In this month’s roundup of product evaluations, news, and tips, we investigate gun-safe use, try out a rifle-cleaning stand, and answer questions about rifle and handgun shooting.


Prudent gun owners knows that to protect and secure their firearms, they need a safe. The problem with strongboxes, however, is that while they keep people away from your guns—especially children—they can also keep the rightful owners away from the guns at crucial moments. This is especially true in a self-defense situation, wherein the gun owner is trying to extract a firearm from the safe quickly. But trying to work a dial combination lock in the dark, under duress, is difficult.

Sargent & Greenleaf (Dept. PFS, One Security Dr., Nicholasville, KY 40356, telephone [606] 885-9411, fax [606] 885-2057) has what we think is a practical solution to this problem. S&G; offers a keypad electronic lock that many safe manufacturers, including Liberty Safes (Dept. PFS, 1060 N. Springcreek Place, Springville, UT 84663, telephone [800] 247-5625) have begun installing on their gunsafes. We obtained a sample unit of a Liberty Safe on consignment to see how the S&G; keypad lock worked and wound up buying the darn thing.

What we primarily liked about the S&G; lock is speed and ease of use. In the office, we have a floor safe that incorporates a traditional dial combination lock, and even when we know the combination by heart, the floor safe is tricky to open. In the dark, it is next to impossible to open. And if speed were a factor, forget it. It usually takes three or four tries, or at least five minutes, before the floor safe unlocks.

That’s not the case with the S&G; 6120 keypad lock. Just with the illumination of a nearby night light, we’ve successfully opened the safe and extracted a firearm in less than 15 seconds. In our view, that’s fast enough.

To operate the lock, the user first programs in a six-digit security code. Then, to open the lock, the user punches in the code followed by the # sign. Each time a button is pressed on a functioning lock, it chirps and the appropriate number lights briefly. When the correct code is entered, the lockbolt retracts. You can hear the machinery moving in the door at this point. If you pause more than 10 seconds, the lock clears. You then need to reenter the entire sequence again. If you misdial, you can press the * button to start over. If you enter an incorrect code four times consecutively, the lock will shut down and not open at all for 15 minutes.

In sum, we like the S&G; 6120, even though it adds about $250 to the price of a gun safe.

Malfunction Junction
The shooter who wants the biggest and baddest in a semi-auto handgun need look no farther than the .50 Action Express (click here to view “Using the .50 AE”). The .50 AE creates over 50 foot/pounds more energy at the muzzle than the 44 Magnum and nearly catches the legendary .454 Casull in bone-jarring power. There is nothing politically correct or equal opportunity about handguns chambered for the .50 AE: Simply put, puny people and wimps need not apply.

We recently had a chance to shoot an autoloading product chambered for the mammoth .50 AE—because for shooters interested in performance, there are few other cartridges that can equal it in power. We tested the $900 AutoMag V from AMT, and we found it lacking in many areas, which we detail below.

The stainless-steel AutoMag weighs in at 3.3 pounds. The grip is 53/4 inches in circumference and has a 3 1/8-inch trigger reach. The 6 1/2-inch barrel is ported for recoil compensation with two 1/8-inch-long ports on each side. The cast frame and slide are a bead-blasted stainless-steel finish with the sides of the automatic’s slide ground flat and polished.

The safety, slide release and magazine release are all on the left side. The safety is easy to reach for a right handed shooter, but the slide release and magazine release will require repositioning the hand to reach them. One serious problem we encountered was that each time the gun was fired by a left hander, the index finger of the left hand (the trigger finger) would hit the slide release under recoil, causing the slide to lock back. We corrected the problem by filing the slide release flush with the grip panel. Still, the slide locked back occasionally, malfunctioning about one in twenty.

The action is the “swinging link” design originated by John Browning and made famous in the Colt 1911 .45 pistol. In fact, this gun closely approximates that enduring design in many ways. The external hammer has a half-cocked position, and the serrated top is easy to grip when in the half-cock position, but it’s a little harder to access when the hammer is all the way down on the firing pin.

