Handguns 2006

From big-game revolvers to compact concealed-carry.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

No segment of the handgun world should feel neglected this year-gunmakers are coming out with a diverse assortment of new products that includes something for everyone. Big-game hunters who favor a single-action revolver will want to look at the Freedom Arms Model 83 in the new .500 WE cartridge. DA fans are likely to find another new high-velocity Smith & Wesson proprietary hunting cartridge for the X-frame revolver, while bolt-gun enthusiasts can expect a new model, in popular chamberings for varmints and medium game, from Weatherby.

Interest in 1911 models remains strong, for both refined competition and basic models, although the CZ 75 design variants are making some serious inroads in that arena. The classic G.I. Model 1911 makes its appearance in High Standard's new Mil-Spec line this year. The company notes that the Model TX1911 is true to the original John Browning design, with "a few improvements."

The cowboy-action market continues to grow, and new 1873 designs, at several price points, are coming out this year. The New Vaquero's Old West look and modern mechanics made it an instant hit with single-action revolver fans. This year, Ruger will be letting folks really dress up the Vaquero.

In the self-defense and law enforcement segments, look for a new semi-auto series from S&W;, along with an array of new handguns from other established makers, in both compact and full-size models. Finally, there are some interesting commemorative guns appearing this year to honor old favorites.

Freedom Arms
The Freedom Arms Model 83 has a well-deserved reputation among experienced handgun hunters as one of the premier single-action revolvers on the market. This year it will be offered in a new proprietary cartridge suitable for virtually any big-game animal one would hunt with a handgun.

The .500 Wyoming Express (WE), a straight-walled .50-caliber cartridge, uses a belted case and large rifle primers. Designed for bullets in the 350- to 440-grain weight range, it can launch a 350-grain Hornady XTP jacketed hollowpoint at 1,600 fps (from a 7.5-inch barrel) and achieve similar speeds with 370- and 400-grain cast-lead bullets. Cast-lead 440-grain slugs can reach 1,400 fps. That's not very far from the S&W; .500 Magnum, yet the cartridge is compact enough to fit into the existing Model 83 SA. Currently, the cartridge is a handloading-only proposition, but dies and load data are available from Freedom Arms.

The .500 WE is available in both the Premier Grade ($2,120) and the Field Grade ($1,639), with barrel lengths of 4.75, 6 and 7.5 inches. Booth #644. (800-252-4867; freedomarms.com)

**Browning **

| Though they don't garner a lot of press in the gun magazines, quality .22 LR handguns generate plenty of interest and have been racking up strong sales figures. Browning has noticed, though, and this year introduces three new models of its popular Buck Mark semi-auto.

The Buck Mark Lite Splash 5.5 URX and 7.25 URX models (with 5.5- and 7.25-inch barrels, respectively) feature Browning's new soft nitrile Ultragrip RX ambidextrous grip design. The alloy receiver and alloy-sleeved barrel are finished in matte blue with gold-splash anodizing. Browning's Pro-Target adjustable rear sight and Truglo/Marble's fiber-optic front sight come standard. SRP: $438 to $454.

The Buck Mark Contour (also available in 5.5- and 7.25-inch-barrel versions) uses the same grip material and design. Its special-contour barrel is finished in matte blue and has a full-length scope base and integrated Pro-Target adjustable sight and front blade. SRP: $413 to $427.

The Buck Mark Bullseye Target Stainless model features a heavy, round, fluted bull barrel that measurein at 7.25 inches. The alloy receiver is finished in matte blue; the grips are laminated rosewood. Pro-Target adjustable sights are standard. SRP: $643. Booth #401 and #515. (800-333-3288; browning.com)

[pagebreak] CZ-USA
Although the action-pistol sports were once the exclusive province of the 1911 semi-auto, the CZ 75 design is making rapid inroads. The new CZ 75 Tactical Sports (TS) is CZ's latest entry into that market. Designed to be out-of-the-box competition ready for the USPSA Limited Division, the TS has a new factory-tuned single-action trigger assembly with a lightweight polymer match trigger that can be adjusted for take up and over travel. Other features include fixed target sights, competition hammer, extended magazine release, ambidextrous manual safety, checkered walnut grips, polymer magazine well for faster reloads and two-tone finish. The full-size semi-auto is available in 9mm (20-plus-1 capacity) and .40 S&W; (17 plus 1). SRP: $1,152.

