Handguns 2004

This year, most manufacturers are content to tweak existing models.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Though there are some new models, there doesn't seem to be a dramatic product introduction this year that would rival the enthusiasm created by last year's big hit: The Smith & Wesson Model 500. For 2004, handgun manufacturers seem generally content to tweak existing models.

Beretta USA
The Stampede "Thunderer" has the same historical look and feel of the Stampede single-action revolver, but with a 3.5-inch barrel and bird's-head grip. SRP starts at $530. Designed with the competitive shooter in mind, the new 92/96 Steel 1 provides a steel frame for this popular semi-auto handgun model. It also features a frame-mounted safety, Beretta's slim "vertical" grip and a nickel-alloy finish. It will be available in double- and single-action or DAO in 9mm and .40 S&W.; SRP: $1,573.

For the first time, Beretta will make the Cougar semi- auto handgun available in the U.S. by importing a limited number of Cougar 8000 (9mm) and 8040 (.40 S&W;) models. The imports will be stainless steel with checkered walnut grips. SRP: From $822. Booth #4251. (800-797-2205; www.berettausa.com)

FNH USA, Inc.
Introduced in late 2002, the FNP 9 9mm Double-Action Single-Action semi-auto will be offered this year in .40 S&W.; This full-size, polymer-frame handgun has a four-inch barrel and weighs in at approximately 25 ounces. Among the features provided are an ambidextrous, manual decocking lever, hammer-fired double- and single-action firing mechanism, reversible magazine catch, firing-pin safety, optional magazine disconnect and a removable (interchangeable) mainspring housing to allow shooters to fit the gun to their personal hand size more easily. Ten-round magazines are standard for the civilian market; high-capacity versions are available for law enforcement.

According to FNH, this gun can be had in either DAO or DA/SA actions. SRP was not available at press time. Booth #1301. (703-288-1292; www.fnhusa.com)

Kahr Arms/ Auto Ordnance
Compared to some long-established companies, Kahr could be considered a relative newcomer to the compact-carry pistol field. But the company has earned some well-deserved accolades (from both shooters and gunsmiths) for its lightweight PM series. This year they expand that line with a very light and compact (18-ounce) .40 S&W;, with a frame height of only four inches. The PM40 is a polymer-framed, double-action-only semi-auto featuring a 3.06-inch, match-grade polygonal rifled barrel. The matte stainless-steel slide rides on special front- and rear-frame inserts in the polymer frame, and features a double-recoil spring design with a stainless steel guide rod. A textured gripping surface provides positive control, and each gun comes standard with two stainless-steel magazines-one fitting flush with the butt and one with an extending grip plate to provide an extra round capacity. Low-profile, white bar-dot sights are standard, and three-dot tritium sights are available as an option.

All Kahr pistols come with a lifetime warranty, include trigger locks and are shipped with a fired case to comply with laws in certain states. The PM40 carries an SRP of $676 with standard sights; $784 with the tritium sight option. Booth #1308 and #4597. (845-353-7770; www.kahr.com)

Thompson/ Center Co.
Among expert handgun hunters, the .375 JDJ cartridge is generally acknowledged as being the root source for the term "hand cannon." Developed by noted handgun hunter J.D. Jones, this wildcat cartridge (based on a necked-down .444 Marlin case) launches a .375-caliber bullet from a 14- or 15-inch single- shot handgun barrel at velocities that are not terribly far removed (about 20 percent less) from those achieved by the same slug in a .375 H&H; rifle. As a big-gamme handgun hunting cartridge it is superb and has a proven track record on some of the largest critters on earth. Unfortunately, acquiring one is a custom job, and ammo has to be handloaded.

In 2004, Thompson/Center is introducing the .375 JDJ as a factory barrel for both the G2 (14-inch) and the Encore (15-inch). Both barrels are drilled and tapped for scope mounting, both will be equipped with iron sights, for those that prefer them.

The G2 version (14-inch barrel, blued finish, walnut grip and forend) has an SRP of $570. The 15-inch Encore model with walnut grip and forend sells for $585. Accessory barrels for existing frames are available at $270 for both models.

In addition, T/C is providing loaded .375 JDJ ammunition, with a box of 20 cartridges retailing for approximately $42. The offered load features an excellent 220- grain jacketed flat point, an excellent choice for anything up to, and possibly including, elk. Heavier bullets (270 and 300 grains) are more effective for larger game and would still have to be handloaded. But hats off to the company for offering one of the best (albeit a wildcat) big-game handgun loads in a factory gun. Booth #101._ (603-332-2394; www. tcarms.com) _

Para-Ordnance
Extending the carry-option series

Para continues to expand its Carry Option Series with the new Para Carry 12. Like the rest of the Para LDA series, this features the Light Double Action (LDA) trigger system. Chambered for .45 ACP, the Carry 12 has a 3.5-inch ramped barrel, a flush hammer and a bobbed beavertail to provide the most snag-free, concealed-carry profile possible, and the overall length is a compact seven inches in length with a five-inch height. All stainless-steel construction results in a recoil-taming weight of 34 ounces. Three-dot sights are standard.

Para announces that, for a limited time period, the Carry 12 is shipping with one 10-round magazine and two pre-ban 12-round magazines (where legal). SRP: $1,009. Booth #4569. (416-297-7855; www.paraord.com)

Taurus
Four years in the making

Taurus states that it has spent more than four years developing its new 24/7 semi-automatic Service Pistol, and its research included consultations with law enforcement personnel and expert Action Pistol competitors. The full-size handgun features an advanced steel slide and a lightened internal metal frame that is mounted in a specially designed high-modulus polymer grip. Neoprene "Ribber" inserts help dampen recoil, and indexed "memory pads" below the trigger guard and slide serve to positively position both the off-side thumb and the trigger finger to maintain a consistent grip. The grip angle is set to 11 degrees, which is preferred by professional shooters.

The magazine has an integral finger rest, and the magazine well is of a new design that incorporates an extended backstrap to facilitate rapid reloading under stress, while avoiding the bulk of a magazine well funnel. A Picatinney Accessory Rail is available to carry a range of accessories designed for the 24/7 system.

Available in 9mm, .40 S&W; and .45 ACP, it can be had in a blued finish ($578) or stainless steel ($594). Although developed primarily for law enforcement use (and offered with high-capacity magazines for agency purchase), it will also be of interest to action-pistol competitors and home-defense users. Booth #443. (800-327-3776; www.taurususa.com)