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Industry News: June 1999

By Robert M. Hausman

New High-Tech Gun, Ammo Offerings At SHOT Show: Part II

While some firms in the handgun industry have been putting off major new product introductions until the market shows signs of improvement, Smith & Wesson (S&W), taking an optimistic approach, unveiled a wide range of new products at the show.

On the law enforcement and personal defense front, S&W’s Enhanced SIGMA SERIES pistols feature a smoother, shorter trigger pull allowing the shooter to easily maintain sight alignment. Other new features include a slide stop guard, designed to prevent inadvertent activation of the slide stop, as well as redesigned extractors, ejectors and a lower ejection port.

Other new Enhanced SIGMA details include reconfigured stainless steel slides, an equipment accessory groove for the mounting of tactical lights and a more aggressive checkering pattern on the grips to improve control.

New Chiefs Special

Nearly 40 years after the original .38 Chiefs Special 5-shot revolver inauguration, three Chiefs Special semi-auto pistols in 9mm, .45 ACP and .40 S&W are introduced. Each has distinctive “Chiefs Special” laser engraving on the slide. Designated as the Models CS9, CS45 and the CS40, they feature Hogue soft-touch wrap-around rubber grips, curved backstrap configuration, traditional double action, manual safety and a quick-aligning 3-dot sight system. Frame material is aluminum alloy with either a blue carbon steel or stainless steel slide and stainless steel barrel.

Chambered for 9mm, the Model CS9 has a barrel length of 3-inches, an overall length of 6-1/4 inches and weighs only 20.8 ounces. The pistol holds eight rounds, including a 7-round magazine with one in the chamber.

The Model CS45, the .45 ACP version of the Chiefs Special, weighs only 23.9 ounces and holds seven rounds with a 6-round magazine and one in the chamber. Model CS40, with .40 S&W chambering, weighs 24.2 ounces and has a 7-round magazine. Both models have a barrel length of 3-1/4 inches and an overall length of 6-1/2 inches.

Offering the lightest comparably-sized revolver on the market, S&W introduces the Air Lite TiTM Series revolvers in +P .38 S&W Special and .32 H&R Magnum. These revolvers feature alloy frames, yoke and barrel shroud with a titanium cylinder and stainless steel barrel insert. These revolutionary Air Lite Ti revolvers are 30 percent lighter than their S&W Airweight revolver counterparts.

The AirLite Ti Chief Special Models 337 (chambered for +P .38 Special) and 331 (chambered for .32 H&R Magnum) have a conventional hammer for both single action and double action firing. The double action-only Centennial Models 342 (in +P .38 Special) and the 3322 (in .32 H&R Magnum) offer what some may consider the ultimate in a concealed carry revolver and have a snag-free internal hammer for easy carry and smooth draw.

The Models 337 and 331 Chief Specials weigh 11.2 ounces with a wood boot grip and 11.9 ounces with the Uncle Mikes rubber boot grip. The concealed hammer Models 342 and 332 Centennials are one-tenth ounce heavier with the same grips. The AirLite Ti .38 S&W Special revolvers were thoroughly tested with +P .38 S&W Special ammunition meeting SAAMI pressure specifications. However, the use of non-jacketed +P ammo is not recommended.

Joining their small frame brothers are two new medium frame AirLite Ti Models, the 242 (chambered for +P .38 Special) and the Model 296 (in .44 S&W Special). These hammerless Centennial-style wheelguns have alloy frames, yoke and barrel shroud with a titanium cylinder and stainless steel barrel insert. The double action-only L-frame sized guns are built with a round butt frame with 2-1/2 inch barrel, pinned black serrated front and fixed notch rear sights. They weigh 18.9 ounces with the Uncle Mikes rubber boot grip.

Police Events

In his first match while shooting for S&W, Chad Dietrich used a S&W Model 686 .357 Magnum revolver to win the 1998 Stock Gun Championship at the Bianchi Cup competition held in Columbia, MO. During the event, Dietrich scored a personal best 1905 points out of a possible 1920 to narrowly beat competitor Fred Craig’s 1902 points. Craig also used a S&W revolver. The Stock Gun match involves 192 timed rounds fired at stationary and moving targets at varied distances.

“I started shooting a .38 Special when I was only six years old,” said the 23 year old Dietrich. “I entered my first formal competition match when I was 12, so I’ve gained a lot of experience over the years. The first gun I ever owned was a S&W Model 66 and I like the strength and reliability S&W guns offer.”

S&W will be the title sponsor of the 1999 International Revolver Championship Match, the eighth year the company has supported the premier, revolver-only event to be held July 16-18 in Morro Bay, CA.

