CategoriesGun Reviews

Smith & Wesson CSX — New Kid On The Block

A few weeks back while at the local gun store, I spied something in the case that I wasn’t familiar with. It had the Smith & Wesson logo on it, but I’ll confess that I wasn’t able to identify the pistol. I asked to check it out and discovered that it was their CSX model, which stands for Chiefs Special X. Then the surprise — it is single action! Wait, what is this sorcery?! Who makes a new single-action micro-9mm that will hold 12+1 rounds??? Well…no one other than S&W. Suffice it to say, I took that little Smith & Wesson CSX home.

The author with the very compact CSX from S&W. The letters on the shirt (V4CR) stand for Veterans For Child Rescue, a very worthy organization run by former Navy SEAL Craig “Sawman” Sawyer. They rescue children who have been kidnapped in the child sex trafficking market.

Get a grip, man!

But wait, there’s more! It’s also an aluminum alloy frame! Things were getting interesting with this little pistol. And the grip — oh, the grip! It is seriously comfortable! S&W clearly took major pains to get the grip right. The front and back strap both have portions that are polymer embedded into the aluminum and that feel like sandpaper, which gives a ridiculously secure grip on the pistol. This thing isn’t going anywhere when you fire it, that’s for certain. Those grips marry your hand to the pistol, period.

I’m jumping ahead here a bit, but I want to interject that, during the range session, the sandpaper-like grip sections did somewhat abrade my hand. I won’t piss and moan about it because they did precisely what they were designed to do, which is anchor this pistol into the hand. As a disclaimer, I don’t have the soft, supple hands of someone who pushes papers all day long — I work outside in the elements with my hands, and they are relatively rough. So yeah, these grips are not messing around, they’re the real deal. If your hands are wet or slippery, these grips are going to bite into your skin and stay put!

Smith & Wesson CSX grip is like sandpaper on the front and backstraps
The CSX’s grip is like sandpaper (front and backstraps) and will not slip in your grip! With two interchangeable backstraps to choose from, it’s among the most comfortable grips available.

To add to the goodness, the CSX comes with two grips, a Large and a Small. They can be changed out by pushing a small detent inside the base of the grip (a tool is included, although a punch works better). I tried both grips and the standard grip feels pretty good to me. They both are excellent in my medium-sized hands. I can tell you that the detent on my pistol is extremely stiff and it took considerable pressure to push it in enough to change out the grips, though I expect over time it will loosen up.

The Trigger

I’ve read a lot about the Smith & Wesson CSX (even before I bought it). I’ve also watched many videos, and they ALL have one thing in common: mention of the trigger. To be more specific, this trigger has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than a screaming, yowling chimpanzee that has been set on fire with napalm!

There seems to be what is referred to as a “false reset”, and it is causing tribulations in the gun world. Yes, I can feel it in my pistol when I let the trigger partway out. There is a small, subtle “click” that might lead some folks to believe that the trigger has reset and that they can touch off another round. However, it doesn’t work like that. On mine, you have to basically let the trigger all the way out before it resets with a positive click.

In short, there’s a little click followed by a big click. If you want the reset, go with the big click.

Is this a big deal? Not for me! The trigger reset, in my book, isn’t something I’m realistically going to be able to use in a real gunfight, should I ever be involved in one. Mind you, I have been in lethal force encounters during my career, and the amount of adrenaline that gets dumped into a person’s system is, in my opinion, going to negate any normal person’s ability to shoot using the reset. If you’re able to do it, you are a far better combatant than I am.

For a single action, the trigger is somewhat heavier than I expected. If you happen to be expecting a competition-grade, glass-rod-breaking trigger like you’d find on a competition 1911, then you will be sorely disappointed. It’s not on this pistol. Most people report a trigger pull of just under six pounds on the Smith & Wesson CSX, which isn’t necessarily heavy, but it certainly is not light.

There is a small (very short) amount of take-up, followed by a wall, and then a clean break. The face of the trigger also has a Glock-type safety lever, which, to be honest, does not bother me, as it is not in the way and really doesn’t affect the pull at all. Personally, I’m okay with another safety on the pistol, so it’s all good.

The trigger is also straight and flat-faced, which is a feature that adds to the comfort. As can be seen in the photo, there is a Glock-like trigger safety on the front of the trigger, which causes no issues whatsoever.

Smith & Wesson CSX slide release, mag release, and trigger closeup
A closeup of the trigger reveals that it is flat-faced and includes a safety that closely resembles what Glock pioneered so many decades ago. It’s comfortable and works well.


By this time, you’ve likely noticed some features that resemble the 1911, namely the metal construction, the single action, and the bobbed and skeletonized hammer. Another feature is the manual thumb safety, which is akin to that of the 1911. It is also ambidextrous, which is another plus. It flicks on and off with an audible click and offers a bit of resistance, which I’d classify as perfect—not too hard, not too easy. There’s a detent that controls how hard it goes on and off, and Smith got it perfectly right.

If I had my druthers, I’d probably have made the safety just ever so slightly larger, but that’s just my taste. It works perfectly as they made it. Upon drawing, the thumb can easily flick the safety off with no trouble, so it works as intended. The shooter’s thumb does not have to stretch or reach, the safety is right there, perfectly accessible.

Smith & Wesson CSX safety lever
Here we see the Smith & Wesson CSX safety lever, which is very similar to a 1911. I wish it were slightly larger, but it works well for the task and offers just the right amount of tension. The magazine release and slide release are also visible and placed perfectly. Note the skeletonized hammer.

Another plus is the fact that the slide can be worked while the safety is on, so the pistol can be loaded or unloaded in a safe condition.

The slide releases (there is one on each side) are also ambidextrous and I can reach them with my thumb without having to shift my grip much. But since I’m a “grab the slide and rack it” kind of guy, I normally don’t use the slide releases. Still, it’s nice that they are there, just in case one of my hands is out of commission. It’s worth noting, too, that the slide releases are positioned so that it’s unlikely that you’ll activate them during a string of fire, even if you prefer to shoot with a thumbs-forward grip. On some pistols, this is an issue, but not on the Smith & Wesson CSX.

