With the pace of new product announcements appearing to increase over the past few years, it seems appropriate to provide members with credible reviews on some of the most noteworthy products. This page will be updated frequently, so check back from time to time to see what new toy you might add to your wish list for birthdays, Christmas, etc!
Gun of the Month
Ruger American Pistol
Several years ago, the research and development team at Sturm, Ruger & Co. set out to produce the company’s next generation of striker-fired polymer-frame pistols. Recognizing that the new platform would be launched into a market replete with semi-automatics competing in the same size and caliber categories, it carefully considered how to meet the needs of its customers while standing out from the crowd. It was important to find that often-elusive, just-right balance of features, function and price because this handgun was destined to be the first pistol in the Ruger American line. It was decided that the new semi-automatic would not be based on the successful SR series. Ruger wouldn’t settle for giving the SR a few cosmetic tweaks and calling it a new model. Rather, the development team initially dug into the U.S. Military’s Joint Combat Pistol Specification, and then the subsequent Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, with the goal of producing a pistol that would meet or exceed the military’s requirements. At the same time, it consulted with law enforcement trainers around the country to find out what they were looking for in a duty sidearm. The result of all this work is the new line of Ruger American Pistols chambered in 9 mm Luger and .45 ACP. This review takes a closer look at the 9 mm version.
The Ruger American Pistol is a full-size semi-automatic that utilizes a Browning-type locked-breech action. A unique modification to the action is a patent-pending barrel cam scientifically designed to reduce felt recoil by controlling rearward movement of the slide as a cartridge is fired. Spreading the recoil impulse out over time causes the gun not to be driven into the shooting hand all at once, reducing the sense of a sharp or unpleasant kick. It also provides for reliable function with a lighter slide. The barrel cam and light-weight slide combine with a low bore axis to reduce muzzle flip for quick follow-up shots.
The stainless steel barrel contains traditional six-land-and-groove rifling, which allows the use of lead and jacketed bullets. The top of the barrel’s chamber is notched with a small witness hole that serves as a loaded chamber indicator. The recoil assembly consists of a single, flat wire spring captured on a straight guide rod, much like a Gen3 Glock. But unlike the Austrian pistols, the guide rod’s components are all steel rather than polymer.
The new pistols employ what Ruger is calling a pretensioned striker-ignition system. Some striker designs use the cycling of the slide to partially cock the striker, which is then fully cocked by depressing the trigger. When the slide of the American Pistol is cycled, the striker is set into a fully cocked position. This means the trigger only has to release the sear, resulting in a shorter, crisper trigger pull.
It’s not uncommon for modern polymer-framed pistols to use molded-in sheet metal or MIM armatures to support the slide assembly as it cycles. Ruger opted to take a page from the SIG Sauer playbook and do away with multi-piece supports in favor of a single-piece chassis. CNC machined from stainless steel and then nitride treated, the ridged chassis features 1.5” integral front and rear slide rails while providing total support for the firing mechanism. This means all of the major moving components of the pistol are sliding against steel support surfaces, not the polymer of the frame. The chassis is the serial numbered component of the gun with the number visible just under the back end of the slide.
The Ruger American Pistol has a steel chassis that contains the fire control parts as well as the rails on which the slide travels. It is not intended to be removed by the user.
The curved steel trigger features a smooth face and a central trigger safety lever to keep the pistol from firing unless the trigger is fully depressed. The “Pro” Model of the Ruger American Pistol does not have any other external safeties, although it does have an internal, automatic sear-block system that prohibits striker movement until the trigger is completely pressed to the rear. The “Standard” model of the American Pistol is expected to be configured with an external thumb safety and magazine disconnect in addition to the safeties found on the Pro Model.
External controls consist of a left-side take-down lever, a bilateral slide lock and a wedge-shaped bilateral steel magazine release. The trigger is best described as two-stage with a light take-up through about two-thirds of its travel. Once it meets the resistance of the sear, which is retains the pretensioned striker, Ruger says users will need to exert about 6 lbs. of trigger pressure for a clean, crisp break. The trigger completes its reward journey by coming to rest against a small over-travel stop molded into the trigger guard. The pistol evaluated for this review exhibited a 5-lb., 14-oz. trigger pull which was in line with its specifications.
