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Archive for February, 2008

Taurus Model 66 Revolver

Posted by Gunner on February 25, 2008

Taurus Model 66 .357 Magnum

   If like many shooters you’ve noticed the increase in not only ammunition prices but in the price of all guns you may be looking for a less expensive alternative. This Taurus Model 66 may well be a good alternative for many of you. This is the Model 66 .357 magnum. The frame size is the same as the S&W model 686 and like one variation of the 686 is a seven shot revolver. The speedloaders for the 686 also fit the model 66 Taurus. This revolver was slightly used and was purchased for $270. The previous owner fired only 14 rounds so I would realistically consider it new. The sights are of the Millet type rear with a standard ramp front sight. The way the top strap is constructed is almost identical to the Colt Python in shape. I would say this is for the purpose of added strength. The trigger is slightly wider than the usual variety and has a smooth surface that is curved for a more comfortable feel.


Model: 66B6
Caliber: .357 MAG
Capacity: 7
Barrel Length: 6″
Action: DA/SA
Finish: Blue
Grips: Rubber
Weight: 40 oz
Construction: Steel
Frame: Medium
Front Sight: Fixed
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Trigger Type: Smooth
Length: 12-1/4″
Width: 1.496″
Height: 5.68″
Rate of Twist: 1:16″
Grooves: 5
Safety: Transfer Bar

   At 40 ounces this is no lightweight by any means. However this would make an excellent weapon for home defense as well as hunting. If I were to consider this revolver for home defense I would most likely add laser grips. As far as concealment is concerned unless you are 6 feet 5 your only choice is the use of a vertical shoulder holster. I have tried concealing this big boy in a shoulder holster a good friend gave me and honestly it works fairly well under a jacket that doesn’t fit to snug. Of course drawing a six inch revolver in a hurry takes considerable practice. It certainly is an intimidating weapon. The most important question is this a reasonable choice for a concealed carry gun? No not really. Can it be done of course but I would certainly prefer a good 1911 or the H&K USP compact as far as the guns I own. If a revolver is the way you like to go for a concealed carry gun then a previously reviewed revolver like the 3 inch barreled S&W model 64 or 65 would be ideal.

  When comparing the Taurus to the S&W action the transfer bar is the most obvious difference. When you remove the side plate and compare the internals there is very little difference between the two. The way the trigger operates as well as the method the cylinder rotation operates is also almost identical. It does use a coil spring rather than a leaf spring as S&W does. It actually seems to be a blending of S&W with a little Ruger built in. The action is a sturdy build. The rest of the gun is also well made and has a very good cylinder lockup. The trigger feels more like a Colt in that you need to pull the trigger straight through rather than being able to partially pull the trigger like a S&W. The trigger pull in double action is nice and smooth as is the single action. Previous Taurus revolvers were really nothing to get excited about. The quality and design features have undergone significant improvement in recent years. The best example is the Taurus 1911 which has also been reviewed on the blog. I have to give Taurus credit they are making a quality product throughout the line. Where you used to see very few Taurus guns in dealers cases that has changed. Most every dealer you visit now has a pretty good selection of Taurus guns both revolver and 1911’s. The snub nose revolvers seem to be the most popular after the 1911. I know many people think that Taurus guns are just cheap copies of S&W’s. At one time this may have been true but no longer. You really do get your moneys worth with these guns.  Are Taurus guns as good as S&W’s. Not really but it doesn’t mean they are inferior just different. They also have a lifetime warranty. Is customer service up to par with some other companies? Well from what I’ve heard no it’s not. Time to have a repair done seems to be the biggest complaint. Personally I have never been big on warranty coverage. When you get right down to it most problems you encounter are rare and fairly simple to remedy.

   Shooting the Taurus is pleasant even with some pretty hot loads. The grips that come standard on this model soak up recoil well. Also the full lug barrel adds enough weight to dampen recoil and allow for less muzzle rise getting you back on target quickly. I normally shoot most of my handguns from about ten yards when doing a review but with this particular gun with the six inch barrel I started at 15 yards and moved back to 30 yards then finally 50 yards. From 15 yards it was almost effortless to keep seven rounds into one hole of about 1 1/4 inch. Moving back to 30 yards I fired four cylinders and maintained a group of 3 inches with one called flyer. All rounds were fired from the 30 yard line single action. I did have to adjust the sights a bit from the factory setting at 30 yards .I moved back for my last round of shots to the 50 yard line. After firing another four cylinders I managed to keep all my shots within the 5 inch target. All in all I found this revolver to be pretty accurate with a good trigger and an overall very good value. Anyone in the market for a good target revolver to shoot at extended distances or for hunting use would do well to consider this Taurus. It’s always fun to test your skills with a revolver at distance!