Smith & Wesson CSX slide release and safety
The slide releases and safeties are ambidextrous. Another plus is that the pistol can be fired without a magazine in place. Also, note that the rear edge of the ejection port is chamfered and melted so that it does not drag when being holstered. It’s this attention to detail that sets this pistol apart in many ways. Also note the large, external extractor.

Smith elected to use an extractor that is external and large, which seems to point toward confident extraction of spent casings.

Although the magazine release is not ambidextrous, it can very easily be switched to either side by taking out a screw. It’s mounted from the factory on the left side, but they include a spare one for the right side for people who are wrong-handed. The face of the mag release has the same rough texture as the front and back straps, ensuring that the skin will not slip on it.

The guide rod is also constructed of metal, which will undoubtedly please many users.


Somehow, S&W managed to design this pistol so 12 rounds can be stuffed into the handle, and of course, one in the chamber. Don’t ask me how, because although the grip is hand-filling, it’s not large. The 12-round magazine has a sleeve device that slides and fills the gap between the baseplate and the handle of the pistol when in use. It does that job well enough, but the fact that it slides around is a pain, and if a magazine is carried in the pocket (which I do), this piece is going to slide all over the place, or completely slide off.

The 10-round magazine fits flush with the butt of the handle and my pinkie finger hangs in space below the grip when it is in use. When the 12-rounder is used, my pinkie has a place to land (which I like). Honestly, I’m not sure why S&W went this route; I think they should have simply made it a 12-shooter because the extra length of that 12-round magazine is only about 1/4 inch or so, and the space saved with the 10-rounder really doesn’t contribute to the pistol’s concealability, in my opinion.

That 1/4 inch does, however, give most people a place to park that pinkie, which we all seem to like. And for that, we also gain two more rounds. So I’ll be shopping for some 12-round spare magazines at GunMag Warehouse. Basically, I think they shouldn’t even bother with the 10-round magazine except in states that prohibit anything over ten rounds.

The entire pistol, including magazines, is finished in Armornite, which is all black and quite attractive. It’s flat black, but sports just the least bit of gloss and looks great, adding corrosion resistance. This finish actually permeates the metal so that, even if the finish appears to be wearing off, it’s still protecting the metal.

Smith & Wesson CSX Technical Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 10+1, 12+1
  • Length: 6.1 inches
  • Barrel: 3.1 inches
  • Action: Single Action
  • Weight: 19.5 ounces


Both front and rear sights are metal (kudos for that) and of the 3-dot variety. Nothing to write home about, pretty standard, but they function just fine and are dovetailed into the receiver. For the progressive shooters, there is no place to mount a red dot sight at this time, nor is there a rail for mounting lasers, lights, and such. This is a minimalist, super-compact pistol.

Smith & Wesson CSX sights
The sights are pretty standard, metallic 3-dot type. Note the high thumb position – if the author grips the pistol like this, the slide will contact the inside of his thumb. Not a huge deal, just something to be aware of.

As mentioned, the sights are metal and their shape allows them to be used to cock the pistol if necessary using a belt, the sole of a shoe, or another hard surface such as a curb or table edge.


We’ve already discussed the Armornite finish, but I want to talk about the overall finish of the pistol a bit further. It is seriously nice! The ejection port is chamfered so that it doesn’t catch on the holster as you’re holstering, and is nicely done. In the same vein, the front of the slide is beveled for the same reason and will aid in holstering. All edges on the pistol are beautifully melted so that there are no sharp edges to catch on anything, including the shooter’s skin.

Smith & Wesson CSX muzzle
Notice the rounded, melted edges, which make holstering easier. A few decades ago, this feature would have been considered custom work, but now comes standard on many pistols.

The front cocking serrations facilitate press checks, which is a nice aspect, and are not abrasive, but they do offer a great grip. The rear serrations have the same qualities, but the very last serration on either side sticks out further than the others to form wings, which gives a little extra purchase when cocking.

Smith & Wesson CSX At The Range

Eagerly, I hit the range with the little CSX to see how it would act.

S&W CSX with range gear
Several types of ammunition were tested in S&W’s new CSX Micro-9mm.

Not surprisingly, the micro-9 was a little snappy with the recoil, but I’d say not anything beyond what I expected. Although it let you know it was going off, the muzzle flip wasn’t bad at all and the sights returned to the target very quickly. I believe the felt recoil was largely a factor of the aluminum frame, which transmits energy as opposed to the Polymer pistols that we’re so often used to. You see, Polymer frames have a certain amount of flex when they’re fired, which helps to mitigate some of that recoil. To be honest, the recoil of this fairly small pistol was a bit less than I had anticipated.

Smith & Wesson CSX with range gear and boxes of ammunition
The Smith & Wesson CSX acquitted itself quite well at the range. On top of performing great, it also looks really good! It proved 100% reliable with a few types of ammo, including Blazer Brass, Remington Range, and Federal HST Hydra Shock Tactical. Recoil was not excessive.

As for accuracy, the CSX is pretty darn good for such a little pistol. I shot a group at 15 yards that went into just over one inch, and that was in the first magazine that I had fired through the pistol. At 25 yards, groups did open up (obviously), but it’s still adequate for hitting a silhouette target. With that said, my eyesight these days (I’m a FOG — Fat, Old Guy) is the limiting factor, and the pistol will shoot better than I can wield it.

Smith & Wesson CSX target group from 15 yards

I decided to run a few simple drills with the CSX to see how it handled. Drawing from concealment, I fired two controlled rounds as quickly as I accurately could. Amazingly, I got some of the most accurate shooting of the day by shooting rapidly like this. Don’t ask me how, but that’s how it went — this pistol handles very well at speed.

Rapid fire target group from 10 yards with Smith & Wesson CSX
Rapid-fire proved to be no problem for the little Smith & Wesson CSX. This is a reduced size target, not full size.

A bit more about the trigger — it really is not bad at all, despite what many reviews on the interwebs are claiming. Although it’s a little on the heavier side for a single action, it functioned great on the range. And personally, for a defensive handgun, I don’t mind a trigger that is on the heavier side. Though I don’t have a trigger gauge to measure it with, most people report that the trigger pull is in the 5.5 pound-ish range. As it is, I believe the trigger contributed to the accuracy I was able to achieve on target.