The polymer frame and wrap-around grip modules are formed from black glass-filled nylon. This material is stronger and more ridged than other nylons which, in turn, allows the frame to be thinner and lighter. A 2” long accessory rail, designed to accommodate laser and light modules, is molded into the frame in front of the generous, squared-off trigger guard.
The grip frame is ergonomically shaped to fit a variety of hand sizes. The trigger guard is undercut above the front strap and recesses for the trigger finger and thumb are found just behind the trigger guard to make it easier to form a comfortable grip. The front strap has straight profile (no finger grooves) with a dense diamond-pattern texturing Ruger has dubbed Purpose Oriented Texture. The sides of the grip are nearly smooth with widely spaced diamonds along the curved backstrap.
The Ruger American Pistol in 9 mm Luger arrives with three interchangeable wrap-around grip modules that provide for varying hand size and trigger reach. They are held in place by a locking cam which is accessed through a port in the center of the module using a provided wrench. A one-quarter turn to the left releases the cam. The temptation when removing a grip module is to squeeze it tightly and pull hard, which makes removal difficult. It only takes a little pressure in the right directions to make the exchange, so owners are advised to take a minute to look at the manual and follow the instructions to ensure the grip change goes smoothly.
distance of 2.75”, with the smallest module providing a nearly straight profile and a trigger distance of 2.55”. While 0.30” may not seem like much, it can make a tangible difference when placing the pad of the trigger finger properly.
The smallest module is a smart addition to the accessory set because it makes the platform much more accessible to small-handed shooters. Not only is the trigger easier to reach for shorter fingers, the slide lock and magazine release are more accessible as well. Just below the backstrap is a lanyard attachment loop, a feature that meets certain military requirements but seldom used by civilians or law enforcement. That said, the loop is unobtrusive.
This pistol arrives with two, 17-round, nickel-Teflon-plated, steel double-stack magazines with black polymer followers and modified baseplates. The baseplate has an angled cut along the back edge that aligns with a 0.30” lip extending below the magazine well. The lip does provide a little added guidance when performing a quick reload, but its primary purpose is to protect the shooting hand from being pinched between the grip and baseplate when a magazine is slammed home.
Disassembly of the unloaded Ruger American Pistol is straightforward. Lock the slide back, turn the take-down lever 90 degrees, release the slide and pull it forward and off the frame. The trigger does not need to be pulled.
Field stripping the Ruger American Pistol for cleaning and maintenance is simple, fast and safe. It’s not necessary to depress the trigger when taking the pistol apart. Instead, start by locking the slide into the open position and removing the magazine. Inspect the chamber to verify that there is no ammunition inside the gun. With the slide in the open position, rotate the takedown lever from the 3 o’clock to the 6 o’clock position (the takedown lever will not rotate fully into place unless the magazine is removed). The takedown lever then remains fixed in the frame. While holding the slide, release the slide stop and then ease the slide assembly forward and off of the frame. Remove the guide rod and barrel from the slide, and the pistol is ready to clean. Reversing these steps to reassemble the pistol is just as easy.
The pistol passed all of its bench checks with flying colors. Only minimal lubrication was needed (lubrication points are detailed in the instruction manual) to prepare the American Pistol for live fire testing. The pistol reviewed here was a production model with the same accessory set Ruger customers will receive. The overall fit and finish was excellent. The slide cycled smoothly right out of the box, as did the trigger. All of the controls worked properly. Magazines locked neatly into place and dropped free of the grip when the release was depressed from either side of the frame. The polymer-to-metal fitting was tight, and the pistol arrived free of dings and scratches.
