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SilencerCo Releases First Suppressed Muzzleloader

For the first time since the National Firearms Act (NFA) was created in 1934, civilians can enjoy suppressed shooting in nearly all 50 states with SilencerCo’s latest innovation: the integrally suppressed Maxim 50 muzzleloader.

With the invention of the Maxim 50, SilencerCo has created a product that is 100 percent legal for civilian ownership under federal law (some state laws may not allow it, though, depending on how they define muzzleloaders) while providing hearing-saving suppression at a reasonable price point. How is this possible? By paying very close attention to federal law. 

The BATFE defines a silencer as a “device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm . . .”  By that definition, a silencer is only a silencer if it can attach to a firearm. The Maxim 50 is built on the base of a Traditions Vortek Strikerfire Muzzleloader. For those who know muzzleloaders, you’ll also know that they are not considered firearms by the BATFE but are instead antique firearms, a definition and difference that is very distinct under federal law. Because of this, a moderator that is permanently affixed to a muzzleloader is not legally defined by BATF as a silencer, since it does not attach to a firearm. With this realization, the Maxim 50 was born. 

“It took a lot of creativity to arrive at this solution,” said Josh Waldron, SilencerCo CEO and Co-Founder. “We have been working on this product for three years, with most of that time spent waiting on a determination from the Technology Branch of the BATFE as to how this product would be classified. As soon as we received official word that it wouldn’t be considered or regulated as a silencer, we got to work on bringing the Maxim 50 to customers across the country.” 

SilencerCo expects the Maxim 50 to be a hit not only with the NFA-loving crowd, but also with hobbyists and hunters. In many states, muzzleloader hunting begins days (sometimes weeks) before standard rifle season, giving hunters using this platform an edge. But this edge does come with caveats—antique firearms are usually loud, have lots of recoil, and the shooter has to battle the thick cloud of black powder smoke billowing from the barrel as they try to see if their shot connected with their game. The Maxim 50 solves all of the issues experienced by muzzleloader shooters while also drastically reducing the resulting smoke by more than two-thirds, allowing hunters to see the location of their shot and track their game.


SilencerCo is honored to finally be able to bring suppressed shooting to its customers across the country, and, in most places, sans a long wait or a tax stamp.

For more information visit silencerco.com

Browning Expands Black Label 1911-380 Pistol Line

By: American Rifleman Staff

browning1911-380_lede

Since the 2015 introduction of its Black Label 1911-380 line of pistols, Browning has continued to grow the line, this year adding five new models.


The Black Label 1911-380 Medallion Pro will be available in Full Size and Compact versions, and ships with two magazines. These new pistols will feature an aluminum-reinforced composite frame and slide with a blackened stainless steel finish with silver brush polished flats. The grips will be checkered rosewood and feature the famous gold Buckmark logo. The Full Size model barrel length is 4 1/4″ and the Compact barrel length is 3 5/8″. Both the Full Size and Compact versions are available with steel 3-dot sights or steel night sights. MSRP is $799.99 for the 3-dot sight model; $879.99 for night sights model.

Browning is also adding three Compact models to the 1911-380 line.


The Black Label 1911-380 Compact has the same features as the Full Size model but with a shorter, 3 5/8” barrel. This model has composite black grips and includes fixed combat sights. MSRP: $669.99

Look for new Compact models in the Black Label Pro and the Black Label Pro with Rail, too. Both models have 3 5/8″ barrels and are offered with either steel 3-dot sights or steel night sights.

Review: Glock G41 and G42

By: B. Gil Horman

glockg40-42

Since its inception in the early 1980s, Gaston Glock’s pistol has become firmly established as one of the premier polymer-frame, striker-fired handguns available in the marketplace. The simple, rugged and reliable semi-automatic pistols have been adopted by military, law enforcement, competition and self-defense practitioners all around the world. Last year, Glock expanded its product line with two new models that rest at opposite ends of its product size spectrum. For fans of the full-size, long-slide “practical/tactical” configuration, which has been available in 9 mm Luger and .40 S&W, Glock has introduced the G41 chambered in the popular and potent .45 ACP cartridge. Designed for convenient concealed carry, the new single-stack .380 ACP-chambered G42 represents the smallest pistol that the company has produced to date.

The Practical/Tactical Gen4 G41 .45 ACP
The G41 is a .45 ACP Safe-Action semi-automatic pistol with a full-size (Standard) Gen4 frame and an extended black gas-nitrite-finished slide. With more metal onboard from the extended slide and barrel, it makes sense that long-slide-configured pistols would weigh more than standard models. Glock has addressed this in the past—with its lengthy G34 (9 mm Luger) and G35 (.40 S&W)—by removing material via a rectangular lightening cut in the top of the slide, between the front sight and the chamber, resulting in overall weights more in line with the standard-length models.

