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Benelli’s Lupo – This time in 308 Win A wolf in Italian clothing

03/21/2021

The Benelli Company

The Benelli family formed a motorcycle manufacturing business in 1911. In 1940, a Benelli family interest in hunting led to the manufacture of shotguns. By 1967, the firearm business had progressed sufficiently to warrant the formation of Benelli Armi SpA.

Urbino, Italy based Benelli Armi SpA was acquired by Beretta Holding in 1983. With 279 employees and sales of $123 million, Benelli is a major brand operating under Beretta Holding.

Benelli Armi SpA manufacturers a multitude of firearms: including semiautomatic, pump and over & under shotguns. Additionally there are semiautomatic and bolt action rifles, as well as competition rimfire, centerfire, and air powered pistols. The company’s markets are civilian, military and law enforcement.

The Lupo rifle

Introduced by Benelli in January 2020, the Lupo was initially offered in 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield and 300 Winchester Magnum. Caliber selection has since been extended to include the 243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor and 308 Winchester, further broadening the rifle’s hunting applications.

Manufactured in a form that could easily pass as a sleek, traditional sporter, the Benelli Lupo is actually a highly configurable chassis rifle that nominally weighs less than 7 lbs and is guaranteed to deliver sub MOA accuracy. In spec box form, it looks a bit like this:

 

Benelli Lupo

Manufactured Urbino, Italy
Item # 11904
Type Bolt Action 3 Lug 60° Lift
Caliber* 308 Winchester
Mag Capacity 5 Rd Flush Detachable
Barrel Length 22″  5/8″- 24 Threaded Muzzle
Rifling 1:11″
Weight 6.9 lbs
Overall Length 44.2″
Stocks Black Synthetic
Chassis
Black Anodized Aluminum
Barreled Action
Matte Blued – Steel
 Length of Pull 13.80″ –  14.75″
Drop at comb 3/4″ Nominal – Medium, High Option
Drop at heel 3/4″ Nominal 50mm +/- Adjustable
Metallic Sights None
Scope Mount 2 Piece Picatinny + Drilled & Tapped
Trigger Adjustable 2.2 lbs – 4.4 lbs
Safety Tang 2 Position
MSRP $1,699
*Available in: 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Winchester Magnum

Italian engineering if often elegant in innovation and artful in execution. However, unlike a $100,000 Ducati Superleggera or a $625,000 Ferrari SF90 Stradale, owning a Benelli Lupo does not require a tech executive’s income, the presence of a midlife crisis and/or a mandated appearance in divorce court. Within the world of quality production rifles, based on price tag and value received, the Lupo is quite a bargain.

 

A little detail…

The Benelli Lupo mounting system is actually three primary components. Above – Top, the buttstock system is comprised of a Benelli’s Progressive Comfort recoil absorption system, a polymer buttstock that is adjustable for drop and cast off and, optionally, comb height. Above – Bottom a forearm that provides shooter support, but does not contact the rifle’s barrel/ Above – middle, a hard anodized aluminum chassis that mounts the buttstock, forearm, magazine, and the rifle’s barreled action.

A top down view the aluminum chassis. The rifle’s action is secured to the chassis with a rear top-down fastener and one bottom up fastener The magazine release spring assures that the flush fit magazine pops down when intended. The steel insert recoil lug interlocks with the action to take the bulk of the thumping.

Perhaps better context, the aluminum chassis is sandwiched and secured between polymer forearm and buttstock. Chassis? Frame? The manual refers the action as the upper receiver, which by default makes the chassis the lower receiver. I tend to think of a lower receiver as something that is the second functional half of an upper receiver, typically holding a rifle’s magazine and fire control parts. In this case, fire control and safety pieces are a part of the rifle’s bolt action the lower assembly plays more of the role a composite stock’s aluminum chassis. It securely and predictably mounts the barreled action to the stock assembly.

The Lupo is supplied with a low, straight comb insert in place. A medium and high comb are available as accessory options. The combs can be changed by removing the recoil pad and progressive comfort system and unlatching the comb from inside of the stock. Combs and larger… thicker recoil pads can be purchased at the Benelli web site or through Benelli dealers.

A drop/cast change kit and length of pull spacers are included with the Lupo. Following a matrix in the rifle’s manual, drop can be increased or diminished in four increments each way, with and without cast. The spacing between grip and trigger can also be increased. The rifle is shipped with no spacers for 3/4″ of drop at the comb and heel, relative to bore center line. Maximum spacer adjustment yields 55mm up or down, or just under 2″. A range greater than anyone would need.

The five round magazine, four for belted magnum rifles, fits flush to the bottom of the stock and is held securely by a recessed latch. The recess is long enough to permit release with a gloved hand. A magazine release spring affixed to the chassis pops the front of the magazine out for easy removal. The magazine staggers cartridges from side to side to get five rounds in a small space. The magazine can be replenished in place through the rifle’s ejection port. Additional magazines can be purchased through Benelli and Benelli dealers.

The tang safety is a basic two position arrangement, on or off. The bolt is not locked when the safety is engaged. A small red tab, at the back of the cocking piece, protrudes from the bolt shroud when the striker is cocked. The Benelli Lupo is supplied with preinstalled, two piece rail mounts. Cross section is Picatinny/Weaver, however, space between slots is not. Any Picatinny rings with single cross interlocks would work, such as the Warne rings used during the project.

The bolt is full diameter with trilobal lugs. Yes, trilobal is a real adjective and I am using it without remorse. Bolt lift is 60°, the bolt face is recessed to contain a cartridge case head, the extractor is a sliding type and the ejector is spring loaded. The bolt handle is removable. I want to call it “dog leg” but it is not. The handle tucks flush into the chassis, then sweeps aft, placing the knob right where a shooter would grab. Cycling the action and stripping a round from the magazine feels like the bolt is running on roller bearings. Very slick.

I have three kinds of tools for removing and reinstalling bolt action strikers, not counting the hardwood edge of my desk that I reserve for MILSURP M98 Mausers. This was the easiest bolt to disassemble, clean and reassemble. No tools required, just a push of the button on the bolt cap… Benelli nomenclature, rotate clockwise to the index mark and pull the striker out. I was going to measure striker spring rate and compare the striker assembly weight, but I got distracted gathering targets and ammo for live fire and forgot. Trigger pull was light, but lock time seemed brief. Feel and listen to firing pins drop on primers long enough and the fast ones stand out. Next time I will use more objective measurement.

The Benelli’s action is tubular, which makes for large surface area contact where secured, and uniform pressure at those points. The forward notch locates the action longitudinally to the recoil lug embedded in the rifle’s chassis. The trigger is exceptional. The subject gun’s trigger pull checked 2 lbs 13 oz. It was so clean and so crisp, I left it alone. Adjustment could have been made with the included wrench, through the ejection port, no action removal required. Neato.

The barrel is threaded into a hardened barrel extension and the barrel extension is threaded into the receiver. The barrel extension provides the engagement surfaces for the bolt’s locking lugs. The 22″ barrel is cryogenically treating, cooled to -300°F. The process relieves stresses caused by hammer forging, smooths and levels material grain for reduced bore friction and a more uniform surface and makes for easier cleaning.

