LESS REALLY CAN BE MORE
SIZING UP THE HONOR DEFENSE HONOR GUARD SUB-COMPACT
Sizing up the Honor Defense Honor Guard sub-compact
Back in the 1980s, a small Austrian company introduced an innovative, polymer-framed 9mm pistol. While numerous disagreements on the merits of that handgun continue today, there is no doubt that this product launch revolutionized the shooting industry. Since then, numerous companies have introduced striker-fired, polymer-framed handguns in 9mm in a variety of sizes with different features at varying price points.
However, Gary Ramey, president of Honor Defense, felt the market lacked an affordable 9mm handgun designed specifically for concealed carry. So, Ramey set up shop in Gainesville, Georgia, to design a self-defense pistol using American parts —and that was built by veterans.
The Honor Guard is a single-stack, polymer-framed 9mm pistol developed with input from military and law enforcement personnel, as well as certified firearm trainers and self-defense experts. The idea was to build a concealable 9mm handgun that came standard with the features needed for self-defense while maintaining a price below $500.
Straight out of the box, the Honor
Guard has a good feel. With an unloaded magazine, its balance is slightly heavy on top—to be expected in a handgun using a polymer lower and a stainless steel upper. It comes with stippling that runs along the grip, including the frontstrap and both included backstraps (to adjust the size for the best fit). It feels like slightly used sandpaper, providing a grip that is secure without being too aggressive.
The stippling even extends above the trigger to a slight dimple designed to help shooters keep their fingers off the trigger until firing. Right behind the trigger guard is a slight indentation that creates a groove for the trigger finger.
The magazine release is situated where the trigger guard meets the frame. It can be pressed from either side to make the magazine drop smoothly from the grip for fast reloading, American style. The rest of the controls are also ambidextrous and easily manipulated by both right- and left-handed shooters. However, the slidelock is small and difficult to release quickly, pretty much requiring the slide to be pulled back to put the gun into battery. This, of course, isn’t a big deal, because it is the most-recommended method anyway.
Another interesting feature is that the Honor Guard has serrations at both the front and the rear of the slide that extend all the way over both sides, providing a good gripping surface for racking the slide. The serrations also give the Honor Guard an interesting look that is different from other polymer-framed handguns.
However, even with all the serrations, the gun has very few sharp edges. Everything is beveled and smoothed for comfort, as well as reduced potential for snagging, whether shooting or carrying the gun.
THE HONOR GUARD IS A SINGLE-STACK, POLYMER-FRAMED 9MM PISTOL DEVELOPED WITH INPUT FROM MILITARY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL, AS WELL AS CERTIFIED FIREARM TRAINERS AND SELFDEFENSE EXPERTS.
But what could arguably be the most interesting features on the Honor Guard are the metallic three-dot sights. The front sight is a big, easy-to-see orange circle, while the rear sights feature a pair of smaller white dots. None of the sights is fluorescent, but they are easy to locate and use, even in darker conditions. This is especially true when
run with a handheld light. The sights really light up.
The rear sight is low profile and cut with a smooth angle from the rear to prevent snagging during the draw. However, this sight is also cut straight down in the front, which allows the gun to be racked against a table, a belt or other hard object if needed.
The benefits of this feature, while hopefully never needed, are vast. Racking the slide one-handedly is one of the most difficult tasks to perform—particularly because it would only be necessary, other than in training, under the stress of a gunfight during which one hand was out of commission from either being wounded or while struggling to keep an attacker at bay.
The Honor Guard can also be easily disassembled without having to pull the trigger. While guns should always be unloaded and ammunition removed from the area before cleaning, this is an excellent safety feature.
To strip the gun down, simply unload it and remove the magazine before locking the slide back. Then, pivot the takedown lever (located on the left side of the frame) down 90 degrees and release the slide to pull the entire top half off the frame to the front. Remove the recoil assembly and the barrel, and the gun is ready to clean. Assembly is performed in reverse.
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
Currently, the Honor Guard is available in six variations with two different barrel lengths. The Sub-compact (tested) comes with a 3.2-inch, stainless steel barrel, while the Long Slide has a 3.8-inch barrel. Both are available with or without an ambidextrous manual thumb safety. The Long Slide also comes with an accessory rail for mounting lights or lasers.
Honor Defense also has a version it calls the HG9SCF, which stands for Honor Guard 9 Sub-compact FIST (Firearm with Integrated Standoff). It comes with a .4-inch toothed extension from the dust cover that keeps the gun in battery, even when pressed against a target. This is an interesting feature (especially if ever needed in a situation) that is exclusive to the Honor Guard. The final variation is a Sub-compact that comes with a Crimson Trace Laserguard laser sight attached.
