Sometimes the shape of the grip is everything. READ MORE
When choosing a double action revolver the shape of the handle makes a great deal of difference. The primary difference is between round butt and square butt grip frames. Smith and Wesson offers only one grip frame, the round butt, in modern revolvers while conversion grips allow the use of either round butt or square butt grips. Understanding the how and why of grip design will allow you to make the best choice for different chores. Let’s look at a little history and the pros and cons of round butt and square butt design. The first revolver grips were well designed and survive with little modification. The Colt Navy grip fits most hands well and the plow handled Single Action Army is similar. When double action trigger cocking revolvers were introduced there was a need to stabilize the grip as the trigger finger swings down and back rather than straight back as with the single action revolver. Recoil and abrupt edges began to be a concern with the grip design.
A grip frame that properly stabilized the firing hand was essential and slippage was a concern. Some revolvers had bird’s head type grips. This is an odd shape that while round in cross section in double action revolvers offers a stabilizing wedge. The square butt and round butt had made their appearance by 1870. Smith and Wesson’s first revolver, the No. 1, was introduced with a square butt but later models were manufactured with a round butt grip frame. Concealed carry and the ability to cup the small grip in the hand were advantages of the round butt.
When Smith and Wesson introduced the successful Military and Police double action revolver it was manufactured with a round butt grip frame. Eventually the square butt frame became more popular and the majority of Military and Police .38s were square butt revolvers. I frame revolvers were mostly round butt designs but the Regulation Police was a square butt design. The original .22 Kit Guns had special grips that fit over the I frame’s round butt. The J frame was much the same but today is offered in round configuration only. Target sighted revolvers were delivered with square butt frames and when the N frame .44 frame was introduced it was a square butt. When Smith and Wesson introduced the Model 19 Combat Magnum with 2.5 inch barrel it was designed as a round butt revolver. Among my prized revolvers is a Smith and Wesson Model 66 four inch barrel with round butt. It is relatively uncommon. This revolver and its good traits spurred this article forward. While Smith and Wesson revolvers are the ones I use most often Colt also had different frame designs. The Colt New Police and the first Police Positive revolvers had one of the most uncomfortable grip frames ever designed for a double action revolver in my opinion. The Colt Police Positive Special and the treatment given the Detective Special were great improvements. In the small calibers used in the Police Positive the grip frame didn’t matter as much. With the .38 Special things were getting uncomfortable.
With this background in mind we have a basis on which to choose our best hand fit. When Smith and Wesson went to the modern transfer bar actions they also went to the round butt grip frame. Both K and N frame revolvers have the same frame dimensions. (The Classic line differs.) This is fine for manufacturing process but not always the best for the consumer. The revolvers supplied with square butt grips are fitted with conversion grips that give the round butt grip a square butt profile. The worst kicking .44 Special I have ever fired was a Smith and Wesson Model 21 with the modern round butt and small pre Magna grips. I fitted a set of Culina round butt grips with plenty of wood as soon as possible and had a tractable and controllable revolver. The round butt is a good choice for fast handling defense revolvers. The square butt is best for target revolvers. The single action press must be controlled and the larger square butt grip allows that. As an example even the 2 inch barrel Combat Masterpiece with square butt grips is a very accurate revolver. As a field gun for accurate shooting well past fifty yards I will choose my proven Model 19 Combat Magnum with square butt grip. The hand remains in place when the thumb is used to cock the hammer for single action fire. On the other hand the Smith and Wesson Model 66 with four inch barrel and round butt handles quickly in double action fire. The round butt is less likely to print on covering garments when the 66 is worn concealed. The round butt is smaller and has less area but also invites a very fast grip acquisition. When firing heavy loads the smaller grip frame of the round butt may transfer more energy to the palm but that is a trade off — the trigger is more quickly manipulated, in my opinion, with the round butt grip. Another concern is heeling, sometimes called combat heeling. This is the effect when the handgun is gripped improperly too high on the grip. With this grip the shooter will often fire for the heart and hit the head unless the bullet simply flies over the head of the target. This is a product of hurried training and not taking time to affirm the grip. For what it is worth I believe that this type of problem is less likely with the round butt grip frame.
After firing revolvers for many years I have learned that how a grip feels may not necessarily mean it will give the best performance on the range. Smaller grips may actually make for more encirclement with the fingers and a stronger hold. Trigger reach may be slightly shorter with the round butt for most hand sizes. This is important when dealing with a double action revolver. Carefully consider your needs. Smith and Wesson began manufacturing their most successful double action revolvers with a round butt and today the round butt may be the best choice for most of us. I use both Hogue and Pachmayr grips with good results.
There are many considerations in training- but in the end you are responsible for your own safety. READ MORE
There is a lot of discussion concerning training. A lot of it revolves around choosing a trainer. There is much truth in this as the trainer gets you started on the road to proficiency, but it is all your own responsibility in the end.
You have graduated from the public school system good or bad and you are able to read so you survived and perhaps have learned a great deal on your own. We all remember fantastic teachers who inspired us — and then there were the inept. So it is with firearms trainers. Some practice by rote and use the training wheel method and then advance to repetition of the same boring drills. A broken record perhaps. You are well advised to never go to the range without learning something new and thinking about it- and never thinking that you know it all. There should be some stress involved in training. Different personalities handle stress differently. Some have stress from peer pressure others want to be all they can be. There are a number of types of trainers just as there are different types in every work place. There are a several types of men. If you have any work experience, institutional or otherwise, you know these men. The “me first” type cares little to nothing for his fellow man. He is out for himself. The “me too” guy is much the same but generally inept and will cause you much grief. The deadwood really cause a lot of trouble and while some mean well and may even be honest they just don’t get it and will get you killed. Then there are the dedicated. They are in the minority and everyone seems to know who they are. They do things right for its own sake. They master whatever profession they have chosen and will do their best in whatever situation they are thrown into. Trainers of this type understand the physical and mathematical forces at work.
There are things I have learned which may be helpful. Some of you may have experience that makes my own experience no more than light reading, but then battle scars are a form of validation. You learn as you go along the things you need and concentrate on these skills. You can learn to master stress and perhaps even fear. A good healthy respect for the possibilities of combat will serve to make an intelligent person avoid such battles if at all possible. A well trained person will default to training and do what needs to be done and perform as well as possible during a critical incident. Afterwards they may decompress and have the shakes, knocking knees or even tears. True fear is a different thing. There is a type of fear that is a fester. Determination, gumption, self respect and ability are robbed of us by this type of fear. We have all been demoralized by a losing streak and given exuberance by a sense of accomplishment. We must balance the two. One of the ways to balance apprehension and confidence is to move from two dimensional to three dimensional training. Because standing squared to a target and firing for groups is practically one dimensional.