The 5/8″- 24 barrel threads opens the door to all sorts of muzzle devices. In this case I was happy to install a SilencerCo Omega 36M silencer, as were my distant rural neighbors and assorted and sundry wildlife. A quick attack set up, I was able to shoot with and without silencer in the event it diminished the rifle’s accuracy. However, the silencer had no such negative influence on the rifle.

Live fire…

I wish I could tell you the Benelli Lupo was taken on a Tuscany roe deer hunt. I cannot. I did, however, put on my L.L. Bean muck boots and hoofed it out into the woods through late winter… muck and put up some 100 yard targets and shot from a rest, placed on a bench.

Two types of factory ammunition were shot through the Benelli Lupo, Federal Power Shok 150 grain soft point and Federal Premium Edge TLR 175 grain. The Power Shok was selected as a good for deer hunting and typical of non-specialized 150 grain ammo. The Edge TLR was selected because it is heavy for caliber and I wanted to see how it stabilized with 1:11″ rifling. The silencer was left off during data collection as this is the way the rifle would typically be configured.

308 Winchester
Bullet
Type
Bullet
Grains
Rated
MV FPS
Recorded
MV FPS
100 Yard
3 Shot Group “
Federal Power Shok JSP 150 2820 2770 0.4
Federal Premium Edge TLR JPT 175 2600 2601 0.6

 

The Benelli Lupo may be a lupo on game, but not on the shooter. The recoil pad yields progressively to decelerate recoil, while transforming structure and retaining stability. The result is a light, soft shooting rifle. With the silencer or a brake in place it was like a vacation day. For all of the engineering and tech at work in the Lupo, none of it got in the way when shooting. I’d guess the most difficult decision a person would make when selecting a Benelli Lupo would be which caliber.

 

Winchester’s Model 1894 Carbine Greatest inventions? Fire, the wheel and lever action rifles

03/07/2021

If only someone would design a compact, lightweight, high capacity, fast shooting rifle that would take deer, cleanly, at 200 yards? That statement addresses the needs and application of at least 80% of the deer hunts in the United States. Yet the current trend is the long range rifle; long barrel, heavy weight, often chambered for a magnum size cartridge.Why?

There are a multitude of reasons, both recreational and security, for owning a firearm, where hunting is only one. Many rifles purchased never get farther than the rifle range where the objectives are to punch holes in a target and impress the shooter at the adjacent bench, so there is little to challenge selections as hunting firearms.

Mention the 30-30 Winchester in social media as an appropriate firearm for 100 yard deer rifle and the boo birds will immediately dismiss the cartridge as barely rabbit worthy; too short ranged and mostly chambered in old fashioned lever action rifles. Which will come as a surprise to anyone who has actually lived and hunted at any point within the past century… especially to those who have departed and are hardly ever asked to opine.

The Winchester Model 1894, a John Browning design, was the first Winchester designed specifically for smokeless powder cartridges. With minor interruptions, it has been in production for roughly one hundred and twenty seven years.

Plain and highly embellished, barrel lengths from 14 1/2″ to 36″, take down and one piece, the Model 1894 has come to mean many things to a lot of people. With minor interruptions, the carbine version has been available since the onset of production in 1894. How could such a rifle remain in production for so long?

Winchester Model 1894 Carbine

Manufactured

B.C. Miroku of Japan

Item Number

534199114

Caliber 30-30 Winchester
Magazine Capacity 7
Butt & Fore Stock Grade 1 Black Walnut – Satin
Hardware Blued Steel Brush Polished
Barrel

20″ Round

Twist Rate

1:12″

Weight

6 lbs 8 oz

Overall Length 38″
Length of Pull 13 1/2″
Drop at Comb 1 1/4“
Drop at heel 1 3/4″
Sights Marble Front – Adj. Buckhorn Rear
Scope Drilled & Tapped

No

Measured Trigger Pull

4 Lbs 11 Oz.

Safety Sliding Tang
MSRP

$1,239.99

 

Like the Models: 1885, 1886, 1890, 1892, 1895. and 1900 the Winchester Model 1894 is a John Browning design. Where the Model 1886 was designed for long, large bore black powder rifle cartridges and the Model 1892 was made for big bore, black powder revolver cartridges, the Model 1894 was designed for long length, smaller bore, smokeless powder cartridges.

The Model 94 does not have the dimensional capacity to handle the 0.608″ rim of the 45-70 Gov’t cartridge, but it does comfortably handle the 0.532″ rim of the 450 Marlin and its 47,862 PSI MAP. The current Model 1894’s receiver is machined from solid billet and is an angle eject design; the right receiver wall is lowered, the extractor is located at 1:00 o’clock on the both and the ejector is at 7:30. Yes, both AM and PM.

Above, Model 1892 top image, Model 1894 bottom. The Model 1892’s side locking bolts move perpendicular to the bore. The Model 1894’s rear locking bolt moves with the bottom of the receiver and locks with a 10° rearward cant relative to the bolt’s longitudinal axis, but parallel to the rear surface of the breech bolt. The Model 1894 differs from the Models 1886 and 1892 in that the bottom of the Model 94’s receiver is hinged and toggles the motion of the lever to allow a longer bolt stroke within a compact receiver length. Side rails on the breech bolt make for smooth bolt travel and locate and hold the bolt to bore centerline.

 

While simple , the front and rear sights are short and longer reach capable. The combination of the centering buckhorn form with precision notch and front bead make for fast target acquisition and precision shot placement. For folks who think they are too basic; practice until comfortable with this sight type. It is worth the effort, and never experience the loss of a system to dead batteries or a scopes fallen reticles.

The 30-30 Winchester cartridge

The 30-30 Winchester was America’s first sporting rifle centerfire smokeless cartridge, introduced in 1895 as a caliber option for the Winchester Model 1894. The 30-30 designation reflects .30 caliber and 30 grains of powder for the original load that produce 1,970 fps muzzle velocity with a 160 grain bullet. Lever, bolt and pump action firearms have been chambered for the cartridge, as well as rolling block and break action firearms. As the 7.62x51R, European designation, the cartridge was popular in single shot and drillings and combination firearms.

 

The 30-30 Winchester chambered Model 1894 is fast handling, compact, light in weight and high capacity. In the hands of competent hunters, it is capable of clean kills on deer size game at 200 yards and elk size game a bit closer. While Winchester limits their 30-30 Winchester ammunition to deer size game, companies like Federal and Hornady list 30-30 Winchester products as suitable for big, thin skinned, game up to 1,500 lbs.

Currently, there are forty two factory loads, sold under twelve ammunition brands for the 30-30 Winchester shooter. They are loaded in bullet weights from 125 grains to 190 grains, including subsonic, lead, jacketed lead and lead free projectiles. An example of factory ammo performance…

 

30-30 Winchester – Hornady 160 Grain FTX Factory Ammo
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2400 2274 2151 2033 1919 1808 1702
Energy – ft.-lbs. 2046 1836 1644 1468 1308 1162 1029
Momentum – lbs-sec 55 52 49 46 44 41 39
Path – in. -1.50 1.56 2.94 2.43 -0.17 -5.14 -12.77

 

The “You can’t save money reloading the 30-30 Winchester” myth

A 30-30 Winchester cartridge offers a good deal of potential for the handloader; accuracy tuning to a specific firearm, combinations of components not available in factory ammunition including home cast bullets and substantial cost savings. When opponents of reloading want to dismiss the option of handloading, they often suggests there are no meaningful savings to be had. They will make their case by pointing to the lowest priced factory ammunition available and compare it to the most expensive reloading components that could be used by a handloader.