Hammer Lock Shown Two Sets Of Keys Provided


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The Original Mini 1911 The Detonics Combat Master

Posted by Gunner on February 25, 2008

Photo’s Courtesy of Ken Lunde

   The Detonics Combat Master has a had a very interesting history. I’d like to present some history of this pistol before getting on to shooting and handling characteristics. Courtesy of “The Sight 1911”

   The Detonics Story
Material gathered by Rick Brenemen

The Detonics Combat Master was the first really small and compact 1911-pattern pistol to be produced in significant numbers. Law enforcement fell in love with it immediately due to its diminutive size and quality. It received “star quality” when Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice was seen carrying one in a leg holster in the show. Far more important than the media exposure was the revolutionary reliability work done inside the pistol. The Detonics introduced the bulged barrel end so that the pistol did not require a bushing. It also incorporated double and triple recoil springs. It was the first production 1911-pattern which was throated and ramped for hollowpoints. The high price and limited market for the pistol doomed the company. Those fortunate enough to own a Detonics pistol treasure them.

The Gun

“The concept of the original Detonics was simply a stainless single action pistol. The big guns came after the little gun. Detonics was actually started with the Combat Master. Before Detonics, mini-pistols were all built by hand; they were cut-down Colts. The driving force behind the original company was to build a small, manufacturable production .45 ACP pistol and that was Sid Woodcock’s baby. He was the daddy of the Combat Master. He came up with that idea sitting around on a beach with Chuck Lyford somewhere down in South America in the mid ‘70’s. So Chuck introduced Sid to some money people in Seattle, and Detonics was started.”

Robbie Barrkman, 1991

“(Woodcock) got together with some friends and set about to improve the basic Colt/Browning design in such a manner that a gun could be mass-produced with not only the classic custom modifications already in place, but of a reduced size for easier concealment and reengineered to be more reliable and easily managed than the original. The firm that grew out of this attempt to make good better was Detonics (.45 Associates) of Seattle, Washington. Detonics originally offered a blued, ordnance steel Colt/Browning-style .45 of about the same size as a Walther PP. The gun featured a beveled magazine well, hammers of various peculiar shapes, a pre-pinned grip safety, a butt shortened to handle a six-round magazine rather than a seven (which could still accept full-size magazines as spares), a slide and barrel length much shorter than Colt’s Commander and slicked-up internal parts which allowed the gun to handle hollowpoints and hardball with equal aplomb. The barrel was bulged at the muzzle to facilitate the bushingless design, self-centering to mate with the slide. The (Colt) standard single recoil spring was replaced by a recoil spring guide with (two, and later three) separate counter-wound recoil springs. The six-round magazine featured a loaded magazine indicator. This was advertising hype to compensate for necessity. To give full support for a six-round capacity in so small a magazine, it was necessary that with the gun fully loaded a thumbnail-sized piece would protrude from the rear of the magazine base plate, to disappear again once the magazine went one round lighter. The first of these guns used cut-down Colt parts. The little guns caught on. Soon, various models were offered – adjustable sights, .38 Super and 9mm, etc. Then Detonics did something really radical. Detonics began to offer the little gun – by now known as the Combat Master – in stainless steel.”

Jerry Ahern, Petersen’s Handguns, 7/90

“The Detonics pistol, now in limited production and geared for full production the first of the year (1975) at Detonics .45 Associates, Seattle, is a short, compact, all-steel, single-action, single-column variation of the Browning/Colt of 1911. Various parts (slide-stop and thumb-safety assembly, magazine release, trigger, sear, disconnector, etc.) are interchangeable. While the butt is too short to include the standard seven-shot Colt magazine, such magazines are entirely functional and might be preferably carried as spares. The little gun is 6 ¾” long by 4 5/8″ inches deep, and its width is exactly that of the service auto. The . . . rear sight is set oddly forward, reducing the sight radius to a bare 4 inches. Admitting that this is no target pistol, it does seem odd to deliberately aggravate what is already a drawback. The Detonics pistol is a strong, simple, rather heavy – due to its all-steel construction – example of the type, with the distinct virtue of utilizing many standard Colt parts and employing neither exotic nor untried mechanical systems. Standard price $399.”

Jeff Cooper, Guns & Ammo, 12/74

“This remarkable pistol is the smallest, lowest recoil single action .45 caliber semi-automatic in the world. The Detonics .45 is a premium quality professional tool for the serious handgun expert and combat shooter. It is capable of providing the brute force stopping power of the standard-sized .45 in a size no larger than a snub-nosed .38, or “pocket” 9mm auto. The Detonics .45 has an advanced mechanism which reduces the apparent recoil remarkably below the full-sized .45. This awesomely powerful pistol is smaller, more easily concealed, and has greater short/medium range rapid fire accuracy than any single action .45 weapon available today. This masterpiece of combat design is gaining recognition as the finest defensive handgun in the world today.”

