Arcus 94 range report: deal or dud?


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Shear_stress
June 4, 2005, 10:55 PM
Finally got the chance to tote my new-to-me Arcus 94 to the range today. To recap, the Arcus 94 is a 9mm, all forged, single-action Browning High Power knock-off made in Bulgaria. The frame is hard-chromed (often erroneously described as "stainless steel") and the slide finished in some of kind of thin, matte-black treatment prone to scratching. The grips are a comfortable rubber, wraparound, Hogue-ish affair.

Considering the above features, these guns are seriously cheap. My used example set me back $170, not including the little festival of fees and taxes piled on by the good folks in the state government. Even a new Arcus won't blast too big a hole in your bank account. They continue to be imported in a few variations (compact, full-size, single- and double-action) by Century Arms, and don't sell for more than two and half bills or so.

To me, even that amount of money is too much for a gun that doesn't shoot well. I've got enough paper weights. The object for today, therefore, was to determine whether I got me a deal or a dud.

All shooting was done at the 15 yard line using 150 rounds of Sellier&Belllot 115 grain FMJ. Accuracy with the fixed, three-dot sights was very good. The trigger, newly freed of its magazine safety, was still a little heavy but had a smooth pull and crisp break. This, combined with the tight barrel/slide and slide/frame clearances made keeping the rounds in the black on a 25 yard NRA rapid fire target pretty easy. In addition, though the slide is of a beefier, more angular contour, the Arcus retains the classic BHP handling and pointability. Apparently, the cloning process went well.

Not so well were the few extraction problems I experienced. Roughly ten percent of the time, the gun would not fully eject the empty case. The extractor seemed to do the job of extraction, but it was like the slide did not move with sufficient force to properly slam the case head against the ejector. As a result, the fired round would sort of hang up in the ejection port, still clinging to the extractor. Interestingly, using the same ammo, I had an FTE on the normally dead nuts reliable CZ P-01 I also brought with me.

After I got it home, I stripped the gun down. There didn't appear to be any grime under the extractor hook that might have prevented it from getting a firm grip on the cartridge's extractor groove. Also, with the slide off the frame, the extractor had enough tension to positively retain a loaded cartridge against the breech block. Perhaps the problem could be caused by a too-heavy recoil spring (?)

Overall, I still was very impressed with the accuracy and handling characteristics of the Arcus. I am a little conflicted about the FTEs. However, I did see the same problem with the same ammo on my CZ, albeit much less frequently. So, at the moment, the Arcus is a conditional "deal".

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Shear_stress
June 5, 2005, 01:07 AM
Quick update:

After reading about similar extraction issues online, I grabbed my roll-pin punches, homemade bench block and quick-release clamp (for holding the extractor while driving the roll pin back in) and went about trying not to make things worse. Managed to remove the sear bar to get to the extractor, then removed the extractor and cleaned some of the grime out of the extractor channel. This thing is easy to work on!

The gun went right back together. The hammer still drops when the trigger is pressed and, when the slide is worked by hand, the gun will still eject a round. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Observation: if nothing else, the Arcus is good for consequence-free Browning High-Power tinkering.

Edited to fix a couple of James Squire Amber Ale-induced syntax issues.

billsnogo
June 5, 2005, 11:11 AM
Thank you for the report! This is the kind of post I love reading, lets me know if I should pick one up if the right deal comes along :)

horge
June 5, 2005, 11:36 AM
Thanks for the review!

PCRCCW
June 5, 2005, 01:34 PM
Id agree with all of the positive things about the Arcus, mine didnt have ejection problems though. A hint of the problem is the PO1 had the same issue's, which in my experience may be ammo related. Id try other ammo and see it clears up your problems.
Id love another Arcus, an SA Compact would be perfect.......nice CCW gun.
Shoot well and thanks.......

Shear_stress
June 5, 2005, 01:56 PM
Thanks for the feedback.

The issue could very well be ammo related. Perhaps the extractor groove on S&B 9mm cases is not as deep as those of other brands. Or, the groove's contour could be less than ideal for pistols with weaker extraction. However, this brand usually runs pretty reliably in my CZ.

The signals are a bit mixed. After all, the extractor tension on the Arcus seems to be decent. After cleaning under the extractor channel and reassembling the slide, I again slid a loaded cartridge under the extractor hook. Even after shaking the slide back and forth, the extractor retained the loaded round just fine, though I admit I don't really have a frame of reference.

It is possible that the extractor tension is just marginal enough to obviate perfectly reliable case retention. I think I'll order a Wolff extra power extractor spring to increase my margin. Couldn't hurt.

At any rate, the gun shoots wonderfully, and is a cinch to work on. The more I learn about the Browning/Saive design, the more I like it.

rde
June 5, 2005, 02:51 PM
I'd put my money on the ammo first personally. I always take a couple of different brands when firing a new (at least new to me) firearm. It's happened to me a time or two and I never could figure out why. Always resolved after a couple of hundred rounds...problem with that ammo went away...also never could figure out why that was either.

caz223
June 5, 2005, 04:42 PM
None of my nines like S&B ammo, it's the cases.
The groove area is heavily radiused, and some guns just don't like 'em.
I'd try something else, at least before you do any tinkering.
You may find it just needs to be fed the right stuff.

HankC
June 5, 2005, 07:28 PM
Is it possible that previous owner change out to a heavier recoil spring for +P rounds? How far the spent shells ejected? Mine (98 DA version) with factory springs have spent shells fall around 9-10 feet. Just my 2Cs.

Shear_stress
June 5, 2005, 08:02 PM
Update #2.

Decided to brave the local Wal-Mart for some Winchester White Box. At the risk of sounding self-righteous, Wal-Mart is just not my bag. Enough said.

However, after enjoying one hundred completely failure-free rounds of WWB today, I think I may have to reevaluate my position (at least when it comes to ammo). Unlike the Sellier&Bellot I used yesterday, the Arcus really took to the Sam Walton loads. Accuracy was great--easy one to one and half inch groups at 15 yards. The only drawback was that the slide stop would occasionally back out slightly.

Like I said, every round fed and ejected uneventfully. Ejection still wasn't as positive as my CZ. A few empty cases even ended up in my pocket. Though that was kind of cool, it may indeed indicate a recoil spring rated on the stout side. Easily remedied.

No matter. Coupled with suitable ammo, the Arcus may be one of the best deals out there.

PCRCCW
June 5, 2005, 11:01 PM
Sounds like you got most of your problem worked out. If your getting shells in your pocket Ill bet your slide speed is too slow when its at the end. Get a 16# or 18# Wolff recoil spring and see what they do. The 16 will work for 99% of the loads youll use.
Shoot well.

BHPshooter
June 6, 2005, 01:50 AM
Be sure to keep it fairly clean, and watch for locking lugs rounding/deforming/shaving. The exact same Arcus 94 that PCRCCW formerly owned (and is now owned by a friend) is having BIG issues in that area.

Of course, the owner cleans the gun about every leap year. :scrutiny: I believe that, and the use of the crappiest ammo he could find, contributed heavily to the problem. It really is a shame.

It sounds like you clean yours often, so you should see any metal shavings or deformities of the locking lugs immediately.

Wes

Shear_stress
June 6, 2005, 02:29 PM
Thanks for the advice. I just ordered a recoil calibration kit from Wolff as well as a set of extra power extractor springs. I think I'll start with just the factory-rated 17# recoil spring and see if I get more positive case ejection. If not, I'll change the extractor spring and/or go with a lighter recoil spring. I am a little worried about frame/slide battering and don't want to go too light.

Initially, I also wanted to go with a lower power hammer spring (maybe a 26 or 28#) to lighten the trigger pull. However, I wasn't sure how well that would work with a lighter than factory recoil spring and/or the stronger than factory firing spring that comes with the kit (were I to install it). I decided to skip the hammer spring for now.

I'll definately watch out for schmutz build-up on the recoil lugs. Once you start to lose full lug engagement, the impact stress climbs greatly. Fortunately, the WWB I have taken a shine to seems to burn cleaner than other bargain rounds.

Anyway, sorry for being so long winded. I just find this stuff really interesting.

helpwanted
June 8, 2005, 08:53 AM
I was getting FTEs (at least 5 out of 1 box) with S&B .45 acp in a Ruger P90 earlier this week. This pistol has never had a failure of any kind in about 1000 rounds until this box of S&B. It used to shoot S&B without any problems. At the same range session I fed it 100 rounds of whitebox without any hiccups. Seems like their new stuff is shaky at best. No more s&b for me in anything.

BHPshooter
June 9, 2005, 04:15 AM
Anyway, sorry for being so long winded. I just find this stuff really interesting.

No, no; Not at all -- I find it really interesting too. ;) If you have any more observations or ruminations about your Arcus, I'd love to hear them.

Wes

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