The Drop Test
Caracal International infiltrates the American firearms market with Caracal USA
The last time this author was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was at the turn of the century. As a member of the worlds greatest fighting Yacht club, we were making our rounds on a six-month deployment through the Middle East and stopped off in Dubai for a little R&R. If you were to look at images from 17 years ago compared to present day, the place would be unrecognizable. No skyscrapers, 5 star hotels or spas. Just a lot of sand and endless desert. If memory serves,
most of our time was spent looking for a good deal on a hookah and eating at the best burger joint in town. Technically, the Hard Rock Café was the only burger joint in town at the time, but at a time when we were sick of shawarma, the Hard Rock was a welcome venue. Been there, done that, got the Hard Rock tee-shirt. Still have it actually.
Head south from Dubai for about an hour and a half and you will reach Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. It is also home to Caracal, INT. Founded in 2006, Caracal prides itself as being the region’s leading firearms manufacture. They currently offer pistol, rifle and subgun options of their own design. In 2010, Caracal USA was incorporated as an entity of Caracal, INT. in order to facilitate a third-party relationship with United States-based importers and distributors. In 2016, the parent company fully funded Caracal USA to serve the U.S. marketplace. Caracal USA currently has business, sales and marketing offices in Boise, Idaho, with manufacturing operations based out of Newington, New Hampshire.
Caracal’s presence in the United States allows the importation of handguns which had previously only been offered to various international governments via Caracal, INT. These were the Caracal F (full size) and C (compact) series of 9mm striker-fired pistols. These pistols had been around for many years and had gained popularity in the international community. They soon found favor with US shooters as well. Unfortunately, some consumers reported catastrophic failures or malfunctions with the pistol design
“In 2016, the parent company fully funded Caracal USA to serve the U.S. marketplace.”
and a full recall was issued in 2013. It didn’t take long for the inter-webs to erupt regarding this recall. Some cursed Caracal, some professed their undying loyalty.
We asked Caracal, USA for a statement regarding what really happened during 2013. They stated:
The original Caracal International Model F and Model C pistols were then and still are certified by the NATO D14 test protocols and by the German Military Testing House in Meppen, known as the WTD-91 test protocol. As Caracal International was strictly a government-to-government business providing firearms only to military and law enforcement customers, from 2006 until 2010 there was no exposure to the U.S. consumer market and therefore no experience with a commercial market. Caracal International provided the same pistols to the U.S. market and other commercial markets around the world, as the ones they had been providing their military and law enforcement customers. Upon the entry to the consumer market the parent company received word of a potential drop safety failure on a U.S. based customer’s firearm. This is after having thousands upon thousands in circulation for nearly 6 years, including nearly 10K units in the United States. This single incident was enough to have Caracal International recall all products in order to ensure customer safety. While the NATO D14 drop test is essentially the standard for drop test safety, it includes a fall from a height of 1.5m on multiple angles and the original Model F passed that test. Caracal then created internal standards for drop tests to meet or exceed a drop height of 2m on multiple angles exceeding the D14 requirement.
A claim of a broken slide was posted on a web forum based in Pakistan in 2013 soon after the drop safe recall was announced. This claim could not be substantiated as being the direct result of the firearms components but, again in an effort to protect customer safety standards, Caracal Interna-
tional announced a recall for all pistols with a matching batch number to the unit sent to Pakistan. As a side note, none of these batch slides where ever imported into the United States.
The recall efforts within the United States were unprecedented, as Caracal International offered, and still does, a complete MSRP refund for the affected units as well as a buy-back program for all Caracal dedicated accessories the customer may have purchased. Caracal International began offering the Enhanced F as a replacement for both the Model F and Model C pistols affected by the 2013 recall as of November 2016. The pistol is made in UAE and imported into the United States, where it is issued only as a replacement for a recalled pistol. To date, Caracal USA has recovered 92% of all affected Model F and Model C pistols imported into the United States on behalf of Caracal International.
There is a silver lining in every cloud. The recall effort gave Caracal the opportunity to improve their pistol line and the Enhanced F was born. The upgrades included a modified trigger shoe, trigger bar and the replacement of the multifunction unit to a 4.25 inch, steel, one-piece unit instead of the three-piece design found in the original F series. All these changes resulted in a more refined, safe and robust pistol design.
