 2008, leaving some of the machines and their operators idle, he looked for a project to give the employees something to do — something they could be proud of, something to boost morale.


The Gun Project

Once the decision was made to build a gun — a first for Penn United — there were two things which really weren’t even questions. First, the gun would be a 1911. And second, it would be the best they could make it. “This is the 1911,” I was told. “We are not making a gun. We are reproducing history in today’s world.”

Cost was no object, because the gun was never intended to be sold. The original idea was to simply give the employees a rallying project during a time of economic uncertainty. Part of the morale-building exercise was to build a gun reflecting not only how they work, but also how they thought. It would showcase the American tradesman, and the gun would be all-American. Not only is it machined in the US, the billet steel used (4140 for carbon, 420 stainless) is American, all the way down to the source origination, which they verify using the Buy American Act.

The wood? Grown in the US. In fact, some of the walnut comes from trees milled by Bill Jones, who runs a small mill in his spare time. And if your pistol comes with a supple sheet of leather for cleaning — you guessed it, that’s from a local deer. When they say all-American, they mean it.


This is the result of a high-tech machining company
deciding they’d like to make a 1911!

Millionths Of An Inch

The actual manufacture of the pistol is a natural outflow of the company’s core competency — precision. As makers of carbide tools, they’re used to working in measurements going down to the millionths of an inch — dimensions so small they can be changed by the heat from your hand. This doesn’t mean the moving parts in the gun are only separated by tolerances that small; it means when they select the size they want to make a part (say, a slide rail), that’s pretty much what it is.

It bears mentioning the Cabot 1911 could never have sprung into life in any other environment. The technology and CNC equipment required to manufacture parts to this degree of precision is unbelievably expensive. Many of the individual machines run near the half-million dollar mark. From a business perspective, it would be absolutely impossible to fund a manufacturing facility like this from scratch and ever expect to make enough money to stay in business.

This focus on precision is also what led to what those familiar with the 1911 world can only call a radical approach to building the gun — there’s no hand work. I observed this firsthand after I toured the factory, seeing the waterjet where the blocks of certified steel are roughed out into the profile of a 1911 is only one amazing procedure. There are CNC machines, and the grinding technology capable of holding 20 millionths of an inch (ten times more accurate than most CNC machines). Wire EDM machines cutting the irregular shapes, the polishing department where men with loupes polish the finished parts to an impossibly fine surface finish, and the testing area where the finished components are individually measured with a computer-controlled touch probe at all critical dimensions, begin to flesh out what I’m talking about here. After that, and still more than a little mesmerized by what I had seen, Bianchin walked me into the assembly area to meet Ray Rozic.

After mentioning that the parts all interchange, Rozic handed me a receiver and slide at random from their rack near the wall, and invited me to try them. I slipped the slide effortlessly on the frame, and it glided smoothly back and forth with virtually no play. They handed me another — same thing. And then a third, which barely started and stuck in place, refusing to go further. Rozic reached for it. When he pushed a little harder, the slide went back. He worked it a few times, then handed it back to me, where I found it slick as glass. Bluing buildup, he said.
He and Bianchin showed me finished pistols in all the different configurations they make, including their intriguing left-hand pistol, a feat only a handful of other makers have ever attempted. “We’ve decided to send you a Jones,” Bianchin tells me.


Jeremy had this spectacular 0.43″ 25-yard group with Zero ammo.

My Test Gun

The flagship of the Cabot line, and named after the beloved founder of Penn United who passed away in 2006, the visual elements of the Jones pistol come from architect Tom Pierce, who added the three distinctive “Trinity stripes,” in the cocking serrations.

Gloriously, drippingly black, the test gun came in a clear acrylic locking case serving as a display case. Topped with white dot Novak sights — adjustable rear, dovetail front — the slide of the Jones is flattopped and serrated, with a distinctive, near-full profile barrel bushing. The end of the full-length guide rod (the only feature I’d omit) has a star machined into it, a theme reappearing in the trigger in place of the customary round lightening holes. Even the edges that look square have been lightly broken to make the gun user-friendly. Through the lowered and lightly flaired ejection port you can see the words “KART 45 NM,” giving credit where it’s due to the famed barrel maker, and when you jack the slide, the gleaming mirror finish on both the pistol’s feed ramps is impossible to miss.

