Ruger LCP II Pistol

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by Dick Jones

The new Ruger LCP II is an excellent .380 ACP pistol that’s easily concealed, has some great features and is a solid shooter.

When I was a young man working behind a gun counter, the choices of truly small pistols were severely limited, and none were more than marginally effective. The smallest were the .22 short and .25 ACP semi-autos that offered less muzzle energy than many air rifles currently available. When one was purchased and the buyer was walking out the door, there was always a remark about the value of chocolate grips, or perhaps filing off the front sight in the event someone made the owner eat it or ingest it into some other orifice. There were Remington-pattern two-shot derringers available, but they were single action, heavy and antiquated. High Standard made a little double-action over/under .22 Magnum, and it was the best tiny gun to be found but offered only two shots and was still pretty heavy because it was all steel.

To get a small semi-auto in a more powerful caliber, one had to go to guns the size of the Walther PPK that Mr. Bond made famous, and a PPK is not a tiny gun by the standards of today. The PPK and other guns of a similar size were available in .32 and .380 ACP, and ammunition was full metal jacket only. I think James Bond was the only guy who saw the PPK as an effective stopper. There’s a new reality with modern defensive .380 ammunition; it’s now more effective than the standard round-nosed lead 158-grain load that 90 percent of law enforcement officers carried just a few years ago, and because of this, I consider a .380 a viable concealed carry gun when you simply can’t hide a bigger gun.

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In the process of writing The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry Handguns, I reviewed the three most popular .380 sub-compact semi-auto concealed carry pistols. The guns I chose for the test were the Ruger LCP, the S&W Bodyguard and the Glock 42. While all were similar as sub-compact .380s, the three guns revealed a noticeable difference in approach to the same issue. The LCP was certainly the smallest and lightest, but with tiny sights and a challenging trigger. The Bodyguard was a bit larger, still with a long stroke trigger, but was a full featured semi-auto with a slide that locked back on the last round and sights that were more usable at a slight cost in concealability. The Glock was simply a sized-down version of the standard Glock product with all the features of any other Glock, smaller, but hardly a miniscule pistol. As a result, the Glock was easy to shoot, the Ruger was easy to hide and I chose the Bodyguard because it had slide lock and second strike capability.

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A Great Gun…But
As I say almost every time I review a gun, we’re currently blessed with some mighty good choices in firearms, and it’s really hard to improve on what we have. Having said this, the LCP II is a big improvement over an already excellent concealed carry pistol. First impression is that it’s a bit bigger, but it’s just barely bigger than the original. When you operate it, you notice the big improvement, the trigger. The trigger on the older version was a long, double-action-type pull. The gun was already small, and guys with average-sized hands had trouble getting a full stroke before the index finger buried itself into their thumb. In spite of the long compression, the LCP didn’t have second-strike capability, meaning a second pull of the trigger wouldn’t fire the striker in the event of a dud round.

Another shortcoming of the earlier design was the lack of slide lock on the last round. There’s no doubt this omission was to allow lighter weight and simplicity, but it’s a nice feature to have, and most of us who shoot autoloaders have grown accustomed to the slide locking back. Still, the LCP was a very good gun, and at just over 9 ounces with a thin profile and shape, it was an easy gun to hide almost anywhere. Ruger sold tons of them, and it took a lot of LCPs to make a ton.

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Striker-Fired Trigger in a Hammer Gun
The new gun corrects every shortcoming of the original. First is the trigger. It’s an excellent striker-fired-style trigger. The LCP II isn’t a striker-fired gun. It still has a hammer, but the trigger pull duplicates the bladed, two-stage trigger of a good striker-fired service gun. My test gun’s trigger broke at a reasonable 6 pounds. Light triggers aren’t a good idea on defensive guns in the hands of shooters who aren’t highly trained, and 6 pounds is reasonable. The first stage is light; the second stage is well defined, and while there is backlash, it isn’t excessive.

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The next improvement is slide lock on the last round. The original LCP had a manual slide lock, and though it was a bit difficult for anyone with sausage fingers, it was functional. The LCP II locks the slide back on the last round, decreasing the time required for a reload by what would seem eons if it was required during a deadly force event. Fortunately, reloads for civilians in defensive situations are almost non-existent, but it’s still a great feature.

