Springfield Armory Introduces Laser Equipped 1911 Loaded Model

by American Rifleman Staff

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Springfield Armory has optimized the 1911 Loaded Parkerized pistol for serious defensive use by adding Crimson Trace Lasergrips.

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The Parkerized finish is designed to stand up to the rigors of daily carry while the full 5″ Government size makes it an excellent home-defense option too. 

“The addition of the laser means you can react more quickly in response to a threat,” says Springfield CEO Dennis Reese.“ I don’t know if there’s anything more comforting than that.” 

Those familiar with Crimson Trace Lasergrips will already appreciate the instinctive activation button, which turns on the laser with no switch manipulation required. And low-profile grip replacements means that customers can use their favorite Government size holster. As a self-defense model, the Loaded Parkerized comes standard with three-dot Tritium combat sights. 

“The goal of our Loaded product line is to provide customers with pistols that are ready to go, out of the box, with everything they might need for serious types of usage,” says Reese. “To us, Loaded doesn’t represent a single combination of features. Rather, we create a number of different configurations within the Loaded family to meet different types of customer needs.”

Because everyone’s definition of Loaded is a little different, Springfield Armory now offers six different models in the series, each with its unique set of features. For example, the LB Operator offers an extra round in the magazine, while the Lightweight Operator uses a forged aluminum alloy frame to shave extra weight for concealed carry applications. The traditional Parkerized and Stainless Steel models are forged with a traditional dust cover while the Marine Corps Operator, LB Operator, and Lightweight Operator models include Picatinny rails for more tactical use. 

Depending on the specific Loaded configuration, customers will find premium features such as ambidextrous thumb safeties, extended beavertail grip safeties with memory bumps, lightweight delta hammers, and extended triggers. Two included magazines and a very high quality polymer briefcase round out the package. 

Springfield Armory will be offering the Loaded Parkerized Crimson Trace pistol in .45ACP.

The Parkerized finish is designed to stand up to the rigors of daily carry while the full 5″ Government size makes it an excellent home-defense option too. 

“The addition of the laser means you can react more quickly in response to a threat,” says Springfield CEO Dennis Reese.“ I don’t know if there’s anything more comforting than that.” 

Those familiar with Crimson Trace Lasergrips will already appreciate the instinctive activation button, which turns on the laser with no switch manipulation required. And low-profile grip replacements means that customers can use their favorite Government size holster. As a self-defense model, the Loaded Parkerized comes standard with three-dot Tritium combat sights. 

“The goal of our Loaded product line is to provide customers with pistols that are ready to go, out of the box, with everything they might need for serious types of usage,” says Reese. “To us, Loaded doesn’t represent a single combination of features. Rather, we create a number of different configurations within the Loaded family to meet different types of customer needs.”

Because everyone’s definition of Loaded is a little different, Springfield Armory now offers six different models in the series, each with its unique set of features. For example, the LB Operator offers an extra round in the magazine, while the Lightweight Operator uses a forged aluminum alloy frame to shave extra weight for concealed carry applications. The traditional Parkerized and Stainless Steel models are forged with a traditional dust cover while the Marine Corps Operator, LB Operator, and Lightweight Operator models include Picatinny rails for more tactical use. 

Depending on the specific Loaded configuration, customers will find premium features such as ambidextrous thumb safeties, extended beavertail grip safeties with memory bumps, lightweight delta hammers, and extended triggers. Two included magazines and a very high quality polymer briefcase round out the package. 

Springfield Armory will be offering the Loaded Parkerized Crimson Trace pistol in .45ACP.

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A Look Back at the Colt Python

by Dave Campbell

A Look Back at the Colt Python

As wars end, the people may rejoice, but manufacturers—especially gun manufacturers—often weep, wring their hands and rend their clothes. From 1942 until the middle of 1945 U.S. manufacturing operated at a feverish pace to support the efforts of the military in Europe and the Pacific. Firearms manufacturers are often the first that must instantly switch from a peacetime civilian market to a wartime military market.

