David’s Later Guns #2 — The Cougar and the Storm

Posted 9/06/2021

The Beretta Px4 Storm was preceded in production by Beretta’s Cougar 8000. Production of the Cougar was transferred to Stoeger when Beretta purchased the company.

The Beretta Px4 Storm is one of the smoothest operating handguns offered in the defensive handgun arena. So many more guns have been offered in that market segment since the Px4 Storm made its debut, including more by Beretta, that sometimes the Px4 gets lost in the mix. That’s a shame. Offered in full-size, compact and sub-compact versions, there is something for every need. Mine is the full-size version, which I find a delightful concealed carry gun. Before I get too far into the details, I want to tell you about the Storm’s older cousin, the Cougar.

The Cougar 8000 was a Beretta product introduced in 1994 as a smaller alternative to the Beretta 92. When Beretta acquired Stoeger through its Benelli subsidiary, production of the Cougar, along with all the dies and tooling, was transferred to Stoeger. Essentially the Beretta Cougar and the Stoeger Cougar are the same product. It’s a shame it’s no longer manufactured as it is truly a fine pistol.

My Cougar, acquired in 2009, represents my transition from revolvers to semi-automatic handguns. It was the first semi-automatic pistol I bought. I can’t call it mine anymore because when I brought it home, my youngest son, who was also looking for a new handgun, announced that was the gun he wanted. He put the money in my hand to reimburse me for the cost of the Cougar, and I was sent back to the store to get another gun. That is why I have the Px4. The Cougar has remained in the family, and I’ve enjoyed shooting it on more than a few occasions.

There is so much about the two guns that is similar, although the Cougar is an all-steel gun while the Storm has a polymer frame. Cougar and Storm are what we call them around the house. I hope you don’t mind if I forgo trying to keep the naming convention right for the rest of this article and just refer to them using those titles.

Both of these guns have Trijicon night sights installed.

The Storm is still in production and is offered in nine different configurations: Px4 Storm Compact Carry, Px4 Compact FDE, Px4 Compact Grey, Px4 Storm Carry, Px4 Storm Compact, Px4 Storm Full, Px4 Storm SubCompact, Px4 Storm SD Type F, Px4 Storm Inox. Each one can be purchased as a Type C, Type D, Type F or Type G, but are primarily offered in the civilian market as Type F. Type C is a single-action only pistol. The C stands for “Constant Action” — the spurless hammer is in half-cocked position. There is no decocker and no safety. This configuration is primarily sold into the police market. Type D is double-action-only, with a spurless hammer, no decocker and no safety. The popular Type F is familiar to most of us. It is an SA/DA gun with a decocker and manual safety. Type G is SA/DA with the safety feature removed so that the safety lever works only as a decocker. Somewhere along the way my Px4 Storm F was converted to a Type G. I’m okay with that because I rarely use the safety on an SA/DA gun.

The Storm is a polymer gun that uses a pair of takedown sliders, similar to the Glock. David’s Storm doesn’t have a manual lever safety. The lever acts as a decocker.

The Px4 Storm SD .45 ACP semi-auto pistol was developed to meet the very demanding requirements issued by the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM) for their Joint Combat Pistol. They called for superior weather resistance, extended threaded barrel, dark earth frame, tactical case and additional accessories. Beretta answered the call successfully by redesigning the Storm’s internal components to meet and exceed all these requirements. The result is a pistol that satisfies not only SOCOM’s requirements, but the most demanding shooter looking for the absolute best and most reliable for personal defense, competition or carry. All of the Px4 pistols have been designed to meet or exceed NATO requirements and have been reported to have fired over 150,000 rounds with zero failures.

While the compact and subcompact models are very popular, I like my full-size model and find it comfortable to shoot and carry. Size wise it is 7.5″ long, 5.5″ high, 1.22″ wide and weighs 28 oz. The barrel is 4″ long. The Beretta website stretches these measurements a bit. Maybe my gun has shrunk over the years, but I’m giving you exactly what the ruler says. I think it’s probably more an issue of translating from metric to US measurements.

The Cougar has an all steel frame and a takedown lever. The safety also acts as a decocker.

The Cougar is 5.5″ tall, 7″ long and 1.3″ wide. The barrel is 3.5″ long. This one weighs at 30.25 oz. because it’s an all-steel gun. As you can tell, these two guns are very similar in size and their measurements are typical of a mid-size carry gun. The heft is comfortable in my hands and not at all uncomfortable to carry in a good IWB holster. The slide is rounded everywhere there’s an edge, pronouncedly so on the top edges. Mounted on the slide are Tritium night sights. I honestly don’t remember if the gun came that way or if it’s something we added later. There are serrations on the flat part of the slide, which is the lower half, just above the rather hefty slide lock lever. On the back of the slide is an ambidextrous lever that doubles as a safety and a decocker. The safety totally disables the hammer and trigger.

The mag release button is in the customary place behind the trigger. Pressing it results in an aggressive drop of the magazine. The magazine is a 15-rounder, steel and strongly made. The grip frame is very comfortable to me. Being an all-steel gun, there’s no swapping of backstraps for fit. The gun came with a set of rubber grips. I gave my son a set of wooden grips for the Cougar for his birthday one year and that’s what the gun is now wearing. Vertical lines on the front strap and backstrap assist with grip purchase. In case you’re wondering, backstrap is one word, but front strap isn’t.

The trigger on the Cougar is a curved affair that sits forward. In DA mode it starts working with no slack. The pressure is steady for about .75″ and then you get a crisp, clean 9 lb. break. Follow-up shots in SA mode require .25″ take-up before breaking at an average 5.1 lbs. Tactile reset comes when the trigger is almost all the way forward.

The barrel to slide lockup is different on these pistols from most locked-breech pistols. The lockup action consists of a ¼ round rotation before the slide moves backward, resulting in reduced recoil.

One of the unique features of the Cougar, shared with the Beretta Px4 Storm, is the barrel operating system. While the Cougar and Storm are locked breech operating semi-automatic pistols, the way the barrel locks up is different. There is a locking block the recoil spring and rod go through. This block has a pin on it that fits inside a groove on the portion of the barrel that supports the “lock-up.” This groove wraps around the barrel so the pin travels in a rotational manner around approximately ¼ of the barrel when the gun is fired. This occurs at the start of the cycle to eject the just-fired cartridge and load another one. The end result of this action is that the first ¼ of the recoil cycle is rotational and does not present any kind of “kick” to the shooter. Does the Cougar have recoil? Yes, but it is diminished somewhat by the unique operating system.

Disassembly for cleaning or other maintenance is slightly different with this kind of barrel/recoil spring combo, but not at all complicated. After dropping the magazine, locking the slide back and checking to ensure the chamber is empty, there is a lever on the left side of the frame just above the front of the trigger guard. The lever has a locking pin which is released by pushing a button on the right side of the frame. Once this is done, the lever can be rotated clockwise a ¼ turn. Release the slide lock and the slide will come off the front. No trigger pull required. The recoil spring and locking block can be lifted off the barrel, the barrel removed and everything about cleaning, lubricating and reassembling the gun is standard, except you have to maneuver the locking block over the barrel to get the pin into the groove and that requires a slight compression of the recoil spring. It’s not much different than the way you have to compress the recoil spring on any semi-automatic to get it to drop into place on the barrel.

Everything I just described for the Cougar is true also of the Storm with two exceptions. Takedown on the Storm is done by pulling down two tabs on the frame just ahead and above the trigger guard, similar to takedown on a Glock. Only on the Storm no trigger pull is required before removing the slide. The difference is the grips. The Storm comes with interchangeable backstraps. I’m using the medium size on my gun.

This five shot group with Norma’s new MHP rounds
is typical of the Storm’s performance at 10 yards.
Both guns perform exceptionally well with Black Hills Xtreme Defender fluted rounds.

If you don’t have your mid-size carry gun and can find one, the Px4 STORM will not disappoint you. I think any size would work fine. Problem now might be availability, but since it’s an older gun there should be some on the auction sites. The same is true of the Cougar. Just remember when looking at the Stoeger STR-9, it’s not the first mid-size 9mm Stoeger has brought to market.

