Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Keltec KSG Review: A PDW For Canada?

The Keltec KSG: A PDW for Canada?

Keltec of Florida’s KSG (simply short for Keltec, Shot Gun) has surged onto the scene and garnered impressive attention, with prices for the shotgun soaring hundreds above retail for used examples. The fervor is based upon how innovative this 14+1 capacity, 26.1” long bullpup shotgun is and the massive departure it makes from the norms. In the US, where shotgun barrels under 18” require a special tax stamp and application, reducing the overall length of a defence shotgun by more than a foot is huge. The Mossberg 590A1 18.5”, which will be used as a comparison in this article, measures 38” overall with the Speedfeed stock; 14” longer than the KSG which holds more than double the shells and weighs less. Short overall length is very beneficial in a defensive firearm, as its use in close quarters is optimized and portability means it is more likely to be on hand when required.

As mentioned in previous articles, I work remote in Northern Canada, and defensive shotguns are dear to me. The versatility of a 12 Gauge as a survival and defence tool is unparalleled. One can employ birdshot for filling the pot, even take down a moose if required with a slug, signal for help with a flare, or stop a bear or other predators with equal aplomb. The beauty of the KSG is you don’t even need to pack more ammunition with the gun if you don’t want to: fourteen shells ready to go, chamber unloaded, will get you through a lot of tough times in a clean one-piece survival package. The overall length of 26.1” means it will fit in a backpack or duffle bag slung on your back, or into a canoe or aircraft so you are likely to have it with you. I’m guilty of plenty of “quick trips” into backcountry where I eye my 40” long 12 Gauge and decide I’ll be fine without it, a 26” package would influence that decision some. The short overall length and bullpup arrangment also means you have one hand free if needed for bush / debris / doors/ flashlight and the ability to still fire accurately, I tried and one hand operation differed little in accuracy from two, you simply don’t get the chamber reload until the support hand comes back.

KSG Versus a Conventional “Defender”: A 18.5″ Mossberg 590A1

Like most radically new designs, opinions on the KSG have been mixed. I’m going to try and leave all preconceptions behind me on shotguns and shotgun layout and just see how this gun works. No attention will be paid to looks, it’s all about function; many even find the KSG attractive anyhow. The example I’m testing weighs 7 pounds 8 ounces empty with Magpul BUIS sights and AFG (Angled Fore Grip). It is interesting to note that the KSG gains a full pound when fully loaded, a very notable difference, as no other shotgun I’ve fired and used holds this many shells. Even fully loaded however, balance is wonderful due to typically bullpup handling characteristics, even heavy bullpups (this is not, just skookum) balance nicely due to their “weight in the hands” layout. Pointing is incredibly natural, and we took the KSG to our informal clay range just for kicks; it scored very well! Dusted the first clay no drama, a tough right descending target I usually have trouble with at that. It continued to hit after that as well, and function was perfect.

Controls are straightforward, the safety is a two position bar at the center of the top of the grip. It is easily manipulated from “Safe” to “Fire” with your shooting hand’s thumb (for right handed folks, anyhow), you push it through to the other side of the grip. It’s a bit gritty, and feels plastic, but it certainly works and snaps smartly to the other position. Lefties will be using their trigger finger to move the safety to “Fire”, ala Remington 870. The bolt release is located at the forward edge of the trigger guard, and is a simple ambidextrous pull down arrangement that can be manipulated easily with the trigger finger for left, or right handers. If you have short fingers, it may be a stretch, but works perfectly for average folks. Finally the magazine select, a very interesting feature included to both allow California legality and the ability to select ammunition tubes if you load one with say slugs and the other buckshot, a brilliant capability of this gun. It is an aluminum lever at the front of the loading / ejection port, swing it in the opposite direction of the tube you want to select. Its function is smooth and crisp, it also features a smart central position that locks out both tubes, not a bad idea if the gun is being carried in a bag loaded, chamber empty.

Speaking of carrying in a bag, the KSG has blissfully few sharp corners. In an era of wonder-ARs with a gazillion protrusions, hooks, and edges (not to count those users add later themselves) this clean package is a relief. When I get mine, and I will be buying one, it will remain “clean”. This is a shotgun after all not a heat seeking long range super tank buster, and I actually have to work with it and I will set it up exactly as pictured here. BUIS sights that flip down and are snag free, and the Magpul AFG is perfection for me on this gun. The AFG is an excellent choice for a fore end accessory, a vertical grip both catches on gear and anything else possible, and there are numerous reports out of the states of breaking KSG fore end rails from the torque and leverage applied to the rail by vertical grips. That won’t be a problem with the AFG, and it provides a very positive grip for cycling the fore end. I’ve shot a lot of pumps and I “chased” a rapidly dropping clay with the KSG, managing four shells in shorter time than any other pump I’ve tried. Only the Winchester 1300 could come close for me and I don’t particularly like that shotgun. This is a fast and smooth pump.

