I’ve now lived through 51 Veteran’s Days as a veteran. Most have been just another day, some with a free meal, one Veteran’s Day I got fired from a job, another I got ridiculed by my boss for wanting to take Veteran’s Day off. Today was the best I can remember.
Two of my grandchildren are students at Boyd High School in Boyd, Texas. Boyd High School’s FCCLA organization invited veterans in the community, especially those who have relatives in the school, to a breakfast at the school. When my grandson Josh invited me via a text message I decided to go.
We were served breakfast in the school library. Somewhere I heard the number 29 veterans in attendance. Most were accompanied by family members. I sat at a table with a 95 year old veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He seemed in better health than me and was sharp and clear of mind. The other two veterans at my table had not served during war time, but had been stationed in Europe at various times. One was an air traffic controller who had worked LA (Lower Alabama) where I went to flight school.
The school librarian welcomed us and said we’d have a prayer before eating. When she asked for a volunteer to pray, the Superintendent of Schools responded and prayed like she knew the one she was praying to on a personal level. Imagine — prayer in school! We were served a breakfast of pancakes and sausage with coffee and plates of cinnamon rolls. But breakfast wasn’t it, folks. We were next escorted down a hall with full height posters on the wall. Our destination was the gymnasium.
As we entered the gym, the entire student body of approximately 400 students was seated in the stands and began applauding as the veterans entered. They kept up the applause and shouts of “Thank You!” until all of the veterans and their families had entered the gym and taken seats in the folding chairs that were set out on the floor. A ceremony followed in which the school band played the national anthem, then a parade of students entered in groups of two, with each group holding a banner for a branch of service. As the groups walked in one at a time, the theme song for the branch of service represented by the banner they held played over the speaker system.
Several individuals gave short speeches. One of them was a teacher who is an Air Force Veteran, another was a graduate of the school who was a veteran and six were students who had written short essays. While in the library, we each had been given a booklet of essays and poems written by students at the high school in honor of veterans. These speeches were additional essays by the students.
The ceremony was quite moving, but that wasn’t all. I’m overcome with emotion as I write this, just remembering. As we left the school we were told the students from the other Boyd Schools — kindergarten, elementary, intermediate and middle school — all wanted to show their appreciation to us as well. We were directed into a parade of 20 or so cars, led by a two police cars with flashing lights. As we drove down Knox Street in Boyd, students from the Kindergarten waved at us from behind their fence, but students from the intermediate and middle school were lined up on both sides of the street, holding patriotic artwork they had done, waving to us and calling out (“Thank you!”) as we drove by. We continued to follow the police cars across one of the main drags, into and through the parking lot of the elementary school where all of the students from that school were lined up, holding up their artwork and calling out to us, “Thank You!” as they waved. The entire parade consisted of smiles, waves and cheers from the students.
Thank you, Boyd High School and all the other Boyd Schools for honoring your veterans in a way that most of us will never foget.
Sometimes magazine writers are in the loop early when it come to new guns being introduced. There are a lot of new guns I don’t get too excited about, especially when it’s just one manufacturer trying to keep up with or outdo another in one of the classes such as carry gun, duty gun or competition gun. I’ve got those categories covered with guns that work fine, so adding another to the rotation doesn’t get me all that excited. What does ring my bell are fun guns. A fun gun I bought over 60 years ago is still a favorite to take out of the safe and go shooting. Diamondback has just recreated that gun and made it better. To say I got excited when I saw the first announcement of the Sidekick is an understatement.
I put my family on notice. Any promises I might have made not to buy any more guns this year was hereby null and void. Come November 22, when the Sidekick is reported to become available, I want one. Then life bestowed upon me something very special in the form of an invite to a writer’s conference in which Diamondback was one of the presenters. This was in early October, more than a month before the scheduled release date for the Sidekick. I got to shoot it and it was everything I hoped it would be. I asked for a review gun whenever they became available, and I was scarcely home before one showed up at my FFL for transfer.
When I opened the box, it seemed like a jump back in time to the day I walked into a hardware store in Oxford, Mississippi, plunked $52.50 down on the counter and walked out with my first-ever revolver—a Hi Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver. That $52.50 would be $472 in today’s dollars. The Double-Nine is a pretty unique .22 revolver in that it looks like a single-action cowboy gun but has a swing out cylinder for loading and a double-action trigger system that allows it to be used like a single-action or a double-action. The Sidekick has those features, too.
How the Sidekick Came About.
I asked Adam Walker, Vice President of Engineering and Quality at Diamondback America, how they came to develop the Sidekick, wondering if maybe the Double-Nine had been an influence. Adam told me as they began conceptualizing Diamondback’s first-ever revolver product, they wanted it to be a fun .22 plinker that would be easy to use by people of all ages and levels of experience. He said most of the folks at Diamondback had grown up spending time with their families shooting and that much of the shooting had been done with rimfire guns. As they discussed their various experiences, a common theme arose. More than half the people in the room had owned a Hi Standard Double-Nine. Almost in unison there was an “aha moment” when they realized that this particular revolver model had everything they were looking to create. Everyone was brimming with nostalgia and immediately excited about the project and they were in disbelief that this specific type of product had been out of production for so many years without anyone having picked up the torch.
There are many rimfire revolvers currently in production, but none fit the bill of the quintessential “plinking” rimfire revolver as closely as the Hi Standard Double-Nine. Diamondback’s objective became clear—to recreate the classic Double-Nine revolver using modern manufacturing techniques to ensure a high level of quality and consistency and then reintroduce this product to the world as the Diamondback Sidekick. They are proud to continue the tradition of encouraging families and friends to spend time together through shooting and outdoor activities. As they say—life’s better with a sidekick.
I’d say they’ve met their objective. I may not represent the typical shooter, but I have Ruger and Heritage .22 revolvers, plus a plethora of semi-auto .22 handguns, and I know without a doubt the Sidekick will be the one I pick up most often to go shooting just for fun.
Diamondback built the Sidekick with swing out cylinders in both .22 and .22 Mag, but it is definitely a sho ‘nuff cowboy gun to look at and handle. Although it has revived the Hi Standard Double-Nine in spirit, Diamondback has made the Sidekick even better with the exchangeable cylinders and a repurposed ejector latch to facilitate opening the cylinder for loading and unloading. It also has counter-bored cylinder chambers which allow the gun to be dry-fired without injury to the cylinders or the firing pin. All in all, with modern manufacturing techniques and materials, it’s a better gun. Although the Sidekick has a shorter barrel—4.5″ compared to the Double-Nine’s 5.5″— at 2 lbs., it slightly outweighs the Double-Nine. The heftier feel to me indicates it’s built with stronger materials. The gun is black anodized aluminum with black checkered plastic grips. It has fluted cylinders where the Double-Nine does not. The Sidekick’s single-action trigger breaks at 3 lbs. while the trigger on the Double-Nine is a little over 4 lbs. Double-action pull on both guns exceeds the 12 lb. limit on my Lyman trigger pull gauge, but it’s not difficult on either gun. Sometimes I just roll off nine double-action shots one after the other to see how close I can group them. It’s not difficult to do, and if I were to encounter a rattlesnake in the woods, that’s probably exactly what I would do. Not that I wouldn’t have killed him with the first shot, you understand, but it’s fun to chop a rattlesnake into pieces with a firearm—and to make good and sure he’s dead.
