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Fun Guns of 2009

Fun Guns of 2009

Here are 10 of the most enjoyable firearms the author has fired this year.

Each year during the month of May, a whole passel of hunting and shooting industry manufacturers along with writers and editors who turn out a number of InterMedia Outdoors publications (one of which is Shooting Times) gather at a shooting facility called PASA Park, which is located near the sleepy little farming village of Barry, Illinois. We writers gather there to be introduced to and to wring out a variety of new products, including rifles, shotguns, handguns, optical gear, knives, reloading equipment, clothing, ammunition, and about everything else you can think of. In other words, we have the opportunity to shoot the latest loads in brand-new guns, some of which are wearing scopes that are shown for the first time.

During those five days this year I shot about everything manufacturers brought, and while I would like nothing better than to file a detailed report on each, space limitations simply do not allow it. So instead, here are nutshell reports on guns that either surprised me most or I found most fun to shoot.

1. CZ 550 Safari Classic
The Safari Classic in .505 Gibbs holds the distinction of being the rifle that was most fun to watch someone else shoot. Pushing a 525-grain bullet along at 2,300 fps, the .505 is not a bad cartridge to shoot in a heavy rifle, and while the Safari Classic in that caliber is rated at almost 11 pounds, my built-in painometer indicated it to be much lighter. And it seemed to become even lighter with each squeeze of the trigger.

Wearing nicely figured walnut and express sights, it is a very handsome rifle, and it has a good feel to it to boot. The front sling-swivel post is forward of the forearm and out on the barrel, right where it belongs on a hard-kicking rifle.

Everything considered, including shooter comfort and target discomfort, I'd pick the .425 Westley Richards and .416 Rigby as enough cartridges for this rifle, with the grand old .375 H&H Magnum just about ideal. Other caliber options include .500 Jeffery, .416 Taylor, .416 Remington Magnum, .338 Lapua, .338 Winchester Magnum, and .300 H&H Magnum. A pair of these rifles in .300 H&H and .375 H&H would be about as close to ideal as you could get for hunting anything anywhere in the world.

According to the author, FNH USA's Mark I gas-operated shotgun is more personal-defense gun than anything else. It's a reliable firearm for serious work.

The Mark I was not the most handsome shotgun I shot, nor was it the most interesting, but it was the most fun to shoot. The shooting station was located on the action pistol range, and the routine was to fill the extended magazine with a handful of 12-gauge shells and mow down steel plates at warp speed.

So I did just that a number of times.

Like all FNH USA shotguns, the Mark I is gas-operated and more personal-defense gun than anything else. Barrel length is 24 inches, either smoothbore or rifled depending on the model. Three variations have a front sight and a cantilever-style scope-mounting base attached to the barrel, while the Police wears a fully adjustable aperture on its receiver. All models come with three interchangeable chokes and two gas pistons for light and heavy loads. It's a reliable gun for serious work.

3. Para USA PDA
I have a personal-defense gun for every place and occasion. I have a gun for deep concealment, and I have a gun for carrying in a fanny pack. I have a gun for carrying on a 100-mile bicycle ride into remote areas, and I have a gun that resides in the console of my SUV. Other guns placed strategically throughout our home are within easy reach of both my wife and me at any time during day or night. In other words, I absolutely do not need another personal-defense gun.

The author thought he didn't need any more personal-defense pistols until he fired the PDA in .45 ACP from Para USA.

Or that's what I thought until I shot the new PDA from Para USA.

Built on the 1911 single-stack frame, it has a stainless-steel slide riding atop an aluminum frame and weighs only 24 ounces. Barrel length is 3 inches, and overall length is only a bit more than twice that. Magazine capacity is six rounds in .45 ACP and eight rounds in 9mm Luger.

Even if I do not succeed in coming up with a personal-defense slot to fill with this one, I may buy it anyhow. After all, there is no such thing as owning too many 1911 pistols.

4. Ruger LCP & Hornady's New Critical Defense Ammo
Among several things about Ruger's LCP that amazed me, two stood above the rest. For one, even though its fixed sights were obviously designed for shooting at spitting distances, I managed to hit every 12-inch steel plate at 15 yards that I shot at. And I was shooting fairly quickly too. For two, even though the little half-handful of a gun is chambered for a mild-mannered cartridge called the .380 ACP, every plate toppled over.

Ruger's LCP and Hornady's 90-grain FTX .380 ACP Critical Defense ammo provided surprising performance.

My guess is the former is due to Ruger's ability to build a lot of little gun at a very affordable price, while the latter is due to Hornady's ability to produce what may prove to be the best .380 ammo ever.

The LCP measures a mere 5 inches long overall, has a magazine capacity of six rounds, and weighs less than 10 ounces. The ammo, a member of Hornady's new Critical Defense family, is loaded with a 90-grain FTX bullet at 1,000 fps. The pistol and the ammo are, to say the least, an outstanding combination.

5. Ruger SR-556
The new SR-556 from Ruger follows the original M16/AR-15 design quite closely with one exception. Rather than propellant gas impinging directly on the bolt, it transfers its energy to the bolt by pushing on an operating rod up front. It's called pist

on-driven, and the result is more shots between cleaning due to propellant residue being dumped out the bottom of the gas block rather than into the action.

A manually adjusted, four-position regulator allows the operation of the rifle to be tuned to specific ammunition characteristics, reducing wear and tear on working parts. The design also incorporates a one-piece bolt carrier with an integral transfer key. Other features include a 16½-inch, chrome-lined barrel of chrome-moly steel (1:9 twist rate) with flash suppressor, a 10-inch Quad Rail handguard, Troy Industries folding sights, and a six-position telescoping stock. The SR-556 comes with three 30-round magazines.