The action has quite a bit in common with the Ithaca 37 and Browning BPS, featuring spreading spring steel bars for the shell lifter, when the bolt is pulled rearward the bars swing down and come together to accept a shell from either magazine. When the bolt is pulled forward the lifter bars bring the shell to the chamber, then are spread and flex to either side of the bolt and are stowed. Loading and ejecting are both from the bottom port, spent shells shuck straight down with gusto.The mechanism is housed in a triangular, open bottom receiver module that is steel. In fact, there is a lot more steel in this gun than I anticipated, both from my preconceptions of Keltec and from notions I’d come by from pictures. This appears to be a tougher gun than I had judged it to be, fore end rail cracking issues aside; that can be dealt with through choice of fore end accessories. I’m definitely not a plastic gun guy, many would call me a Fudd even, and I really like this gun. Trigger pull on this test gun is different than anything I can compare it to. The pull, when measured, was far heavier than I judged it to be; 8 pounds. This didn’t make sense to me at all, as the trigger pull felt effortless in testing. It is sort of a striker-fired feel, with moderate travel before it releases. Quick, shotgun like pulls couldn’t be registered on my scale, but I’m convinced the release weight is lower in actual use due to the way you pull the trigger, rather than a static pull test with a scale. I hope that makes sense, likely not. Anyhow, I rate the trigger very good for a bullpup.

Loading is actually quite conventional despite the very unconventional appearance of the KSG. Magazine tubes are charged one at a time from the bottom positioned, wide action port, and the magazine selector is swung to the other tube once the first is loaded, then you fill tube 2. One thing I have to mention is it is much harder to load on the fly than a conventional action, topping up would be a serious challenge for this shooter without further practice. This is due to the far rear port, and two magazine tubes closely side by side, and the tube selector can also be hard to wrangle by when loading in a hurry. At present I have to flip the shotgun upside down to reload. Realistically however, if you can’t fix the problem with 14+1 12 gauge shells, the problem just isn’t likely to be fixed. Production models of the KSG such as this one also feature handy slots cut in the magazine tubes to allow a rapid gauge of ammunition quantities in the magazines.

The KSG’s twin magazine tubes, viewed from the action port, and tube selector lever.

Action operation is much smoother than I anticipated, I am guilty of presuming there would be more plastic bearing surfaces making it gritty but there really aren’t. This gun functions metal on metal and feels like it, it’s also likely the fastest pump I’ve fired or ties for the honour as mentioned. Not the silky “Schuk, Schuk” of a Browning BPS, but low effort and fast. One curious thing the two of us testing both found was early on we were guilty of not bringing the bolt fully rearward. There is a tiny “false stop” feel at the back of the fore end travel where the bolt isn’t quite far enough back to raise the next shell, shooters new to the KSG like me might misinterpret that resistance and push the fore end forward early failing to chamber a shell. Aside from that initial learning curve, despite being a radical departure from what most of us are used to shooting, nothing about this gun is confounding; it’s easy to shoot and use from the get go.

Accuracy with 2 ¾” Federal 1oz. slugs was outstanding, I managed a 2 ¾” three shot group oddly enough, the length of the shell’s hull, at 50 yards rested. Real BUIS sights help with accuracy a lot compared to beads or other typical shotgun sights. Federal 00 and 000 2 ¾” buckshot loads patterned right on top of the slugs, and I enjoyed ringing steel changing between slugs and buck with a flick of the magazine selector lever. The gun cycled and fired slugs, buckshot, and birdshot flawlessly, 2 3/4″ and 3″ shells and from what I can see with a dental mirror, the chamber is very smooth. Recoil was very light and comfortable, it’s a solid gun at seven and a half pounds, and the bore axis being level with the comb of the stock means very level, straight back recoil.

 

In summary, I feel the Keltec KSG is a great “PDW” for the real world and wilderness. Personal Defence Weapon means more to me than a micro-carbine for tank and aircraft crews and rear support personnel in combat. There is a genuine need for small, powerful, easily transportable wilderness arms in this country for the people that work and spend time in the backcountry. 12 Gauge makes a lot of sense for those of us out here, ammunition selection and variety is so vast it seems infinite: from rifled slugs, to buckshot of a multitude of different pellet sizes and counts, to birdshot for small game, to flares, bear-scare cracker shells, pepper shells, and bean bag shells there’s a load for any occasion. The KSG, being a size you’ll actually bring with you and not too pretty to dirty up, strikes me as the perfect vehicle for that versatility. I’m buying one.