Detonics .45 Instruction Manual, 4/80

“The carbon steel production guns start at (serial) number 2000. The first 1999 numbers have been set aside for presentation and commemorative models. So, to determine the true production number of your pistol, subtract 2000 from your serial number. Stainless steel production numbers start at number 10,000.”

Detonics Instruction Manual

“Although there are six different models available to the general buying public, a Detonics is a Detonics is a Detonics. Only finish, type of material used and adjustable rear sight differentiate one model from another. The plain-Jane entrant is the Combat Master Mark I, attired in a matte blue finish, fixed sights, with a retail price of $369 (1980). Stepping up a notch, the Mark II is a fixed-sight model dressed in a satin nickel finish with a price tag of $390. The Mark III is handsome in its hard chrome appearance with fixed sights and sells for $488. Variation number IV is resplendent in a mirror-bright blue finish and adjustable rear sight, and $499 will allow the buyer to take one home. The Mark V is a brushed-finish, stainless steel model with fixed sights and will sell for $498 ($626, 1983). And, finally, the top-of-the-line model is the Presentation-grade, Professional Mark VI which boosts the price to $575 ($635, 1983)[There was eventually also a sightless Mark VII, also $635 in 1983].”

Art Blatt, Guns & Ammo, 5/80

“The original Detonics pistol, a modified and much smaller version of the Colt Model 1911, made it initial appearance in 1977. Billed as the world’s smallest single-action autoloader chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, the Detonics Mark I was an instant hit with law enforcement officers. Not content with their original little .45 ACP powerhouse, the Detonics people went back to the drawing board and created a new cartridge that is a real blaster. The .451 Detonics Magnum is virtually identical in (external) dimensions to the .45 ACP, except for case length. The .451 Detonics is only some .050″ longer, but the added capacity is enough to allow considerably heavier powder charges to be used without exceeding safe pressure limits. According to the loading manual, four different propellants will produce velocities exceeding 1,300 feet per second from a 185-grain bullet. The Detonics manual specifically states that seating depth is critical. Overall cartridge length must lie between 1.220 and 1.235 inches, using bullets no longer than .558 inch. Average velocity for all four loads was 1,188fps vs. an average of 1,284 for velocities given in the manual. Since we did not use maximum loads, it may be assumed that velocities in the neighborhood of 1,300fps would be possible with careful load development. If a velocity in excess of 1,300fps is truly attainable with a 185-grain slug, the .451 Detonics would produce a muzzle energy of more than 700 foot pounds – a remarkable improvement of raw power over a factory-loaded .45 ACP. The base price of the pistol is $754 (1984).”

Ralph Glaze, Guns & Ammo, 2/84


Corporate Travail

“Detonics, specialists in stainless-steel for going on two decades, changed hands. An agreement was reached in early December ’86 between Diane McCarthy, Detonics’ General Manager, Ed “Tim” Lasater, Sales Manager and Energy Sciences Corp., for McCarthy and Lasater to take over the complete business, including all the Detonics handguns. McCarthy retains her title, while Lasater becomes President and CEO.”

Combat Handguns, 6/87

“The original Bellevue, Washington company ultimately floundered, and a group of investors led by Lyford bought Detonics assets out of bankruptcy. Lyford knew Robbie (Barrkman) from the latter’s tenure at Gunsite, and contacted him about getting involved with the new company.”

Waldo Lydecker, Guns Magazine, 8/91

“I said, ‘Well, you guys aren’t doing very much. What are you looking for? What are you trying to do? I really didn’t think it would work out, but promised to give it 100 per cent. They agreed, and in July of 1989 New Detonics was in business in Phoenix.

Robbie Barrkman, 1991

Detonics’ line of guns expanded from the Combat Master to include the Commander-sized Servicemaster, Government-sized Scoremaster, and the compensated, race-gun style Compmaster. I don’t really know how or why the company finally failed. All of the reviews of Detonics guns, as late as 1991 were positively glowing. They were VERY expensive. The Combat Master cost $400 when a Colt Commander cost $250. The top-of-the-line Compmaster target pistol, similar to the various custom “pin guns”, was over $1600 in 1991!