Smith & Wesson CSX

There were no stoppages of any kind on the range, and I used a few different brands of ammunition: Blazer Brass, Remington Range, and Federal Hydra Shock Tactical (HST) +P. All functioned perfectly. The HST, despite being +P, was not noticeably snappier.

Slide Bite

A few folks with larger hands have reported receiving some slide bite on the web of their hand when firing the CSX. I don’t have large hands at all, but I managed to get some slide bite of my own. My problem is that I like to shoot with a very high thumb position, and having that thumb up there caused the slide to come into contact with the skin of the base of my thumb. Simply put, I need to shoot this pistol a little differently, and it’s not the pistol’s fault — it’s mine.

That’s one thing about firearms and other equipment that I’ve noticed with people: often, it’s not really the fault of the equipment, but rather the user who then blames the equipment and decides it has to be modified, removed, or scrapped.

I think people need to shift their thinking and realize that they need to invest the time to get to know the equipment and train with it to eliminate the problems in many cases. While it’s true that certain parts may need to be replaced, it’s not always the case. We see it with triggers all the time — people claim that because a trigger isn’t two pounds, it’s garbage and needs to be replaced because there’s no way they can achieve accuracy with such a piece of junk.

To many of those people, I think to myself, “No, you just suck at shooting and you need to practice and master that piece of gear.” Investing hundreds more dollars in the firearm is not likely to solve their problem, (although once they spend the money, they’re often convinced that now they are good to go). Bottom line: you cannot purchase skills.


As I write this, there aren’t a plethora of holsters available for the Smith & Wesson CSX. Apparently, it’s still new enough that many makers haven’t geared up for it. I did manage to purchase one from DeSantis Holsters. I began using DeSantis back in the early 1990s when I began carrying pistols concealed. Over the years, I’ve used some excellent holsters from them and even have one or two from that time period that are still functional (although quite worn).

For the Smith & Wesson CSX, I opted for the DeSantis “Inside Heat” holster, which is an inside the waistband (IWB) model that I carry in the appendix position. It’s constructed of heavy, thick, stiff leather that maintains its shape very well. Around the mouth of the holster, it has a band that reinforces the opening and helps to keep the mouth of the holster from closing, which enhances holstering.

Within a day or so, the draw from the holster became much smoother and easier as I practiced drawing the CSX. In fact, I was amazed at how well and quickly the holster smoothed out.

Inside Heat Desantis HOlster
DeSantis Holsters Inside Heat is a very sturdy holster with thick, stiff leather construction and a hardy clip.
Inside Heat DeSantis Holster
Here on the front of the holster, we can see the band that reinforces the mouth of the holster, keeping it open even when in the waistband of the pants. This is a very comfortable holster that does not dig into the skin when I bend over.
Smith & Wesson CSX, DeSantis Inside Heat holster, Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA, and SpyderCo Native knife.
The DeSantis Inside Heat IWB holster is very high quality. Here, the pocket clip can be seen. The flashlight is the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA. The knife is a Spyderco Native.

After carrying Kydex holsters for quite a while now inside the waistband, it’s refreshing to be carrying in leather again, for a few reasons. First, the handgun’s finish isn’t getting scratched up by Kydex. Second, the leather is a bit more forgiving and not as hard as the Kydex. The Kydex tends to jam into the skin when I bend over, which the leather does not do. This holster is surprisingly comfortable! An added bonus is the fact that it is made in the USA.

 DeSantis  IWB holster
The holster keeps the pistol tucked into the belly nicely. The CSX is really nice to carry; not heavy, and yet very solid feeling. The short grip is a huge advantage for concealment.

In Conclusion

Smith & Wesson’s new CSX delivers as promised. It’s light, has an extremely secure, comfortable grip, and is 100% reliable. The little pistol looks great and has a durable finish. Accuracy is more than adequate for the assigned role. It’s pleasingly concealable.

If I had a magic wand in hand and could ask for any wish to improve this pistol, it would be this: make it double-action/single-action with the option of carrying cocked and locked. I feel just a smidgen more comfortable carrying a pistol in my waistband when it has a heavier first-round trigger pull. I realize that, to some out there in the audience, I’m speaking heresy and there are those who will call for me to be burned at the stake for it, but there it is. Not a huge deal, and certainly not a deal-breaker; just a wish. As it is, I’m going to carry it cocked and locked, especially in situations where I want or need a very small pistol.

At the time of this writing, I was able to score one for $529 at my local gunshop (I bought mine, S&W did not give me this one). All in all, if you’re looking for a very concealable pistol for concealed carry, the Smith & Wesson CSX will fill the bill as well as you could possibly expect. This one is a keeper!



CategoriesNew Gun Releases

SIG Sauer RomeoZero Pro Red Dot Sight

It used to be that seeing a red dot sight on the firing line in a handgun class was the exception rather than the rule. But those days have passed. Today, it’s extremely common for gun owners to put red dots on their carry and range guns. Red dots aren’t just for hunters or competition shooters anymore. Many gun makers are delving into the red dot market, including Sig Sauer, a respected firearms manufacturer whose years of experience go into designing quality optics. Their latest is the Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro.

The Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro is the latest red dot sight from the gun maker. (Photo credit: Sig Sauer)

Sig Sauer made the following statement regarding the RomeoZero Pro:

This new full-size reflex optic features a large 30mm aspherical lens made of scratch-resistant glass, offering unmatched clarity and a distortion-free sight picture when compared to competitors. The ROMEOZero-PRO features a proprietary carbon-infused polymer housing with a reinforced lens protection area making it incredibly durable while delivering significant drop and impact protection. It also comes with a hardened steel protective shroud for even greater protection and durability. The ROMEOZero-PRO is available with either a 10 MOA red dot or the versatile new circle/dot reticle. The new T.A.P. (Touch-Activated Programming) technology gives the user the ability to change brightness with just a tap on the optic.  All rear surfaces of the housing have anti-reflection grooves molded in, including the backup rear sight notch which is marked with Grade A Swiss SuperLuminova pigment for visibility in dark environments.  And just like our smaller ROMEOZero and ROMEOZero-ELITE models, the new ROMEOZero-PRO is fully assembled in the U.S.A. in our state-of-art facility in Oregon.

Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro red dot sight
Thinking about making the transition from irons to a red dot sight? Check out the Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro. (Photo credit: SIG Sauer)

The RomeoZero Pro from Sig Sauer is designed to be rugged and resistant to the bumps and scrapes that come standard with serious training. It has an overall length of 1.83 inches, a height of 1.09 inches, and a weight of 0.5 ounces. Features include eight daytime settings, 1 MOA adjustment increments, and Sig’s 5-year warranty. The optic runs on one CR1632 battery. According to the manufacturer, runtime on a single battery can be as great as 20,000 hours.

Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro
Want a durable, rugged red dot sight? Try the Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro. (Photo credit: SIG Sauer)

Features include:

  • Rear backup sight notch filled with Grade A Swiss SuperLuminova for low light conditions
  • T.A.P. (Touch Activated Programming) and button-activated brightness and reticle selection mode
  • Carbon infused weapons-grade ultralight polymer housing for increased shock and drop protection
  • Fits the Romeo2/Pro Mounting Footprint
  • Aspherical glass lens with zero distortion
  • Circle/dot or 10 MOA emitter options with 8 daylight brightness settings
  • Up to 20,000 hours of runtime
  • Structurally enhanced steel shroud for added protection
  • Assembled in the USA
Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro footprint
The Sig Sauer RomeoZero Pro has a footprint compatible with the Romeo02. (Photo credit: Sig Sauer)

MSRP starts at $245.99. Variations include a 2 MOA, 3 MOA, and 10 MOA red dot. Overall dimensions remain the same regardless of dot size.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you’ve seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master’s Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.
CategoriesGun Reviews

The Henry Long Ranger Express: A Half MOA Lever Gun?

Man, I love me some lever action rifles. I expect I’ve mentioned that before in other articles. But they aren’t exactly cutting-edge designs. My favorite deer rifle is a damn-nice 1963 Marlin 336, but I’d never expect precision accuracy from it. Well, in the video linked below, Pat RMG [YouTube channel] takes the new updated Henry Long Ranger Express to the range and gets some surprising results.

A half MOA lever gun? Come on, man…

The Henry Long Ranger Express

Henry has been building lever guns since 1860 and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. The Long Ranger Express is brand new, and like the original Long Ranger, Henry claims it delivers “bolt action performance with the speed of a lever action.” The gun features a six-lug rotary bolt, aerospace aluminum construction, a free-floated barrel, and a five-round detachable box magazine instead of the more traditional tube mag. The gun is chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO and the barrel twist rate is 1:9.

Henry Long Ranger Express; Half MOA Lever Gun
Henry looks to have brought lever action design into the 21st Century.

The Range of the Future

Pat decided to investigate those claims and puts the Long Ranger Express to the test at a state-of-the-art electronic range in Tennessee. The range uses sensors to measure velocity and provides the shooter with hit data on an X and Y axis in real-time via a tablet at the shooting station. It totally eliminates the need to manually set and check targets, which can affect the breathing of a precision shooter. “Once you settle in at the table,” Pat says, “you’re settled in, and you can lay this on the bags and just go ahead and go to work.”

Henry Long Ranger Express; Half MOA Lever Gun state of the art range
Now THAT’S a range!

Precision Also Means Finding the Right Ammo

Pat tried several different ammo brands and loads before hitting the sweet spot. He zeroed the Henry at 50 yards with some 55 grain reloads, which gave him consistent, repeatable groups.

He then moved to some 55 grain Tula, with less than stellar results. Pat says accurate hits at 200 yards were “impossible” with the Tula. He got similar results by just “slapping the trigger” and not worrying about his breathing. But to be fair, you kind of know what you’re getting with Tula.

Henry Long Ranger Express ammo
Pat cycled through lots of ammo choices. He wasn’t impressed by the Tula.

Winchester White Box was next, yielding about 1.5 MOA at 300 yards. He got about the same performance from PMC X-Tac and Hornady Superformance 75 grain match. He was still looking for the right load when he decided to take a break and let the gun cool off. By that time, he was getting heat mirages off the suppressor.

The Magic Bullet

When he got back from his break, Pat went to some Hornady Match 75 grain boat-tailed hollow points (different from the previous Hornady ammo). He took the Henry out to 300 yards and the Hornady Match delivered a 0.48 MOA group. “The cool thing about this electronic, is you can’t freaking lie.” The rifle and ammo “got together and made absolute magic. Half MOA at 300 yards? I’m pretty freaking impressed. “

Henry Long Ranger Express Lever Gun 0.48 MOA at 300 yards
With the right ammo, the Henry delivered a 0.48 MOA group at 300 yards.

Pat says he didn’t expect the Henry to be that accurate, especially with a 400 buck 9x scope on it. “Maybe I had a really good day,” he says. He considered putting a more powerful scope on the gun to really study his shot and push the rifle, but decided he got good enough results to leave it.

Hornady MATCH 223 Rem 75 gr BTHP
The Magic Bullet.

More to Come

Pat bought a year’s membership at the range (I don’t even want to know what that cost) and says the Henry will go back for more. He also says, “I’ll probably sell my soul for more of this Hornady Match.” He might have to because that stuff ain’t cheap.

Henry Long Ranger Express at the range
Pat promises more on the Long Ranger Express at the uptown range.

What do you think? Has Henry brought the lever gun into the 21st Century? Do Pat’s initial results interest you in giving the Long Ranger a try? Let us know in the comments. Happy precision shooting, y’all.


CategoriesNew Gun Releases

Marlin Model 1895 Trapper – The Mag Life

Whether you’re a fan of levers or not, there’s no denying the beauty of a nicely designed lever-action rifle. You also have to admit the launch of modern levers based on classic styles is a fantastic blend of the past and future, and Ruger is proving it by re-introducing the Marlin Firearms Model 1895 Trapper. This rifle isn’t just a re-launch of a classic, it’s destined to become a classic in its own right.