Springfield Armory could not keep up with the demands of M1 Garand rifles, and companies like Winchester, Harrington and Richardson, International Harvester and Beretta had to be pressed into service to fill the gap. It was the same for Colt and the demand for 1911 pistols. Remington Rand, Union Switch & Signal, Ithaca and even the Singer Sewing Machine Co. had to answer the call for the war effort. The ability of these companies to switch their manufacturing facilities as suddenly as if they were hit with a cattle prod, retool and start manufacturing guns is a remarkable and fascinating sidebar of American history. And so it was similarly when the war wound down to zero in just a few months—from about April through August of 1945—demand for manufactured firearms dropped to zero as well. Colt went from making more than 30,000 copies of the 1911 each month in early 1945 to zero during that four-month period. That’s hard on the bottom line and even more difficult to keep employees working. From the latter part of 1945 through 1947 virtually no new guns left the factory. Many longtime employees retired, taking the skills they had acquired with them. Because of this and a gross mismanagement of revenues during the war, once again, the then-92-year-old company was staring bankruptcy in the face. Almost like a drunk attempting to sober up after a bender, Colt desperately tried to rekindle its civilian firearms’ market—a market the company has historically only reluctantly tolerated to get it through the tough times between armed conflicts.

Meanwhile, archrival Smith & Wesson some 31 miles due north had continued its nurturing of civilian gun sales. In the depths of The Depression S&W had brought out the .357 Mag. revolver—later to be called the Model 27. Those first .357s were hand assembled, magnificent examples of gunmaking—so much so that the first ones were registered to owners through the company. The gun and the cartridge rapidly drew an eager following of law enforcement folks, outdoorsmen, hunters and even target shooters. Colt was caught with its pants down.

By September 1955 Colt’s board of directors merged the company with Penn-Texas, a relatively new company that had acquired Pratt & Whitney, a tool-making company that also makes rifling machines for firearms manufacturers. Colt also introduced a very high-end rendition of its I-frame .357 Mag. revolver brought out in 1953, calling it the Colt Python. The I-frame was a slightly enlarged and heat-treated modernization of the company’s E-frame Army Special of 1908. Like its northern competitor, the Python was from the get-go a premium revolver, and it looked the part. The first thing one noticed was the barrel with an integral ventilated rib and a full-length underlug. Stocks were a select grade of walnut in a hand-filling, target-stock profile with a generous amount of checkering and without varnish. Sights were, of course, fully adjustable. Metal finishes were either a Colt Royal Blue—arguably the finest ever seen on a factory production firearm—or a bright nickel plate. Later the nickel plating was discontinued when Colt figured out how to give an almost equal glimmer to the more durable stainless steel.

While vent ribs, underlugs and a high polish may have lured a lot of guys to the Python, it was the revolver’s superb trigger pull and accuracy that swooned real shooters. Single-action pulls came from the factory ready to go to the target line, and the double-action pulls were every bit as smooth as the Registered Magnums from S&W. Some felt the Colt’s DA pull was even better due to its V-shaped mainspring that seems to stack—or gain resistance—less than a single leaf-type spring found on the S&Ws. Nonetheless, the Python was one of the finest double-action revolvers ever produced.

The first Pythons had hollow underlugs, but that feature was quickly jettisoned in favor of more barrel weight to control recoil in hotter loads. Barrel lengths ran from 2 1/2″, 3″ (a very rare length sometimes called the Combat Python), 4″, 6″ and 8″. A few other chamberings were offered—.256 Win. Mag., .38 S&W Spl., .41 Mag. and .44 Spl., but these are also quite rare. Collectors should be very wary of fakes.

From 1955 until 1969 Python serial numbers had no letter prefix or suffix, and these are the most sought after by collectors. In 1983 the revolver was offered in stainless steel—both matte and high-polish—and featured neoprene stocks. The 2 1/2″ stainless was discontinued in 1994, and an 8″ stainless was added in 1989. Several other limited runs were brought to market until 1996 when the Python was dropped from regular production. It remained available through Colt’s Custom Shop until 2005.

The Python was at one time an issued revolver to the Colorado State Highway Patrol, Florida Highway Patrol and the Georgia State Patrol. Like virtually all law enforcement agencies, though, they sent the revolvers packing when the tidal-wave trend of semi-automatic pistols came into vogue. Today the Python has achieved a sort of mega-status as a collectable revolver. Back when I started buying guns in the early ’70s Pythons were in nearly every gun store with a price tag of $275 to $300, if memory serves. I wish I’d bought everyone I saw. Today those guns would fetch well into four figures if they are in pristine shape. Some of this is due to the use of the revolver in the television series “The Walking Dead.” Much like the fanaticism of the S&W Model 29 after the film “Dirty Harry,” people who know little about shooting but are desperate to look cool clamor to own a gun like the one they see on screen, thus driving up the prices. If you are fortunate to have one or two and are willing to part with them, this is probably a good thing. However, if you are a shooter who desires to own and shoot a quality piece, maybe it’s not such a good deal.