The receiver is similarly well-appointed. The frontstrap and mainspring housing are both well-checkered at 20 lines per inch, and the magazine well is appropriately beveled around its rear and sides. The controls consist of a broad, extended ambidextrous thumb safety and a well-shaped beavertail, with a speedbump and a barely-noticeable step where the rear of the frame meets it. The trigger has a rounded, knurled face like the original M1911A1 trigger, and drops the Commander-style hammer crisply after perhaps 1/16″ takeup. There is no creep, no overtravel — it feels perfect.


Cabot uses water jet cutting technology to render the raw barstock frames.
Note the additional steel used for jig fixturing, machined off later.


Cabot can hold tolerances in millionths of an inch,
so holding to 1/10,000 is easy!


On the range, it does what you would expect, ringing my 25-yard 45/8″ steel plate regularly when shot by hand, from a modified Weaver position. While I usually run test guns without cleaning or oiling them, I found the Jones did need a little oil on the slide rails after a couple hundred rounds, reminding me of the first time I had the slide rails tightened on a pistol. The gunsmith looked at me sternly and said, “You can never shoot this pistol without oil again.” Point taken — precision requires lubrication. Otherwise, it ran flawlessly for somewhere between 300 and 400 rounds, feeding everything from ball to jacketed hollowpoint without hesitation, including 100 rounds of my dirty-burning cast lead handloads.

In initial Ransom Rest testing, the Jones averaged just under 3″ for all rounds tested, with a best group of a little over 1.5″. Since those results were significantly below what Cabot expects based on their own in-house testing, they sent me a second pistol for testing, as well as a second barrel for the first gun, since they had discovered some consistency issues with the barrels used at the time the first pistol was built.

Back in the Ransom Rest with its new barrel, the average dropped to 2.3″, which is exactly what the second pistol did as well, with a superb .43″ best group. In all fairness to the gun, the hardball load tested shot between 3″ and 4″, and had I removed that one load from the test numbers, the results would have been far better. In all honesty, using just the best shooting ammo, these guns deliver consistent accuracy in the 1.5″ or less — usually less — range, at 25 yards.

As an aside, for those of us who’ve spent many years hard-fitting 1911 barrels and know what’s usually required to make an 1911 shoot well, the fact Cabot was able to send me an off-the-shelf barrel that dropped into the gun, functioned and cut the group size that much is simply astounding, and a true testament to how precisely the pistols are made.

In addition to the bravery and dedication of the American citizen-soldier, part of what won World War II was America’s ability to out-produce Germany. If you have any doubt of that, read Clawson or one of the other books detailing how quickly companies like Remingon Rand tooled up to make pistols. It’s a combination of the hand holding the gun and the hand making it which has kept America exceptional in many ways.

Cabot has taken that proud manufacturing heritage combining technology and the tradesmen who make it work, and distilled it into a finely-built 1911 I can only describe as exceptional.
By Jeremy D. Clough
Photos By Robbie Barrkman

For more info:, (724) 524-1002

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The .45 Colt

History And Surprising Facts About
This Iconic Cartridge.

About a decade ago I caused a considerable stir in Handgunner’s pages by writing I didn’t particularly like the .45 Colt as a smokeless powder cartridge. And I still don’t. The .45 Auto-Rim is better with smokeless in standard-sized revolvers.

I have nothing but respect for the .45 Colt as it was developed originally in the black powder era. For the purposes for which it was intended nothing beat it back then. Be sure of this, the .45 Colt and its introductory revolver were developed with one purpose in mind: to be the sidearm of horse-mounted troops. Its big bullet was intended not only to knock down human adversaries but also for putting their horses out of commission.

To that end the government testers developed a cartridge case longer than any other made before. It was 1.29″ long as opposed to 1.10″ for the .44 Colt or 0.91″ for the .44 S&W American. Those two are used as examples because between 1871 and 1873 the US Army purchased 1,000 Smith & Wesson Model #3 and 1,200 Colt Richards Conversion revolvers chambered for their respective companies’ .44’s. Both of those rounds used about 210-gr. bullets (sources vary) over 23 to 28 grains of black powder (again sources vary).

For decades, many firearm magazines have listed 40-gr. of black powder as the .45 Colt military load used. Except that’s not true. In developmental testing, some 40-gr. charges were tried but proved too much for the wrought iron frames of early Colt revolvers. The .45 Colt loads produced by the US Government’s Frankford Arsenal used 30 grains of black powder. Also commonly written is that early .45 Colt loads used 255-gr. bullets. Wrong again. They were 250-gr. conical bullets with two lube grooves and a hollowbase.