The practice of firing at a one dimensional target you are squared to is one that is suitable only for beginners. We were all there at one time and we progress further we hope. Then there is the problem of aiming for center mass or even finding center mass. Where is the center of the target? Hopefully we are able to quickly set the sights in the center of the target we have available. There is a very good chance that such practice by rote will result in hesitation when confronted by a problem we have not trained for. If the assailant is running toward you, running to one side and firing or particularly if the adversary is behind cover you much revamp your expectations and do so very quickly. There is a steep learning curve to be addressed. You may well be conditioning yourself for failure with poor training. Waiting for a perfect shot or for the adversary to present himself in a more likely position for a shot may result in serious death or injury. In real life the threat shoots back.
Ok, so you are using the center of mass shot. This is firing for the center of the opponent in order to increase the likelihood of a bullet hitting the target- the whole target, the threat. This is something of a compromise as this isnt necessarily the most efficient area to produce a shut down of the body, but it is a reasonable tool for most situations. There are degrees of wound potential lost by aiming for center mass versus aiming for the arterial region, the area most likely (other than the cranium) to induce a shut down for blood loss. The ideal type of training will involve moving target, the shooter moving off the X and finding cover, and firing for center mass when there is no other opportunity and firing for the arterial region when you are able. Consider the likely problem and keep your training three dimensional.
How about a 9mm, .38 and .357 in one package? READ MORE
The newest Taurus revolver is among the most interesting and innovative the company has manufactured. The 692 is a double action revolver with a swing out cylinder. There is a single action option, useful in a field and trail revolver. This handgun features a 7-shot cylinder, giving the relatively compact Taurus .357 Magnum an advantage over traditional 6-shot revolvers. While there are other 7-shot revolvers, the Taurus Tracker is among the most compact. There are longer barrel versions available suitable for hunting and competition. My example is a matte blue finished revolver with a three inch ported barrel and non fluted cylinder. The grips are the famous Taurus Ribber grips. These are rubber and give a bit during recoil. The grips also keep the hand separated from the steel frame. The result is plenty of adhesion and abrasion and great comfort.
While the 692 is a credible choice for personal defense and field use as a conventional revolver a major advantage is a second cylinder chambered in 9mm Luger. This gives the use the option of using .38 Special and .357 Magnum cartridges in one cylinder and 9mm Luger in the other. (We could include the .38 Colt and .38 Long Colt but leave it at that.) Previously most dual caliber revolvers have been single action .22 Magnum/.22 Long Rifle types. The 9mm cylinder may be fired with 9mm cartridges but since the 9mm doesn’t have a cartridge case rim that extends to the ejector star spent cases must be picked out one at a time. Taurus supplies moon clips for easy loading and unloading. Many shooters will prefer to use the revolver as a 9mm as this is the most popular handgun caliber in America. There is no denying the power advantage of the .357 Magnum and for those willing to master the caliber it offers decisive wound potential.
In the past dual cylinder double action revolvers were not feasible for many reasons. Fitting each crane and cylinder to the revolver and preserving the barrel cylinder gap and timing seemed unworkable. Taurus got it right in a unique manner. Previously a revolver cylinder was removed by removing a screw in the frame. The Taurus features a plunger on the right side of the frame that is pressed to release the cylinder, allowing an easy change. Remarkably, each cylinder is properly timed and the barrel cylinder gap remains tight after each cylinder change.
The revolver is quite attractive with its all black finish and unfluted cylinder. Each cylinder is marked for the caliber, no mix ups there. The revolver features good quality fully adjustable rear sights and a bold post front. The trigger action is smooth in the double action mode. The single action trigger press is clean and crisp. I began firing the revolver with a number of .38 Special loads. These included handloads with modest charges of WW 231 powder. I also fired a good quantity of Black Hills Ammunition 158 grain lead ‘cowboy load,’ a pleasant, accurate, and affordable choice. The revolver is easily controlled. Firing double action, I hit man sized targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards. The grips, trigger action, and sights provided good results. Moving up the scale I also fired a number of Black Hills Ammunition .38 Special 125 grain JHP +P loads in .38 Special. This revolver is easily controlled with .38 Special loads and more accurate than most.
Moving to the .357 Magnum things became interesting. I had on hand two loads from Black Hills Ammunition. One is the fast stepping 125 grain JHP and the other, the deeper penetrating 158 grain JHP. The 125 grain JHP retained 1340 fps velocity in the short barrel 592, a good number for personal defense. Recoil was increased but the revolver was not unpleasant to fire. The grips have a lot to do with this. Concentration on handling recoil and the trigger action is demanded. The .357 Magnum generates enough muzzle blast to startle shooters and this is what causes flinch, more so than recoil, in most shooters. The Taurus 692 Tracker is as controllable a revolver as I have fired in .357 Magnum. Results were good, giving a trained shooter a high degree of confidence in this handgun. Notably, the muzzle ports seemed to reduce recoil but did not add offensive blast.
At this point the revolver gets a clean bill of health as a handy, fast handling, reliable and accurate .357 Magnum. But what about the 9mm cylinder? I depressed the plunger in the receiver and quickly snapped in the 9mm cylinder to explore the possibilities. I began with the Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain FMJ. There was little recoil and mild report. Accuracy was similar to the .38 Special. I can see the 9mm cylinder as a good option for economy. Picking the cartridge cases out one at a time isn’t that time consuming for the casual shooter. The cartridge cases in 7-shot moon clips were much more interesting. A conventional revolver must be tilted muzzle up for cartridge case extraction. Otherwise spent cases may hang under the ejector start. Likewise in loading the muzzle must be as straight down as possible to facilitate loading. With the moon clips all cartridge cases are ejected smartly even if the muzzle isn’t straight up. Loading is less fumble prone than loading one at a time and with practice is sharper than loading with a speeloader — the clips are loaded with the cartridges in the cylinder rather than the cartridges inserted and the speedloader dropped. This system has much merit in a revolver intended for personal defense. I fired a number of the powerful Black Hills Ammunition 124 grain +P JHP with good results. While the loading clocked nearly 1200 fps, recoil is modest.
During the test I deployed the revolver in a Jeffrey Custom Leather belt holster. This is a well made, attractive, and well designed holster. Retention is good. This is a among a few holsters that rides high and offers good security, and will double as a concealed carry and field holster. Draws were sharp, getting on target quickly.
I find the Taurus 692 an exceptional revolver. The combination of loads makes for great versatility, from powder puff practice and small game loads to +P loads suitable for personal defense and finally full power Magnum loads for field use and defense against larger animals. This is the ultimate Tracker and my favorite Taurus revolver. A price check shows the revolver generally retails for just shy of $500.