Quality, but basic name brand factory ammunition is currently priced between $18 and $21 per box of 20, or 90 cents to $1.10 per round. Premium product lines within those brands… Barnes, Federal, Hornady, Winchester are priced at $40 to $50 per box of twenty, or $2 to $2.50 per round. Specialty brands, like Buffalo Bore, price their ammunition at $92 per box of 20, or $4.60 per round.

New Winchester 30-30 WCF brass is priced at $19 per 50 pieces, or 38 cents per casing. Brass can be loaded at least five times, if not ten. So, conservatively, the cost of brass is 7.6 cents per cartridge reloaded. We’ll round that up to an even 8 cents.

The price of smokeless powder has dramatically increased to approx $30/lb. With a nominal 30-30 Winchester case charge of 35 grains, a 7000 grain container yields 200 rounds of handloads for 15 cents per round.

Primers, another commodity that has surged in price, are currently at 4 cents per round.

The range of bullets prices is wide as there is substantial variety and most are application specific. A Speer Hot-Cor 150 grain JSP costs approximately 24 cents per. A Meister Hard Cast 150 grain runs 12 cents per bullet. Lead free bullets… a Barnes Triple Shock FN costs 76 cents per, the Nosler E-Tip runs $1.10 per bullet and there are others that fall within that range.

Yes, costs vary by a couple of bucks for factory and reloaded ammo, but the advantage is clear. Plus, who doesn’t want to hunt with ammunition the carefully assembled with their own hands?

Reload to Factory Ammo Comparison
$ Brass $ Powder $ Primer $ Bullet $ Round $ Box of 20 $ Factory
Box of 20
$ Savings
Box of 20
Basic Hunting Ammo
Hard Cast Bullet
0.08 0.15 0.04 0.12 0.39 7.80 18.00 – 21.00 10.20 – 13.20
Premium Ammo
Barnes JSP 190 grain (Same as Buffalo Bore)
0.08 0.15 0.04 0.68 0.95 19.00 40.00 – 92.00 21.00 – 73.00

 

No +P+ 30-30 Winchester handloads please

Some folks see the 45-70 Government with a standard pressure of 28,000 psi, pushed by some independent ammunition loaders to pressures of 36,000 psi – 40,000 psi with astounding results and while pushing the limits of the receiving rifles. Why not do the same with the 30-30 Winchester cartridge? Numerous reasons.

The 30-30 Winchester’s standard pressure SAAMI ammo is already 42,000 psi, 46,000 psi for CIP ammo, and the 30-30 Winchester generates a comparatively high level of bolt thrust. There is no similar increments of opportunity to explore. Plus, the sharply tapered 30-30 Winchester brass in a lever action rifle tends to stretch excessively with even modest increases in pressure. The result is a lot of wear and tear on the rifle, short brass life, the potential for case head separation, and little to be gained.

What makes the 45-70 +P loads so interesting is not trajectory flattening velocity increases, but rather big kinetic energy gains as K.E. increases at approximately the square of the velocity. Bump a 400 grain bullet by 300 fps and 400 grains @ 1700 fps and 2568 ft.lbs of energy becomes 2000 fps and 3554 ft.lbs of energy. Hunting applications move from big game to big and dangerous game.

Even if a 150 grain 30-30 Winchester bullet could be safely pushed 300 fps, 2300 fps and 1762 ft.lbs would only become 2600 fps and 2252 ft.lbs of kinetic energy. Hunting potential would have gone… nowhere. The 30-30 Winchester is an easy shooting, inexpensive round of moderate power. Accept it for what it is and put it to work as intended.

Diversity

There are many bullets for the 30-30 Winchester handloader. Flat nose, round nose or soft point spire FTX, they are all safe in a tubular magazine. Notations below, as they appear above left to right.

The Barnes X, FN is a no lead content bullet, legal in states where someone convinced legislators that a moose might find a stray bullet in a million acres, eat it and drop dead, or that there are hunters who leave lead in harvested meat, cook both and then eat it and… drop dead. Probably next to a moose.

The problem with low density, all copper alloy bullets is that they are very long. They rob cases of powder capacity, they produce higher levels of bore friction and they do not stabilize well with standard rifling twist rates. That said, where used, they do penetrate well and expand properly even at 30-30 Winchester level velocity.

Remington Core-Lokt 150 grain bullets are killer, literally. Over many years of hunting with the 30-30 Winchester, under many circumstances, most all game was taken with this bullet. No, not specifically THIS bullet, but rather this type of bullet. Leaving a behind the shoulder 3″ exit wound in a big pig is not an easy task, but that has been the result. Inexpensive and effective hunting bullet.

The Sierra Pro Hunter is very similar to the Remington Core-Lokt in performance, but at twice the price. The Remington bullet has a slightly better BC at 0.195 versus 0.185 for the Sierra.

The Hornady FTX at a weight midpoint between the old 150 and 170 gain standard brought pointy bullets safely to the 30-30 Winchester. They are also a very long bullet with a shank that protrudes into a case about the same as a monolithic Barnes. The FTX is a high antimony content lead core bullet. Hornady also offers a solid copper Monoflex for the 30-30 Winchester at 140 grains. Is the point worth it?

In this first comparison, the velocity was set to 2300 fps to isolate bullet performance from velocity differences. Clearly, the Hornady FTX outperforms the Remington bullet… on paper… at the same velocity.

Remington 150 grain Core-Lokt
Near-Zero – yds. 20 Mid Range – yds. 102
Far-Zero – yds. 177 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 188
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2300 2095 1901 1719 1550 1400 1268
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1762 1462 1204 984 801 653 536
Momentum – lbs-sec 49 45 41 37 33 30 27
Path – in. -1.50 1.73 2.98 1.82 -2.30 -10.04 -22.23
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.14 0.23 0.32 0.42 0.53

 

Hornady 160 grain FTX
Near-Zero – yds. 20 Mid Range – yds. 108
Far-Zero – yds. 190 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 202
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2300 2177 2058 1943 1831 1724 1622
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1879 1683 1504 1340 1191 1056 934
Momentum – lbs-sec 53 50 47 44 42 39 37
Path – in. -1.50 1.65 2.97 2.23 -0.81 -6.45 -15.01
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.14 0.21 0.29 0.38 0.47

 

However, I was unable to get accurate, acceptable pressure results at the same velocity levels from both bullets. The Remington lived happily at 2511 fps, while the Hornady did well at 2322 fps, which plays out as (drum roll) :

Remington Core-Lokt
Near-Zero – yds. 22 Mid Range – yds. 111
Far-Zero – yds. 191 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 203
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2511 2295 2090 1897 1714 1546 1396
Energy – ft.-lbs. 2100 1753 1455 1198 979 796 649
Momentum – lbs-sec 54 49 45 41 37 33 30
Path – in. -1.50 1.54 2.93 2.32 -0.71 -6.71 -16.35
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.06 0.13 0.21 0.29 0.38 0.48