“It is only natural that S&W be the major sponsor of this event,” says Ken Jorgensen, S&W’s director of public and media relations as well as serving as the gunmaker’s shooting sports coordinator. “We have also chosen to work with the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts to develop opportunities for revolver shooters to compete in major events. Revolvers are not dead and I believe there is considerable opportunity to grow this event. Much of competitive shooting has become very expensive and it has driven away many potential competitors. A good revolver, a holster, a few speed loaders, some safety equipment, and one is off to the games.”

S&W HANDGUNS ’99, the latest edition of the company’s collectible 100 page publication is hitting newsstands now. This companion publication to the gunmaker’s annual catalog provides information to give readers insight, not only on the ’99 product line, but also about making handgun purchasing choices and the history surrounding S&W. The magazine is distributed by Petersen Publishing Co.

S&W Stores

The 1999 S&W Apparel and Accessories catalog provides consumers with the widest variety ever of S&W logo apparel, shooting accessories and collectible items within its 48 pages. The men’s collection of signature clothing includes jackets, sportswear, shirts and a larger selection of polo and sportsman’s field shirts. Both stylish and fashionable, the LadySmith apparel fits the needs of the shooter and offers a sporting image. And S&W looks after the younger set with the “Little Smith” edition of sportswear for children.

S&W opened several new retail outlets over the past year and a half including stores in Pigeon Forge, TN, Branson, MO, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and West Point, MS. These new locations joined existing stores in Springfield, MA and Kittery, ME for a total of 7 outlets.

“We see a growing public demand for our logo clothing and gifts and we want to make these products easily available to all our customers,” says John Steele, director of licensing and apparel merchandising. “We’ll continue to open new stores in locations across the nation. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Nashville are on the horizon.”

Taurus Titanium

Taurus International Manufacturing is using titanium, named for the legendary strength of the Titans of Greek mythology, to set a new standard for firearms technology in the coming century with its Total Titanium™ revolver series. Billed as the first true all-titanium firearms ever produced, six new snubnose personal-defense and law enforcement models in two different frame sizes have been designed.

Taurus’ products feature major components constructed of titanium including a drop-forged titanium frame, sideplate, yoke and barrel with CNC- machined extruded titanium cylinder and internal studs. Two-thirds the weight of equivalently-sized steel revolvers, titanium is virtually impervious to most types of corrosion.

Total-Titanium revolvers are offered in six different chamberings including compact frame seven shot .357 Magnum, a five shot .41 Magnum, a five shot .44 Special, five shot .45 Long Colt, and small frame five shot .38 Special +P, and six shot .32 H&R Magnum. There is also a choice of three different proprietary finishes for each model including bright Spectrum Blue™, matte Spectrum Blue™, and matte Spectrum Gold™.

Titanium has long been used for small high-stress parts and other firearm components, but the challenge of manufacturing a complete titanium handgun at an affordable price has been beyond reach. Though titanium can cost up to ten times more than steel, Taurus’ Total-Titanium series revolvers are available at a price only about half again more than equivalent stainless steel revolvers.

As a metal alloy, titanium can only be hardened to a certain extent, before it becomes brittle. The operating parts of a revolver need to be hardened beyond that threshold. Accordingly, the hammer, trigger, cylinder latch, ejector rod and small parts, such as sideplate screws in Taurus’ titanium series are made from case hardened, high tensile strength chrome-moly steel. The titanium barrels contain high tensile strength stainless bore liners. While titanium is much more elastic than steel, its elasticity means an all-titanium barrel will not hold rifling. Furnished standard with factory barrel porting, muzzle flip is reduced by as much as eighty percent compared to standard unported barrels.

Meanwhile, swinging by the SIG Arms booth found this gunmaker has turned its attention to the .45 ACP market with its new P245, a compact pistol designed for off-duty or civilian concealed carry. It is one half-inch shorter in length and height than its parent, the SIG P220. Meanwhile, the P220 line also features a new target model, the P220S, featuring stainless steel slide with adjustable target sights, silver anodized aluminum frame with extended magazine release, oversized slide stop and decocker, Hogue rubber grips, and a 4.9-inch compensated and weighted barrel.

The Glock Safe Action pistol has surpassed the two million mark in production since this Austrian gunmaker revolutionized the firearms industry with its first polymer-framed pistol in 1982. The initial model produced was the G17 in 9mm Luger, as is the two millionth pistol. This specimen carries the serial number - DAPOOOUS- and is marked with the legend: “My two millionth pistol,” along with the autograph of the pistol’s inventor, Gaston Glock.