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The third major improvement was in the sights. On the original model, the sights looked like they might have been an afterthought. They were tiny, but in good light, they worked well enough to produce silver dollar sized groups at 7 yards. The sights on the LCP II are substantially larger, though still smaller than the almost-full-sized sights on a Glock 42. These three improvements cover every area of concern I’ve heard about the original LCP and at a cost of about 1 ounce of weight and $90.00. The MSRP of $349.00 is very competitive in the sub-compact pistol market. Still, Ruger is betting the $259.00 price, and slightly lighter weight, merits keeping the original LCP in the catalog.

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Range Impressions
Shooting the LCP II was much easier than the original and also easier than my previous favorite, the S&W Bodyguard. The two-stage trigger is easy to manage, and the sights are large enough to see. The grip is small, but a small gun can’t have a large grip. I fired it with both the flat magazine plate and the one with the finger hook. With the finger hook, it’s a two-finger arrangement. Without it, I could only get about half my ring finger on the grip. Grip texture is lightly stippled. One thing I noticed from the outset was the slide seemed easier to operate. On the original LCP, there was a separate stage at the beginning of the slide’s stroke. On the LCP II test gun, the slide stroke was smooth all the way back. This is not a big issue for most, but of real importance for those with low hand strength, like some women and older shooters.

There is recoil. Even a .22 that weighs 10 ounces will generate recoil, and a firm grip is required to keep it properly placed in the hand when shooting fast. Still, it’s capable of shooting ragged-hole groups at 7 yards, and that’s all you can ask of a gun this small. The Ruger-LCP-II-target-288x300sights were easy to see, but I think a three-dot system might make it a bit better in low light. I teach shooting to a lot of novice shooters and lining up three dots is an easy way to teach sight alignment to a former non-shooter. The LCP II is a gun that’ll be attractive to those new to the concept of daily, concealed carry. There were zero malfunctions with the three rounds tested.

The magazine release is easy enough to get to, especially for a small gun, and the LCP II doesn’t just release the magazine, it launches it. I particularly liked the fact that I can drop a magazine without it snagging on the heel of my hand, a common problem with many smaller pistols. The gun comes with only one magazine, and I’d have liked to have another to see just how fast I could accomplish a mag change with it. I suspect it would be about as fast as any compact pistol and faster than some.

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The Fix Is In
In closing, the LCP II is everything one can ask for from a super tiny, reasonably powerful, decently accurate, easy-to-hide defensive pistol. Were I to revisit that test of the Glock 42 and S&W Bodyguard against the new LCP, the result would be different. The LCP II would be the clear winner because it has the best features of the other guns combined with substantially less size and weight. It’s certainly a good choice and maybe the best choice in the sub-compact pistol market.

Specifications:

Ruger LCP II
Type: Semi-auto, internal hammer-fired
Caliber: .380 ACP
Barrel: 2.75 in., alloy steel
Overall Length: 5.17 in.
Weight: 10.6 oz.
Grips: Integral with polymer frame
Sights: Integral on slide, rear notch and post front
Finish: Blued
Capacity: 6+1
MSRP: $349
Manufacturer: Ruger

Performance Data:

Winchester 95-gr. FMJ   
Best Group: 1.72 in.
Worst Group: 2.34 in.
Avg. Group: 2.01 in.

Winchester 85-gr. Train & Defend
Best Group: 1.02 in.
Worst Group: 1.94 in.
Avg. Group: 1.65 in.

Winchester 85-grain Kinetic HE
Best Group: 1.44 in.
Worst Group: 1.99 in.
Avg. Group: 1.88 in.

Accuracy data was the result of five, five-shot groups fired deliberately at a distance of 7 yards from a standing position.

 

Originally published by Gun Digest, April 13, 2017

Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm

M&P by Smith and Wesson
At its core, the Shield is a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol. The pistol falls into the broad category of compact handguns.

What separates this firearm from the rest of the pack of M&P pistols isn’t its overall length or weight. It’s the Shield’s girth, or rather the noticeable lack thereof. At a dead-skinny .95 in wide, this pistol is more that .2 in thinner than the M&P Compact.

Specs and marketing hype notwithstanding, the real test of a self-defense gun’s usefulness is on the range and on the street. If the gun isn’t reliable and accurate, what’s the point in a self-defense role? The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield delivers.

The reality of protection is that you never know when you’ll need it. Smith & Wesson took the power and features of their full sized M&P pistols and put them into a slim, lightweight pistol the size of your hand. The M&P Shield is an easy to conceal pistol that offers professional grade features with simple operation and reliable performance day or night. One million Shield owners can’t be wrong.