The compact CZ 75 P-01 model has been popular with customers looking for a midsize handgun for self-defense. This year CZ introduces full-size 9mm versions with its SP-01 and SP-01 Tactical models. Based upon the CZ SA/DA design, the SP-01 has an ambidextrous manual safety, while the Tactical version has ambidextrous decocker levers. Both models incorporate the improved grip geometry of the P-01, with rubber grip panels, front and backstrap checkering and extended beavertail. Standard features include an integral 1913 accessory rail on the dust cover for mounting lights or laser sights, an internally beveled magazine well for faster reloads, and fixed sights. The magazine capacity is 19 (10-, 15- and 16-round CZ 75B magazines can be used as well). SRP: $595 to $615. Booth #5649. (800-955-4486; cz-usa.com)

Ed Brown Custom Products
Ed Brown .45 ACP government- model pistols are well-known among high-end semi-auto handgun devotees. This year, they'll certainly want to get acquainted with the company's new Executive Target model.

The Executive Target is a five-inch government-model single-stack built on the Ed Brown forged frame and slide, with a match barrel and solid-steel bushing. It comes in blue steel or stainless steel or with a stainless frame and blued slide. All components are hand fitted. A Bo Mar target rear sight is melted into the slide, with a cross dovetail post-front sight. Ambidextrous safeties, long aluminum trigger, beavertail grip safety with memory groove and commander-style slotted hammer are all standard. Extensive metal checkering in the right places completes this high-end package. SRP: $2,370 to $2,495. Booth #5781. (573-565-3261; edbrown.com)

| High Standard
The classic G.I. Model 1911 makes its appearance in High Standard's new Mil-Spec line this year. The company notes that the Model TX1911 is true to the original John Browning design, with "a few improvements." The full-size 1911 features a Parkerized finish, checkered wood grips, flat mainspring housing, short trigger, lowered and flared ejection port, beveled magazine well, standard G.I.-style hammer, beavertail and sights. It comes with a seven-round magazine and a plastic hard case. SRP: $399. The High Standard Mil-Spec line is distributed exclusively by Lipsey's. Booth #4491. (800-666-1333; lipseys.com)

Kahr Arms
The slim-profile, single-stack, double-action-only line of Kahr semi-autos has become popular among folks looking for a compact yet powerful concealed-carry handgun. This year the company expands its polymer line with the introduction of the CW4043. Based on the 9mm DAO CW9, the CW4043 is chambered for the .40 S&W.; It has a barrel length of 3.6 inches, a capacity of six plus one and an overall length of 6.1 inches. The gun will be available for shipping in the early spring. SRP: $533. Booth #470, #5849 and #15008 (845-735-4500; kahr.com)

Navy Arms
The value-priced Replica Arms line returns this year with the introduction of the 1873 Single Action Revolver. Available in .357 Magnum with a 4.75-inch barrel, the 1873 fixed-sight model features a matte-blue bead-blasted finish, walnut-finished grips and a brass trigger guard and backstrap. It's backed by the Navy Arms warranty. SRP: $334.95. Booth #208. (304-262-9870; navyarms.com)

[pagebreak] Para-Ordnance
Para adds a number of new models this year to its line of 1911-framed handguns. The Para Tac-Five was designed to meet the needs of special-ops groups that use the 9mm cartridge. Its five-inch, fully ramped barrel can extract maximum velocity and handle +P loadings. The 18-round double-stack magazine and an integral tactical-size magazine well speed reloads. The Light Double Action (LDA) trigger allows a hammer-down carry and provides a consistent trigger pull from shot to shot. Its stainless-steel body is covered in the company's Covert Black Para Kote. Other features include polymer grips and a Novak Extreme Duty adjustable rear sight with a dovetailed front blade. SRP: $1,163.