 

I may be fortunate enough to hunt with the KSG soon and test it in action, and will update with the results if it works out.

 

Cheers folks.

A Live Shoot of the Lovely Old .32 Rimfire

 

A Live Shoot of the Lovely Old .32 Rimfire

In my basement I came across a stash of twenty some-odd rounds of old .32 Rimfire, mostly shorts and a smattering or Longs, all Dominion brand except for two Henry Shorts which research shows were Winchesters, but more on that later. I had long since given up my antique Forehand & Wadsworth nickel-plated .32 Rimfire double action revolver, and initially listed the ammunition for trade. Trade offers quickly rolled in, however I dodged some offers and forgot about others until the time came to accept a fair offer and I couldn’t. I just knew I had to shoot it. Running the old cartridges over the chronograph through a gun that may never be fired again was too tempting. Even if the old guns see more rounds, which I suppose is likely enough here and there, every time you fire an original obsolete cartridge it is a very special occasion. Akin to opening an old bottle, vintage stuff the like of which for better or worse is not readily available today, and once enjoyed simply a fond memory. I preferred to convert these cartridges from the basement into memories, rather than newer cartridges.

The last regular production North American .32 Rimfire came from Dominion here in Canada as I understand it, with production ceasing just under forty years ago in the 1970’s. Most of the ammunition I had was undoubtably much older, as some proved to contain Black Powder. A generous and trusting collector, a Mr. Bill Rea of central Alberta, kindly offered an assortment of Antique .32 Rimfires for the test. I expressed my interest in testing two of his Smith & Wessons, a 3 1/2” barrel No. 1 1/2 and a 6” barrel No. 2, to get a good idea what barrel length does for the little old .32RF in a pistol. Only a few days later a brace of gorgeous old ‘Smith .32s arrived in the mail. Shortly thereafter, I started testing, and discovered some very interesting things.

The ammunition was still quite reliable, with two duds on account of priming, both being ancient Dominion Longs containing black powder. All of the smokeless rounds fired very well, though somewhat erratically with regards to velocity. The powder charge of one of the black powder “duds” still readily ignited when exposed to flame and is pictured later in this article. I pulled the dud round apart and weighed the powder charge and bullet, along with a more modern Dominion Long containing smokeless and a Dominion Short smokeless to gain a better understanding of the cartridge. Surprisingly, the more modern Dominion Long and Short contained the same powder charge of apparently identical flake smokeless, and the same 80 grain soft lead heel-based bullet.

The only ammunition outside these three types tested was the two Henry Shorts, which also proved to be black powder, and they provided the only real velocity difference seen in the test between the 6” and 3 1/2” barrels. The Henry’s are Winchesters, it seems Winchester headstamped all their rimfire “H” for years in honour of Benjamin T. Henry, an early pioneer with Winchester and designer of the first reliable repeating rifle. The two Winchester-Henry rimfire rounds were perfectly reliable, I wish I had more samples to see if all would shoot so well. I was able to smack a torso-sized steel plate at just over 30 yards with the Winchester-Henry Short fired from the 3 1/2” Smith No. 1 1/2. As a note on long range (relative) accuracy in general, a 40 yard shot on a cardboard torso-sized target with the 3 1/2″ No. 1 1/2 resulted in 7 1/2″ high and right of the bullseye; I wouldn’t want it pointed at me even from that range.

Accuracy on the whole, at 15 yards, averaged about 6” groups for a cylinder full from either the 3 1/2” barrel or the 6”. The 6” as expected grouped slightly tighter likely due to sight radius and weight, but a couple fliers caused groups nearly equal to the 3 1/2”. I found this extremely acceptable, as for these guns’ intended purposes back when they were made, this is more than satisfactory- especially considering the age of the guns and ammunition now. Velocities were more consistent from the 3 1/2”, I believe due to better ignition from the No. 1 1/2’s crisper lockwork, strikes were slightly harder on the spent case rims out of the No. 1 1/2. Recoil is nearly non-existent, reminiscent of .22’s, and the report very mild for a pistol. Considering the most potent round run over the chronograph only made 72 Ft-lbs of energy, .22-esque recoil is to be expected. I would likely pick one of the “good” .32 rounds over a .22 if my posterior depended on it despite lower than .22LR energy levels, given double the bullet weight, but not by much.

The .32 Rimfire in “full recoil”.

 

The nifty ejector rod slung under barrel on the Smith & Wessons and its operation.

 

A cylinder full of Dominion, a snapshot of The Good ‘Ole Days.