The pistol was on display at the Glock booth and is the subject of a silent auction. The bidding will culminate with the pistol being awarded to the highest bidder at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention to be held October 30-November 4, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Glock, Inc. will match the proceeds of the auction and make a donation to a national foundation for widows and orphans of officers killed in the line of duty.

The Italian firm of Aldo Uberti, famous for their replicas of historical firearms, had a new item in their booth- a replica of the rare Colt Thuer revolver. Developed by Colt’s Firearms as a way of circumventing Smith & Wesson’s patent on the bored-through revolver cylinder that began the modern cartridge era, the Thuer revolver loads a brass cartridge through the front of a converted percussion cylinder.

Winchester Ammo

Winchester Ammunition has launched several new products including high-end target Supreme Match .22 Long Rifle cartridges. Originally designed by the Australian division of Winchester, it is manufactured with optimum accuracy as the goal as each case is blade trimmed for greater consistency of bullet pull and overall length. The propellant used is a graded ball powder that ensures consistent ignition and pressure. The 40-grain lubricated bullets are selected from batch lots produced on state-of-the-art built presses and the bullet is annealed and aged for greater molecular stability. Supreme Match rounds deliver a consistent velocity of 1,080 fps and test results show match grade performance at 50 yards.

In response to the recent introduction in the marketplace of several new guns chambered for the powerful .454 Casull round, Winchester adds a Super-X .454 Casull, medium velocity 250-grain, jacketed hollow point round. The load delivers a velocity of 1,300 fps with 938 ft. lbs of energy in a test barrel and is intended as a reduced recoil practice round.

Win Clean™, is a new value-priced centerfire pistol ammunition designed primarily for indoor ranges. The line joins Winchester’s SuperClean NT™ (non- toxic), Super Unleaded™, and Delta Frangible to round out the company’s array of low-lead, no-lead products.

WinClean incorporates Winchester’s latest generation lead-free and heavy metal free primer, offering improved sensitivity and a clean burn. Smoke and residue are minimized and the cartridge features an entirely new jacketed bullet style that completely covers the base and sides of the bullet with a brass jacket barrier. The lead-free primer, combined with the brass barrier between the hot gases and the bullet’s lead core, prevents the formation of airborne lead at the firing point. The new bullet is referred to as a Brass Enclosed Base and has a truncated cone design to facilitate feeding.

WinClean is being introduced in Winchester’s value-priced USA line. Initial offerings include: 9mm with 115-grain bullet; .38 Special with 125-grain bullet; .40 Smith & Wesson with 165- and 180-grain bullets; and, .45 ACP with 185- and 230-grain bullets.

Winchester product managers indicate their current centerfire ammunition category includes about 10% low-lead, no-lead products. This percentage of the total is expected to increase over time as WinClean has the potential to reduce range costs, increase shooting participation, and to prove a high-performance, cost-effective new product line for range operators and users.

Incidentally, during the SHOT Show, members of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Range Owners of America met and formed a new association called the National Association of Shooting Ranges (NASR), to serve as a unified voice in addressing shooting range issues. The NASR will operate as a division of the NSSF.

The new organization’s mission statement says the group will, “promote the development of state-of-the-art target shooting facilities and entertainment centers by providing the information ranges need to develop their full potential.” The NASR will also, “coordinate effective communication to promote and protect shooting ranges and act as a liaison between shooting ranges and the shooting sports industry.”

Member benefits include discounts on all NASR and NSSF resources and programs, shooting range insurance, discounts for custom web page development, special access to a Rangeinfo Internet web site. and a free subscription to the new Range Report trade publication for range operators published by NSSF.

The recently formed alliance between Winchester Ammunition and Nosler, Inc. has resulted in a new .308 competition round in the Supreme rifle cartridge line. The load utilizes a brand new 168-grain hollow point boattail bullet developed by Nosler, called the J4TM Competition bullet. Of interest to law enforcement and military personnel, the extremely concentric and uniform J4 bullet is produced on computer-controlled machinery incorporating Nosler’s precisely-formed lead alloy cores. Performance of the new Supreme .308 load mirrors other loads in the category in terms of ballistic coefficient, velocity, and down-range energy.

Black Hills Ammo

Black Hills Ammunition, a firm which began primarily as a source of high-quality remanufactured ammunition in 1981, has grown over the years and is now highly regarded for its line of newly-produced ammo. The company makes the match-grade rifle ammunition used by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, USMC Rifle Teams, the U.S. Air Force Rifle Team, and its .308 and .330 Winchester Magnum match ammunition is used by many police tactical teams.