Ruger is re-introducing the Marlin Firearms Model 1895 Trapper, a classic lever-action. (Photo credit: Marlin Firearms via Ruger)

Ruger has this to say about it:

The Marlin 1895 Trapper was conceived by hunting and fishing guides in Alaska who needed a big-bore rifle that was short, quick-handling and optimized for hunting or protection from dangerous animals. Chambered in .45-70 Govt., this latest Marlin offering from Ruger features a 16.17”, cold hammer-forged barrel with a 1:20” twist. The threaded barrel (11/16”-24), comes with a match-polished thread protector and will accommodate common muzzle devices.

The stainless steel receiver, lever, magazine tube and barrel feature an attractive non-glare, satin finish – as do all of the small, nickel-plated parts. The bolt is spiral-fluted and nickel-plated for an attractive appearance and very smooth cycling.

Marlin Model 1895 Trapper
The Marlin Model 1895 Trapper is a modernized version of an original lever design. (Photo credit: Marlin Firearms via Ruger)

Features of the Marlin Model 1895 Trapper include:

  • Adjustable Skinner Sights peep sights for rapid target acquisition
  • Improved stock finish and checkering for a better grip with wet hands
  • Refined, streamlined stock and forend for maneuverability and aesthetic purposes
  • Threaded barrel with factory-installed thread protector
  • The location of manufacture on the barrel now reads “Mayodan, NC.”
  • A new “RP” proof mark is located on the left side of the firearm.
  • Ruger-made Marlin rifles begin with the serial prefix of “RM.”
  • The traditional black and white Marlin bullseye located on the rifle stock is now red and white.
  • Marlin Horse and Rider logo laser engraved on the grip.
Marlin horse and rider logo
The Marlin horse and rider logo is now engraved on the stock of the Marlin Model 1895 Trapper. (Photo credit: Marlin Firearms via Ruger)

The Marlin Firearms Model 1895 Trapper is a carbine-length, lever-action gun with a 5 +1 capacity. It’s chambered in 45-70 Government and designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and a reliable performer. Some changes have been made to the gun with this re-introduction by Ruger, but they all appear to be excellent improvements. According to Ruger, the Trapper was designed to tighter tolerances and was put through multiple layers of quality control including accuracy audits and numerous inspections.

Ruger Marlin Model 1895 Trapper
The Marlin Model 1895 Trapper has a threaded barrel with a factory-installed, polished thread protector. (Photo credit: Marlin Firearms via Ruger)


Caliber .45-70 Govt
Capacity 5+1
Stock Black Laminate
Material Stainless Steel
Finish Satin Stainless
Front Sight Skinner Sights Blade
Rear Sight Skinner Sights Adjustable
Weight 7.1 lbs.
Overall Length 34.25″
Length of Pull 13.38″
Barrel Length 16.10″
Thread Pattern 11/16″-24
Thread Cap Match-Polished
Barrel Cold Hammer-Forged Stainless Steel
Twist 1:20″ RH
Grooves 6
Other details Marlin Firearms are manufactured by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.
Suggested Retail $1,349.00

Do you own a lever-action rifle? Which model is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments section.

CategoriesNew Gun Releases

High Speed Gear Vigil EDC Gun Belt

If you’re going to carry a gun for self-defense, you know you need a quality holster. Did you know you also need a well-made gun belt, and that without one, it won’t matter how fantastic that holster is? A good gun belt is a must-have and a vital part of your carry gear. If you’re trying to find the right belt for you, check out High Speed Gear’s Vigil EDC Belt.

Looking for a well-made, sturdy gun belt? Take a look at the High Speed Gear Vigil EDC Belt. (Photo credit: High Speed Gear)

High Speed Gear’s senior designer, Daniel Chaney, remarked on the time and effort that went into the creation of the Vigil EDC Belt: “We have been working on the Vigil EDC belt for over two years. Since many of us at HSGI and Comp-Tac carry every day, we recognized a need for an EDC specific belt and started from the ground up on this design.”

The manufacturer released the following details regarding the Vigil EDC Belt:

[It] is designed for everyday carry and daily wear. It is rigid enough to support both inside-the-waistband and outside-the-waistband holsters, yet flexible enough to be worn comfortably all day. The belt features a minimalistic design with a low-profile magnetic buckle that fits through standard belt loops. The Vigil EDC Belt is made with nylon webbing wrapped in durable Cordura fabric providing a clean and striking appearance. As with all HSGI belts, the Vigil EDC Belt features multi-line stitching for stiffness and durability.

Vigil EDC Belt in Multicam
The Vigil EDC Belt is available in a wide range of colors and patterns including Multicam. (Photo credit: High Speed Gear)

Thanks in part to the variety of colors and patterns it is made in, this is a lower-profile belt that could blend into your clothes. Even its buckle, which is rugged and designed for ease of use and secure retention, is streamlined to fade into the background rather than standing out as something that might seem tactical. Having a quality gun belt for everyday use that doesn’t blatantly stand out as a gun belt is an excellent plan for gun owners.

High Speed Gear Vigil EDC Belt
The High Speed Gear Vigil EDC Belt is sturdy, reinforced, and made to hold up to regular use. (Photo credit: High Speed Gear)

High Speed Gear Vigil EDC Belt Details

  • Rugged Cordura fabric and nylon webbing construction
  • Multi-line stitched for stiffness and durability
  • Hidden adjustment tail for a clean appearance
  • Low-profile magnetic buckle
  • Fits through standard belt loops
  • Berry Compliant
  • Dimensions: Length 28 to 52 inches x .13 inches x 1.5 inches (exact weight depends on size)
  • Dimensions, Metric: Length 71.12 centimeters to 132.08 centimeters x .33 centimeters x 3.81 centimeters (exact weight depends on size)
  • Available in Black, Coyote Brown, MultiCam, OD Green, Wolf Gray, MultiCam Black, and M81 Woodland Camo
  • Offered in sizes Small through 3XL
EDC belt
Yes, it’s absolutely vital to pair a good gun belt with your holster. The two pieces of gear work together for the best possible retention and concealment. (Photo credit: High Speed Gear)

MSRP starts at $59.00.

