Building and selling guns in the United States is not an easy task. Considering the strict governmental regulations, pressure from the anti-gunners, and a plethora of frivolous lawsuits, we don’t see too many new gunmakers cropping up these days. Not only is it refreshing to see a young gun company like FMK succeed in establishing its plant in the anti-gun state of California but it has chosen to provide its customers with 100 percent American-made pistols.
What’s more, FMK is not afraid to let customers know just how it feels about this country. The 9C1 pistol could have been stamped with the words “Made in America.” Instead, the ejector is marked “Proudly American,” while the frame says “Thank You U.S. Soldiers.” The slide plate contains the words “Freedom and Liberty,” with the magazine base plate reading “E Pluribus Unum.” These are the markings of the plain-slide version of this pistol. FMK also offers the Bill of Rights version of the 9C1 with the first 10 amendments to the Constitution engraved on the slide.
Pistol Feature The FMK 9C1 is a polymer-framed semi-auto chambered in 9 mm. The overall dimensions of the pistol are similar to a compact GLOCK or medium-frame Taurus. Guns in this size range offer a useful balance of shootability and ease of concealment for legal carry. The 9C1 weighs 23.45 ounces unloaded, accepts 14-round magazines and features an accessory rail for lights or lasers.
The matte-black, carbon-steel slide is beveled and shaped to give it an interesting profile when compared with the common square-block slides of other polymer-framed pistols. The slide is topped with a low profile three-dot sight system. Five additional rear sights and two more front sights are included in the case. These are easily traded out to allow shooters adjustments for sight height and windage.
Removing the slide from the frame reveals an interior arrangement that has taken various cues from GLOCK design. The blued steel barrel is 4 inches long, and the recoil assembly consists of a captured flat recoil spring supported by a polymer recoil rod. Like other pistols in this class, almost all of the 9C1 safeties are internal, such as the striker safety, which prevents a discharge if the gun is dropped. The single external safety is located in the trigger where it’s released automatically as the trigger is pulled.
The 9C1 features two additional safeties not found on other striker guns. One is a magazine safety to prevent the pistol from firing if the magazine is removed. The other is a red plastic loaded chamber indicator located at the rear of the slide. It provides both a visible and tactile indication when the gun is loaded. Another feature not commonly found on semi-autos is a trigger that can be pulled to strike a cartridge primer a second time in case the round doesn’t fire the first time. This is a useful way to avoid having to run a clearance drill if the cartridge in the chamber has a hard primer.
FMK has paid careful attention to the 9C1’s ergonomics. Some pistols feature a dimple in the grip for the shooting-hand thumb to rest in. FMK has opted to extend the dimples into two channels running from the front to the back of the frame. The result is a noticeable narrowing of the grip for both the thumb and trigger finger. The trigger guard provides a more generous curve where it connects to the grip so as to give the middle finger more room.
The front of the grip has textured finger grooves. The sides of the grip are lightly textured and indented. These indentations do a terrific job of eliminating the blocky feel many polymer guns suffer from by providing a more intuitive resting place for the pads of the middle, ring and little finger. The indentation and texturing extend to the floor plate of the magazine.
The best of the many good features of the grip frame is the rubberized backstrap. This backstrap not only effectively reduces felt recoil, it hugs and grips the palm of the shooting hand to provide a comfortable, positive grip. The result is a grip that seems to mold to the shooter’s hand, instead of having to mold your hand to fit the grip. The 9C1 arrives with two magazines in a rugged, lockable, foam-lined hard case with a partitioned storage compartment for extra magazines or cleaning supplies.
At the Range The 9C1’s promise of comfortable shooting proved to be true. The compact grip frame provides enough room for a full three-finger grip. The shock-absorbing backstrap is effective at reducing felt recoil. This was especially true when using standard pressure rounds. It felt more like shooting a .380 than a 9 mm. For anyone looking for a low-recoil defensive option, the 9C1 would provide a good choice without reducing the caliber size.
The slide requires the usual amount of grip strength and pressure to cycle as most mid-sized 9 mm pistols. The magazine release has a smooth surface but it’s easy to locate and operate. The blued-steel magazines are constructed in-house by FMK instead of a third-party vendor. They’re sturdy, well constructed and all four of the test samples, including a 10-round version, locked tightly and dropped freely.
A digital trigger gauge shows the 9C1’s long, smooth, Double-Action Only trigger weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. This places the trigger pull between the 10-pound-plus triggers of some pocket pistols and the 5-pounds-or-less pull of some safe-action and single-action pistols. Without any creep or stacking to get in the way of the stroke, the 9C1’s trigger is easy to work.
Formal testing produced shot groups that were not as tight as I would like to see with the ammunition used, but sufficient for defensive applications. The best single five-shot group from 25 yards using a bench rest was 3.75 inches. This group, and the best five-group average of 4.65 inches, was produced using Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain FXT rounds. The next best group average of 5 inches was generated with Winchester 147-grain PDX1 jacketed hollow points, followed by an average of 5.2 inches from DoubleTap’s 124-grain +P brass-jacketed hollow points.
Ammunition reliability and practical close-range accuracy of the 9C1 proved to be solid. At 7 yards, it was easy to cut a ragged 2-inch hole into the center of the target with a variety of practice and defense-grade ammunition using off-hand drills. The only malfunction in the course of testing was a single failure to feed. This occurred during the first 50 rounds fired using inexpensive bulk ammunition. After that, the pistol ran flawlessly.
Final Thoughts The FMK 9C1 9 mm pistol is easy to carry, comfortable to shoot and reliable with a variety of ammunition. With an MSRP of $399, this pistol is hundreds of dollars less than other polymer, striker-fired pistols in its class. The 9C1 should be especially attractive to shooters looking for a concealed-carry gun, full-caliber low-recoil defensive option or an affordable pistol for home defense. Buying this pistol will keep your dollars right here, supporting a company that’s willing to stamp its patriotic devotion to this country into the guns it sells.
Manufacturer: FMK Firearms Model: 9C1 Gen II Action: Double-Action Only, Fast-Action Trigger Available Caliber: 9 mm Slide: High-Carbon Steel Frame: Black, Pink, or Tan Polymer Sights: Fixed three-Dot Barrel Length: 4” Overall Length: 6.85” Height: 5.09” Width: 1.14” Weight:23.45 ozs. Capacity: 14+1 Rounds Twist: 1:16” LH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: 2 Magazines, 7 Interchangeable Sights, Lockable Case Suggested Retail Price: $399
The GLOCK 43 for this review was provided by the Kentucky Gun Company.
The GLOCK 42 was something between a huge disappointment and cruel joke on expectant gun guys and gals. A .380 single-stack? Been there, done that, bought the Colt Mustang clone, sold it for a larger-caliber everyday carry (EDC) gun. Now that Gaston’s mob has unloaded freight containers of 42s – which they wouldn’t have sold had they started with a proper 9mm single-stack pocket pistol – they’re finally ready to sell train loads of 9mm GLOCK 43s. Should diehard GLOCK jocks and pocket-carrying newbies hold a grudge or buy a 43? Let’s start with a simple comparison . . .
The GLOCK 42 and GLOCK 43 are nearasdammit identical twins. To accommodate those larger, higher-pressure rounds, the GLOCK 43 is slightly longer, wider and five ounces heavier than its .380 predecessor. Ergonomically, it’s a distinction without a difference. Hold each gun in one hand (gangster style) and you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. They’re both single-stack everyday carry pistols perfectly designed for stealth and comfort.
Which is not to say they’re perfectly designed. GLOCK’s utilitarian aesthetic fails the timelessness test; it’s now about as chic as a Volvo 240D. But shrinky-dinking a GLOCK to near soap bar size certainly increases the cuteness quotient – from none to some. Still, there’s not much, visually speaking, to get exited about.
Except the spare magazine! The G43 ships with both a flush-fit and an extended magazine. The flush-mount mag offers ultimate concealability. The extended mag may play peekaboo in small-pocketed pants, but it gives deep-pocketed owners (in more ways than one) welcome pinky purchase, increasing the 43’s shootability/accuracy by a measurable margin. If only they could fit one more round in the handle … nope. Six is your lot, no matter how you get a grip.
I suspect larger-fisted 43 buyers will go with the extended magazine or go home relatively empty-handed. Or hold the GLOCK 43 like the Three Stooges held a cup of tea (pinkies akimbo). Yes, there is that: the GLOCK 43 isn’t for our bear-pawed ballistic brethren – unless they like to practice close-up magic with a gun. In fact, accuracy observations below are void where prohibited by manual dimensions.