At the shooting range, the Ruger American Pistol kept its promise of providing a comfortable, manageable level of felt recoil. Although +P rounds exhibited a more snappy comeback than their standard-velocity counterparts, the recoil ranged from modest to moderate levels. This easy-going attitude, combined with the pistol’s good balance, useful sights and carefully crafted grip frame makes it a solid choice for first-time shooters and seasoned professionals alike. Thanks to the light take-up and clean break, the trigger was smooth and comfortable to work. The click of the short trigger reset was certainly present but not quite as distinctive as with some other designs. This subtlety of the trigger reset was not a deal breaker, even though it took a while to get a feel for it.
After evaluating the features of a striker-fired 9 mm Luger, the next question gun buyers ask is almost always related to the pistol’s durability—can it safely handle +P loads? If so, how often can high pressure ammunition be fired before causing significant levels of wear and tear? While evaluating this gun I had the opportunity to meet with Brandon Trevino, Ruger’s product manager in the Prescott, Ariz., factory where the Ruger American Pistol is built. He explained that one of the company’s primary goals in adhering to military standards while developing the American Pistol was to ensure that every component would successfully survive 20,000 rounds of firing without the need for replacement or repair. Not only did the Ruger American Pistol meet this standard it flew right past it with over 25,000-rounds of 9x19 mm NATO ammunition fired (the military round operates at near +P pressure levels).
As for the pistol I worked with, it operated flawlessly with no malfunctions throughout the entire testing process using 9 mm Luger ammunition ranging from bulk practice loads to premium defensive hollow points. Bench rested five-shot groups demonstrated solid defensive accuracy with group sizes averaging right around 3” at 25 yds.
It’s understandable that some folks will roll their eyes at the arrival of another polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol in a seemingly saturated market. Nevertheless, the new Ruger American Pistols offer a long list of useful and unique features at a relatively tame suggested retail price of $579 (actual price at the counter may be lower). It’s also good to know that all of the components and labor that go into constructing these guns are 100-percent American. To learn more, visit ruger.com.
Last year I had my first opportunity to spend some quality time at the range with one of Springfield Armory's 1911-pattern EMP4 9 mm pistols. This series is set apart from the competition by the reduced dimensions of the grip frame. Springfield spent the time and money required to compress the traditional 1911 .45-ACP grip to fit the 9 mm cartridge, which is not as easy to do as one might think.
The combination of this shooting-hand-friendly grip configuration with the reduced recoil of 9 mm ammunition, lightweight aluminum frame, longer 4" barrel and top-notch controls led me to say of the EMP4 that, "It is one of the most well-balanced defensive single-stack 1911 pistols I've had the pleasure of working with." I'm not alone in this opinion because the EMP4 has been a popular model with critics and consumers alike.
Just when I thought the EMP4 had reached a pinnacle in 9 mm pistol design, Springfield has served up a new model with an intriguing twist, or should I say, curve. Also known as a bobtail grip, the mainspring housing and heel of this pistol's grip frame have been rounded off. This makes the pistol easier to carry concealed because it eliminates the squared-off portion of the grip that tends to poke out or print through clothing.
Depending on your hand size and personal preferences, a bobtailed grip can also feel more comfortable to shoot. Generally speaking, a bobtail grip is a custom feature that costs more because of the extra work needed to shape, polish and refinish the grip. Adding a bobtail to an existing pistol can cost upwards of $200. However, Springfield's in-house contour for this pistol is a real value at half the price.
This version of the EMP4 two-tone, single-stack 1911 pistol retains the features that have kept this model selling like hot cakes. The satin finish stainless steel side has rear cocking serrations and a 3-dot sight system which employs a red fiber optic in front and a low profile white dot sight in back. The 4" stainless steel, match-grade bushing-less bull barrel sports a fully supported ramp. The full-length one-piece steel guide rod supports a single round wire recoil spring.
The lightweight frame is forged aluminum with a traditional rounded trigger guard and matte-black hardcoat anodized finish. The controls, including the slide stop, round button magazine release, ambidextrous thumb safety, skeletonized hammer and extended beaver tail grip safety, are all steel with a matte black finish which matches the frame. The skeletonized trigger is aluminum with a matte silver finish to match the slide. The pistol ships with three blued steel 9-round, single-stack magazines.