CategoriesNew Gun Releases

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Pistol

Beretta is well known for designing and manufacturing high-quality firearms. That’s really not a surprise considering the Italian gun maker was founded in 1526, which means Beretta has almost 500 years of experience backing it and all that expertise was used in the creation of the APX A1 FS pistol. Whether you’re in the market for a home defense pistol or a range gun, the Beretta APX A1 FS was designed to get the job done reliably and accurately.

The Beretta APX A1 FS is a full-sized pistol made to perform to exacting standards whatever application it’s used for. (Photo credit: Beretta)

According to the manufacturer, the pistol is the “ultimate convergence of form, function, and fortitude” and a fantastic choice for a wide range of uses. Beretta went on to release some details about their latest pistol:

The APX A1 takes the proven ergonomics and reliability of the APX family to the next level with integrated features derived from feedback from military, law enforcement, and tactical shooters. It aims for the highest levels in performance, safety, and quality to operate for any shooter in the field. Beretta passed every stringent test of the US Army MHS program with its APX pistol candidate and is used by professionals on the ground in more than 20 countries.

Beretta APX A1 FS
The Beretta APX A1 FS is the ideal blend of form and function. (Photo credit: Beretta)

This pistol is the full-sized version of the company’s popular APX A1 Carry gun. It has an overall length of 7.5 inches, a height of 5.6 inches, and width of 1.3 inches. Empty, the gun weighs 29 ounces. These specifications mean that although it’s considered a full-sized gun it remains streamlined enough for carry use with the right holster and gun belt. The APX A1 FS is a striker-fired gun chambered in 9x19mm and has a capacity of 10, 15, or 17 rounds depending on the configuration. In addition, it’s an optics-ready pistol, a great feature for shooters interested in mounting a red dot to their guns.

Beretta APX A1 FS
The Beretta APX A1 FS has aggressive, angled slide serrations at the front and back of the slide. (Photo credit: Beretta)

Beretta’s Pistol Product Manager, Nicola Lorenzi, made the following statement regarding the APX A1 FS:

Building on Beretta’s knowledge and history of performance, the APX A1 offers the most competitive feature set available today on the market. The APX A1 takes the proven ergonomics and reliability of the APX family to the next level with integrated features derived from feedback from military, law enforcement, and tactical shooters. It aims for the highest levels in performance, safety, and quality to operate for any shooter in the field.

Beretta APX A1 FS field stripped
This is a modular pistol with three interchangeable, integral backstraps for customization to fit the shooter’s hand. (Photo credit: Beretta)

Beretta APX A1 FS Features

  • Best-In-Class Trigger
  • Serrated Combat Trigger Guard
  • Tritium Front Sight w/ White Outline
  • Red Dot Optic-Ready Slide
  • Aggressive Slide Serrations
  • Extended Beaver Tail
  • Ambidextrous Slide Release
  • Reversible Mag Release (left or right)
  • Straight Grip Profile
  • Multiple Backstrap Sizes Included in the Box

MSRP for all three available capacities of the Beretta APX A1 FS is $529.00.

CategoriesSkills and Gunhandling

Pistol and Holster Fundamentals | Task and Purpose

In the last few years, there has been a large influx of new gun owners. A lot of those folks might be looking for some help with pistol shooting fundamentals. Patrick and Chris from Task & Purpose [YouTube channel] also wanted some extra help. While they are both former military, most of their training is with rifles, not pistols and they both feel they lack that same confidence with pistols. Wanting to learn more, they enlist the help of an expert instructor from USCCA to help them with some pistol shooting fundamentals.

Patrick and Chris from Task & Purpose [YouTube channel] are confident with rifles, being veterans, but they lack that confidence with pistols. They enlist the help of an expert instructor to help take them through some drills.

Handgun Fundamentals

First, they go over the basics, including a verbal briefing of the pistol, ammo, and the shooting process. The instructor stresses that once the threat is neutralized, the next threat to yourself is when you reholster your pistol. It is possible to shoot yourself during reholstering and shooting yourself sucks; don’t do it. Look your gun into its holster.

The next principle, and probably the most important for shooting fundamentals in general, is the importance of training how you fight. Most encounters happen between 9-15 feet, 86.2 percent to be exact. That zone is where people should be training.

handgun fundamentals, demonstration of Proper Stance
According to statistics, most encounters happen between 9- and 15-feet distance-wise, so a key piece of advice is to train like you fight and train at that distance.

Their expert stresses that you shouldn’t focus on the target to start with. Rather, start with yourself and then work on getting the shots on the target. Make sure you have a proper base stance, which should include a solid grip on the pistol, trigger and breath control, and a natural point of aim. The typical stance in the industry is a low-ready, but according to the expert in the video, the high compressed ready position reduces arm fatigue and overall stress in your arms.

High Compressed Ready
A high compressed ready stance is a great way to reduce arm fatigue and stress. A side benefit is that you can rotate your pistol to on-target and shoot without extending your arms if needed.

Additionally, you can shoot from high compressed ready and still probably hit your target. This is referred to as “unsighted fire” and it works because the firearm is held straight on your chest, pointing out, so it will be pointing at your target already. To better understand this idea, think about how you can aim when using a golf club or a baseball bat, neither of which have sights. It’s the same principle.

Chris appreciates how having hands-on, instructor-led training is a good way to improve your shots. Their instructor has them get into a stable base to repel any attack, with their arms out straight and locked, like a triangle. (This advice is debated in the video comments and by other instructors.) Chris notices that the first groups after getting instruction are good, but the following groups aren’t as good. Their instructor explains that repeating drills builds neural pathways so your body remembers. Start slow and steady until it becomes seamless.

Key takeaway
Proper training and practice are key for pistol shooting fundamentals. Also, look your pistol back into the holster because shooting yourself sucks.

In drawing your weapon, start slow and steady to get a good grip, draw and use a biomechanical stop and rotate the weapon on target. Align the center front pad of your index finger with the trigger and press the trigger. The instructor tells them to listen and feel for the trigger to reset after the shot. You need to know your weapon because if you go past the reset, your finger can jerk or slip, and it will mess up your next shot. If you keep your finger placed properly on the trigger, you’ll be able to get more shots off quicker and more accurately.

Quick Takeaways

  1. Don’t shoot yourself. It sucks. Look your pistol back into your holster when reholstering.
  2. Train how you fight.
  3. Get a solid base to repel any attack.

