Handguns 2006

If you had tosummarize this year’s selection of new handguns in a single word, it would be”diverse.” For long-range fans, … Continued

If you had tosummarize this year’s selection of new handguns in a single word, it would be”diverse.” For long-range fans, Weatherby’s new target-gradebolt-action is worth a look. Small-game hunters and rimfire target shootersneed to check out the new Browning Buck Mark models, while single-actionaficionados will welcome a new game-busting .50-caliber load as well as thereturn of an old favorite. And self-defense and sport shooters will findseveral new guns to suit their interests. Here’s a look at the top offeringsthis year.

BROWNINGARMS Those who favor rimfire handguns, whether for hunting, competition or plain oldplinking, will want to check out Browning’s three new models in the company’spopular Buck Mark semi-auto rimfire line.

The Buck Mark LiteSplash 5.5 and 7.25 URX models feature Browning’s new soft nitrile Ultragrip RXambidextrous grip design. The alloy receiver and alloy-sleev ed barrel arefinished in matte blue with gold-splash anod izing. Browning’s Pro- Targetadjustable rear sight and Truglo/Marble’s fiber-optic front sight are standard.Available in 5.5- and 7.25-inch barrels. ($454–$483)

The Buck MarkContour (also available in 5.5- and 7.25-inch barrels) uses the same gripmaterial and design. Its special-contour barrel, finished in matte blue, has afull-length scope base and integrated Pro-Target adjustable sight and frontblade. The combination of integral iron sights and scope base is, in myopinion, one of the more useful configurations on a field pistol because itoffers an array of sight options. When you’re targeting squirrels or varmints,slip on a low-power variable scope. Run ning cottontails are best handled withan electronic red-dot sight mounted. Once the optics are ringed up, installedon the gun and sighted-in, they can be removed and reinstalled with minimal (ifany) change in the original point of impact, so you can use the iron sightswhen you prefer. It’s an extremely versatile sight system. ($413–$427)

The BuckmarkBullseye Target Stainless model features a 7.25-inch heavy round fluted bullbarrel. The alloy receiver is finished in matte blue. The grips are reallyflashy and made of laminated rosewood. Pro-Target adjustable sights arestandard. ($643; browning.com)

FREEDOM ARMS

The Freedom ArmsModel 83 has a well-deserved reputation among experienced handgun hunters asone of the premier single-action revolvers on the market. This year it will beoffered in a new proprietary cartridge that is suitable for virtually anybig-game animal you might hunt with a handgun.

The .500 WyomingExpress (.500WE) is a straight-walled cartridge using a belted case and largerifle primers. Designed for bullets weighing 350 to 440 grains, it can launch a350-grain Hornady XTP jacketed hollowpoint at 1,600 fps from a 7.5-inch barrel.The same velocity range is achievable with 370- and 400-grain cast-leadbullets, and the 440-grain cast-lead slugs can reach 1,400 fps. That’s not veryfar from the S&W .500 Magnum, yet the cartridge is compact enough to fitinto the existing Model 83 SA. So far, the cartridge is not available as afactory-loaded round, but handloading dies and load data are available fromFreedom Arms.

The .500 WE ischambered in both the five-shot Premier Grade, with laminated hardwood gripsand click-adjustable sights ($2,120), and the five-shot Field Grade, usingPachmayr grips and a rear sight that’s click-adjustable for elevation anddrift-adjustable for windage ($1,639). Barrel lengths of 4.75, 6 and 7.75inches are available. (freedomarms.com)

STURM, RUGER &CO.

When the Ruger .44Magnum “flattop” was introduced in 1956, handgunning authority ElmerKeith proclaimed it the finest single-action revolver yet made. Newer andstronger single-action designs have followed, but shooters mourned the gun’spassage when it was discontinued in 1962. Many feel it was the most elegantsingle-action revolver Ruger ever produced. This year the gun will return as aspecial anniversary model.

The Ruger 50thAnniversary .44 Magnum New Model Blackhawk features the trim flattop-stylecylinder frame with the original micro-style click-adjustable rear sight andfluted cylinder that were the hallmark of the original. It also incorporatesthe smaller XR-3 grip frame, 6.5-inch barrel with ramp front sight, andcheckered black grip panels with the original Ruger grip medallions. The gunsare adorned with a gold-colored barrel roll mark noting “50 Years of .44Magnum–1956–2006.”

Externally, itrecaptures the elegant lines of the original flattop. Internally, the50th-anniversary model boasts the latest mechanical features found on currentRuger single-action revolvers. These include the transfer-bar ignition systemand loading-gate mechanism, the patented reverse-indexing pawl, and anunobtrusive internal lock under the right grip panel.