The thought of using these old timers for anything important brings me to the consideration that time was not kind to the rounds. While all but two fired when the trigger was pulled, a half dozen of the rounds clocked under 250 feet per second- a couple of those were even under 100 feet per second! While the ammunition was for the most part reliable even the best of these rounds, which were likely operating to full as manufactured specifications, were extremely weak. Shooting targets on an old doghouse sheeted with 3/8” plywood, all rounds penetrated the front sheet of plywood, but only two of the more than a dozen rounds fired into the doghouse exited the back through the second sheet of 3/8” plywood when even a .22 Short did it no problem. 5/8” OSB was also shot, and only one round penetrated through the second board in the stack, a Dominion smokeless Short from the 6” clocking 584 feet per second.

3 1/2” Barrel No. 1 1/2 6” Barrel No. 2
Shorts 80gr Dom. FPS Shorts 80gr Dom. FPS
593.0 203.9
489.3 153.5
447.0 456.9
636.9 584.9
625.1 621.2
613.6 584.0
375 Henry BP 490.1 Henry BP
540 FPS Average 442 FPS Average

 

3 1/2” Barrel No. 1 1/2 6” Barrel No. 2
Longs 90gr Dom. FPS Longs 90gr Dom. FPS
518.4 249.7
199.2 96.29
———————————– 97.51
359 FPS Average 148 FPS Average

 

Composition of the rounds was as follows, one round each of the Dominion Short smokeless, Dominion Long smokeless, and Dominion Long black powder were broken down.

 

Dominion Short Smokeless

 

Overall Length: 1.0”

Case Length: 0.61”

Bullet Weight: 80.4 grains

Powder Charge: 2.0 grains smokeless, flake, dark grey

Total Weight: 98.3 grains

 

Dominion Long Smokeless

 

Overall Length: 1.16”

Case Length: 0.792”

Bullet Weight: 79.5 grains

Powder Charge: 1.9 grains smokeless, flake, dark grey

Total Weight: 101.5 grains

 

Dominion Long Black Powder

 

Overall Length: 1.22”

Case Length: 0.797”

Bullet Weight: 89.2 grains

Powder Charge: 10.4 grains black powder, about FFFg

Total Weight: 120.2 grains

 

1. Smokeless Dominion Long (left) beside black powder Dominion Long (right)

 

2. .32 Rimfire Long beside .22 LR, and .32 Rimfire Short beside .22 Short

 

3. Powder Charges, left to right: Dominion Short Smokeless (2.0grs), Dominion Long Smokeless (1.9grs), Dominion Long Black Powder (10.4grs)

 

4. 5/8″ OSB Penetration- Modest.

It appears the Dominion Short and Long smokeless are identical aside from case length, and if choosing between them I’d select the shorts for better ignition and likely better efficiency though I did not fire a smokeless Dominion Long, as I only had the one. The Shorts overall were also much more consistent than the Longs, and even provided more energy, and would be my pick off gunshow tables. I doubt the Longs would have been such dogs when new, but time has taken its toll. It’s a shame nobody is importing the CBC .32 Rimfire Long rounds from Brazil* (*contacted CBC and confirmed no longer produced since this article was written), if they’re even still made there, as these guns were an absolute pleasure to shoot even if rather “gentle” on both ends. It has often struck me as incredible the pistol cartridges chosen for war and defence a hundred or so years ago, with notable exceptions like the .45 Colt, today we’d consider many of them small game rounds. .22 Velo Dog, .32 Rimfire, .41 Rimfire… all midget rounds by today’s standards but thoroughly enjoyable to shoot. I quite enjoyed “cracking” these particular little “old bottles” and look forward to the next obsolete gem to cross my bench, the .41 Long Colt in an antique Colt Single Action Army.

A huge thanks to Bill Rea for making this test and shoot possible, I enjoyed your guns immensely and the sight of them puffing smoke in the Northern sunshine warmed several hearts there to see it.

 

 

Bill’s beauties, the 1 1/2 and 2 ‘Smiths and what is likely one of the last piles of ‘copper they’ll make.

 

.22LR Pistol Barrel Length Test: 4.75″ Vs. 10″ For Velocity & Penetration With 12 Different Loads

 

 

A Tale of Two Rugers: The Biggest, and the Smallest Canadian Versions of Ruger’s Ubiquitous .22 Automatic Pistol

Found in several guises differing only in cosmetics, the Ruger .22 Automatic is one of the true classics of the American firearms world. The flagship pistol was the founding product of Sturm Ruger & Co., and has proven so good almost nothing has changed since its introduction in 1949. A simple blowback action with a tubular receiver and Luger P08 inspired grip angle, the Ruger pistol was a storming success thanks to bulletproof reliability, natural ergonomics, quality manufacture and tasteful styling. It is the Pre-64 Model 70 of the rimfire pistol world, and in this article I examine two of its more interesting variations; the smallest and largest Canadian legal versions of it in the guise of a pair of stainless Mark II’s. Velocities and accuracy were extensively tested for each with more than ten different loads, including some exotics for good measure. The role barrel length plays in the .22LR’s performance from pistols produced some surprising results, first however, the guns.