 

Hornady 160 gain FTX
Near-Zero – yds. 21 Mid Range – yds. 109
Far-Zero – yds. 192 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 204
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2322 2198 2078 1962 1851 1743 1639
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1915 1716 1534 1368 1217 1079 954
Momentum – lbs-sec 53 50 48 45 42 40 37
Path – in. -1.50 1.63 2.96 2.28 -0.66 -6.14 -14.49
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.14 0.21 0.29 0.37 0.46

 

The Hornady FTX still outperformed the Remington 150 grain Core-Lokt… or did it? The Remington bullet cost 24 cents per bullet, the Hornady cost is 44 cents… $4 per box of 20  more for the Hornady. Not enough to offset the gain. Performance on game? Can’t tell, as I do not have more than inconsequential experience with the Hornady bullet. I do have 5,000 Remington Core-Lokt bullets on the shelf. The Remington wins hands down!!…! Of greater importance in the selection process, typical shots at Maine deer are taken inside 100 yards, where the Remington ballistically outperforms the Hornady, even theoretically.

The 170 grain Nosler round nose, soft point is a good one. Ballistic coefficient approximately halfway between the Remington Core-Lokt and Hornady FTX, tough H jacket bullet that expands fully at 30-30 WCF velocity, is magazine safe and feeds well through the Winchester.

The 170 grain cast TrueShot is low cost, deep penetrating on game and actually quite accurate. It also makes a good light load for target practice and work on smaller game where it doesn’t expand or fragment.

Handloads and handload data

Once fired Remington brand cases were cleaned, full length resized and trimmed. Bullets were secured with a Lee factory crimp die. Some cases were near full, none were compressed charges. Magnum Large Rifle primers were not used with Winchester 748 powder.

Warning: Bullet selections are specific, and loads are not valid with substitutions of different bullets of the same weight. Variations in bullet length will alter net case capacity,  pressure and velocity. Primer selection is specific and primer types are not interchangeable. These are maximum loads in my firearms and may be excessive in others. All loads should be reduced by 5% as a starting point for development where cartridges have greater than 40 grains in capacity and 10% for cartridges with less than 40 grain capacity following safe handloading practices as represented in established mainstream reloading manuals. Presentation of these loads does not constitute a solicitation for their use, nor a recommendation.

 

30-30 Winchester – MAP 42KPS
Firearm Winchester Model 94
Barrel Length 20.0″
Max Case Length 2.0395″ +0.000″/-0.020″
Min – Max COL 2.450″ – 2.550″
Primer CCI 200 – Large Rifle
Bullet Diameter 0.3090″ +0.000″/-0.0030″
Reloading Dies RCBS FL
Bullet Type Bullet
Weight

Grains
Net H2O
Grains
Capacity
COL” Powder Type Powder
Charge

Grains
Muzzle
Velocity

fps
Muzzle
Energy

ft/lbs
Barnes XFN 150 33.2 2.470 Re 15 34c 2312 1781
Barnes XFN 150 33.2 2.470 Hodgdon CFE 223 35.0 2343 1829
Barnes XFN 150 33.2 2.470 IMR 3031 31.0 2274 1723
Remington RNSP 150 37.1 2.540 Hodgdon H-335 34.0 2427 1962
Remington RNSP 150 37.1 2.540 Hodgdon CFE223 38.0 2511 2101
Remington RNSP 150 37.1 2.540 Win 748 36.0 2466 2026
Sierra FN 150 37.4 2.540 Alliant Varmint 33.5 2207 1623
Sierra FN 150 37.4 2.540 Hodgdon CFE223 37.5 2345 1832
Sierra FN 150 37.4 2.540 Hodgdon Varget 35.0 2424 1958
Hornady FTX 160 33.2 2.540 Alliant Re 15 32.0 2222 1755
Hornady FTX 160 33.2 2.540 Hodgdon CFE223 34.5 2322 1916
Hornady FTX 160 33.2 2.540 Hodgdon Varget 32.0 2311 1898
Nosler Partition RN 170 35.2 2.540 Alliant Varmint 31.0 2087 1645
Nosler Partition RN 170 35.2 2.540 Hodgdon Varget
33.0 2305 2006
Nosler Partition RN 170 35.2 2.540 IMR 3031 31.0 2244 1901
TrueShot Cast FN 170 35.7 2.535 Hodgdon H-335 32.0 2273 1951
TrueShot Cast FN 170 35.7 2.535 Win 760 37.0 2290 1980
TrueShot Cast FN 170 35.7 2.535 Norma 203B 34.0 2245 1903
TrueShot Cast FN 170
35.7
2.535
IMR Trail Boss
8.5
1071
433

 

Handload observations?

The goal in each case was accuracy without pushing pressure to an excess. Subsequently, velocity varies significantly within bullet weight groups. Please keep in mind that factory ratings are based on 24″ test barrels, not 20″ carbine barrels.

Some newish powder types were worked into the project. Usually, particularly the case with Alliant Powder, whatever is a new powder listing seems to consistently reflect major velocity gains over earlier product types. Unfortunately, the listings and the chronograph are often at odds. In some cases, like Hodgdon CFE223 the suggested gain is easily realized.

Accuracy with loads posted were very good. I think there is a reason Winchester Lever guns lost some of their 100 yard group size performance when they stopped drilling and tapping rifles for scope mounts; writer’s eyesight and open sight mastery… or lack of the same. Which is why I am not posting group sizes. All of the posted loads will put 5 shots on a regulation size playing card at 50 yards. Much smaller than the vitals of a deer and most Maine snow shoe hares.

None of the handloads were difficult to feed, all cycled, all easily extracted and ejected, loaded or as empties.

Winchester shooting observations

What I really appreciate is that, unlike most recent, pre Ruger purchase Marlins, the Winchester remains tight, trim and compact. No bulbous, capped forearms, no hefty pistol grip, no garish patterned checkering that Marlin had evolved into. This shows on the scale, it shows when acquiring a target and it shows when carrying it up and down Maine’s granite filled hills and mountains.

Winchester’s nomenclature for the butt end of the Winchester Model 1894 Carbine is “carbine, metal strap”. That it certainly is. Did not notice it while shooting, didn’t hang up on bulky winter clothing. Recoil is so mild that a recoil pad would be superfluous and a straight cut steel butt plate would look… goofy. I figure there are eight Model 94 types to select from, so if preferences are different from this basic carbine, there are others.

The lever… OK, I hate big loop levers. They are most suitable for TV shows that are no longer with us. Even in my comfy shooting sweats, a big loop lever makes me feel like a… dandy. I’m old, so I know what that means. You may have to look up the definition. That said, it is a little tight getting enough fingers in the lever and compressing the trigger stop enough to release the trigger. Of course, the lever has been that way for 127 years and my problem arose a few days ago, so perhaps not a big deal and I prefer the compact carry.