At the writer’s conference, I watched the Diamondback rep swap the cylinders. He showed us how to take a punch and depress the link pivot pin through a hole in the lower front of the frame. It looked easy, and when I tried it on my gun, it was easy. It was so easy I should have, but didn’t, read the instructions ahead of time. Had I read them, I would have learned about the spring and how it would launch the pivot pin if you weren’t careful. It launched it when I wasn’t looking. When trying to put in the other cylinder was when I found myself turning to the instructions. An unattached spring behind the cylinder latch pin? Oops! I keep a magnet with an extended collapsible handle around for such occasions as this. I backed my wheelchair up, surveyed the room, saw something on the rug that looked out of place, extended my magnet toward it and found my missing parts. Had I been in the field when first attempting this cylinder swap, I’d have found myself with a functionless firearm through no fault of the gun or the manufacturer, just my own propensity to do stuff without first reading the directions. It’s not an issue if you know the spring and pin aren’t attached and to watch for them. In fact, it’s a piece of cake.
For my first shooting outing with my new Sidekick, I wasn’t thinking about paper targets. I thought about aluminum drink cans. I filled up a bucket of them from the family recycle bin and headed for the woods. Shooting cans is so much fun because they scoot across the ground when hit and present target after target. Sometimes they spin around so just the bottom is facing you making a perfect 2″ bullseye. The only reason I get tired of that kind of shooting is because I’m old and I get tired doing anything. I was by myself on this outing, but had I been with sons and grandsons, we’d have come up with some competitive scenarios to make it even more fun.
The next day I went to the range to create holes in paper targets and to shoot the Sidekick alongside my trusted Double-Nine. I wasn’t particularly motivated to determine 15 or 25 yard accuracy because that’s not what these guns are about. I wanted to more or less just practice shooting them to see how well I could do. Since neither gun has target sights, the biggest challenge I faced was tilting my head at the right angle for my progressive trifocals to allow me to focus on the front sight. I found when I could do that with either gun, I could actually create some pretty good groups at 10 yards. I started my session by shooting 90 rounds of .22 Magnum using two different brands—Remington and CCI’s Maxi Mag. Then I switched cylinders and shot another couple hundred rounds in each gun. New ammunition consisted of SK Standard, SK Flatnose Match and Winchester Super X Hollow Points. I didn’t notice much difference in performance between the different loads. Next, I did something that only revolvers let me do. I went through an old box containing a mixture of shorts, longs and long rifles with that nasty white corrosion that gets on lead bullets with age. The revolvers don’t care. Shooting the shorts is almost like shooting a gun with a silencer they’re so quiet.
I got some targets worth taking pictures of and had a great time with my double-action, swing-out cylinder cowboy .22s. I’m betting at an MSRP of only $320, you’re going to want a Sidekick for your own shooting pleasure.
The Beretta Px4 Storm is one of the smoothest operating handguns offered in the defensive handgun arena. So many more guns have been offered in that market segment since the Px4 Storm made its debut, including more by Beretta, that sometimes the Px4 gets lost in the mix. That’s a shame. Offered in full-size, compact and sub-compact versions, there is something for every need. Mine is the full-size version, which I find a delightful concealed carry gun. Before I get too far into the details, I want to tell you about the Storm’s older cousin, the Cougar.
The Cougar 8000 was a Beretta product introduced in 1994 as a smaller alternative to the Beretta 92. When Beretta acquired Stoeger through its Benelli subsidiary, production of the Cougar, along with all the dies and tooling, was transferred to Stoeger. Essentially the Beretta Cougar and the Stoeger Cougar are the same product. It’s a shame it’s no longer manufactured as it is truly a fine pistol.
My Cougar, acquired in 2009, represents my transition from revolvers to semi-automatic handguns. It was the first semi-automatic pistol I bought. I can’t call it mine anymore because when I brought it home, my youngest son, who was also looking for a new handgun, announced that was the gun he wanted. He put the money in my hand to reimburse me for the cost of the Cougar, and I was sent back to the store to get another gun. That is why I have the Px4. The Cougar has remained in the family, and I’ve enjoyed shooting it on more than a few occasions.
There is so much about the two guns that is similar, although the Cougar is an all-steel gun while the Storm has a polymer frame. Cougar and Storm are what we call them around the house. I hope you don’t mind if I forgo trying to keep the naming convention right for the rest of this article and just refer to them using those titles.
The Storm is still in production and is offered in nine different configurations: Px4 Storm Compact Carry, Px4 Compact FDE, Px4 Compact Grey, Px4 Storm Carry, Px4 Storm Compact, Px4 Storm Full, Px4 Storm SubCompact, Px4 Storm SD Type F, Px4 Storm Inox. Each one can be purchased as a Type C, Type D, Type F or Type G, but are primarily offered in the civilian market as Type F. Type C is a single-action only pistol. The C stands for “Constant Action” — the spurless hammer is in half-cocked position. There is no decocker and no safety. This configuration is primarily sold into the police market. Type D is double-action-only, with a spurless hammer, no decocker and no safety. The popular Type F is familiar to most of us. It is an SA/DA gun with a decocker and manual safety. Type G is SA/DA with the safety feature removed so that the safety lever works only as a decocker. Somewhere along the way my Px4 Storm F was converted to a Type G. I’m okay with that because I rarely use the safety on an SA/DA gun.
The Px4 Storm SD .45 ACP semi-auto pistol was developed to meet the very demanding requirements issued by the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM) for their Joint Combat Pistol. They called for superior weather resistance, extended threaded barrel, dark earth frame, tactical case and additional accessories. Beretta answered the call successfully by redesigning the Storm’s internal components to meet and exceed all these requirements. The result is a pistol that satisfies not only SOCOM’s requirements, but the most demanding shooter looking for the absolute best and most reliable for personal defense, competition or carry. All of the Px4 pistols have been designed to meet or exceed NATO requirements and have been reported to have fired over 150,000 rounds with zero failures.
While the compact and subcompact models are very popular, I like my full-size model and find it comfortable to shoot and carry. Size wise it is 7.5″ long, 5.5″ high, 1.22″ wide and weighs 28 oz. The barrel is 4″ long. The Beretta website stretches these measurements a bit. Maybe my gun has shrunk over the years, but I’m giving you exactly what the ruler says. I think it’s probably more an issue of translating from metric to US measurements.
The Cougar is 5.5″ tall, 7″ long and 1.3″ wide. The barrel is 3.5″ long. This one weighs at 30.25 oz. because it’s an all-steel gun. As you can tell, these two guns are very similar in size and their measurements are typical of a mid-size carry gun. The heft is comfortable in my hands and not at all uncomfortable to carry in a good IWB holster. The slide is rounded everywhere there’s an edge, pronouncedly so on the top edges. Mounted on the slide are Tritium night sights. I honestly don’t remember if the gun came that way or if it’s something we added later. There are serrations on the flat part of the slide, which is the lower half, just above the rather hefty slide lock lever. On the back of the slide is an ambidextrous lever that doubles as a safety and a decocker. The safety totally disables the hammer and trigger.