  From this point in Detonics history the company once again was closed. Detonics was resurrected again when Jerry Ahern purchased the company and assumed control of the company as CEO. It was renamed Detonics USA and remained in business until 2007 when the company was again sold. The current owners have relocated operations to Milstadt,IL. The press release concerning the new owners may be viewed on Michael Blane’s blog

  My history with the Detonics Combat Master:

    My interest in the Combat Master started from of all things reading Jerry Aherns popular novel series “The Survivalist”. I kept reading about this hero in his books that carried two Detonics Combat Masters. I had read a couple of reviews in gun magazines about this pistol so my curiosity got the better of me. It took a month just to find one and almost chocked when I found out what the price was. In 1983 these pistols were selling for right at $500 which in 1983 dollars was about equal to $1500 or so today if not more. I was finally able to acquire one for a fairly reasonable price. At that time the Sunday Arkansas Democrat ran gun ads which covered almost two pages usually. Ah the good old days:-) I found a used blue steel version which was one of the very early ones from the mid 1970’s. In 1982 I finally found a stainless version which was a Mark IV.
   These guns had some very uniques features which you can discern from reading the history of these guns. I had no problem with the lack of a grip safety since John Brownings original design didn’t have one until the military insisted on it. One thing that I didn’t care for or understand was the rear sight being set so far forward and the top rear of the slide having a cutout. The intent was the designers never intended for this pistol to be carried in condition one or cocked and locked. What you were supposed to do was to draw and use the thumb of the left hand to cock the hammer as you came up on target. Certainly not an idea I would advise never the less that was the intention of the designers. The pistol was also breaking ground in recoil control by incorporating two then three springs in the guide rod. Recoil was surprisingly comfortable for such a small pistol.Of course the 32 oz weight didn’t hurt either. This was also one of the first if not the first to use stainless steel construction. The problem with stainless steels of the time was called gawling or friction between slide and frame. By using two slightly different types of stainless that problem was resolved.
   On to shooting. You would be very surprised at the accuracy of such a short sight radius pistol. At 4 inches that’s a very short sight radius. For the intended purpose it works like a charm. Out to 15 yards you can achieve groups of two inches which for a short range defensive pistol is very good indeed. At distances that most shootings take place (7yards or so) this little pistol points very well and is reliable in the extreme. It’s also very controllable with the addition of the third recoil spring. Recoil I found was about like shooting a 9mm with a +p or +p+ load. As far as holding this little gem you do have to wrap your little finger under the grip.
  As always we shooters tend to do a lot of trading and I’m no exception. These are two guns I wish I had kept. In closing if you ever get a chance to pick one of these up at a reasonable price it’s a good investment. Since many of the parts are interchangeable with standard 1911 parts repair should be of no concern. The only part that one should buy a couple of extras would be the recoil guide and extra springs. I hope you’ve enjoyed the review of the history behind this groundbreaking design.




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Rock Island Armory M1911A1 By Syd "The Sight 1911″

Posted by Gunner on February 11, 2008



I was determined not to like this gun – Colt/Kimber/Springfield snobbery at work, I guess. I went at it with the intention of finding fault. At the same time, I love M1911A1’s, and precious few gun makers are building true M1911A1’s these days. They may look like them on the outside, but inside, they’re polluted with a bunch of lawyer-friendly, California suck-up perversions of the design, like Swartz safety firing pin blocks, external extractors, integrated locking systems and other “answers in search of a question” devices that degrade the trigger and add unnecessary complexity to the design. Personally, I really like the M1911A1 design, which is sometimes referred to as the “Series 70” format (even though “Series 70” and “M1911A1” are really two different pistols). People use “Series 70” to mean 1911’s that don’t have firing pin blocks (or in Kimber parlance, Series 1). (Go here to get a complete description of the Series 70 Colt.) Kimber had taken to adding these “improvements” with an external extractor and a Swartz-type firing pin block, but the Marines rang their bells when they ordered a batch of 1911’s from Kimber, but specified that they should have no firing pin blocks or full length guide rods, and they should have internal extractors – in other words, they should be real M1911’s and not the lawyer friendly crap that has developed recently.  So, even though my Colt/Kimber/Springfield snobbery was blazing bright, there was some serious sympathy for an outfit that is still willing to build a true M1911A1, and RIA (actually Armscor of the Philippines through their subsidiary, Twin Pines) is doing that.

The RIA guns are being sold at extremely attractive prices. The “M1911A1” is selling for about $350-$370 and that price point is generating a lot of interest, especially when guns like the Springfield Mil-Spec are commanding $560 and most Kimber and Colt models are going for $800+.

There are some ways that the RIA M1911A1 is not a true M1911A1. The most obvious is that it has a flat mainspring housing. The G.I. M1911A1 has a curved mainspring housing. Contemporary 1911 shooters seem to prefer the flat mainspring housing which was characteristic of the older M1911 over the curved housing of the WW II era guns. The RIA pistol, like most modern production 1911’s, has a lowered ejection port with the scallop relief to the rear which is a good idea for reliability, but is not characteristic of the G.I. gun. It has a beveled magazine well and a somewhat enlarged thumb safety flange – again, modern modifications that make sense, but which were not found on the G.I. gun. It also has smooth wood grips rather than checkered bakelite. The RIA is like the M1911A1 in that it is parkerized, has the short trigger of the M1911A1, has authentic sights, short guide rod and spring plug, no firing pin block, and a mil-spec trigger of about 5.5-6 lbs.