The action is slick, fast and the finish on metal bits and wood are very good. Certainly not a handling mark magnet and a quick clean up after shooting. If there is a need for a mechanical safety, the tang is a good place to put it, aesthetically and ease of use. I really don’t care for those Frankenstein receiver mounted cross bolt safeties. The rebounding hammer offers safety in handling and it has been too long since I have owned a gun with a half cock position to even notice the difference. The Winchester Model 94 is as relevant today in woodland hunting as it was in 1894. Honestly, not much has come along that makes for a better deer rifle.

Ruger’s AR-556 MPR Part I No, I am not underpaid. I am self-actualized

02/28/2021

What follows is not a “Pry from my cold dead hands” commentary. In fact, it is a commentary on the same common sense and self reliance approach that puts spare tires in the trunks of cars and sets aside a supply of food, water and a first aid kit in anticipation of severe weather… or a Coronavirus lock down.

Common sense Vs. common understanding – Maslow

For many people, development in life is; born with not much, working hard to overcome and meet basic needs. Then, once there, they progress on to  meet Physiological Needs. Hard lessons learned produce maximum motivation to never return to the good old days of struggling to meet Basic Needs. Subsequently, contingency plans come into play when government institutions appear to be less reliable and luxuries and necessities fall into short supply.

Other people are born into Physiological Needs, completely skipping over the struggle to meet Basic Needs. These folks have never encountered a problem that cannot be solved with a phone call to a parent, friend or Uber. No hard lessons learned, means little to no motivation to plan avoidance of difficult circumstance they have never experienced. Consequently, they never understand why the first group makes contingency plans. In fact, they often attempt to stop the first group from planning, as contingency planning is an unfamiliar activity that makes them feel… uncomfortable.

Note: Who reaches Self-Fulfillment? Eventually everyone. People either amass great wealth and freedom as the head of a tech company and pursue their love of the Wagner tuba, or they grow old, passively accept that life has crushed their dreams, and settle for a pair of comfy slippers and a nice bowl of oatmeal… Charlie Maslow’s Hierarchy of Reality.

A hybrid approach to preparedness

A third group of people ignore psychobabble’s arts and charts and play the hand they are dealt. Anyone living through a year of Coronavirus idiocy, both public and private sector induced hysteria, knows store shelves can empty, Amazon can stop delivering, police can be overwhelmed and slow answering emergency calls, and lock down isolation can make the most normal people do the strangest things.

As members of Group 3, my wife and I stocked up on necessities including: a variety of healthy foods with a long shelf life, cases of bottled water, first aid supplies, TP, and multiple subscriptions to streaming British TV… Can never get enough DCI mysteries and droll comedy. We also took time to give the family firearm inventory a once over. See previous pyramid, “Basic Needs, Security & Safety”.

Can you see the tree?

An AR-15 makes a great image for illustrating society’s differing perceptions. For those lacking in firearms knowledge, who get their information only from other people lacking in firearm knowledge, the image below is a sinister, black, weapon of war. It has devastating power, carries a virtually unlimited supply of ammunition and is capable of stealthy, whisper silent operation. Which would of course be humorous if if it weren’t so sad.

For folks with a more pragmatic, informed view of firearms, the image is that of a utility firearm, of modest power, with a primitive but effective sight system. The 30 round magazine is as good of a place as any to store ammunition. Perhaps not in this rudimentary form, but an AR has the potential of being the Swiss Army knife of firearms; no more, no less… no drama.

For me, the AR is an essential firearm, if only because many firearm applications can be serviced with a single AR. The 5.56 NATO/223 Remington round can be assembled up or down for anything from deer to rabbit. The effective range for the larger game in that group is probably limited to 200 yards, but this is Maine where the distance between trees is twenty feet. There are other positive attributes like virtually no recoil, reasonable report, inexpensive ammunition, moderate firearm wear and tear and low cost upkeep, many common replacement and upgrade parts.

A safe full of ugly

Building ARs, for me, is a diversion from the norm. While my exposure and experience with firearms originated early in my childhood, and has persisted, my military service was as an Air Force, B-52 Crew Chief. Subsequently, while I did have the opportunity to enjoy mandated vacations in tropical places, I was not issued an M-16 to bond with under dire circumstances. I was not not even given the option of bringing home a 750 pound bomb, or even a smallish nuclear weapon, as a souvenir.

My budgetary control of an AR build is non-existent, which means I have to sell each upon completion to pay the bills for the build and to finance the next project. In the rare cases where and AR can escape that destiny, they are usually too weird and/or too non standard to sell; odd calibers and an economy of parts that may fall short, in some people’s view, of a complete firearm. An AR-15 with High Standard receivers, chambered for the 30 Remington AR does not shout “I’m here when you need me”. Nor does a 300 Blackout that only cycles when it is in the mood, or… another that is caliber marked with less than specificity. As I said, a safe full of ugly.

Above is my new essential AR. Straightforward, it is a Ruger AR-556 with accessories that are well suited to my anticipated applications. Naked, it weighs 6 lbs and change. Suited up as pictured, it weighs 10 lbs.. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Seven days earlier… dramatic lapse dissolve

 

Ruger AR-556 Multi Purpose Rifle

Manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Point of Manufacture Mayodan, NC
Model# 8514
Caliber 5.56 NATO / 223 Remington
Mag Capacity 30 Round Magpul PMag
Barrel Length 18″, 1/2″-28 Threaded
Rifling 1:8″ RH 5 Groove
Weight 6.8 Lbs
Overall Length 35″ – 38.25″
Stock Collapsible
Receivers 7075-T6 Aluminum Forging
Receiver Finish Type III Hard Coat Anodized
Barrel & Gas Block Matte Black Oxide
Length of Pull 11.1″ – 14.4″
Accessory Mount Picatinny Rail
Trigger Pull 4 Lbs. 11 Oz. Single Stage
Safety Rotating
MSRP $899

The subject AR-556 is a MPR is one of three product types within the Ruger AR-556 product line. It reflects my personal choice, but there are many more configurations available. There are twelve versions of traditional AR-556s, including one lower assembly for folks who want to furnish their own upper. The traditionals feature a rapid deploy rear sight, A2-style F-height front sight and a delta ring secured non-floating handguard. All 5.56 NATO/223 Rem chambered.

There are three versions of the 16.10″ barrel AR-556 with Free-Float Handguard models; all flat tops without factory sights and with 11″ floating handguard. These are available in 5.56 NATO/223 Rem and 300 Blackout chambers.

Ruger offers ten versions of the AR-556 MPR. They are available, depending on configuration, in 5.56 NATO/223 Rem, 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster. Barrel lengths run from a law enforcement only 10.50″, to 16″ and 18″…rounding numbers. Capacity varies from 30 rounds for people living in the United States to 10 rounds for state complaint models where magazine capacity and only citizens are restricted from ownership.

We have reviewed the Ruger AR-556 multiple times. The most comprehensive in mechanical detail and performance, but not in creative titling, is “Ruger’s AR-556 Multi Purpose Rifle” Parts I & II. Yes, those are incredibly tiny link targets, but then marksmanship is always something to work at.

