The gun industry has evolved. Whereas manufacturers used to stick to tested designs and produce them as needed to meet demand, the gun industry has learned some new tricks from other manufacturing sectors. They do more market research, they use more, more sophisticated, and better-targeted advertising. And they also started creating new markets and niches that they could then service, instead of chasing the same old limited classifications of guns that used to comprise the U.S. market.
Sometimes this new marketing savvy is a good thing (subcompact carry guns) and sometimes it is a mixed bag of good and bad (ultralightweight magnum revolvers). Some people might even consider this marketing-driven approach as a way for gun companies to make money while separating people from their money in return for a clever product that serves no legitimate need (Taurus Judge?). Don’t misunderstand me, I like neat products and I have nothing personal against the Judge. At the same time, based on ballistic performance, I do not believe the Judge is suitable for self defense against humans; I am not sure what purpose it serves (besides increasing sales of .410 ammunition). But this is America, and the market shall make its own decisions.
There are some new products in the guniverse. Let’s take a look:Ruger has 2 new guns. The first is the Single-Ten (a 10-shot version of the Single-Six):
Ok, more capacity is always a good thing. The 5.5″ barrel is a handy length, more accuracy & velocity without being a hogleg. And the Single-Six is a proven, durable design with classic styling.
But, in my opinion, there are 2 drawbacks to this gun. Drawback #1: unlike the rest of the Single-Six models, there is no extra cylinder to convert the gun to fire .22WMR. And that dual-cartridge capability is one of the strongest selling points of the Single-Six design. Most guns will fire either one or the other caliber more accurately, but you still have that versatility. Except on the Single-Ten. Personally, I would prefer a Single-Eight or Single-Nine that retained the dual-cartridge capability.
Drawback #2: the sights. The Williams fiber-optic sights have a front blade that is just too darn tall and too angular. Forget fast-draw practice. That’s a holster-killer, that is:
Worse, the bright dot on the front blade can make it hard to wring maximum precision out of the sight picture. It’s hard to discern the skinny areas of black on the top and sides of that glowing dot. Mind you, the square rear notch and squared front blade on these sights make them a lot better than the standard HiViz fiber-optic sights on a Smith&Wesson AirLite .22 (which has a shallow V-notch rear, and a rounded top on the front sight blade).
On balance, I think I would buy a regular Single-Six, or a Bearcat, depending on whether I wanted a handy kit gun or a do-it-all .22 handgun. Swapping out the front sight for a more streamlined non-fiber-optic blade would greatly improve the gun, and that is what I would do if I bought a Single-Ten.
Ruger’s second new model is the 77/357, a .357 magnum bolt-action rifle with a 5-round rotary magazine:
Ruger already has a .44mag bolt gun, so I guess this is really a new flavor of an existing gun. As with the .44mag version, you must choose your ammunition carefully to avoid bullets that are designed to perform optimally at handgun velocities.
I checked the range performance of rifle-length barrels with tests done by Gun Tests magazine. Performance-wise, a 158gr bullet fired in a rifle-length barrel will be traveling at approximately 1950 fps, with about 1350 ft/lb of energy at the muzzle. Winchester 145gr Silvertips reach about 1900 fps with 1200 ft/lb of muzzle energy. On average, the rifle-length barrel more than doubles the muzzle energy of a 4″ revolver (about 2.5x).
Compare that to the .44mag Winchester 250gr Partition Gold at 1550 fps with 1350 ft/lb of muzzle energy or the Hornady 300gr XTP at about 1400 fps with maybe 1320 ft/lb of energy. These represent less than double the muzzle energy of a .44mag revolver with a 4″ barrel.
Looking at the ballistics on Winchester’s ammo website, A Winchester .30-30 with 150gr PowerPoint ammo hits 2390 fps with about 1900 ft/lb of muzzle energy (and a flatter trajectory). The .44 mag and .30-30 deliver a solid amount of energy out to 200 yards, but the .357mag is in the 450 ft/lb range at that distance. Probably not enough for deer, unless you enjoy running after them until they collapse.
So what would I buy the 77/357 for? Probably not deer, unless I was certain that the distances would be 100 yards or less. Coyotes maybe? Or the mountain lions that seem to be infesting Connecticut at the moment. For all-around utility, I think I would prefer a lever-action .357mag. But out to 150 yards or so, this new 77/357 (with a scope, which is the only advantage that I can see over a lever gun) probably has enough oomph to take care of lighter game and 2-legged predators.