   First Test
It shot really well close. At seven yards I got a ragged hole. At 25 yards I got a pattern the size of a cantaloupe 8″ low at 8 o’clock. (By way of comparison, I shoot a baseball-sized pattern at point of aim at 25 yards with the SA XD 9mm at this same range under similar lighting conditions). It could have been my eyes and those tiny sights in the indoor range. I’m not ready to blame that totally on the gun yet. Probably a bit more testing is in order. I did the “magazine from hell” test (running every weird old magazine in my collection through it for reliability testing) and it only had one problem – a no-name Chinese knock-off magazine failed to lock back on the last round. There were no failures to feed (FTF). I did nothing to prep this gun for the test. I just took it out of the box, wiped the packing oil off of the outside and fired it – no lube, cleaning or “fluff & buff.” The only real problem was that I got some bitchin’ hammer bite. I don’t usually get hammer bite with M1911A1’s but this one sure did. When I got home, there was blood on the hammer flange and beavertail. All in all, it was a pretty decent performance for a $350 pistol. It was better than I expected it to be.

Second Test
Without cleaning it, I took it to a training session. For this session the RIA performed in the second gun role, with the trusty Combat Commander as the primary. I shot about half of the session with it, around 50 rounds or so. Again, the RIA performed flawlessly; again there was bitchin’ hammer bite.

   Third Test
I remembered to grind off the sharp end of the hammer this time, but aside from a bit of wipe off when I took the hammer out of the gun, I still had not cleaned or lubed it. This session was at an indoor range and I ran 100 rounds of Winchester White Box through the gun. Again, it performed without a single bobble or hiccough. That made approximately 250 rounds of hardball through a new gun, without any cleaning or maintenance. All ammo was Winchester “White Box.” I have to admit that I’m warming up to the gun at this point.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and you would expect that certain corners might be cut in order to keep the pistol in the $350 range when most other M1911’s are bringing $800 and up. If you want to find nits to pick, you can. The sights are very authentic narrow blade sights like those used on the G.I. guns. In the dim light of the indoor range, they were hard to pick up. The smooth wood grips strike me as a little chintzy. Like many guns these days, the RIA has a number of MIM (metal injection molding) parts. If you look at the MIM parts with a 10x loupe, you will notice tiny surface imperfections like pits that appear to be the result of not quite enough polishing after the part came out of the mold. Also, a gun billed as an “M1911A1” should have an arched mainspring housing rather than a flat one. There seems to be a collective decision in the 1911 universe that we all prefer flat mainspring housings over arched ones. It really depends on an individual’s hand shape and geometry. Flat MSH’s aren’t perfect for everyone. The slide and frame are castings rather than bar-stock milling. I know for a lot of folks this is a negative, but you have to keep reminding yourself, “$350.” Last, if you look at a real government issue M1911A1, you will notice that the finish is dark gray with green and brownish tints. Like most “mil-spec” 1911 clones, the parkerization on the Rock Island Armory gun is black. Personally I like the black, but it’s not completely authentic.

What’s to Like?
Well, there’s price, price and did I mention price? For the money, I think this gun is an excellent value. The Rock Island Armory M1911A1 would be an excellent “first gun” for someone who wants to try out the M1911 platform without over-committing resources. Based on my testing so far, it has the reliability and accuracy to serve in the personal defense role. It might be able to go places with you where you wouldn’t want to take the “safe queens.” And, by the way, I still haven’t cleaned and lubed it, and it’s still running fine.

These gorgeous grips are from
Photo courtesy of MCPO a member of m1911 forum

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AKM Contributed Review from Syd at "The Sight 1911″

Posted by Gunner on February 6, 2008

Me and My Kalashnikov
By Syd

Well, it’s not a true AK-47. A true AK-47 is a selective fire assault rifle. My rifle is an SAR-1, basically an AK-47 pattern built in Romania which can only fire semi-automatic, not full auto like a machine gun. I’m sure that the fun-loving folks at VPC would call it an “assault weapon” but there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” unless, of course, you mean any object that could be used to assault another human being, so anything could be called an “assault weapon.” The SAR-1 is a military rifle design with a pistol grip and it will accept 10, 20, 30, and 40 round magazines.


Critique of the SAR-1

The SAR-1 is a Romanian offering, produced by ROMAK S.A. and then shipped to Century Arms to have the obligatory American parts installed so it won�t be an “imported assault rifle.” In the case of the SAR-1, those parts are the trigger group, the bolt carrier and the pistol grip.

