Category Archives: gun culture

Everything old: Lever Guns are the new Modern

One interesting thing I noticed walking around SHOT Show last month was that there just seemed to be lever-action rifles everywhere. Besides the expected cowboy offerings from the usual suspects like Browning, Chiappa, Cimmaron, Henry, Rossi, Taylor’s, and Winchester, there were new really new (and returning) names in the game.

The new Tombstone by POF-USA is the black rifle company’s take on a modern lever-action chambered in a pistol caliber. “Initially offered in 9mm,” the carbine uses the company’s proprietary magazine already introduced last year with the Phoenix PCC. While this is sure to solicit quick groans from folks who already have lots of Glock, Beretta, Colt, or SIG pattern 9mm mags around the house, the company markets the new line of 9mm bananas in 10 and 20-round formats with a 35-rounder promised for a cost of about $30.

The cost of these, for some reason, is almost $2K.

Even Bond Arms (the derringer guys) has a black rifle lever gun they were showing off. While it may look kinda funny, it is extremely modular, using standard AR-15 uppers and mags, as well as Remington 870 pattern shotgun stocks.

Word is that a lot of folks out in Arizona had some input on it.

TriStar, the Turkish shotgun guys, are now in the lever action game, albeit in a more traditional flavor.

Lots of folks like Tri-Star’s shotguns, so the lever guns will probably be a hit. 

While Ruger’s new Marlin line has concentrated on bringing back the classic Model 1895 Big Loops in .45-70 last year, this year will see the vaunted old Model 336 make a comeback. The fast-handling icon of whitetail deer hunters everywhere, this lever-action rifle is chambered in .30-30 Win. and .35 Remington and will be available sometime later in 2023.

Sorry, no prices on it yet, but as old JM-marked guns have tripled in value just over the past few years, it couldn’t be too far off the mark.

Probably more deer were shot at in the southeast by one of these than any other rifle over the years.

Here come the Jackals

Palmetto State Armory has been moving ahead with its neat JAKL long-stroke gas piston systems and had several concept guns on display at SHOT Show. While they aren’t in production, it is nice to see they are thinking with broad strokes and, like concept cars, they give a glimpse of what the company may start making in the future, especially if they get a lot of feedback.

Among the concept uppers they had were a 9mm ARV that fits standard lowers, a JAKL KS47 in 7.62×39 that fits KS47 lowers and takes AK style mags, and a 13.7-inch 5.56 that fits standard AR-15 lowers and allows for a folding stock.

Good to see there is some innovation out there.

In one of the most surprising stories from SHOT…

Confession time: I have long owned and used an 8+1 shot Bersa Thunder CC .380, finding it both reliable and very easy to conceal. At the time I picked it up, I’d gone down a rabbit hole in which I owned several Argentinian-made pistols including a few HAFDASA Ballester–Molina .45ACPs and a couple of 9mm FM (not FN) Hi-Powers.

Not a bad little gun…

Founded by a trio of Italian immigrants to Argentina back in the 1950s, the company made a name for itself crafting small and dependable blowback-action pistols that evoked a sort of Walther PP/PPK flavor.

Long imported by Eagle Imports, Bersa switched gears in 2021 and elected to go with Talon moving forward while also looking to bring some production to the U.S. This led to a new state-of-the-art facility in Kennesaw, Georgia which has been slowly standing up for the past two years.

That’s what brought me to Bersa’s booth hidden over in the 70,000-block of Ceasar’s Forum during SHOT Show last week.

Did I mention they are making a half dozen different AR models now?

More in my column at Guns.com.

So Beretta *finally* made another SAO 92

“Did you see the Single Action?” he asked in lieu of a greeting. The man posing the question was a friend of mine, long involved in the behind-the-scenes R&D and market research at Beretta and now with another similarly large and distinguished European gun maker in whose booth we were standing at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

In fact, I had not seen the new Beretta 92 XI, or “9211” first-hand but I had heard of its existence from a fellow gun writer who had gone to the media day for the gun the day prior. It was a small community and news always traveled fast, especially in the digital age.

“So I take it you had a hand in that?” I asked.

“Oh yeah.”

“Why did it take so long to do that? Folks loved the Billennium,” I said, speaking of the limited run of SAO Beretta 92s released in 2001. These guns are often described as the best 92 ever made.

Heading over to Beretta shortly after speaking to my friend about everything his new company was working on, I encountered the 92XI and was impressed.

Using all the “X” series features that the company had previously introduced in the 92X Performance model– optics ready slide, slim Vertec frame, DLC coated trigger internals– the new 92XI runs a crisp single-action-only trigger with a flat bow and a manual frame-mounted safety lever, ideal for carrying “cocked and locked.”