The GLOCK 43’s biggest advantage over the 42 (other than stopping power): the tiny nine is an ammunition omnivore.
There’s no getting around it: the G42 was a picky eater. While the .380 pocket pistol shoots average pressure rounds of various weights all day long, the 42 chokes on loads that fall on the high and low ends of the pressure spectrum. We forgave it this ballistic trespass with the understanding that any armed self-defender who doesn’t test his carry cartridges for reliability, doesn’t get what he deserves. Or maybe he does.
I fed our Kentucky Gun Company-provided pistol several hundreds of rounds of ammo. The count included Winchester White Box, Federal Premium, Remington UMC and Magtech (both 115 gr and 124 gr weights). I also ran the 43 with Winchester 147 gr Train & Defend (our 2014 Reader’s Choice Ammo of the Year award winner), 124 gr Hornady XTPs, and 124 gr Remington Golden Sabers. I didn’t experience a single failure to feed, eject or throw lead downrange in a hurry.
As you’d expect for a gun that’s smaller than a pack of Wet Wipes, the GLOCK 43 is a snappy SOB, no matter what you feed it. Is this a problem? As RF likes to point out, accuracy is a function of distance. If you’re looking for a self-defense gun that shoots minute-of-bad guy at anything from zero to seven yards, the GLOCK 43 is your new BFF. With its very respectable 5.2″ sight radius, you might even want to aim before pulling the trigger.
Which is not to say Jerry Miculek couldn’t use a GLOCK 43 to shoot the eye out of a newt at 50 paces. Once you get to grips with the 43, literally, slow-firing the gun reveals a firearm capable of 10-ring accuracy at bad breath-and-better distances. The 43’s GLOCK-standard U-shaped sights — love ’em or hate ’em — seem extra-large on such a small gun, and that’s no small advantage. TTAG’s JWT reckons all self-defense guns should have standard night sights and that makes a lot of sense. But again, the 43’s best deployed as a point-shooting point blank self-defense gun.
The G43’s trigger is no better or worse than any other GLOCK go-pedal. We’re talking about a 5.5 lbs. pull with a brick wall to bust through and a reset click that’s as hard to miss as Bruce Jenner in a bright blue dress. That’s supposed to be a selling point (the trigger, not Bruce’s dress). If you can shoot one GLOCK you can shoot them all. The longer, harder trigger pull on snub-nosed revolvers and some small semis (e.g., Ruger LC9) is probably a better bet for newbies who lack trigger discipline (i.e. all of them). But then there’s carry.
The G43’s diminutive size is its main selling point. It’s the GLOCK you can holster like a wallet. Not that you should. All guns need to live in a holster that covers the trigger. Here’s one we prepared earlier: a G43 seducing a SHTF Gear inside the waistband rig.
When carried in an IWB holster, the GLOCK 43 is the very soul of discretion Slap in the flush-bottomed magazine, rack the gun (being extra-careful not to cover the ejection port), holster-up and tuck your shirt over the gun. Unless a sharp-eyed paranoid OCD gun guy spots the clips (not magazines) you’re as stealthy as a cloaked Klingon warship. Outside-the-waistband types are equally well served. Pop the GLOCK in the slot, untuck your shirt and Bob’s your uncle.
Bonus! [ED: Raison d’etre?] The G43 is small and light enough for pocket carry. If you’ve pocket carried a Smith & Wesson hammerless snubbie 642, the GLOCK 43 is an easy choice for EDC. If you haven’t, pocket-carrying the GLOCK 43 is well worth the price of admission. Nothing is as discreet and convenient as pocket carry. As always, you’ve got to practice extraction. But it’s better to have a GLOCK 43 and not need it than to not have a gun because it was too much of a hassle to carry it.
So what’s not to love? It’s not so much a matter of “Do you take this GLOCK to have and to hold” as the fact that there are lots of other compact single-stack 9mm fish in the sea, most with lower MSRPs. Some with laser sight options. Think Kahr CM9, Ruger LC9, Springfield XD-S and Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (which offers greater ammo capacity). Not to mention the option of a frame-mounted safety (which the GLOCK 43 won’t ever possess). Or the siren song of some sexy little snub-nosed revolvers.
At the end of the proverbial day, the GLOCK 43’s greatest advantage is that it’s a GLOCK. Unlike the finicky 42, the G43 eats all ammo, delivering the “it goes bang every time” reliability that’s the brand’s hallmark. Which creates the confidence that is GLOCK’s advertised attribute. With the added appeal of easy cleaning (clear the gun first) and a predictable (if not prize-winning) trigger. All in a pocket-friendly package. Who can argue with that? Not me. The GLOCK 43 is my new carry gun.
Reliability: * * * * *
Perfection, to coin a phrase. Unlike its little brother, nothing made the 43 balk.
Ergonomics (carry): * * * * *
The G43 feels natural in the hand, with a sure grip, particularly while using the pinky extension-equipped mag. Large-pawed shooters who aren’t using the G43 for a back-up gun (probably) need not apply.
Ergonomics (shooting): * * * * *
Comfortable enough to shoot at the range. You know, for fun. More than accurate enough for its intended use.
Customize This: * * *
As a new heater, mods are scarce. That said, there are more holster options sooner than there were for the 42. And given the gun’s popularity, lights, sights, replacement triggers and lasers will be along soon.
Overall: * * * * *
There are less expensive options and 6+1 capacity isn’t a lot. But the G43 is just the thing for shooters looking for a small, reliable, comfortable, acceptably-powerful every day carry gun.
In his book “Wilderness Hunting and Wildcraft,” Col. Townsend Whelen wrote, “A man will travel farther, hunt over more country, have a better chance of coming on game, and be in better condition when he does if his weapon is light.” For those who hunt on their hind legs as opposed to waiting out in a weatherproof blind, truer words were never written. As trendy as limiting rifle weight has become, few have mastered the art. The Kimber Adirondack comes close.
It’s difficult to find the words that effectively describe just how light this rifle is. The Kimber Adirondack might be the nimblest production bolt-action rifle on the market. Kimber shaved weight without mass skeletonization of parts or skimping on the foundation that makes a rifle a rifle.
The carbon/Kevlar fiber stock, with its gummy-feeling Optifade Forest camo covering, is full size. It has a 13.63-inch length of pull, and that includes a 1-inch Pachmayr Decelerator rubber recoil pad. The stock, with the triggerguard, weighs only 24.8 ounces. The action is stainless steel, and so is the 18-inch, pencil-thin barrel. At the muzzle, the barrel is only .58 inch in diameter. Screw the barreled action and stock together with the two guard screws, and total rifle weight is 4 pounds, 10 ounces.
It’s interesting that the muzzle on the Kimber Adirondack has been threaded and comes with a thread protector. Kimber says this is for a suppressor or muzzlebrake. Considering that the Kimber Adirondack is chambered for mild-mannered cartridges such as the 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester, very few will have a need for a muzzlebrake.
Additionally, with the slow-twist barrel, the suppressor would only be suitable for supersonic ammo. That does not mean it’s a bad idea, but admittedly a suppressor would drastically change the handling qualities and weight of this svelte little rifle. Ironically, even with the added weight of a can, the Kimber Adirondack would still be lighter than many sporting rifles.
The Kimber Adirondack rifle, or carbine as it is, is built on Kimber’s proven 84M action. This is a two-lug bolt action that operates similarly to the controlled-round-feed (CRF) Mauser 98. However, there is a difference. With a true and properly tuned CRF action, ammunition can only be fed to the chamber through the magazine box. If you place a cartridge on top of the magazine follower and attempt to close the bolt, it will not go completely into battery because the cartridge rim cannot slip behind the large claw extractor. Kimber has engineered the 84M action so it can feed reliably from the magazine box or from on top of it.
The benefits of a CRF action are more imagined than real, but if you like this imaginary assurance, the 84M action used on the Kimber Adirondack is arguably one of the best. Kimber wisely engineered the action so that the ejector is positioned slightly in front of the rim of the cartridge in the magazine box. This limits the possibility of a short-stroke jam. Still, short stroking can produce a double feed because the bottom of the bolt face, by dragging on the rim of the top cartridge in the magazine box, can push it forward.
However, the reality is that the opportunity for this is so narrow, you’ll almost have to purposely engineer the condition to make it a reality. The 84M is a very reliable action. It has a three-position safety, a magazine that holds four cartridges and a single-stage trigger that breaks with an almost unperceivable amount of creep at 4 pounds on the nose.