This is among the best go anywhere solve any problem rifles. READ MORE
For most of my life I have kept a lever action rifle handy for all around use. I have taken more game with the lever action than with any other type. During my time as a peace officer I kept a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 WCF lever action rifle in the trunk on more than one occasion. Such a rifle is capable of solving most of the problems encountered. I have the greatest respect for the AR 15 rifle and enjoy firing and using my .223 rifles. Few rifles are as versatile, accurate, and reliable as a good AR 15. Few rifles may be used for varmints and deer by simply changing loads- and then fired in a competitive match that weekend! I simply like the lever action and value its simplicity and ruggedness. I have seen lever actions in the hands of outdoorsmen, scouts and working cowboys that were beaten, battered, and even muddy. These things happen after a decade or two of use. But the rifles always work. When the likely profile is that you may need only a shot or two but that the rifle needs to hit hard, a powerful lever action rifle is a viable choice.
Recently I was in the market for a short handy lever action rifle. I did not seriously consider a Trapper model in .30-30 but sought out a pistol caliber carbine. There are many reasons for this choice. First, it is easier to find a range that allows pistol caliber carbines and this is a real consideration in many areas. Second, I am an enthusiastic handloader. As long as the brass holds out and I am able to obtain lead, primers and powder I will be shooting. I don’t hoard ammunition; I simply keep a reasonable supply. Ammunition is for practice, training, hunting and personal defense. My retirement portfolio contains other choices! While I like the pistol caliber carbine I am not sold on the carbine and handgun combination. When carrying the Rossi lever action rifle I am as likely to be carrying a .357 Magnum revolver as a .45, and more likely to carry my everyday 1911 .45 automatic. A long gun and a handgun are for different duties and compromise is evident.
The lever action carbine slips behind the seat of a truck easily. It is flat, light, and may be made ready by quickly working the lever action. Once ready it may be made safe by simply lowering the hammer. Accuracy isn’t the long suit of the short pistol caliber carbine but it is accurate enough for most chores to 100 yards. Versatility is the long suit. It is a bonus that a good example isn’t expensive. I somehow found myself in the possession of Winchester 95 and Savage 99 high power rifles and a good Henry .22 rifle but no short powerful carbine. I addressed this deficit in the battery by purchasing a Rossi 92 carbine. These rifles are available in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and .454 Casull, and I have seen examples in .44-40 as well. The .357 is economical and the best choice for Cowboy Action. With Magnum loads it is a fine defense caliber and will do for deer. The .44 Magnum is a great caliber. I have used it to drop large boar hogs and it hits like Thor’s hammer. The .44-40 is a handloading proposition for real power. I happened along a .45 Colt example. The rifle looked good, with nice Brazilian wood and the popular large ring lever. Since I had plenty of .45 Colt brass the choice wasn’t difficult. I have reached that pleasant stage in life when every firearm doesn’t have to have a well defined mission to earn its keep, and where a specialized firearm that does a few things well is good to have. The Rossi was destined to serve as a go anywhere do anything rifle. For short range hunting, probably an opportunity rather than a planned hunt, to dispatch predators, pests and dangerous animals, and for personal defense on the road, the Rossi seemed a good fit.
Despite my Scot blood I am not the cheapest guy in the world but the rifle set me back less than four hundred dollars and I like that. This is the first example I have owned in .45 Colt, but the particulars of the rifle are familiar to me. The sights are pretty basic. There is a front post with a small brass bead and an open sight in the rear. The front post is adjustable for windage — with the proper punch — and the rear sight may be adjusted for elevation by use of the sight ladder. You have to know how to use these sights. I have heard more than a little grumbling concerning the difficulty of sighting in similar rifles. The front post must be set in the bottom of the rear notch for the proper point of aim. You do not hold it in the upper part of the rear leaf or you will shoot impossibly high. A tubular under the barrel magazine holds eight rounds. The lever action rifle was once referred to as a bolt gun — period literature is hard to read sometimes but interesting. The bolt is locked by rear locking wedges. The rifle is unlocked by working the lever. As the lever travels downward, the bolt moves to the rear and the extractor pulls the spent case from the chamber. The fresh round is fed from the magazine into a shell carrier. As the lever is closed the carrier feeds a fresh round into the chamber. Rearward travel of the bolt cocks the hammer.
This is a generally reliable and trouble free system. However, be certain you learn to properly use the lever action. The lever is pressed forward, not down, and a certain cadence of fire comes with practice. I have witnessed the occasional malfunction in which a cartridge jumps from the magazine and under the carrier. This is devilishly hard to clear. A pistol caliber carbine such as the Rossi 92 has more leverage than a .30-30 rifle and the action may be manipulated more quickly. If need be you may put out a lot of lead with the Rossi 92. If you keep extra rounds on the belt the Rossi may be topped off one round at a time. The rifle weighs about five pounds loaded. It is only about 34 inches long — that’s compact. With the 16 inch barrel this rifle handles quickly and tracks between targets well. It is no trick to keep steel gongs moving at 50 yards. To test the rifle, firing at the 50 yard line, I set up an Innovative Targets steel target. This target is a great training aid. Using the steel insert rated for pistol calibers I was able to ring the target on demand.
As far as ammunition, the Rossi was fired for the most part with my personal handloads using a 255 grain cast SWC. With the .44 Magnum carbine I have had to crimp over the bullet shoulder in order to assure feed reliability- loads intended for use in a revolver sometimes did not feed correctly in the carbine. This wasn’t the case with the .45 Colt carbine. Most of these loads generate about 800 fps from a revolver. At 25 yards the handloads struck a bit right and low but this was easily adjusted. In factory ammunition there are several distinct classes of ammunition. These include cowboy action loads that are lighter than standard, standard pressure lead loads, and standard pressure personal defense loads. There are heavy hunting loads such as the ones offered by Buffalo Bore. I fired a representative sample of each class of load. I fired a quantity of the Winchester 225 gr. PDX JHP defense load and also the Speer 250 gr. Gold Dot JHP load. Each was mild to fire and accurate. The bonded bullets should be excellent for personal defense. I also fired a quantity of the Hornady Critical Defense. This 185 grain bullet struck below the point of aim but gave good feed reliability. It would have easy to adjust the sights if I wished to deploy this loading. I also fired a small quantity of the Buffalo Bore 225 grain all copper bullet. What struck me is that these loads are practically indistinguishable as far as recoil. Each was mild, with no more recoil than a .410 bore shotgun. Only the Buffalo Bore load was noticeably hotter. But you are getting serious horsepower.