Ruger .22 Pistols Overview

Mark I- The original that founded the entire enterprise of Sturm Ruger, inspired by Bill Ruger’s forays into copying a Marine’s Japanese Baby Nambu pistol from WWII. Designed for mass production, it remains essentially unchanged in design today as the Mark III.

Mark II- Offered several improvements over the Mark I, including the addition of a bolt hold open on the last shot, and one extra round in the magazine for ten instead of nine rounds.

Mark III- Modernized by adding several features to the same pistol in function and design. Added are a magazine disconnect preventing firing without a magazine, a loaded chamber indicator, an internal security lock, and new conventional “American” release magazines removed by depressing a button where the trigger guard meets the frame, instead of the previous heel release of the Mark I & II. The bolt ears were also shortened, and the ejection port contoured.

22/45- A polymer grip framed version mimicking the 1911 grip, upper receiver and function unchanged.

Of these variations, this test covers two rather interesting Mark II’s: The smallest and largest Canadian variants of the Ruger pistol. On the short end, a 4.75” slim barreled stainless steel Mark II with fixed sights, and on the long end a rare 10” bull barreled, adjustable target sight model. Of the three generations of pistols the Mark II is my favourite version, the last shot hold open causes me to favour it over the Mark I, and I do not appreciate all the safety doodads added to the Mark III. It is needless complexity in my eyes, though I have to admit envy regarding the Mark III’s magazine release and I’ve ordered the new Volquartsen VC Target Grip Frame for just that reason. It will allow me to assemble a Mark II, safety-doodadless receiver to a grip frame that allows Mark III magazines. In addition to the Mark III button magazine release the VC grip frame is aluminum, tackling a weakness of the Mark I, II, & III; weight. Even the slim barreled 4.75” version weighs in at a hefty 0.97kg, or 34.1ozs, almost 1911 weight. The 10” bull barreled version weighs in at 1.4kgs, or 49.8ozs, a hefty though as I found very accurate and functional package. I’ll be sure to review the VC Frame when it arrives, it comes complete with a match trigger installed and I’m looking forward to testing it.

The aim of this shoot was to gain a well rounded overview of how what roughly parallels the two extremes of typical barrel lengths found in Canada for a .22 pistol react to different ammunition. Some loads gained less than expected, others perhaps more, and one in particular loved the short barrel except for one particularly glaring shortfall. Shot strings of ten rounds were fired over the chronograph for each load, and grouped at 25 yards. The information collected was used to determine Extreme Spread (ES), Standard Deviation (SD), and average velocity for the load. Some loads lived up to their marketing; Winchester T22 proved extremely consistent and accurate, and curiously, only slightly more consistent than Winchester’s bulk Dynapoint, also extremely consistent. Some did not, with Remington Yellow Jackets proving both the most accurate and the least reliable. I’m not sure what has been happening in Remington’s priming house as of late but their recent rimfire fodder has proven less reliable than all other brands tested combined, and it was both the Remington lines tested as the Subsonic had many duds as well. Another category surprised on all fronts, delivery stunning performance when least expected, such as Aguila 60 grain Super Sniper Subsonic which shot beautifully from the 10”. Curious things occurred with it in the short barrel too.

Penetration was tested by firing each round into a 3” Spruce plank from 6” range, rounds that penetrated the plank completely from both the 4.75” and the 10” were tested again, by firing into a 3” Spruce plank, backed by a 1” Spruce plank, in turn backed by a 2” Spruce plank. Only one load would make it into the third plank. One exception was made to the rule that each round selected for additional penetration testing must have penetrated the initial 3” plank completely from both the short and long barrel, that being CCI Velocitors. On the initial test they failed to penetrate the 3” plank completely from the 4.75” barrel, when weaker rounds over the chrono, including other hollow points even of lighter bullet weight, did. This result was curious, so the Velocitor was tested a second time in the 3”, 1”, 2” plank stack test.