Although some mayview this as a collector’s item, the mechanical im provements make it a solid”working gun” that can perform as nicely in the field as it looks inthe gun case. ($605; ruger.com)

WEATHERBY

Handgun hunterswho appreciate the range and accuracy of a bolt-action pistol will like the newWeatherby Compact Firing Platform (CFP). The CFP is a target-grade bolt gunusing Weatherby’s Mark Vaction mated to a 16-inch 4140 chrome-moly steel,target-crowned No. 2 contour barrel. The ac tion is pillar-bedded into a Fibermark composite stock that incorporates an ambidextrous grip design and featuresdistinctive black spiderwebbing. All metalwork is bead blasted to a matte bluefinish to reduce game-spooking glare, and the gun is drilled and tapped forscope mounting.

With an overalllength of 27.5 inches and an empty weight of 5.25 pounds, it’s a handful ofhandgun, and with a price tag of $1,499, it’s not inexpensive. But like allWeatherby Mark V firearms, it’s guaranteed to produce three-shot 1.5-inchgroups at 100 yards (from a cold barrel) when using premium ammunition.

The CFP will beavailable in .223 Rem. and .22-250 Rem. for varmint hunters, in 7mm-08 forthose pursuing medium game and in .243 Win. for those who wish to target both.(weatherby.com)

Defense Guns

CZ-USA The CZ 75 P-01 is popular among shooters looking for a midsize 9mm self-defensepistol. This year CZ brings out two full-size versions with the SP-01 and SP-01Tactical models.

The SP-01 series is built on the same alloy frame asthe P-01, with the barrel length increased from 3.8 to 4.7 inches. Both modelsfeature the CZ DA/SA trigger design and incorporate the improved grip geometryof the P-01, with rubber grip panels, front and rear strap serrations, extendedbeavertail, front slide cocking serrations and an integral accessory rail onthe dust cover for mounting lights and lasers. The SP-01 features ambidextrousmanual safeties to allow a cocked-and-locked carry, while the Tactical modelhas ambidextrous decocker levers for a hammer-down DA carry. Fixed sights arestandard and magazine capacity is 19 rounds, but the gun will also accept all10-, 15- and 16-round 9mm CZ-75B magazines.

Although the SP-01 series is designed for self-defense,its features are already making it popular with some action-pistol competitors.($595–$615; cz-usa.com)

SMITH & WESSON Those who wander wild places know the advantage of having some big bullets onhand, and if they want them in a compact package, the new S&W PerformanceCenter .45 Long Colt Mountain Gun is a good bet.

Like the .44 Magnum Mountain Gun, the .45 LC uses thelarge, six-shot, stainless-steel double-action frame but trims weight to 39.5ounces with a fluted cylinder and a tapered 4-inch barrel. Sights are a pinnedblack front ramp and the S&W adjustable rear sight. Hogue rubber Monogripsare standard, and the gun is drilled and tapped for optical sights.

Although this same package is available in .44 Magnum,the .45 LC version has its advantages. Recoil is less, and a .45-caliber slugin the 250- to 260-grain weight at a velocity of 850 to 900 fps is nothing tosneeze at. ($815; smith-wesson.com)

PARA-ORDNANCE Built on Para’s high-capacity 1911 frame, the new Todd Jarrett/USPSA LimitedEdition .40 S&W is sure to be popular with action-pistol competitors. This16-shot, full-size, single- action pistol features a match-grade trigger,high-impact polymer grips, a carbon-steel frame finished in covert black and astainless-steel slide with a brushed sterling finish. It’s topped with afiber-optic front sight and a Novak Extreme Duty adjustable rear.

While competition is the intended purpose, 16 rounds of.40 S&W on tap makes it a potent self-defense tool for those favoring thesingle-action 1911 design. ($1,599; paraord.com)

According to surveys conducted by the National ShootingSports Foundation, target shooting with a handgun is one of the fivefastest-growing outdoor sports. Many of those shooters are. T should provepopular with them.

FREEDOMARMS MODEL 83 – This year the Model 83 will be chambered in .500 WyomingExpress–ideal for any big game. BROWNINGBM LITE SPLASH – This flashy .22 features a new Ultragrip RX ambidextrous gripdesign and a choice of barrel lengths. BROWNINGBM CONTOUR – This semi-auto has a special-contour barrel, adjustable sights anda full-length scope base. BROWNINGBM BULLSEYE TARGET STAINLESS – Features include a fluted bull barrel androsewood grips. RUGERBLACKHAWK – This .44 commemorates the Blackhawk’s 50thanniversary. WEATHERBY MARK V CFP – Based on the famed Mark V action, the CFP appeals toboth varmint and big-game hunters. CZ 75TACTICAL SPORTS – The TS has a new factory-tuned trigger to make itcompetition-ready out of the box. NEWS&W MOUNTAIN GUN – S&W will be upgrading its popular Mountain Gun(shown here) with a new Performance Center version in .45 LongColt. PARATODD JARRETT – This limited-edition .40 is a high-capacity, 16-round, full-size1911 model.