Features
Extremely thin and lightweight – can be comfortably carried all day
Polymer frame with embedded stainless steel rigid chassis system
Striker-fired for short consistent trigger pull, every time
M&P’s patented take-down lever and sear deactivation systems allow for disassembly without pulling the trigger
Includes 2 magazines; 1 with extended capacity and one flus

Specifications
Caliber: 9mm
Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds
Weight: 19 ounces
Barrel Length: 3.1 in
Overall Length: 6.1 in
Width: 0.95 in
Sights: three-dot, drift adjustable
Action: striker fired

Get yours at Calibers today!
Take advantage of the Smith & Wesson rebate offer!

SIG Sauer Announces MPX 9 mm Semi-automatic Carbine

By: American Rifleman Staff

 

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When SIG Sauer introduced the popular modular SIG MPX submachine gun in 2014, it hinted that a carbine model was in development. We’ve just gotten word that the long-awaited SIG MPX 9 mm semi-automatic carbine is being introduced at the 2016 SHOT Show

“For those who want the full feature set of the SIG MPX, but don’t want a short-barrel rifle or live in a state with restricted access, the SIG MPX Carbine is a great choice,” said John Brasseur, Director of Product Management for SIG Sauer, Inc. “Later, if the operator decides to SBR the carbine, it’s a simple change with a conversion kit.”

The carbine maintains all of the ergonomics of the SBR and pistol variants, but now with a 16″ hammer-forged barrel, along with a full-length aluminum KeyMod handguard which provides ample room for mounting lights, lasers and grips. Completely ambidextrous, the carbine is great for left- or right-handed operators with its dual-sided selector switch, magazine release, charging handle and bolt release. The three-position collapsing stock features integrated QD sling cups for fast and easy sling attachments.

The carbine operates from a fully-closed bolt, and the locking rotating bolt system offers enhanced reliability and safety in use. A short-stroke gas piston with auto-regulating gas valve allows the SIG MPX Carbine to run all weights and brands of 9 mm ammunition, from low-power training loads to +P duty ammo. No adjustments are needed to maintain rock-solid reliability.

Familiar AR-pattern controls and ergonomics reduce the training curve and are instinctive for anyone experienced with the AR system. A full-length picatinny rail allows for solid, consistent mounting of optics and targeting lasers. SIG Sauer folding iron sights come standard.

The SIG MPX Carbine is completely modular, and handguards and barrel lengths can be quickly changed over in the field. The barrel comes with the SIG three-prong flash hider.

Check back here starting Mon., Jan. 18 for complete SHOT Show coverage of these SIG Sauer firearms and more.

SIGM400 Predator
For predator and varmint hunters who prefer to hunt with a semi-automatic rifle, SIG Sauer has also announced that it has redesigned the SIGM400 Predator and added it to its long-gun catalog. The new Predator is based on the direct-impingement SIGM400 action, with enhancements optimized for hunters.

“Hunting with the modern sporting rifle had gone from fad to an accepted norm,” said John Brasseur, Director of Product Development for SIG Sauer, Inc. “With the SIGM400 Predator, hunters have an exceptional hunting rifle right out of the box, with no upgrades or additions needed.”

The 5.56 mm cal. rifle features a two-stage match trigger, a hammer-forged stainless-steel barrel (18” in 5.56 mm and 16” in .300 BLK), and top picatinny rail. Barrels are threaded for muzzle devices or sound suppressors. It also features a hard-coat anodized upper and lower receiver, six-position MILSTD telescoping stock, and five-round detachable magazine.

 

NRA-ILA Backs Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill

by American Rifleman Staff

NRA-ILA Backs Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) announced on Monday that on behalf of its 5 million members, it backs the introduction of S. 446, The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (TX).

The full text of the press release is here:

Fairfax, Va.— On behalf of its five-million members, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) today applauded the introduction of S. 446, The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (TX).

“The current patchwork of state and local gun laws is confusing and can cause the most conscientious and law-abiding gun owner to run afoul of the law when they are traveling or temporarily living away from home,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA. “Senator Cornyn’s legislation provides a much needed solution to a real problem for law-abiding gun owners.”

S446 would eliminate the confusing patchwork of state carry laws by allowing individuals who possess concealed carry permits from their home state or who are not prohibited from carrying concealed in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state that does not prohibit concealed carry.