The barreled action is pillar/glass bedded to the sleek stock, and the barrel is free floated past the primary taper, just forward of the action. The only skeletonizing, if you want to call it that, is an almost half-inch hole drilled in the bolt-handle knob and the deep, spiral fluting of the bolt. Overall fit is exceptional in every area, and the brushed stainless finish on the action and barrel contrasts nicely with the digitalized camouflage coating on the stock. However, it seems that if camouflage were the goal, another pattern might make more sense.
The 84M action is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and the Kimber Adirondack does not come with open sights. Numerous mounting options exist, but we’d strongly suggest those available from Kimber.
First are the front-dovetail, rear-windage-adjustment, Redfield-style Kimber bases available in stainless or blue. Second are the all-steel, vertically split Talley rings, which, many argue, are the most rugged scope rings on the planet. Last, there are the aluminum Talley one-piece rings. Melvin Forbes of Ultra Light Arms engineered these rings about 30 years ago. Forbes sold Talley the design, and the company has reengineered them to fit many actions. They weigh only 2 1/2 ounces and are unworldly rugged, and Kimber offers them in blue or Optifade to match the Kimber Adirondack’s stock.
The Kimber Adirondack test rifle came with Talley one-piece rings in an Optifade Forest finish. The rifle was also equipped with a Zeiss Conquest HD5 3-15x42mm riflescope, dipped in camo to match the rings and stock. Kimber sells this scope and a 2-10x42mm option directly through its website with your choice of a Plex or Rapid-Z 600 or 800 reticle. Together, the rifle and scope were visually appealing even though the scope seemed a bit large on the carbine.
As an aside, these Zeiss products are excellent riflescopes and priced accordingly. At almost 15 inches long, the 3-15X is still moderately light at only 17.6 ounces, which is a consideration if a light rifle is your goal. The glass surfaces have the Zeiss LotuTec coating, which helps shed moisture and resist scratches. There is a fast-focus eyepiece and a side parallax adjustment. It’s waterproof, has a 75×50-MOA square adjustment range and comes with Zeiss’ five-year no-fault warranty.
Five loads were tested from a sandbag rest at 100 yards, and five five-shot groups were fired with each load. Though this has become the de facto standard for rifle accuracy testing, we were anticipating that with the thin barrel, shots might string as the Kimber Adirondack heated up. They did not.
The average group size for all 25 groups was less than 2 inches, and the most accurate tested was the Remington Managed Recoil load, which was a pleasure to shoot. None of the loads were seriously uncomfortable from the bench even though total rifle weight, with rings and scope, was right at 6 pounds. From field positions, the Kimber Adirondack was pleasant with all boxes of ammo, and with a hunting rifle, field-position shooting matters most.
One criticism of light hunting rifles is that they’re harder to shoot offhand. The reality is that the absence of weight is not the problem; improper balance is the culprit. Many light rifles are not balanced correctly for offhand shooting. If a rifle is butt-heavy, it’s swift to handle and feels lighter than it is (think back to a 94-type lever action). If a rifle is muzzle-heavy, like an old Kentucky rifle, it’s easier to hang on target but slower to get there.
Ideally, a rifle for field use should balance between your hands, about at the front action screw. A rifle so balanced will provide the perfect equilibrium between fast handling and target steadiness. It will come to shoulder quickly, and you will be able to hold it on target steadily enough to trigger an accurate shot, regardless of weight.
Without a scope, the Kimber Adirondack balances about an inch behind the front action screw. With the Zeiss Conquest scope installed, the balance point was about the same, making the rifle roughly a half-bubble off plumb as far as perfect balance is concerned.
Still, it was easy enough to keep shots inside the vital zone of a deer target out to 150 yards from the standing offhand position. Based on its balance, the Kimber Adirondack was very quick to get in action. If you’re a still hunter, stalker, ridge runner or wilderness hunter, you’ll want a rifle you can pack all day and that will find your shoulder in an instant. Things can happen fast when you hunt on hind legs.
The Kimber Adirondack is put together very well. We’ve tested and hunted with other Kimber 84Ms over the years, and, like those, the Adirondack was a bit finicky in choosing a load it liked to shoot. However, just like those other Kimbers, with a little looking, an accurate load could always be found. Two of the five loads tested in the Kimber Adirondack delivered better than 1½-MOA five-shot precision. The trigger is good, the action is well engineered and smooth to operate, and, if you like that modernized camo look, your eyes will fall in lust.
If we were decision makers at Kimber, G&A would change two things. We’d opt for a 20-inch barrel, which would still keep the rifle compact but would move the balance point slightly forward. We would also work with Zeiss to offer its more affordable, more compact and lighter 2-7x32mm Terra 3 riflescope with the Optifade camo. In our minds, that scope would be a much better fit to the Kimber Adirondack, a quick-handling, lissome carbine.
Would Townsend Whelen have liked it? We can only speculate, but during his lifetime he never saw a rifle like this. We don’t think the old boy would’ve minded packing it into the wilderness, and that’s where this rifle belongs.
It isn’t always easy being a lefty in a right-handed world, and the realm of firearms is no exception. When it comes time to purchase a new gun there are many factors to consider—cost, reliability, weight, fit and finish, ergonomics, size, etc. And for those, like myself, who are lucky enough to be members of the sacred fraternity of left-handedness, gun buying also requires a few additional considerations.
For example: Are the controls located in such a way that I will be able to operate this gun without contorting my hand into some tendon-straining position?
Are the controls located in such a way that I won’t be able to use some of them at all? Can I run this gun without having to lower it from my shoulder after every shot? And in the case of many bull pups—Will firing this thing introduce an unhealthy amount of brass into my diet?
When 90 percent of the world does things one way, it is only logical for manufacturers to cater their goods toward facilitating that majority. And sure, with a little practice, an enterprising southpaw can learn to shoot most any right-handed gun, but why should he have to? Today there are more gun manufacturers producing designs that are either fully ambidextrous or specifically tailored toward left-handed shooters than ever before—with new models being introduced each year.
Here is a baker’s dozen of options for the proud left-handed gun buyer who is tired of adapting himself to a gun instead of the other way around.
Beretta ARX100—Chambered in 5.56×45 mm NATO, Beretta’s answer to the AR-15 platform features an ambidextrous case ejection selector, safety, bolt release, magazine release and charging handle. Beretta’s ARX160, offered in .22 Long Rifle, also shares the same ambidextrous features. Both models also come with a telescoping and folding stock and flip-up backup iron sights.
Browning 725 Citori Trap—Browning is one of the more southpaw-friendly manufacturers on the market today, offering left-handedversions of its BAR, T-Bolt and X-Bolt rifles, and its 725 Citori shotguns. Pictured here is the 725 Citori Trap, chambered in 12 gauge, with either a 30” or 32” barrel. What makes this shotgun left-hand-friendly is a top lever that has been reversed so that pushing it to the left breaks the action.
Bushmaster ACR A-TACS—Bushmaster offers its ACR (Adaptive Combat Rifle) in two chamberings and several different configurations and finishes, but all sport fully-ambidextrous controls. A magazine release, bolt release and safety selector switch are located on both sides of the rifle, and the non-reciprocating charging handle is reversible for use on either side.
Charter Arms Southpaw—The only revolver on this list, because it is also the only left-handed revolver on the market today, the Southpaw is identical to Charter Arms’ Undercover Lite model—just laterally reversed so that the cylinder opens to the right side. The Southpaw is a five-shot .38 Spl. with a 2” barrel, and weighs only 12 ozs. Charter offers the gun in aluminum and pink finishes.
Escort Supreme Magnum—Imported into the U.S. by Legacy Sports International, Escort makes both right- and left-handed models of their Extreme and Supreme Magnum shotguns. The gun included here is a Supreme Magnum in 12 gauge, with a 26” barrel and a weight of 7.4 lbs. Escort also offers a Supreme Magnum in 20 gauge, and Extreme Magnum 12 gauges in a variety of different finishes.
Fabrique Nationale FNX-45 Tactical—Another manufacturer who takes ambidexterity very seriously, lefties will find themselves at home with many of FN’s products. Featured here is the FNX-45 Tactical, a double-stack .45 ACP handgun with raised sights and an extended and threaded barrel for use with suppressors and compensators. Other left-hand-friendly FN models include the rest of the FNX line, the FNS line and the PS90.
Heckler & Koch P30LS—H&K offers numerous handguns that come in numerous configurations—many of which are ambidextrous, but a few of which are not—left-handed buyers are encouraged to double-check whether the specific model they are considering buying will suit their needs. The P30LS bears a slide stop and frame-mounted safety on each side of the firearm, as well as, a paddle magazine release in the trigger guard that can be actuated with either hand.