The safety simply blocks the firing pin while still allowing the trigger to release the hammer. The single action–only trigger has a slight amount of creep and overtravel. It breaks at 31/4 pounds.

The sights are adjustable, with a three white-dot system often seen on combat guns. The rear is a fully adjustable black square notched design with slightly rounded corners and a white dot on each side of the notch. This sight did not have enough adjustment to zero the gun with either of the two brands of factory ammo tested. The point of impact was more than a foot low at fifty yards with the sight at the full extent of its adjustment. We question how much the gun was tested before being put on the market; this is certainly a problem that should never have gotten past R&D;, much less out of the factory. The front sight has a short 45-degree ramp with a drilled hole in the center painted white to form the third white dot. This system is usually considered a combat design that allows quick, but not necessarily precise aiming. While not the best style for hunting, it’s not the worst either.

Mounting a scope, while possible, would prove troublesome. It could be mounted on the slide by drilling and tapping or it could be attached with a grip panel mount. Neither would likely be rugged or reliable enough for this hard recoiling handgun, in our opinion.

The grip panels are hard, black rubber and provide a good gripping surface to control the gun during rapid fire. They had a tendency to fall off while shooting, and the screws had to be put back in every twenty rounds or so. There is an ear at the top rear to protect the web of the hand and to aid in control.

The magazine holds five rounds, giving the handgun a six-round capacity. The magazine spring is very stiff and is difficult to load without the aid of some sort of loading tool. The magazine has several holes in the side to help visually identify how many rounds of ammo are loaded.

The AutoMag V didn’t shoot very accurately in our testing. At 50 yards, we averaged group sizes of 11.5 inches with Speer 325-grain bullets, and saw group-size averages at 4.4 inches with that bullet at 30 yards. We experienced many misfires while testing the handgun, with it refusing to fire the Israeli-made Samson ammo. We were able to shoot only one five-shot group with the Samson 300-grain bullets at 30 yards, which measured 3 inches in size.

This malfunctioning problem got worse as testing went on and may be helped some by cleaning and re-lubrication. However, the gun had less than 100 rounds through it without cleaning and should not have been experiencing problems of this magnitude. It also had a tendency to jam. Some of this can be traced to continuing problems with the slide release locking when it shouldn’t, but several of the jams were feeding problems.

Would we buy it? The AMT AutoMag V is slightly cheaper than some competing autos chambered for the .50 AE, but we wouldn’t purchase it. During our test, our sample gun showed poor accuracy, handfit problems, and feeding problems. That’s enough to make us take a pass.


.22 Pistol Test Criticism
I am a new PFS subscriber and have just received my second issue. I am very pleased with the quality of the articles. Although my main interests are in International Style pistol shooting (air and standard), I find the articles about other shooting venues to be informative.

That said, I would like to make a few comments about the December 1995 article comparing the four .22 pistols. While I agree with most of the author’s statements, I find that the method used to test accuracy of the pistols to be lacking. I have found from shooting my own pistols, and those of others, that a two-hand-hold on sandbags results in accuracy data of very marginal use. There are too many variables that go uncontrolled to make accuracy comparisons valid. Such variables as sight picture, grip, effects of recoil, and others are next to impossible to control among various pistols, even for expert shooters.

I have owned a Smith & Wesson 2206TGT for two years, the first pistol I have used in international standard pistol and NRA conventional pistol competitions. To test the gun’s accuracy, I built a simple test stand that holds the pistol firmly to a shooting bench. Using eight different cartridge types, I performed a matrix test to compare the accuracy of each type of ammunition. Each type of ammunition was tested a total of fifteen shots, three groups of five shots.

I tested the pistol in the stand three times. Once, when new, and after a month and 300 shots. I found the accuracy wasn’t the best until the gun had been fired extensively. I suspect that rough spots in the barrel were smoothed in the process of shooting. The test resulted in what I feel is a truer test of the pistol’s accuracy.