Ammunition Tested

1 – Winchester T22

2 – Winchester Dynapoint

3 – Remington Yellowjacket

4 – Remington Subsonic

5 – CCI Stinger

6 – CCI Velocitor

7 – CCI Standard

8 – CCI Minimag

9 – CCI Long

10 – Aguila Super Sniper Subsonic (SSS) 60gr

11 – Winchester Shotshell

12 – CCI CB Short

 

Data

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

10″ Barrel

Win T22

Win Dyna

Rem YJ

Reb Sub

CCI Sting

CCI Veloc

Average

1187.0

1084.0

1272.0

965.1

1433.0

1247.0

ES

31.2

43.3

123.0

67.3

102.2

148.0

SD

11.2

12.4

31.7

21.5

32.2

43.8

Ft-lbs

125.0

104.0

118.0

78.0

145.0

138.0

3″ Spruce

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

1″ Spruce

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

In 1″

Surface

2″ Spruce

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Dent

No

1

2

3

4

5

6

4.75″ Barrel

Win T22

Win Dyna

Rem YJ

Reb Sub

CCI Sting

CCI Veloc

Average

1045.0

981.1

1116.0

825.7

1257.0

1079.0

ES

51.1

98.6

86.8

160.7

46.4

117.1

SD

14.3

28.4

28.7

56.7

17.1

33.2

Ft-lbs

96.0

85.0

91.0

57.0

112.0

103.0

3″ Spruce

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

1″ Spruce

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Surface

No

2″ Spruce

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

No

No

FPS Gain

142.0

102.9

156.0

139.4

176.0

168.0

Ft-lbs Gain

29.0

19.0

27.0

21.0

33.0

35.0

 

Data Continued

 

7

8

9

10

11

12

10″ Barrel

CCI Std

CCI Mini

CCI Long

SSS 60gr

Shotshell

CCI CB

Average

992.7

1251.0

1153.0

840.1

875.0

705.1

ES

52.0

90.6

95.0

95.0

N/A

204.4

SD

15.5

29.4

37.6

30.1

N/A

70.0

Ft-lbs

87.0

125.0

85.0

94.0

42.0

32.0

3″ Spruce

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

No

1″ Spruce

In 1″

In 1″

Dent

Yes

N/A

N/A

2″ Spruce

No

No

No

In 3/4″

N/A

N/A

7

8

9

10

11

12

4.75″ Barrel

CCI Std

CCI Mini

CCI Long

SSS 60gr

Shotshell

CCI CB

Average

903.0

1115.0

1043.0

783.5

817.0

610.9

ES

74.4

78.7

91.0

24.5

N/A

249.1

SD

19.7

26.6

32.8

6.3

N/A

67.9

Ft-lbs

72.0

99.0

70.0

81.0

37.0

24.0

3″ Spruce

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

No

1″ Spruce

No

No

No

Dent

N/A

N/A

2″ Spruce

No

No

No

No

N/A

N/A

FPS Gain

89.7

136.0

110.0

56.6

58.0

94.2

Ft-lbs Gain

15.0

26.0

15.0

13.0

5.0

8.0

 

Fast Facts:

 

119.1 FPS – The average velocity gain for all cartridges tested combined for the 10″ barrel over the 4.75″.

20.5 Ft-lbs – The average energy gain for all cartridges tested combined for the 10″ barrel over the 4.75″.

1083.8 FPS – The average velocity for all cartridges tested combined from the 10″ barrel.

964.7 FPS – The average velocity for all cartridges tested combined from the 4.75″ barrel.

97.8 Ft-lbs – The average energy for all cartridges tested combined from the 10″ barrel.

77.3 Ft-lbs – The average energy for all cartridges tested combined from the 4.75″ barrel.

 

Standard Deviation (SD) and Extreme Spread (ES) were literally identical for the 4.75″ and 10″ barrels; SD for the 10″ barrel was 30.5 FPS, for the 4.75″ barrel 30.1 FPS, and ES for the 10″ barrel was 95.6 FPS, and ES for the 4.75″ barrel was 98.0 FPS. Apparently if a round is going to be erratic in the short barrel, it will be just as erratic from the longer barrel. It seems the source of the inconsistencies has had its full effect by 4.75″, and even more than doubling the barrel length doesn’t have any effect. I found this interesting, as powder is clearly still burning and creating pressure past 4.75″ given the velocity increases. So the inconsistency in .22LR either stems from rapidly burning powders of which different charge weights will already have had their full effect by 4.75″ (plausible), or from priming. I suspect priming, as I assume, perhaps wrongly, that since powder is still burning well past 4.75″ a heavier powder charge for instance would be magnified by producing more velocity out of a long barrel than would the same cartridge with a lighter charge. This would cause the Extreme Spread to be greater from the 10″ barrel for this hypothetical, powder charge inconsistent load, if my theory is correct. Priming variations however will have had their full effect almost immediately, and should thus provide the same ES and SD from a short or long barrel. It’s a theory anyhow…

Another thing I learned, is the .22LR likes short barrels just fine thank you. With an average velocity of almost 1,000fps for all the loads combined, the 4.75″ barrel is no slouch. Put into perspective with other centerfire handgun rounds, keeping in mind it is only throwing 40 grain bullets typically, it looks rather speedy really, and at the very least typical. Not bad for a cartridge typically loaded to be a jack of all trades with a rifle barrel mostly in mind. I recently tested the much larger and obselete .32 Rimfire, and even the mere CCI Standard Velocity matched the most potent .32 Rimfire 80 grain bullet round tested in energy precisely from the lowly 4.75″ barrel. From the 10″ barrel CCI Stingers produced a screaming average of 1,433 FPS, trumping most .357 Magnum fodder for pure speed (though definitely not energy!). Nonetheless, the 145 Ft-lbs of energy the Stingers produced is admirable. In my opinion the .22LR probably doesn’t get a fair shake, it’s a respectable little round for what it does from a rimfire case. The wood penetration backs that assertion up.

