Category Archives: Firearms

Firing Review — The new Inland .30 M1 Carbine


.30 Inland M1 Carbine, 1945 version with oiler and sling

.30 Inland M1 Carbine, 1945 version with oiler and sling

About a month ago I gave you a first look at the new .30-caliber M1 Carbine, 1945 version.  You can read that first look review here:

Firearms Review — First Look at the new Inland M1 Carbine

Seldom have I experienced as much anticipation in advance of test firing a weapon as with the new Inland.  I simply could not wait to get it out to the range, and I finally had an excuse when a friend asked me to instruct him in firearms handling following his first gun purchase.  So, I loaded up my two Beretta Cheetahs (Monday’s review), my Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P (Wednesday’s review), and the recently acquired Inland M1 Carbine and headed to the indoor shooting range at my second favorite local gun store — Sportsman’s Elite.

The new Inland M1 Carbine — A faithful reproduction of a WWII classic firearm

The new Inland M1 Carbine — A faithful reproduction of a WWII classic firearm

I saved for last the firing of the Inland, and I was not disappointed.  This is, quite simply, one of the most fun centerfire rifles I’ve ever had the pleasure to shoot, coming in right alongside the fantastically fun Beretta CX4 9mm Carbine.

This is attention to detail

This is attention to detail

I took with me this day four 15-round magazines — the one that came with the rifle, two after-market Korean-made KCI magazines, and another Inland magazine.

Inland oiler/sling brace installed into slotted butt stock

Inland oiler/sling brace installed into slotted butt stock

I initially set the target out to 25 feet and ran the magazine that came with the Inland.  The rifle functioned flawlessly, and the aperture peep sight proved far too good for so short a range.  Recoil was incredibly mild, with the rifle experiencing negligible muzzle rise.  Target reaquisition was very rapid, and followup shots could be conducted on target in fractions of a second.  Try that with a 30.06 Garand!  It’s no wonder many G.I.s in WWII found creative ways to “lose” the M1 Garand when they came across the much lighter, faster to shoot, higher capacity M1 Carbine.

Barrel band and sling swivel

Barrel band and sling swivel

My friend ran the target out to fifty feet.  Same result — incredible accuracy with a free-standing, unbraced hand hold.  Groups for both of us measured under two inches even though neither of us were firing for accuracy and were more interested in function checking the weapon.  No adjustment was needed to achieve this on the fully adjustable rear sight.  This was out-of-the-box accuracy like you wouldn’t believe.

Fully adjustable aperture peep sight

Fully adjustable aperture peep sight

Now a word about magazines, and the one sour note on the range:  The included Inland magazine and the two KCI Korean magazines all functioned flawlessly.  The second post-purchase Inland did not.  Despite repeated attempts to chamber a round from the fully loaded Inland magazine, nothing worked.  I later read that another reviewer had a similar problem, but he had it narrowed down to a specific side.  He pin pointed the problem as occurring when a round was being chambered from the left side of the magazine, which just so happens to be the side upon which a cartridge sits in a fully loaded 15-round magazine.  I’m going to see if this happens when loading a cartridge from the right side . . . unless I can get Inland to exchange this magazine first.  Until then, watch out on magazines.  The KCI magazines from Korea ran flawlessly, whereas the Inland magazines were .500.  That’s an unacceptable batting average for a firearm.

Rear sling buckle

Rear sling buckle

Trigger review:  The Inland trigger is stiff, but no more so than other personal defense carbines such as the Beretta CX4.  It’s more than adequate for the intended purpose, which is hitting your target inside 100 yards.  Indeed, the trigger did not adversely affect either of us in staying on target and inside the bulls-eye.  I suppose I could get it worked on and improved, but why bother?  The rifle is probably more accurate than I as is out to probably 150 to 200 yards, but that test will have to wait for an outdoor excursion.

Traditional wood upper hand guard

Traditional wood upper hand guard

My rating:  The new Inland M1 Carbine is a winner in nearly every regard.  It’s pricey, but in my view the price of admission ($1,079 MSRP; an even $1,000 through my local favorite gun store) is worth having a faithful reproduction of the original GM Inland M1 Carbine.  At 5.3 pounds, 15+1 rounds of .30 carbine (muzzle energy equivalent to .357 Magnum), in a compact, easy to maneuver package makes this a great rifle for everything from ranch to a home defense alternative.

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Firing Review — The stainless Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P


Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

You may recall that I gave a first-look review of this intriguing weapon and caliber before.  I had no intentions of firing that weapon, and still don’t as it’s a pre-bankruptcy example of the venerable Colt M1911 design in a somewhat rare caliber.