Heckler & Koch SP5K Pistol

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Heckler & Koch will launch the new SP5K semi-automatic pistol (civilian sporting pistol)—which matches the look and feel of the iconic MP5K submachine gun—at the 2016 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Louisville, Ky. See a video from the exhibit hall here.

Designed and manufactured as a civilian pistol, the SP5K marks the return of the roller delayed blowback operating system to an HK commercial product, a system well-known for its accuracy and reliability. Originally developed on the G3 rifle, it has been used on many of H&K’s most memorable firearms of the last 60 years.

“The SP5K is a unique and historic HK pistol that captures the essence of the legendary MP5K but as a semi-auto handgun,” said Michael Holley, HK-USA vice president for commercial sales and marketing. “It’s equipped with a special ergonomic handguard that protects the shooter’s supporting hand and enables a stable and comfortable grip. A bungee cord sling is also included and makes shooting an SP5K easy. It’s a fun gun to shoot and goes a long way in recreating the experience of handling and firing a real MP5 subgun.”

The SP5K has been designed to duplicate the quality and fine details of the MP5, including its precision machined components. The same cold-hammer forged barrel used on the MP5K is found on the SP5K, ensuring a service life of tens of thousands of rounds. The SP5K is manufactured completely in Heckler & Koch’s Oberndorf factory in southwest Germany.

A Picatinny rail scope mount is attached to the upper receiver, allowing for an optional sight. The SP5K also comes with a custom-fitted, lockable, high-quality carrying case.

Kimber’s Micro 9 Pistols

By: Wiley Clapp

Tested: Kimber’s Micro 9 Pistols

The Model 1911 pistol is well-established in the American gun culture. Virtually every handgun maker of any size offers some version of the old classic, and many smaller firms craft radically upgraded competition or presentation versions. As American shooters, we really like the century-old service pistol, so much so that a steady stream of M1911s issues forth, successfully competing with all the modern polymer semi-automatics. Every gun person accepts this, but some makers take it a bit further. It is not just an endless stream of copies of the first Colts as much as it is the appreciation of the M1911 as a style of pistol. Almost as soon as the gun was first offered, other makers made pistols that strongly resembled it and often handled in pretty much the same way. Some of the guns were much larger and others were much smaller, but all had those instantly recognizable lines.


Kimber is one of the best-known makers of M1911s, with a wide choice of different models. Nifty, miniaturized M1911s chambered in 9 mm Luger, the Micro 9s fill a solid need in the company’s product line. This more-than-a-century-old cartridge, that dates to the Kaiser’s time, has become America’s most popular pistol cartridge. Gunmakers all want the 9 mm to be well-represented in their handgun catalogs, and in recent years, the 9 mm Luger cartridge got a lot of attention from ballistics engineers. It is an almost ideal size to fit into some very concealable little semi-automatic pistols that still offer respectable power. Make no mistake about it—Kimber’s Micro 9s are not competition pistols, nor are they really at home as an outdoorsman’s sidearm. These are defensive handguns, configured for concealed carry or police backup roles. In 9 mm Luger, they are nicely suited for these jobs. In the past few years, several firms have offered similar pistols chambered for the .380 ACP. Kimber made just such a gun, the Micro (February 2016, p. 44), and it was the starting point for the Micro 9 series.

The Kimber website describes six variants of the Micro 9, all of which are the same basic gun. A single-action semi-automatic with a steel slide and aluminum receiver, it boxes at 4.07″x6.10″x1.06″ and weighs just under one pound (15.6 ozs.). The .380s, whence the Micro 9s evolved, were slightly smaller pistols, but they were also recoil-operated semi-automatics. This means the barrel is locked to the slide upon firing and remains so until the bullet has left the muzzle. Micro 9 Kimbers work the same way, but some strengthening was needed to deal with the higher pressures of the 9 mm Luger cartridge. Also, the simple increase in 9 mm cartridge length over the .380 ACP demands a deeper magazine (in front-to-back measurement) and an appropriate magazine well to handle it.

The field-stripped Micro 9 CDP (LG) reveals a full-length guide rod and a kidney cut in the barrel’s underlug, which, along with the lug itself, initiates locking and unlocking.

Micro 9s all use a single-column, six-round magazine. From the angle of the butt, shape of the trigger guard and lines of the slide, the resemblance to the classic M1911 is very strong. Basically, the Micro 9 handles and functions the same way, but there are a couple of significant differences that need to be discussed.