These are four of Duke’s .45 Colts. The two on the left are Colt
“Peacemaker Centennials” as sold in 1975. On the right is a 1984
Colt from the Custom Shop along with the now defunct US Firearms
“Custer Battlefield” .45.


The evolution of the US Army’s handguns from 1871 to 1875. From
bottom up: S&W .44 American, Colt Richards Conversion .44, Colt
“Strap Pistol” .45 and S&W Model #3 .45 with Schofield Patents.


The S&W Model #3 accepted as substitute standard by the US Army
contained patents held by a Major Schofield, whose brother
“happened” to be a Major General at the time.

More Errors

Here’s something else commonly written: “Colt initially named this new handgun the Single Action Army.” Oops … not so. In the beginning it was called the New Strap Pistol — the strap being the top strap connecting the two parts of the frame. I’m hoping someone is mentally asking, “Why did Colt begin incorporating a topstrap with this model?” It was because the big .45 bullets whacked into barrel forcing cones so hard they actually bent the front of the frames. The top strap stopped the bending.

Those early Frankford Arsenal .45 Colt loads were made with copper cases — not brass. Primers were centerfire, but held inside the case. Due to those two factors government .45 Colts were not reloadable. Early in the 1880’s the switch was made to brass for cases, and changed to outside priming. After that the army began assembling and issuing reloading kits to troops so they could actually have enough ammunition for meaningful practice.

All government-purchased Colt .45’s were the same: color case-hardened frames and hammers with the rest of the metal blued. All had 71/2″ barrels, grooves down the topstrap for rear sight and a rather small blade front. Grips for all were one piece — truly cut from one piece of walnut. The grip frame consisted of two pieces, the backstrap and the triggerguard, and the wood inletted so those items fit around it.

The backstrap and triggerguard were held to each other and to the main frame by six screws. And that’s probably the reason each New Strap Pistol was sold to the government with a screwdriver as part of the purchase price. You can beat a Colt single action every which way and it will still work, but those six screws have to be kept tight.


Colt was the only company to chamber .45 Colt in the late 1800’s but
Remington did make some of their Model 1875 as test vehicles. They were
never offered for sale. Inset on right: When sold to the US government
Colt .45’s were stamped “US” on the left side. However, some so marked
were rejected and sold on the civilian market.



All Colt .45 revolvers sold to the US government between
1873 and 1892 had the screw angling in from the front of the
frame for securing the cylinder base pin.

Army Inspectors

US Army officers served as inspectors, stationed at the Colt factory. They were equipped with sets of gauges, plugs and measuring instruments. Somewhere during manufacture, revolvers intended for the government got a “US” stamped on the frame’s left side under the cylinder. That did not automatically mean the Colt was accepted. When one was deemed good enough the inspectors stamped a “cartouche” containing their initials into the left side of the walnut grip.

There exist early Colt .45’s with the “US” stamp but with nickel-plated finish and ivory grips (one piece also). The story there is inspectors were very finicky about what they stamped their initials into and Colt considered some of their rejections as viable sales items. Thus they were finished and fitted with grips and then sold on the civilian market.


The difference in recoil between a .45 S&W “Schofield” load and
a fully loaded .45 Colt is obvious. Here’s the more manageable
Schofield load.


… And here’s a fully loaded .45 Colt in recoil. Boom!


Just when the US Army had gotten things just right — an outstanding handgun with new powerful cartridge — they went and made things “more better.” There were behind the scenes shenanigans going on too lengthy to detail here, but the upshot of it all was in 1875 the army adopted another .45 revolver. It was the Smith & Wesson Model #3 with the addition of a Major Schofield’s patents. Part of the shenanigans was that Major Schofield’s brother was a serving Major General.

The cylinder of an S&W Model #3 “Schofield” is 17/16″ long. Colt .45 cartridges are too long to fit, and also the .45 Colt’s negligible rim would not work with the Model #3’s star extractor. (That lack of rim was why early lever guns were not chambered in .45 Colt as it would not work reliably in the action.) So Smith & Wesson developed their own .45 cartridge with a 1.10” case and 0.020″ wider rim. As loaded by the Frankford Arsenal this .45 carried a 28-gr. powder charge under a 230-gr. bullet. The case was still copper and the primer was still inside it.