Instead of following this pattern of stretch-and-cut slide design for the new G41, the company used a different approach. Weight was reduced by using a narrower, thinner-walled slide with external dimensions much like those of the G34, albeit a fraction of an inch longer. The result is an upper assembly with enough room for a 5.31″ extended octagonal-rifled barrel, no cut-out in the top of the slide, and an overall weight that’s 2.84 ozs. lighter than the standard-size G21.

The G41 sight system employs a factory-standard polymer white-dot front sight and a polymer white-bracket rear sight containing two adjustment screws for windage. The slide features an extractor with a square protrusion that acts as both a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator. The recoil assembly is of the Gen4 variety, with a polymer guide rod, dual recoil springs and steel supports.

The rest of the pistol, including the trigger, frame and magazines, is lifted directly from the Gen4 version of the G21 service-size .45 ACP pistol. The smooth-faced trigger of the pistol tested required 5 lbs., 6 ozs., of force to cycle, according to a Lyman digital trigger gauge. As a Safe-Action pistol, the G41 contains the same three independent passive safeties found in other Glock models: a trigger safety, firing pin safety and drop safety.

The two-pin frame houses the takedown lever, along with the slide lock and magazine release, which are located on the left side. The enlarged magazine release button is reversible for left-handed users. A full-size molded-in Picatinny compatible accessory rail can be used to support a wide variety of light and laser modules. The pistol has textured finger grooves along the frontstrap of the grip with the Gen4 Rough Texture Frame blunted pyramids surface treatment on the backstrap and sides.

The G41 arrives in a hard case with a total of three magazines holding 13 or 10 rounds, depending on local regulations. Four interchangeable backstraps, two with beavertail grip extensions and two without, and an installation tool are also included. With no backstrap installed, the frame presents the smallest grip size, which is a 0.08″ reduction in the distance to the trigger compared to the Gen3 frame. Adding one of the small (2 mm) backstraps brings the frame back to the original Gen3 size, while the installation of a larger backstrap (4 mm) adds an extra 0.08″ for shooters with bigger hands.

The most notable characteristic of the G41 at the shooting range is how light and well balanced it is for a long-slide .45 ACP. With a fully loaded 13-round magazine, it feels like the gun ends at the trigger guard. In other words, it points and handles like a short-barreled pistol instead of an extended one. The trigger cycled smoothly, and the pistol ran flawlessly with test ammunition ranging from steel-cased imports to defense-grade +P hollow points.

There is one advertising point for the G41 that did not play out in the course of testing. A press release from Glock states, “The longer barrel and slide on the G41 Gen4 helps to reduce muzzle flip and felt recoil … .” That might be true if the elongation of the G41’s upper assembly resulted in a proportional weight increase, but, as discussed, that is not the case.

With an empty magazine, the G41 tipped the scale at just 26.8 ozs. That means it actually weighs almost 3 ozs. less than a standard Gen4 G21. Since the G41 uses the same recoil assembly, and the bullets fired are gaining a little more velocity due to the 0.71″ longer barrel, the lighter slide will transmit more felt recoil, not less, to the operator’s hands. In actuality, the G41’s level of felt recoil was generally on par with the G21 but in some cases it exhibited more recoil and muzzle rise. The increase was negligible, but the G41 should not be thought of as a reduced-recoil .45.

When it came to accuracy testing, the G41 proved to be a top-notch performer for an out-of-the-box pistol. The 5.31″ barrel and extended sight radius kept the five-shot group averages below the 3″ mark at 25 yds.

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The Pocket-Size G42 .380 ACP
Shrinking an existing full-size handgun design into a pocket pistol platform is no mean feat of engineering. Many manufacturers don’t even try; rather, they often beg, borrow, or whip up a whole new design from scratch. It’s interesting to see how the features of the G42 were compressed, modified and, in some cases, left just the same as other Glock models.

Proofmarks on the slide, barrel and frame indicate that the G42 is made at Glock’s Smyrna, Ga., facility. Although it is not marketed as a Gen4 product, it takes many of its cues from the latest generation pistols. Using the same materials and processes employed in the construction of the full-size models, this little pistol is fitted with Glock’s proprietary Safe-Action trigger and internal safety systems. The G42 is 5.94″ long, 4.13″ high, and weighs 13.8 ozs. unloaded, making it the smallest Glock pistol to date. It is listed as being 0.94″ wide but it’s only this thick near the slide lock. The rest of the frame is no more than 0.89″ wide, and the slide is just 0.83″ wide. The 3.25″ barrel contains hexagonal rifling, which means it should not be fired with non-jacketed bullets.