Along with the bobtail contour, the other changes to this model of the EMP4 can be found in and around the grip frame. The frontstraps and backstraps are both treated with a more aggressive “golf ball” type texturing. The hardwood grips have been replaced with black G10 panels that have the same texture. The result is a grip that rests comfortably, but securely, in the hand. This new model exhibits the same degree of top-notch fit, finish and attention to detail as its predecessor.
At the shooting range, the EMP performed to my fairly high expectations. The slide exhibited a tight fit to the frame, without any GI shake, and cycled smoothly right out of the box. The controls were easy to operate and functioned flawlessly. The clean, crisp single-action trigger pull was dead center of the listed pull weight (5 to 6 lbs.) at 5 lbs. 8 oz. The single-stack magazines locked tightly in place but easily dropped free when the magazine release was pressed.
How aggressive the texturing of a pistol's grip should be depends on which school of thought you choose to follow. Over the last few years we've seen more of the highly aggressive tactical textured G10 grips favored by military and law enforcement making their way into the civilian market. These toothy patterns bite into skin or glove fabric to provide a secure purchase in wet or cold environments. Old-school grips have light textures to prevent wear and tear on clothing. The EMP4 Contour grip effectively splits the difference with leanings toward the tactical side while not being so abrasive as to need to replace your wardrobe on a regular basis.
The pistol and magazines were utterly reliable without any hiccups or hang-ups throughout the entire course of testing using a full range of practice and premium grade ammunition. Because this is a concealed-carry pistol, benchrested accuracy testing was conducted at 25 yards by firing five 5-shot groups using premium defensive hollow-point ammunition.
The best performer of the test was the new Colt Defense 124-gr. jacketed hollow point, manufactured for Colt by Double Tap Ammunition. This load produced a best single group of 2.59" with an average of 2.75". Black Hills 115-gr. +P jacketed hollow points turned in a best group of 2.73" with an average of 2.90". Winchester PDX1 Defender 147-gr. bonded jacketed hollow points printed a best group of 2.84" with an average of 2.97".
The new 4" barrel 9 mm EMP4 Concealed Carry Contour is another terrific example of how Springfield Armory is diligently working to tune this elegant century-old design to fit the needs of the modern concealed-carry practitioner. It's true that polymer single-stack 9 mm can weigh and cost less than this gun. However, they just don't have the same feel, light trigger pull, and accuracy potential right out of the box that this pistol provides. The new bobtail grip makes a very well balanced pistol just that much easier to carry.
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory
Model: EMP 4" Concealed Carry Contour (PI9229L)
Action: Single-Action Semi-Automatic 1911
Caliber: 9 mm
Slide: Stainless Steel
Frame: Forged Aluminum, Black Hardcoat Anodized
Grip Panels: Black Textured G-10
Front Sight: Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: White Dot Low Profile Combat
Barrel: Stainless Steel Match Grade Bull, Fully Supported Ramp
Guide Rod: Full Length, Dual Recoil Springs
Trigger: Match Grade Long Aluminum
Barrel Length: 4.00"
Overall Length: 7.50"
Slide Width: 0.92"
Grip Width: 1.15"
Weight: 31 oz. with Empty Magazine
Capacity: 9+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” LH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Lockable Carry Case, Three 9-Round Blued Steel Magazines, Cable Lock, Owner's Manual.
Gen 5 Glocks Hitting Stores Soon
Posted at 5:00 pm on August 25, 2017 by Tom Knighton
The fifth generation of the popular Glock handguns are no longer the stuff of myth and legend. No, they’re reported to be hitting stores in the next few days. Granted, Glock fanboys aren’t exactly the kind to camp out outside their favorite gun stores—these aren’t iPhones weren’t talking about here, after all—but there’s a fair bit of chatter about these.