Ruger Gunsite Scout—Ruger designed four models of its Gunsite Scout to accommodate left-handed shooters, two in each of the firearm’s two available
chamberings—pictured is a .308 Win. rifle with a 16.10” matte black barrel. Ruger also offers lefty versions of its American Rifle line in seven different cartridges, and its Hawkeye African in .375 Ruger.
Savage Arms 220 Slug Gun—A bolt-action shotgun chambered in 20 gauge, the 220 Slug Gun is one of several firearms offered by Savage for southpaws. The 7.5 lb. gun features a 22” barrel and is drilled and tapped for a scope mount. Other left-handed
offerings include the 11 Trophy Hunter XP – Youth, 11/111 International Trophy Hunter XP and 110 BA.
Smith & Wesson M&P22 —S&W’s M&P22, as well as its entire line of double-stack M&P semi-automatic handguns, is fully ambidextrous. The guns all include slide stops on both sides of theframe and a reversible magazine release button, and those models of M&P that do feature manual safeties sport ambidextrous ones. The M&P22 comes in two sizes —full-sized and compact. Stag Arms Model 3TL-M—Founded by a lefty for the purpose of giving lefties an option in the world of AR-15s, Stag Arms offers 15 models of left-handed AR in a number of chamberings and barrel lengths. Featured here is the Model 3TL-M, with a free-floating 13.5” Diamondhead VRS-T handguard and Magpul ACS buttstock. The gun is designed to be equally at home in tactical and competitive scenarios.
Thompson/Center Dimension — The Thompson/Center Dimension is available in 10 chamberings, all of which can be had in either a left- or right-handed rifle. The gun’s modular design allows all 10 calibers to be fired through the same receiver; it just requires the swapping out of interchangeable barrels, bolts and magazines. The rifles weigh 7 lbs. and have adjustable triggers. Barrel and overall length depend on the particular barrel installed.
Walther PPQ M2—Walther has produced two iterations of its PPQ striker-fired semi-automatic pistol—the M1 with a paddle magazine release, and the M2 with a more traditional push-button release—both of which are equally southpaw-friendly. The handguns are offered by Walther in three chamberings and multiple barrel lengths. Pictured is an M2 model, in 9 mm Luger, with a 4” barrel.
In those preceding years, the other pistols had in many cases been manufactured to a less demanding standard. They had been made when precision meant hand fitting, and everyone expected pistols to be somewhat less reliable than revolvers. Soon the “hand-fit vs. reliability” debate would sputter out, but until then, Glock was first. The level of reliability that Glocks demonstrate can be approached and matched by other pistols, but there is a definite advantage in being first.
Here Glock has a definite advantage. The polymer frame shrugs off impacts that would dent or crack other frames made of aluminum or steel. Unless you’re willing to make your handgun excessively bulky (and thus solid) it won’t be as durable. And that heavy, who’d want it?
The Glock’s big Glock advantage is its weight. Or lack thereof, really. The standard G-17 tips the scales empty at a feathery 22 ounces. Comparable pistols come in 25 to 30 percent heavier, and revolvers must be quite compact to beat the Glock. Big revolvers can’t do it; small or airweight can; but they all lack capacity.
The advantageous shape of the Glock grip stems from two things; the polymer design and the European search for a “natural pointing angle” between grip and bore. The polymer design of the Glock frame means that there is no need for grips. And the deletion of grips also means no grip screws, no bushings for same and no need to worry about them coming loose.
The Glock … rails are so small they hardly add anything to the parts stack height up to the bore. There is no hammer, so the hammer pivot isn’t in the way of lowering the bore. The barrel locks into the ejection port of the slide, so the thickness of steel above the barrel is no more than that needed for structural integrity. And the firing pin height is only what is needed for the tail to reach down to the cruciform of the trigger bar.
Low Felt Recoil
Low felt recoil results from the combination of the flex of the polymer frame, the grip angle and the hand-filling grip that doesn’t have joints where the (non-existent) grips meet the frame, and the low bore line. The low bore aids low felt recoil, as the cycling parts do not have as much leverage when they bottom out against the frame. Also, the flex of the polymer frame changes the nature of the impact between slide and frame.
On a Glock, you can practically teach your dog to swap extractors. You can swap parts yourself, once you’ve had about 10 minutes of coaching. You can replace worn or broken ones, or replace lost ones that you dropped on the last cleaning. About the only things that might require extra tools or some training would be installing new sights or fitting a new, non-Glock-made barrel.
For its size, the Glock holds more rounds than any other pistol. For a brief time during the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, all pistols held a maximum of 10 rounds, at least those with magazines made at the time. Since the sunsetting of that egregious law we are back to full-capacity magazines. When the G-17 came to be, the top capacity pistols were the traditional Browning Hi-Power at 13 rounds and the S&W M‑59 at 15.
Simplicity of Use
For training, less time spent learning the “knobs and buttons” meant that more time could be spent learning sight alignment and trigger control. Students issued Glocks posted higher qualification scores with less time and shooting than those issued revolvers or other pistols.
They Look Cool
The Glock design exudes a businesslike air unlike any other firearm. Yes, it is irrational to attach an emotional state to an object, but as emotional creatures that is what we humans do. And just to make sure you know where I stand on the issue (firmly in the middle) it is my personal feeling that a Glock has all of the warmth, charm, personality and character of an industrial tool.
Often lauded for its durability and accuracy, the M1A platform chambered in 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. also deserves a nod for flexibility. Not long ago I spent some quality time on the range with Springfield’s long-range Loaded M1A target model. With its medium-weight National Match barrel and adjustable stock, that rifle can really reach out to far-off targets. However, with a few adjustments to the rifle’s configuration, it becomes a potent close-quarters combat platform. Here’s a closer look at the Springfield SOCOM 16 CQB M1A model designed specifically for up-close and personal situations.
Like its compatriots, the SOCOM 16 CQB is a semi-automatic rifle that operates using the battle-tested M1A gas piston, a rotating bolt and an all-steel action. No matter how you slice it, the M1A is a big gun and Springfield isn’t going to monkey with a proven system by experimenting with lightweight alloys. That being said, the company has done a good job of giving it a balanced feel off the bench and making it 2 lbs. lighter than the target model.
The carbon-steel components have been treated with a non-reflective black Parkerized finish that blends in neatly with the matte black of the lightweight composite stock. The muzzle of the 16.25″ medium-profile carbon-steel barrel is fitted with a slim multi-port brake that brings the total barrel length to just under 18″.
This version of the rifle arrives with two sighting systems installed and accommodations for a third. The iron sights consist of a winged XS Sight Systems .125″ blade with a Trijicon tritium insert in front and a fully adjustable .135″ ghost-ring aperture in back. Dovetailed into the receiver above the ejection port is a Springfield Armory Clip Guide red-dot mount supporting a Vortex Optics Venom 3 MOA red-dot sight (VMD-3103). This compact sight provides 10 illumination levels, fully multi-coated optics, a water resistant single-piece chassis and ships with a protective rubber cover. The third option is to use the 4″ long Picatinny compatible rail located in front of the action to mount a scout scope with extended eye relief. For this review, I ran the rifle exclusively with the excellent Vortex red-dot optic.
The controls have a typical M1A configuration. The charging handle is on the right, the safety lever is mounted in front of the trigger guard and the magazine release is mounted directly behind the magazine well. The gun arrived with a 10-round steel magazine that rocks into place much like that of an AK-47. The traditional steel bow two-stage trigger was smooth with a 5 lbs. 9 oz. trigger pull.
The single-piece Archangel composite stock is loaded with features that will please the tactically minded. The 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions of the fore-end are slotted to accept accessory rails. A pair of 1.5” side rails is installed at the factory along with a single 3″ rail. Two metallic quick release (QD) flush cup sling swivel ports are located on the right and left sides near the muzzle with two more just above the AR-type removable pistol grip. The AR-type 5-postion adjustable shoulder stock is fitted with a removable rubber recoil pad and cheek riser. The length-of-pull (LOP) can be shifted from 11.5″ to 14.5″.
To facilitate easy transport, this M1A arrives in a black soft case in which one entire interior surface is a loop side fastener. The support straps can be placed where preferred in order to accommodate an attached optic while leaving plenty of free space for other aftermarket accessory pouches to be added.