The mag release button is in the customary place behind the trigger. Pressing it results in an aggressive drop of the magazine. The magazine is a 15-rounder, steel and strongly made. The grip frame is very comfortable to me. Being an all-steel gun, there’s no swapping of backstraps for fit. The gun came with a set of rubber grips. I gave my son a set of wooden grips for the Cougar for his birthday one year and that’s what the gun is now wearing. Vertical lines on the front strap and backstrap assist with grip purchase. In case you’re wondering, backstrap is one word, but front strap isn’t.
The trigger on the Cougar is a curved affair that sits forward. In DA mode it starts working with no slack. The pressure is steady for about .75″ and then you get a crisp, clean 9 lb. break. Follow-up shots in SA mode require .25″ take-up before breaking at an average 5.1 lbs. Tactile reset comes when the trigger is almost all the way forward.
One of the unique features of the Cougar, shared with the Beretta Px4 Storm, is the barrel operating system. While the Cougar and Storm are locked breech operating semi-automatic pistols, the way the barrel locks up is different. There is a locking block the recoil spring and rod go through. This block has a pin on it that fits inside a groove on the portion of the barrel that supports the “lock-up.” This groove wraps around the barrel so the pin travels in a rotational manner around approximately ¼ of the barrel when the gun is fired. This occurs at the start of the cycle to eject the just-fired cartridge and load another one. The end result of this action is that the first ¼ of the recoil cycle is rotational and does not present any kind of “kick” to the shooter. Does the Cougar have recoil? Yes, but it is diminished somewhat by the unique operating system.
Disassembly for cleaning or other maintenance is slightly different with this kind of barrel/recoil spring combo, but not at all complicated. After dropping the magazine, locking the slide back and checking to ensure the chamber is empty, there is a lever on the left side of the frame just above the front of the trigger guard. The lever has a locking pin which is released by pushing a button on the right side of the frame. Once this is done, the lever can be rotated clockwise a ¼ turn. Release the slide lock and the slide will come off the front. No trigger pull required. The recoil spring and locking block can be lifted off the barrel, the barrel removed and everything about cleaning, lubricating and reassembling the gun is standard, except you have to maneuver the locking block over the barrel to get the pin into the groove and that requires a slight compression of the recoil spring. It’s not much different than the way you have to compress the recoil spring on any semi-automatic to get it to drop into place on the barrel.
Everything I just described for the Cougar is true also of the Storm with two exceptions. Takedown on the Storm is done by pulling down two tabs on the frame just ahead and above the trigger guard, similar to takedown on a Glock. Only on the Storm no trigger pull is required before removing the slide. The difference is the grips. The Storm comes with interchangeable backstraps. I’m using the medium size on my gun.
If you don’t have your mid-size carry gun and can find one, the Px4 STORM will not disappoint you. I think any size would work fine. Problem now might be availability, but since it’s an older gun there should be some on the auction sites. The same is true of the Cougar. Just remember when looking at the Stoeger STR-9, it’s not the first mid-size 9mm Stoeger has brought to market.
The year would have been 1960, I believe. That would have put me at 12 years old and it was the first summer I worked on staff at Camp Yocona, BSA. That’s memorable for me because the minimum age for a staff member was 15. An exception was made for me because I knew Morse Code backwards and forwards and I knew a good method for teaching it. The camp needed a Morse Code instructor. My scoutmaster was the camp director that year, so he did some rule bending and I spent my summer at Camp Yocona.
Teaching Morse Code only occupied a couple of hours each day, which left me time to spend at the rifle range. I began working my way through the NRA Junior Marksmanship program, earning patches and also qualifying for the Rifle Shooting merit badge.
I got to know the gentleman who ran the rifle range quite well. His name was Lum (yes, I have that right) Barnes and he was a farmer from somewhere around Booneville, MS. Lum was patient with me, teaching me the ins and outs of sighting, breathing and trigger control. At the end of the summer he told me some of the camp’s rifles were being replaced and the old ones were for sale. “How much?” I asked, having earned no money for the summer as the staff jobs were all volunteer. He offered the Remington 514 that I had been using for my patch earning for $4. I was able to come up with $4. Lum told me if I had another $2 I could also take home a Marlin 80 that was missing it’s magazine, so had to be used as a single. Two single shot, bolt action .22s for $6 seemed quite a bargain to me.
Indeed it was as I still have both guns and have learned quite a bit from them. First has to do with sighting. Throughout the summer I had adjusted my sighting using the Remington because I had learned that hitting the bullseye required my aiming two inches to the left and one inch down. I hadn’t shot the Marlin, so I didn’t know it’s aiming quirks but I did learn that I could buy a magazine for it from Numrich gun parts. When I started shooting the rifle, it wouldn’t eject. Numrich had an ejector for it, as well. Both rifles needed their stocks refinished and to be re-blued. Using Birchwood Casey bluing and stock refinishing products, I turned both rifles into pretty nice examples.
The sighting on the Remington turned out to be an excellent learning experience. When I took the class to become an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and learned for the first time in my life about eye dominance, I discovered that although I’m right-handed, I’m left eye dominant. When I sighted the Remington from left shoulder I discovered the sights were right on the money.
Both rifles have required extractor/ejector replacement over the years, but they shoot fine and are used to introduce others to shooting sports.
When I left home at age 22 to join the Army, I had five firearms: a couple of .22 rifles bought as surplus from Boy Scout Camp, two inherited shotguns and a .22 revolver. These firearms had always been like fishing rods, pocketknives or hand tools — used when needed, then cleaned and put away. We never thought of needing a firearm for self-defense back in those days. There were only four bad guys in the whole county. I knew who they were and stayed away from them. Warning, Dr. Dabbs, one of them has a son who lives in your neck of the woods.
In the Army I went through M16 qualification, but my job after training was to fly a helicopter. When we got shot at, my crewmembers shot back. I just flew. After the Army I flew twenty-something years as a corporate pilot. While flying for computer companies, I was cross-trained in computer hardware and software. All this time I was living in the city and the guns stayed in a closet. When my three sons got old enough to go dove hunting, they wanted to, so we needed another shotgun. It just so happened I was doing contract programming at the time for a sporting goods distributor who also had a gun store. I bought a Winchester M1300 at employee pricing, but even at six guns I didn’t consider myself a collector.
The Lure Of A Blackhawk.
In 1999 I walked by the gun counter at that same gun store and did a double take at something I saw in the used gun display cabinet — a Ruger Blackhawk with a 10.5″ barrel, looking like new with a price tag of $300. Three hundred dollars was something I could justify for such a fine looking cowboy gun. The salesman seemed to be cautioning me when he said, “You know this is a .357 Maximum, right?” I must have nodded my head or something. I didn’t know what a .357 Maximum was and didn’t care. I’d dreamed of owning a Blackhawk ever since my cousin back home killed a deer with his .44 Magnum Blackhawk. And this one was almost a Buntline Special. When I took the gun home my wife asked me what it was for. “I don’t know,” I told her, “I guess home defense.” When I started figuring out what ammo I needed to try it out was when I discovered what the .357 Maximum was all about. I knew it was okay to shoot .357 Magnum and .38 Special rounds in the gun, but I wanted to shoot .357 Maximum rounds. Using the Internet and a search engine called Yahoo, I located some .357 Maximum reloads being sold by Old Western Scrounger. I got some, shot some and decided .357 Magnum was enough for me.