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What’s in the box

Fortunately I satisfied my itch to try the M1911 in .38 Super +P by acquiring a second copy.  As with the first copy, this one is also a Model 1991A1 in stainless, and outwardly it’s identical.  The only difference appears to be the included magazines, as the firing example came with rubberized footings screwed onto the bottoms.  See below for a comparison:

Rubberized footing on magazines

Rubberized footing on magazines

Previous magazine footplate

Previous magazine footplate

So, finally, I got around to firing this incredible combination — the classic Colt M1911 chambered in the powerfully exquisite .38 Super +P cartridge.  For an explanation on how this combination came about in 1929, and a brief history on the .38 Super +P cartridge, read my first-look review by clicking on the link below.  I’m sure you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

The Prancing Horse

The Prancing Horse

Being the M1991A1, today’s Colt has the  Series 80 trigger.  For an explanation on that and a comparison with the Series 70 trigger go to these links:

Starboard view

Starboard view

And since I’ve covered the trigger on the Colt M1911 in those past articles, I won’t cover that again here today except to say that it’s what you’d expect from the M1911 design.  In a word — Superb.

Slide locked back

Slide locked back

As I’ve stated previously in the above articles, the Colt M1911 was originally designed around the .45 ACP cartridge.  Only in 1929 — when law enforcement had trouble going up against Depression-era desperados in thick steel-bodied cars and wearing body armor impervious to the .45 — did Colt get around to putting a bit more oomph through the Colt M1911.  That resulted in what is basically the forerunner to the Magnum load — the .38 Super +P, which would for six years reign as the most powerful handgun cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum revolver in 1935.  The .38 Super +P still beats the .40 SW, and even compares favorably with most commercial loads of the .357 SIG.

Slide forward

Slide forward

Considering the increased muzzle energy and higher velocity of the lighter .38 Super +P round, one would expect more recoil over an M1911 chambered in .45 ACP.  In actual practice it turns out just the opposite.  M1911 recoil with the much slower, quite heavy .45 ACP is very controllable, but it does have a “push” to it that gives some muzzle rise.  I refer to this recoil as a “push” because that’s the best way to describe what you feel.  If you read my article on firing the .45 ACP M1991A1 at the link below, you’ll find this description:

“In my opinion the 9mm has a sharper, quicker recoil whereas the .45 ACP imparts a steady, even, thrust-like reaction.  Recoil management is thus easy to accomplish and target reacquisition is very quick.”

Cocked and locked

Cocked and locked

If anything, the .38 Super +P feels more like the recoil one experiences when firing a standard locked-breech 9mm Parabellum when shot from a SIG P229.  The recoil impulse feels quicker than with an M1911 firing a .45 ACP, but the muzzle rise seems less and reacquisition on target is about the same.  There is one difference, however.  That’s in muzzle flash.  I shot this M1991A1 .38 Super at an indoor range with somewhat dim lighting.  The flash was . . . impressive.  Not .357 Magnum-out-of-a-two-inch-barrel impressive, but you’ll definitely notice a flash coming out of the muzzle.

Port view

Port view

My impressions after firing the .38 Super +P is that this is probably my new favorite handgun shooting round, and the M1991A1 in stainless is now my new favorite hiking piece except in brown bear country.  For that I’ll rely upon bear spray and shop around for something even more powerful as a backup to the spray, perhaps a Smith & Wesson .500 revolver with ported barrel.

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Yep, the Colt M1991A1 is simply that fun to shoot.  This is also an incredibly accurate combination in an very controllable package.

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Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FS


These Cheetahs travel in packs of two

These Cheetahs travel in packs of two

Next week I’ll return to travel and photography with a series on West Coast cruising to San Francisco, California; Astoria, Oregon; and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.  This week, however, will solely feature firearms.  So, sorry, travel and photography fans, but I owe a bunch of people some promised gun articles.

A sampling of the included goodies

A sampling of the included goodies

Today, I shoot a pair of Cheetahs.  Relax, wildlife fans.  I’m talking about the Beretta series 80 Cheetah pistols, which include the Cheetah models 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 87 Target, and 89.  If you’re wondering about those designations, here’s a breakdown:

  • Model 81: .32 ACP/7.65mm with 12-round, double-stack magazine and wide grip
  • Model 82: .32 ACP/7.65mm with 9-round, single-stack magazine and thin grip
  • Model 83: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 7-round, single-stack magazine, and longer 4-inch/102mm barrel
  • Model 84: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 13-round, double-stack magazine
  • Model 85: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 8-round, single-stack magazine
  • Model 86: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 8-round magazine; differs from other Cheetahs in that it has longer 4.37-inch/111mm barrel, and a unique tipping barrel that allows a round to be cropped directly into the chamber rather than necessitating a load from the magazine
  • Model 87: .22 LR with 10-round magazine
  • Model 87 Target: .22 LR with one of the longest barrels in the Cheetah line at 5.91 inches/150mm
  • Model 89: .22 LR with 8-round magazine; this is the competition model of the Cheetah series; it has the longest barrel at 5.98 inches/152mm and weighs in at a rather hefty 41 ounces/1,160 grams.
85FS on left; 84FS on right

85FS on left; 84FS on right

All Cheetahs are blowback operation.  The current .32 ACP and .380 ACP pistols are all FS versions.  FS pistols have a squared “combat” style trigger guard, a manual safety that also serves to decock the hammer, a chromed barrel and chamber, a firing pin safety, a magazine safety, and a very tough proprietary “Bruniton” finish on the steel slide mounted over a lightweight alloy frame.