Micro 9 triggers differ from the M1911 in the sense that they do not slide back and forth in a trigger slot, but rather pivot on an axle or pin in the top of the trigger guard. This change precludes a need for a trigger bow that works around both sides of the magazine when it is in place in the receiver. The trigger pull on the Micro 9 is OK, breaking cleanly between 5 and 6 lbs. There’s no grip safety on the backstrap of the Micro 9, but that feature has been government-issue for decades on the original gun. What would seem to be a worthwhile change is the thumb safety. Bilateral, and in the same place with the same general shape, the safety goes up to “safe” and down to “fire.” That is familiar, but note that the upper edge of the safety does not engage a notch in the slide, as does the M1911’s. To render a Micro 9 safe while handling it or clearing a possible malfunction, simply engage the safety. You can rack the slide with a cocked hammer and do so with the safety on. It is a little different from the M1911 norm, but a worthwhile feature to have.

Baseplates on the Micro 9s’ six-round magazines are flush-fitting with the frame to keep the pistols’ profiles as low as possible. Note the fine checkering on the CDP’s frontstrap.

As already mentioned, there are six variants of the Micro 9 currently listed. For this report, Kimber provided a pair of samples, both of which proved to be sound defensive guns. The difference between the two versions are immediately noticeable, mainly due to some special—but still functional—cosmetics on the first: the Stainless Raptor. It is calculated to appeal a bit more to the aesthetics than the other gun, the CDP (LG), which is configured for pure everyday-carry work. The Raptor is the one you want when you’re looking for a sense of elegant style. In it, the maker has executed the ever-popular M1911 style with more clearly defined edges and corners. The gun features a stainless slide over an aluminum receiver, both finished in a subdued silver color. In addition, its Zebrawood stocks have an unusual scaled texture. And while they do not include the built-in laser sight of the CDP (LG), there is an engraved oval bearing Kimber’s logo. Cocking serrations on the slide and receiver frontstrap are a unique touch, with a pattern of small overlapping oval depressions that are not only visually appealing but that are quite functional as well. The top of the slide and mainspring housing get a series of larger notches. The Raptor is an elegant little hideout gun.

Now to the Micro 9 CDP (LG). Its designation stands for “Custom Defense Package (Lasergrip)”—Kimber also offers a CDP model sans laser sight. The gun wears a two-tone finish, with a dull stainless slide and black receiver. Actually, the receiver color is a soft gunmetal gray, which gives it a businesslike air. There’s another feature that’s consistent with the defensive nature of the gun. Every edge and corner on both the slide and receiver are radiused. That makes the CDP (LG) a bit easier to carry in pockets or light holsters for extended periods of time. The treatment is most noticeable on the top edge of the slide, but all edges are “melted.” Also, note the 30 l.p.i. checkering on the pistol’s frontstrap and mainspring housing.


Kimber wanted to cover all the bases with sights on this pistol. Dovetailed into the top of the slide are combat-style sights of blued steel. As is the case with most guns of this sort, the sights are fitted with long-lasting tritium dots in the three-dot pattern. The sights, by the way, have full-size notch and post contours—you can really see them. But you can also use a tiny switch on the left stock to activate the battery-operated Crimson Trace laser housed in the top edge of the right stock. Both panels are molded synthetic material with nice checkering, and the two are connected by a rubber bridge under the trigger guard. Pressure from the middle finger on a button turns the red laser beam on and off. The beam may be zeroed to match the point of impact of a fired bullet. The CDP (LG) is a pretty complete hideout gun.

In the assortment of good combat pistols available to the American shooter, these new Kimbers are going to earn a place. Shooters who are steeped in the 9 mm tradition and practice may be comfortable with one of them. If you like the M1911 style of automatic pistol in general, one of these “little 9s that can get it done” might just be your choice.

Ruger SR1911 Target Pistol

By: Andrew Butts

Tested: Ruger SR1911 Target Pistol

Having become familiar with John Browning’s Masterpiece at an early age, I have always had a 1911 close at hand. I have owned 1911s from companies such as AMT, Springfield Armory, Randall, Colt, Auto Ordnance and Kimber, as well as some lesser-known manufacturers. While these pistols are all built on the same basic design, quality control and parts tolerances can vary greatly from brand to brand and even from one pistol to the next.

In years past, it had generally been my experience that price dictated quality and the more money one spent, the better pistol one purchased. Even then, chances were the gun might need some fine tuning in order to feed and function properly. Buying a 1911 with the expectation that it would need gunsmith attention and parts replacement was just part of doing business. Fortunately, modern manufacturing techniques and the use of metal injection molded parts has changed much of that and now one can purchase a very good quality pistol that will likely need little, if any, gunsmith tuning and will probably function correctly right out of the box.