It is interesting that the author and I had almost opposite results by ammo brand. Whereas the author found CCI Pistol Match and Winchester T22s performed poorly relative to the other brands, they shot the best in my pistol. In fact, my tests showed the T22 to shoot 0.63-inch groups at 25 meters. In general, all the groups I fired were smaller than those repeated in the article. Although my tests were probably not as accurate as if a Ransom Rest had been used, I believe they more closely reflect the available accuracy of the pistol. I think in the future a Ransom Rest or similar device should be used for all accuracy testing.

Finally, I like my 2206 very much. It has the weight and balance I like, and is more accurate than I can shoot. Also, I agree with the author, my 2206 is extremely reliable, and I have replaced the original smooth grips with competition-style grips for a more secure hold.

I have dry fired all the other pistols mentioned in the December 1995 article and have not liked them nearly as much as my 2206. For me, it was the right pistol to purchase and use.

-Dr. Martin Pike, PE
Kokomo, IN

We don’t agree that a Ransom Rest is the end-all solution for handgun-accuracy testing, though we do like them. They can be problematic because of the different grips that must be used to secure a given gun. They do offer a great deal of repeatability shot to shot, but sighting precision and trigger activation can spoil the mechanical advantage almost any machine rest can offer. As long as all items in a test are examined under the same conditions, we think that good shooters can still assess accuracy fairly and with a great deal of precision using sandbags and other steadying rests. Also, we think less mechanical methods provide a better insight into usable accuracy rather than absolute accuracy. To our minds, if you can’t get a pistol to shoot in conditions like those it was intended for, it ain’t worth buying.

As far as your obtaining different results with the same ammos we tested, that’s not surprising. Every gun shoots every brand, and lot, differently.


Achtung! Too Many Ns
While I do appreciate your mention of my Bullet Seater in the piece about upgrading a Browning varmint rifle (December 1995), I’d really rather not change my name and its origin to German by adding an “n.”

Actually, my grandfather came over from Ireland circa 1860 and was drafted into the Union Army.

-W. S. Vickerman
Ellensburg, WA

We apologize for turning “Vickerman” into “Vickermann” in a photo caption. Readers interesting in getting more information about the Vickerman Bullet Seater can write the gentleman at Dept. PFS, 721 Robinson Canyon Rd., Ellensburg, WA 98926.


Sight Suggestion
A caller whose name we didn’t get said he was considering buying an electronic dot sight, and he was partial to two models from Tasco, the ProPoint Plus and the PDP5. He asked us which one he should buy.

We said since he already narrowed the field to these models, we would go with the PDP5. Though John Pride won the Bianchi Cup with the Plus (model PDP3CMP), the PDP5 offers the ability to switch between 4, 8, and 12 MOA dot sizes. That’s a nice feature to have for action pistol shooting.


Incentives Gone
Springfield Armory has ceased giving a package of accessories worth $350 to customers who buy the company’s standard grade M1A rifles.

Included in the incentive package, which ran through the end of January, were three pre-ban 20-round magazines, an M1A scope mount with Weaver-style base, an interchangeable military surplus wood or fiberglass stock with a hinged floor plate and all hardware, and an M1A cleaning kit. The company was offering the incentive because prices for them have dropped from $1,500 a year ago to $800 to $1,000. If prices stay low, look for other incentives to show up.


All Guns Are Loaded
Richard Gardner, 23 of Fort Lawn, South Carolina, tried to use a gun as a hammer and wound up shooting himself. Gardner was trying to nail some molding onto his mother-in-law’s house on Christmas night when the gun went off.

Gardner was treated for a hand wound, and his wife, Mary Ann, was treated for a wound to the abdomen. Gardner said he thought the gun was empty. In the future, we would expect he will try using a hammer to shoot targets at the pistol range.


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