As expected, the SOCOM 16 CQB exhibited top-notch levels of fit and finish across the board. It passed its bench checks with flying colors and went on to perform admirably at the shooting range. The muzzle brake works effectively to reduce muzzle rise, keeping the gun level and on target. The AR-type pistol grip and adjustable stock make this beefy platform much easier to shoulder and swing off the bench. Felt recoil was stiff but manageable. If you feel strong enough to carry a nearly 10-lb. gun around in the first place, then recoil is not going to be an issue.
I was careful to consider which varieties of .308 Win. might be a good fit for this gun. Because there are so many general purpose and specialized target shooting loads to choose from, it’s a good idea to look for those cartridges with performance qualities suited to close-quarters conditions. For example, rapid bullet expansion is a plus. It’s not uncommon to see .308s with barrels from 18″ to 22″ long, so I broke out the trusty Lab Radar chronograph to see how much velocity the relatively short 16.25″ barrel would preserve.
The Springfield SOCOM 16 CQB M1A is an impressive piece of hardware. Its long and respected battlefield heritage has been preserved and enhanced for the needs of today’s military and law enforcement personnel. It’s certainly enough gun for those civilians who are looking for a defensive option that offers plenty of punch and a host of tactical features.
Specifications Manufacturer: Springfield Armory Model: M1A AA9611PK CQB Close-Quarters Combat Action: Gas-Piston Operated Semi-Automatic with Rotating Bolt Caliber: 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. Finish: Parkerized Steel Stock: Archangel Synthetic 5 Position CQB with Adjustable Cheek Piece, Black Barrel: Medium Profile Parkerized Carbon Steel Muzzle: SOCOM Muzzle Brake Front Sight: XS Sight Systems Post with Tritium Insert, .125″ Blade Front Rear Sight: Ghost Ring Adjustable, .135″ Aperture Optic: Vortex Optics Venom 3 MOA Red Dot Optic Mount: Springfield Armory Clip Guide Red-Dot Mount Barrel Length: 16.25″ Overall Length: 35.5″ – 38.5″ Length Of Pull (LOP): 11.5″ – 14.5″ Weight: 9 lbs. 4 oz. with Empty Magazine & Optic Capacity: 10-Round Parkerized Steel Removable Box Magazine Twist: 1:11” RH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: One Magazine, Soft Carry Case, Owner’s Manual
A couple of weeks ago we brought you an exclusive first look at a new entry into the concealed-carry market, the Taurus Spectrum—the gun maker’s first gun designed, engineered and manufactured in the U.S. But we didn’t get a chance to handle an actual model until today at the 2017 SHOT Show. While we will fully test and evaluate the pistol for American Rifleman later this year, by all appearances it seems that Taurus has covered not only the full “spectrum” of colors in its new .380 ACP pistol, it offers many other important features that go into an ideal concealed-carry gun.
A “non-energized” trigger system (it can’t be cocked) means the double-action-only pistol requires a very deliberate press on a wide, flat trigger. The Spectrum is recoil-operated, and contains no external safeties. Dimensions are: 2.8” barrel, 5.40” overall length, 3.82” high, and only 0.89” wide. It weighs in at 10 ozs. unloaded. A recessed grip makes offers a very comfortable carry.
Back to the Spectrum’s visual appeal, the pistol is available in either a stainless or a Melonite-coated stainless steel slide. The “colorful” parts—the backstrap, grips and an indented slide where there are normally serrations—are made from proprietary polymer inserts that are actually part of the firearm and will not wear out or fade over time. Consumers can choose their own color combinations with a wide choice of standard-color inserts and even more available as distributor exclusives.
The pistol ships with both a six-round and an extended seven-round magazine at an MSRP under $300.
American Rifleman’s Brian Sheetz caught up with Taurus Pro Shooter Jesse Duff at the 2017 SHOT Show, where she walked him through all of the features of this new lightweight and innovative entry into the fast-growing concealed-carry market.
I realized I was empty. Without delay I dropped the empty magazine out of the rifle and pulled a bright-orange Bakelite replacement loaded with 30 deadly 7.62×39 rounds out of my chest rig and slapped it into my AR. That’s right, AR. I didn’t suddenly go senile and stick the wrong mag into the gun, nor have I accidentally mistyped an “R” instead of a “K” in “AK.” Nope. No mistake here. I was testing Rock River Arms’ new LAR-47.
But the idea of chambering an AR in the harder-hitting 7.62×39 is hardly a new one.
AK or AR?
Neverending Internet battles over what caliber is better make for an interesting sidelight of the eternal AK vs. AR argument. Most likely it will never end as long as both platforms exist. Among the opposing parties there are those who base their opinion on real-life experience, but more often than not it’s mere perception. I love the lack of recoil in a 5.56. However, when combat ranges are drastically shortened and exceptional accuracy at longer distances isn’t required, the increased knockdown power of the 7.62×39 can really pay off.
As a result, several manufacturers have produced ARs in “Russian Short .30” caliber. That’s not a big deal when it comes down to just swapping the upper receiver. The tricky part, however, lies with the lower receiver and the mag well in particular. A new 30-round magazine had to be devised to accommodate tapered 7.62×39. And, to be polite, the result was somewhat less than perfect. The mag has to be transitioned from severe curvature to straight to fit into an AR mag well. This type of magazine presented several problems. A minor one would be the magazines not fitting into existing web gear. A major problem? Unreliable feeding in a sensitive AR.
The AK, on the other hand, was originally designed to fire the 7.62×39 cartridge and had a near-perfect magazine developed for it. In fact, the magazine design is so good that I’ll come right out and say it’s the best design for a combat rifle. Everything from the feeding lips to the mag-retention system is outstanding.
Having said that, I’m not trying to idealize an AK as the perfect battle rifle. It has its advantages but also lacks things, especially from the viewpoint of American shooters. I happen to be a big subcaliber fan, based on time spent as a member of a fighting unit in Afghanistan during the Soviet campaign in the 1980s. Naturally, you can conclude that my weapon of choice is an AK74 chambered in 5.45×39. But I had plenty of experience with its older .30-caliber sibling as well and have seen what both are capable of firsthand.
Moving to the States at the end of the ’80s, I quickly immersed myself in the wonderful gun culture that this country has to offer. As soon as I was able, I got my hands on an AR. Always drawn to the coolness of the rifle, I just had to have one. As soon as I got my own, I learned to appreciate the AR for the superb rifle that it is. Its accuracy, ergonomics and balance made me an instant fan. Even today one of my go-to rifles is Bravo Company’s BCM-4. But I did not totally swear off the AK. I like both rifles and over the years learned to appreciate the good features and work around the “bad” ones that—most definitely—both designs possess. Today I not only get to use ARs on a regular basis for work, I also get to observe these rifle in action at our school, where we teach both DMR and Fighting Carbine classes.
The Crucial Factor
Now, the prospect of an AR firing the familiar 7.62×39 round from an AK magazine was downright intriguing. But I did have a couple of reservations. (1) Would firing a larger projectile resulting in harsher recoil be detrimental to accuracy? (2) How would it feed a tapered round out of the “wrong” magazine? Magazine design is crucial to any feeding system. More often than not, perfectly innocent rifles get a bum rap for being unreliable because of badly designed or poorly made magazines. ARs are no exception (in fact, they’re most likely a leader in that department).
Though I was cautious, I also knew that the AK magazine design was robust and reliable. To see how it worked in the AR was something that I had to see for myself. If it worked, it would open a whole world of possibilities. From a military point of view, the ability to replenish your ammo at your enemy’s expense is a great asset for small units operating behind enemy lines, as I’ve learned. The ability to pick up loaded mags off a dead enemy during a firefight is indispensable.
For an average civilian shooter who, for years, has been shooting AKs due to the economical aspects of the rifles themselves, as well as the attractively priced ammo, having the ability to use the same already-paid-for mags and cheap ammo will make for an easy transition to an AR platform.
So, after a few phone calls with my editor I had a new Rock River Arms’s LAR-47 on its way to me.
The LAR-47 Arrives
The rifle arrived in its hardcase accompanied by two plastic 30-round magazines made by Master Molder of Wilson, N.C. It looked like your average AR except maybe for the weird mag well. The only other things suggesting it was something else were the two black plastic 30-round AK magazines that were included. Closer examination of the magazines revealed great attention to detail. I proceeded to take apart the LAR-47. It came apart as any AR should and revealed no hidden surprises. As I continued to play with the gun, I immediately noticed that it came with no rear sight—pretty common for new ARs these days. Granted, there’s no shortage of rear sight options. I had Midwest Industries’ SPLP folding sight handy that I quickly installed.