I didn’t shoot the Blackhawk much. Honestly, I didn’t cotton to the concept of a gun range where you paid to shoot. The only time in my life I had shot at a gun range before the Army was at Boy Scout Camp. You just went out in the pasture and shot. Or if you lived in town, you drove a mile or two outside the city limits on any highway and found a creek bed, sand ditch or old gravel pit. A few miles further and there was a National Forest, which in those days had none of the restrictions on shooting they seem to have these days. Now I lived in the city and it took some adjustments, but I finally found a gun range where I could shoot my Blackhawk. It wasn’t long before that long barrel started feeling heavy to me. I decided to order a replacement barrel from Ruger, only to learn Ruger doesn’t send out barrels. You send them the gun and they’ll put a new barrel on it. Then I learned something else. If you send them a .357 Maximum, they won’t send it back. They’ll work out some sort of equitable trade, but there had been a recall on the .357 Maximum years earlier. I chose not to send my gun to Ruger. I was just starting to learn about forums. Google and Wikipedia did not yet exist and I didn’t at that time know anyone at Ruger that would tell me their side of the story.
.357 Maximum History.
Through reading some stuff online, I’m sure much of it conjecture, I figured out what the .357 Maximum was all about and why Ruger decided to bow out of it. Elgin “Butch” Gates was an internationally known trophy hunter and the author of The Gun Digest Book of Metallic Silhouette Shooting. In order to bang metallic silhouettes of various animals farther and farther away using a handgun, Gates developed a wildcat cartridge he called the .357 SuperMag. From that cartridge Remington and Ruger worked together to develop the .357 Maximum with a SAAMI pressure of 40,000 psi pushing a 158 grain bullet at 1,825 fps or a 180 grain bullet at 1,550 fps. Ruger designed a Blackhawk for the task and Remington manufactured the ammo. Apparently handloaders, not satisfied with the already powerful ballistic profile of the manufactured cartridges, started pushing the limits, which resulted in damage to some of the handguns in the form of top strap and forcing cone burning. Ruger, wanting no part in having production revolvers with their name on it being so damaged, issued a recall, offering equal value in another production revolver. All of this happened six or seven years before I bought my revolver. It shows no indication of any top strap or forcing cone burning. Prior to my ownership, it doesn’t appear to have been fired much at all. I put maybe 20 or 30 rounds of .357 Maximum through it along with a box of .357 Magnum and a fair amount of .38 special. As much as I liked owning it, there was something not quite right about it that kept me from shooting it much. Then it hit me. It was that 10.5″ barrel. I’m not into handgun hunting or long-range target shooting with a handgun and that long barrel made the gun unwieldy to carry and out of balance to shoot.
It’s Good To Have Friends.
Jerry Colliver is a friend I met when we worked together at an insurance company in 2005–2006. Together the two of us worked through getting our concealed handgun permits and obtaining instructor ratings in various disciplines including NRA Basic Pistol and the Texas Concealed Handgun License. Up to that point in time, I’d never owned a semi-automatic handgun, but Jerry knew them well. He guided me through purchasing my first, a Taurus 24/7, and together we began teaching Hunter Education, NRA Basic Pistol and Texas Concealed Handgun License classes. Jerry was handy with a Dremel and other hand tools and helped me with the barrel shortening project. In fact, he did most of the work.
We measured 4.5″ back from the muzzle and marked the location to be cut with electrical tape. I wanted to make sure our cut was perfectly perpendicular, but Jerry assured me that at this point it only had to be close. Jerry cut the barrel with the Dremel using a carbide cutting disc. Next came touch-up work on a small grinder. After the grinding came hand filing to smooth out the effects from the grinder wheel, leaving the metal surface as shiny as possible.
The factory barrel end had an inside bevel around the bore and an outer bevel around the outer circumference of the barrel. Jerry used a stone with his Dremel tool to grind the inside bevel to match the factory original as closely as possible. Then he filed the outside bevel by hand, carefully eyeballing the width of the bevel to make sure it was even and consistent as he went around the barrel. Final touch-up on the outside bevel was done with the Dremel tool.
When the bevels were done, Jerry went back to the grinder, this time with a cloth wheel and rouge to polish the end of the barrel before bluing. There were several steps in the polishing process before Jerry was satisfied. He used a cloth polishing wheel attached to his vertical drill press, periodically coating the wheel with polishing compound. We blued the barrel, tapped out a hole for the sight mounting screw and put the front sight back on the gun.
A Training Tool.
The Blackhawk holds a special place in my training regimen for people who are serious about mastering handguns. At some point in their training I introduce them to the Blackhawk. I load the gun for them while they’re shooting a training exercise. That way they don’t see what I’m putting in the gun. I load two .38 Special rounds followed by two .357 Magnum rounds, then two .357 Maximum rounds. Locking the cylinder so shooting would start with the .38s, I hand the student the gun and ask them to shoot it until it runs dry. Naturally they’ll be aiming to please me, the instructor, and with the first two shots they generally do pretty well. The next two shots have a surprising amount of recoil, but most shooters stick with it and try to make good shots. When number five rolls around, they’re not expecting what comes down the pike. I stand close enough to catch the gun if they drop it because that shot is going to hit them like pulling both triggers on a double barrel twelve gauge. If I’m lucky enough to coach them through shooting one more time, their, “What was THAT?” question invokes a discussion on the effects of various calibers and loads on recoil. The explanation will hit home because of what they just experienced. Although they won’t be carrying .357 Maximums for personal defense, they will become aware of such differences as +P and normal ammo or .40 S&W compared to 9mm.
I now reload my own .357 Maximum rounds using a .357 Magnum die set adjusted for length. Remington and Starline both make brass and the caliber has found a home with T/C Contender and Dan Wesson Model 40 shooters. I’ve often wished someone would offer a lever action rifle in .357 Maximum. It seems close enough to the new .350 Legend cartridge to have filled that gap. The .357 Maximum has enough of a following that someday you may be banging steel silhouettes of various animals at 600 to 1,000 yards with a handgun. Just keep your loads within SAAMI specs and have fun!
This shotgun sat in Pop’s bedroom corner beside his armoire. Pop was my mother’s father. I’m pretty sure he never hunted during my lifetime. Everybody owned guns and Pop’s were the double-barrel shotgun, a .22 rifle and a Colt New Model Service revolver. As a kid I had no idea about the historical significance of his guns nor their value. Pop died at age 67 the year I was a senior in high school. He had been a great friend to me, and a supplier of horses to my cousins and me. His loss was tough. I wasn’t around when any decisions were made about passing down his guns, but somehow I ended up with the shotgun. One of my cousins got the rifle and my only living first cousin has the pistol.