Here are a few velocity figures — Winchester 225 grain PDX, 1090 fps Hornady FTX 185 grain Critical Defense, 1180 fps Buffalo Bore 225 grain Barnes, 1310 fps
The .45 Colt was designed for black powder way back in 1873. As such it is sometimes smoky and not as efficient as more modern calibers when loaded with smokeless powder. However a good quantity of the Black Hills cowboy action load gave both good accuracy and a full powder burn. A tight chamber and 16 inch barrel increases ballistic efficiency. As an example the Black Hills cowboy action loading breaks about 780 fps from a 4 ¾ inch barrel revolver, but over 1,000 fps from the Rossi carbine. While the bullet doesn’t expand it will do whatever the .45 Colt has ever done. The cartridge enjoys an excellent reputation as a manstopper. As for the gain in velocity over a handgun when ammunition is fired in the carbine, the average is a 100 fps gain with standard loads while heavier loads may gain 140-160 fps. This is a useful increase in power over the revolver but the real advantage is in accuracy. It is much easier to quickly get a hit with a carbine than with the handgun.
The action of the Rossi is easily the smoothest lever action I have used including original Winchester carbines. Pistol caliber carbines have plenty of leverage. The action is both smooth and reliable. The wood to metal fit is good, if not flawless. A point of contention is the L shaped safety found on the bolt. I simply ignore it. I would not remove it, some may wish to use it. Another source of some discussion was the large loop lever. This large loop is a great addition for use with gloved hands, but otherwise it isn’t more efficient than the standard loop. It may be slower to use than a standard loop. Still, it is the same large loop that Lucas McCain and Josh Randall used in the cinema and some like the looks. It is fast enough but in the final analysis serves no useful purpose and makes the light and flat carbine more difficult to store. I would not have sought out a big ring carbine, it was simply what was on the shelf. I did not feel strongly enough about the large ring to let it interfere with my decision to purchase the rifle. The same goes for caliber. Much could be said for the .44 Magnum version. However, the .45 Colt is a proven defense loading. At moderate range it will take deer sized game cleanly. I had the ammo. As for the buckskin tong around the saddle ring, ditch it. It sometimes interferes with handling.
Another option with the Rossi 92 is the availability of shot loads. I used a handful of Speer/CCI shot loads in the carbine with good results. I did not cycle the rounds in the action more than one at a time. I would load a single shot cartridge in the magazine, feed it into the chamber, then load another. You feel the cartridge crunch a little as it chambers. I have the impression that the shot capsule might crack and crumble in the magazine from the force of a metal cartridge head under spring pressure butting into the plastic shot carrier. You would have a mess! The shot pattern is useful to 5 yards or so in dealing with vermin and reptiles. I like the option in a go anywhere carbine.
When the Rossi is taken as a whole it is a capable carbine for many situations. It isn’t particularly accurate but it is accurate enough. It is inexpensive and fires a proven cartridge, with a good reserve of ammunition. If saddle rings and the big lever appeal to you the Rossi has much to recommend. But it is also a good performer and this is an attractive combination. When you look past the cinema depiction of the rifleman you realize that Lucas McCain was pretty smart to deploy a rifle and it gave him an advantage.
The new Cobra is an outstanding personal defense and outdoors revolver well suited to most chores. READ MORE
Colt once ruled the revolver market. But that was a long time ago when the goose hung high in Hartford. Today Colt’s Official Police and Police Positive are things of the past. But Colt has jumped back into the revolver market with a double action revolver. I have added the Colt Cobra to my Colt 1911s, AR 15s and .357 Magnums as a front line personal defense gun and outdoors revolver. The Colt Cobra is a stainless steel double action six shot .38 Special revolver. The Cobra is a modern revolver in every way, and while it bears a legendary name, the new Cobra bears only a passing resemblance to the original Cobra. The Colt Detective Special was the original .38 Special snub nose revolver. Based on the Police Positive Special frame, the Detective Special was the lightest .38 Special revolver of the day and remained the lightest six shot .38 for many years. The Cobra was the aluminum frame version. It is even lighter. Each shared the same action and configuration.
The new Cobra is a beefier revolver with a robust frame and action. It fills the same niche as the original. As a long time Colt fan and Colt shooter I have to say the Cobra does things better in the newer version. The short barrel Detective Special – along with a number of full size .45 caliber Fitz Special revolvers- was conceptualized by Fitz Fitzsimmons, a long time Colt employee and trainer. Fitz wrote that long barrel holster guns were fine for western use and for uniformed officers in some instances, but the modern mechanized means of transportation demanded shorter fast handling revolvers. The shortened barrel was easier to draw inside a vehicle and less likely to be interfered with by steering wheels and gear shifters. He was correct. There are many reasons Colt lost its place in the market. Some feel that Colt did not reinvest its war time profits after World War Two and did not introduce sufficiently interesting new models, other feel that Colt simply priced themselves out of the business. Whatever the reason Smith and Wesson at one time held more than seventy five per cent of the police revolver market. Eventually Colt dropped all revolvers from production.
While many obtain self loading handguns for personal defense and home defense Fitz Fitzsimmons ideas concerning simplicity of design, fast handling, and reliability hold true today. The revolver may even be pressed into an adversary’s body and fired time after time. A self loader would jam after the first shot. The revolver may be left at ready with no springs at tension and the smooth double action trigger is easily managed by those that practice. The Colt Cobra features a smooth action that offers excellent speed and reset. An advantage of the Colt Cobra is the wide rear sight groove and a bright fiber optic front sight. The .38 Special is a good choice for the average to experienced home defense shooter. The Colt Cobra is also a good choice for concealed carry. The .38 Special is the most powerful cartridge that the occasional shooter can handle well. In this size handgun the .357 Magnum is simply too much.
Compared to the common five shot .38 Special snub nose the Cobra offers six shots but is only slightly wider- about .11 inch. The Colt grip is an ideal size for most hands. The Hogue monogrip is a recoil absorbing design that isolates the hand from the metal of the revolver. The geometry of the grips compliments the design of the Colt Cobra. While the Colt Cobra resembles the original the trigger isn’t in the same location and the action is tight and smooth with no loose motion. The revolver doesn’t feel like the original Colt but represents an improvement. It should prove more durable in the long term and smoother as well.