One company making major use of modern manufacturing technology is Sturm, Ruger and Co. Ruger has been in the business of making aftermarket 1911 frames for a well-known aftermarket company for years and it was only logical that Ruger would eventually launch a complete pistol. This pistol was named the SR1911 and has been a success for the company in its half decade of existence. Launched in 2011, the original Ruger SR1911 was soon joined by several different models including “Commander” variants in both .45 ACP and 9 mm Luger. Pistols in the SR line use a frame machined from a casting and a barrel and slide machined from bar stock. The stainless (or aluminum, depending on model) frame and slide are offset with blackened mainspring housing, slide stop, thumb safety and other small parts. Many of these small parts are supplied by Ruger Precision Metals, a metal injection molding parts supplier owned by Ruger.

Building on the success of these forebears, Ruger has now introduced the SR1911 Target model. As the name implies, this new .45 ACP pistol features an adjustable rear sight rather than the Novak fixed rear on other models. This new rear sight is closely styled after the famous Bomar sight. It is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation, and is blended nicely into the slide. Other changes might not be as obvious but the new Target model also features an ambidextrous thumb safety and G-10 grips that are unique to this model.

I tested the new Ruger with several different types, weights and styles of both jacketed and cast lead bullets. I found the gun to be completely reliable with the OEM 8-round magazine as well as the excellent magazines from Tripp Research. Manufacturers can often skimp on magazines; supplying only one or shipping the pistol with an inexpensive magazine with feed lips designed only for FMJ. This pistol ships with one 7-round and one 8-round mag. While I’m pleased Ruger chose to take the extra step of shipping the pistol with two mags I’d rather see the gun come with two 8-rounders.

The SR1911 Target provides the purchaser with a pistol that can be sighted in based on a specific load or personal preference and should meet the accuracy needs of most users. Even though the SR1911 Target features a fully adjustable rear sight, the gun is not a bullseye pistol and is built to the same tolerances as Ruger’s other 1911 pistols. This means that the pistol probably won’t be accurate enough in stock form to win PPC or precision accuracy competitions but it should work just fine for most action pistol sports such as IDPA’s CDP division or USPSA’s single-stack division.

While I was pleased with the SR1911 Target, the smooth ramped “combat” front sight is less than optimal when paired with the adjustable rear sight, which is nicely serrated and provides glare-free sight alignment. However, the front sight would pair better with a serrated ramp or patridge-style that would provide a darker, more precise outline. Secondly, the G-10 grip material is durable and attractive, but I found the factory checkering provided less than ideal traction for my support hand during rapid-fire strings. Neither is a big deal as grips and front sights are easily changed after purchase.

All in all, I found the SR1911 Target model to be just as expected. It performed well, was reliable and does not need any costly upgrades, gunsmith tweaks or parts replaced outside of those mentioned above. It will likely be another success in what continues to be a winning 1911 lineup from Sturm, Ruger and Co.

The Kriss USA Vector Gen II CRB

By: American Rifleman Staff

XD9801R1

A prime example of form following function, the Kriss USA Vector is a pistol-caliber carbine built around its unorthodox, but innovative, operating system. Devised in Europe but built in Chesapeake, Va., the Vector platform’s Super V recoil-mitigation system was designed from the outset with the goal of shooting rapidly with repeatable accuracy while on the move. The Vector was first introduced to the market in 2008, in both full-automatic and semi-automatic variants, and since that time its selective-fire models have been adopted by military, law enforcement and security forces the world over.

Originally manufactured only for the .45 ACP cartridge, in 2014 Kriss USA released a second generation that not only made numerous aesthetic and ergonomic refinements to the Vector platform, but also introduced several additional chamberings. Today, the Vector Gen II is available configured as a carbine (CRB), a pistol (SDB), an NFA-applicable short-barreled rifle (SBR) and a select-fire submachine gun (SMG) reserved for military/law enforcement use, and is chambered for five cartridges (9 mm Luger, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, 10 mm Auto and .45 ACP). A CRB chambered in 9 mm Luger is the subject of this review.

The heart of the CRB is the Super V, a delayed-blowback system that harnesses the energy exerted by expanding propellant gases on the cartridge case and redirects it to where it can be used to the shooter’s advantage. While in battery, the bolt sits inside the receiver in line with the bore, just as with any other autoloader. However, following ignition of the cartridge, rather than being driven directly rearward into the shooter as in a traditional blowback, the bolt and a slider assembly attached to its rear draw the carrier downward, revectoring the energy to help counteract the muzzle’s natural inclination to rise during recoil.