This was a genuinely appreciated inheritance because I did a lot of bird hunting with my 16 gauge full choke Winchester Model 12 and the improved cylinder and modified choke barrels on the Lefever were much better suited for quail hunting. My uncle pointed out to me a problem with the Lefever’s choke, which was on the tang. If you weren’t very careful when pushing it on, it would go past the safe point to a position that would allow the gun to fire. Not only was I warned about that choke up front, I was reminded of it on every hunting trip where family was involved. Jeez, guys, I’ve got it!
To me the gun was just a gun to go hunting with until I got into the gun business and started inventorying and valuing my guns. Much of the bluing had worn off, leaving the finish shiny in places. The stock was scratched and gouged in various places. It certainly wasn’t a show piece, but it functioned fine and I managed to bring down a few birds with it on a regular basis. But there was something about the Lefever brand I learned from the Blue Book of Gun Values. The Lefever was the first commercially successful hammerless double barrel shotgun made in America. The company was in n Syracuse, NY from 1885 until 1916 when it was bought by the Ithaca Gun Company.
According to what I could determine through visiting the Lefever Collector’s Association website, my gun was made in 1908 and is a C Grade gun. Values in Blue Book are quite high for some of these guns and not so high for others. Guns matching the description and condition of mine have consistently sold in excess of $5,000 so whoever decided I should get Pop’s old shotgun did right by me and probably didn’t know it. Most of those relatives are gone now, so there won’t ever be any arguments about it. I’ve just included a recommendation in my notes about the gun that whoever inherits it should have it appraised by a qualified appraiser if they decide to sell it.
This is a story about my shotgun, the one I grew up with. It’s a 16 Gauge Winchester Model 12 with a 28″ Full Choke barrel. That barrel makes it duck gun, but I rarely hunted ducks. Instead, for me it was a squirrel, rabbit, dove and quail gun and I even killed one deer with it, that one in self-defense. I’ll get to that story down the road.
My Model 12 was originally given to Grandaddy Freeman by his former employees when he retired as Director of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission. That would have been around 1948, the year I was born. Grandaddy engaged in a number of business ventures after his retirement, but apparently had lost interest in hunting so my dad wound up with the gun. Dad hunted with me when I was seven or eight to get me started and after that he just didn’t hunt much except for opening day of several dove seasons with his coworkers. When I was in the 5th grade, Dad told me I could have the Model 12 as he just wasn’t using it much.
I’d already been acquainted with the shotgun; it was the first real gun I ever shot. Dad had given me his old single-shot .410 when he began teaching me to hunt squirrels. But on our very first hunting trip, I was carrying my gun unloaded when Dad pointed out a dove in a tree. He told me, “We don’t normally shoot dove when they’re not flying, but they are in season and that one is just sitting in that tree right there. You can take a shot at him if you want to.” Since my gun wasn’t loaded, he handed me his 16 gauge Model 12 and coached me through lining up the sights and taking a shot. I remember that shot vividly. The gun knocked me on my butt and the dove flew off. The small branch he had been sitting on seemed mock me as it slowly fell to the ground. We didn’t know anything about cross-dominant eyes in those days, but I am strongly cross dominant and I believe I must have been leaning way over the gun to line my left eye up with the front sight, which is why I got such a wallop in the nose from the recoil. I now shoot that gun and all my other long guns left handed.
Guns tend to create memories in our lives if we shoot them much and my next memory happened right after Dad told me the 16 gauge could be my gun. I went home from school at lunch the next day to become more acquainted with my new gun. In the process of my examination I managed to slam the action closed the tip of my index finger. That little exercise in carelessness cost me a trip to the emergency room. My finger was bleeding like a stuck pig, but I managed to call my mother at work and she came home to help me. At the emergency room the doctor attempted to rejoin the skin on the tip of my finger and in order to do so he took a file and filed the bone smooth where the action had chipped it. My right index finger is now shorter than my left finger and I have a noticeable scar where the stitches were. That’s one of my “been there, done that” scars that is a reminder of how being careful around guns is more than just not having an accidental discharge and hitting something or someone you didn’t want to hit, but about keeping fingers clear of moving parts.
Growing up with that gun I had plenty of opportunities to hunt quail and dove with other hunters. In spite of the fact my gun was a full choke instead of the preferred improved cylinder or modified chokes that were more appropriate for those birds, I did all right. The one adjustment I made was to shoot at birds a little further away than the other guys did. Their misses often wound up in my game bag. When I used my Model 12 as a quail gun, I could get off two or three rounds on a covey rise as quickly as my buddies could with their semi-automatic Brownings or Remingtons. The shotgun fired each time the action closed as long as the trigger remained depressed from the prior shot. By keeping the trigger depressed I could fire another round as fast as I could pump the action.
The Winchester Model 12 is a pump action, tube magazine shotgun with an internal hammer manufactured by Winchester from 1912 (hence the model name or number) until 2006, though all the production runs after 1964 were special runs. The Model 12 was designed by T.C. Johnson but used a sliding forearm to cycle the action that was passed down from one of John M. Browning’s earlier designs. That Browning design was Winchester’s Model 1897, a forerunner to the Model 12. The 1897 had an external hammer while the Model 12’s hammer is internal. Apparently, the Model 12 was expensive to produce that’s why it was discontinued. The Model 1200 and Model 1300 replacements were very similar in appearance and operation, but designed to use parts that were less expensive to make.
When the Model 12 was first manufactured it was in 20 gauge only. The 12 and 16 gauge models followed a year later. The tube magazine is loaded from the bottom and empty shells are ejected from the right side. The magazine holds five rounds, but most hunters, myself included, have a round wooden rod in the magazine to limit the gun to the three-shot limit required by game laws for hunting migratory birds.
The Model 12 is a takedown model, easily separated into two halves for packing and transport. The takedown procedure is simple. There is a pin near the end of the magazine that locks it in place with the pin against the barrel. Simply push the pin through the magazine tube to a different angle that allows you to rotate the magazine a half turn and pull it loose. When the magazine has cleared the threads and base that keeps it in, the barrel rotates a half turn and slips out. The first time you try it, you might be a little uneasy, but after you’ve done it a few times it becomes easy peasy for you. I always took mine down like this for cleaning as it makes it easier to run a rod through the barrel from the chamber to the muzzle.
The US Military used the Model 12 extensively during World War I, World War II, Korea, and in the early part of the Vietnam War. More than 80,000 Model 12 shotguns were purchased during World War II by the United States Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, and Navy, mostly for use in the Pacific theater. The Marine Corps used a trench gun version of the Model 12 when taking Japanese-occupied islands in the Pacific. During the Korean War and the Vietnam war both the Marines and the US Army used the Model 12. It was only when Model 12 production was shut down in 1964 that the military started buying the Ithaca 37 shotgun for combat use. I was actually offered a Model 12 and 100 rounds of buckshot for my own use shortly after arriving in Vietnam by a departing pilot who didn’t wish to take it home. Before actually giving it to me he told me there was an Army Special Forces advisor that could make better use of the shotgun that I could and he wound up giving the shotgun to him and he gave me an M2 Carbine instead.