My initial shooting was done with Fiocchi’s affordable and accurate .38 Special loads. I used both the 130 grain FMJ and the 158 grain RNL loading. These loads are clean burning. I enjoyed firing the Colt Cobra very much, going through 100 rounds at man sized targets at 5, 7 and 10 yards. Centering the front sight on the target resulted in a hit as long as the trigger was pressed smoothly. During recoil I allowed the trigger to reset. Groups were excellent. Moving to personal defense loads the Fiocchi 124 grain XTP provided good control. This premium ammunition exhibits the highest level of accuracy. I also carry revolvers when hiking and comping. Unlike the small frame five shot revolvers, the Colt Cobra is controllable and useful with heavy load. The Buffalo Bore .38 Special Outdoorsman, using a hard cast SWC, or the lead SWC hollowpoint are well suited to defense against feral dogs or the big cats. Members of our protein-fed ex-con criminal class would be another threat in the wild, and the Colt/Buffalo Bore combination is a good one. Recoil is stout but accuracy is good. As for absolute accuracy on several occasions I have fired a two inch five shot group at 15 yards. The Colt Cobra is plenty accurate. Like the original the Cobra is as easy to use well and as accurate as most four inch barrel revolvers.
The Colt Cobra gets a clean bill of health. There really isn’t anything like it in the market. I think that you will find it well suited to modern problems.
Bob Campbell is the author of Gun Digest ‘The Accurate Handgun.’ Here are his thoughts on this topic. READ MORE
Over the decades I have researched handguns and used the terms practical accuracy, intrinsic accuracy, and absolute accuracy. Firing from the benchrest is important and always interesting. But absolute accuracy isnt as important as the practical accuracy we may coax from a handgun. I think handgunners don’t take accuracy as serious as riflemen. Perhaps most cannot shoot well enough to take advantage of the accuracy in a superbly accurate handgun and don’t bother. Competition seems to place a premium on speed rather than accuracy. In personal defense the balance of speed and accuracy is important. If you don’t think accuracy isnt important in personal defense we have been to a different church. Shot placement is accuracy. The standard of measuring accuracy has come to be a five shot group at 25 yards, This is fired from a solid braced position from a bench. I use the Bullshooters pistol rest to remove as many human factors as possible. There is some compromise with shorter barrel or lightweight handguns and they are tested at 15 yards.
The quality of the handgun, the fitting of the slide, the quality of the rifling, the sights, whether fine for target shooting or broad for fast results at combat range, are very important. The quality of the trigger press is important. The shooter is the most important part of the equation. There are those that may state that such testing of handguns is irrelevant as personal defense use almost always demands firing at less than ten yards. There is much validity to this argument. Not that combat shooting, drawing and firing and making a center hit, are not difficult. It may be reasonable to test an 8 3/8 inch barreled Magnum at even one hundred yards but a personal defense handgun with few exceptions will never be used past ten yards. Just the same those of us that test handguns like to take them to the Nth degree and test firearms accuracy. It is an interesting pursuit that is rewarding although there is some frustration in the beginning.
Service pistols, high end pistols and revolvers have different levels of accuracy. A revolver with five, six, seven or eight chambers that rotate to line up with the barrel for each shot is more accurate than it should be. As an example the Colt Official Police .38 and the Smith and Wesson K 38 are each capable of putting five shots into 2.2 to 2.5 inches at 25 yards with Federal Match ammunition. This is excellent target accuracy. When cops qualified with revolvers at 50 yards these handguns were up to the task. The Colt Python is easily the most accurate revolver I have tested and perhaps the most accurate handgun of any type. At a long 25 yards I fired a 15/16 inch group with the Federal 148 grain MATCH in .38 Special. This involved tremendous concentration and frankly it was exhausting. I have fired a similar group with the SIG P220, but this was unusual. The SIG will usually do 1.25 inch with the Federal 230 grain MATCH loading. The Python will group very nearly as well with full power Magnum loads. The Federal 180 grain JHP .357 Magnum is good for an inch at 25 yards, as an example. A much less expensive revolver is superbly accurate and nearly as accurate as the Python. The four inch barrel Ruger GP100 is good for groups about ninety per cent as good as the Python. It is also more rugged. As I have seen with 1911 handguns you pay a lot for the last degree of accuracy.
In self loaders the Les Baer Concept VI is a solid three inch gun at 50 yards. The SIG P220 I mentioned may not run a combat course as quickly as a 1911 handgun but it will prove more accurate than all but the finest custom guns. The Nighthawk Falcon is a well made and reliable handgun worth its price. I am surprised when it fires a group larger than 2.0 inches at 25 yards with quality ammunition. The Guncrafter Commander with No Name is among the most accurate 1911 handguns of any type I have tested. So far the single most accurate loading has been the Fiocchi 200 grain XTP with a 25 yard 1.4 inch group. This takes a great deal of concentration to achieve. However- this pistol is among the most accurate of handguns in offhand fire as well. Firing off hand at known and unknown ranges the pistol is surprisingly accurate.
When it comes to modern handguns it is interesting that there seems to be a race in both directions, to the top and to the bottom. Makers are attempting to manufacture the least expensive handgun possible that works. Someone buys it, and some of the handguns like the Ruger LC9/EDC types are reliable and useful defensive handguns. The same is true of revolvers. Even the inexpensive Taurus 450 .45 caliber revolver I often carry hiking will place five shots into less than two inches at 15 yards, reasonable for a revolver with a ported two inch barrel. I am unimpressed with the accuracy of many of the polymer framed striker fired handguns. I think that they are accurate enough and no more, but the trigger and sights are probably the limiting factory. Almost all fire five shots of service grade ammunition into 2.5 to 3.0 inches at 25 yards. High end handguns such as the Dan Wesson Heritage and Springfield Operator are more accurate than the majority of factory handguns of a generation ago. As an example thirty nine years ago I convinced the lead instructor and range master to allow some of us to carry to the 1911 .45. I barely managed to qualify with the Colt Commander Series 70 as qualification included barricade fire at 50 yards. With factory ammunition of the day the pistol would not group into ten inches at 50 yards, the military standard for 1911 handguns. Using a 200 grain SWC handload the pistol grouped into eight inches at 50 yards and I barely made the cut. The sights were small, the trigger heavy, and the grip tang cut my hand after fifty rounds. But the pistol was reliable, fast into action, and it was a Colt 1911. Later I added a Bar Sto barrel and enjoyed much better accuracy. Today a SIG 1911 Fastback Carry will group five rounds into 2.5 inches on demand at 25 yards and sometimes much less, and it is a factory pistol.
Other handguns are more accurate than most give them credit for. While the SIG P series is regarded as a very accurate handgun the CZ75B will give the SIG a run for the money. The CZ 75B is easily handled in off hand fire and very accurate. The Beretta 92 is also an accurate handgun as I discovered in instructors school when a veteran qualified with the Beretta 92. As a rule .40 caliber versions of the 9mm are not as accurate as the 9mm version but there are exceptions. The SIG P229 in .40 is an accurate and reliable handgun that makes an excellent go anywhere do anything handgun. My example will place five rounds of the Fiocchi 180 grain XTP load into 2.0 inches at 25 yards on demand. Accuracy is interesting. There are other considerations such as how quickly the pistol may be drawn and placed on target, and control in rapid fire is important. Reliability is far more important. But accurate handguns are interesting.