In addition to the barrel, the slide is stainless steel, and both come with a ferritic nitro-carburized finish for durability. The modular chassis is also made of stainless steel, as is the striker housing. All this gives the 6.2-inch overall length Sub-compact pistol an unloaded weight of 22 ounces, which is light enough for everyday carry but heavy enough to manage the felt recoil of most 9mm cartridges, including +P loads, for which the Honor Guard is rated.
During the very first—unloaded—trigger pulls, the trigger felt gritty and heavy, with the trigger gauge registering a little more than the advertised 7 pounds. However, after a couple of range sessions and many pulls on the trigger to break it in, it came in a little lighter. Nevertheless, even with hundreds of rounds downrange, the Honor Guard continued to have a gritty trigger that bunched before breaking for the shot.
AT THE RANGE
This is actually the main complaint of the Honor Guard, because the gun handled well over the course of multiple range sessions with four types of ammunition.
The initial break-in was conducted with cheap ball ammunition. Honor Defense recommends a 150-round break-in because of its tolerances. At this point, I just wanted to get a feel for the Honor Guard and let the mechanisms smooth out.
I then cleaned the gun before heading back to the range to run two types of Winchester ammunition—one training load and one self-defense load—and Liberty’s Civil Defense self-defense ammo. The Liberty Civil Defense load features a 50-grain copper hollowpoint that comes out of the barrel at an advertised 2,000 fps. The company also claims an accuracy rate of under 2 inches at 50 meters. While I didn’t obtain that kind of accuracy with the Honor Guard, it did place some impressive groups at both 20 and 30 feet.
From a rest, the Liberty load averaged a little over an inch, firing five-shot groups at 20 feet and right at 2 inches at 30 feet. The best five-shot group measured .9 inch at 20 feet, and it placed a 1.4-inch group at 30 feet (if a flyer was discounted that I assume was user error).
The Winchester 115-grain FMJ training ammo placed similar groups that averaged just a bit bigger. It did, however, produce a .7-inch group at 30 feet, not counting a flyer that
THE HONOR GUARD IS SIMPLY A 100 PERCENT AMERICAN-MADE VERSION OF THAT GUN THAT CHANGED THE INDUSTRY IN THE 1980S. IT IS, HOWEVER, A VERSION WITH A BETTER PRICE AND WAY MORE FEATURES. STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BOX, THE HONOR GUARD HAS A GOOD FEEL.
increased the group to 3.4 inches.
The final load, Winchester 115-grain jacketed hollowpoints, produced the most felt recoil, which is probably what led to its average five-shot groups of 2 inches and 3 inches, respectively.
All four loads performed admirably in the Honor Guard Sub-compact.
There were zero jams and no malfunctions—except on two occasions that the Liberty ammunition failed to fire. Both times, the primer was dimpled, but I couldn’t determine whether the firing pin, a hard primer or a combination of both caused the failure.
I also performed a variety of drills to determine the gun’s real-world application. Drills ranged from slow, controlled fire up to double-taps and even multiple targets at a variety of distances. This is where the gun truly shined.
During slow, eight-round strings (the Honor Guard comes with one eight-round magazine and one seven-round magazine), accuracy was excellent, placing all rounds inside a 4-inch circle on the target at both 20 and 30 feet. Even during faster strings, rounds consistently hit in the larger
bullseye area, producing 5- and 6-inch groupings.
The sights really worked well during both slow and fast shooting strings. The big, orange circle was especially useful during any type of speed drill, particularly during flash shooting from a Galco Stow-n-go holster and when engaging multiple targets. The orange dot was easy to find, and even when focusing on the target, it still caught my attention and brought that focus back to the front sight, as is recommended.
While the polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun market seems pretty crowded, the guns continue to sell, particularly the more-compact single-stack guns in 9mm. This is probably due to the size, which lends to everyday carry, as well as advances in ammunition that makes the 9mm a truly viable self-defense round.
The Honor Guard is simply a 100 percent American-made version of that gun that changed the industry in the 1980s. It is, however, a version with a better price and way more features.
Below: Target acquisition is fast with the Honor Guard’s three-dot sight system.
Top: The rear sight is cut with an angle from the back for a smooth draw and features a flat front for one-handed racking of the slide against hard surfaces. Above: The magazine release is ambidextrous for use by left- and right-handed shooters.
The Honor Guard features ambidextrous controls, an aggressive grip texture and 9mm +P rating.
There are a lot of options for carrying the Honor Guard, including the Galco Stow-n-go.