As one owner said, “The SAR won�t win any beauty contests.” These guns tend to be assembled solidly, but cosmetics are a low priority. Many new owners of SAR�s immediately strip the varnish from the wood and do finish work like painting them with MetalKote. I didn�t feel it necessary to do those things although I might on another rifle. What I did was to buff the varnish on the furniture with a fine steel wool pad to smooth out the teeth and roughness of the wood finish. I then used Kleen-Bore Black Magic blue to touch up the parkerized metal of the receiver. I also did a bit of stoning on metal edges like the charging handle and trigger guard to smooth out little sharps. I did similar smoothing on the magazines.

One thing you will notice about these rifles is things are not always perfectly straight. On mine, the front sight post is canted ever so slightly to the left. The windage adjustment compensates for this fine, so the rifle shoots beautifully to point of aim. The furniture on my gas tube is canted slightly to the left � the gas tub itself is on straight (something a new buyer should check when purchasing one of these) � but the furniture is ever so slightly canted to the left. (Hmmm… leftward bias on a Soviet battle rifle � who would have thunk it?) For the most part, these are cosmetic issues and in no way do they affect the function of the rifle, although a seriously crooked gas tube could cause problems.

AK pattern rifles do not have a “slide stop” so the bolt does not lock open after the last round. This bugs me because it�s the only autoloader I have that has this behavior. Since the AK was essentially designed as a sub machine gun, I guess the thinking was that when it quits going “bang” it�s time to reload. Simplicity and economy of design is great, but I still wish the bolt would lock back when it�s empty.

After the first time I shot the SAR-1, I took it to a gunsmith to have him relieve the disconnector to reduce trigger slap and I also asked him to polish the sear surfaces to smooth the trigger. It took him three weeks to do the job, but he did nice work. I can’t tell that the disconnector relief did a whole lot, but my finger wasn’t hurting after 50 rounds the way it did the first time I shot it prior to the gunsmith work. The sear polish helped more. At 30 yards I was able to shoot a three inch group offhand easily with a number of the shots forming a ragged hole at the point of aim. This was with the Russian Wolf 122g FMJ ammo.

The Kalashnikov is not a sniper rifle. I see guys bragging about getting 1″ groups at 100 yards. Unless they are using scopes and sand bags, I kind of doubt it. Offhand with iron sights at 50 yards, I can hold them in a 3″ group. If you�re the kind who gets a charge out of shooting quarters at 300 meters, this is not the rifle for you.

The Gestalt of the Kalashnikov

The AK-47 is the ultimate “ugly gun.” The very sight of it evokes memories of Viet Cong soldiers, terrorists and revolutionaries. Wherever the shit has hit the fan, the AK-47 has been there. It’s cheap to build, effective and reliable. You can buy two AK-style rifles for the price of one AR-15, and many consider the AK to be more reliable and effective than the AR-15. Those sorts of comparisons are the subject of endless debate. My own opinion is that the AR-15 is better at longer range and against body armor whereas the AK is more reliable and launches a cartridge which is more effective inside of 200 yards.

The AK-47 is one of the world’s legendary battle rifles. There have been more AK-47’s produced than any other single firearm design. Its design was hammered out in the desperate forge of World War II. It was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1947 but didn’t actually go into service until 1949.

What are the lessons of war reflected in the Kalashnikov rifle? It is easy, fast, and inexpensive to produce. It doesn’t require a Swiss watchmaker to assemble it. Its assembly requires no hand fitting so the parts are interchangeable for easy repair in the field, although such repair is seldom needed.

The AK-47 is reliable. It is not sensitive to dirt and neglect. The safety and bolt close to prevent dirt and debris from entering the mechanism of the rifle. Even with significant amounts of crud and powder residue built up in the receiver, the gun will continue to fire flawlessly. Kalashnikov rifles chambered in the original 1943 cartridge, the 7.62mm x 39mm, run right new out of the box and just keep on running. Mine has never choked on ammo or failed to ignite a round.

The rifle is designed for fast, close quarter combat. It is short and is easy to handle and turn quickly. It has a pistol grip which makes firing from the hip easier, and it can be fired one-handed if you have the strength in your arms. The gas piston operation greatly softens the recoil, making the rifle easier to control for fast strings or full auto fire.


A common comparison is made between the 7.62mm x 39mm and the Winchester 30-30 cartridges, so let�s look at that.

170g Federal 30-30 vs. Type 1943 122g 7.62mm x 39mm FMJ:

  • Slightly higher muzzle velocity for the 7.62, 2350 fps vs. 2200 fps of the 30-30.
  • Trajectory at 200 yards: 5.12 inches for the 7.62 vs. 8.3 inches for the 30-30.
  • Slightly better energy delivery for the 30-30, 990 fp vs. 846 fp for the 7.62 at 200 yards (but this is with a bullet that is 40% larger).