Like all AR-15s, this one is great fun to shoot and especially so when someone else is paying for the ammunition.

6. Springfield Armory 9mm Race Gun
It had been quite some time since I had attempted to tip over a row of steel plates as fast as possible, so I was surprised at how quick I still was. But I shouldn't have been, because I already knew from past experience that the talented craftsmen in the custom shop at Springfield Armory turn out race guns that are capable of allowing anyone to shoot not only more accurately but more quickly as well.

Built on Springfield's 1911 single-stack frame, the compensated gun I shot was chambered in 9mm Luger and equipped with an Aimpoint electronic sight. A Swiss-cheesed slide sped up cycle time to far less than the blink of an eye.

It is an addictive type of gun that you don't want to stop shooting, one that makes you wish you owned an ammunition factory.

Ruger's new piston-driven SR-556 is definitely fun to shoot, especially when someone else is paying for the ammunition.
Springfield Armory's race gun in 9mm Luger was very accurate and extremely fast. It was enough to make the author wish he owned an ammo factory.

7. S&W M&P 15-22
From a distance the new M&P 15-22 looks like an AR-15, and up close it feels about the same, but it was designed from the ground up to shoot .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Of all the guns I shot, this one ranked among the top five as the most fun to shoot.

Built around upper and lower receivers made of high-strength polymer, it has a 16-inch barrel with a rifling twist rate of 1:15 inches. Other features include a 25-round magazine (with AR-15- style release), six-position collapsible stock, and flat-top receiver with Picatinny-style rail extending all the way to the end of the handguard. Fully adjustable iron sights consist of an aperture on the receiver and a post up front. Smith & Wesson will sell zillions of this one.

8. Stoeger X50 Airgun
The modern airgun is a whole lot different from the Daisy Red Ryder I was mighty proud of as a kid, and the X50 in .177 caliber is an excellent example of how far airgun design has progressed.

Of spring-piston, break-action design, it reaches a muzzle velocity of 1,500 fps with a 10-grain lead pellet and 1,700 fps with an aluminum pellet of slightly lighter weight. Like other members of the Stoeger family of airguns, the X50 has a two-stage trigger, wears fully adjustable fiber-optic sights, and has a grooved receiver for scope mounting. Stock options are wood and synthetic.

This, my friends, is no toy. Last year our neighborhood was practically overrun by gray squirrels that not only played havoc with our bird feeders, but also they gnawed into the attic of a neighbor's house while they were on vacation and caused extensive damage. So, with airgun in hand, I declared war on marauding bushytails, and the problem went away. A pellet to the head out to 20 yards worked every time.

S&W's new M&P 15-22 in .22 Long Rifle was one of the author's top five fun-to-shoot guns.

9. T/C Icon Precision Hunter
The Precision Hunter I shot on steel targets at 600 yards was chambered for .308 Winchester, but it is also available in .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, .22-250, and .243 Winchester. Guaranteed to shoot inside an inch at 100 yards, it has a laminated wood stock, a 3.5-pound trigger, an integral Picatinny-style scope-mounting base, and a heavy 24-inch barrel with 5R rifling.

I was shooting Black Hills ammo loaded with the Sierra 168-grain MatchKing, and the fellow standing behind me on the spotting scope was Jeff Hoffman, who just happens to own Black Hills Ammunition. In other words, I was well outfitted and in good company. Acting like a greenhorn, I ignored the flags waving in the wind downrange and completely missed the target with my first two shots. Paying more attention to the flags, I squeezed off another round and found the exact center of steel. The next four snuggled close to the first. According to Jeff, all five could have been covered by the bottom of Grandma's fine china teacup with room to spare.

T/C's Icon Precision Hunter in .308 Winchester turned in teacup-sized groups at 600 yards.

10. Springfield M1 Garand & Hornady .30-06 Match Load
General George Patton described the M1 Garand as "the greatest battle implement ever devised," and I am sure enemy soldiers who faced it while armed with bolt-action rifles during World War II knew firsthand what he meant by that evaluation. I have always loved John Garand's classic battle rifle, and shooting one built by Springfield Armory in the midst of all the other more modern rifles was a real treat. It was made even more fun by a generous supply of Hornady's new match ammunition.

As anyone who has loaded ammo for the Garand knows, powder burn rate is critical, and anything that burns too slow can, over time, damage its gas system. The development team at Hornady came up with a gas-gun-friendly combination by seating the extremely accurate 168-grain A-Max bullet atop just enough powder of optimum burn rate to reach 2,700 fps at the muzzle.

The Garand I shot was not a match rifle, but 2-inch groups with iron sights at 100 yards convinced me that a bit of fine-tuning by a good guns

mith would make it more than accurate enough for service rifle matches in the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Hornady ammunition is certainly capable of delivering the accuracy required for competitive shooting. And so that everyone will know what the ammo is intended for, each box is marked "Garand Load."

There you have them, the guns I found to be most fun to shoot at the 2009 InterMedia schutzenfest. If I have as much fun in 2010 as I did this year, I will report on those guns as well. In the meantime, regardless of where your interests lie, head on down to your local gunshop and treat yourself to a new gun. You will be happier for it.

Hornady's new "Garand Load" .30-06 match ammo is designed specifically for shooting in the classic M1 Garand rifle.

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