Black Hills developed its reputation by coming up with loads using components from other manufacturers. The method produced superior ammo, which, however, bore a number of manufacturers’ headstamps. But now, the company has announced its ammunition will proudly bear its own headstamp -BHA- and the appropriate caliber designation.

A .223 caliber 62-grain full metal jacket loading has been added to the Black Hills line in response to the popularity of semi-auto rifles with twist rates of 1/7 to 1/10-inches. This heavy bullet ammo is available loaded in virgin brass with the Black Hills headstamp or in the firm’s cost-efficient remanufactured line which utilizes once-fired military specification casings. Ballistically, both loads are identical at 3,150 fps.

Black Hills has been very successful in winning military contracts. The ammo maker was recently awarded a three year deal to provide match ammunition to the U.S. Marine Corps requiring .223 ammo that would be of magazine length and meet the accuracy standards of 5 consecutive groups of 10 shots each at 300 yards, with the average group not to exceed 2-inches. The ammo will be used in competition at ranges up to 600 yards.

The ammo uses a 73-grain Berger hollow point, molycoated bullet and Black Hills provided this load in 1998 on an “non-contract” purchase to the Marines who used it to win in the Infantry Trophy team match and numerous individual matches at Camp Perry. The load is custom produced for the Marines and is not a catalog item.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) recently renewed its contract with Black Hills for .223 (5.56mm) match ammo utilizing 80-grain Sierra MatchKing projectiles. This exceptionally heavy bullet loading is designed for long range competition. The Army has repeatedly demonstrated the ability of its riflemen to dominate matches using M-16 rifles pitted against the traditional .30 caliber M-14 rifles.

The 80-grain .223 ammunition is a special loading produced only for the USAMU and is not a commercially available offering. Originally handloaded by USAMU personnel, the Black Hills product was developed to provide large quantities of factory-produced match ammunition while still meeting strict Army accuracy standards. Specifications call for 300 meter accuracy equivalent to sub .60 MOA for 10-shot groups. The overall length of the cartridge exceeds magazine dimensions, dictating single loading.

Federal Cartridge Co.

For reloaders of handgun shells, Federal Cartridge Co. has released its Premium Hydra-Shok and Nyclad bullets for handloaders.

Hydra-Shok bullets have a lead core with a patented centerpost minimizing cavity plugging problems associated with conventional hollow point bullets. The notched jacket effectively controls expansion. Nyclad bullets have a precision swaged lead core completely enclosed within a unique patented nylon coating. The lead core is engineered for rapid expansion and upset. The nylon coating virtually eliminates airborne lead contamination and reduces bore leading.

Hydra-Shok bullets are available in 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Nyclad hollow points are available in .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

The success of Federal’s Premium and Gold Medal unprimed rifle brass has set the stage for the introduction of Federal’s new Top Gun line of pistol brass. Drawn to exact dimensional tolerances, it provides consistently uniform ballistics. Top Gun brass is available in 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

PMC Ammunition

Not to be outdone, PMC Ammunition has brought back its Moderator Subsonic .22 Long Rifle hollow point cartridge after an absence of several years. Since its subsonic velocity of 1,000 feet per second eliminates the sharp “crack” made by a bullet as it reaches supersonic speeds, the Moderator offers the advantage of a low report, which will be even lower when fired in suppressed arms.

For those who prefer a high velocity load for home and person defense, PMC Ammunition now has a new 9mm Starfire “Lite” load. The new high performance cartridge has a 95-grain hollow point bullet with a rated muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps. In spite of its high velocity, the light bullet means low recoil, allowing fast, on- target second shots. Like those in other PMC Starfire cartridges, this bullet owes its broad expansion to the unique rib-and-flute cavity in the deep hollow point.

Upon impact, pressure from incoming fluidic material creates lateral pressure on the ribs, forcing instant, reliable expansion, assisted by a notched jacket mouth.

Two new .40 S&W cartridges join the PMC line as well. One is a 165-grain, jacketed hollow point for home or self-defense, and is a mate to the PMC 165-grain FMJ practice load. Due to the similar bullet weight and velocity of the two loads, shooters who switch from the FMJ practice load to the hollow point will notice little difference in recoil, and the need for sight picture adjustment will be minimal. Muzzle velocity for this cartridge has been set at 1,040 fps.

The second PMC addition is a 180-grain, FMJ/flat point load for those who prefer the heavier bullet weight in the .40 S&W cartridge and are looking for a reasonable- cost load that will allow a higher volume of shooting without fracturing their ammunition budget. Muzzle velocity is 985 fps. Again, this cartridge will allow switching from practice to high performance ammunition in the same bullet weight with minimal adjustment to the sight picture.

The third and final SHOT Show report will be presented next month.


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