Next, since the LAR-47 came with standard CAR-15 handguards, I decided to install Midwest Industries’ SS-series drop-in handguards in case I felt like installing any accessories. I added a TangoDown front vertical grip, and with that I was done. One thing I should mention: Just as on any AK, the precise placement of the grip is dictated by the curvature of the magazine. The LAR is not an exception.
The rest of the gun was in line with any other AR. It was equipped with a standard M4 collapsible stock and regular pistol grip. The triggerguard is unique—it had to be changed to accommodate the magazine release latch that is cleverly designed to be operated by the trigger finger or, more conventionally, with the thumb by either right- or left-handed shooters. I shouldered the gun a few times and noticed that it was extremely comfortable and, strangely, somewhat reminiscent of an AK. This is probably due to the rifle’s weight distribution. The LAR-47 sports a much heavier barrel than its 5.56 compatriots. Also, a fully loaded AK magazine substantially outweighs that of the standard AR, placing more weight toward the front of the gun. That put a smile on my face, as I felt a familiar feeling coming over me. Other than that, the LAR-47 bears little resemblance to the AK both visually and operationally. The rifle’s action, incidentally, was as smooth as you would expect from Rock River.
Feeding the Rifle
Next, without any hesitation I inserted the plastic magazine into the rifle’s mag well and clicked it in place. It went in like butter. A few words about the LAR-47’s mag well: It is basically an AR mag well that is cut roughly in half diagonally. It also serves as a guide for the magazine. After inserting the mag that was provided with the gun and taking it out, I examined the magazines closely. They seemed to be well made out of hard plastic and, without a doubt, would serve their intended purpose on the range. But it’s doubtful that they will be as robust as the original AK mags that are made out of steel entirely (or at least are reinforced with steel). No worries. I had a full line of various AK magazine at my disposal, and I immediately wanted to see which of them would fit the LAR. And that is where I encountered my first disappointment. Note that when I say “disappointment,” I mean for me personally and in no way due to the gun design and its intended use. When this gun was on its way, I was already imagining how I would slap the Russian 75-round drum into it and blast away at targets with extreme prejudice.
Well, all of my dreams vanished as soon as the drum mag failed to insert into the mag well. Disappointing, but not the end of the world, as I also had several 40-rounders that fit like a glove. The rest of the mags went in without a hitch except for early Soviet aluminum ones (due to the magazine’s guide ribs) and a Polish military black polymer mag. However, the ones that did fit latched in tight and did not display any of the play or wobble that is common in any AK.
The only one thing that was left pertaining to the magazine retention was the dreaded AK “magazine pushup.” Well, I inserted the Soviet steel magazine into the LAR, stock into the ground, balanced myself on the gun and performed the pushup. The gun and the mag held. One thing worth noting is that although the mag-release latch is design to be operated with the trigger finger, when it is depressed the magazine does not drop down and has to be removed with the other hand. Once again, not a big deal because I would prefer to swap my mags using my thumb anyway.
At the Range
In preparation for the range trip, I wanted to make sure I had several different magazines, as I wanted to see if the new gun fed well from most commonly available AK mags. One also can assume that I wasn’t going to just put the new LAR rifle through its paces, but I was going to run it side-by-side with the rifles that were initially designed to fire the 7.62×39 cartridge. So I also had two of my personal 7.62×39 AKs ready—a standard AKML (the railed version of standard AKM rifle) and an AK-103 (the most recent model of the 7.62×39 AK). Both were equipped with side-mount rails so I could test all rifles with the same red dot and optical sights.
To make things pretty equal, I chose standard, similarly priced red dot units—Valdada’s RDS Edge and Vortex’s StrikeFire. I also picked the Hi-Lux CMR 1-4×24 scope, which I consider pretty close to ideal for any carbine. The ammo I used was the commonly available and inexpensive Wolf 122-grain FMJ steel-case stuff.
I was all set for a fun day of frolicking and debauchery at the range, though my initial excitement quickly subsided once I heard the forecast. It was going to be an absolute scorcher. However, duty calls, and after a short drive I was setting up at the 100-yard range. I saw no need to get any closer since I had laser bore-sighted the new LAR-47 and all the scopes I was going to use.
First I wanted to check the LAR’s functionality. I wanted to know if the new rifle would feed out of all the magazines that fit in it. I loaded a Master Molder mag with Wolf ammo and shoved it into the gun, pulled the charging handle and got ready behind my iron sights. With much anticipation I pulled a trigger and—nothing! A quick look into the ejection window revealed a double feed. I quickly cleared it, recharged the LAR, pulled the trigger and the gun went bang. That hiccup would be the only one for the entire day with the Master Molder magazines.
The rest of the magazines functioned as they should except for a Romanian steel mag that had two misfeeds, which underlines the importance of testing magazine function.
Next was accuracy. If I was going to run the new LAR-47 rifle against anything, it had to be the AKs. First I got behind a good old wood-clad AKML and produced four-inch groups. My AK-103 did slightly better and scored three-inch groups with open sights.
Then I slapped a magazine into the LAR-47 and went to work. I have to admit I struggled a bit with getting on target at first due to the original gun not having the rear sight. Luckily, the Midwest Industries’ folding SPLP sight had windage adjustments and I had a front sight adjustment tool. I quickly adjusted the sights and, once on paper, fine-tuned things. Results were more than satisfactory, with solid three-inch groups. Next I shot the rifles with red dot sights and was able to tighten my groups somewhat, with the AKML scoring three inches, the AK-103 2½ inches and the LAR-47 producing a 2¼-inch winner. Not bad considering that most of the red dot scopes have two- to three-MOA dots. The Hi-Lux scope helped to tighten my groups even further only marginally.
Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with performance of the Rock River gun. Though the LAR-47 did produce the best groups, they were only slightly better than my other guns and not enough to declare it a clear winner. It did, however, outperform the AKs in other areas such as felt recoil and ergonomics. Shooting the LAR was very much like shooting any other AR—it felt well balanced. The large AR buffer spring and heavy barrel reduce felt recoil enough to make it really easy to keep the gun on target. By the time I left the range, I felt that I would have to have an LAR-47 of my own.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the somewhat inadequate performance of the 5.56 round. Though for the most part such opinions are usually simply based on perception, in some cases they are not without merit. Naturally, common sense tells us with all things being equal, the heavier .30-caliber bullet will generate more energy. But all things are not always equal.
In ballistics, there are several factors that affect bullet performance, but the main things remain the effective range and terminal velocity. Within the constraints of an intermediate cartridge, that’s where twist rate comes into play. I can discuss twist rates and terminal velocities all day, but really it all comes down to one thing: To achieve the stability of a heavier bullet, a lighter one must spin at a higher rate. Hence the 1:7 twist rate for .223 round and 1:8 for the Russian 5.45×39, whereas the 7.62×39 AKs have a 1:9.45 twist. The LAR-47’s twist of 1:10 comes pretty close to the .30-caliber AKs in that regard. Though faster, smaller bullets perform exceptionally well, at distances past 600 yards a regular 5.56 round runs out of breath. At that distance it will no longer knock down the LaRue Tactical resetting sniper targets, whereas the 7.62×39 continues to carry enough energy to take down those targets even past 1,000 yards.
Although average gunfight contact distances have closed drastically in recent years (rarely reaching past 400 to 600 yards), the prospect of having an accurate carbine that can sling a heavy bullet with precision at distances up to 600 yards is still a good one. And that’s where the LAR-47 comes in.
Black rifle shooters often refer to themselves as being an AR or AK man and can cite the advantages of each platform. The same people often highlight the shortcomings of the opposing rifle. Many AR sympathizers wish they had a harder-hitting AR, and many AK lovers wish they had improved ergonomics. Well, now you have both with the LAR-47. It should appeal to shooters across the “AK vs. AR” battleground.
Beretta released the “Cx4 Storm” in 2003, hoping to compete in the law enforcement market. The case for the Cx4 is strong, since it’s a lightweight, accurate, reliable blowback-operated carbine that allows an officer to use the same magazine as his or her 92 FS or Px4 pistol. Unfortunately for Beretta, most departments have opted for AR-15s and M-4s, so the Cx4 never really achieved the type of US LEO market acceptance that I imagine Beretta would have hoped. But that doesn’t mean the venerable Cx4 isn’t a viable option . . .
The Beretta Cx4 Storm is a blowback-operated polymer-framed carbine that fires from the closed bolt. The simple blow-back action ensures perfect reliability. It weighs in at a very light 5.75 lbs and has an overall length of 29.5 inches. Available chamberings include 9x19mm and .40 S&W; Beretta recently discontinued production of the .45 ACP version.