The 10″ barrel won on the velocity front, though honestly slightly more modestly than I anticipated, and downright trumped on accuracy. The 10″ Ruger Mark II is a tack driver. The weight, combined with the long sight radious made 100 yard plinking possible, with a startling amount of hits on cans and small gongs at that range. At the same range, the 4.75″ was the chubby cousin at the local street hockey game. You know there’s a difference when your heart jumps at the sound of “ping” at 100 yards with the 4.75″ and with the 10″ you almost expect to hear the ping. At 25 yards, the 10″ produced groups on average about 50% or more tighter than the 4.75″, both pistols rested. The 10″ was dangerous with Remington Yellow Jackets, producing the tightest group of the test- when it could get them to fire! The aforementioned terrible Remington priming was very frustrating with as many as a couple duds per magazine. The 10″ seemed to like the fast stuff, with one notable exception; Aguila 60 grain Super Sniper Subsonic! Not only did it group it extremely well, the odd long bullet, short cased ammuntion cycled perfectly in both the 4.75″ and 10″. The Aguila ammuntion also proved the most consistent load of the test from the 4.75″ barrel with a Standard Deviation of 6 FPS! Curiously, it even grouped well at 25 yards from the 4.75″… sideways. The bullets keyholed their way through the target and made a decent group as they did so, bizarre. Obviously I can’t recommend it for the 4.75″, but through the 10″ it could be a heck of a silhouette hammer. The Aguila 60gr was also the only round to pass through the 3″ plank, then the 1″ plank, and sink itself handily into the 2″ plank, it also damn near matched the Remington Yellow Jacket accuracy with fewer duds. CCI CBs were tried just out of personal interest, and it confirmed my prior suspicions of them. They are horribly inconsistent, with an Extreme Spread of 204.f FPS from the 10″ and 249.1 FPS from the 4.75″, and this comes as an extreme detriment to their accuracy. A shame, as the consistent CB rounds actually grouped quite well, that is the ones that ran around 700 FPS.

Remington Yellowjacket Group, 10″ Mark II 25 yards Informally Rested

My only regret is not running each round through a rifle for velocity, though figures would likely just match the published velocities for the rounds there. I had a lot of fun running these two pistols, and if you find a 10″ Ruger Mark II, I suggest you buy it. It’s a shame more weren’t made. That said, I still think my favourite is the 4.75″ slim barrel Mark II, it’s just a lively little pistol that balances nicely back in your hand and inside 50 yards is surprisingly accurate. It just can’t keep up with the big boys past that.

The (Very) Little Beretta 950 Jetfire

The Little Beretta 950 Jetfire

 Picking up a Beretta 950, something I never thought I would do with my own thanks to Canada’s laws, one can’t help but be impressed by how sturdy this (very) little pistol is. Weighing in at 10.9oz or 0.32kgs it certainly isn’t a heavyweight, but packing just under 11oz into this little palm filling wonder leaves a sturdy little impression. Debuted in 1952 and in typical 1950’s design style, everything is metal except the grip scales. The slide, and all elements except the aluminum frame are carbon steel. The pistol is single action, in contrast with later Beretta double action offerings of the series in the form of the 21A Bobcat, introduced in 1984. Frankly I greatly prefer the single action operation and looks, the appearance of this mini-pistol series took a significant downturn with the 21A double action in my opinion. The open top slide and exposed barrel are a spitting, miniature image of the Beretta 92 / M9, though this is a blowback of course.

My version is a .22 Short, the 950 was offered as a .25 ACP as well and curiously not to my knowledge as a .22 LR, despite an action and magazine that could handle it. The later 21A comes in .22 LR or .25 ACP. The magazine is an odd contraption that is .25 ACP magazine well sized, with a .22 Short accommodating undersized cartridge column. Loading the magazine takes some getting used to, but once you figure out the first round goes in conventionally, and it is easiest to then pull down the tiny follower with your fingernail by way of a little screw stud through a witness slit on the side and drop the other five rounds in it is quite easy. It is a high quality, and extremely reliable little rimfire magazine, and I need to order some more as you go through six plus one rounds far too fast. I’ve actually become fond of the little .22 Short chambering in this pistol, initially a bit grievous that the pistol wasn’t a .22 LR. Turns out as we’ll see further on the .22 Short is a “hot” pistol performer and very accurate. Plus I enjoy things that are just a bit different, and tiny pistol, tiny cartridge seems a natural mix to me  now in reflection.