My 70 plus year old Model 12 seems to operate more smoothly than my relatively new Model 1300. I’m not sure if that’s a difference in manufacturing and parts or simply the fact it is well broken in. I know it carries a lifetime of memories for me. I promised to tell you about the deer I killed with it. I’m sure the statute of limitations has long passed for this particular incident. I was squirrel hunting with a friend in the Holly Springs National Forest. Our mission for the day was to check out a squirrel dog he was thinking of purchasing. Well, the dog ran off and we heard a ruckus that didn’t sound so much like a tree’d squirrel as it did the dog fighting with something. We ran toward the noise and topped a hill to see the dog had a doe by the hind leg. Just as we got to where we could see what was happening, the deer shook her leg free and ran up the hill right toward me. I had my shotgun in my right hand and without really thinking about it I brought it up and shot the deer in the chest before she could run me over. She dropped in her tracks. My best guess now is the gun was loaded with number 7 ½ or number 8 High Velocity shells. I Without really discussing the legalities of the situation my buddy and I decided that deer meat would taste just as good as if had been shot in season. We took her to his barn and dressed her, splitting the meat between us. Fortunately, we already had some deer meat in the freezer at home that I could mix it with so my Dad wouldn’t be all over me about a deer shot out of season.
The Model 12 is a fine, reliable shotgun that is very much the equal of Remington’s 870 pump. Mine got replaced as my quail gun when I inherited my other grandfather’s Lefever 12 gauge double barrel, but I still used the Model 12 for squirrel, dove and the occasional duck. Oh, and skeet.
Around age 14 I began working part time jobs after school and during the summer. It didn’t take me long to start gathering the tools to be a man. Chief among them was a mildly customized F1 Ford pickup and a .22 revolver. I bought the revolver at the local Western Auto store, paying something just shy of $50 for it. The gun was a High Standard Double Nine. High Standard was known at the time for it’s semi-automatic .22 that was used in competition. There was another revolver built more along the lines of a Smith & Wesson called the Sentinel and folks said the Sentinel was every bit as good as one of the more expensive revolvers from Smith & Wesson or Ruger. The Double Nine was a cowboy version of the Sentinel. It looked like a Colt Single Action Army, but the cylinder swung out for loading, and it was a double-action revolver rather than single action. Sort of the best of both worlds.
I used my Double Nine for plinkin’ and impressing the girls I dated by taking them shooting and I occasionally used it to bag a squirrel or a rabbit. I loved that gun, but apparently not enough to keep me from trading it to a friend for a stereo. My rationing was he was a close enough friend I’d still have access to the gun when I wanted to shoot it. But a few weeks after the trade, my friend told me it was really his mother’s stereo he had traded to me and she wanted it back. Naturally, I was willing to reverse the trade, but my friend confessed he had sold the gun to somebody who didn’t want to give it back. I returned the stereo but was without my Double Nine.
I went through the rest of my youth without getting a replacement, but I missed it enough that when I got into the gun business with my friend Jerry Colliver, Jerry found me a replacement. This time it wasn’t a $50 purchase, but $300 got me a nice Double Nine still in its original box. That box has the original price sticker on it—$64.95, indicating it was originally purchased about the same time I bought my first Double Nine.
I’ve got .22 revolvers from Heritage, Ruger and Uberti, but I gravitate to the Double Nine for my own shooting enjoyment. Let the kids and grandkids enjoy the other guns, the High Standard has a special place in my shooter’s heart. It’s not better than the other guns, though it is a little easier to load and unload. I just have a lot of pleasant memories associated with the Double Nine.
My gun is a model W-104 with a 4.5″ barrel. It’s currently wearing staghorn grips, but I also have a set of black grips and a set of faux pearl grips, both made specifically for the Double Nine by Jay Scott Custom Grips. The cylinder has drag marks made by the bolt as the cylinder rotates. I’m told that’s typical of these guns. Other than those markings, which I touch up from time-to-time with Birchwood Casey Aluminum Black, the gun shows no signs of abuse or wear. The frame and cylinder are made of an aluminum alloy.
Loading the gun is very easy. Beneath the barrel there is a small tab that on single action revolvers would be connected to the rod used to push empty shell casings out of the cylinder. This tab only moves a half an inch or so and is used to release the cylinder, which opens like the cylinder on a typical double action revolver. You can load the gun with shorts, longs or long rifles, mixed and matched at your pleasure. After firing, simply open the cylinder again press the cylinder pin to eject the empty shells, or any cartridges that have not been fired.
The double action trigger pull exceeds the 12 lb. limit of my Lyman trigger pull gauge, but it works in a way I appreciate. There is no slack to speak of and the trigger starts stacking immediately. If you’re pulling it slowly, it’s easy to stop at the wall just before the break and recheck sight alignment before pulling through. If you want to simply pull the trigger without paying attention to the break, you can and it feels smooth all the way through. In fact, you can empty the gun in short order just by aggressively pulling the trigger repeatedly until the bang turns into a click.
It’s easier to be more accurate with single-action shooting, at least for me. Cocking the gun sets the trigger to the rear where an easy 4 lbs. of pressure fires the gun. The sights are better than those found on a lot of cowboy guns in that there is a notched rear sight that sets above the top strap. The front sight is a blade that is 1/4″ high. The rear sight is well above the hammer when the hammer is down, so it works just as well in the double-action mode as in single-action.
I realized when thinking about my early days with the Double Nine I shot it one-handed. My examples of how to handle a gun in those days were on-screen heroes such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Hop-a-long Cassidy and the Cisco Kid and they all shot their six shooters one handed. It wasn’t until I started taking handgun instruction on the way to becoming an instructor myself that I ever knew any better. When I shot my Double nine for this article, I reverted to the one-handed shooting I’d done with it early on and was pleased with the results. I didn’t try to shoot any long-range targets but shooting at five to seven yards I could put all nine rounds in a 5″ circle consistently. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a misfire. I sometimes shoot shorts, sometimes longs and sometimes long rifles, just depending on what I have on hand when I go shooting.
The High Standard company was founded by Swedish immigrant Carl Gustav Swebilius who got his start in the gun business by working for Marlin as a machinist and later a gun designer. He also spent a little time at Winchester before starting High Standard Manufacturing to make parts for other gunmakers. He borrowed some money from friends to by the assets of the Hartford Firearms company. Between selling Hartford pistols and improving upon them the High Standard became a manufacturing company. It’s interesting the moniker attached to the company was always High Standard, yet the firearms were always branded as Hi Standard. Hi Standard semi-automatics were sought after for competition and the revolvers found their place in the market as reasonably priced .22s suitable for teaching kids to shoot, keeping varmints away from the chickens and vegetable garden on the farm and just general fun shooting. The company operated several buildings in and around Harford, Connecticut and seemed at times to be doing quite well. They even supplied parts for US armed forces during WWII.
In 1968, the company was sold to an investment company called The Leisure Group. In 1978 the company was purchased by its managers but was soon in financial trouble and its assets were auctioned off. One of the primary parts distributors for the company bought some of the parts lines and the trademarks. In early 1993 a new company was formed in Texas to acquire the trademarks and .22 pistol line. The assets, including tooling, were moved to Houston in July of 1993 and the first of the Houston made guns shipped in March of 1994. The Texas company closed its doors in 2018.
Many collectors have realized the value of these firearms and prices have held steady. My particular model is listed in the Blue Book of Gun Values as being worth $450–$500. I’m glad to know I didn’t overpay for it and I’m pleased I’ll be able to pass it along to some lucky member of my family when I can no longer pull a trigger.
Throughout most of his career my father was the Director of Fisheries for the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, now known as Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It was the policy of then that all director level employees were also qualified as game wardens. Although my father never acted as a game warden to my knowledge, he had the badge and a gun. The gun was a .38 Special Smith and Wesson Model 10. Dad kept his gun in his sock drawer.
Dad’s job kept him away from home during the week but his gun stayed behind. I don’t recall ever asking him if it was okay if I carried his .38 with me on some of my exploring adventures, but I did dig it out of that sock drawer on many occasions.
One occasion I remember is kind of embarrassing but I tell it for its humor. As a kid I hated spiders. This hatred had its seed in something that happened to me on a camping trip near a small lake just a few miles outside of town. The dam and the low area just below the dam were populated by pine trees approximately ten feet tall. I was making my way through those pine trees and ran into a spider web with a large black and yellow garden spider in it right at face level. I kind of panicked and turned to run and ran right into another one which resulted in a one of those large black and yellow spiders being on my face. In full panic mode I swatted that spider and its web down and ran over the dam and into the lake, clothes and all. These spiders were 4 to 5 inches in size and very yucky. That’s why I hated spiders. Still do, for that matter, but I don’t panic when I see them.
My cousin Paul Moss and I were navigating Toby Tubby Creek in my dad’s fiberglass john boat. Paul was in the front; I was in the back. We were working our way under a tree that had fallen across the creek and as Paul passed under the tree a large spider fell off the tree and onto the bottom of the boat. Without thinking, I shot the spider with Dad’s .38. You should have seen the hole in the boat with little spider legs all around, floating away because water was coming in the hole. How stupid, to shoot a hole in the bottom of your boat just because of a spider. Fortunately, the creek wasn’t very deep, and we weren’t that far from our transportation. Whenever I think of the gun safety rule, “know your target and what is beyond,” I think of that spider and the hole I shot in the boat as being what was beyond my target.
When Dad was leaving his home and going to a nursing home during the last months of his life here on earth I told him I was taking his .38 home with me. He said, “Son, I don’t believe I ever shot that gun.” I responded, “That’s okay, Dad, I shot it a lot.” I was quite naïve about guns in my early days. I had a shotgun that I hunted with and a .22 rifle for plinking. Dad’s .38 was my only handgun for a while, until I bought a High Standard Double Nine revolver. After I got the High Standard, I left Dad’s gun in his sock drawer.
I flew helicopters in Vietnam, and we were issued Smith and Wesson revolvers as part of our flight gear. I remember thinking it was very similar to Dad’s gun, but some years later I read that the guns we were issued in Vietnam were Model 36s. If so, it was only a 5-shot where the Model 10 is a 6-shot revolver. I honestly don’t remember what I had in Vietnam. I carried an M2 Carbine in the helicopter with me and always considered it my primary weapon.
Dad’s Model 10 is a Model 10-5. You find that model number underneath the yoke when you open the cylinder. The -5 indicates Dad’s gun was made in 1962 and on that particular model the front sight width was changed from 1/10″ to 1/8″. I verified the sight width on our gun with my digital caliper and sure enough it is 1/8″. That front sight is ramped with ridges on the top side. Somewhere along the way I have added white paint on those ridges to help my eyes pick up the front sight when aiming the gun.
The history of the S&W revolvers leading up to the Model 10 is legendary. It started as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899 and was later called the Military and Police. It is a K-frame revolver in production since 1899. The Model 10 is a six-shot, .38 Special, double-action revolver with fixed sights. Over its long production run it has been available with barrel lengths of 2″, 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″. I’ve seen figures that indicate more than 6,000,000 of the type have been produced over the years, and it is still in production today. The one in the current catalog has a 4″ barrel and an MSRP of $762. That 6,000,000 production number makes the Model 10 one of the most, if not the most, popular gun in history. No telling how many police officers, game wardens and state troopers have carried the Model 10 and its variants in the line of duty. I know when I carried it on my hunting and camping trips as a boy, I never thought of myself as not having enough gun. If I weren’t spoiled to the round capacity of today’s double stack 9mms I might still consider myself adequately armed with my Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver. Notice how I subtly changed the label from Dad’s Model 10 to my Model 10. Dad is long gone now, and I no longer have to sneak the gun out of his sock drawer to use it.
Suppose it was my daily carry gun. How up to the task is it? To start with, I’d have to change holsters or change belts. Dad always kept the gun in the holster that he got with it, which is an FBI model made by Bucheimer Clark and perfect for carrying the gun discreetly under a vest or shirt tail, but it’s made for a smaller diameter belt than the ones I wear, which are made for carrying a gun. I wish that wasn’t the case because it’s a really nice holster. I did find a nice OWB holster from ComfortTAC that fits it fine and allows me to carry it in the three o’clock position, which is comfortable for me.
Suppose trouble comes and I need to use the gun to defend myself. Six rounds of a good .38 Special hollow point should be enough, right? That would depend upon my ability handle the gun and hit what I’m aiming at. The grip seems a bit large compared to the rest of the gun, but it’s a standard K Frame squared grip and it’s perfect for controlling the gun. A .38 Special round is not without significant recoil and the Model 10’s grip is designed to handle that recoil. It also facilitates quick sight alignment when bringing the gun up to a good shooting position. The trigger is very interesting. Double-action trigger pull is over the 12 lbs. limit on my Lyman® trigger pull gauge but the single-action pull averages 4 lbs. 2 oz. Even though the double action pull exceeds 12 lbs. it’s a smooth and an easy pull in my book. If you have time to cock the gun, you’re going to be much more accurate than with a double-action trigger break.
People say short barrel guns aren’t accurate, but my Model 10 dispels that theory and I’ve seen others shoot tight groups out to 15 yards with their snubby revolvers such as the Model 10 and Model 12 from Smith and Wesson. I can put six rounds into a 4″ circle at 10 yards with my Model 10 with almost any of the ammo I’ve tried. When using the gun in a defensive posture I usually load it up with Underwood .38 Special +P 140 Grain Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator or Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P 110 Grain FTX. The gun shoots tight groups with either of those. Since they are +P they’ve got a bit of recoil to them, so I don’t do much pleasure shooting with those loads. For target practice I like shooting lead or FMJ 130 to 158 grain rounds of what ever happens to be available. The Model 10 doesn’t seem to care.
We don’t shoot the Model 10 often, but my grandkids always enjoy having it included in any of our outings. Because I have double-stack 9mm, .40 and .45 semi-automatics, carrying the Model 10 for personal protection rarely occurs to me. Writing this article has caused me to think about it again, so I plan to give it some outings over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t have to use it, but if I do, I’m sure you’ll hear about it and I’m sure it will have done its part.