The Cx4 is fed via pistol magazines that are inserted Uzi-style (i.e. through the pistol grip). The advantage to this system is that it is easy to insert magazines even in complete darkness, because the trigger hand gives you a point of reference for the location of the mag-well.
The Cx4 sports a 16-inch, 6-groove, RH twist barrel which is both hammer-forged and chrome lined.
The Cx4 isn’t fully ambidextrous, but most of the controls are reversible. From the factory, the Cx4 is set up for right-handed operation, including right handed ejection. In about five minutes (or less with practice), the operator can reverse the extractor and ejector, the safety (1), the magazine release (2), the cocking handle (3), and the ejection port cover (4) for left handed use. The only control that is not reversible is the bolt release lever.
The fixed thumbhole stock can be adjusted in length via the use of up to three 15mm (.6 inch) spacers. In my opinion, pretty much every thumbhole stock sucks on a tactical rifle. However, the Beretta Cx4 is not nearly as bad as others I have tried. In fact, it is about as good as one might expect, given the political limitations Beretta was faced with.
Ergonomics and Operator Controls
The biggest selling point for the Cx4 has got to be its lightweight, comfortable design. It feels as comfortable as a broken-in set of Ferragamo Derbys. I’ve fired scores of different pistol caliber carbines and SMGs, and perhaps none feel as good in the hand as the Beretta Cx4. Even the legendary HK MP5 feels big and clunky in comparison, and an UZI feels like a boat anchor next to the Cx4.
One of the most important design criteria of the Cx4 was the use of pistol-like controls. Beretta intended to ensure that police officers using their pistols such as the 92F or Px4 Storm could make easy transitions to the Cx4. In this regard, Beretta’s engineers designed the magazine release and bolt release to be in familiar locations for pistol shooters.
The Cx4 is festooned with safety features. A manual safety blocks the trigger, and can be engaged regardless of whether the bolt is open or closed. The carbine also features a bolt travel stop safety, a firing pin block safety, a hammer block / drop safety. Should the carbine be dropped or struck against an object, the bolt travel stop safety will not allow the bolt to cycle.
As an additional safety feature, Beretta added a loaded chamber indicator on the ejector.
The plastic factory trigger is a definite low point, and is primarily what made me initially have reservations about the Cx4. For some reason, Beretta still has an old-school mindset when it comes to triggers on tactical rifles and carbines. In short, Beretta likes them heavy.
As a former Army officer, I get the fact that heavier triggers equate — at least in theory — to fewer negligent discharges. But the US civilian market definitely places high value on 3-5 pound triggers. So Beretta choosing to put heavy triggers on their tactical rifles frustrates me to no end, since I know that Beretta doesn’t do that with their shotguns. My Beretta Silver Pigeon III shotgun’s trigger breaks at around 5 lbs. As it should.
Unlike the Silver Pigeon, the factory Cx4 trigger pull is long and creepier than Joe Biden. To make matters worse, the overall trigger weight is in the bowling ball range — about 10-12 pounds range. That’s entirely unacceptable. While it’s possible to master a heavy trigger with practice, I found myself frequently pulling the lightweight carbine off target a bit as I attempted to “squeeze” the trigger. Needless the say, it was fairly obvious to me that the trigger is the “limiting factor” when it comes to accuracy. As mentioned above, I eventually replaced it with the excellent Sierra Papa mods.
I have one other interesting and little-known fact about the Cx4 trigger. The trigger assembly contains a small ball bearing that rolls back in forth in a cradle. When the carbine is pointed up or down above a certain angle, the ball bearing moves in a manner that causes the trigger pull to increase by a few pounds. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I do know that it is possible to remove that little ball bearing for a smoother trigger. I have shot well over 3000 rounds without the ball bearing with no effect on accuracy or reliability.
The Cx4’s iron sights are unique and it took me a while to get to appreciate them. The front post sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation, but it does require the use of a proprietary tool (included). The rear sight is a simple “L-shaped” sight, similar to World War II issue M-1 carbines or Enfield No.4 mk 1s.
I learned how to shoot using sights on my Ruger 10/22, but I was never really a great shot with those Ruger sights. However, I really started to master irons at age 14 when I shot M-16A1s at my first JROTC summer camp. The instructors taught us to use the protective “ears” on U.S. military front sights as an aiming “aid” by lining them up with the circle created by the rear aperture, as shown in the photo below. I actually try to back off the rear sight far enough so that the ears “touch” the circle, but not everybody uses that technique. In any event, these outwardly curved “ears” have been a standard on every U.S. military rifle since the Model of 1917.
But the U.S. military design is not the only one that uses the protective shield of the front post sight as part of the aiming system. For example, the famous HK front sights are either curved inward or create a complete circle, and can be used to make a very intuitive a “circle in a circle” sight picture.
The Beretta Cx4 does have protective ears, but it is less intuitive as to how you can use them as aiming aide because they don’t turn outward like the U.S. military, nor do they make an obvious circle like the HK front sights. However, if you only focus on the outer edge of the Cx4 front sight ears, it does make a circle pattern, and you can use those outside edges to mirror the “circle” pattern created by the rear peep sight. It works, but it is not as obvious or intuitive as the HK sights.
But let’s not kid ourselves… that beautiful aluminum picatinny is just screaming for optics, and I don’t see too many guys running the Cx4 with irons in any event. Slap an Aimpoint T-1 on that puppy and you won’t need to worry too much about iron sights!
One really nice feature is that both the front and rear sights can be pushed down out of the way when using optics, as shown in the photos above.
Beretta makes two versions of the Cx4. One version uses magazines that are compatible with the Px4. The other is compatible with “90 series” of pistols (92F/96 etc) mags. If you have the version made for the Px4 mags, 8000 series magazines (using optional adapters),you can use P92/96 and 8000 series magazines by purchasing two separate magazine inserts. In either case, the magazines are made by Mec-gar, and are extremely high quality.
The one thing that I found a bit odd is that the 20 and 30 round magazines come from the factory with extremely heavy springs. The first time I loaded them it was extremely difficult to get them loaded to full capacity, even using the factory magazine loader accessory. Thankfully, the magazine springs lightened up over time, and now it is possible to load them to capacity even without the loader.
The Beretta Cx4 is relatively simple to disassemble. A single metal-reinforced polymer non-captured “disassembly latch” holds the upper and lower receivers together. It can be removed by pushing it out from either end. Next, the bolt assembly can be removed by backing it out of the upper until you reach an index point, where the charging handle is removed. Once the charging handle is removed, the bolt carrier can be removed out of the rear of the upper receiver.
The extractor, ejector and spring guide assembly are held in the bolt assembly via a “retaining spring,” which is a “horseshoe” shaped leaf spring. Once you remove that spring, everything pretty much falls out. Pay attention to the way the extractor and ejector are positioned, because the direction of ejection is reversible depending on which side of the bolt carrier you install the extractor and ejector. The design is both simple and ingenious.
The trigger housing can be removed from the lower receiver. Rather than explain how to do it, I will simply direct you here for a step-by step video.
Accuracy & Reliability
One definite high point for the Cx4 is its utter reliability. Since I purchased the Beretta, I have fired roughly 5000 +/- rounds through the weapon without a single malfunction of any kind. I typically don’t run the cheapest ammo out there, but I’m not running the expensive stuff either. Mostly, I run a combination of gun show reloads, UMC, Winchester (mostly Wally World white box), Tula Brass, Blazer Brass, and American Eagle. Again, the Cx4 eats it all up with boring regularity. Just how I like it.
Accuracy of the Beretta was a bit disappointing at first, with groups averaging roughly 2-3 inches at 50 yards. As mentioned above, the trigger group clearly is the limiting factor to achieving peak accuracy. I probably could have spent a bunch of time and money “learning” the trigger’s quirks, but instead I went the aftermarket route. Indeed, accuracy improved once I installed the Sierra Papa modifications. Shown above is a particularly nice 50 yard group and some “typical” 100 yard groups which I achieved with the Sierra Papa upgrades and a 6x scope (not shown). Make no mistake, even as modified, it’s still not a target trigger. But it’s a lot better than it was. More on that below.
Beretta typically is fairly generous with its accessory package, and the Cx4 does not disappoint in this regard. It includes an excellent polymer hard case, two 15-round magazines, a magazine loader, a sight adjustment tool, a cleaning kit (rod, bore mop, bronze brush, and jag), gun lock, and one two-inch section of rail which can be mounted on either side of the firearm.