Magaines — 9-round vs. 13-round

Magaines — 8-round vs. 13-round

The models I’m reviewing today are an 84FS double-stack and an 85FS single stack, both in .380 ACP/9mm kurz.  Both models come standard with dual, ambidextrous safety/decock levers.  Specifications are:

Beretta 84fs:

  • Length: 6.77 inches/172mm
  • Width (see text): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Width (at grip): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Height: 4.8 inches/122mm
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 23.3 ounces/660 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 13+1

Beretta 85fs:

  • Length: 6.77 inches/172mm
  • Width (see text): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Width (at grip): 1.18 inches/30mm
  • Height: 4.8 inches/122mm
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 21.9 ounces/620 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 8+1
Right profile view

Right profile view

Both the 84FS and 85FS are still available from Beretta, but you must watch carefully for them.  Beretta quit importing them a few years ago, and only recently started reimporting them in small, limited-run batches.  I had acquired the 84FS back in late 2012 when it appeared they would be leaving the market permanently, and just recently snagged the 85FS in early October when the latest batch hit the market.  Indeed, you will find neither listed on the U.S. Beretta website.  Here locally the street price was in the $730-$738 range for both.  Grabagun.com shows online prices at just over $660.

Left profile view

Left profile view

Shooting Cheetahs:  I had previously fired the 84FS and was not impressed with my accuracy, especially compared to how well I fire the Walther PPK and PPK/S (link:  PPK review).  But there were a couple of saving graces in favor of the 84FS over the .380 ACP PPK/S — the recoil was much more manageable, allowing for quicker reacquisition of the target; the 84FS gave me a whopping six-round advantage over the PPK/S.  Nevertheless, I found myself going back to the PPK/S for carry, on the rare occasions when my trusty P99c AS was too bulky (link:  P99c AS review), despite the unpleasantness of the recoil.  The 84FS just feels too bulky, which it is because of the width of the grip, and I just didn’t shoot is as well.

Disassembled Cheetah

Disassembled Cheetah

I didn’t expect to do appreciably better with the 85FS, but I was wrong.  In direct, back-to-back firings alternating between the 84FS and 85FS the latter had it all over the former in accuracy.  I found this astounding.  I would not have thought going into this comparison that a grip width only .19 inches/5mm would make that much difference, but apparently it does with me.

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

And whereas the PPK/S is an absolute beast when it comes recoil, neither Cheetah exhibits this behavior.  Indeed, both recoil with about the same lack of drama one gets when firing a locked breech 9mm Parabellum.  Both Cheetahs lose on this front however in comparison to the milder recoil of the .32 ACP/7.65mm PPK, which is the caliber for which the PP-series was originally designed.

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Now a word about concealability.  As I hinted earlier, the 84FS offers no real advantage in this area over the higher powered 9mm Parabellum, 10+1 rounds offered in the P99c, and four additional rounds of lower energy ammunition just isn’t worth the trade-off.  The 85FS may change my mind, however.  True, both the 84FS and 85FS are technically 1.37 inches/35mm wide, but that’s deceiving.  That width is measured at the widest point, which just happens to be those ambidextrous safety/decock levers, which are negligible in size and this add no real bulk in actual concealment.  It’s the grip width that is the failing in this area for the 84FS, and the 85FS addresses that problem very well indeed.  The grip width of the 9+1 capacity 85FS is 1.18 inches/30mm.  This compares to an overall width of 1.26 inches/32mm on the P99c, and a miniscule .98 inches/25mm on the PPK/S.

85FS versus . . .

85FS versus . . .

. . . 84FS

. . . 84FS

For a minor .2-inch penalty in width I gain two additional rounds in the 85FS in a package that better handles recoil and which aims just as intuitively as the PPK/S.  Not a bad trade-off indeed.  And while the numbers would seem to dramatically favor the PPK/S in concealment, side-by-side comparisons show it doesn’t really have that great an advantage as you can see below.

Two .380 ACP Classics — Beretta 85FS and Walther PPK/S

Two .380 ACP Classics — Beretta 85FS and Walther PPK/S

Like the Walther PPK/S, the Cheetah has a double-action/single-action trigger.  Single-action is a tad lighter on the PPK/S, and reset is shorter.  Double-action is a different story.  The Cheetah is both lighter and smoother in this area.

Here are some additional comparison views of the 85FS against the PPK/S:

Height comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Height comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Length comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Length comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

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