In other words, the cartridges are pretty doggoned close. The 7.62 has better range and the 30-30 hits a little harder. There is, of course, no armor-piercing incendiary available for the 30-30.

From the tactical point of view, the AK has 20, 30 and 40 round magazines, does not require cocking between shots, reloads faster, and has better penetration of body armor less than Class III. Since it is a gas operated autoloader, its recoil is significantly less than the lever gun, making follow-up shots quicker. If you fire a 30-30 with it’s steel butt plate against your shoulder without some sort of padding, it will hurt you (unless you have a lot of muscle or fat mass on your shoulder that I don�t have). With the AK, you’d have to fire 100 rounds or more before you’d start to get tender. The AK is faster, more fun and less punishing. If it was a matter of 1 shot inside of a 150 yards, I’d take the 30-30. It hits harder and is more accurate. I am considerably more accurate with a Winchester Model 94 than I am with a Kalashnikov. If I had to engage multiple targets within 200 yards, I would prefer the AK.

But most important: Box of 20 30-30 shells – $10; box of 20 7.62 x 39 – $1.80.

Also, there is nothing as sublimely politically incorrect as teaching your 15-year-old the manual of arms on your gun show AK-47.

Some history on the SAR-1 and the AK-47

“Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov was born in 1919 to a peasant family in the village of Kurya, Altay region (southwest Siberia). He entered a primary school in 1926, but was forced to leave his village when pursued by authorities for possessing a revolver he had picked up from a civil war battlefield.

Young Mikhail went to Alma-Ata, where he later found employment as a technical secretary in one of the departments of the Turkestan-Siberian Railroad. Kalashnikov was drafted into the Red Army in 1938, and then sent to a school for tank driver- mechanics. Here he distinguished himself in the design of an instrument for monitoring tank engine hours, and in 1939 went to Leningrad to participate in the production of the device. When the Great Patriotic War began in June 1941, Senior Sergeant Kalashnikov found himself commanding a tank at the front. Seriously wounded in combat around Bryansk in October 1941, Kalashnikov was evacuated to the deep rear for recovery. While on a six-month convalescent leave, he returned to Alma-Ata, where he found a position in a weapon production facility run by the Moscow Aviation Institute. Here he began a career in small arms design and production that would last more than a half century.

In 1946, while working at the Kovrov Weapons Plant (about 250 kilometers east of Moscow), Kalashnikov began work on the weapon that would carry his name around the world � the AK-47. This 7.62 x 39mm assault rifle was accepted as the standard rifle for the Soviet Army in 1949, and retained that status until it was succeeded by the modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle (AKM) in 1959.

Kalashnikov and his design team would eventually design and produce an entire family of automatic weapons based on the AK-47 assault rifle design: the AKM and AKMS assault rifle, the RPK and RPKS machine gun, the PK and PKS machine gun, the PKT tank machine gun, and the PKB machine gun for the armored transporter. 

The AKM bears a strong mechanical and cosmetic resemblance to its forebear, the AK-47. Design differences include a retarder in the trigger mechanism that moderates the weapon�s rate of fire; improvements to the bolt-locking system that contribute to better horizontal stability and thus accuracy; a 1000-meter rear sight leaf instead of the 800-ineter leaf on the AK-47; stamped receiver, receiver cover, and other parts; plastic magazines and pistol grip; muzzle compensator; and a bayonet-knife in place of a plain bayonet. Cosmetic differences include a slightly larger fore end, laminated wood stock and fore end, and parkerized bolt and bolt carrier on the AKM. A loaded AKM is approximately 1.5 lb. lighter than a loaded AK-47.

Variants on the AKM design have been produced in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and North Korea. Total world-wide production of the AK-47 and AKM and their foreign variants is estimated at between 30 and 50 million, making the Kalashnikov assault rifle the most widely produced rifle in the world.

Kalashnikov has received numerous prestigious awards for his life-long labor in the design bureaus and factories of the Soviet defense establishment: Hero of Socialist Labor (two awards), the Lenin and State prizes, three Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, Order of Labor Red Banner, Order of Friendship of Peoples, Order of the Red Star, and other lesser medals. He has an earned doctorate in technical sciences, and on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1994 was promoted to major general (reserve).”