During this downstroke, a bolt-mounted extractor pulls the spent case from the chamber and an ejector on the left wall of the receiver expels it through the right-side ejection port. When the slider assembly reaches the bottom of its track, a mainspring returns the bolt up and forward again, stripping a fresh cartridge from the magazine before locking back into the chamber. The result is a firearm that is remarkably soft-shooting and easy to keep on target, even during rapid strings of fire.

Nonetheless, as a consequence of the Super V’s unconventional footprint, the CRB’s overall shape is distinctly different, and its manual of arms may therefore be unfamiliar to many shooters. A serialized lower receiver houses the operating system, magazine well and barrel, while the upper receiver incorporates both the trigger assembly and buttstock extension, and these two receivers can be separated quickly without tools by simply pushing out three pins. This modular construction allows lowers of differing chamberings to be used interchangeably with the CRB’s upper, greatly increasing the versatility of the platform, and Kriss USA does offer complete lower receivers for this purpose—however, as the serialized part, each lower will require its own paperwork.

The Gen II CRB’s steel receivers are nitride-treated for increased corrosion resistance and durability, and are covered almost completely by a polymer housing that is available from the company Cerakoted in Black, Flat Dark Earth (shown), Olive Drab Green, Combat Grey and Alpine White. Also black nitrided for extended service life, the carbine’s 16″ steel barrel comes installed with what Kriss calls its Enhanced Barrel Shroud. However, while the other three configurations of the Vector all feature a threaded barrel, the CRB does not.

The Kriss CRB is built around the Super V, a delayed-blowback operating system designed to counteract the muzzle’s natural inclination to rise during recoil.

Although the previous generation of Vector incorporated a folding buttstock into its design, this feature has been replaced on the Gen II with a mil-spec M4-type stock adaptor and a six-position adjustable buttstock. According to Kriss USA, the change was made in order to allow shooters, as in typical AR-platform fashion, to customize the CRB with the stock of their choosing. The carbine comes from Kriss with flip-up, polymer Magpul MBUS sights, and a 13″ segment of Picatinny rail tops the rifle for the installation of an optic. Three inches of rail are also positioned on the lower receiver, just forward of the magazine well at the six o’clock position, for the mounting of an accessory, and the sides of the receiver are drilled and tapped for the installation of optional rails.

The gun feeds from standard, double-stack Glock handgun magazines of the corresponding cartridge, which are inserted into the carbine via a magazine well just forward of the Super V system. A non-reciprocating charging handle is positioned on the left side of the gun in the seam between the two receivers, and it folds flush with the side of the carbine when the bolt is in battery. The CRB’s bolt will automatically lock back on an empty magazine, and a bolt lock/release is located just below the charging handle. A magazine release button is on the left side of the receiver just forward of the magazine well where it is intended to be actuated by the shooter’s support hand, and a bilateral thumb safety with a 45-degree throw is situated just above and to the rear of the trigger on the upper receiver.

Function testing through approximately 300 rounds of assorted loads yielded zero failures to function, and the Super V worked as advertised; felt recoil and muzzle flip were about as minimal as can be found in a center-fire carbine. Our test rifle’s trigger exhibited generous take-up and slight creep before crisply breaking at a pull weight of 7 lbs., 9 ozs. Accuracy of the carbine was more than adequate given the CRB’s intended use: short-range engagements, likely from an unsupported position.

Placement of the magazine release was problematic for some of our testers, as both left- and right-handed shooters found that care had to be exercised to avoid inadvertently contacting it with the support hand, resulting in a magazine on the floor and an out-of-commission carbine. Installation of a vertical fore-grip onto the nearby rail would eliminate this issue and is recommended. Right-handed testers found the rest of the controls to be conveniently positioned; southpaws will likely find the bolt release awkwardly placed and the right-side safety lever difficult to activate due to interference by the stock adaptor.

Unconventional controls and unorthodox aesthetics notwithstanding, the eminently controllable Kriss USA Vector Gen II CRB is a slick piece of technology that would make a capable home defense firearm for the recoil averse. And, when chambered in one of the more energetic cartridges offered, could even find success within certain short-range hunting scenarios. Although its price tag positions the CRB among the more expensive pistol-caliber carbines on the market, its Super V recoil mitigation system and multi-caliber capability also place it high among that niche’s most unique offerings.