More in my column at Guns.com.

The two Coolest things at SHOT Show

You know, if you told me 10 years ago that the two coolest items across the 13.9 miles of aisles and 2,500 companies exhibiting at the 45th annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas would both be at the Palmetto State Armory booth, I would not have believed you.

However, it happened.

The company has brought back two icons: H&R M16A1s and a centerfire U.S.-made Sturmgewehr 44.

The H&R brand comes as a reboot of the old circa 1871 firearms company that PSA picked up for pocket change in Remington’s 2020 bankruptcy sale. Turning the refreshed brand over to NoDakSpud founder Mike Wettleland, they will be making classic M16A1 as well as Colt 723 and 635 models. The former were made by H&R as a Colt subcontractor in 1968-71.

The H&R M16A1 retro rifle is hand-crafted from proprietary forging dies with 1960s vintage government markings. As the guns made for the Army back in the Fortunate Son era were in the 2-million range, the new H&R will mimic that although will be distinctive in the fact that they have West Columbia, South Carolina rollmarks rather than the Worchester, Massachusetts marks of the original. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

This brings us to Hill & Mac Gunworks of Alpharetta, Georgia, a small gunmaker that had been working on an updated semi-auto Sturmgewehr clone made with modern techniques complete with a threaded barrel, a long stroke piston operating tilting bolt action, an HK style trigger pack, wooden furniture, and the possibility of being chambered in 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, .300 AAC Blackout, or the original 7.92 Kurz– the latter is still in production by Privi Partisan in Europe.

Well, while HMG did sell some generationally similar CETME-L builds a few years back and marketed some reactive steel targets, their Sturmgewehr never made it to serial production and by 2020 the project largely fell off the radar after the company went radio silent.

Until now.

Popping up at Palmetto State Armory’s booth at SHOT Show last week was Mac Steil, the “M” of HMG, with news that PSA had stepped in to bring the project across the finish line. Advancing to the production stage, HMG customers that had preordered it from them back in the day will still get their HMG-marked gun while new guns for PSA will be under that company’s new “Battlefield” series.

The StG will still be offered in all four HMG calibers, use a STANAG mag pattern, and still runs an HK trigger pack. Caliber can be swapped by the user via a mag, barrel, and bolt change. There will also be things such as BFAs for reenactors, folding stock models, and more planned for the future.

Oh, that Cheetah roar

Probably one of the most underrated of .380ACPs, the old-school Beretta 84/85 Cheetah, with its subcompact alloy frame and its 13+1 capacity, was a rock-solid classic back in the 1990s and early 2000s.

I have a couple of different .32 and .380 Beretta Cheetahs, all recently imported former Italian police guns, and I really like them.

Well, Beretta has brought it back in a very modern second generation, the 80X.

As its name would imply, borrows the Vertec grip, X-treme S Double/Single trigger, and skeletonized hammer as seen on the 92X line, but shrinks everything down a bit while keeping a 13+1 round capacity.

Direct blowback action, it runs a 3.9-inch barrel giving it an overall length of a very handy 4.9 inches. Weight is 25 ounces unloaded. Either way, nice to see folks are still making hammer-fired metal-framed guns for mainstream carry use. 

More in my column at Guns.com.

Barrett Firearms… is now Australian

Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms, an icon among American rifle makers since 1982, has been 100 percent acquired by an Australian company. 

The Brisbane-based NIOA Group, a family-owned Australian defense contractor whose name is derived from founder Robert Nioa, jointly announced the acquisition alongside Barrett on Jan. 16. 

Ronnie Barrett and Chris Barrett will “provide ongoing support as executive advisers” to Barrett and the NIOA Group while current Barrett President Sam Shallenberger will take over as Chief Executive Officer and long-serving Barrett Chief Operating Officer Bryan James becomes President. Otherwise, “All management and staff at the Murfreesboro manufacturing facility in Tennessee have been retained and production will continue as normal,” says the companies. “Over time it is expected that manufacturing activities in Murfreesboro will be further expanded.”

The two companies have been working together for years. 

“NIOA’s association with Barrett dates back to 2008,” said Robert Nioa. “We have been inspired by the story of Barrett and admire what Ronnie, Chris, and the family have built over more than four decades.”

Barrett Firearms was founded by Ronnie Barrett in 1982 and moved into the category of legend with its “Light Fifty” system which spawned a series of follow-on big-bore rifles.

The company recently moved into AR10 production as well and is the current sole contractor for the Army’s new MK22 Advanced Sniper Rifles, based on Barrett’s popular MRAD platform. According to the latest available statistics from federal regulators, Barrett manufactured 6,815 rifles in 2020. 