The pistol exhibits a mix of unique and familiar features. The matte-black slide is topped with factory standard polymer white-dot front and white-bracket rear fixed sights. The slide lock, magazine release and takedown lever are in their expected locations and are actually the same size and shape as those found on the Gen4 pistols. However, the frame has only one pin instead of two.

The grip frame has a Gen1-style straight frontstrap, with the backstrap featuring the usual palm swell. All four sides of the grip are treated with a light version of the Rough Texture Frame grip treatment. The grip has a small, but distinctive, downward-curving beavertail to protect the shooter’s hand from the slide. The backstrap extends down below the mouth of the magazine well, nearly flush with the flat base of the drop-free, fully-metal-lined, six-round single-stack magazines. This extension makes the grip a little longer, a bit more rounded, and it protects the shooter’s palm from being abraded by the movement of the magazine base during recoil.

One notable change to the interior is an enlarged firing pin safety plunger with an irregular shape and a beveled surface. The recoil assembly is of the Gen4 variety with dual recoil springs, a polymer guide rod and steel supports in key locations.

One of the best choices the company made with the G42 was to retain the familiar trigger guard and trigger dimensions of its larger pistols. Although the trigger guard is narrower, its length, shape, finger rest and the size of its opening remain the same. The trigger itself is the same size and shape as the smooth-faced triggers used on the Gen4 pistols, with the same 0.49″ travel distance. As a result, the trigger feels perfectly familiar to those who already use Glock pistols.

Specifications for the pistol indicate that it’s supposed to leave the factory with a 5-lb., 8-oz. trigger. An early version of it required 7 lbs., 3 ozs. of trigger pull to cycle, which is heavy for a Glock. Another G42 manufactured later in the year had a better trigger, with a pull weight of 6 lbs., 8 ozs., which was still heavier than listed. The trigger was good, but not quite as good as it could be.

At the shooting range, the G42 proved to be a comfortable, soft-shooting pocket pistol. Diminutive .380s tend to produce moderate to intense levels of felt recoil, with some loads becoming uncomfortable to shoot after just a few rounds. The felt recoil produced by the G42 was mild with standard-pressure full-metal-jacket and defense-type ammunition. Only when it was loaded with the hottest ammunition in the test set did it start to produce a moderate level of recoil.

Throughout the entire test, the G42 did not experience any of the traditional ammunition failures that can occur with semi-automatic pistols, such as failures to feed or extract or stove-piped cases. The only two events that could be noted as malfunctions where when the pistol’s slide locked open when firing a high-velocity load. In both cases, the chamber was clear and the next round in the magazine chambered when the slide was retracted and allowed to fall forward. This is the first time I’ve had a semi-automatic pistol go into slide lock during a test fire. But since the G42 did not lock open with any other load, it seems that the increased pressure produced by this particular load was the source of the problem.

One of the reasons the double-stack Glock sub-compacts are popular is because they are capable of producing down-range accuracy on par with the Glock Compact and Standard size pistols. The G42 did not demonstrate the same level of accuracy as the double-stack models, which was not wholly unexpected. Instead, the accuracy was in line with other pistols of the same size and caliber, such as the Ruger LC380 and the Taurus PT638 PRO SA. With targets set at 7 yds., the G42 produced group averages ranging around 1.5″ to 2″ in size. This is a solid level of defensive accuracy for an easy-to-carry, close-range defensive tool, which is how the G42 is intended to be used.

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Final Thoughts
Some gun owners make the mistake of thinking that all Glock pistols are alike because they share the same color scheme and profile. In truth, the new G41 .45 ACP and the G42 .380 ACP represent Glock’s willingness to take risks and move its product line in new directions. As a hybrid pistol, blending the extended-slide design, the standard G21 frame, and Glock’s Gen4 package of features, the G41 successfully reflects the best that Glock has to offer. It’s a welcome addition for competition, on-duty use and home defense.

As for the G42, Glock was successful in shrinking its platform to satisfy a broad swath of the concealed-carry market. The Glocksters among us will feel right at home with the G42’s layout. It operates like a Glock, the trigger is the same as the double-stack pistols and it’s just as reliable as the larger models. For shooters who have not owned a Glock, the G42 is soft-shooting, easy to operate, and demonstrates a level of defensive accuracy as good (or better) as other pistols in its class. It’s an ideal concealed-carry option for new and seasoned shooters, alike.