Ruger AR-556 Multi Purpose Rifle – Model No. 8514

So I bought a Ruger AR-556 MPR. Why? As quality of firearm, availability of parts and product support are important, I prefered to place my trust in a company that has been in continuous operation since 1949, publicly traded since 1969, and is staffed wall to wall with gun people. Ruger has not been sold to a European firearms corporation, nor have they been broken down and repackaged by investment bankers with each new business entity stating, “We are not responsible for prior production”.

When I purchase a Ruger firearm, I know who I am dealing with and I know they will be there if and/or when support is needed. The Ruger AR-556 is also a spec gun, so if Maine decides to secede from the union… or, more likely, Raymond sucedes from Cumberland county, I can still secure standard AR-15 parts from many local sources and keep my AR in operation.

The Ruger AR-556 is a complete product with mature, well tested components. Subsequently, few changes were required and few pieces were needed to complete the system for my purposes. The following is not a recommendation, just a share of information, while I walk through configuring my new firearm. No doubt, countless generations of engineers who have refined the AR-15 to near perfection will groan in unison. Not at the Ruger AR-556, but rather at some of my choices in add-ons.

Nice butt

There are more elaborate buttstocks, probably some that have solar powered adjustment of cant, LOP, comb height, and camo patterns. However, the Ruger supplied MOE SL collapsible buttstock and Mil-Spec buffer tube provide all of the function my brain and body can utilize.


Above, shown collapsed, length of pull is adjustable in six locking increments from 11.10″ to 14.40″. The recoil pad has a slight rake and a rolled toe which makes it easier to shoulder the rifle while wearing a t-Shirt or heavy winter gear. The +0.8″ comb provides proper noggin support with the type of sight setups planned. The stock is slotted for sling attachment and it accepts QD sling swivels. All of the features are ambidextrous.

Getting a grip

The factory supplied Magpul MOE grip is basic ,but excellent. Factory grips have the right angle, the right finish and are compatible with Magpul Core Storage inserts that are made to hold everything from gun lube to a spare bolt and firing pin. My AR-556 received a very old ERGO Sure Grip. It has a soft surface, finger orienting grooves and a palm filling back. It does have a free form storage compartment. Why the change? It is my lucky grip. Multiple operational nondisclosure agreements prohibit elaboration… No, of course that is not true. It is just that the grip is hand filling, squishy and it doesn’t stick to a bare hand in sub zero temperatures.

Gas, barrels and handguards that float

The gas block in the Ruger’s rifle length gas system is very compact. An extended barrel nut provides support for the easy on and off 15″ floating handguard. The handguard is lightweight aluminum, front end loaded with M-LOK attachment points and topped with a rail that continues from the rifle’s flat top receiver. The handguard finish is Type III Hard-Coat Anodized.

This is the first time I have dropped the use of an adjustable gas block. Probably because I came to the conclusion that while such systems are fun to play with,  I rarely make adjustments. The 18″ barrel is a medium contour hammer forged 4140 piece with a 1:8″ rate of twist that stabilized bullets 35 to 77 grains in weight. The barrel’s chamber is cut to accept both 5.56 NATO and 223 Rem ammo. No changes necessary.

Yes, I realize there are 0.224″ bullets approaching 100 grains in weight, but weights above 77 grain are typically reserved for non expanding match bullets. Additionally, one of the reasons for selecting a 5.56 NATO firearm is the compact form of cartridges and bullets. Above, a box of 100 ct. 30 caliber bullets along side 400 0.224″ 55 grain bullets. Depending on the bullet weights, 7.62 NATO rounds weight more than twice as much as 5.56 NATO rounds.

Yes, I still think “Roy Rogers” when someone says “trigger”

The Ruger AR-556 MPR gets the two stage Ruger Elite 452 trigger in place of the standard single stage AR-556 trigger. The Elite 452 trigger is clean, has a relatively light pull @ 4 1/2 lbs, and 30% faster lock time. Below, on the single stage side #1, the notch in the hammer is retained by #3, the primary sear. When the trigger is squeezed, the sear is pulled downward and the hammer is released to rotate forward to move the firing pin. If the bolt cycles the hammer before the trigger is reset, the secondary sear #4, engages the #2, the hook at the back of the hammer and prevents it from falling forward.

On the two stage trigger, the latching surface at the rear of the hammer #1, engages the primary sear #3. As the trigger is squeezed, the first part of trigger travel meets a light one pound resistance from the trigger spring and begins moving the sear away from hammer engagement. Then there is an increase in pressure as the backside of the hammer #2 contacts the nose of the secondary sear on the disconnector #4 and compresses the disconnector spring during the second stage of pull. The hammer’s secondary sear contact surface #2 was relocated, but functions the same.

I would run out of ammo first…

The AR-556 bolt is fashioned from mil-spec 9310 steel, machined and shot peened for added strength and durability. Both the bolt carrier and gas key are internally chrome-plated for increased resistance to gas induced erosion/corrosion. The gas key is staked so it won’t shoot loose. Carrier and/or bolt failure is probably not in the cards, however, I do keep a spare as well as a supply of small piece parts.

A mostly inexpensive approach to securing accessories

Installing a bi-pod was done with the lowest level of commitment. I cannot say I ever found myself without a bent arm and supporting elbow to rest a forearm, or a rock or a branch… dried cow patty. I don’t want to be a lazy boy, outfitted with accessories built for a shooting bench. So I am trying to see if they just mean more weight and extra space or if they really serve a purpose.

These are listed as a five position MidTen Bipod 7.5″ – 9″ and were purchased for $35. They are made of mostly anodized aluminum with some black oxide treated steel hardware. The rectangular form is more rigid than round tubular, collapsed or extended.

The bipod halves are secured to the handguard at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions with M-LOK fasteners. The legs can be folded backward or forward when stowed. The possible failure I can predict might be the failure or loss of latch springs, which are trapped, but not contained under the adjustment latch. Obviously produced at one factory, these bipods are sold under numerous brands, differing only in price, labeling and packaging.

The adjustable 550 Paracord 2 Point Rifle Sling with Shoulder Pad is a $25 item. The sling is made of 550 lb Paracord braid strap, 600D nylon webbing and opens to 62″. The sling quick attach/detach is with alloy HK hooks. The JIALITTE QD swivels connect directly to the buttstock and with an M-LOK mount at the handguard. $20 for the set, S-ling swivels were selected because they keep HK hooks centered and rifle’s slung position predictable.

My early exposure to rifle slings came with bolt action rifles and my father’s instruction as to how to shoot with sling support from all basic positions. Subsequently, rifles I take into the field are fitted with either leather military or Latigo slings. I never tried putting a leather sling on an AR, but I might just try doing so, and leaving this elaborate sling and the bi-pod at home. This fabric two point sling, when properly adjusted, shoulder carries well. Cross front carry allows quick shouldering into a steady hold.

 

$28 covered the cost of a set of sort of hard anodized aluminum Feyachi flip up front and rear sights. They are matched for same plane line of sight, which is fortunate as this matches the Ruger’s full length rail. The flippy apertures are selectively large CQB or small long range and indexed for windage adjustable. The A2 post front sight requires a $10 four prong adjustment tool that is not provided with this set. Mechanically, they are sound and hold adjustment. Aesthetically, I would not count on that anodized finish from staying put for very long. For folks who want something better, the exact same sights are sold on Amazon… including finish, but with a better logo, for $47.