Note: If you buy a new Cx4, pay close attention to the warranty card. The Cx4 comes with a “1(+2)” warranty. What that means is that it comes with a one year warranty, but if you send in the warranty card within 30 days of purchase, Beretta will extend the warranty for two additional years.
Sierra Papa “Upgrade” Parts
As discussed above, the OEM version of the Cx4 Storm is an excellent design but has a few annoying quirks / flaws. If you want to improve your CX4 to make it go from “good” to “great,” you owe it to yourself to check out Sierra Papa. As they state on their website, their goal is to “improve the breed.”
The owner, Brian Montgomery, is a retired airline pilot who became a Cx4 enthusiast soon after the carbine was released. With an extensive engineering and manufacturing background, he began figuring out ways to improve the weak links in the system. The photo below shows both the Sierra Papa parts and the tools needed to install them. SP used to allow the purchaser to install the parts, but their current policy is to require you to send your trigger pack to them so that they can inspect the unit and decide whether a sear clip is needed. Click here to learn more for the reasoning behind this new policy.
Sierra Papa completes the work very quickly, ensuring a typical 7-10 day door-to-door turn-around time, including shipping.
In the photo below, you can see the difference between the OEM plastic hammer and the SP Stainless steel hammer. In the event the photo does not speak for itself, trust me when I tell you that the SP is a gorgeously milled part that vastly improves the trigger pull. The factory OEM part is very light, and only generates enough inertia when driven by a powerful hammer spring to ensure sufficient energy to reliably operate the firing pin. Unfortunately, the “heavy” hammer spring, in turn, requires a heavy trigger pull. Thus, when you switch to the heavier Sierra Papa hammer, you can also use a lighter hammer spring, which can be operated by a lighter trigger.
Out of the box, the Beretta Cx4 is diamond in the rough. It shows great potential because it’s utterly reliable, light, and compact. However, the plastic hammer makes for a heavy, creepy trigger pull that robs the carbine of its inherent accuracy. The government-mandated thumbhole stock is well-designed, but still detracts from the otherwise good handling characteristics. Fortunately, Sierra Papa can fix these faults, and turn the Cx4 Storm into a real Ferrari. Admittedly, like a Ferrari, these aftermarket mod turn the Cx4 into an expensive project, so you have to decide if it is worth the cost. By the time you invest in a number of 30-round mags, rails, optics, and the Sierra Papa upgrades, you can easily have $1500-2000 into the project. I can easily justify the initial investment by recognizing that the 9×19 chambering will pay for itself in ammo saving: even if you shoot a relatively conservative 2000-3000 rounds a year, the cost savings add up quickly. However, $2k is a big number, and I realize that for many folks it is simply out of the question.
In thinking about pistol caliber carbines, there are lots of options. At the top of the market you have HK SP-89s, HK-94s, and HK UMPs. Colt and JP make 9mm ARs that are really nice, but again they tend to be rather expensive. Sig-Sauer just released the excellent MPX ($1600-ish), and I am definitely going to buy one in the near future. The CZ scorpion Evo 3 is also on the market and comes in at a highly competitive price. At the lower end of the price scale, Kel-Tec’s Sub 2000 is a nice gun if you can ever find one, and the Hi-Point 995 is ugly but apparently works pretty well. The Taurus CT-9 would have been serious competition for the Beretta if Taurus had addressed the 10-round magazine problem, and figured out a way to make the CT-9 a bit more compact. But instead Taurus has discontinued importation of the CT-9, so it’s DOA.
Despite the other options, I think the Beretta offers a professional, bet-your-life-on-it patrol carbine for a very competitive price. Once I solved the trigger “issue,” I really started to like… er.. love… this carbine, and I can recommend it without any reservations. Indeed, it makes a fine addition to my Beretta collection. Better yet, all of my friends who have shot this gun walk away saying “I gotta get me one of those.” That is high praise and it is well deserved.
The Performance Center by Smith & Wesson announced a number of new products including pistols, rifles, revolvers, and slide kits for 2017.
New Performance Center M&P Rifles
Performance Center engineers have been working on a rifle that would enhance the performance characteristics of the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber. In 2017, the engineers launched the M&P10 6.5 Creedmoor. The M&P10 6.5 Creedmoor is a rifle with a precision, two-stage match trigger, a 15-inch free-float Troy Alpha Rail with M-LOK handguard, Magpul buttstock and pistol grip, as well as a threaded 20-inch barrel.
The Performance Center also introduced a new M&P15 Competition rifle. The competition-class rifle comes standard with a Performance Center muzzle brake, a two-stage match trigger, a 15-inch free-float Troy Alpha Rail with M-LOK handguard. Also included is a VLTOR I-Mod 6-position stock, and an 18-inch medium profile barrel with smooth cycling rifle-length gas system. The barrel is coated with Armornite for durability and corrosion resistance. The 5R rifling and a 1:8 twist is designed to enhance the rifle’s accuracy and reduces barrel maintenance.
New Performance Center M&P Pistols
Since 2006, the Performance Center has gained a reputation for taking standard M&P pistols and adding the Performance Center touch. The new Performance Center M&P45 Shield pistol follows in this tradition. Consumers will quickly notice the factory-ported barrels and slides. The factory porting helps keep muzzle flip down which assists the shooter to get the pistol back on target faster. The Performance Center M&P45 Shield pistol can be purchased with either adjustable HI-VIZ fiber optic sights or Tritium Night Sights.
Available in multiple configurations, the full-size pistols can be purchased in the standard 4.25” barrel or the 5” long slide. Both barrel lengths can be available in two of the most popular pistol calibers, 9mm and .40S&W. Shooters will appreciate the fast acquisition with the HI-VIZ sights and they will be quickly back on target with the reduced-recoil from the factory ported slides and barrels. A Performance Center sear and an adjustable trigger stop provide a smooth shot with reduced over-travel.
New Performance Center M&P Slide Kits
For the first time in 2017, customers can “hot rod” their M&P pistol with the new Performance Center C.O.R.E . Slide Kit. Each slide kit comes with a ported barrel and slide. The slide is cut to accept five different optic mounting plates. The white-dot front sight and drift-adjustable rear sight allow for easy target acquisition. Also included are three C.O.R.E. style palmswells. The patented interchangeable palmswell system allows the user to customize the grip and feel of their M&P, enhancing the pistol’s natural 18 degree grip angle. Slide kits are available for a number of different pistol configurations.
New Performance Center Concealed Carry Revolvers
In 2017, the Performance Center .38 Spl. +P compact revolvers come in two new versions. Both variations come with a 1.88-inch barrel, Performance Center-tuned action and an internal hammer to reduce snagging while drawing. One version comes with a custom textured wood grip and a matte silver finish, while the other version has a cylinder that is cut for moon clips and a synthetic grip with a stylish wood insert. The bright-finish on the cylinder flutes contrasts the black synthetic grips. The thumb piece and side-plate screws complete the stunning appearance.
The Model 637 38 S&W Special +P revolver comes standard with a Performance Center-tuned action and an external hammer for easy cocking. The matte finish blends well with the custom textured wood grips.
New Performance Center Hunting Revolvers
The new 460VXR revolver now has an option with a 7.5-inch barrel with muzzle break, holds five rounds of the 460 S&W Magnum, has a Performance Center-tuned action, chrome trigger and custom tear drop hammer. It has an integral scope base and a HI-VIZ green fiber optic front sight. A gun rug and carry sling are included.
The newest S&W500 revolver comes with a 3.5-inch barrel and a Performance Center-tuned action The unfluted cylinder, chromed trigger, over-travel-stop, custom teardrop hammer and HI VIZ fiber optic front sight provides this revolver with modern style and superb ergonomics. The 500 S&W Magnum comes with a Performance Center embossed gun rug.
New Performance Center Mid-Frame Revolvers
The 2017 Model 586 L-Comp revolver comes with an integrated compensator for faster target acquisition on follow-up shots and reduced recoil. Chambered in .357 Mag. and .38 Spl. +P, this conceal-carry revolver has a three-inch, ported barrel and Tritium front night. The 586 has a Performance Center trigger and trigger stop as well as a teardrop hammer. The action is tuned by the Performance Center gunsmiths.
Consumers looking for a carry gun might be interested in the compact 9mm Model 986 revolver (sku 10227.) The 2017 version features a seven-round, CNC-machined, titanium cylinder with a Performance Center-tuned action. The 2.5-inch barrel has a recessed precision crown making the revolver easy to conceal. The chromed custom teardrop hammer, trigger and trigger stop add style and function, making this a great option for consumers and professionals.