Back to Basics: How Semi-Automatic Firearms Work

by Dave Campbell

Back to Basics: How Semi-Automatic Firearms Work

The semi-automatic firearm is so standard now that many accept it as the way firearms have always worked. Truth is, getting a workable semi-automatic was as groundbreaking as the repeating firearm or center-fire primer. Like so many innovations, the semi-automatic firearm is older than most think, but it took a while to work out the wrinkles enough to get widespread attention. Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher, an Austrian engineer and small arms designer, is credited with the first semi-automatic firearm—a rifle—in 1885. Mannlicher also designed a number of bolt-action rifles and semi-automatic pistols, as well as the en-bloc clip. The first self-loaders were blowback operated; later on came recoil and gas-operated guns. Let’s examine how each of these systems work.

Blowback
Blowback operation is the simplest of the semi-automatic operations. It relies on a combination of slide or bolt mass and spring tension to keep the slide or bolt in place until the bullet leaves the muzzle. The force generated by the combustion of the powder eventually overcomes the inertia of the slide or bolt, forcing it rearward using the fired case as a sealer. A recoil spring returns the slide or bolt into battery while chambering a new cartridge from the magazine. Because there is no mechanism to lock the bolt in battery, straight blowback-operated guns are relegated to low-power cartridges, primarily rimfires and pistol cartridges up to the .380 ACP.


FAMAS

A variation called delayed blowback is used in guns chambered for more powerful cartridges. Delayed blowback firearms use either a lever or roller to restrain the bolt movement. In a lever-blowback firearm, a lever on the bolt carrier moves toward the rear at a rate faster than the bolt. That lever acts against a surface via a cam or incline that increases the leverage to restrain the bolt, thus slowing its velocity. When the breech pressure drops enough due to the bullet leaving the muzzle, the bolt overcomes the restraints and moves rearward to cycle the action, returning to battery under spring tension. The most familiar to utilize this system is the 5.56 NATO FAMAS (Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne).


Heckler & Koch G3

Roller-delayed blowback arms use opposing rollers set into recesses within the bolt carrier, restraining the bolt movement but allowing the carrier to move rearward more rapidly than the bolt until the rollers are cammed into recesses in the bolt, allowing it to move freely. Examples of roller-delayed blowback include the Heckler & Koch G3 rifle and MP5 submachine gun. Roller-delayed arms often have chambers with longitudinal flutes machined into them to allow some of the combustion gases to help dislodge the fired case from the chamber. It seems to be a very dirty operation, but it is remarkably reliable. There are a number of lesser-known types of delayed-blowback operation, but these are the most well-known.


Heckler & Koch MP5 (image courtesy HK-USA.com)

Recoil Operation
Recoil-operated semi-automatics actually lock the bolt to the barrel until the pressure decays to a safe point that the two can separate. Within this category are three sub-categories: long-recoil, short-recoil and inertia operation.

Browning A-5

Long-recoil firearms have the barrel and bolt move rearward as a unit as the gun is fired. They are, in fact, mechanically locked together at this point. As the assembly reaches its furthest point, the bolt is locked while the barrel returns to battery, extracting and ejecting the spent case. When the barrel returns to battery, the bolt is released and returns to battery after picking up and chambering a fresh round. The Browning A-5 and Frianchi AL-48 shotguns, and the Remington Model 8 rifle are long-recoil-operated firearms. The only pistol I know of that utilizes the long-recoil system is the rather arcane and clunky-looking Hungarian Frommer Stop pistol of 1912.

Short-recoil-operated pistols have become a uniform success. They differ from the long-recoil system in that the barrel and slide—the slide taking the place of a bolt in a rifle—are locked together for a short distance before separating. A cam or eccentric link drops the rear end of the barrel so that the locking lugs disengage their recesses in the slide, allowing the slide to continue its rearward travel, extracting and ejecting the spent case. A recoil spring—usually located under the barrel—powers the slide back into battery after stripping a fresh cartridge from the magazine. Virtually all pistols from John Browning’s 1911 to today’s double-action and striker-fired pistols operate on the short-recoil system.