A lifelong fan looks at the two greats of the revolver world. READ MORE
When Samuel Colt invented the revolver as we know it he turned the handgun world on its nose. Most handguns were horse pistols or pocket guns similar in design to rifles — simply shorter. The Colt revolver had to be designed to stabilize the firing hand to allow thumb cocking and to present the sights for proper aiming. The Colt revolver was an offensive firearm and a credible military firearm that hastened the western movement. In short it was an immensely important invention. Smith and Wesson’s original handgun was a lever action design that led to the Winchester repeating rifle, but that is another story. By the time of the Civil War both Smith and Wesson and Colt were manufacturing viable revolver designs.
After the war both companies manufactured distinctive revolvers. The hinged frame and later break top Smith and Wesson revolvers competed with Colt’s solid frame revolvers. The Colt sold better domestically while Smith and Wesson armed Russia and Japan among other armies. During the 1880s Colt began development of swing out cylinder double action revolvers that would bring the two companies products much closer in design and appearance. Colt’s revolvers such as the New Pocket featured a swing out cylinder, cylinder latch that pulled to the rear, and a smooth double action trigger. Smith and Wesson followed suit with the Hand Ejector, a similar size .32 caliber revolver. The Colt .32 Long is smaller in diameter than the .32 Smith and Wesson Long and will not interchange. At this point in time the companies were producing revolvers that in many ways were more similar than they differed.
In a few years there was another strong unifying movement in the handgun world. Preciously there had been proprietary cartridges for each maker. The .32 Colt, .32 Smith and Wesson, .38 Colt and .38 Smith and Wesson were among these. In general the .32 and .38 Colt cartridges were smaller and would chamber in the Smith and Wesson chambers but the cartridge case often split on firing. A big change was the introduction of the Smith and Wesson Military and Police .38 revolver. The .38 Colt was a dismal failure in action in the Philippines and at home as well. The US Army asked for a revolver more robust than the Colt 1892 and a more powerful cartridge. Smith and Wesson lengthened the .38 Long Colt cartridge slightly and improved performance from a 152 grain bullet at 750 fps to a 158 grain bullet at 850 fps. The .38 Special became the most popular revolver cartridge of all time. The older .38s were eclipsed.
While the Colt Single Action Army remained popular past its prime the primary spear point of competition for the two makers was in double action .38 Special revolvers. They traded in the top position in sales for some fifty years. During the 1930s the race was real with Colt having an edge. By the 1970s Smith and Wesson carried three quarters of the police market. Many felt that Smith and Wesson had the edge when they reinvested war time profits in new machinery and models after World War Two. Colt introduced some models such as the Python but Smith and Wesson introduced more models at more attractive prices. Eventually Smith and Wesson enjoyed a considerable price advantage over Colt for similar handguns. When I was growing up during the 1960s and beginning a life long interest in revolvers, my grandfather expressed a common opinion. He told me that he would not flip for the difference between the two. His favorite revolver was a Smith and Wesson Military and Police, but he liked the Colt Detective Special better than the Smith and Wesson Chief’s Special. I have pretty much the same preference.
I think that while the revolvers looked similar and handled the same there were differences in the grip and trigger action that had appeal to different shooters. The price point and good performance made Smith and Wesson the leader. There were many excellent revolvers manufactured during the heyday of this competition. The Combat Masterpiece, Shooting Master, Target Masterpiece, Trooper, Highway Patrolman, Python, Detective Special, Chief’s Special, Cobra, Python, and Combat Magnum were among them. Adjustable sights, ramp front sights, shrouded ejector rods, target triggers and hammers, trigger stops and red insert front sights were introduced. But just the same, the revolver manufactured in the greatest numbers was the plain vanilla Military and Police revolver.
The differences in the revolvers were seldom based on quality of manufacture. While each may have had an occasional bad run this was rare. There were high points of production for each company. The Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum was probably the best balanced revolver of all time. Light enough for constant carry, durable in long use, accurate, smooth in operation, and firing the best man stopper we are likely to invent, this .357 Magnum revolver was a prestige revolver. The shrouded ejector rod and high visibility sights were important advantages. The K frame .38 has a skinny frame for use with Magnums but the development of target stocks and rubber recoil absorbing stocks went a long way toward taming Magnum recoil. The Colt action differed, and while smooth enough, the Colt was the more likely to go out of time after hard use. The Colt revolver cylinder rotates right into the frame, the Smith and Wesson to the left, and the rifling is also different. Today those who appreciate old iron are happy to find either revolver at a fair price.
The heyday of the revolver may be over as far as law enforcement is concerned. But many of us find the revolver suits our needs well. Most are highly accurate and offer plenty of power. When I am hiking or traveling around Appalachia, the Blue Ridge and the Smokies I sometimes find myself in the vicinity of feral dogs and other dangerous wild life. The big cats are sometimes aggressive — I will never forget that my grandmothers’ cousin, a small child, was killed by a panther in the early 1920s. Fifty years later she recounted the story as if it were yesterday. I like something on my hip in the wild. A heavy loaded .38 Special or a .357 Magnum revolver just feels right. Will the revolver be a Colt or a Smith and Wesson? I own and enjoy both, more Colts than Smiths and would hate to part with either. Just the same, the gun on the hip is usually a Colt Python. But sometimes it is a Colt Single Action Army .45 or a beautifully smooth Colt Three-Fifty-Seven. I guess we know who won the battle with me — but lost the war.
This is a great all-around revolver for personal defense and field use — and also a fun gun to spend a day at the range with! READ MORE
I have used Charter Arms revolvers for more than 40 years. Charter was introduced in the 1960s and armed many Americans at a time when truly good affordable guns were scarce. The Charter Arms design features a transfer bar ignition for safety, among the first revolvers to do so. The frame is steel also it is enclosed by aluminum to save weight. The revolvers have always been available with well designed grips. The sights are wide and easily picked up quickly. Quite simply you get your money’s worth with the Charter Arms, and perhaps then some. The Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog is the most famous product but revolvers in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .32 Smith and Wesson Long, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and perhaps a few others have been offered. The revolver illustrated is among the most interesting.