If you find there is nothing on TV to watch, and you don’t want to engage in conversation with anyone, read the comments section under the product listing on Amazon for entertainment. The little push button sticking out of the side of each sight releases the top so the sight can be folded down, where it will remain until called to action. To raise the sight into active position, you must lift each sight, at which point it will lock, like a tray table, in the upright position. No, it will not spring to life if you push the button, or lay down on its own volition. And no, the sights don’t comply with GIJOE 678/2 in fit finish, or operation.

Rapid Transition Sight mounts, Hollywood hold, don’t work for me. Instead, a 1/2″ riser rail was installed to mount a compact reflex sight. Folded, the sights are not in line of sight. Popped up they can be used looking through the reflex sight. This riser is a $15 piece; easy on, easy off. Why would I want to take it off?

In case I get tired of staring at red dots or flipping metallic aperture, or squinting, I have a set up for a moderate power scope. No, this set up does not accommodate other sights, but then the previously indicated sights, and this set up, come off easily with a government issued 25 cent screw driver.

SilencerCo Omega 36M

The SilencerCo Omega 36M is listed as an all purpose silencer. It is a modular design that permits it to be used in compact or full length forms. The Omega 36M is compatible with all SilencerCo Charlie accessories; ASR mount pictured, direct thread mount, piston mount, and three lug mount. With a $1,187 MSRP, it is not a budget component, however, it is a good component and it is used on many firearms, so the overhead cost is spread around.

The Omega 36M is listed for use with cartridges 22 Hornet to 338 Lapua Magnum. I have used it with the 350 Legend, 338 Lapua, 300 WSM, 9mm Luger pistol projects. In terms of minimum barrel length, SilencerCo rates the Omega 36M as 10” barrel for 223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, 16” barrel for 308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO and 20” barrels for 300 Win Mag and 338 Lapua Mag.

The silencer serves three purposes: it protects my hearing, it shows respect for rural neighbors, it minimizes driving wildlife into the next county after a missed opportunity. No, of course I have never missed a shot, but there is always the possibility of a fluke occurrence.

I know… I’m tired too

I’m done for now. Thank you for letting me think through my own decision making process in public. Now, I am going to take my new rifle, shoot it a lot and collect some performance data and drag it through the snow, cold and tangles mess of woods and brush and see if anything falls off.  The result in Part II

 

Ruger’s New Max-9 Compact, controllable, reliable, high capacity

03/15/2021

Ruger Max-9
Manufactured Ruger – Prescott, AZ
Model 3500
Grip Frame Fiber Filled Nylon
Internal Chassis
Hard Anodized Aluminum
Slide/Hardware Black Oxide – Alloy Steel
Type Action Single Strike/Striker
Caliber 9mm
Capacity* 12+1
Trigger Pull 5 Lbs. 2 Oz.
Barrel
3.20″ Alloy Steel
Rifling 1:10″ RH
Front Sight
Tritium Fiber Optic
Rear Sight
Black – Drift Adjustable
Optic Ready
Yes
Overall Length 6.00″
Overall Height 4.52″
Width 0.95″
Weight 18.2 Oz.
Manual Safety*
Yes
CA, MA Approved
No
MSRP $499
 * Model 3501 – 2 10 rd mags, manual safety
   Model 3503 – 1 12 rd + 1 10 rd mag, w/o manual safety.

The Max-9 Model 3500 is one of a trinary product introduction from Ruger. Models differ in magazine capacity supplied and in the absence or presence of a manual safety. The Max-9 is a compact model, falling within a dimensional envelop similar to Ruger’s compact LC9/EC9s products.

The subject Max-9 Model 3500 is supplied with one twelve round magazine, one ten round magazine and it has a manual safety.

The model 3501 is supplied with two ten round magazines and has a manual safety.

The model 3503 is supplied with one twelve round magazine, one ten round magazine and has no manual safety. All other features and function are common to all three model designations.

Function

Ruger defines the Max-9 as a compact, single strike, striker fired, magazine fed, auto loading, recoil operated pistol. A tilting barrel design, it is fired from a locked breech condition.

Notable in the scheme of things, the Max-9’s striker is tensioned by the movement of the pistol’s slide. The trigger pull does not assist in cocking the striker, which gives the Max-9 a short, light trigger pull. Removal of the Max-9’s magazine does not prevent firing a chambered round.

Optic Ready

Above, the Tritium fiber optic front sight, drift adjustable rear sight and, just forward of the rear sight, the optics plate cover. The height of the sights permits co-witnessing with a micro red dot sight installed.

Removing the two screws that secure the optics panel with the supplied Torx wrench shows the direct mount surface for a micro red dot sight. Sights are located with two screws and two dowel pins directly to the slide’s surface. Ruger selected the JPoint – Shield mount standard, which provides a wide selection of quality sights.

Micro red dot sights are used with both eyes open, they are virtually parallax free and they do not require rear-front-target sight aliment.  They do add a little size to a pistol, but not much, and there are many holster selections that accommodate them. In the case of a short barrel auto loader, a red dot sight can definitely extend effective range and boost speed of target acquisition under pressing conditions.

Micro Red Dot sights have found their way onto most of my firearms; rifle, shotgun and handgun. Unfortunately, my collection of micro red dot sights are Docter / Noblex mount standard and a compatible sight was not available before deadline. A Ruger photo illustrates the reflex sight configuration. Ruger always represents its products with exceptional photography… to the extent of humbling my own. As a minimum, the following red dot reflex sights are compatible with the Max-9:

Shield Holosun Swampfox Crimson Trace Sightmark HEX SIG Jpoint
SMS2 RMS RMS2 RMSw SMS SMSc RMSc 507K 407K Sentinel 1500 Series Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Wasp Romeo -0 MRD

Ammunition

The Ruger Max-9 is approved for use with all U.S. industry standard factory ammunition including hollow point with brass or aluminum cases. The Max-9 is also approved for +P ammunition with the suggestion of moderate use to avoid accelerated wear and tear. Within this span of approval there are over two hundred types of ammunition available from a collective of thirty two brands.

Pictured L-R: IMI Systems 115 grain JHP, Remington 115 grain JHP +P, Remington Ultimate Defense 124 grain BJHP, Remington UMC 124 grain FMJ. SAAMI standard ammunition has a MAP assignment of 35,000 psi, SAAMI +P has a MAP assignment of 38,500 psi.

The difference in performance between standard pressure and +P, with a common denominator of a 4″ industry test barrel and universal receiver, ranges from no gain, or lesser rating to 100 to 150 fps gain best case, within a bullet weight range of  115 grain to 147 grains. Mostly, bullet choice is more important than a standard or +P labeled difference.

Ruger does not approve the use of non-standard +P+ ammunition. +P+ ammunition is loaded to pressure levels determined at each producing companies discretion, which means +P+ is no standard at all. Firearm manufacturers design to SAAMI / CIP standard, making the design sufficiently robust to handle spec pressure with specified margin of safety. This assures not only safety for the shooter, but also a long service life and reliable function.