David’s Early Gun Series #2 — Hi Standard Double Nine

Posted 8/1/2021

Around age 14 I began working part time jobs after school and during the summer. It didn’t take me long to start gathering the tools to be a man. Chief among them was a mildly customized F1 Ford pickup and a .22 revolver. I bought the revolver at the local Western Auto store, paying something just shy of $50 for it. The gun was a High Standard Double Nine. High Standard was known at the time for it’s semi-automatic .22 that was used in competition. There was another revolver built more along the lines of a Smith & Wesson called the Sentinel and folks said the Sentinel was every bit as good as one of the more expensive revolvers from Smith & Wesson or Ruger. The Double Nine was a cowboy version of the Sentinel. It looked like a Colt Single Action Army, but the cylinder swung out for loading, and it was a double-action revolver rather than single action. Sort of the best of both worlds.

David Bought His First Double Nine at a Western Auto Store When He Was 15

I used my Double Nine for plinkin’ and impressing the girls I dated by taking them shooting and I occasionally used it to bag a squirrel or a rabbit. I loved that gun, but apparently not enough to keep me from trading it to a friend for a stereo. My rationing was he was a close enough friend I’d still have access to the gun when I wanted to shoot it. But a few weeks after the trade, my friend told me it was really his mother’s stereo he had traded to me and she wanted it back. Naturally, I was willing to reverse the trade, but my friend confessed he had sold the gun to somebody who didn’t want to give it back. I returned the stereo but was without my Double Nine.

I went through the rest of my youth without getting a replacement, but I missed it enough that when I got into the gun business with my friend Jerry Colliver, Jerry found me a replacement. This time it wasn’t a $50 purchase, but $300 got me a nice Double Nine still in its original box. That box has the original price sticker on it—$64.95, indicating it was originally purchased about the same time I bought my first Double Nine.

I’ve got .22 revolvers from Heritage, Ruger and Uberti, but I gravitate to the Double Nine for my own shooting enjoyment. Let the kids and grandkids enjoy the other guns, the High Standard has a special place in my shooter’s heart. It’s not better than the other guns, though it is a little easier to load and unload. I just have a lot of pleasant memories associated with the Double Nine.

My gun is a model W-104 with a 4.5″ barrel. It’s currently wearing staghorn grips, but I also have a set of black grips and a set of faux pearl grips, both made specifically for the Double Nine by Jay Scott Custom Grips. The cylinder has drag marks made by the bolt as the cylinder rotates. I’m told that’s typical of these guns. Other than those markings, which I touch up from time-to-time with Birchwood Casey Aluminum Black, the gun shows no signs of abuse or wear. The frame and cylinder are made of an aluminum alloy.

Loading the gun is very easy. Beneath the barrel there is a small tab that on single action revolvers would be connected to the rod used to push empty shell casings out of the cylinder. This tab only moves a half an inch or so and is used to release the cylinder, which opens like the cylinder on a typical double action revolver. You can load the gun with shorts, longs or long rifles, mixed and matched at your pleasure. After firing, simply open the cylinder again press the cylinder pin to eject the empty shells, or any cartridges that have not been fired.

The double action trigger pull exceeds the 12 lb. limit of my Lyman trigger pull gauge, but it works in a way I appreciate. There is no slack to speak of and the trigger starts stacking immediately. If you’re pulling it slowly, it’s easy to stop at the wall just before the break and recheck sight alignment before pulling through. If you want to simply pull the trigger without paying attention to the break, you can and it feels smooth all the way through. In fact, you can empty the gun in short order just by aggressively pulling the trigger repeatedly until the bang turns into a click.

It’s easier to be more accurate with single-action shooting, at least for me. Cocking the gun sets the trigger to the rear where an easy 4 lbs. of pressure fires the gun. The sights are better than those found on a lot of cowboy guns in that there is a notched rear sight that sets above the top strap. The front sight is a blade that is 1/4″ high. The rear sight is well above the hammer when the hammer is down, so it works just as well in the double-action mode as in single-action.

Shorts, Longs, or Long Rifles — Any of Them Works

I realized when thinking about my early days with the Double Nine I shot it one-handed. My examples of how to handle a gun in those days were on-screen heroes such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Hop-a-long Cassidy and the Cisco Kid and they all shot their six shooters one handed. It wasn’t until I started taking handgun instruction on the way to becoming an instructor myself that I ever knew any better. When I shot my Double nine for this article, I reverted to the one-handed shooting I’d done with it early on and was pleased with the results. I didn’t try to shoot any long-range targets but shooting at five to seven yards I could put all nine rounds in a 5″ circle consistently. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a misfire. I sometimes shoot shorts, sometimes longs and sometimes long rifles, just depending on what I have on hand when I go shooting.

This is Typical of the Double Nine’s Performance at 5-7 Yards

The High Standard company was founded by Swedish immigrant Carl Gustav Swebilius who got his start in the gun business by working for Marlin as a machinist and later a gun designer. He also spent a little time at Winchester before starting High Standard Manufacturing to make parts for other gunmakers.  He borrowed some money from friends to by the assets of the Hartford Firearms company. Between selling Hartford pistols and improving upon them the High Standard became a manufacturing company. It’s interesting the moniker attached to the company was always High Standard, yet the firearms were always branded as Hi Standard. Hi Standard semi-automatics were sought after for competition and the revolvers found their place in the market as reasonably priced .22s suitable for teaching kids to shoot, keeping varmints away from the chickens and vegetable garden on the farm and just general fun shooting. The company operated several buildings in and around Harford, Connecticut and seemed at times to be doing quite well. They even supplied parts for US armed forces during WWII.

In 1968, the company was sold to an investment company called The Leisure Group. In 1978 the company was purchased by its managers but was soon in financial trouble and its assets were auctioned off. One of the primary parts distributors for the company bought some of the parts lines and the trademarks. In early 1993 a new company was formed in Texas to acquire the trademarks and .22 pistol line. The assets, including tooling, were moved to Houston in July of 1993 and the first of the Houston made guns shipped in March of 1994. The Texas company closed its doors in 2018.

Many collectors have realized the value of these firearms and prices have held steady. My particular model is listed in the Blue Book of Gun Values as being worth $450–$500. I’m glad to know I didn’t overpay for it and I’m pleased I’ll be able to pass it along to some lucky member of my family when I can no longer pull a trigger.

David’s Early Gun Series #1 — Dad’s Smith and Wesson Model 10

Posted 7/28/2021

Dad Was a Game Warden as a Secondary Function of His Job

Throughout most of his career my father was the Director of Fisheries for the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, now known as Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It was the policy of then that all director level employees were also qualified as game wardens. Although my father never acted as a game warden to my knowledge, he had the badge and a gun. The gun was a .38 Special Smith and Wesson Model 10. Dad kept his gun in his sock drawer.

Dad’s job kept him away from home during the week but his gun stayed behind. I don’t recall ever asking him if it was okay if I carried his .38 with me on some of my exploring adventures, but I did dig it out of that sock drawer on many occasions.

One occasion I remember is kind of embarrassing but I tell it for its humor. As a kid I hated spiders. This hatred had its seed in something that happened to me on a camping trip near a small lake just a few miles outside of town. The dam and the low area just below the dam were populated by pine trees approximately ten feet tall. I was making my way through those pine trees and ran into a spider web with a large black and yellow garden spider in it right at face level. I kind of panicked and turned to run and ran right into another one which resulted in a one of those large black and yellow spiders being on my face. In full panic mode I swatted that spider and its web down and ran over the dam and into the lake, clothes and all. These spiders were 4 to 5 inches in size and very yucky. That’s why I hated spiders. Still do, for that matter, but I don’t panic when I see them.