OK, much of it may just be in my house since I’m looking to pick up something that will work better for concealed carry that my CZ-75B, but there’s still chatter, dagnabbit!
Anyway, there are a few features in the new generation of Glock perfection worth noting. In particularly, the profound lack of perfection that were the finger grooves on the front of the grip. While many people liked that on a pistol, it’s hardly universal.
Further, the Glock is now even more of an ambidextrous pistol. The Gen 4’s reversible magazine release will now be paired with ambidextrous slide release. Good news for the lefties out there.
However, there’s a lot more going on with these pistols. From Guns.com:
The major feature changes include the addition of a Glock Marksmanship barrel with a new rifling and crown design; a flared magwell for easier magazine insertion; a throwback to earlier generations with the removal of finger grooves; an ambidextrous slide stop; and a new nDLC finish that “comes in all your favorite colors” as long as its black.
Other than the obvious aesthetic differences, almost all of the changes are internal. Glock’s National Sales Manager Bob Radecki explained for the Gen 5, engineers removed a locking block pin, so there’s two instead of three; dehorned the nose of the gun; altered the magazine floorplate and dehorned the magazine follower; added a firing pin safety similar to the G42 and 43 models; added a new extractor; and the front rails have been reinforced.
But there were also substantial changes to the trigger. Radecki said the company added a trigger spring assembly that compresses instead of stretches; redesigned the trigger mechanism housing; re-contoured the bottom of the trigger; modified the trigger pin so the slots are “not quite as deep and actually engages on the ambidextrous slide stop lever in both spots versus the one spot on the old style”; and the trigger bar has been modified to work with the new trigger spring.
In other words, there’s a lot of new stuff under the hood, so to speak. The Gen 5 Glocks do appear to have a fair bit going on, despite looking like…well…every other Glock that’s come before it.
How will it work? It’s impossible to say for certain without firing it, obviously.
Luckily, the guys over at The Firearms Blog (www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/08/25/gen5-glock-17-19/) got to handle these for a while and filmed it. Here’s their video on not just the specifics of the details mentioned above, but also their impressions on the weapon itself.
5 Stone Products LLC
The Pistol Mask is a concealed carry holster designed to look like a cell phone. It enables users to carry a large caliber pistol without drawing attention. Injection molded with glass-filled Noryl, the holster uses magnets to keep its panels securely closed. Spring-loaded hinges enable it to be quickly opened for instant access.
Several popular sub-compact pistols can fit the Pistol Mask. For more info: (512) 731-9561
This Innovative Gun Manufacturer Just Created a Firearm to Fit in Your Wallet
Trailblazer Firearms, a relatively new gun manufacturer, just launched its first ever product, the LifeCard .22 LR, and it looks like a gadget straight out of a James Bond film.
The LifeCard is a single-shot, single-action, folding .22 LR…that can fit in your wallet. That’s right, the gun is no bigger than a stack of credit cards; it comes in at 3.375 inches long, 2.125 inches tall, and 0.5 inches wide. Oh, and it weighs less than seven ounces.
According to the press release, the tilt-up barrel, bolt and trigger are made of steel with an Isonite finish to prevent corrosion. Meanwhile, the frame and handle of the gun are made of aluminum with a hard-coat black anodized finish.
While the pistol is a single-shot, the handle serves as an ammunition storage case that can hold up to four extra rounds. And, as a build in safety feature, the gun cannot fire while in its folded state, as the trigger is not accessible.
President of Trailblazer Firearms, Aaron Voigt, who has served in both the Marine Corps and the Army, said the gun took seven years to bring to life.
“Initially, I had no idea that going from concept to actual product would take seven years,” Voigt said in the press release. “But in essence, that time spent was valuable and will show in every aspect of this remarkable product.”
“Trailblazer Firearms fully intends to spearhead innovative new firearms products starting with the LifeCard, available later this month,” he added. “New designs and true innovation have been the exception and our goal is to be the pioneer laying new trails for gun enthusiasts, designers and manufacturers.”