This legislation would not override state laws governing the time, place or manner of carriage or establish national standards for concealed carry. Individual state gun laws would still be respected. If under federal law a person is prohibited from carrying a firearm, they will continue to be prohibited from doing so under this bill.

“Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense while traveling across state lines,” continued Cox. “We thank Senator Cornyn for his leadership on this important issue.” 

Concealed Carry Facts:

  • Every state in our nation recognizes the right of residents to lawfully carry a concealed handgun in public for self-defense – a right that more than 15 million Americans now exercise.
  • America’s experience with concealed carry demonstrates that the repeated anti-gun claim that concealed carry increases violence is factually incorrect. The available evidence shows that concealed carry licensees are exceptionally law- abiding. 
  • National reciprocity is already a reality in the 22 states that recognize all other concealed carry licenses or allow law-abiding non-residents to carry a firearm without a license.                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Only ten states still refuse to grant full faith and credit to the permits of other states, forcing lawful concealed carriers to surrender their rights when traveling through these jurisdictions. The consequence is obvious, as otherwise law-abiding citizens – including veterans, a single mother, a disaster response worker, a nurse and medical school student, and even a corrections officer – have become accidental criminals and suffered seizure of property, arrest, detention, and even prosecution because they failed to navigate the legal minefield that is the current state reciprocity system.

The bill recognizes the diversity of state concealed carry laws by making each person subject to the concealed carry laws of the state where they are present, including certain places off-limits to firearms and laws governing the defensive use of force. It merely allows out-of-state permittees to concealed carry the same way in-state residents already do.

As Congress considers the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, gun control groups and their media allies will continue their disinformation assault on the bill. Armed with the truth, you can contact your member of Congress to set the record straight and urge them to support S. 446. You can also contact your member of Congress via the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

To stay up to date on this issue and others, visit nraila.org.

 

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.

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 K6s Review

Kimber is best known for their domestically-produced line of 1911-pattern semi-automatic pistols. So it came as a bit of a surprise around this time last year when they announced that their next concealed carry handgun was going to be… a revolver. It’s not easy to make a decent, double action revolver. People think of revolvers as being simple to operate, but mechanically, they are incredibly complex machines. So, for Kimber to come out of the blue and announce that they’re making a defensive revolver that will compete with established models from Smith & Wesson and Ruger comes across as a bit audacious, to say the least. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The new Kimber K6s .357 Magnum snub nose was released last year, but availability has been limited so far. It sounds like Kimber plans to start ramping up production soon, so you should be able to find one at your friendly local gun store in the near future. I was able to get my hands on a K6s a couple of months ago and I’ve put nearly 1000 rounds through it so far. The video review below offers a good overview of my impressions thus far, but if all goes as planned, I should have some follow-up reviews coming within the next couple of months.

There was a ton of stuff I wanted to squeeze into this video, but I try to keep the reviews under 8 minutes, so not everything would fit. As usual, I’ve provided a transcript of the video below embed, but if you keep scrolling, you’ll find some additional details that didn’t make the final cut.

About a year ago, Kimber announced that they would be producing a .357 magnum 2-inch barreled snub nose revolver called the K6s. This is a first for Kimber, who is mostly known for their 1911s, but the K6s now has them competing with other small, steel frame revolvers like the Ruger SP101, the Smith & Wesson J-frames, and, as of last week, the new Colt Cobra. These revolvers are all roughly the same size and weight, and when you look at variants with comparable features, they are fairly close in price as well. The most notable difference is that the Kimber and the Colt have a 6-round capacity while the more established Ruger and Smith and Wesson only hold 5 shots.

Kimber K6s

The K6s has an internal hammer, making it a double action only design. Not everyone is going to love the absence of an exposed hammer that can be cocked for single action, but I consider it a huge asset in a carry revolver to help ensure a snag-free draw stroke.

The hammerless design is complemented by a frame that has been completely dehorned so there are no sharp edges or corners to catch on clothing. The sights are also low-profile, but unlike most small revolvers, they are replaceable. The front sight is held in place by a pin in the top of the barrel, and the dovetail rear sight is drift adjustable for windage. Both sights come with a black serrated face, but I’ve painted the front sight to improve visibility. The checkered cylinder release latch is activated by pressing inward, similar to a double action Ruger. The chambers are recessed so that the cartridges sit flush with the top of the cylinder.