My cousin Paul Moss and I were navigating Toby Tubby Creek in my dad’s fiberglass john boat. Paul was in the front; I was in the back. We were working our way under a tree that had fallen across the creek and as Paul passed under the tree a large spider fell off the tree and onto the bottom of the boat. Without thinking, I shot the spider with Dad’s .38. You should have seen the hole in the boat with little spider legs all around, floating away because water was coming in the hole. How stupid, to shoot a hole in the bottom of your boat just because of a spider. Fortunately, the creek wasn’t very deep, and we weren’t that far from our transportation. Whenever I think of the gun safety rule, “know your target and what is beyond,” I think of that spider and the hole I shot in the boat as being what was beyond my target.

David’s Photoshop Rendition of What He Remembers About Shooting a Hole in the Boat to Kill a Spider

When Dad was leaving his home and going to a nursing home during the last months of his life here on earth I told him I was taking his .38 home with me. He said, “Son, I don’t believe I ever shot that gun.” I responded, “That’s okay, Dad, I shot it a lot.” I was quite naïve about guns in my early days. I had a shotgun that I hunted with and a .22 rifle for plinking. Dad’s .38 was my only handgun for a while, until I bought a High Standard Double Nine revolver. After I got the High Standard, I left Dad’s gun in his sock drawer.

I flew helicopters in Vietnam, and we were issued Smith and Wesson revolvers as part of our flight gear. I remember thinking it was very similar to Dad’s gun, but some years later I read that the guns we were issued in Vietnam were Model 36s. If so, it was only a 5-shot where the Model 10 is a 6-shot revolver. I honestly don’t remember what I had in Vietnam. I carried an M2 Carbine in the helicopter with me and always considered it my primary weapon.

Dad’s Model 10 is a Model 10-5. You find that model number underneath the yoke when you open the cylinder. The -5 indicates Dad’s gun was made in 1962 and on that particular model the front sight width was changed from 1/10″ to 1/8″. I verified the sight width on our gun with my digital caliper and sure enough it is 1/8″. That front sight is ramped with ridges on the top side. Somewhere along the way I have added white paint on those ridges to help my eyes pick up the front sight when aiming the gun.

The history of the S&W revolvers leading up to the Model 10 is legendary. It started as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899 and was later called the Military and Police. It is a K-frame revolver in production since 1899. The Model 10 is a six-shot, .38 Special, double-action revolver with fixed sights. Over its long production run it has been available with barrel lengths of 2″, 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″. I’ve seen figures that indicate more than 6,000,000 of the type have been produced over the years, and it is still in production today. The one in the current catalog has a 4″ barrel and an MSRP of $762. That 6,000,000 production number makes the Model 10 one of the most, if not the most, popular gun in history. No telling how many police officers, game wardens and state troopers have carried the Model 10 and its variants in the line of duty. I know when I carried it on my hunting and camping trips as a boy, I never thought of myself as not having enough gun. If I weren’t spoiled to the round capacity of today’s double stack 9mms I might still consider myself adequately armed with my Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver. Notice how I subtly changed the label from Dad’s Model 10 to my Model 10. Dad is long gone now, and I no longer have to sneak the gun out of his sock drawer to use it.

Suppose it was my daily carry gun. How up to the task is it? To start with, I’d have to change holsters or change belts. Dad always kept the gun in the holster that he got with it, which is an FBI model made by Bucheimer Clark and perfect for carrying the gun discreetly under a vest or shirt tail, but it’s made for a smaller diameter belt than the ones I wear, which are made for carrying a gun. I wish that wasn’t the case because it’s a really nice holster. I did find a nice OWB holster from ComfortTAC that fits it fine and allows me to carry it in the three o’clock position, which is comfortable for me.

The FBI Holster Dad Got When He Got His Gun

Suppose trouble comes and I need to use the gun to defend myself. Six rounds of a good .38 Special hollow point should be enough, right? That would depend upon my ability handle the gun and hit what I’m aiming at. The grip seems a bit large compared to the rest of the gun, but it’s a standard K Frame squared grip and it’s perfect for controlling the gun. A .38 Special round is not without significant recoil and the Model 10’s grip is designed to handle that recoil. It also facilitates quick sight alignment when bringing the gun up to a good shooting position. The trigger is very interesting. Double-action trigger pull is over the 12 lbs. limit on my Lyman® trigger pull gauge but the single-action pull averages 4 lbs. 2 oz. Even though the double action pull exceeds 12 lbs. it’s a smooth and an easy pull in my book. If you have time to cock the gun, you’re going to be much more accurate than with a double-action trigger break.

The Model 10 Is Plenty Accurate as this 10-Yard Target Demonstrates

People say short barrel guns aren’t accurate, but my Model 10 dispels that theory and I’ve seen others shoot tight groups out to 15 yards with their snubby revolvers such as the Model 10 and Model 12 from Smith and Wesson. I can put six rounds into a 4″ circle at 10 yards with my Model 10 with almost any of the ammo I’ve tried. When using the gun in a defensive posture I usually load it up with Underwood .38 Special +P 140 Grain Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator or Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P 110 Grain FTX. The gun shoots tight groups with either of those. Since they are +P they’ve got a bit of recoil to them, so I don’t do much pleasure shooting with those loads. For target practice I like shooting lead or FMJ 130 to 158 grain rounds of what ever happens to be available. The Model 10 doesn’t seem to care.

Some of Dad’s Old Rounds — Still Good and the Model 10 Likes Them

We don’t shoot the Model 10 often, but my grandkids always enjoy having it included in any of our outings. Because I have double-stack 9mm, .40 and .45 semi-automatics, carrying the Model 10 for personal protection rarely occurs to me. Writing this article has caused me to think about it again, so I plan to give it some outings over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t have to use it, but if I do, I’m sure you’ll hear about it and I’m sure it will have done its part.

Six Delightful Handguns From Turkey

Posted 6/6/2021

Turkey’s role in world politics is important as it lies right on the border of Europe and Asia. The government of Turkey mimics ours in many ways with an elected president, parliamentary representatives from each of 81 provinces and a judiciary branch. The country is highly industrialized and exports products around the world. The firearm business in Turkey is particularly robust. A Turkish business directory lists over 260 companies producing firearms. Eighty-five of those companies list shotguns as their major product. Eight companies manufacture rifles and nine companies list handguns as their primary product. I was somewhat surprised to learn my new Winchester Wildcat .22 rifle was made in Turkey by Istanbul Silah. Many of the companies also manufacture air guns and a few manufacture ammunition or gun parts. It’s not unusual to find a firearms manufacturer who also manufactures aviation parts. We are fortunate in that several of the pistol manufacturers export their products to the United States.

These six handguns featured in this report are representative of many affordable pistols manufactured in Turkey and sold in the US. Top Row: Girsan MC28SA, SAR 9X, Tisas M1911A1; Bottom Row: Canik TP9SA, SAR B6, Stoeger STR-9C

Good Quality — Fair Prices

I’m not sure what it is about the Turkish economy that allows them to produce firearms with quality equal to that of German, Italian and American firearms but at considerably lower prices. It’s not unions as there are unions in Turkey. Perhaps it’s fewer levels of management and lower marketing costs. I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s the way it is. Turkey not only equips its own military (strength over 500,000 and all males are required to serve) with firearms created in country, it exports firearms to a reported 70 countries with many of the exported firearms for military and police use. Firearms used by military and police are well-tested which helps with quality and reliability. The volume also helps with pricing.

My first semi-automatic pistol was a Stoeger made in Turkey. It was essentially a Beretta 8040 Cougar. Beretta owns Stoeger and shortly after the purchase, they moved tooling for the Cougar to Turkey. That Cougar is a delightful gun now owned by one of my sons. This report is about six modern handguns produced by Turkish companies, all sold in the US and priced considerably below similar handguns made in Germany, Italy and the US. I’ll discuss them in alphabetical order by brand and model.

Let’s Break Them Down Starting With Canik

Canik TP9SA
Canik TP9SA

First up is a 9mm Canik TP9SA in FDE. This gun is imported by Century Arms and is usually priced somewhere around $349–$389 at retail. The TP9SA is one of many models of Canik pistols imported by Century. This is the only gun in this report that doesn’t belong to me. I borrowed it from my good friend Alf Evans, who I sometimes play bass guitar for at the church where he is the worship leader. Alf has had this gun for several years, and it is his favorite of several 9mm handguns. I can see why. As I shot it along with the other five handguns in this report, had I not recently put myself on a gun diet, I’d be looking for one to add to my carry gun rotation. It’s a very nice handling pistol and very accurate in addition to being very attractive. The TP9SA came packaged in a plastic case along with a paddle retention holster, extra magazine, cleaning brush and exchangeable grip panels, along with the requisite trigger lock and owner’s manual.

Next Up is Girsan

Girsan MC28
Girsan MC28

Next up is a Girsan MC28SA. Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals such as this MC28. This one captured my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function. The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium and large grips plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The medium panel installed at the factory fit my hand the best. I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same. Features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their pistol with 3 dot sights, the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front.

A Couple of SARs

I have two guns made by Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp., doing business in the US as SAR USA, the SAR B6 and the SAR9X Platinum. Sarsilmaz is a privately-owned company in Turkey that produces guns for law enforcement, military and civil use. They are the sole supplier of pistols for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces. SAR introduced its B6 handgun to the US market in September 2012.

SAR B6

The B6 is a polymer-framed clone of the iconic CZ-75. It shares the easy handling feel and operation of the CZ with a decent trigger and sights and is priced such that we were able to sell it in our store for $340. We sold a ton of them, especially when SAR started offering them in colors like pink and purple. Today a typical advertised online price is $349. The B6 was, and still is, a fine handgun for personal use, including home and self-defense. It carries well, shoots well and is durable.

SAR 9X Platinum
SAR 9X Platinum

I first saw a SAR9 at an NRA Expo in Dallas in 2018. I was not impressed. My first thought when looking at it was “just another black gun.” The SAR9 is different than the SAR B6, but I didn’t see it as an improvement. Later I read about the extensive testing the SAR9 had been put through in order to qualify for military acceptance, but it still didn’t make me want one. But this year I was captured by an ad for a SAR9X Platinum. I reached out to SAR to see if I could get one at a writer’s price and the answer was positive. This is one beautiful gun. I didn’t pick up on it when looking at a totally black SAR, but it’s almost a clone of the H&K VP9. The Platinum edition came with lots of goodies including swappable grip inserts, an extra magazine, holster, magazine carrier and even a light that will mount on the dust-cover rail. I really liked the SAR9X except for the trigger, which was meeting some kind of resistance during the pull. I studied the gun a bit and discovered the trigger bar was rubbing against the inside of the frame. It appeared to be bent. I straightened it with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and, lo and behold, the trigger became more than acceptable. It became good.

Back in the Stoeger Business

Stoeger STR9C
Stoeger STR9C

Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but they have manufactured handguns from time to time. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. In recent years Stoeger has been offering STR-9 and STR-9 Compact pistols, making the STR-9 platform affordable by offering different configurations. I went for the STR-9 Compact packaged with only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I bought it for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449 and can be bought for less than $400. I would put the STR-9 up against handguns costing twice as much as far as performance and reliability. Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break at 5 lbs. If you shoot the STR-9, you’re going to like the trigger.

A US Army 1911A1 Without the Steep Price

Tisa 1911A1 U.S. Army

The Tisas 1911A1 U.S. Army model is a historically correct reproduction of the original US Military service pistol. It’s the only .45 in my selection of Turkish pistols for this review. All the others are 9mm. From its Parkerized finish and hammer-forged barrel to its weight and feel, this pistol accurately replicates the original military issue Government model pistol. It ships with one 7 round Mec-Gar mag, a cleaning brush and manual in a factory box. It accepts any aftermarket magazines and accessories that would fit an American-made GI M1911A1. Tisas firearms are imported into the US by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. Several retailers currently have their US Army M1911A in stock for around $450.

How Do They Shoot?

Ammunition Available for Testing During the Ammunition Shortage
Ammo Available for Testing During the Ammunition Shortage

Based on ammunition available, I took a measured approach to shooting these guns for this report. Except for the Canik, I’ve personally put several hundred rounds through each of them. I’ve had success finding ammo during the shortage by ordering from manufacturers who sell direct from their websites. I had Norma Range Ammo and Armscor FMJ, Hornady Hunter, Pilgrim JHP, Red Zone JHP, IMI JHP, Geco JHP and Norma MHP to shoot through the 9mm guns. I only had Pilgrim JHP for the .45. I used EZ2C Targets with six circular targets per page. Using a different brand of ammo for each page of targets, I shot several rounds of five shots from each gun into its own target. The photo you see with this article was my fourth in the series and was shot using Armscor’s FMJ ammo for all five of the 9mms and Pilgrim .45ACP +P JHP for the Tisas M1911A1. I could have photographed any of the targets in the series and the results would have been similar. The range was 10 yards, and I shot freehand from my wheelchair. I cannot explain why the holes in the Stoeger STR9C target appear larger than the other 9mm targets because it’s the same ammo. Perhaps it was the angle of the target path which was lower than the others.

Turkish Pistol Targets
Turkish Pistol Targets

As you can see, every one of these targets shows excellent grouping for a personal protection handgun. I have carried both the SARs and the Stoeger as my EDC in the past. The Girsan is currently the gun I keep in my truck console. I gave the Canik back to Alf and the Tisas M1911A1 represents my historical WWII M1911A1 handgun.

Any One Of Them Is Worth Buying

If you’re not able to locate or afford one of the better known US or German made pistols, the pistols described here are representative of excellent alternatives being imported from Turkey on a regular basis. Canik, SAR and Stoeger have US locations that sell through wholesale distributors. Girsan is imported by EAA Corp. and Tisas is imported by SDS Imports of Knoxville, TN. All of the guns described here sell for under $500 and were readily available when I wrote this during the midst of the great Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ammo shortage.

(www.canikusa.com, www. eaacorp.com, www.sarusa.com, www.stoegerindustries.com, www.sdsimports.com)

Girsan MC28SA

Instructors are often asked to help a new shooter locate a personal carry or protection handgun. Many times the obvious choices are either too expensive or not available due to market conditions. Having been involved in this scenario many times I’ve discovered excellent choices a little off the beaten path. I look for quality that parallels that of brand name guns, but with prices under $400. One such handgun is selling at several of the major online retailers for $389. European American Armory (EAA) is known for importing quality handguns made in Italy, Germany and Turkey. Their import that most recently caught my eye, the Girsan MC28SA, is made in Turkey, which should be no surprise if you understand the number of quality imports from there.

Girsan MC28SA Handgun

Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals. This one garnered my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function. The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium and large grips plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The one installed from the factory was the medium-sized one and it’s the one that fit my hand the best.

The Girsan MC28SA Comes With Three Sizes of Grip Panel

I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same, features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their pistol with 3 dot sights, the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front. Both guns feature an accessory rail for mounting a light, laser or combination.

The Girsan MC28SA Is Very Similar to the Smith & Wesson M&P

Girsan takedown is accomplished by rotating a takedown lever on the left side of the gun 90 degrees. Then you must pull the trigger before you can move the slide forward off it’s rails. Smith & Wesson came up with what could only be a lawyers solution to avoid having to pull the trigger, but most of us had rather do it Glock style and pull the trigger rather than hassle with pulling out the extra tool and moving a hard to reach little lever inside the M&P to engage the seer without pulling the trigger. When you get the guns apart it looks like some of the parts, such as the barrel, could be interchangeable. I tried the magazine and found the M&P mag to be slightly thicker. Enough of this. We’re not going to be interchanging parts between the two guns, but I just wanted to make the point that anything you could use a S&W M&P for you could use this Girsan MC28 for and not be found wanting. The Girsan has one feature I really like that is not found on the M&P. That is a cocked indicator that extends through the back of the slide.

The Pistol Holds Its Own As Far as Accuracy Goes. This is a Typical 15-Yard Target Fired Free Hand

Several of us among my shooting buddies have shot it now and everyone is satisfied with it’s performance. My first shots consisted of a magazine filled with assorted practice and defensive ammo and all 15 shots grouped within a 4-inch circle from about 15 yards away. The trigger operates smoothly with a consistent 7 lb. pull and a nice reset. If you’re looking for a home defense or carry gun and don’t want to spend $600 or more for it, I have no hesitation in recommending the Girsan MC28SA.

How I Became a Gun Nerd

Dr. Will Dabbs wrote an article for one of the FMG Publications about being a Gun Nerd. When I read that article, I realized I was indeed a Gun Nerd according to Will’s definition. I found myself wondering how that came about. My early life was punctuated with guns, but there was no big emphasis on them. If you were a kid in Mississippi, especially one with rural roots, guns were just part of your life. My first was a single-shot, hammer-fired, el cheapo .410 shotgun. It had been my father’s when he was a boy. He gave it to me the summer between my first and second grade school years and taught me to hunt squirrels with it. That was gun number one and I still have it.

Crescent .410 Gauge
David’s First Gun — a Crescent Mfg .410 That Had Been His Father’s.

Gun number two was acquired when I was eleven and in the fifth grade. Dad gave me his 16-gauge Winchester Model 12 because he rarely hunted and I hunted every chance I got, which was often since my uncles and cousins had bird dogs and hunted throughout the fall to put meat on the table. That gun had actually belonged to my Dad’s Dad. It was given to him as a gift from the men who worked for him when he retired from being the Director of the Mississippi Game & Fish Commission (now the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks).

Guns number three and four were acquired at the end of the summer of my 12th year. The Boy Scout camp where I had worked that year was selling some rifles off to make room for some new donated guns. I bought a Remington 514 .22 rifle for $4 and a Marlin 80 .22 rifle for $2. I still have all those guns, but I never thought of it as building a collection.

Remington 514, Hi Standard Double Nine
David’s Remington 514 and Hi Standard Double Nine From When He Was a Kid

Gun five was a High Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver I bought from a Western Auto store when I was 15. I had a lot of fun with that gun but traded it for a stereo set. Later in life when I really was a collector, a friend helped me find a replacement, still in its box with a $54.95 price tag on it, though I paid something like $300 that time.

When my grandfather died I was given his Lefever double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. That became my quail gun. My high school and college job involved training show horses and bird dogs, so I used the Lefever a lot.

Lefever 12 Gauge, Winchester Model 12
David’s Grandson Josh With the Shotguns David Inherited From His Grandfathers.

I joined the Army and shot their guns and flew their helicopters for a few years. Got married, raised a family, worked a number of jobs and never thought of guns until my sons reached their teenage years and wanted to hunt ducks and doves with their friends. We had two shotguns and two hunting age boys so it worked out.

My career had moved from being a corporate pilot to being a computer guy. As a computer guy I built websites. One of the websites I built was for a sporting goods mail order company whose owner realized the Internet would soon replace mail order. In addition to having a warehouse full of sporting goods, the company had a gun store. You had to go through the gun store to get to the bathrooms and snack bar. On my way through the store one day, a gun in the used gun display caught my eye. It looked like a buntline special but was a Ruger single-action revolver with a price tag of $300. I didn’t know much about gun prices and values, but that gun looked to me like it was worth way more than $300, so I bought it. Pure impulse buy. The salesman asked me if I knew the gun was a .357 Maximum. I didn’t know at the time what a .357 Maximum was, and I didn’t care. He told me I could shoot .357 Magnums or .38 Special in it and that was fine with me. After getting the gun home and doing a little research on it I discovered the gun was the subject of a recall by Ruger because of reported top strap burning. There was no burning on my gun’s top strap. As I researched further, I came to understand the .357 Maximum was developed for long-range steel plate shooting. The backstrap burning came from a few individuals  shooting very hot handloads in order to get more performance. I decided then I would mostly shoot .357 Magnums in the gun, which had a 10.5″ barrel. Somewhere down the road a friend helped me cut the barrel down to a more manageable 6″ which was fine with me because I wasn’t going to be shooting steep plates at 1,000 yards.

Ruger .357 Maximum
The Real Start of Building a Collection — A Ruger New Model Blackhawk .357 Maximum

The next gun was a Winchester Model 1300 shotgun because son number three was ready to hunt with his brothers.  So far, I’m just a dad with three sons and with enough shotguns to hunt, two rifles that were never used and a revolver to protect the house.

Things sure changed after that. We were attending a rapidly growing church. The bigger it got, the more I started thinking about the crazy people around who like to shoot up schools and churches. My whole life I’ve known I was a protector, what we now call a sheep dog, though I was not to learn that term until later. I felt I should be armed when in church, or anywhere for that matter, because of all the crazies in the world. My wife and I talked it over and we decided to get our Concealed Handgun Licenses. Number three son decided he wanted to do it with us. After the class we were eating at a Mexican fast food joint when my son said, “Dad, you could teach that CHL class.” We had noticed earlier that the instructor for the class, who taught it in his home, had lots of toys in his garage — toys like a Corvette, a Harley, a big boat, Wave Runners, etc. I did a little math, estimating how many people were going to his class each week and paying him the $100 fee and decided, yes, I could teach that course.

Becoming a certified instructor in Texas involves first being a certified pistol instructor, either from the NRA or from the law enforcement route. With that in your pocket, there was a week long course presented by the Texas Department of Safety instructors which you must complete before becoming certified. I learned a lot in that course and the NRA course. I had to have a gun, so I bought one that was inexpensive, but reported to be good, a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro.

David’s First Carry Gun — Taurus 24/7 D/S Pro

A buddy I knew from work, who was “into guns,” got his instructor rating and the two of us started teaching what was at that time the Texas Concealed Carry Course. We also taught the Texas Hunter Education Course. Business was good, so we rented a facility, hung up a sign and taught classes every weekend. Class attendees asked our opinions about guns so much I decided to get an FFL license. We converted the breakroom in our classroom facility into a small gun store. Before long, revenue from gun sales exceeded revenue from classes. We became a gun store with classes offered as a service.

As a gun store, we had five wholesale suppliers. I kept my regular job but taught classes in the evenings and weekends while my son managed the store. He hired people to help with the store and with instruction. Because I had a salary at my regular job and we had a good source of guns, I started paying myself for the time I spent instructing in guns. That’s when I really became a gun collecting Nerd.

My son and I each built up a good collection of guns, then came the Trump slump. Sales at our place went from a lot, to a little, to nothing. As sales and our ability to purchase inventory dwindled my son and I each put some of our guns into inventory in order to have money to pay our employees. When it became obvious the slump was going to continue for a while and we were out of resources we had to close the store.

SAR9X
One of David’s More Recent Acquisitions — SAR9X by Sarsilmaz

Meanwhile, I was hooked on discovering and shooting new guns. The opportunity to continue that habit came about when I pitched an article to Roy Huntington, then editor of American Handgunner magazine, and he bought it. I submitted some more articles and before I knew it, I was a contributor to both American Handgunner and GUNS magazines, along with their special editions. Not only were checks coming in from writing, but many of the guns I was writing about were offered to the writers at a special writer’s price. Some of them a real special price, like free. I still make some money teaching what is now called the Texas License to Carry course since Texas went to an open carry state a few years back. I have sent some of the Test and Evaluation guns back, but not many. I love learning about new guns, shooting and sometimes carrying new guns and building an inheritance for my wife, my three sons and their wives and seven grandchildren. When I’m gone, they may sell them off to provide for mama and if they have to do that, I’m all right with it, but I really hope they can sit around the safes and choose, one for you, one for you, one for you and after they’ve gone around the first time they should be able to do it at least ten more times and if I am able to continue to write and teach for a few years, maybe a lot more than ten times. Being a Gun Nerd is fun. Thanks, Will, for defining it and thanks, Roy, for helping me become a gunwriter Gun Nerd.                       

Stoeger STR-9 Compact

Stoeger STR-9 Compact

Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but my first semi-automatic handgun was a Stoeger. That one was a Beretta-designed Cougar which is no longer in the catalog. The only handguns listed are several models of the STR-9 and the STR-9 Compact while it seems like hundreds of shotgun models are listed. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. That doesn’t mean Stoeger doesn’t know how to make a good pistol. They do.

When re-entering the handgun market, it seems the company felt opportunities existed within the concealed carry and home defense markets for a capable but affordable pistol. First came the full-size STR-9 models and now the compact model. The compact model has a 3.8″ barrel compared to the 4.17″ full-size barrel. The overall length is shortened by just a hair over half an inch. The compact carries 13+1 rounds where allowed. Ten round magazines are available for people who live in places where magazine capacity is limited. Total weight of the gun is 24.5 oz. The frame is constructed of fiberglass reinforced technopolymer, designed to be light but strong and durable.

Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. I always like to read the manufacturer’s description of a gun before I start writing about it. Stoeger starts off by describing the design as snag-free and low profile. I get the snag-free. The top of the slide is rounded, and the front is scalloped for easy holstering and to prevent garment snags. Low profile is one of those subjective descriptions that originated in the shotgun world to describe the total height of the action. Okay, Stoeger has its roots as a shotgun company, so I looked at the total height of the STR-9C’s action compared to other handguns I have around. Although I found one or two slightly higher, I found none lower. The pistol sits low in the hand because its design allows for a high grip with your hands.

The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. They are drift adjustable and can be exchanged with night sights if desired. Rather large cocking serrations both front and rear help with slide manipulation. The slide lock lever is big enough to do the job without getting in the way. I’m not one who uses the slide lock to release the slide into battery, but I do like the way this slide lock lever is easy to manipulate into the locked position when the slide is fully retracted. The magazine release has ridges that help with thumb positioning and can be swapped to the right side for lefties. The trigger guard is large enough for gloved operation, squared off in front and with a high undercut at the back to facilitate a high grip on the frame. Up front ahead of the trigger guard, the Picatinny rail has three notches plus extra room for mounting lights or lasers.

The trigger and takedown buttons look as if they were transplanted from a Glock with a blade trigger safety which seems to be the defacto standard these days. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break. When I first got the gun, my Lyman trigger pull gauge consistently put it at 7 lbs. After shooting a hundred rounds or so, the trigger now breaks at 5 lbs. If you shoot the gun, you’re going to like the trigger. Stoeger STR pistols have a striker blocking device that prevents forward movement of the striker/firing pin unless the trigger is completely pulled. One more safety mechanism disconnects the trigger bar when the slide is out of battery. This is meant to ensure the pistol cannot fire unless the slide is fully forward and the trigger is pulled.

A loaded chamber indicator protrudes from the top surface of the slide when a round is in the chamber. This gives both a visual and tactile indication there is a cartridge in the chamber. The trigger guard is undercut considerably which helps make the shorter 13-round grip easy to get your full hand on. Everything about the gun feels good to me, and it shoots just as well. The backstrap is replaceable, although the package I have only has one backstrap. The magazine loads easily, yet the spring is obviously strong enough to feed rounds properly.

Stoeger makes the gun affordable by offering different configurations. For example, the package I got has only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I see it priced at multiple locations for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449. That one can be bought for less than $400, and I would put it up as far as performance and reliability against handguns costing twice as much.

As I write this, the world is experiencing an ammo shortage, especially in 9mm. In the midst of this, Hornady provided me with an ample supply of their new Handgun Hunter ammo for testing, and I was fortunate in locating three different types of new ammo from Norma plus some defensive ammo from a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. That left me with enough ammo to put the STR-9C through its paces, and I certainly enjoyed doing so. I shared the shooting experience with my grandson Josh and with several people we met at the range. Initially the sights were off, so the shots were impacting slightly to the left of the point of aim. Tapping the rear sight to the left solved that issue. Groups were tight all the way out to 15 yards. I shot the gun clean and I shot it dirty. It doesn’t like dirty, with the issue being not going into battery. A bump with the heal of my hand on the rear of the slide solved that issue on a temporary basis, but a good cleaning solved it permanently. After cleaning the gun, I shot numerous rounds of different brands to make sure that was the issue and there were no more failures of any kind. I put enough rounds through the gun to insure my confidence in it as a carry gun.

I found carrying the STR-9C easy in both my Bullard IWB leather holster originally built for a P226 and in the Bianchi Foldaway Belt Slide holster. It’s a nice carry size and with 13+1 rounds on board, it’s an easy match for my Mossberg M2C2 which has become my regular carry gun in recent months. Who’d have thought a couple of years ago that two of the most practical concealed carry pistols today would be made by traditional shotgun companies?

One of the things I appreciate about the Stoeger, that is also true of the Mossberg, is how well it’s made. The fit is tight. The finish is flawless; the grip, trigger and sights are of the quality of a good trap or skeet gun. Because of my role as an instructor, I’m often asked to recommend a handgun for people for whom it’s a stretch to come up with any money for a gun but they feel the need to own and perhaps carry one. Because of my hands-on with this gun, the STR-9C has just been added to my list of recommendations.

SAR9X — A New 9mm Turkish Delight

In the latter part of 2012, European American Armory (EAA) began importing SAR pistols into the US. I was running a gun store and training academy focused mainly on the Texas Concealed Carry License course. Many of our attendees had never shot a gun and were undecided about what handgun to buy. We provided loaner guns for these people for the shooting proficiency section of the course. Our loaner bag contained a Sig SP2022, an S&W M&P, a Glock 19 and several SAR B6s. The B6s were attractive to us because wholesalers were offering them at discounted prices designed to introduce them to the US market. We had some confidence in the B6 because it was like EAA’s Witness, an Italian gun made by Tanfoglio, with which we had previous experience. Both guns are CZ-75 knockoffs.

We sold a ton of B6s, including one sale of six to an attendee of our class who liked the SAR (and its price) so much, she bought one for herself, one for her husband and one for each of her college-age kids. Colors were available then and there was at least one pink and one purple gun in that mix. Although I added both a B6 and SAR’s second US offering, a K2, to my own collection back then, I didn’t manage to hold onto them. The K2 is internally the same as the B6, but it’s more squared off on the outside. I recently asked my son, who was active with me in the gun store business, what happened to our loaner B6s when we closed our business and he reminded me we gave the loaner bag of guns to one of our instructors who was starting a training business of his own to replace the one we were closing down.

As a bit of background, Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp. is a privately owned small arms manufacturer based in Düzce, Turkey. The company was founded in 1880 and is the largest small arms manufacturer in Turkey. Sarsilmaz produces handguns for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces and exports firearms to over 75 countries. In 2018, Sarsilmaz founded SAR USA to import and distribute Sarsilmaz firearms in the United States. They are headquartered near Auburn, Alabama.

The B6 and K2 are hammer-fired guns. I first saw the striker-fired SAR9 at an NRA Convention in Dallas in May 2016. I found it interesting but didn’t follow up as I was no longer selling guns or doing live training. Now that I’m back in the business as a gunwriter and online instructor, I pay attention to new guns and when the SAR9X was announced, I reached out to SAR’s marketing representative to ask for a test and evaluation sample. I see and handle a lot of guns. Very few create the Red-Ryder-BB-Gun-under-a-nine-year-old’s-Christmas-tree reaction I had to this gun. My example gun has a platinum Cerakote finish with accenting controls and grip panels in black. It looks amazingly like the H&K VP9. In fact, I’ve read some references calling it the “Turkish VP9.” The SAR9X is pre-packaged as a duty gun for a police officer or civilian looking for a carry gun. It arrived in a red plastic case containing a paddle retention holster and matching magazine carrier, both a 17-round and a 19-round magazine, a light to mount on the picatinny rail, extra back straps and grip panels, a magazine loader, a punch for changing out the backstrap, a cleaning brush and rod, a manual, and of course, a gunlock. The packaging was part of my initial reaction at receiving the gun, but the attractiveness of the gun amplified it. Even if we carry concealed, most of us like to have an eye-catching gun when it comes time to show it off to our gun-loving friends.

SAR9X packaging
The SAR9X comes packaged with everything you need to put the gun to work.

There are lightening cuts above the cocking serrations at the front of the slide. Bold, three-dot sights grace the top of the slide as do pre-drilled holes for optics mounting. The frame features textured, replaceable grip side panels and backstrap, a pebbled front strap with mild finger grooves — just deep enough to ease your hand into the proper grip. Further enhancing the grip is a high undercut on the trigger guard which is plenty big for gloved operation and also features serrations on the front to aid the grip for users who like to place the forefinger of their support hand on the front of the trigger guard, something I’ve begun to do lately after years of shooting. It helps steady my grip. The magazine release is just beneath a thumb groove on the grip and is reversible.

The SAR9X closely resemblers H&K’s VP9

There’s an ambidextrous thumb safety, a blade trigger safety and an internal striker block safety that doesn’t release until the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The striker-cocked indicator is a small red triangle at the base of the trigger. If you see that red indicator, the gun is cocked. If the gun is not cocked, the trigger remains to the rear and the red triangle is not visible. The trigger was a little rough when I first started handling the gun, but after dry-firing it 20–30 times at home and firing a couple of boxes of ammo at the range, it smoothed out. The trigger pull is now consistently a little over 4 lbs. and all the initial grunge is gone.

The SAR9X weighs just 27.5 oz. It’s 7.6″ long, 5.5″ high and 1.4″ wide. That puts it in the size category of the Glock G19 and many other defensive handguns, including ones I carry regularly. I wasn’t sure the paddle holster in the kit would work for me, so I slipped the gun into the leather IWB holster I wear every day and it fit fine. That holster was created for a Sig P226, but I have successfully used it for a variety of guns. Even before shooting the SAR9X I had the feeling it was going to become my regular carry gun.

I’ve already mentioned the trigger was a little grungy when I first started shooting the SAR9X, but it cleared up and when it did, I found it predictable and easy to tune my finger to. I had some issues early on with the gun not cycling and ejecting rounds. My bad. I took it to the range initially dry as a bone. After putting a little oil in all the recommended places, the pistol began to run like you’d expect a VP9 to, only it’s not a VP9. It’s a $500 Turkish-made Sarsilmaz, and those folks know how to make good firearms and are able to do it without having to charge exorbitant prices.

I’ve been fortunate in having ammo to shoot during this time of shortages thanks to Norma entering the handgun ammo market, Hornady offering a new Handgun Hunter round that I figure if it’s good for four-legged animals I would be safe in carrying it for possible use against two-legged mammals that might become a threat, and a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. The SARX9 is a delight to shoot. After the early issues with feeding, a result of me not lubricating the gun before shooting it, it just chugged along regardless of the ammo I was using. I only had one box of practice rounds, so it was pretty much all defensive ammo going down the pipe, and to my delight, whenever I did my job with the sight alignment and trigger press, the gun did its part in tightly grouping the rounds on target.

Sarsilmaz apparently has a mounting plate for the SAR9X available from their Turkey operation, but you don’t need a mounting plate for a red dot sight with mounting holes that line up with those cut on the top of the SARX9’s slide. Among those are the Swamp Fox Sentinel, the Shield SMS 2, the Shield RMS C and the Sig Romeo 0. I reached out to the folks at Riton and they sent me one of their mini red dot sights, an X3 TACTIX MPRD. The holes aligned perfectly, the threads on the screws they provided with the sight were correct for the holes in the frame so the sight installation was a breeze.

The slide is predrilled for mounting optics.

Zeroing it in was also a breeze as it was already aligned at 15 yards. I dug through my holster drawer for an IWB holster that would fit the SAR with the red dot sight installed. The one I chose is a Crossbreed SuperTuck Holster that fits the SAR9X perfectly with the red dot installed. So now I’ve entered the brave new world of carrying concealed with a red dot sight installed. The Ridon has a 50,000 hour battery life and no off switch. You turn it on in the morning and it will automatically go off after 12 hours. If you’re still out close to 12 hours, just turn it on again.

SAR9X with Ridon X3 Red Dot
The SAR9X with Ridon X3 Red Dot Sight
David carries his SAR9X in a Crossbreed SuperTuck holster.

Making the Move to Red Dots

With all the interest in red dot sights these days, I thought I’d share with our readers my journey to learning about and using red dot sights on my handguns. It’s easy enough to get a red dot equipped handgun if money is no object. You can select a pistol with a slide drilled for mounting a red dot and spend $400–$500 to buy one of the recommended brands the pistol is set up for. But for those of us on a limited budget the process can be bit challenging. Even taking the first route, the available choices may leave you wondering which of the recommended brands is the best.

My first experience with a red dot sight was a Bushnell Trophy installed on a Bushmaster Carbon 15 AR I bought in 2011. I’ve done nothing to the sight but change the battery as part of a yearly periodic preventive maintenance schedule. The sight was zeroed in when the gun was new and hasn’t been adjusted since. It’s still right on target.

David’s Bushmaster AR-15 With Bushnell Trophy Red Dot Sight

The second oldest red dot I own is a Pursuit TX30 R/G Dot installed on my Ruger Mark III Hunter. That sight is big for the pistol and I’ve considered replacing it with a much smaller sight such as the Kingwolfox 20mm Rail 4 Reticle Tactical Red/Green Dot Sight I found on Amazon for $32.

Ruger Mark III Hunter With Pursuit TX30 R/G Sight
Kingwolfe Red/Green Dot Sight
Kingwolfe Red/Green Dot Sight With Multiple Reticles

That $32 price for a multiple reticle red/green sight is not unusual for a red/green dot sight that mounts on a picatinny rail. In fact, I have a couple of sights that I purchased for $49 each from a company called My Crisis Gear in Allen, Texas. I don’t find a place to order them. They were apparently an email promotion for a time. But I have found similar products at similar pricing on Amazon.com. If you’ve been shopping for sights like Sig Sauer’s Romeo Zero, Trijicon’s RMR, Leupold’s Delta Point, JP Enterprises’ JPoint, C-More Systems STS’ and  EOTech/Insight Technology’s MRDS, you’re probably used to prices in the $200–$500 range and you’re wondering if an under $50 sight could be useful.

While I can understand the argument that you shouldn’t trust your life to a $50 sight when good optics obviously cost a lot more, these sights are mounted on fun guns and they are fun. One of them is on an HK416 .22 AR style pistol and everyone who shoots it enjoys it. Even some in our family who aren’t really into guns and don’t shoot much enjoy it. These $50 sights have multiple reticles — crosshairs, a dot inside a ring, and a ring with crosshairs — which can be displayed in either red or green and in various levels of brightness varying from 3 MOA to 10 MOA. I mounted another of these to an S&W Victory .22 which we use for plinking and target practice. If they didn’t require a picatinny rail for mounting, I’d probably use them everywhere I wanted a red dot sight.

HK416 .22 With My Crisis Gear R/G Dot Sight

The dot in red dot optics is measured in MOA, or “minutes of angle” which is a unit for angular measurement of a circle. In a sight it refers to the size of the dot and how much it covers at a certain distance. The smallest dot currently available is 1 MOA. Most red dot sights are around 4 MOA which means the dot will cover 4 inches at 100 yards, 2 inches at 50 yards, and about an inch at 25 yards. Larger dot sizes are helpful for fast acquisition while smaller dot sizes are better suited for precision shooting. Red dot sights do not have magnification like a rifle scope, so the size of the dot represents the size of the area in which your shots should impact.

I recently visited with personnel from an optics company based in the community where I live. I asked personnel there why there was such a difference in prices on red dot products and was told most optics sold in the US are built in China using glass made in Japan. The quality and difference in price are based upon the quality of the glass, strength of the housing and features such as number of reticles, battery life, on/off switching, etc. The clarity of the dot is not generally a factor as all dots have a bit of fuzziness. The more expensive red or green sights should take more abuse and last longer, but don’t really have an advantage in the aiming department.

This visit occurred while I was trying to decide upon a sight to mount on a S&W Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E. pistol. This gun has a removable plate on the slide just ahead of the rear sight that is set up for mounting a red dot sight. The gun came with adapters for many common red dot sights. My local gun store had all the recommended sights in stock with prices ranging from $300 to just over $500. During several visits to the store, I eyeballed those optics but having experienced how well the $49 mail order optics were working and being on a rather tight firearms budget, I just couldn’t see springing that kind of money. One of the $49 sights wasn’t an option because it is designed to mount on a picatinny rail and that wasn’t one of the options for the M&P.

Riton X3
Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E. With Riton X3 Tactix PRD Red Dot Sight

The company, Riton, gave me one of their X3 Tactix PRD pistol sights to try. This sight has a 3 MOA dot and mounts on the M&P using the RMR adapter.  This sight features a 5000-hour battery Life, a lens coating that allows use with night vision devices, 4-hour auto shut off, 2 night vision settings and 10 brightness settings all at a price of $199. Mounting it on the M&P and zeroing it in was simple and I’ve been very pleased with the way the sight complements the pistol.

My next red dot sight adventure was with a Ruger-57. The Ruger-57 has predrilled optics mounting holes with mounts available at ShopRuger.com. One of the two mounts available fits the Burris® and Vortex® red dot sights and the other fits the Docter®, Meopta, EOTech® and Insight® Sights. Ruger offers the Viper® and Venom® red dot sights each at a price of $349. Money being no object it would have been a simple matter to have purchased one of these sights and the appropriate mount from Ruger. Money was an object, so I went to Amazon and found an Ade Advanced Optics RD3 Micro Mini Reflex Sight for $62. This sight uses the Venom® red dot footprint so it mounted perfectly to my Ruger-57. My grandson and I used my Firefield Red Laser Universal Boresight to align the red dot at home then took it to the range and enjoyed shooting targets out to 25 yards with amazing accuracy.

Ruger 57 With ADE Optics Red Dot SightTarget is From 25 Yards

I’ve now shot enough with red dot sights that I’m confident in having a red dot sight on my EDC gun. The gun I chose for that purpose is the Sarsilmaz SAR9X, a very capable H&K VP9 knockoff. The SAR9X has predrilled optics mounting holes on the slide. Just as I was beginning my search for a red dot sight to use those holes without an adapter, a Riton X3 TACTIX MPRD arrived in my mailbox. I had requested one of these from Riton’s director of marketing almost two months prior when I met him at a writer’s event. I had almost forgotten about the request, but the timing was perfect. This sight bolted right to the SAR9X and according to my laser boresighter was aligned perfectly. One of the things I really like about the Riton is its auto-off feature. You can turn the sight on when you holster the pistol in the morning and leave it on. It will automatically turn off after 12 hours. The sight promises a 50,000-hour battery life.

SAR9X With Riton X3 MPRD Red Dot Sight

In order to carry the SAR9X with the red dot sight on it I had to find a holster that would accommodate the sight. My favorite leather IWB holster was cut too high for the pistol to fit with the sight on it. A Crossbreed SuperTuck designed for a Sig Sauer P226 worked perfectly with just some minor trimming of the kydex.

SAR9X With Red Dot Sight in Crossbreed SuperTuck Holster

There’s no question that drawing, aiming and shooting accurately with a pistol that has a red dot sight mounted on it is different. It requires some adjustments to your technique and a lot of practice. But with that practice will come better accuracy at distances that may have been a struggle for you with iron sights.

Ruger-57™ — 2020 Handgun of the Year

The day my Ruger-57™arrived in it’s beautiful black box with red trimmings and the Ruger logo in red on its top, a press release announced the Ruger-57™had been awarded the Caliber Award in the Best Overall New Product category by the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) in partnership with the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). I could see why, even though I had not yet shot the gun. The 57 is beautifully made and in a caliber that’s unique and very interesting.

The Case for the Ruger-57 Complements the Looks of the Gun

One of my sons has an FN HERSTAL Five-seveN and we’ve all enjoyed shooting it. He got his when they were in high demand and short supply and has always treasured it as a unique piece of handgun history. Now Ruger has acknowledged the caliber with a handgun that’s more affordable than the FN gun, yet with the typical Ruger ruggedness enhanced with features and handling that make it a standout in any gun collection. When I opened the box, before ever touching the gun, I was impressed. It just looks really cool.

The Ruger-57 has a 5-inch Barrel Making it Long, But it is Not Heavy

I knew it would be light, so picking it up wasn’t a surprise in that category, but the way it felt in my hands was more in keeping with a heavier gun. I think it’s the length of the slide and barrel that give it that feel. It’s a 5″ barrel, with a long slide to match. The slide has a lightening cut at the top, a green fiber-optic sight at the front and a fully adjustable all black sight at the rear. There are cocking serrations front and rear and much to my delight the top of the slide is predrilled for a mounting plate that will accommodate most of the common red dot sights. I wasted no time ordering a mounting plate from ShopRuger.com as I had a red dot sight looking for a home. The slide is also contoured nicely on the front and top to aid in holstering and concealment. This is a gun lots of owners will decide to carry because of it’s capacity, lightweight and overall thinness. The 57 is long, 8.5″ front to rear, and it’s 5.5″ tall. The width is 1.5″ and the weight is 24.5 oz. Sure it’s going to stick down in or outside your pants a little further than most carry guns, but the weight isn’t an issue and carrying 21 lethal rounds is nothing to sneeze at.

The Ruger-57™is internally hammer-fired with a trigger known as the Secure Action fire control system. It’s similar to the action on the LCP II and Security-9 pistols. The Secure Action fire control provides the feel of a short, crisp single-action trigger that consistently breaks around 5.5 lbs.

The Controls are in all the Right Places With an Ambidextrous Thumb Safety Plus a Trigger Safety

Controls on the Ruger-57™are easy to operate and located where you’d expect to find them. There is an ambidextrous external safety to go along with the blade safety in the trigger. The slide lock is only on the left side, but the magazine release button is easily switched to the right side if that’s that you’d like. The ejection port is rather long to accommodate the length of the 5.7x28mm brass. The takedown lever rotates 90 degrees counter-clockwise after being pushed out slightly by pressing a button on the right side of the frame. I found the button a little difficult to press, but the manual recommends using the bottom of one of the magazines or some other non-marring surface to push on the button, rather than your fingers. Once you’ve rotated the lever, takedown on this pistol is different. You move the slide forward about 1/4″ then just lift it off. Removal of the recoil spring and barrel is then done just like you’d do on any other centerfire semi-automatic pistol.

Takedown is a Little Different for the Ruger-57 But Easy Following Instructions in the Manual

The grip is textured and fills the hand more front-to-rear than side-to-side. That nicely shaped and textured grip makes handling the long slide and barrel seem natural. It’s a hoot to shoot. When my mounting plate arrived from Ruger I installed an Ade Advanced Optics RD3 that I bought on Amazon. Mounting the optic with Ruger’s mounting plate was an easy task. Before going to shoot, I used my Firefield Red Laser Universal Boresight to get a starting alignment, which turned out to be right on target when I got to the range.

After Installing an ADE Red Dot Sight I Played around With it at Targets Up to 25-yards (shown here)

I’d love to tell you about all the different types of ammo I tried but the real story in this time of unprecedented gun buying and ammo shortages I was lucky to find any 5.7 x 28mm ammunition at all.  Palmetto State Armory had some American Eagle 40 grain FMJ in 50 round boxes for $50 so that’s what I shot. The gun seemed to like it and shooting it was pure delight. My friend and fellow gunwriter, Will Dabbs M.D., who beat me to posting a Ruger-57™ review in both GUNS and American Handgunner magazines wrote about a love affair with the gun. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but when you’ve got a Ruger that spits fire, makes a loud boom, puts the holes where you want them every time you pull the trigger and doesn’t have much recoil, it would be dang near impossible not to really like the gun.

Is it the right gun for concealed carry or home defense? I could be. It’s light, though kind of big, especially with the red dot sight on it. The bullets travel really fast, like 2250 fps, so there’s no doubt they’ll wreak havoc on a flesh and blood target. Compared to its only real competitor, the FN HERSTAL Five-seveN, The Ruger-57™ is a real bargain. Ruger set the MSRP for their 57 at $799 while the FN HERSTAL Five-seveN’s MSRP is $1,199.