Watch The Task and Purpose video:

Overall, both Chris and Patrick feel they have benefitted from the course and highly encourage others to get training. In about 15 minutes of hands-on training, they were able to get their shot groups from peppering to a more concise grouping.

CategoriesNew Gun Releases

Trijicon Quick Release Mounts with Q-Loc

The mount you use to attach your optic to your rifle matters a great deal. Poorly-made or badly-designed mounts can make it impossible to hold zero or might fail entirely at the worst moment possible, so it’s a must to have a high-quality mount to go with your chosen optic. It’s always smart to go with a proven manufacturer. Trijicon is one such manufacturer and is well known and respected for both its optics and its mounts. If you’re looking for a solid quick release design, consider Trijicon’s Q-Loc Technology mounts.

Trijicon quick-release mounts with Q-Loc Technology are available for a wide range of mounts that are compatible with their extensive line of optics. (Photo credit: Trijicon)

Trijicon describes the Q-Loc Technology quick released mounts:

Q-LOC Technology is a patented quick release optics mounting system, featuring multiple proprietary recoil lugs to ensure total rail engagement. Shooters can easily remove and re-attach an optic with a Q-LOC mount without the need to confirm zero. Heavy-duty springs enable one-handed operation while also ensuring secure retention under hard and repeated recoil. Q-LOC mounts feature compact, circular knob designs to minimize the hazards of gear snags while also facilitating one-handed mounting and removal.

All Trijicon mounts with Q-LOC Technology are manufactured in the U.S. from 6061-T6 aluminum with precision-cut dimensions to accommodate any platform and ensure optimal placement on MIL-STD 1913, NATO, non-mil spec, and even damaged rails.

snag resistant knob
The Trijicon quick-release mounts with Q-Loc Technology have snag-resistant knobs. Their compact, circular design minimizes the hazards of gear snags. (Photo credit: Trijicon)

According to the manufacturer, the quick-release mount’s Q-Loc Technology allows for full rail engagement and a more solid base than many other designs. In fact, it’s so carefully designed that Trijicon states shooters won’t have to re-do zero when taking off an optic with this mount and then putting it back on the same rifle. Heavy-duty springs hold the mount securely to the rifle’s rail and proprietary lugs help keep it engaged.

Other features include precision-cut dimensions, rugged durability, and a matte black anodized finish. Trijicon’s quick-release mounts with Q-Loc Technology are available for a wide range of their optics including Bolt Action Mounts, Cantilever Mounts,  ACOG/VCOG/Trijicon Electro-Optics Mounts, and Red Dot Mounts.

Q-Loc technology
Trijicon’s quick release mount with Q-Loc Technology has a return to zero feature. Multiple proprietary recoil lugs ensure total rail engagement. Easily remove and re-attach without needing to confirm zero. (Photo credit: Trijicon)

John Trull, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Trijicon, had the following to say about the quick-release mount:

We are excited to bring a family of quick release mounts to shooters and hunters that are strong enough to match the durability of our optics. We’ve applied the same precision in our manufacturing process for these mounts as we do our optics, as well as put them through the same rigorous Science of Brilliant testing, to make sure we’re delivering mounts that meet the standard of Trijicon quality.

Trijicon optic mount
The mount is machined from 6061 aluminum for outstanding, repeatable performance. (Photo credit: Trijicon)

MSRP varies depending on the optic the mount is designed to fit.

CategoriesGun Reviews

The Umarex-HK MP5 in .22 LR: “Hardcore and Heavy Duty”

Most of us wouldn’t mind owning an MP5, would we? Be honest now. Well, our options recently expanded with the HK-licensed MP5 in .22 Long Rifle from Umarex. Umarex has a good reputation and their partnership with HK makes me confident that the new gun is a quality product. In the video linked below, YouTube’s Todd the Gun Guy gives us a quick rundown of the HK MP5 22lr Umarex features and tells us what he thinks of it.

YouTube’s Todd the Gun Guy says Umarex “knocked it out of the park” with the .22 Long Rifle MP5 clone.

Before we get into that, though, let’s take a look at the specs from the HK website:

  • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
  • Magazine Capacity: 25 or 10
  • Barrel length: 16.1 inches
  • Overall Length: 26.4 to 32.3 inches depending on how you set the telescoping stock
  • Width: 2.3 inches
  • Height: 11 inches
  • Weight (empty magazine): 7 pounds
  • Action Type: Blowback
  • Trigger: Single-stage
HK MP5 22lr Umarex
Todd says the Umarex is “flawless” and that it eats everything you put through it.

“It is flawless.” That’s one of the first things Todd says about the HK MP5 22lr Umarex, so I’d say we’re off to a good start. The gun has pretty much the same weight and dimensions as the actual MP5 and includes some nice features. It ships with one 25-round magazine (or a 10 rounder if you find yourself unfortunate enough to live behind the Blue Curtain) which is equipped with a thumb assist. That’s a nice touch.

 magazine thumb assist
The 25-round magazine includes a thumb assist, which is nice. No word on whether the 10-rounder has one too, but it’s likely.

There is a right-side mag release button and an ambidextrous paddle-style release underneath, just aft of the mag well. Todd says the mag well is a little tight, but it will likely loosen up with use.

The Umarex-HK MP5 LR magazine releases
You can use either mag release: the right-side button or the underneath paddle. Not fully ambidextrous, but close.

It has the famous MP5 charging handle so you can slap it to your heart’s content, though Todd says the slap is more difficult if you mount an optic on the Picatinny rail up top. The gun comes with standard MP5 sights, so you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

The Umarex-HK MP5 sights
You can use the included iron sights, install an optic, or both, as Todd did. Just keep in mind the optic makes it harder to do the cool guy slap on the charging handle.

The Umarex is classified as a true rifle, thanks to the 16.1-inch barrel and the telescoping stock, so no NFA BS. It’s also available in a pistol configuration, though with the current ATF shenanigans, it remains to be seen how that one will play out. The barrel is equipped with a faux suppressor, but you can put a real one on if you want. Todd just says it looks goofy because it’s a pencil barrel. You can also suppress the pistol version if you want.

telescoping stock catch
The telescoping stock on the HK MP5 22lr Umarex is easily manipulated with the catch underneath.