Kimber quietly started shipping the K6s sometime in the middle of 2016 but in very small numbers. So far, it’s been tough to find one for sale, and price tags often far exceed the $900 suggested retail price. Kimber offered to loan us one to review but said they would have to get caught up with production first. We didn’t know how long that would take, so we just decided to track one down ourselves and pay full retail. So, over the last couple of months, I’ve had a chance to put a few hundred rounds through this gun. That’s really just the beginning of the testing we have planned for the K6s, but I’ve had enough time with it so far to form a few first impressions.

Kimber K6s muzzle flash

The trigger is really the stand-out feature. It’s a very smooth, 10-pound double action pull with no stacking. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s easily the best factory trigger I’ve used on a small-frame revolver. Kimber put a lot of their engineering effort into making sure the trigger was usable out of the box, and that seems to have paid off. It’s still going to be a challenge for anyone who’s not already comfortable with double actions, but it’s a major improvement over the competition.

I really appreciate that they used sights that can be adjusted and replaced, but I’m not a fan of the default black on black sights. Even with some bright paint on the front sight, they’re still fairly short and not the easiest to use. Fortunately, Kimber has announced four new models coming out that have different sight options like a fiber optic front sight, a set of taller 3-dot sights, tritium night sights, and Crimson Trace LaserGrips. Hopefully, these sights will soon be made available as standalone options for those of us who want to upgrade the original sights.

The rubber grip that comes with the Kimber is a decent size and shape that is concealable but also functional. But I’m kind of particular about revolver grips, and this one is not ideal for my hands. The ability to change grips to suit the user is usually one of the major advantages of revolvers, but again, there’s nothing else available for the Kimber yet. I’d like to see some Hogue Tamer grips like the ones made for the Ruger LCR that cover the backstrap and add some girth to the grip.

The lack of aftermarket support is really the biggest problem with the K6s right now, and that’s to be expected with a gun that’s barely in production. So for now, the holster I’ve been using is an SP101 appendix holster that… kinda, mostly fits the Kimber. I’ve got some Colt Detective Special speed loaders from 5 Star Firearms that are actually the same as the K6s-branded loaders that Kimber sells on their website. But realistically, if I were to carry extra ammo with this revolver, it would be on a speed strip. Kimber includes a 6-shot speed strip with the K6s, but I prefer a larger 7 or 8 shot strip so I can space the rounds out for easier loading.

Recoil is what you’d expect with a small steel frame revolver. It’s far easier on the shooter than an alloy or polymer framed snubby, but more difficult to manage than a mid-size revolver like a Smith & Wesson K-Frame. The K6s is chambered for .357 magnum, and unlike the Airweight revolvers, shooting magnums doesn’t feel like it’s going to shatter your hand. But it’s still not exactly pleasant, and I wouldn’t recommend actually carrying the gun with magnum ammo anyway. When you go to a 2-inch barrel, .357 loses a lot of velocity and effectiveness but delivers excessive recoil. Follow-up shots are going to be slow, and for most people, accuracy will suffer too. A small, steel frame revolver like this is perfect for .38 +P defensive ammo.

Kimber K6s

 

I fired several 5 round groups from a bench rest at 25 yards to test the accuracy of the K6s. Most of the loads I tested gave me groups between 3 and 5 inches, which isn’t bad at all for a snub nose. From the factory, the K6s was shooting about 3 inches to the left at 10 yards, so I had to make some windage adjustments. I know very few manufacturers sight in their guns at the factory, but the rear sight was visibly off-center, so that’s a little disappointing.

And that leads me to a question I know a lot of people are wondering about the K6s. Even if Kimber has designed a good revolver, can they mass-produce a good revolver? It is well-known among discerning 1911 shooters that Kimber’s quality control is… not awesome. Stuff like misaligned sights might not seem like a big deal, but it’s not encouraging in light of Kimber’s reputation.

And unfortunately, that’s not the only issue I’ve noticed. There’s this little ridge here around the cylinder release. If you look closely, there’s some excess jagged metal there. On the right side, it’s a clean line all the way around but on the left side, someone clearly forgot a step at the factory and nobody managed to catch the mistake before the gun went out the door. It’s a small thing and it’s just cosmetic, but it’s that kind of sloppiness that I find troubling.

I’m really trying not to judge Kimber too harshly. I like the K6s and mechanically, this one has not had any problems at all. But this is just a sample size of one. As Kimber starts ramping up production on these things, I’m going to be paying a lot of attention to what other K6s owners have to say about their experiences. I’m also going to keep shooting this one, and I’ll try it with new grips and sights whenever the aftermarket catches up so I can get back to you guys with an update.

