LESS RE­ALLY CAN BE MORE

SIZ­ING UP THE HONOR DE­FENSE HONOR GUARD SUB-COM­PACT

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Paul Rack­ley

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.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished!

FIRST LOOK

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.

METAL­LIC SIGHTS

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.

The Honor Guard fea­tures am­bidex­trous con­trols, an ag­gres­sive grip tex­ture and 9mm +P rat­ing.

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.

Be­low: Tar­get ac­qui­si­tion is fast with the Honor Guard’s three-dot sight sys­tem.

There are a lot of op­tions for car­ry­ing the Honor Guard, in­clud­ing the Galco Stow-n-go.

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