Para has expanded its high-capacity LDA Nite-Tac line to include 9mm, .40 S&W; and .45 ACP. The 9mm holds 18 rounds in the magazine, the .40 handles 16 and the .45 holds 14. Para offers the choice of carbon-steel frames with Covert Black Para Kote or stainless steel with a satin brush finish. All models weigh 40 ounces and come with the LDA trigger, universal light rails for mini-lights or lasers, fixed three-dot sights, a five-inch barrel and polymer grips. SRP: $1,034 to $1,103.

The same features can be found in the PXT Covert Nite-Tac and Nite-Tac .45. These single-stack, single-action models come with seven-round magazines. SRP: $1,103. The Para Slim Hawg is a compact version of the .45 ACP 1911 single-stack. The 30-ounce stainless-steel pistol has a three-inch barrel, single-action match-grade trigger, six-round magazine, fixed three-dot sights and double-diamond checkered Cocobolo grips. Like all models in the Warthog series, it comes with a match-grade ramped barrel, Power Extractor and bushing-free recoil-spring assembly. SRP: $1,043. The Stainless Warthog .45 ACP, a double-stack version of the Slim Hawg, has a 10-round magazine capacity and polymer grips. It weighs in at 31 ounces. SRP: $989.

The new Lite Hawg models (a 10-round .45 ACP and a 12-round 9mm) have dimensions similar to the Warthog's and the same three-dot sight system, but they are made of carbon steel instead of stainless, and are equipped with an integral light rail to hold a mini-light or laser sight (sold separately). They come with high-impact polymer stocks and a Covert Black Para K1 inches. The gun will be available for shipping in the early spring. SRP: $533. Booth #470, #5849 and #15008 (845-735-4500; kahr.com)

Navy Arms
The value-priced Replica Arms line returns this year with the introduction of the 1873 Single Action Revolver. Available in .357 Magnum with a 4.75-inch barrel, the 1873 fixed-sight model features a matte-blue bead-blasted finish, walnut-finished grips and a brass trigger guard and backstrap. It's backed by the Navy Arms warranty. SRP: $334.95. Booth #208. (304-262-9870; navyarms.com)

[pagebreak] Para-Ordnance
Para adds a number of new models this year to its line of 1911-framed handguns. The Para Tac-Five was designed to meet the needs of special-ops groups that use the 9mm cartridge. Its five-inch, fully ramped barrel can extract maximum velocity and handle +P loadings. The 18-round double-stack magazine and an integral tactical-size magazine well speed reloads. The Light Double Action (LDA) trigger allows a hammer-down carry and provides a consistent trigger pull from shot to shot. Its stainless-steel body is covered in the company's Covert Black Para Kote. Other features include polymer grips and a Novak Extreme Duty adjustable rear sight with a dovetailed front blade. SRP: $1,163.

Para has expanded its high-capacity LDA Nite-Tac line to include 9mm, .40 S&W; and .45 ACP. The 9mm holds 18 rounds in the magazine, the .40 handles 16 and the .45 holds 14. Para offers the choice of carbon-steel frames with Covert Black Para Kote or stainless steel with a satin brush finish. All models weigh 40 ounces and come with the LDA trigger, universal light rails for mini-lights or lasers, fixed three-dot sights, a five-inch barrel and polymer grips. SRP: $1,034 to $1,103.

The same features can be found in the PXT Covert Nite-Tac and Nite-Tac .45. These single-stack, single-action models come with seven-round magazines. SRP: $1,103. The Para Slim Hawg is a compact version of the .45 ACP 1911 single-stack. The 30-ounce stainless-steel pistol has a three-inch barrel, single-action match-grade trigger, six-round magazine, fixed three-dot sights and double-diamond checkered Cocobolo grips. Like all models in the Warthog series, it comes with a match-grade ramped barrel, Power Extractor and bushing-free recoil-spring assembly. SRP: $1,043. The Stainless Warthog .45 ACP, a double-stack version of the Slim Hawg, has a 10-round magazine capacity and polymer grips. It weighs in at 31 ounces. SRP: $989.

The new Lite Hawg models (a 10-round .45 ACP and a 12-round 9mm) have dimensions similar to the Warthog's and the same three-dot sight system, but they are made of carbon steel instead of stainless, and are equipped with an integral light rail to hold a mini-light or laser sight (sold separately). They come with high-impact polymer stocks and a Covert Black Para K