This enticed the bright lights serving on the US Army’s Ordnance Board to adopt Smith & Wesson’s new .45 as “substitute standard.” Like the Colt, those S&W’s sold to the army were all alike. Barrels were 7″ long, the finish was blue except for the triggers and hammers, and the grips were two-piece walnut. They were also inspected and “cartouched” like Colts although rejection rates were much lower at the S&W factory.

At the time, US horse soldiers throughout the country could have been armed with two distinctly different .45 handguns, and supply officers had to keep sorted which units had which handguns so they could send the proper cartridges to them. Longer .45 Colt rounds would only fit in Colts’ revolvers, but Smith & Wesson’s shorter .45 would work in both. It was a no-brainer which one would stay and which one would go. At least that was the situation until the early 1880’s when Smith & Wesson revolvers and their ammunition were dropped entirely from government service.

Every company making “large-frame” revolvers in the late 1880’s offered them as .44-40’s. No other company made their sixguns for .45 Colt. Remington did make a few test guns but they were not cataloged.

As with most firearms and their calibers adopted by the US Army, Colt’s .45 became immensely popular on the civilian market. It was the handgun and cartridge by which all others were judged.

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By Mike “Duke” Venturino

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The Volkspistole VP9

Just what is it with the Germans and their guns? Perhaps it’s those outrageous flip-top mugs from which they swill their beer. Maybe the lederhosen keeps a little more blood in their brains. Whatever the reason, the Germans seem to have a timeless gift for building weapons. Be it a vintage MG34 belt-fed machinegun, Georg Luger’s inspired P08 Parabellum pistol, or the revolutionary StG44 Storm Gun, German gunmanship is the stuff of legend.

On live, international television the British SAS used Heckler and Koch submachineguns to take down the Iranian embassy in London on May 5, 1980. Suddenly overnight everybody who carried a gun for a living had to have an MP5 in the trunk of his squad car and a set of black fatigues hanging in his closet. The last thing Osama bin Laden saw before he queued up for his 70 dark-eyed virgins was the nasty end of an HK416 rifle. When the hardest Special Operators on the planet need firepower, H&K fills their arms rooms.


HK finally heard the cries of the masses and came out with a striker-fired,
polymer-frame tactical handgun at a reasonable price. The gun sports more
bells and whistles than anybody else, and shoots like a dream.


The new HK VP9 is built upon the success of their previous handgun designs
like this USP in .45 ACP. The VP9, while still not cheap, is available at
a much nicer price point.

Where’d It Come From?

The Heckler and Koch Company rose from the ashes of World War II around the extraordinary roller-locked action driving the Spanish CETME assault rifle. They eventually settled back into post-war Germany and expanded the basic system to drive the G3, HK33 and MP5 families of weapons. Along the way they produced a bewildering array of small arms ranging from pocket pistols to automatic grenade launchers and everything in between. While their reputation for quality was unmatched, this reputation came at a cost. If your email address did not end with .gov you likely did not enjoy extensive experience with HK products.

In the 1980’s along came another Teutonic arms manufacturer that turned the gun industry on its ear. Gaston Glock’s eponymous handgun rivaled a screwdriver for reliability and found its way into 65 percent of the law enforcement holsters in America as a result. While Gaston’s polymer frame and striker-fired action were revolutionary — his was not the first.

I owned an HK VP70Z back in the 1980’s. The 9mm VP70 sported an 18-round magazine and was originally designed to be fired in bursts from a detachable shoulder stock. The trigger actuated a striker system not conceptually dissimilar from that of Glock’s G17. As it was adapted from a machine pistol, the long 12- to 15-pound double-action trigger of the VP70Z was arguably the most wretched I have ever seen on a military handgun. Regardless, the VP70Z does serve as an intermediate step leading to today’s modern offering.


The magazine release is a bilateral thumb lever folks either love or hate —
I like it. Grip ergonomics are changeable, and I guarantee you’ll find a
fit for your hand with this gun.


The HK VP9 field strips readily without tools, and the trigger need not be pulled
during the process. The human engineering embodied within the design is superlative.

What’s It Like?

HK finally heard the cries of the masses and produced a striker-fired service pistol which embodies the engineering prowess and quality defining the company, at a price within reach of the Common Man. VP stands for “Volkspistole” or “People’s Gun.” The VP9 is a full-sized service pistol for law enforcement, military and civilian defensive use that — in my opinion — very simply out-does everybody else.

John Browning was born five years before the onset of the American Civil War yet his short-recoil operating system drives most of the combat handguns in the world even today. The VP9 is no exception and its operating mechanism is common to the Hi-Power, Glock, HK USP and SIG family of handguns and most others. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

The slide has heavy serrations both front and rear and all the edges are magnificently melted. The rear of the slide sports the most them Charging Supports — to facilitate manipulation when sweaty, rushed or both. I have never seen anything quite like them and they are inspired. The dust cover exhibits the expected Picatinny-standard rail and there is enough of it to accommodate any reasonable accessory.

The 15-round magazine falls free cleanly and the gun comes with a single spare. The magazine release is a bilateral lever. Love it or hate it the device works great for me. The striker is visible in the rear of the slide when cocked.

The grips sport finger grooves not unlike the HK P30 as well as interchangeable backstraps and an array of side panels. There are 81 different possible combinations by my count. So long as you have human hands you can customize this gun to fit like you were born with it.

The indestructible steel sights are snag-free and luminous with the expected white dots. The sole external safety is built into the trigger blade in the manner of that other Teutonic pistol we mentioned earlier. There is an ingenious integral pivoting safety lever built into the guts of the slide. Takedown is ludicrously simple and the trigger need not be pulled to accomplish stripping.


The HK VP9 is the end result of literally generations of quality gunmaking.
The same human engineering making the MP5, the G36 and the HK416 the go-to
irons for the finest shooters on the planet now gives American shooters
arguably the finest polymer-framedpistol ever made.


The sights on the HK VP9 are luminous, no-snag, drift-adjustable and steel.
Out of the box the sights are sufficiently rugged and effective in low-light

How Does It Run?

Of course it was reliable. The VP9 ate steel-cased blasting ammo as well as the high-end defensive stuff with comparable aplomb. The barrel sports polygonal rifling for a wee bit more velocity and a simply insane service life. Practical accuracy was superlative and the gun feels like it is a part of my arm on the range.

The grip-to-frame angle of the VP9 closely approximates the revered 1911. The trigger has a predictably smooth and consistent pre-travel take-up, a crisp break and a delightfully abbreviated reset. The grip is nicely undercut and, it is with care I say this — I think it shoots better than any other polymer handgun I have ever fired.

Unlike my HK USP that set me back nearly a grand, the new HK VP9 sports an MSRP of $719. The VP9 has more bells and whistles than literally anybody else out there, yet its shop price should be nearly in line with the other guys. It is a Brave New World when a new-in-the-box handgun from Heckler & Koch embodying all the quality, reliability and superlative engineering we have come to expect from this storied firearms manufacturer can be had for about the same money as everybody else’s stuff. It is HK’s “People’s Gun.”
By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs

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The Hunt Is On!

Benchmade’s HUNT Series Of Knives
Has Been A Rousing Success

Ask most knife nuts and they’ll tell you: Benchmade is known for making superb tactical knives. This has shifted since the Oregon cutlery manufacturer launched their HUNT series of serious sportsmen knives. Just over a year old now, the HUNT lineup keeps expanding with new designs for virtually any hunter’s needs and budget. This isn’t Benchmade’s first rodeo. They’ve had hunting knives in their standard line and specialty lines (such as Bone Collector and Lone Wolf) before, but with the HUNT line they went all-in and it’s definitely paid off. All the hunting knives are in one saddlebag now.

“The HUNT line was developed to give hunters a tool to perform and be reliable for them in the field,” says Derrick Lau, Benchmade PR manager. “We went beyond just putting handles on a blade and calling it a ‘hunting’ knife. Instead, we went directly to hunters and asked them what they looked for in a real hunting knife.

“We launched the Benchmade HUNT line at SHOT Show 2014 and had a fantastic response. The general public loved the aesthetics of the line at first glance. After having the opportunity to explain the material choices, people knew first and foremost these were knives built to perform in the harshest of hunting environments.”

Interestingly, the HUNT line features more fixed-blades than folding knives, another departure from the Benchmade norm. This, however, is more attributable to standards long engrained into hunting and camping. Fixed-blades are more capable of performing heavy-duty chores — such as shelter building and butchering — as opposed to folders, and because fixers have no moving parts, they’re less prone to failure.


Left: Grizzly Creek Folder
Right: Big Summit Lake Folder


Left: Steep Country with Guthook
Right: Steep Country

Built To Last

Because outdoor knives take a harsher beating than everyday knives, Benchmade chose top-shelf steel and extremely durable handle materials when building the HUNT line.

“Through our initial feedback we learned a large majority of hunters wanted a knife with great edge retention and corrosion resistance, so we chose premium CPM-S30V as the steel for our HUNT line,” Derrick explained. “It excels in both those qualities and offers great durability as well. In addition to selecting a steel to meet the demands of hunters, we also wanted a handle material to would offer optimal performance in the field. Currently, we offer Dymondwood, G10 composite and Santoprene handles. Certain models offer both Dymondwood or G10 options for scales while the Santoprene material is currently only on the 15008 Steep Country knives.

“Dymondwood is a stabilized wood, resistant to water and warping due to climate changes — hot or cold — and offers the natural look and tactility of wood,” Lau continues. “G10 is a layered fiberglass composite — hardened in resin, making it an extremely durable, water-resistant material. Santoprene is a thermoplastic elastomer molded to specification. It offers excellent flexibility with high tear-strength and fatigue resistance.”


Saddle Mountain Hunter


Saddle Mountain Skinner

Choices Aplenty

No matter whether you need a fixed-blade or folder — small to large — the HUNT line has you covered.

“The hottest selling fixed-blades are the Saddle Mountain Skinner and the Hidden Canyon Skinner. Both are versatile fixed-blades capable of multiple tasks and come in Dymondwood or G10 handle scale options. The Dymondwood fitted knives come with a leather sheath and the G10-fitted knives come with a Kydex sheath.”

The Saddle Mountain Skinner is a full-size hunter, 8.73″ in overall length and 4.17″ of a sweet, skinning-friendly drop-point blade. The same blade with a gut hook on the spine is also available. If you just want to carry one knife to handle a myriad of chores, this is it. As previously mentioned, Benchmade offers options of either a heat-formed Kydex sheath (G10 handles) or one made of pressure-fit brown leather (Dymondwood handles). The Saddle Mountain Hunter has many of the same attributes as the Skinner. They share the same handle design and options, but the Hunter has a much slimmer drop-point blade.

The Hidden Canyon Skinner measures 6.32″ overall with a 2.67″ drop-point blade. If your camp chores are light and you just need a slitter and caper for small- to medium-size game, this little gem is glad to oblige. The Hidden Canyon Dymondwood version comes with a handsome brown leather sheath adaptable for vertical or horizon belt carry and, here again, G10 outfitted models get Kydex.

The Steep Country fixed-blade series (7.65″ overall, 3.5″ blades) feature grippy Santoprene handles, available in orange or black. These drop-point hunters also have a gut hook option and come with a heat-formed Kydex sheath. The Steep Country knives are the most affordable fixers in the HUNT line.

For those who like the compact carrying convenience of a folding knife, HUNT gives you choices. “The bestselling HUNT folder is the Grizzly Creek,” Derrick explains. “This folder features Dymondwood handle scales and a S30V modified drop-point blade. It also features a retractable gut-hook made out of 440C.”

The fact the Grizzly Creek is the hot pick in the HUNT folder line comes as no surprise — this knife has it all. Based on a platform similar to the company’s popular Triage (emergency rescue knife), the Grizzly Creek is a state-of-the-art folder in rustic trappings. The 3.5″ drop-point blade has ambidextrous thumb studs for easy deployment, and it locks up rock solid with Benchmade’s sturdy, patented AXIS lock. The handle is 4.34″ closed and the foldout gut hook will handle your zipping and amaze your friends in one fell swoop. The knife comes with a pocket clip for carry, but the clip is removable if you prefer a belt sheath (not included, but Benchmade offers a variety of nylon belt sheaths at affordable prices).

Those who like traditional lock-back folders will appreciate the Big Summit Lake series. Available in two sizes — a large at 8.34″ overall and small at 6.89″ — these dutiful lockbacks feature Dymondwood handles and satin-finished drop-point blades. The Big Summit Lake folders are not only great-looking — they’re priced right for those on a budget.


Hidden Canyon Hunter

The Big Horizon

In fact, Benchmade’s HUNT is an overall affordable line. The fixed-blades run from $115 for Santoprene-handled knives to $155 for Dymondwood fare. The folder line starts at $145 for the lockbacks to $195 for the features-loaded Grizzly Creek. With it you get Benchmade quality, premium steel, durable handles and the company’s reputation for extremely durable knives.

With a solid HUNT lineup in place, where does Benchmade go from here? “The HUNT line has been a fantastic success for us, and we have no plans of laying off the throttle. We have already introduced the AXIS lock and a number of great patented technologies, but we have many more mechanisms and some of the best materials in the industry waiting in the wings. The possibilities are endless at this point and we’re very excited to be the company pioneering elite hunting knife performance.”

Looks like the HUNT is on for years to come!
By Pat Covert
Photos By Chuck Pittman, Inc.

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SIG Sauer’s P290RS .380 ACP Pistol

The Goldilocks Approach.

There are a half-dozen time-honored sayings about the verity and importance of “first impressions” and I kinda-sorta agree with them — most of the time. But sometimes, well …

My assignment to test SIG’s P290RS came outta the blue and I didn’t have time for study before the package arrived. Opening it, my first impressions went like this: (1) Huh. Kind of a fat little fish for a .380, ain’t it? (2) Whoa! That’s a long, hefty trigger pull! (3) What’s with this goofy barrel? Looks like a funnel out of a kid’s chemistry set.

Now, after two shooting sessions and over 500 rounds downrange, let’s fast-forward to about “Impression #8”: I’m at the workbench with micrometer, trigger pull gauge, postal scale and so on. The P290RS is in front of me. To my right is one of those 9.5-ounce mini-micro-compact .380’s I call baby piranhas, because like little fish, they’re always tryin’ to squirt right outta my hand, and like piranhas, they bite! On my left is one of my SIG P250 Compact 9mm’s. Like the P290RS, it’s a hammer-fired DAO pistol with re-strike capability, but of course considerably larger — a true 15-round “compact.”

I’m just making some comparisons when this occurs to me — a dual-experiment situation: If I could take that 9.5-ounce piranha, tweak the geometry and add just enough size, mass, weight, barrel length and so on to make it stable in the hand, accurate and comfortable to shoot repeatedly, and if, at the same time I took the P250, chambered it in .380 and commenced reducing its proportions, mass, weight and barrel length right up to the point of diminishing returns … I think both ways I’d wind up within a percentage point or two of replicating the P290RS. So now let’s look at how I got from that first impression to #8, okay?


The P290RS in a more normal-sized hand; one
measuring 7″ from heel of hand to tip of middle finger.


Not too big, not too small, but just right: SIG’s subcompact P290RS is a
prime platform for the latest high-performance .380 ACP rounds.

From the Outside In

Sights are service-pistol-sized tritium-illuminated SIGLITE’s, not toy-sized afterthoughts. They’re drift-adjustable for windage, and if your selected load doesn’t shoot to point-of-aim in elevation, different heights are available from SIG SAUER. They’re triple-effect sights: First, crisp and blocky, with good daylight between the front post and rear U-notch; second, tritium lamps for use in darkness, and third, there are bright white rings around the tritium lamps for three-dot enhanced acquisition under “in-between” conditions. Nice, huh?

The slide is 416 stainless, offered in a satin finish or a tough black Nitron coating. Machined beveling and contours are very well done, and the slide-manipulation serrations are large, deep and effective. At rest, the bobbed hammer protrudes slightly from the back of the slide with very little gap on the sides. The slide lock lever is grooved for fumble-free operation, but lies very close to the frame for a virtually zero snag-factor.

On the right side of the frame, the blind end of the slide lock pin sits in a dished recess to prevent it from being knocked loose by side impact. Slide cycling is light and smooth, requiring very little strength — a big plus for many shooters who find stiff springs difficult to operate.

The frame is black polymer — or hot pink, if you like — and highly ergonomic. Stippling on the frontstrap and backstrap is slightly coarser than the stippling on the flush-fitting grip side plates, which is exactly as it should be. Those slim grip panels are changeable by removing a pin at the rear of the grip and sliding them down and out. Optional grip plates come in aluminum, wood grain and more.

At the bottom of the grip note the cut-out areas which mate with raised areas on the magazine base plates. Our mags didn’t just drop free, they popped free. But if for some reason you get a sluggish or sticky “drop,” those cutouts provide a better grasp to yank ’em out. The base plate of the 6-round mag has a projecting lip which stabilizes a “two fingers below the triggerguard” grip, while the 8-round mag accommodates a full grip including the pinky for even large hands. The magazine release is well placed for easy, positive master-hand operation.

See that funny lump inside the triggerguard? It’s another SIG-smart “human engineering” touch. They made the triggerguard big enough for rapid entry with a fat or gloved finger, but that ski-jump bump nudges the firing-finger up away from the hook and right into the sweet spot. You’ll also find a removable teardrop-shaped rubber bump on the bottom of the dust cover. That seals the locking point for SIG’s precise-fitting optional aiming laser. You can order the pistol factory-equipped with it, or add the laser later.


SIG’s included OWB holster was secure and fast. Shown is a
comfortable, close-fitting IWB rig by N82 Tactical.

Simple Is Good

Inside, parts are simple, strong and few, but loaded with sophisticated efficiency. The action is a short-recoil operated, modified Browning-type mechanically locked design, but two features make that lock-up even better and lend themselves to excellent accuracy. First, the top of the chamber area of the barrel is machined to lock up precisely into the ejection port when closed. Second, the bell-shaped flare at the muzzle end of the barrel mates snugly with a corresponding interior space in the slide. The effect is like that of a match-grade fitted muzzle bushing, but simpler. Another benefit of that combination is better sealing to keep dirt and debris out; an important consideration for a pocket-or-purse carried piece.

For a point-and-squeeze pistol it’s remarkably safe. An automatic firing pin safety blocks the pin unless the trigger is pulled, a disconnector prevents the hammer from dropping if the slide is out of battery, you can’t begin disassembly without opening the slide and finally, that longish trigger pull is a safety feature in itself.

Disassembly and reassembly are simple, and SIG includes two tools to make it even easier. As with many other designs, you pull the slide to the rear to align the slide stop notch with the slide stop tab, then, while holding it in position, push the slide stop out of the frame from the right side. But you don’t have to hold it there. SIG supplies a directionally marked plastic tool you simply drop into the ejection port, and then close the slide on it. It holds the slide and barrel precisely in position. Then, remember how the blind end of the slide stop pin is dished into a recess? The end of the included chamber safety flag is sized to push it out almost effortlessly without marring the frame. Nice.

I was impressed with the design features and execution, and the little pistol oriented in my hand very naturally, pointing true and balancing nicely. The only questions remaining were its accuracy, behavior under recoil, and how well I could shoot it más rápido, with that long DAO trigger pull? I have lots of experience with tuned DA revolvers, and the SIG P250’s pull is very similar — and I like it enough to have purchased a matched pair and put them in my “ready rotation.” But those are larger handguns, and this one’s very small.


Parts are few, strong and simple, and SIG includes
two tools to make disassembly easy.


That flared muzzle locks neatly and precisely into the slide like a match-grade
bushing. And, those full-sized SIGLITE sights, big aggressive slide grooves and
excellent machining and finishing work distinguish the P290RS.

The Hand & The Range

The answer proved simple: Put more finger on it — and roll your stroke revolver-style. When shooting the P250, the center of the pad of my trigger finger naturally falls in the center of the trigger. With the P290RS, the crease of my first joint lands on the trigger. It’s similar — but different. It ain’t ideal form, but it’s not bad either. Size XL gloves fit me snug or too tight, if that helps your perspective. All it took for me was familiarization and repetition.

The trigger pull gauged at 8 pounds. It could lose a pound and I wouldn’t mind, but on a subcompact pocket pistol it should be no lighter. Function was flawless across the board. It ran so smoothly I almost forgot to insert this comment.

The best thing you can do with this pistol is shoot it a lot — and that’s easy to do, because it’s comfortable to shoot, recoil impulse is low, recoil effect is negligible, accuracy is just fine and after about the first 50 rounds your results quickly improve with every magazine-load you put through it.

Here’s an illustration: Toward the end of testing, I ran a series of drills on Birchwood Casey B-27 reduced-size silhouette targets at 7 yards, 1-handed, with shots cadenced about one per second. The heads are less than 3.5″ wide, compared to standard gourds bein’ 8″ to 9″ across. I’d fire six at the head, reload fast with the extended mag and put eight into center mass. The noggin-groups ran around 2″ and the boiler-room barrages ran 3″ to 4″. I almost giggled — and I don’t giggle. Try that with a 9.5 piranha.

Price is about $513 MSRP and the whole caboddle weighs around 16.4 ounces with the mag.

At home I pulled my 5-shot small-frame .38 Special outta my jacket pocket. It’s the same height as the P290, but thicker at the grip and overall, due to the cylinder. It is 1.5″ longer, and its barrel is less than 2″ versus the P290’s 2.9″ tube. The sights don’t even bear comparison.

Guess who lives in that pocket now? Connor OUT

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