The Charter Arms Professional is a small frame revolver with a 3-inch barrel, hand filling grips, a double action/single action mechanism, good sights, and a nice finish. Open the cylinder by pushing the cylinder release forward and you will see a 7-shot cylinder chambered in .32 H&R Magnum. The pistol uses the classic Charter Arms steel frame but the finish is a modern black nitride. I cannot see any problem with the durability of this finish. The rear sight is wide and broad like all Charter Arms revolvers while the front sight is a fiber optic insert. This green insert is high visibility and easily acquired for speed shooting. Despite the light twenty two ounce weight the Charter Arms Professional has proven a light kicker with standard loads. The action is as smooth as any modern production double action revolver. In single action mode the trigger breaks at 4.5 pounds. I like the revolver a lot and after firing more than four hundred cartridges I have formed a good opinion of the revolver.
My primarily loading has been the Black Hills Ammunition cowboy load, a lead bullet with modest recoil and good accuracy. I have also used the 85 grain JHP at 1055 fps. The revolver is very easy to use well and to fire quickly. A trained shooter will find a neat group of cartridges on the target, well centered at 7 yards. The revolver tended to fire slightly low. I accommodated this by holding the front optic sight slightly higher than the rear sight, resulting in the bullets homing in on target. The revolver is more than accurate enough for filed and camp use, exhibiting five shot groups of 2-2.5 inches on paper at 15 yards when carefully bench-rested. Frankly I went overboard on both time and ammunition budget goals with this revolver. It is simply a fun gun to shoot. As for a comparison to .38 Special recoil, the .32 Magnum kicks much less than the .38 Special. I can place seven .32 Magnums into a man sized target in the same time, approximately, I can place five .38s into the target. The .32 H and R Magnum isnt as powerful as the .38 Special but then accuracy can often make up for power. The reverse is seldom true. The .32 H and R Magnum offers reasonable power for the light recoil. As an example the Hornady Critical defense at 1040 fps penetrated well past twelve inches in testing and expanded well.
It is difficult to separate the cartridge from the handgun and a look at the .32 Magnum is wise. The .32 Magnum it seems was originally intended as a crackerjack field round. For small game the .32 is a hand loaders dream- economical, accurate, and effective on small game. For personal defense it is more problematical. As we grow older we are more sensitive to recoil, the skin is thinner, and the joints ache. A .38 Special revolver, particularly a lightweight version, stings and may just be too much for many shooters. The .32 Magnum is a reasonable alternative. Most 85 grain jacketed hollow point loads will clock 1000 to 1100 fps from the Charter Arms Professional’s three inch barrel. This is approximately .380 ACP class, perhaps a bit more energy, but less expanded diameter. The .32 revolver with standard loads offers light recoil. It is a trade off but a reasonable one. The .32 Smith & Wesson Long, as an example, pushes a 98 grain RNL bullet to a miserable 690 fps!
I liked the revolver enough to experiment with a couple of loads from Buffalo Bore. We are introducing extra recoil into a package that was designed to offer lighter recoil, but we are also increasing wound potential substantially. If carrying the revolver for defense against feral dogs or the big cats the Buffalo Bore loads change the equation. The 100 grain JHP is surprisingly fast — 1220 fps. The point of impact is raised and the revolver is dead on the money at 15 yards. This load is closer to the .38 Special in recoil but offers excellent penetration and expansion. The 130 grain flat point hard cast load breaks 1190 fps. This is a stout load that sometimes offers sticky extraction and should be used sparingly. Recoil is there with this load. Buffalo Bore designed this loading to penetrate the skull of a bear in a last ditch effort to save your life. It will penetrate forty inches of gelatin or more. These loads offer another option in the field for those wanting a lightweight but credible protection handgun.
Loaded with standard loads seniors or inexperienced shooters have a revolver they can use well. Accuracy can make up for power, the reverse is seldom true, and the Charter Arms Professional .32 H&R Magnum has plenty of power and accuracy.
Based on hand-fit and speed into action, this may be SIG’s best 9mm handgun. READ WHY
Not long after the introduction of the SIG Sauer P 220 9mm, SIG began modifying the handgun for other duties. The pistol was chambered in .38 ACP Super and .45 ACP for the American market. It was also re-designed into the compact P225 for German police use. After years of carrying the ineffectual Walther PPK in .32 or .380 ACP, the German police were none too keen on packing the full size SIG P220 pistol. The compact P225 was a happy mix of excellent features including a smooth double action first shot trigger, good sights, excellent accuracy, and soon to be legendary reliability. This slim pistol was carried by plainclothes officers and a few uniformed officers here in the United States. While its niche was taken to an extent by the P 239 pistol, the P225 enjoyed a loyal following. The SIG P228, a high capacity version of the P225, was very popular and adopted by the military as the M11. The popularity of these handguns and the availability of West German police surplus P 225 pistols at a very fair price led SIG to phase out the P 225. A couple of years ago SIG reintroduced the P225 as the P225A. It is a very different handgun, perhaps a better handgun, and while not immensely popular is a sweet shooting and handling handgun.
SIG watches trends and saw the popularity of the 9mm handgun and the vast market for concealed carry handguns. They felt that a revised P225 would be a good addition to the line. The new P225 is based upon the P229 and is arguably a single column magazine P 229. Since the P229 is among the best balanced and handling SIG pistols that is a good place to begin. The slide is machined stainless steel versus the stamped slide of the original P225. This slide was originally designed to handle the .357 SIG cartridge. Later P229 handguns were available in 9mm and .40 caliber. The new pistol is thicker in the slide than the original P225 but remains a compact handgun. This slide makes for what may be one of the strongest 9mm handguns on the planet. I feel that steady diet of +P or +P+ loads would not be daunting to this handgun. The old hooked trigger guard of the P225 is gone. The new trigger guard looks nice and is designed to allow the pistol to set lower in the hand, combating the typical double action pistol’s high bore axis. The pistol features G10 grip panels similar to the Legend series. The P225 A features the Short Reset Trigger. This is a shorter double action press and a faster reset. This trigger makes the pistol a much better shooter than the original. The grip is among the most ergonomic I have handled. This is a well designed and well thought out handgun. The P225A maintains the original frame mounted decocker, take down lever and slide lock. The test pistol’s DA pull breaks at a smooth 12 pounds. The single action trigger is a crisp 4.25 pounds. This is an excellent combination for all around personal defense use.
The double action and single action trigger system is a compromise that stresses simple readiness. Draw, press the trigger and fire. The slide cocks the hammer and subsequent shots are fired single action. The hammer is lowered by activating the frame mounted decock lever. While a striker fired handgun such as the Glock has only one trigger action to learn the SIG’s single action trigger offers excellent accuracy. The SIG demands time and effort- as well as ammunition- to master but once understood the SIG DA/SA guns respond well to those that practice. The long suit of the SIG is reliability. Government testing and extreme test programs worldwide have earned the SIG series the title of the world’s most reliable handgun. SIG’s accuracy is also worth the effort to understand as the pistol will respond well to a trained shooter. The P225A is also simple to field strip and maintain. The pistol is unloaded, the magazine is removed, and a takedown lever is rotated. The slide is removed forward off the frame and the barrel and recoil spring are pulled from the slide. My personal P225 A features self luminous iron sights. The tritium inserts have remained bright and useful for several years and provide an excellent sight picture.
