Prepare to Pounce, Penny-Pinchers!
By John Connor
As I write this in late September 2016, the marketing monster of SHOT Show — January 17–20, 2017 — is already fixin’ to flatten you with hype and horsefeathers about all the NEW! and REVOLUTIONARY! handguns to debut in Las Vegas. And who knows? There might even be some new-ish and interesting stuff to sniff amongst the examples of paint-on performance and “fetish firearms,” like single-shot .380’s you can wear as cufflinks or 12-pound four-shot .444 Marlin revolvers. But there’s another dynamic to SHOT Show you should be aware of. I’ve benefitted from it for years and now I’m cutting you in on it.
A certain slice of our handgunning community just has to have whatever guns the marketing mavens proclaim as the newest and hottest — like, right now! — and they’ll often pay “way over list prices to get ’em first. You know who I’m talking about, right? I call ’em The Gimme Gang. They crow and strut and show off their new pets to whomever they can corner, and put maybe one box of rounds through them. Then they lose interest, and the piece gets banished to the back of the gun safe while they chase another “newest, hottest” handgun.
Is this a bad thing? Nah; not necessarily, because the following year, those become the guns The Gimme Gang are dumpin’ for chump change in order to help fund a new buncha handguns. That’s when skinflints — I mean, “budget-minded shooters” — like you and me can pounce! Deals will be out there. Just keep your ears open and your nose in the wind.
They’re one or two years old now, but this hardly makes ’em obsolete, does it? Here’s a selection of handguns I’ve tested and evaluated, and been pleasantly surprised by.
I’m not a big fan of the .40 S&W cartridge, though I shoot a lot of ’em. These two pistols tickled me, and if you’re a 40-fanatic, you might like them too. They’re both slim, flat, compact and eminently suited for concealed carry. I tested and wrote up Kahr’s CT 40 in the May 2015 issue of GUNS Magazine. It’s one of their “Value Series” pistols, priced at only $449. This is $200 less than its premium-line brother, the TP 40. Most of the money-saving differences are purely aesthetic and none are critical to function or reliability. The major money-saver is substitution of a conventionally rifled barrel for the TP 40’s polygon-grooved tube.
After factory-recommended break-in, the CT 40 ran perfectly. Its rock-solid reliability was no surprise, but its accuracy was, and at only 21.8 ounces with a very slender girth, its behavior under recoil, even with hot tactical loads, was exemplary.
The Performance Center Ported M&P Shield pistols I reviewed for the July/August 2016 issue of Handgunner weren’t new designs, but really valuable upgrades over the original Shields — and great bargains, particularly the .40 S&W variant. For only $70 more than the “standard” Shield you get HI-VIZ “LitePipe” sights, the porting treatment, which I would describe as “3rd-Gen intelligent porting,” and, thanks to a Performance Center trigger sear and striker plunger, significantly better trigger pull, break and re-set. Shooting them alongside un-ported, unenhanced models, the combined effect was truly notable, especially in controlled rapid fire. I rate it as a “best buy.”
Springfield Armory’s 1911 Range Officer 9mm is definitely a bargain to watch for.
Now For The Nine’s
Testing Springfield Armory’s 1911 Range Officer 9mm was pure pleasure from start to finish. Dead-bang accurate and smooth-cycling, the powder-puff recoil you get from shooting 9mm target loads from a hefty, full-size 1911 can easily rope you into long, high round-count range sessions, and at about half the cost of sending .45 ACP’s downrange. You’ll find my review of it in the May/June 2015 Handgunner.
Its goody-list is long, including a match-grade hand-fitted barrel, bushing and slide, and bold, fully adjustable target sights. Whether you’re an instructor needing a piece for demonstration and training, a competitive shooter, or you just like repeatedly punching the center out of bullseye targets for “ballistic therapy,” the RO 9 can fill your bill nicely.
If some chump dumps a gently-used SIG SAUER P320 9mm at a loss, grab it! In my opinion, the P320 has the best off-the-shelf trigger of any production striker-fired pistol. If you insist, you can get one with a tabbed or hinged trigger, but I tested the standard smooth trigger, and it was, in a word, sweet. I covered all the P320’s morphing mutant capabilities in my review in the January 2015 issue of GUNS, and you can read the Digital Version free online. But aside from its size, shape and caliber-shifting potential, if all you did was select one caliber, size and grip combination and stuck with it, you’d have a stunningly strong, simple, superbly accurate pistol which outclasses many others at twice the price. I admired the P320’s engineering as much as its performance, which was excellent.
Now look in the mirror and practice saying this: “Well, I dunno. This pistol’s kinda yesterday’s news, ya know? But I guess I could take it off your hands for the right price” — and try not to smirk, okay? Connor OUT
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