The Trailblazer is set to hit stores in mid-August. It retails at $399. However, before you head over to your local gun shop, a spokesperson for Trailblazer Firearms wants you to know exactly what the gun was designed for.
“We’d like to emphasize LifeCard is not a pistol that should be relied on for personal defense,” the spokesperson warned. “Rather, we consider LifeCard to be a fun addition to anyone’s firearms collection.”
“We hope that LifeCard’s uniqueness may entice new shooters to our industry,” the spokesperson added. “But Trailblazer Firearms has never intended LifeCard to be used as a primary personal defense weapon.”
Now, we’re left with just a couple of questions: How does it shoot, and would you use one of these?
Heckler & Koch Introduces VP9SK Pistol
A few years back when Heckler & Koch unveiled its VP9 9mm striker-fired pistol, it made a pretty substantial splash in the gun industry. In the time since, the VP (which stands for Volkspistole, or “people’s pistol”) line has only continued to grow. Within the past two years, HK has added a .40 S&W variant in the VP40 and tactical models and different finish options for both calibers. Now, the company is at it again with a new subcompact model in the VP9SK.
Announced just ahead of the recent NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Atlanta, the new HK VP9SK is the first subcompact offering in the VP family of pistols. As such, it offers added concealabilty while retaining the great features of its larger brethren. This includes HK’s VP precision strike trigger, which has a pretty high reputation courtesy of its crisp, single-action break and quick reset.
“The VP9SK is the right combination of compact size and firepower for a subcompact — and it’s loaded with unique HK features like our adjustable ergonomic grip, the only grip in the industry that can be customized to fit any shooter,” said Michael Holley, HK-USA Vice President for Commercial Sales and Marketing. “The VP9SK possesses the accuracy and durability that shooters know they can expect from a Heckler & Koch pistol.”
The adjustable ergonomic grip, a major highlight of earlier VP models, has obviously been scaled down with the VP9SK. However, its functionality and flexibility remain the same. The grip adjusts to fit any user via the interchangeable backstraps and lateral grip panels, and there are also finger grooves on the front of the grip instinctively placed for shooters.
As an added bonus in the ergonomics department, the VP9SK’s controls are also completely ambidextrous. There are slide releases on both sides of the frame, and the gun’s paddle-style magazine release favors both right- and left-handed shooters. And, the new VP9SK also carries over HK’s patented charging supports found on earlier full-size models — polymer inserts mounted on each side of the rear of the slide that offer improved leverage for manipulation.
Of course, the most important difference is the change in dimensions, which takes the VP9 from a full-size duty pistol to a subcompact perfect for concealed carry. The VP9SK shaves .73 inch off the overall length of the VP9, .84 inch off the height and 2.49 ounces off the weight. Some of those figures might not sound that impressive, but it’s just enough to make the VP9SK a serious contender as a carry gun.
The new VP9SK incorporates an abbreviated Picatinny rail up front, an addition not all carry guns feature but one that’s beneficial for those using a laser sight or a weapon-mounted light. The gun is compatible with a variety of HK magazines, including compact double-stack 10-rounders with flat or hooked ergonomic floorplates. According to HK, later in the year there will also be 13- and 15-round magazines with sleeves that mimic the grip profile of the manufacturer’s full-size VP models.
The brand new VP9SK is available at a fairly reasonable $719, which, incidentally, is exactly the same as for HK’s full-size VP9 and VP40. Like other HK guns, the VP9SK comes with the manufacturer’s Lifetime Warranty.
For more information, check out the specifications below, or visit the HK-USA website.
Type: Semi-auto, striker fired
Barrel: 3.39 in., cold hammer forged, polygonal
Overall Length: 6.61 in.
Height: 4.57 in.
Width: 1.31 in.
Weight: 23.07 (with empty magazine)
Grip: Polymer, adjustable ergonomic with interchangeable backstraps and grip panels
Sights: White three dot, (night sights also available)
Trigger: HK VP precision strike single action
Capacity: 10 rounds (13 and 15 rounds in the future)
Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch