Comment(s)

SIG SAUER P227 NITRON

Full-sized fighter delivering top-notch accuracy and 10+1 rounds of .45 firepower!

By William Bell

Sig has been a longtime supplier to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies. The company claims to have about one-third of the law enforcement market, and its 9mm P226 was tied with Beretta during the XM9 Service Pistol Trials in 1984; Beretta won due to a lower-priced package, but the Sig P226 went on to arm Navy SEALS, and the Army adopted the P228 (M11) for use as a compact pistol. Sig Sauer also runs a training facility called the Sig Academy, where advanced weapons skills are taught.

GUN REVIEW: P227 Nitron: Sig Sauer’s Double-Stack .45 ACP

A large-frame model originally available in 9mm, .38 Super and .45 ACP, the Sig P220 was one of the company’s first handguns imported into the U.S. Since then, it’s only been produced in .45 ACP and has a single-column magazine with a standard capacity of eight rounds. Recently, Sig Sauer introduced the large-frame P227, which is also chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, but has a staggered, flush-fit magazine that holds 10 cartridges plus one in the chamber for a total capacity of 11 rounds. There is also an extended magazine available that increases the cartridge count to 14+1.

I was very pleased with the performance of the Sig P227. Unlike many of today’s pistols, it doesn’t have an interchangeable backstrap, but it fit my medium-sized hand comfortably, and I’ve never really picked up any Sig Sauer pistol that wasn’t tip-top in the ergonomics department. As a gun writer, I’m always happy to evaluate a firearm that works and works well, as did the P227 Nitron. I’m less impressed with what a handgun will do on a paper bullseye target than what it will do when fired rapidly and repeatedly on a combat course, so for my money I don’t think you could do much better than the Sig Sauer P227 Nitron if you want a full-sized handgun in .45 ACP.

For more information, please visit sigsauer.com.

ROSSI R46202

Stainless DA/SA six-shot ready to deliver .357 Magnum power!

By Paul Scarlata

Rossi, founded in Brazil in 1889 by Amadeo Rossi, has long been known for its affordable, quality-built firearms. In 1997, the company became affiliated with BrazTech International LC, which distributes its products in the U.S. At the same time, Forjas Taurus SA purchased the rights and the equipment to manufacture Rossi handguns, and the company now manufactures an extensive line of revolvers under contract with Rossi, which continues to build its long guns at a plant in San Leopoldo, Brazil.

GUN REVIEW: Rossi’s Stainless Six-Shot R46202

Some of Rossi’s more popular products are its medium-frame, snubnosed .38- and .357-caliber revolvers, which are available in either blue or stainless steel. I was recently able to get my hands on one of the latter, the R46202, chambered for the .357 Magnum.

I must mention that the gun I received for testing had one of the better triggers I’ve felt on an out-of-box revolver in some time. The DA trigger pull had a smooth, stage-free stroke, and the SA pull was light with a crisp let-off. It would be a very viable choice for concealed carry, or home and business defense—and at a very attractive price.

For more information, visit rossiusa.com.

COLT MUSTANG XSP .380

Next-gen Pocketlite upgraded with top-notch tactical enhancements! 

By Dennis Adler

This is the gun I have been waiting for. No, really. And so have you. This is the original .380 subcompact with all the modern upgrades added. With all due respect to Walther, Colt created the first .380 ACP pocket pistol in 1908 and in 1986 developed and introduced the first Mustang models. Unfortunately, Colt’s crystal ball was a little cloudy when the fabled American arms-maker discontinued the Mustang at the end of the last century. At the time, it appeared that there was insufficient demand for .380 pistols. Proven wrong by the wealth of new guns that began to appear in the last decade, Colt resurrected the Mustang Pocketlite in 2011 as an improved model based on the original.

RELATED: Secure, Concealable Backup with Colt’s Mustang XSP

So here’s the bottom line: When Colt reprised the first and original .380 subcompact, a lot of folks were expecting something really new. What they got was a better-built version of the same gun. That, too, is just fine. But wait—as the old advertising sales pitch goes—there’s more! While Colt was busy filling the niche it had created with its latest iteration of the Mustang Pocketlite, including a new version with a LaserMax laser, the company’s engineers were busily developing a modernized variation with all the features the original design lacked. A little less than two years after Colt reintroduced the Pocketlite, here is the gun I was waiting for, the polymer-framed Mustang XSP.

RELATED: Colt’s Mustang XSP Delivers Big Bang with Light Weight

Rather than just doing the obvious to the resurrected Pocketlite, Colt has taken the gun to the next level and done so in a way that makes this an altogether new pistol that retains all of the virtues established by the Mustang, and in one broad stroke, cures all of its ills. For Colt fans, this is the gun we have been waiting for.

For more information, visit coltsmfg.com.

GUNCRAFTER INDUSTRIES NO. 1 .50 GI

Handcrafted 1911 puts .50-caliber power in a tough, carry-ready package!

By David Bahde

Seemingly novel, Guncrafter Industries’ Model No. 1 .50 GI pistol is anything but new to me. I’ve carried a No. 3 Commander .50 GI pistol for years, and I’ve seen the No. 1 regularly at training and media events. I can attest to the fact that founder Alex Zimmerman and his crew at Guncrafter Industries (GI) have built a very high-quality pistol. It ranks up there with any custom 1911 for fit, finish and function. Each pistol is built one at a time and with great attention to detail. Typically simple, rugged and purpose-built, the .50 GI meets my preferences for a carry pistol perfectly.

RELATED: Guncrafter Teases New ‘Golden Gun’ Variant of M1 .50 GI

Though I’ve owned a Commander-sized pistol for years, I had never, until now, tested a full-size, Model No. 1 .50 GI. I was interested to see the difference. Like most custom smiths these days, Guncrafter Industries is building its guns to order. Stocking pistols are a fantasy at this point. A customer was kind enough to allow me to use his gun prior to delivery. His pistol was built almost precisely the way I would have ordered it. This is a no-nonsense pistol designed to spend its life in a holster, not a gun safe. Bells and whistles are kept to a minimum.

The GI .50 may not be for everyone, but for some, it is perfect. It’s a solid carry pistol with excellent ballistics, and it certainly deserves a look if you are in the market for a custom 1911 carry pistol.

For more information, visit guncrafterindustries.com.

FNS-9 LONG SLIDE

High-cap, 5-inch-barreled 9mm pulls double duty as a match king and home defender!

By Dr. Martin D. Topper

The new FNS Long Slide is a fine example of Fabrique Nationale’s (FN) long tradition of manufacturing quality firearms for competitors. Introduced at an industry trade show early in 2013, this pistol is primarily tailored to the needs of IDPA, IPSC and steel match shooters, but it’s also well suited to the demands of personal defense.

RELATED: FNS 40 Long Slide

The Long Slide is similar in many ways to FN’s standard FNS duty pistol, which was introduced in 2012. Like the standard model, the Long Slide is a striker-fired pistol that comes chambered in 9mm or .40 S&W. Even though it shares many features with the standard FNS model, the Long Slide differs most notably in its 5-inch barrel and appropriately lengthened slide. The longer barrel increases bullet velocity, and the lengthened slide has a greater sight radius for more precise bullet placement.

The FNS-9 Long Slide is a pistol that will likely be quite popular for many types of action-shooting competitions. It points naturally and stays securely in the shooter’s hand during recoil. Its sights are quick to acquire under almost all lighting conditions, and its 5-inch barrel wrings the most performance out of the 9mm cartridge. All of these features make the Long Slide an equally good candidate for a home-defense gun or a pistol for concealed carry under a jacket. In today’s marketplace, a gun that can serve two and perhaps three purposes equally well frees up a lot of money that can be spent on ammunition.

For more information, visit fnhusa.com.

AMT .45 BACKUP

The Backup is back. AMT’s classic compact returns, streamlined to deliver 5+1 rounds of .45 firepower! 

By William Bell

Arcadia Machine & Tool (AMT) came into being, if I recall correctly, in 1977, and their initial offering was an all-stainless-steel 1911 pistol, the first such pistol to be made completely of this rust-resistant material. It was called the Hardballer, and it had lots of what were then considered custom features. Over the years, AMT manufactured a number of different handgun designs like the AutoMag series, the Lightning pistol and the Backup. At the time I was introduced to the Backup in the late ’80s. It was a very compact, single-action (SA) semi-automatic in .380 ACP.

RELATED: High Standard Victor .22 LR Handgun

Fast forward to today. AMT is now under the High Standard Manufacturing Company umbrella, which also includes Interarms and US Cartridge. AMT is still making a Backup in .380 ACP. It’s still all-stainless, has a matte finish, but it’s double-action only (DAO) and weighs just 18 ounces. What caught my eye as I perused the High Standard website was another AMT Backup, this one in .45 ACP and weighing only 5 ounces more than the .380 model!

When the shooting session was over, I was more than pleased with the performance of the AMT .45 ACP Backup, plus the ammo and products that I included in the evaluation. The little gun works, and rather well at that. The sights, if used properly, though minimal, still allow accurate hits out to 15 yards, and probably beyond. It feeds and fires HP ammo without a hiccup, especially after you’ve broken it in, and it’s still the smallest DAO .45 ACP pistol you can buy. It’s a little heavy for pocket carry, at least for me, but it is worth looking at if you are in the market for a concealable big-bore handgun for defense or LE usage.

For more information, visit highstandard.com.

SCCY CPX-2

Carry-friendly pocket 9mm cuts the price without compromising performance!

By Chad Thompson

The SCCY CPX-2 is a sub-compact, polymerframed pistol that operates in traditional double-actiononly (DAO) mode. There is a concealed hammer that is slightly visible when you’re pulling the trigger, just before the hammer falls forward. The hammer is never exposed outside the slide, and this helps keep it from catching on anything during the draw (or any other time for that matter). This pistol is ingenious in its simplicity as there are only two devices on the frame that are used to operate the gun: one is the slide stop (the company calls this a slide hold-open lever) and the other is the magazine release.

GUN REVIEW: SCCY CPX-2 9mm DAO Pistol

The CPX-2’s lack of an external manual safety is definitely a plus in my opinion, and here’s why—the rolling 7-pound trigger is not going to go off by itself, and it takes over 1 full inch of travel for the trigger to fire the pistol. That translates into fewer features to confuse a new owner and fewer features to forget in a stressful encounter. Despite its lack of an external safety, the CPX-2 is a perfectly safe handgun, as the pistols trigger design prevents the pistol from firing until the trigger is pulled all the way through.

RELATEDSCCY CPX-1 9mm Handgun Series | VIDEO

I really like the KISS method that SCCY has gone for with this gun. There is simply nothing else to remember except “pull the gun” and “pull the trigger if needed.” No gadgets, no switches—just load your chamber and holster. I would most certainly suggest that you give the people at SCCY a chance and see if you like their pistols as much as I do.

For more information visit sccy.com.

NAA SIDEWINDER

Fast-loading five-shot .22 Mag. redefines deep-cover self-defense!

By William Bell

North American Arms’ mini-revolvers, in various forms and configurations, have been around for some 40 years. While their size and features have varied, they all load and unload the same: by removing the cylinder. Under the best of circumstances this is a slow process. But recently, NAA addressed the problem with new models like the Pug and Black Widow, which each had a large, pull-down-and-turn latch integral with the cylinder pin that made reloads simpler and faster. Then in late 2012, I began to hear about a new NAA mini-revolver with a swing-out cylinder, such as is found on most of today’s full-sized double-action wheelguns. Turns out the rumblings were true, and near 2012’s end I found myself in possession of the newest, and arguably the best, NAA mini-revolver, the Sidewinder.

GUN REVIEW: NAA’s Micro-Pocket Sidewinder .22

Conclusions? This little five-shooter will do its job within the confines imposed by its size and caliber. In the words of NAA CEO Sandy Chisholm, “We would never suggest that our .22 mini is better than a .45. It is arguably, however, better than nothing, which is the void our product is designed to fill.” Dirty Harry said, “A man has to know his limitations.” Used skillfully, properly and within its limitations, the NAA Sidewinder is capable of fulfilling its specialized task if the operator is up to it.

For more information, visit northamericanarms.com.

GLOCK’S NEXT-GEN DEFENDERS

The G41 Gen4, G30S and G42: advanced .45 and .380 firepower to break any threat, anywhere!

By Jim Schaffer

Glock continues to design and engineer pistols for all users and types of situations—a fact well exemplified by Glock’s three latest models, the Glock 30S, released in 2013 to wide acclaim, and the new Glock 41 Gen4 and Glock 42, in .45 ACP and .380 ACP, respectively. All three models have a niche, if you will: The Glock 30S is a “covert” Glock, the mighty Glock 41 is well suited for an overt role, and the revolutionary slim-line, subcompact Glock 42 may well set a new standard for deep-concealment pocket pistols.

GUN REVIEW: Glock’s Next-Gen Defenders | VIDEO

The G30S is in essence a Glock 36 slim-slide mounted onto a Glock 30 SF (Short Frame) frame. The Glock 36’s slide aided in deep-cover concealment, and the Short Frame made a noticeable difference in the pistol’s “triggernometry.” While the Glock 30S fills a covert need, there are situations in which concealment is not a primary concern. In the realm of full-size combat pistols, one would be hard-pressed to find a model more suitable than the new Glock 41 Gen4 in .45 ACP. The G41 sports a 5.3-inch barrel and an extended slide length of 8.31 inches that gives users a sight radius right at 7.5 inches. Moving down to the other end of the size scale, we come to the Glock’s other new autopistol, the Glock 42 in .380 ACP. Externally, it mimics the iconic silhouette of a Glock pistol. Close examination, however, reveals some interesting and subtle differences. This is a super-slim-line Glock—it’s not even an inch thick (rather, 0.94 inches)! The frame texture is of the Gen4 type, but its roughness has been subdued—as befits a gun that will spend much of its life hidden in or under clothing and perhaps next to bare skin.

This correspondent could well imagine a Glock 41 as a primary weapon, the Glock 30S in a backup role and the potent, pocket-sized Glock 42 as the third gun!

For more information, visit us.glock.com. 

SPRINGFIELD XD-S

Upgraded pocket .45 shoots smooth, hits heavy and carries easy!

By Dennis Adler

In 2012 Springfield Armory rewrote the book on large-caliber, concealed-carry handguns with its introduction of the XD-S 3.3 semi-auto. As the smallest semi-automatic .45 ACP ever developed, the XD-S became the blueprint for the 9mm model that followed, as well as for the latest .45 ACP and 9mm models, which were introduced this year. Externally, the new models look almost identical to the 2012 edition; internally, there is a difference in the internal operation of the grip safety, which has been redesigned along with the sear, grip safety spring and sear spring. Another minor internal upgrade has also improved trigger operation by smoothing out trigger pull. The only external difference, however, is a small roll pin added to the grip safety in order to distinguish the new models.

RELATED: Watch as Springfield’s 4.0″ XD-S 9mm Takes Aim

As a defensive handgun for concealed carry, the Springfield XD-S in .45 ACP delivers the stopping power of .45 ACP in a size more commonly expected of a 9mm. And for those who prefer 9mm over .45 ACP, the XD-S in 9mm offers all of the same features, 7+1 standard capacity and even more manageable recoil. For pocket or holster carry, this is without a doubt one of the best go-to guns on the market for anyone desiring maximum performance in a small, pocketable .45 ACP or 9mm package.

RELATED: Sight Radius, Accuracy Get Boost with New Springfield XD-S 4.0 9mm | VIDEO

For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.

KIMBER TLE/RL II

SWAT-born 1911 brings tactical touches to the powerhouse 10mm platform. 

By Dave Bahde

One of the most popular 1911 pistols designed to meet the need for light and laser attachment is the Kimber TLE/RL II. The Custom TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) was designed with input from the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team, and they carry it today in .45 ACP. It is simple, rugged and includes a rail for the addition of a tactical light. Although designed by a SWAT team, it has gained traction among civilian 1911 shooters. With a retail price at under $1,200 it is one of the most affordable tactical 1911 pistols on the market, putting it within reach of many potential users. Once only available in .45 ACP, the 10mm option adds an entirely new dimension to this pistol.

GUN REVIEW: Kimber’s TLE/RL II Is Built For Lights, Lasers

Given my affinity for the 10mm round, this was a fun test. With no railed 10mm 1911 in my safe, the test took on a different tone. If it worked, my plan was to keep it, and sure enough it worked great. It was reliable, accurate and comfortable to shoot. It fit nicely in both my concealed carry and duty holsters. While not feature rich, it has what most users will ever need. Aside from some small alterations, it will remain as tested when it finally lands in my safe. With a list price of $1,178, it is affordable by quality 1911 standards, and it worked right out of the box. Kimber has already had great success with the TLE/RL II line in .45 ACP, but adding the 10mm just opens it up to a larger market. If you are looking for a quality 1911 in 10mm with a rail, this should be one of the first you look at.

RELATED: Kimber’s Ultra Raptor II Is an Ultra-Compact Carry Powerhouse

For more information, visit kimberamerica.com.

WALTHER PPQ M2 5-INCH

Self-defense 9mm goes long, boasting Government-sized dimensions and top-gun level performance!

By Dennis Adler

Almost everyone who has carried a Government model has dealt with the weight of the gun (36 to 39 ounces on average), which, over more than a century, has changed very little regardless of caliber (.45 ACP, .38 Super, 9mm, 10mm and .22 LR). The advantages of a full-sized, 5-inch-barreled, semi-automatic pistol have also changed little in the last 100 years—the longer sight radius, excellent balance in the hand, improved accuracy (with target sights) and reliability. These are qualities that have not only made the 1911 the world standard, but also perpetuated its design into the 21st century. What, you might ask, has this to do with a Walther’s latest 9mm? In the case of the PPQ M2 5-inch, the answer is everything.

RELATED: Walther’s New PPQ M2 Is Born For Duty

I have owned Walthers since the 1970s—P.38s, PPKs and P99s—and every one has been an exceptional firearm. For a 127-year-old company that, for all intents and purposes, invented the DA/SA 9mm pistol and de-cocker, to change from that platform to the PPQ design speaks volumes about Walther’s openness to new ideas, even when those ideas abandon two of the fundamental tenets of designs dating back to the 1930s. However, what the PPQ gives up is equally offset by what it gains. The PPQ M2 is as bold for 2013 as the P99 was in 1996, and the addition of the 5-inch M2 version adds yet another layer to this exceptional new series of Walther semi-auto designs.

GUN REVIEW: Walther PPQ M2 5-Inch | VIDEO

For more information, visit waltherarms.com.

Steyr M40-A1

Futuristic .40-cal delivers unbeatable ergonomics and 12+1 rounds of fight-stopping firepower! 

By Chad Thompson

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to receive and write about a pistol that I had heard about for a while but hadn’t had a chance to handle until this opportunity presented itself. My editor located a Steyr M-A1 pistol chambered in .40 S&W (an M40-A1) and asked me if I was interested in doing a piece on the gun. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, and quick as a wink I had one of Steyr’s fine pistols at my doorstep. One reason I wanted to get my hands on an M-A1 was that it looks really cool. Another was just personal and professional curiosity about Steyr’s take on the polymer-framed pistol craze of the new millennium. Steyr has an exceptional reputation for making long guns, and after handling this pistol, I remain completely satisfied with its polymer pistol line—as represented by the M40-A1.

GUN REVIEW: Steyr Arms M40-A1 .40 Caliber Handgun

As it happened, I had this pistol in my possession considerably longer than is usual with a test gun. I discovered that, for an affordable price, the customer can have an accurate, reliable pistol not only for concealed carry but also for home defense or competitive shooting. The factory trigger is more than acceptable to the buyer right out of the box and can easily be mastered with a minimum amount of practice. If you are looking for an affordable, new-millennium handgun based on a time-proven design, I think you will be pleased with the Steyr M40-A1!

For more information, visit steyrarms.com.

SIG SAUER P320 9mm

Sig’s first striker-fired pistol delivers ergonomics, precision and 17+1 rounds of firepower! 

By David Bahde

My first chance to handle the new striker-fired P320 pistol was at an industry trade show in early 2014. The P320 was comfortable, had a nice trigger and seemed to meet just about every need in a striker-fired pistol. I’ve used most modern striker-fired pistols over the years, and this one had some really nice features. Sig Sauer’s P320 was designed from the ground up with input from law enforcement. Sig pistols have been used in every aspect of law enforcement and the military for years—mostly the P226/P229 and P220 pistols. For those agencies requiring a decocker, these guns remain favorites. However, some agencies wanted a striker-fired pistol, but with Sig’s level of quality. The company listened, and many of the P320’s features are focused on that market.

RELATED: Top 10 Sig Sauer P320 Features

Having tested the P320’s fit, function and application on the range, I can say that it’s a fantastic pistol rivaling any striker-fired, polymer-based pistol on the market. Those not married to previous platforms will have a ton to like here. Its accuracy was excellent, it was 100 percent reliable, and it pointed and handled very well with a standard grip angle. Equipped with excellent night sights, it is well suited to any self-defense or duty use. The trigger is solid with a tactile reset, usable take up and little overtravel. The pistol’s weight is commensurate with full-sized polymer 9mm pistols. I would not hesitate a second to take this to work, and it will serve at my local USPSA match as a production-class pistol.

GUN REVIEW: Sig Sauer P320 9mm First Striker Fired Pistol | VIDEO

For more information, visit sigsauer.com.

PARA EXECUTIVE CARRY

All-business pocket .45 puts full-size 1911 performance deep under cover!

By Dennis Adler

Compromise is something most people who carry concealed are used to, especially if their caliber of choice is .45 ACP. If carrying the big stick is your preference, you either have to compromise on capacity and ease of handling (resulting from a shortened grip frame) or, with a longer barrel and larger grip frame, ease of concealment. Para USA, one of America’s leading custom builders of 1911s for concealed carry use, has found the perfect, pardon the expression, compromise between the two extremes: a full-feature, handcrafted semi-auto that has both the capacity of a full-size 1911 and the shorter barrel and slide length of a micro compact. Priced at $1,399, it is appropriately named the Executive Carry. But for the money, Para delivers a concealed-carry pistol that exceeds every expectation.

GUN REVIEW: All-Business Pocket Para Executive 1911 Carry .45

Over the years, I have carried numerous 1911s, including a full-sized Government Model Colt, an Officer’s Model and a Para Warthog (another 3-inch-barreled model but with a wider, shorter custom grip frame built for a 10-round double-stack magazine). Compared to other 1911s, the Executive Carry provides the perfect balance between barrel length, capacity and ease of use. It offers a comfortable fit in the hand and manageable recoil, superior sighting capability, ease of carry options, 8+1 capacity and Para’s traditional quality fit, finish and reliability. For a .45 ACP intended for concealed-carry use, the Executive Carry is a compromise I can live with.

For more information, visit para-usa.com.

RUGER LCRx

The ultimate hideaway revolver with compact .38 +P stopping power!

By Dave Bahde 

The new LCRx from Ruger retains all of the proven features of the popular LCR, including its polymer, aluminum and steel construction. The trigger is the same, as are the sights. Introduced this year in .38 Spl +P, it is currently available with standard sights. Laser-equipped models are sure to follow. Most importantly, it provides an option for those still requiring an exposed hammer in a proven platform.

GUN REVIEW: Ruger’s Concealed-Carry LCRx .38 Special +P Handgun

Accuracy with this revolver was commensurate with most small revolvers. Honestly, shooting these accurately requires practice and time on the gun, not something you get in a typical test. True experts with these little revolvers are amazing. We had an officer who could outshoot most of the department with his 2-inch, five-shot revolver, but that is rare. While proficient, I am not in that category. My guess is it is capable of better accuracy, but 3 inches at 15 yards is more than it will likely ever need.

RELATED: Top 10 Ruger LCRx Features

The trigger pull is excellent for a small revolver, but it still requires some practice and may not be for everyone. If you already carry a revolver and are accustomed to similar triggers, you will really like this one. It is one of the smoothest triggers I’ve ever used on such a small revolver.

Recoil is stout, as you may expect, and control requires a good grip and some attention. But, when loaded with +P self-defense ammunition, it is plenty usable for self-defense. If you are looking for an incredibly lightweight revolver chambered in a solid caliber, this is a good choice. If you are looking for an exposed hammer, the LCRx is a great choice.

For more information, visit ruger.com.

NIGHTHAWK T4 9mm

Ultra-thin 1911 delivers with covert carry dimensions and 8+1 rounds on tap! 

By Doug Larson

The 1911 design has been around a very long time and continues to be one of the most popular among all handguns currently produced. It just seems to fit most people’s hands and, partially because of the single-action trigger system, is easy to shoot accurately. In contrast to the age of the 1911, Nighthawk Custom of Berryville, Arkansas, is a youngster. But the company is refining the 1911 design in ways that must appeal to many shooters, because demand for its products is strong. And it’s no surprise—the guns are well made.

GUN REVIEW: Ultra-Thin 1911 Concealed Carry Nighthawk T4 9mm

A recent addition to Nighthawk’s catalog is the T4, which is available with a steel or aluminum frame. I received the steel-framed T4 for testing. Yes, it is another 1911, but it’s different in several ways from the .45-caliber, slab-sided companion that many shooters know and love. The T4 is smaller than the standard 1911, and that makes it easier to carry discreetly. The barrel length is only 3.8 inches, which is shorter than the 5-inch standard length or even the 4.25-inch length of a Commander-size gun. But the grip still extends about 2.25 inches below the triggerguard so all three fingers of most users have something to hold onto. That also means the gun’s magazine will hold eight rounds. With one in the chamber, that’s nine rounds before a reload is required. While not as many rounds as a double-stack gun, it is still more than most small pistols hold, and it’s slim, making it less likely to create a bulge under clothing, which can give away the fact that you’re carrying a gun.

For discreet self-defense carry, or for a gun that is just fun to shoot, this one should be on the buyer’s short list.

For more information, visit nighthawkcustom.com.

CYLINDER & SLIDE SUPER LITE

Full-size yet featherweight, this custom 1911 doesn’t shave an ounce of performance! 

By Rob Garrett

Bill Laughridge and his business, Cylinder & Slide, is renowned for its custom work. I recently received a new Cylinder & Slide Super Lite Government Model 1911. The Super Lite is aptly named due to its weight of just 25.5 ounces unloaded! The advertised weight of a standard 1911 is 35 ounces. Doing the math, the Super Lite weighs 27 percent less than a stock Government Model 1911. As Bill put it, the older he gets, the less he likes carrying heavy guns.

GUN REVIEW: Cylinder & Slide Super Lite 1911 .45 ACP Pistol

The Super Lite is a purpose-built pistol that is constructed to fill a specific need. Any time parts are lightened or modified, it can have an adverse impact on the functioning and reliability of the pistol. The lighter the slide, the faster it cycles. This can result in several types of malfunctions as well as accelerated wear on critical components. Fortunately, these are the same issues that Bill had to solve with producing his Adventurer and Pathfinder pistols. As a result, I had no pistol-related issues with the Super Lite. In fact, the only issue I experienced was when the magazine follower started to override the slide stop. This was quickly corrected by switching to a second magazine. The Super Lite is the ultimate 1911 carry pistol and represents ingenuity, skill and precision.

For more information, visit cylinder-slide.com.

WILSON COMBAT HACKATHORN SPECIAL

Ken Hackathorn-designed .45 delivering custom-quality features and standout performance! 

By D. K. Pridgen

Firearms have a way of attaching themselves to certain people, becoming a part of their image—Teddy Roosevelt and the Winchester, Alvin York and his M1917 rifle, Elmer Keith and the Smith & Wesson 29, Jeff Cooper and the 1911 and the Scout Rifle, John Wayne and single-action revolvers, and so on. Many firearm trainers adopted the 1911 as their handgun of choice, with it becoming indelibly connected to their persona. Ken Hackathorn is one such person.

GUN REVIEW: Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special Gives Standout Performance

Few trainers are more knowledgeable about the 1911 than Ken Hackathorn. Perhaps those years of training folks and Ken’s knowledge and affection for the 1911 platform led Wilson Combat to offer a 1911 bearing his name—a 1911 designed with every feature Ken likes and thinks you need on a serious pistol “…and nothing you don’t.”

VIDEO: Test-Firing Wilson Combat’s Hackathorn Special

The Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special is a fighting handgun offering excellent performance and reliability. It would make a perfect concealed carry or duty pistol for those who have mastered the platform. Not only that, the Hackathorn Special is a beautiful example of what custom gunsmiths can produce—flawless workmanship that is a pleasure to see.

Is there a Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special in your future? Do you want a reliable fighting pistol with features specified by a top trainer with 30+ years of experience who has fired uncounted .45 ACP rounds? Do you want a pistol executed as only a top custom shop can? If so, then look no further than the Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special!

For more information, visit wilsoncombat.com.

KIMBER ULTRA RAPTOR II

Carry-ready 1911 swoops into action with fast looks and ultra-accurate .45 firepower!

By Robert Sadowski

The Ultra Raptor II uses Kimber’s compact Ultra 1911 platform that is built with a 3-inch barrel and shorter grip receiver. The Raptor comes out of Kimber’s Custom Shop. The striking metal work is what first catches the eye with the Raptor. It features aggressively textured metal surfaces with looks that can kill. Though the Kimber Custom Shop has given the Raptor line of pistols a distinctly avian appearance, this compact pistol is not just good looking. When needed, the claws (or should I say talons) come out. The lightweight Ultra Raptor II can be called in swiftly, and with .45 ACP force!

GUN REVIEW: Kimber’s Ultra Raptor II is an Ultra-Compact Carry Powerhouse

The frame of this compact 1911 is aluminum. It is light in the hand and easy on the hip when carrying. The grip frontstrap is textured in a scale pattern that affords a good grip. In hand it does not feel toothy and sharp like checkering. It is comfortable, yet it grips. The flat mainspring housing sports traditional checkering. Together, they work well when gripping and look good. The beavertail grip safety protects the hand from hammer bite without being too large. It did not print when I carried it concealed. The speed bump ensures the grip safety is deactivated with even a less-than-perfect grip. A full-size, ambidextrous thumb safety is featured on the Ultra Raptor II, and it works. With either hand I was able to flick the thumb safety on or off quickly.

RELATED: Kimber Micro .380 Series Gets ‘All’ Out of Small

The Ultra Raptor II makes carrying a compact 1911 comforting. In use, this small 1911 was deadly accurate with manageable recoil. Yes, I hold a high opinion of the Ultra Raptor II. I have no doubt that this 1911 can turn the tables for the preyed upon, making him or her a lethal, swift defender.

For more information, visit kimberamerica.com.

SPRINGFIELD 4.0 XD-S .45

This new-breed defender pairs enhanced accuracy with the knockdown .45 ACP firepower!

By Dennis Adler

The XD-S 3.3 .45 ACP put Springfield center stage in the more than half-century-long race to create a semi-auto pocket pistol chambered in .45 ACP. The new 4.0” XD-S .45 ACP extends the slide length to just a fraction under 6.75 inches and the barrel from 3.3 inches to 4 inches. Overall, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but look at the 4.0” XD-S .45 and you can see it and feel it in your hand. The gun balances differently and feels just a tad nose heavy compared to the 3.3 because it weights 2 ounces more with the additional weight out front. But, this falls in the plus column when it comes to shooting .45 ACP.

RELATED: First Look: Springfield Armory XD-S 4.0 .45 ACP | VIDEO

The 4.0” XD-S .45 ACP is certainly a pocket pistol, though with the longer slide it is a bit more challenging to conceal because the entire gun is resting about 1 inch higher in the pocket. It is manageable, but not as easy in, say, a jean pocket as compared to looser-fitting men’s trousers. The 4.0” still has the same XD-S-style short grip frame, dual safeguards with blade trigger and grip safety, lightweight polymer frame construction and an energy-absorbing, dual-recoil spring and plunger design to help reduce muzzle lift.

All tests were fired off-hand using a Weaver stance and a two-hand hold. The target was a standard Speedwell B-27 silhouette. Overall, from 15 yards, the big-caliber XD-S put all its rounds inside the center body mass of the B-27, and that’s what a defensive subcompact handgun is meant to do.

For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.

DIAMONDBACK DB FS NINE

Lightweight, full-sized 9mm bred for fast handling and all-day, on-target performance! 

By David Bahde

Diamondback Firearms has been building compact and subcompact pistols in .380 ACP and 9mm since 2009. Diamondback’s latest pistol, the DB FS Nine, is a full-sized, striker-fired 9mm pistol packing a ton of features at a reasonable price. The grip is contoured with a “beavertail,” keeping things solid and preventing slide bite, especially for those with large hands. The trigger is smooth with a positive reset measuring at 5.5 pounds. Fixed three-dot sights provide for quick target acquisition. Cocking serrations at the front and rear facilitate reloads and positive control no matter the conditions. A full Mil-Std-1913 Picatinny rail allows for use of lights and other accessories. With a 4.75-inch chrome-moly barrel and a 6.25-inch sight radius, it is easy to shoot accurately. The pistol’s double-stack magazines hold 15 rounds and feature a well-contoured magazine base that is easy to insert and remove.

VIDEO: The Double-Action Diamondback DB FS9 9mm Pistol

If you are looking for a solid range pistol, or one to take to a school or local competition, the DB FS Nine is a good gun to consider. It fits well, shoots reliably and holds 15+1 rounds of ammunition. Attaching lights did not seem to affect its operation, and it was fast to reload. Accuracy was fine, about where most factory pistols fall these days. Equipped with all the internal safeties, a drop safety and a loaded-chamber indicator, it fits most requirements. Meloniting the slide and barrel means it should hold up under harsher conditions. With an MSRP of only $483.34, it is well priced. If you are in need of a solid, reliable and simple-to-use pistol that will serve well for self-defense, training or local competition, then make sure you give the FS Nine a hard look.

For more information, visit diamondbackfirearms.com.

M&P BODYGUARD 380

Smith & Wesson’s upgraded .380 ACP is rugged, reliable and ready for everyday carry!

By Denis Prisbrey

If you’re familiar with the first Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380, you know it’s an 11.85-ounce, locked-breech, DAO, polymer-framed semi-auto with a 2.75-inch barrel, a stainless slide under a dark matte black finish, and black steel sights that are drift adjustable for windage.

RELATED: Top 10 Features of Smith & Wesson’s M&P Bodyguard 380

The new variant adds an “M&P” stamping to the left side of the slide, fish scale serrations to both sides at the rear, and drops both the internal laser and its suggested list price of $418 to $379. It has a less blocky snout than the “old” pistol, but retains the left-side takedown lever, slide lock lever and thumb safety (which locks trigger and slide on the frame), along with lightly textured grip sections, a left-side mag release button, an internal hammer, a steel recoil spring guide rod and a substantial-for-its-size external extractor. The M&P Bodyguard ships in a black zippered nylon carry case with two magazines. One magazine uses a finger-extension floorplate to allow for a full two-fingered grip on the stubby frame, while the other limits most hands to slightly under 1.5 fingers. The pistol is very usefully flat, with the grip frame measuring 0.75-inches wide (the slide is even thinner, if but slightly), making it extremely tuckable and unlikely to profile through most pocket types and materials like a larger and thicker snub revolver or compact auto might.

RELATED: Smith & Wesson Model 66 | .357 Magnum Revolver | VIDEO

The new Bodyguard can obviously do what it was built to do. And quite frankly, while the plastic “tiny gun” genre at large does not normally appeal to me, this particular pistol does. For certain applications I’ve made it a regular companion (as in, it’s not going back to S&W). If you have a pocket just waiting to be filled by a compact and reliable defensive piece, you should be able to put the M&P Bodyguard 380 to good use, too.

For more information, visit smith-wesson.com.

ROCK ISLAND TCM STANDARD

Meet the cutting-edge cartridge, and dual-purpose 1911, that’s taking  .22 performance to new heights! 

By Jeremy D. Clough

Although Armscor (the parent company of Rock Island Armory) has been manufacturing firearms for some 60 years, it managed a truly rare feat in 2011—it brought to market something new on the M1911 platform. Packaged in a high-capacity semi-auto, the company’s bottleneck .22 TCM cartridge shoehorned 2,000+ feet per second (fps) performance inside the envelope of a traditional handgun that held 17+1 of the soft-shooting, fast-moving bullets.

RELATED: Rock Island’s TCM 22 Series Hits 2,000 FPS | VIDEO

Unfortunately, ammunition availability has been the downfall of many a fascinating pistol—the short-lived .41 AE for example—and that makes buying a pistol in a new caliber something of a risk. Who knows if you’ll be able to find ammo for it in 10 years? Take also the .224 Boz, which was very similar conceptually to the .22 TCM, but basically just never made it to market in the civilian world in any quantity at all. Cleverly anticipating this, when Rock Island released its high-capacity .22 TCM, it made the decision that it would come standard with two barrels, one in .22 TCM and one in the ubiquitous 9mm.

With the .22 TCM, Rock Island Armory has created an entirely new paradigm for the iconic M1911—high velocity, high capacity and low recoil—and done it in a package with exceptional performance. They’ve also done it at an impressively low price, and the M1911 snob in me wants to say this gun has no right to be this good at this price. The rest of me is just glad that it is.

For more information, visit rockislandarmory.com.

MASTERPIECE MPAR556

Versatile, piston-driven mega-gun delivers a 30+1 5.56mm licking—and keeps ticking!

By Doug Larson

If you want to attract attention, take the new MPAR556 Pistol from Masterpiece Arms to the range. Some people will be curious about how well the gun shoots and others will automatically want one because it’s different. Some may ask if it is an AR pistol. But the MPAR556 isn’t really an AR pistol. Of course it’s chambered in the most popular AR pistol cartridge, the .223 Remington round, and it’s about the same size except that it lacks the receiver extension tube—it’s not needed with this innovative design. It also has an 11-inch barrel, which is very common, an A2-style flash suppressor, an A2 pistol grip and an upper and lower receiver that resemble those of an AR. It also uses AR magazines.

RELATED: Masterpiece Arms’ MPAR556: An Inexpensive, Well Built 5.56mm NATO

At the same time, the MPAR556 Pistol differs in significant ways from an AR. Most significantly it is a piston gun, not a direct gas-impingement design. That has some distinct benefits over a direct-gas gun, although some will argue about that. Because hot gasses are not introduced directly into the receiver, as is the case with a piston gun, the bolt carrier group remains cooler and cleaner, which extends the time between cleanings and parts replacement.

To test the gun for accuracy, I mounted an EOTech XPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight and fired the gun off a pistol rest from the prescribed distance of 25 yards. Accuracy, as one might expect from an 11-inch-barreled pistol, was good, with groups averaging about an inch or less.

For more information, visit masterpiecearms.com.

Miss something? Click here to go back to page 1 of our list!

Want more? Check out our other gun lists:

Up Next

TRU-SPEC Releases Two New MultiCam Patterns

The MultiCam Tropic and MultiCam Arid patterns from TRU-SPEC were designed to reduce visibility in...