End transcript.


The Steel Frame Snubby

The steel frame snub nose occupies an interesting niche among modern concealable handguns. Most small revolvers made today are not steel — lightweight aluminum alloy and polymer frames are far more popular. A snub nose that weighs under a pound can easily be carried on an ankle or in a pocket. They are great as backup guns or for those times when you can’t wear a belt with a proper holster.

If you can carry on a belt, these lightweight revolvers are far less than ideal. They’re convenient but really difficult to shoot. If you carry a heavier gun like the 23 ounce all-steel K6s, you’ll barely notice the increased weight in a belt holster compared to trying to carry it in your pocket, and you’re a lot more likely to practice with the heavier gun and actually hit what you’re aiming at. But using that same logic, if you’re going to carry on your belt, it might make more sense to just carry a compact double stack semi-auto, or even step up to a medium frame revolver. That’s one of the reasons why the small, steel frame snub nose isn’t more popular. However, a lot of people find that they strike that ideal balance between concealability and shootability.

K6s SP101 S&W 640 comparison
Top to bottom: Ruger SP101 Wiley Clapp, Kimber K6s, Smith & Wesson 640 Pro

So, the Kimber K6s joins this category with the Ruger SP101 and the steel Smith & Wesson J-frames, like the excellent Model 640 Pro. The Kimber has 20% greater ammo capacity than those two, and it’s easily smaller than the SP101 and only larger than the J-frame by an insignificant margin. In terms of dimensions and capacity, it’s actually more like a modern successor to the Colt Detective Special.

For several decades, Colt made the only small-frame .38 special six-shot revolvers. The Detective Special was the original steel frame version, and for a while, they also made lightweight aluminum variants like the Cobra and the Agent. When Colt stopped making revolvers in the mid-90s, they left a big gap in the market and no one has stepped up to fill that gap, until now. After talking to some of the guys at Kimber who are involved with the project, that’s exactly what they wanted to do — their goal was to make a Colt Detective Special for the 21st Century.

However, they are not the only ones who have had this idea. Just last week, Colt announced that they are finally reviving their double action revolvers, starting with a new Colt Cobra. The Cobra name is actually a little misleading here — this will be a steel framed gun, not aluminum like the original Cobra. The new Colt Cobra is actually an updated Detective Special with a fiber optic front sight. Whether it’s deserved or not, Colt has a huge head start with this new product thanks to brand name recognition alone. The pressure is really on for Kimber to prove that their new revolver can hang with the competition.

Steel Snub Nose Comparison

model Kimber K6s Smith & Wesson
640 Pro
Ruger SP101
Wiley Clapp
Colt Cobra
capacity 6 5 5 6
caliber .357 mag .357 mag .357 mag .38 spl +P
weight 23 oz 22.1 oz 25 oz 25 oz
barrel length 2″ 2.13″ 2.25″ 2″
overall length 6.62″ 6.63″ 7″ 7.2″
height 4.46″ 5.1″ 4.5″ 4.9″
width 1.39″ 1.25″ 1.35″ 1.4″
front sight serrated black (removable) white outline tritium insert (removable) black with brass bead (removable) Fiber optic (removable)
rear sight serrated black (removable) white outline tritium insert (removable) Novak style black (removable) fixed trench style
action DAO (shrouded hammer) DAO (shrouded hammer) double action w/ hammer spur double action w/ hammer spur
MSRP $899 $839 $839 $699

 

Inside the Kimber K6s

I’m not going to pretend that I have an advanced understanding of the internal mechanics of revolvers, but I’m also not afraid to pop off a sideplate and start poking around just out of curiosity. That’s one of the first things I did with the K6s. The disassembly procedure was familiar, and very Smith-like. Three screws hold the side plate on, and the forward-most screw also retains the cylinder and crane. Kimber conveniently used hex-head screws for the sideplate so no obscure gunsmith-specific drivers were needed for the job.

The S&W similarities did not end with the sideplate. Like I said, I’m no expert on revolver guts, but the inside of the K6s sure looked familiar. In fact, viewed side by side with a S&W J-frame, the K6s looks like a direct descendant. The most pronounced differences seem to be with the shape of the hammer and the position of the hammer spring and strut. This could account for why the K6s has a significantly lighter and smoother-feeling trigger pull than the J-frame.