Inertia-recoil-operated firearms are pretty much limited to shotguns. It is most useful in guns generating a substantial amount of recoil and is intended to mitigate the felt recoil of the gun to the shooter, as well as cycling the gun. Inertia-recoil guns feature a two-piece bolt separated by a beefy spring. The front part of the bolt is locked to the barrel. As the gun is fired, the entire firearm moves rearward due to recoil and compressing the spring between the bolt pieces. Once the bolt spring achieves full compression, it has stored enough energy to launch the bolt rearward, while the remainder of the gun remains stationary. The bolt unlocks, the bolt travels to the rear, extracting and ejecting the fired hull, and returns to battery with a fresh shell from the magazine and the bolt spring uncompressed. Benelli used its version of this system some 37 years ago with some success. Browning and Frianchi also fielded inertia versions of their semi-auto shotguns—with the marketing terms “Kinematic Drive” and “Affinity,” respectively—but these were short lived.

Gas Operation
Colloquially referred to as gas guns, these arms utilize a portion of the gases generated during firing to operate the firearm. A port is drilled into the barrel at some point downstream of the chamber and the gas escaping through this port operated a piston or directly impinges on the bolt carrier to provide the energy to initiate movement. Gas impingement is used in Eugene Stoner’s AR-15 rifle. The gases flow through a port several inches down the barrel and flow into a tube in a gas block that is attached to the barrel. The tube transfers the gas to a bolt key attached to the bolt carrier and pushes it rearward to cycle the action against a buffer spring located in the stock.

Top, AK-47; M1 Garand, bottom

Another form of gas operation is the long-stroke piston, where a piston is connected to the bolt carrier, traveling with it throughout the cycling operation. It is a durable and simple way to operate a semi-automatic arm, as well as attenuating recoil in heavier calibers. Examples of long-stroke piston guns are the AK-47 and M1 Garand rifles.

Since we have seen a long-stroke piston, it should follow that there is a short-stroke piston. Also known as a tappet operation, short-stroke pistons are not connected to the bolt carrier group. The gas quickly accelerates the piston which impacts the bolt carrier group sending it rearward. In this system the piston is attached to a connecting rod with a return spring. Short-stroke piston guns are lighter than long-stroke guns because the piston system is far less massive. Most gas-operated shotguns employ this arrangement, as does the M1 Carbine and the Chinese SKS rifles.


M1 Carbine

Few pistols utilize gas operation because the components are bulky and heavy. A noteworthy exception is the Wildey, a modified short-stroke piston handgun capable of handling some intense cartridges. Introduced in 1973, the Wildey is generally thought of as a hunting pistol. It is a semi-custom gun.


Wildey 

There are other, more obscure variants of semi-automatic operations—floating chamber, muzzle booster and gas trap come to mind. However, none of them have been widely adopted and are generally relegated to footnotes in the history of firearms design.

 

 

Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act of 2017

by Guy Sagi

Fear & Loading: Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act of 2017

The din among critics is already deafening, but if a measure introduced this week passes, suppressors will be removed from the list of National Firearms Act of 1934. It’s a healthy move for enthusiasts and they aren’t the only ones who’ll benefit if noise levels drop at ranges in the 42 states where they are legal.

The Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act—H.R. 367—was introduced Jan. 9 and NRA-ILA applauded the legislation the same day explaining it’s, “…an important bill that gives gun owners and sportsmen the opportunity to better protect their ears and hearing.” 

The National Firearms Act was originally adopted in 1934 and included, among other things, the machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. Somehow suppressors received the same sentence, and Hollywood fantasy lengthened the stay.

Suppressors don’t render a gun noise-free. Rep. John Carter (TX) explained, “Suppressors do not make guns silent or dangerous, they are simply a form of hearing protection, both for the shooter and their hunting dogs. The Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act is common sense legislation that increases safety while shooting, allowing people to easily hear and react to range safety officers and fellow hunters.”

Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC) noted in the joint press release, “It’s striking that even Britain, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, has no restrictions on suppressors.” Oddly, England’s Ian Fleming helped convince an unknowing American public that the devices somehow magically defy the laws of physics with his James Bond exploits.  

Hiram P. Maxim, who graduated from M.I.T. at the age of 17, invented the suppressor more than 100 years ago. In 1910 it cost only $5 to put a Maxim Silent Firearms Company version under the tree “For his Christmas gift,” according to the company’s American Rifleman ad.

Despite the fact there are hurdles to clear before taking one home today, like getting the local chief law enforcement officer approval, months of delays (or longer), paying a $200 transfer fee and more, there are many reasons ownership continues to grow. The Hearing Protection Act would remedy those roadblocks, yet still require purchasers to pass an FBI background check—“… and prohibited people would be denied,” NRA-ILA explains.

Non-shooters will reap benefits, too. Vehicles are required to have mufflers for a reason, a neighborly parallel being drawn by many supporters.