+P+ ammunition generally exceeds SAAMI / CIP maximum pressure specifications, as well as firearm manufacturers design specifications, by an amount known only to the ammunition producer. In doing so, the ammunition cuts into the intended safety margin, shortens firearm service life and reliability. I can think of no firearm manufacturer that approves this product for use with +P+ and for good reason.

Context, contours and optical illusions

My compact carry pistol is an early preset hammer Ruger LC380 with a 9mm conversion kit. It is the same size as the current Ruger EC9s. Shooting the Max-9, I appreciated what I thought were the benefits of its increased size, heft and longer sight radius. The Max-9 was easier to control, it was more hand filling, there was minimal muzzle rise, and it was easier to get sights on target. It came as quite a surprise that, while they are quite different pistols inside and out, they are all essentially the same size.

With 7 round mag in the LC9 and 10 round mag in the Max-9, ignoring the finger extension on the LC9, they are the same height. The Max-9’s slide in only 0.050″ wider, however, the grip frame below the slide is 0.015″ more narrow. The LC9 series slide is more contoured, where as the Max-9’s slide is more angular, both good approaches to weight and form reduction. As a result, the LC9 weighs only 1.2 oz. less than the Max-9.

Pictured below, the 10 and 12 round nickel-Teflon coated magazines included with the Max-9. The 12 round mag provides grip pinky support, as does the 10 round magazine with the finger extension follower in place. The included flat follower can be installed on the 10 round mag to minimize pistol form. All of these configurations are identical to the LC9’s height when similarly configured.

The LC9 has a narrow single stack magazine 3.670″ x 0.477″ that holds 7 rounds. The Max-9 has staggered round magazines that hold either 10 or 12 round dependent upon magazine selection.They are the same length as the LC9 magazine, but 0.790″ wide. However, both the LC9 and Max-9 have the same grip width at the widest part of the back strap.

The difference is that the LC9’s backstrap width diminishes as it approaches the grip bottom and it tapers sharply from backstrap to frontstrap, 0.960″ to 0.800″. The Max-9 stays approximately the same, backstrap to front, at 0.960″. The Max-9 does not feel oversized, but rather it presents a form that is easier to grip, which gives the Max-9 an improved shooting personality.

I shoot the my LC9 enough to be proficient, but not with exceptional enthusiasm for extended range sessions. The Max-9 can be shot a great deal for proficiency training, as well as for recreational enjoyment, without hesitation.

Controls… a need to over-explain

The sights are a good combination. The face of the rear sight is matte black, which offers clear contrast to the green HiViz Tritium/fiber optic front sight. The Tritium light source provides 24/7 illumination, even in a darkened environment and the fiber optic element also gathers ambient light. The Tritium mount is closed at the front end so that its light is not visible from the front. Tritium decays over time, but 12 years is approximately half life, meaning useful illumination for that period of time.

The chamber ports permit a cursory loaded chamber check from top or side. Of course, an actual empty chamber check requires an open slide look into the chamber with the magazine removed. Yes, that is a giant extractor poking out of the slide behind the ejection port. No messing around with making sure empties get out of the way of a fresh round. The ejection port is open at the top to remove any restriction to ejecting brass or cartridge.

The subject model has a manual safety and, as an old 1911 guy, it is a feature I appreciate. This one pivots up at the front and can be thumbed on or off in a manner God and John Browning intended. For folks faced with multiple ninja attackers, who don’t have time to front pistol spin – back pistol spin, dive and roll, AND switch a safety off, there is a manual safety delete option labeled the Pro model. Yes, Ruger did an excellent job with the safety and accommodating customers whose training or environment require a safety or no manual safety.

Inner Sanctum

Disassembly is straight forward; pull the magazine, clear the pistol, push out the takedown pin, and move the slide forward and off the frame rails. The barrel and guide rod assembly lift out. The takedown pin is a light slip fit, so no tools are needed for removal. The pin is securely retained by the takedown pin cover when the pistol is in service.

The guide rod is a captive assembly; rod, small diameter round stock spring inside of a tubular sleeve, flat stock spring wrapped around the sleeve to form a progressive spring rate assembly. The hammer forged barrel is ramped, important in a 9mm, and cammed to control lock and unlock timing.

Handling

I did not measure slide resistance, but the Ruger Max-9 seems easier to rack than the LC9. Could just be the change in the aft serration pattern, straight line to chevron. Similar serrations have also been added to the front surface of the slide. Thumb reach to manual safety, mag and slide release and finger reach to trigger are all comfortable and about the same as a larger 9mm pistol.

The Ruger Max-9’s form makes for a comfortable, high grip. The grip provides solid support at the web and palm of the hand. An extended trigger finger aligns mid trigger. The balance and heft of the short barrel and a magazine full of ammo make for a steady sight picture.

Live fire

Brand Type Grains
Weight
Rated
FPS
Recorded
FPS
IMI Systems JHP 115 1150 1114
Remington HTP +P JHP 115 1145 1084
Remington UMC FMJ 124 1100 983
Remington UD Compact JHP 124 1100 1016

 

The Ruger Max-9 was shot at 10 yards, using playing cards as targets and with the pistol’s metallic sights. All of the ammunition indicated put 5 shots inside of a 1.5″ x 2.5″ inner border from a two hands on a sandbag rest, and inside the 2.5″ x 3.5″ card from a two hand hold.

Where does a Ruger Max-9 fit in?

In comparison to the Ruger EC9, the Max-9 is just a much upgraded product with: 70% increase in capacity, premium sight system, optic accommodation, and improved handling and accuracy. Where budget constraints are the priority, the EC9 can certainly get the job done. For a bit more, the Max-9 can provide solid personal security and serve as a recreational shooter.

In comparison to the Springfield Armory Hellcat, I think the Hellcat tries too hard to carry large pistol features over to a short barrel firearm, with capacity seemingly the biggest feature.  Unfortunately, while 42 states permits high capacity magazines, eight states do not. Where the Max-9 offers a 10 round magazine for state compliance, the small Hellcat minimum magazine is 11 rounds. Where the Ruger high capacity magazine is 12 rounds, the Hellcat holds only 1 more round.

The Ruger has a 0.200″ longer barrel with the same overall length. The Springfield Armory Hellcat is made in Croatia, the Ruger Max-9 is made in the U.S.A. in Arizona. The Springfield Armory Hellcat has a $569 MSRP. The Ruger Max-9 has a $499 MSRP.

The SIG P365 compact offers a 0.2″ shorter barrel for a slightly shorter than the Ruger Max-9. SIG touts the 10 round standard capacity of the P365 as innovatively high… as compared to Ruger’s 12 round capacity.They have added an extended 12 round magazine as an after sale $49.99 option.

The SIG is not optic ready and it does not have a sight system comparable to the Tritium fiber optic system supplied with the Ruger. The SIG’s 10 round P365 MSRP is $699 + $49.99 for a 12 round magazine. The Ruger Max-9 has a $499 MSRP and it is come with both a 10 round and 12 round magazine.

Ruger put a lot of thought into the Max-9. Not only is this apparent in price, features and size, but also in regard to evolutionary improvement over Ruger’s own similar size pistols. The refined shooting personality alone is enough for me.