 

Everything about this pistol is simple. There are two controls, excluding the trigger and hammer: a barrel release to allow the barrel to tip up for loading, and a button magazine release on the bottom of the left grip panel. The tip up barrel allows you to load the barrel without having to cycle the slide. Given a 950 Jetfire of mine’s vintage has no manual safety, it was intended to be carried hammer down on a round in the chamber as its safe mode of carry. This is very effective, and since the barrel can be loaded directly without cycling the slide, there is no thumbing down the hammer on a live round. It should be noted the pistol is striker fired, rendering hammer-down on a live round safe, apparently the manual states not to carry at half-cock; there was no manual with my pistol. Cocking the hammer is easy even for fat thumbs, and is a natural step before shooting just as flicking down the slide stop safety on a 1911 is.

Operation of the little 950 has proven flawless, and it shot 500 rounds at the range. I envisioned a quick test of perhaps fifty or a hundred rounds, a few magazines over the chrono, and a couple different ranges attempted. However, I was quickly headed back for the rest of the .22 Short ammunition, despite the itty bitty 6 round magazine. Ballistically, one may sniff at the .22 Short, especially from pistol, but I wouldn’t stand in front of it. The 4.25” barrel threw Winchester 29 grain Super X round nose at an average 987 FPS, and CCI 27 grain hollow points at an average 983 FPS. The Winchester shot string was drawn down on average by a single 878 FPS low, most ran around 1,000 FPS. That is incredibly efficient performance given CCI claims less than 150 FPS more from a full rifle barrel for their load.

The action uses no extractor, kicking out the cases by gas pressure. While extremely simple and reliable, it won’t allow for clearing a misfire by cycling the slide. The H&K P7M8 will also function without an extractor, however it does carry one for the reason of clearing stoppages and potentially sticky dirtied chambers. While it posed zero issue in the test, it would be nice to have an extractor, however I acknowledge there isn’t exactly a lot of room for one even if Beretta desired it. At any rate, kicking the barrel open by pushing the tip up barrel release will usually huck a live round you decided you didn’t want to fire (or a dud) out by centrifugal force. The tip up barrel is under spring pressure and pops up with reasonable gusto, oddly enough the spring powering it is the trigger guard.

Fit and finish are very good, it’s a tight little gun. Handling, for such a small grip, is natural and comfortable and it points very well. Hammer bite is an unfortunate nasty habit of the 950, it nips me here and there even with my being aware of its habit, and drew blood on one occasion.  It’s just too hard to keep the meat of your hand low enough on the tiny grip. Sights are rudimentary, and reminiscent of a Colt Single Action Army to anyone familiar. They are tough, and low profile however and I found them plenty precise. Given the designers intended this little pistol to be carried in pockets and purses they are perfect for their task, as there is nothing to snag and nothing to be knocked out of alignment. Form following function.

There is an argument the Beretta 950 and 21A are good choices in places that allow pistols for defence for those with weaker hands such as the elderly or those of slight construction, given there is no racking the slide. I wouldn’t disagree, but I also wouldn’t call it too great a benefit, a revolver shares the same benefits. One still needs to understand the operation of automatic pistols in general, and if you’re unable to rack the slide, you’ll have all sorts of fun trying to load the miniature magazine. Accuracy however, was astounding. I really expected almost nothing from a  3 1/2” sight radius, mini-pistol; I was wrong. At 10 yards you can shoot golf balls, and even at a full 25 yards you’ll hit a 6” gong most of the time- that’s a range far and beyond anything this little pistol was designed for, but it does it well.

 

Standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ printer paper target from 25 yards

Now, for the fortunate circumstances leading to my ownership of a little 950. Perusing a for sale forum, I stumbled across the tail ends of a large sale of these little gems, that had been lined to longer “Restricted” category for Canada barrels (barrels under 4.13” in Canada are “Prohibited”, though you can own pistols wearing them if grandfathered). A pint sized dream came true. Like many boys interested in the shooting sports, and I say interested strongly, I was fascinated by the “little guns” we couldn’t own as a boy, the mini-pistols seemed to fit a boy’s imagination. The Beretta itself I had drooled over in old catalogs. Well, not anymore, thanks to some enterprising gunsmith bringing the joy to those of us no longer young but still too young to be grandfathered. No sporting purpose for short barrels eh… I beg to differ. This day was great sport, some of the most fun I’ve had in awhile at the range.