Just Ruger giving the folks what they want

Bill Ruger, for all his faults, wasn’t stupid. He started his company from his garage in the late 1940s by making a simple and affordable .22LR pistol. Fast forward almost 75 years later, and the publicly-traded giant that has a $130 million cash reserve even after buying Marlin is still playing the classics.

In 2019, their simple and affordable .22LR single-action revolver, dubbed the Wrangler, was launched and, at a $269 entry point, has been extremely successful. Now for 2023, they have expanded it to include a “Sheriff” version which is chopped down from a 4.62-inch barrel to a 3.75-inch format, and have gone even longer with 6.5- and 7.5-inchers.

Overall length is 13 inches on the Ruger Wrangler with the 7.5-inch barrel, seen at the top, compared to 8.62 inches on 3.75-inch barreled “Birdshead” Wranglers, 10.25 inches on standard-sized models with 4.62-inch barrels, and 12 inches on 6.5-inch models. (Photo: Ruger)

The new long-format guns mimic the old Ruger Single-Six Buntlines, which have been in and out of production with 9.5-inch barrels, and the New Model Single-Six, which has a 6.5-inch barrel – but costs much more than any Wrangler.

The Ruger New Model Single-Six, with a 6.5-inch barreled offering, is a much nicer .22 but costs about twice as much as a Wrangler, when you can find them.

The price is still $269, asking, which translates to $199 at the gun counter.

Bill Ruger would recognize the game.

Got $110K and want to be in a club?

Pennsylvania’s Cabot Guns has released (most) of their picks for the upcoming 2023 Gun of the Month Club Collection. Now the company, which has done this for the past three years, is the one that makes all those far-out 1911s crafted out of meteors, so keep in mind that they make above-top-shelf stuff specifically for collectors with deep pockets.

A club member, if selected, has to pay $110K but they get a limited edition 1911 shipped to their FFL each month, all with a theme. While that is a bit high– over $9,000 per gun on average– some of these actually look kind of cool.

Of course, in the words of Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

  • January – The Belligerent Rhone 9 mm – A loud yet elegantly functional bull barrel beauty
  • February – The Sandrin 1911 .45 ACP – The Fibonacci number sequence meets 1911
  • March – The Midnight Standard .45 ACP – A unique take on a favorite Commander pistol
  • April – Hunt Club .45 ACP – A collector-prized beauty with classic styling cues
  • May – The American Flair 1911 .45 ACP – An engraved collaboration with Master Engraver Otto Carter
  • June – The Bedside Demon 9 mm – An intense patterned stainless Damascus pistol
  • July – The Aristocrat .45 ACP – A class-ruling colossal 1911-style pistol.
  • August – Icon Royale .45 ACP.  Minimalism in 1911 in regal bold colors.
  • September – Apocalypse Deluxe 9 mm.  Mechanical innovation in our Vintage Classic finish.
  • October – La Arabesque .45 ACP – An engraved collaboration Master Engraver Lee Griffiths
  • November – The Hulk .45 ACP.  Hulk will smash expectations, two-tone, swooping serrations.
  • December – Top Secret.

January – Belligerent Rhone

February – Sandrin 1911

March – Midnight Standard

April – Hunt Club

May – The American Flair 1911

June – The Bedside Demon

July – The Aristocrat

August – Icon Royale

September – Apocalypse Deluxe

October – La Arabesque

Cabot November Hulk

That great shooting range in the sky

Among those lost to the gun community in 2022:

Aaron Hogue — One of the managing owners of Hogue Grips and son of Guy Hogue, the company’s founder, Aaron died when the jet he was piloting in the National Championship Races at Reno crashed. 

Peter J. “Pete” Hylenski — A gifted design engineer who left his mark with Wildey, Winchester, and Kimber, Hylenski was known as “Mr. Model 70” as he was the long-term Model 70 Rifle Design Engineer during the era that saw the return of the “pre-’64” type Model 70 control-round feed action. Hylenski passed away on March 29, 2022, aged 77.

Thomas Devine Smith — A Texas sports shooter and Air Force officer, Smith competed in the 50-meter pistol event at the 1964 Summer Olympics before winning two gold medals at the 1963 Pan American Games. He set and broke numerous pistol records in his career, some of which still stand even decades later. He also survived his plane breaking up in-flight, landing on snow-covered Mt. Helmos in Greece without a parachute, surviving the fall. Colonel Smith died in May, aged 90. 

George Trulock — Founder of the shotgun choke empire that bears his name– and is OEM for numerous manufacturers– George Trulock was a legend in the gun industry. He passed in June and is remembered by his company as “a visionary and a creative genius” as well as an “amazing human being.” 

The rest of the list is in my column at Guns.com.

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