Kimber K6s internals
Kimber K6s with sideplate removed.
S&W J-frame internals
Smith & Wesson 640 Pro with sideplate removed.

I’m not implying that it’s a bad thing that the K6s has borrowed so heavily from the J-frame. Improving an existing design to make it your own has a strong tradition in the firearms industry. If anything, I applaud Kimber for advancing the J-frame design into the 21st century. Here’s hoping S&W (and Ruger, for that matter) eventually answer with their own version of the small frame 6-shot small frame revolver.

Accuracy Testing

As I mentioned in the video, I conducted accuracy testing at 25 yards from a bench rest. I started the testing with the seven loads below, but will add more as I have a chance to shoot additional groups. I fired two groups of five rounds with each load and recorded velocity with a Labradar ballistic velocity radar (not technically a chronograph, but it serves the same function). The average group sizes and velocities are below:

Load avg group size avg velocity
Federal Gold Medal Match 148 gr LWC 3.1″ 672 fps
Magtech .38 spl 158 gr +P SJHP 3.45″ 831 fps
Hornady Critical Defense .38 spl 110 gr FTX 4.8″ 889 fps
Remington Golden Saber .357 mag 125 gr 4.85″ 1105 fps
Hornady Critical Duty .357 mag 135 gr 5.05″ 1149 fps
Winchester .38 spl 158 gr +P SWCHP 6.8″ 778 fps
Speer Gold Dot .38 spl 135 gr +P (Short Barrel) 8.6″ 904 fps

 

There’s nothing too surprising here except for the disappointing accuracy of the Speer Gold Dot. This is my go-to defensive load for .38 special revolvers, but I don’t believe I would be confident carrying it in the Kimber knowing that it’s not capable of 8-inch groups at 25 yards even under ideal conditions. Concerned that I may have gotten a bad lot of the Speer ammo, I shot a quick group with my 3-inch Smith & Wesson M66 and managed 3.5 inches. So it would appear that the ammo is fine, but the Kimber and Speer just don’t make a good combination. My “other favorite” .38 special load is Winchester PDX1, but I didn’t have any on hand when I went out to shoot these groups. As soon as I have the opportunity, I’ll test the Winchester load and add the results to the chart. Hopefully it will fare better than the Gold Dots.

Point of Aim

Another issue worth mentioning is the sight picture required in order to get the K6s to hit where you want the bullets to go. This is often an issue with revolvers because the point of impact can vary greatly from one .38 special or .357 magnum load to the next, and the factory sights are often not regulated for the ammo the end user prefers. For 25 yard accuracy testing, I typically use a sight picture with the top of the rear sight held so that it horizontally bisects the “X” in the 10-ring (not that I can actually see the “X” from 25 yards on the B-8 repair center targets I use, but that’s the idea). With the K6s, this resulted in every load I tested impacting well below the bullseye — anywhere from 5 to 12 inches low. When I adjusted my point of aim so the front sight completely covered the black center of the target, the point of impact shifted close to the center for most loads. This is not necessarily a huge downside for a small defensive revolver, but it does highlight one of the reasons many people prefer their revolver sights to be adjustable for both windage and elevation.

Keep an eye out for more on the Kimber K6s in the coming months. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ve had any first-hand experience (good or bad) with Kimber’s new revolver.

FMK 9C1 Gen II Review

FMK 9C1 Gen II 9mm Pistol

FMK 9C1 Gen II 9mm Pistol

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

Glock 43 Review

By Dan Zimmerman

050415_D7C_7450a

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 . . .

050415_D7C_7460a
GLOCK 42 .380 (left), GLOCK 43 9mm (right)

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.

weight
G42 left, G43 right, both holding 6+1.

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.

050415_D7C_7444a

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.

D7C_7476
GLOCK also includes a rudimentary magazine loader with the 43.

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.

Shooting
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.

 

IMG_1193
Six shots at seven yards.

 

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.

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.

050415_D7C_7457a

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.

050415_D7C_7470a

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.

Specifications:

Length: 6.26”
Height: 4.25”
Barrel Length: 3.39”
Width: 1.02”
Weight: 17.95 oz. (unloaded) 22.36 oz. (loaded)
Trigger pull: 5.5 lbs.
Capacity: 6+1
MSRP: $529

Ratings (out of five stars):

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.

Rock River Arms LAR-47 Review

by Marco Vorobiev  

RRA_LAR47_001

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.

Final Thoughts
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.

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