The advantage of the P225A over other SIG handguns or any high capacity handgun is in hand fit and speed. This handgun feels right in the hand. The size is right; you can close your hand on the grip and be in control. Drawing from the Galco Stow and Go inside the waistband holster, the P225A is brilliantly fast on the draw and to a first shot hit. Those who practice will find a capable handgun. As for accuracy I have enjoyed working up handloads with this pistol, focusing primarily on the Hornady 124 grain XTP and Titegroup powder. At 1050 fps I have achieved accuracy on the order of a five shot group at 1.4 inch at 25 yards from the Bullshooters target rest. That is match grade in my opinion. I have achieved similar result with the Gorilla Ammunition 135 grain JHP and a 2.0 inch 25 yard group with the fast stepping Gorilla Ammunition 115 grain +P. Moving to +P+ rated loads the Double Tap 115 grain bonded core loading has given good results and remains controllable in this handgun.
The P225A is among the finest handguns I have had the pleasure to use and fire. I own a good number of SIG pistols, each with a well defined mission. The P225A is easily my favorite to fire. It is a great handgun well worth its price.
This may be the best pump action shotgun for your needs… READ WHY HERE
The Remington 870 DM is a detachable magazine pump action shotgun that is garnering a great deal of interest and both positive and negative comments. It isn’t the first detachable magazine shotgun as the AK types have been in use for some time and there are detachable aftermarket kits for modifying existing shotguns. But this is a production pump action shotgun from the Big Green. Some feel the popularity of the AR 15 rifle had led to the detachable magazine shotgun. The tube fed shotgun just worked so well with so little complaint the only attention it received was a long extended magazine tube. It is interesting that Remington did not choose a self loading shotgun. Then there is the magazine, which at six shells is hardly a high capacity type. Just the same the shotgun bears study as it offers many advantages for both individuals and police departments.
The pump action shotgun is a model of reliability and the Remington 870 among the most respected. Since the pump action shotgun is manually operated the power or recoil impulse of the shells doesn’t matter. Low brass birdshot or Magnum buckshot is equally reliable in the pump action shotgun. The shooter manipulates the action and a trained shooter can be pretty fast with a smooth shotgun such as the Remington 870. With some eleven million Remington 870s sold it isn’t an unknown quantity. And while the 870 DM differs significantly from the original 870, it is essentially still a Remington 870 pump action. The DM is offered in several versions including tactical and hunting versions. My shotgun and the one used in this test is a standard wood furniture version with bead front sight. There are tactical and hunting versions of the DM listed on the Remington website.
If you use an AR 15 type rifle then the use of a shotgun with a detachable magazine will be simple enough. The original 870 uses a tubular magazine under the barrel. In different versions this tube holds four to eight shells. The shells are loaded one at a time. The advantage of simply loading the piece with a detachable magazine is obvious. I have to point out that the tube fed shotgun may be topped off with a shell or two as needed during an action if the need is there. Just the same, if the shotgun is fired empty and you need a reload right now the removable box magazine is the way to go. It is much faster to change a magazine than to thumb the shells into place one shell at a time. The DM, like all 870s, may be quickly fired by opening the action dropping a shell in the chamber and firing. The tube under the barrel with the DM is simply a tube that serves as a guide for the forend as it is used to rack the action.
The magazine well looks like an aftermarket addition but isn’t. The receiver isn’t a standard 870 and the bolt differs as well. The mechanical operation is a pump action 870 but the parts of the DM are not interchangeable with the 870 in many cases. Even the trigger group is different. However, common accessories such as stocks and forends do interchange and the many different barrel types for the 870 also may be used in the 870 DM. Operation of the 870 DM is straightforward. The magazine doesn’t load like a rifle magazine but a shotgun magazine and the shells are pressed firmly to the rear to load. The magazine locks solidly in place with a bit of practice. The magazine release is placed forward of the magazine.
Depending on arm length, shooting style and even clothing, when you are firing the shotgun and racking the forend the arm may contact the magazine. Keep the elbow bent slightly in order to be certain you do not contact the magazine with the arm on the backstroke. The action is as smooth as any modern Remington 870 and that is pretty smooth. Chances are the shotgun will smooth up with use as my Magpul Tactical Remington 870 has. The advantage or disadvantages of the shotgun with a detachable magazine will be debated. The magazine tube is proven and does not interfere with stashing behind the truck seat or riding in a rack in a police cruiser. The tube is easily loaded and it is practically unknown for a shotgun magazine tube to fail.(Disregarding cheap plastic aftermarket extensions.) The magazine is easily loaded for those familiar with magazine fed rifles. An important advantage for safety is that the shotgun is more easily unloaded with the magazine. Rather than pressing tabs in the shotgun to release shells from the tub one at a time, the DM may be unloaded simply by removing the magazine. The DM version holds a total of seven shells with six in the magazine and one in the chamber. The tactical versions of the tube fed 870 hold eight in the magazine, standard versions four. I recommend against anyone keeping a shell in the chamber for home defense. The shotgun may be made ready quickly enough to face a threat. Shotgunners often keep a slug or two along with buckshot in a shell carrier on the receiver of the shotgun. With the DM version a brace of slugs may be kept at ready in a removeable magazine. A trained individual using a standard pump shotgun may change out to a slug in the chamber quickly, changing the gunload is another matter. There are a lot of options and debates concerning the DM and I am certain it will not replace the traditional tube fed shotgun. New buyers not familiar with tube fed shotgun are probably going to be the most common customer.
Over the course of several days two hundred twenty shells were fired, a goodly number for such a hard kicking beast. The shotgun is smooth enough and tracks well and I was able to get good results on target after a modest acclimation. Reduced recoil buckshot is a proven law enforcement load that should prove ideal for home defense as well. Reducing the velocity of the buckshot load actually results in a tighter pattern with the 18 inch barrel Remington. The 870 DM had no problem handling this loading. Patterns were as good as with any Remington shotgun. I used Remington 12 gauge 00 buckshot in the Managed Recoil line. Results were excellent. I have also used the new #4 buckshot loading in the Ultimate Defense line. Results were good. I think that the Remington DM is a modern shotgun with much appeal. It is useful for defense against dangerous animals or light cover if needed- simply switch to slugs. The Remington 870 DM is a useful and reliable shotgun per our testing. For many the 870 DM will be a great improvement.