Source: The Official Soviet AKM Manual translated by Maj. James F. Gebhardt, U.S. Army

“The SAR-1’s arrived in the US the first part of 1999, around February, if I am not mistaken. Around the mid part of 1999, the SAR-2 (AK chambered for 5.45mm x 39) arrived, and the latter part of 1999, the SAR-3 (AK chambered for .223 Remington) made it’s debut. The 1999 SAR’s had some minor, easily corrected problems. Soft hammers, canted sight towers and gas blocks, all of which Century would gladly repair for free, all you need do is call and get a return authorization. The SAR-3’s also had problems with out-of-spec hammers, these too were corrected in the 2000 series and any 1999 version with an off-hammer they will also replace for free. I consider 1999 to be the golden age for AK owners. This was the year the US factories started cranking out very high quality AK’s and good reliable basic AK’s. Ammo was cheap. Magazines were plentiful and relatively inexpensive and super quality. 2000 was likewise a very good year for us. Still, it’s only a matter of time before the companies bring over Bulgarian and Romanian technicians to set up barrel and receiver production lines here. I believe it will be a year or so before the dawn of the silver age for AK enthusiasts.” 


The official Soviet Army AKM manual defines the intent and purpose of the rifle succinctly: “The 7.62 modernized Kalashnikov rifle is an individual weapon intended for the destruction of enemy personnel.” No mamby-pamby equivocation there. The Kalashnikov rifle is a fighting gun. It wasn’t built for duck hunting. There are a lot of folks including one former president who question why a civilian “needs” to own a battle rifle of any sort. That same previously mentioned president, who thankfully no longer occupies that office, even went so far as to issue an executive order banning the importation of foreign-built “assault rifles” (really any “ugly gun” since there are actually very few true assault rifles imported into the US and the so-called “assault rifle” ban has been extended to include semi-automatic rifles which aren�t “assault rifles” at all because they are not selective fire or full auto), as if reducing the supply of Kalashnikovs and FAL’s would reduce crime or make America a safer place to be by forcing domestic terrorists and criminals to buy American made AR-15s (I�m sorry, but I just don�t get the logic here). Like the rest of that particular president’s diversionary maneuvers, his “assault weapon ban” had absolutely effect on crime or personal safety.

But, do I “need” to own a gun like this? I really hope not. That’s not the issue. It’s my right to own a gun like this plain and simple. I own it because I want to. It’s fascinating and it’s fun to shoot. That’s the only justification I need. Could I imagine a scenario in which I would “need” this rifle for something other than recreation? Yes. Widespread civil disorder brought about by natural disaster or coordinated terrorist strikes on the homeland could leave one feeling very glad to have the Kalashnikov by your side. Short of a cataclysm such as this, I doubt that I’ll ever need this rifle for its intended purpose. But, such a crisis is far from impossible and the AK-47 is a great WTSHTF (“when the shit hits the fan”) gun. It can hunt, fight, and provide an intimidating defense. Ammo is cheap and fairly light. It’s short and compact for close quarters. All of those pistol issues of stopping power and mag capacity sort of fade away with the AK. It can endure extended periods of operation under very adverse conditions. Admittedly, I’m a big bullet kind of guy, but I have more confidence in the 7.62mm than I do in the .223.

The last time I read the Second Amendment it didn’t say anything about actions, calibers or cosmetics. It didn’t say I had to justify my ownership of a rifle with some kind of “need.” It said “shall not be infringed.”

Having Fun

Took the AK to our IDPA match. Sometimes, after the official match is over, we’ll experiment around with unconventional guns that don’t fit into the IDPA classifications. Sometimes it’s mouse guns or shotguns. On this day it was military rifles. We had a Mauser K-98, an M1A and the AK-47. We shot a couple of the IDPA stages with the little ugly rifle. One stage represented fighting a gang around the corners of a building and rescuing hostages. Everyone who used the gun on this stage particularly noticed the speed of handling and the ease with which accurate shots were placed.

It’s a butt-kicking little rifle. I like the way it feels and sounds a whole lot more than an AR-15. I like the wood and the heft of it. Yesterday, I fired 200 rounds at a cost of $18. Recently I bought a pack of four 30-round mags, mag pouch and field cleaning kit for $35. Price for the basic rifle was $327 � I could buy three of them for the price of one new Colt AR-15. The more I work with this rifle and learn about it, the more I like it. You can’t beat it for economy and the fun factor is terrific. 

Some good AK-47 Links

AK-Net – Discussion Forum

AK-47 World

AK-47/SKS 7.62x39mm Cartridge Wound Ballistics

AK-47 From Wikipedia

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994

Assault Web – Discussion forum for battle rifles including AK-47

Bob Tuley’s Kalashnikov Page

Choosing The Right Magazine For Your Kalashnikov

The Kalashnikov Site

Kalashnikov AK-47 and AKM assault rifles (USSR)

Kalashnikov Home Page – AK Site. Kalashnikov Arms Catalog. From AK-47 to AK-100

Red Star Arms – Interesting Add-On and Replacement parts for AK’s and other guns.

Valery Shilin’s Gun Club – Excellent info on AK’s and Kalashnikov family of rifles

Red Soldier

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