Steyr AUG/A3 M1

By: American Rifleman Staff
steyr-a3-m1
When first introduced in 1977, the Steyr AUG looked radically futuristic, and despite the intervening decades of firearm development, it still ranks highly among the guns most likely to appear in a science-fiction movie. At the time of its creation, the AUG’s bullpup design—a configuration placing the firearm’s action and magazine behind the trigger group in order to reduce overall length without sacrificing barrel length—was equally ahead of its time. And while the bullpup hasn’t exactly gone on to set the gun world on fire, several manufacturers have found reasonable success tinkering with and improving upon the formula—including Steyr itself.

Despite already being one of the most successful bullpups of all time, Steyr Mannlicher continues to make design improvements and upgrades to its AUG (or Armee Universal Gewher), including its newest iteration—the A3 M1—which offers shooters more sighting options than any of its predecessors.

steyr-a3-m1
Making use of a modular optics attachment platform, the A3 M1 is available in Short-Rail, High-Rail and integrated-optic versions with either a 1.5X or 3X scope built into the carry handle. In addition, all three optics-mounting modules can be easily interchanged with one another.

The Short-Rail includes 11 numbered Picatinny rail slots for the mounting of optics. It ends at the back of the receiver and sits 0.435″ above the stock comb. The High-Rail extends an additional 2.57″ from the end of the receiver and offers 16 numbered slots at a height of 0.82″ above the comb.

Steyr’s integrated optic module, in addition to an integral Meopta riflescope, features a 15-slot rail along the top of the housing to accommodate a close-quarter reflex sight, and a four-slot section on the right side for the use of a light or laser. The scope’s axis rests 1.945″ above the stock comb, allowing for a solid cheekweld.

The A3 M1 is available in two stock varieties—the traditional version, which uses Steyr’s proprietary “waffle-style” polymer magazines, and the NATO version, which accepts the widely available STANAG magazines. The traditional configuration is available in black, tan and green, while the NATO version comes only in black.

Much of the rest of the A3 M1 remains unchanged from its previous incarnation, the AUG A3 SA. The guns are short-stroke, gas-piston operated with a two-position gas regulator—one for normal use and one allowing more gas flow for use when the rifle is dirty. The receivers are made from investment cast, Eloxal-coated aluminum, and the barrels are phosphated, chrome-lined steel. The AUG’s distinctive folding fore-grip is also still here, able to be used either perpendicular or parallel to the bore. The A3 M1 likewise retains the quick-change barrel capability of the A3 SA, allowing the barrel to be removed with the push of a button.

A non-reciprocating charging handle is located on the left side of the receiver, and doubles as a forward assist. The bolt can be locked back by retracting the charging handle and rotating it clockwise against a notch in the receiver. In order to then close the action, lightly slapping the handle out of the notch will cause the recoil spring to drive it forward. A five-slot Picatinny rail is situated on the right side of the receiver, opposite the charging handle.

The magazine release, located just behind the magazine well, is positioned for ambidextrous use. At 8 lbs., 15 ozs. with an empty magazine and the integral scope installed, the A3 M1 is not a light rifle, but the gun is balanced in such a way that it feels far lighter than that when shouldered.

The A3 M1 can be reconfigured for ejection from the left side by replacing the standard bolt with a left-hand unit and swapping the ejection port cover to the opposite side. While these changes make the bullpup usable by a southpaw, the position of the charging handle may still be awkward for some left-handed shooters.

The trigger is often the Achilles heel of many bullpup designs, owing to the long trigger bar required to link the fore-mounted trigger to the action behind it, but the gun we received for evaluation featured an exceptional trigger pull for a stock factory bullpup. Initial take up was scarcely perceptible, with the trigger breaking cleanly at 10 lbs., 4 ozs.—a little heavy perhaps, but not too bad.

American shooters have been clamoring for an integrated-optic version of the AUG available here for a long time, which is why we elected to conduct accuracy testing using the 3X integral scope.

Accuracy at 100 yds. was decent for a gun of this type using 3X magnification; however, we believe the rifle capable of even smaller groups with the use of a more powerful optic.

Initially we encountered a few feeding issues, but were quickly able to diagnose them as being magazine-related. Switching to another magazine eliminated the problems. All firing was conducted using the gas regulator’s “normal” setting.

The Steyr AUG’s appearance is polarizing, with some shooters finding its lines appealing, and others finding them appalling. But aesthetics aside, the A3 M1 is a solid—if unorthodox—performer, and a good option for those seeking a 5.56×45 mm NATO-chambered semi-automatic rifle but wanting an alternative to the hoi polloi of the otherwise AR-laden general-purpose rifle market.

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.

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.

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.