Turkey’s role in world politics is important as it lies right on the border of Europe and Asia. The government of Turkey mimics ours in many ways with an elected president, parliamentary representatives from each of 81 provinces and a judiciary branch. The country is highly industrialized and exports products around the world. The firearm business in Turkey is particularly robust. A Turkish business directory lists over 260 companies producing firearms. Eighty-five of those companies list shotguns as their major product. Eight companies manufacture rifles and nine companies list handguns as their primary product. I was somewhat surprised to learn my new Winchester Wildcat .22 rifle was made in Turkey by Istanbul Silah. Many of the companies also manufacture air guns and a few manufacture ammunition or gun parts. It’s not unusual to find a firearms manufacturer who also manufactures aviation parts. We are fortunate in that several of the pistol manufacturers export their products to the United States.
Good Quality — Fair Prices
I’m not sure what it is about the Turkish economy that allows them to produce firearms with quality equal to that of German, Italian and American firearms but at considerably lower prices. It’s not unions as there are unions in Turkey. Perhaps it’s fewer levels of management and lower marketing costs. I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s the way it is. Turkey not only equips its own military (strength over 500,000 and all males are required to serve) with firearms created in country, it exports firearms to a reported 70 countries with many of the exported firearms for military and police use. Firearms used by military and police are well-tested which helps with quality and reliability. The volume also helps with pricing.
My first semi-automatic pistol was a Stoeger made in Turkey. It was essentially a Beretta 8040 Cougar. Beretta owns Stoeger and shortly after the purchase, they moved tooling for the Cougar to Turkey. That Cougar is a delightful gun now owned by one of my sons. This report is about six modern handguns produced by Turkish companies, all sold in the US and priced considerably below similar handguns made in Germany, Italy and the US. I’ll discuss them in alphabetical order by brand and model.
Let’s Break Them Down Starting With Canik
First up is a 9mm Canik TP9SA in FDE. This gun is imported by Century Arms and is usually priced somewhere around $349–$389 at retail. The TP9SA is one of many models of Canik pistols imported by Century. This is the only gun in this report that doesn’t belong to me. I borrowed it from my good friend Alf Evans, who I sometimes play bass guitar for at the church where he is the worship leader. Alf has had this gun for several years, and it is his favorite of several 9mm handguns. I can see why. As I shot it along with the other five handguns in this report, had I not recently put myself on a gun diet, I’d be looking for one to add to my carry gun rotation. It’s a very nice handling pistol and very accurate in addition to being very attractive. The TP9SA came packaged in a plastic case along with a paddle retention holster, extra magazine, cleaning brush and exchangeable grip panels, along with the requisite trigger lock and owner’s manual.
Next Up is Girsan
Next up is a Girsan MC28SA. Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals such as this MC28. This one captured my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function. The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium and large grips plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The medium panel installed at the factory fit my hand the best. I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same. Features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their pistol with 3 dot sights, the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front.
A Couple of SARs
I have two guns made by Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp., doing business in the US as SAR USA, the SAR B6 and the SAR9X Platinum. Sarsilmaz is a privately-owned company in Turkey that produces guns for law enforcement, military and civil use. They are the sole supplier of pistols for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces. SAR introduced its B6 handgun to the US market in September 2012.
The B6 is a polymer-framed clone of the iconic CZ-75. It shares the easy handling feel and operation of the CZ with a decent trigger and sights and is priced such that we were able to sell it in our store for $340. We sold a ton of them, especially when SAR started offering them in colors like pink and purple. Today a typical advertised online price is $349. The B6 was, and still is, a fine handgun for personal use, including home and self-defense. It carries well, shoots well and is durable.
I first saw a SAR9 at an NRA Expo in Dallas in 2018. I was not impressed. My first thought when looking at it was “just another black gun.” The SAR9 is different than the SAR B6, but I didn’t see it as an improvement. Later I read about the extensive testing the SAR9 had been put through in order to qualify for military acceptance, but it still didn’t make me want one. But this year I was captured by an ad for a SAR9X Platinum. I reached out to SAR to see if I could get one at a writer’s price and the answer was positive. This is one beautiful gun. I didn’t pick up on it when looking at a totally black SAR, but it’s almost a clone of the H&K VP9. The Platinum edition came with lots of goodies including swappable grip inserts, an extra magazine, holster, magazine carrier and even a light that will mount on the dust-cover rail. I really liked the SAR9X except for the trigger, which was meeting some kind of resistance during the pull. I studied the gun a bit and discovered the trigger bar was rubbing against the inside of the frame. It appeared to be bent. I straightened it with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and, lo and behold, the trigger became more than acceptable. It became good.
Back in the Stoeger Business
Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but they have manufactured handguns from time to time. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. In recent years Stoeger has been offering STR-9 and STR-9 Compact pistols, making the STR-9 platform affordable by offering different configurations. I went for the STR-9 Compact packaged with only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I bought it for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449 and can be bought for less than $400. I would put the STR-9 up against handguns costing twice as much as far as performance and reliability. Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break at 5 lbs. If you shoot the STR-9, you’re going to like the trigger.
A US Army 1911A1 Without the Steep Price
The Tisas 1911A1 U.S. Army model is a historically correct reproduction of the original US Military service pistol. It’s the only .45 in my selection of Turkish pistols for this review. All the others are 9mm. From its Parkerized finish and hammer-forged barrel to its weight and feel, this pistol accurately replicates the original military issue Government model pistol. It ships with one 7 round Mec-Gar mag, a cleaning brush and manual in a factory box. It accepts any aftermarket magazines and accessories that would fit an American-made GI M1911A1. Tisas firearms are imported into the US by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. Several retailers currently have their US Army M1911A in stock for around $450.
How Do They Shoot?
Based on ammunition available, I took a measured approach to shooting these guns for this report. Except for the Canik, I’ve personally put several hundred rounds through each of them. I’ve had success finding ammo during the shortage by ordering from manufacturers who sell direct from their websites. I had Norma Range Ammo and Armscor FMJ, Hornady Hunter, Pilgrim JHP, Red Zone JHP, IMI JHP, Geco JHP and Norma MHP to shoot through the 9mm guns. I only had Pilgrim JHP for the .45. I used EZ2C Targets with six circular targets per page. Using a different brand of ammo for each page of targets, I shot several rounds of five shots from each gun into its own target. The photo you see with this article was my fourth in the series and was shot using Armscor’s FMJ ammo for all five of the 9mms and Pilgrim .45ACP +P JHP for the Tisas M1911A1. I could have photographed any of the targets in the series and the results would have been similar. The range was 10 yards, and I shot freehand from my wheelchair. I cannot explain why the holes in the Stoeger STR9C target appear larger than the other 9mm targets because it’s the same ammo. Perhaps it was the angle of the target path which was lower than the others.
As you can see, every one of these targets shows excellent grouping for a personal protection handgun. I have carried both the SARs and the Stoeger as my EDC in the past. The Girsan is currently the gun I keep in my truck console. I gave the Canik back to Alf and the Tisas M1911A1 represents my historical WWII M1911A1 handgun.
Any One Of Them Is Worth Buying
If you’re not able to locate or afford one of the better known US or German made pistols, the pistols described here are representative of excellent alternatives being imported from Turkey on a regular basis. Canik, SAR and Stoeger have US locations that sell through wholesale distributors. Girsan is imported by EAA Corp. and Tisas is imported by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. All of the guns described here sell for under $500 and were readily available when I wrote this during the midst of the great Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ammo shortage.