The faux suppressor makes the 7-pound gun very front-heavy, but Todd says it shoots great. The single-stage trigger has some take up with a heavy wall. For all that, Todd says it’s a nice trigger. “I’ll tell you what,” he says, “this thing is a shooter. I mean it is awesome!” The price isn’t bad either, going for around $479.

HK MP5 22lr Umarex
The HK MP5 22lr Umarex is less than 500 bucks? Not bad.

“She’s a keeper in my book for sure…Umarex knocked it out of the park.” Sounds like Todd likes it. What do you think? Does an HK-sanctioned .22 Long Rifle MP5 for under 500 bucks interest you? Let us know why or why not. Happy shooting, y’all.


CategoriesGun Reviews

The New 9mm AXE Tomahawk by BUL Armory

The BUL Armory AXE line of Glock cloned pistols hit the market in April of 2022, and the lineup in this series is certainly interesting. There are a ton of Glock clones, knock-offs, and wannabes out there. Normally I say if you want a Glock, then buy a Glock. As a member of law enforcement, I carry a Glock daily. The only complaint I really have about them is that they’re so dang ugly. Glocks are reliable and because of their popularity, they are also extremely easy to find parts, accessories, and magazines for. So why buy a Glock clone that is nearly double the price of a Glock? Let’s look at BUL’s new line of AXE guns and you can decide for yourself.

AXE Series by BUL Armory

I have talked about BUL Armory before. Made in Israel, they produce mostly 1911, CZ, and AR clones. Their line of weapons is on the higher end and the price goes along with it. When I heard they were producing a line of Glock clones I was interested to see how they could dress up the reliable but simple Glock.

What they have done is create a line under the name AXE with several models that dictates how much “custom” work the gun has. They have marketed them as the Tomahawk, Cleaver, and Hatchet. The “C” designation is for compact or the equivalent to the Glock 19 and the “FS” is for full-size Glock 17. The Tomahawk has the most customizations, so that’s the one we are going to review and take to the range.

Quick Specs from BUL for the Tomahawk C

  • Barrel length: 102mm/4.02 inch
  • Slide: Tomahawk serrations with a weight reduction cut
  • Steel 3-Dot sights (Glock dovetail)
  •  Optic ready: Trijicon RMR footprint
  • Fluted barrel
  • Magazine capacity: 15 rounds X3
  • Weight without magazine: 560g
  • 3.5 – 4.0 LB trigger pull
  • Available colors: Black (PVD) / Silver (Natural finish)
  • Integrated flared magwell with side cuts
  • High grip beavertail
  • Trigger Guard with a high Double Undercut
  • Reversible magazine release
  • Extended Slide Lock Lever (stainless steel)
  • Ambidextrous integrated thumb rest
  • Flat face trigger shoe
  • 1913 Picatinny rail
  • Aluminum guide rod
  • Dimpled stainless steel pin kit

How does the AXE compare to the Glock 19?

Side by side, the AXE (left) next to the Glock 19 looks like an extremely upgraded Glock.
Side by side, the AXE (left) next to the Glock 19 looks like an extremely upgraded Glock. The fluted barrel catches the eye right away, which can be seen through the cut-outs on the top of the slide.

My first question when getting ahold of the AXE was how much of it is interchangeable. From a quick field strip, I could see right away that not all of it is. The AXE looks more like a gen 3 Glock on the inside. It has a standard single recoil spring (not the double recoil spring like the newer Glocks). The slide rails on the lower frame are slightly different so the slide from the AXE would not fit on my Glock 19 frame. This however was a gen 5 Glock and as I no longer have a gen 3, I was not able to see if the AXE slide would fit on an older Glock frame.

AXE’s slide (right) does not have the double recoil spring and has just a few other changes from the Glock 19 gen 5 pictured beside it.
AXE’s slide (right) does not have the double recoil spring and has just a few other changes from the Glock 19 gen 5 pictured beside it.

The AXE barrel is identical to the Glock, and I was able to swap them without issue. The sights, magazine release, slide lock, and the slide backplate all appeared to be interchangeable with Glock parts. The big question, and most important to me was the magazines. I like Glock magazines more than I do Glock pistols so being not being compatible would be a big issue for me. There was no need to worry however as Glock mags will work great in the AXE line of pistols.

Glock 19 magazine in BUL AXE Tomahawk pistol
Glock mags from my Glock 19 worked just fine in the AXE Tomahawk.

The most notable difference in the AXE frame is the checkering on the grip. The finger guard has a slightly different shape to it, and they placed an aggressive serrated finger stop on each side for the shooter’s support hand.

On the Range

BUL Armory Tomahawk range day

The AXE Tomahawk did well on the range, but I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have just a little bit lighter trigger. The trigger pull was great but comparable to my Glock. For the extra money, I was hoping to have just a little bit lighter weight and smoother pull. It did have a little more kick to it than the Glock due to the lighter weight of the AXE, but this was expected.

The checkering and serrations on the gun were comfortable for me. A few other people that shot it said the grip checkering was too aggressive for them, but I like having something that gives
me a good grip on the gun.

I fired all three of the 15-round magazines that came with the AXE and then used some of my 15 and 17-round Glock magazines. I never had any issues with cycling and the magazine release was very easy to find. AXE flared out the mag well which made mag changes easy. The AXE magazines have a wide base to they can be pulled from the gun, but they fall freely so I’m not sure there was a need for that. I preferred using my Glock mags in the AXE as opposed to the ones that came with it.

BUL Armory AXE grip checkering
The checkering on the AXE grip was very aggressive but felt comfortable to me.

There are a few small things I would have liked to see changed but overall, I think this is a great gun. BUL Armory has a good reputation for making quality guns and this one is a looker. The cut-out on the slide reveals the fluted barrel, which is the Tomahawk’s best feature, and I even like the red trigger safety they placed in the trigger. BUL Armory offers the Tomahawk with a gold barrel for those who want a little more bling. Because it’s lighter, it makes it comfortable to carry and the overall look to me is appealing compared to a Glock. If you see one in your local gun shop, check it out and see what you think!

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