In 2015 and 2016 Caracal showcased the new Enhanced F variant at SHOT Show. In 2016 the announcement was made of the partnership between Caracal and Wilcox
“The recall effort gave Caracal the opportunity to improve its pistol line and the Enhanced F was born.”
Industry to manufacture the Enhanced F in the United States. 2017 brought the debut of the U.S. pre-production enhanced units. These are basically American-made slides mated with imported frames and completely assembled in the States. At the time of this writing, Caracal USA is aggressively working to bring 100% production and assembly of the entire pistol line to the United States.
On July 4, 2017, Caracal USA officially released a Limited Edition Enhanced F series pistol. These pistols are essentially the Enhanced F with Caracal USA made slides atop Caracal International imported frames. There are some slight, unique differences to the limited versions to include more aggressive slide serrations and roll marks. Two versions will be offered. A full 6.5-inch, 3-dot sight radiused slide, and the Caracal “Quick Sight System” with a short 2.5 inch sight radius with the rear sights being integrated into the slide. On the Limited Edition Quick Sight System slides, a claw has been milled into the rear of the receiver where a standard rear sight would have gone. This claw can be used for one-handed manipulation to charge the weapon off the shooter’s belt or any hard surface. The Limited Edition pistols are only available through select FFL dealers and will have an MSRP of $599 and is accompanied by a lifetime warranty issued to the original owner. Caracal USA is initially releasing 150 units, with 60% being the Quick Sight System variant and 40% the fulllength 3-dot sight version. They also have plans to produce another 300 units with the same 60/40 split after that. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone for good.
Caracal USA was kind enough to lend us a pistol from their very first production run of the Limited Edition Enhanced F pistol with Quick Sight System. The 9mm striker-fired pistol features a high grip and slender slide, allowing for a very low .71 inch bore axis which reduces muzzle rise and felt recoil. The slide has a “melted” appearance, meaning most of the sharp corners and edges are rounded and smoothed out for no-snag concealed carry. Serrations can be found fore and aft on the slide and work well.
The frame is polymer, with good ergonomics, and features a dust cover rail for a weapon-mounted light. The frame doesn’t have replaceable backstraps, but that is something Caracal USA is considering for future versions. The slide release can only be found on the left-hand side of the frame. It is small, but has a nice shelf on it. We had no problem finding it. The frame also features an ambidextrous magazine release on both sides of the pistol and are minimalist in design. They are bound by a guard that prevents accidental activation of the release and require deliberate pressure to drop the mag. The magazines have an 18-round capacity, which is a nice feature as they are the same size as a 17-round Glock 17 mag. The mags are steel with polymer base plates, feature four witness/drain holes on the left side and are compatible with previous F variant pistols. We received two magazines with the Limited Edition pistol. The barrel is 4 inches long, right-hand twist of the cold hammer forged variety.
We took the pistol out to our local range with 1,000 rounds of factory new, 9mm, 124 grain FMJ Rainier Munitions ammunition. This ammunition cycled perfectly in the pistol and neither the pistol nor the ammunition exhibited any malfunctions of any kind. The two-stage trigger features a large, integral trigger safety similar to the Glock. The factory trigger broke at a consistent 5.5 lbs on our trigger pull scale. There was a decent amount of pre-travel with a crisp break at the end. Reset was fairly long but not that noticeable
“The frame is polymer, with good ergonomics and features a dust cover rail for a weapon mounted light .”
during the live fire exercises. One unique feature to note is the rear of the striker will protrude from the back of the slide as the trigger is pressed rearward. If this action is prevented by some obstruction, the weapon will not fire. We experienced no issues with this during the normal course of fire.
The highlight of this pistol was the Quick Sight System. While not a new feature for Caracal, it was new to us. It is fast, like Road Runner meets Speedy Gonzales fast. The sight radius is a mere 2.5 inches in length, but the eye picks up the front sight immediately. The slide integrated rear sights are blank with horizontal cuts to reduce reflectance. They are not adjustable. The front sight is a simple white dot and is adjustable for windage. The only complaint we have with the sighting system is the front sight will disappear in low light conditions. Caracal USA intends to distribute its sight specs to other manufacturers to help develop aftermarket sights. Hopefully a high-visibility fiber and tritium sight are soon in the works. Targets were engaged from 7 yards out to
25. Obviously the Quick Sight System shines
“On the ‘Quick Sight System’ slides, a claw has been milled into the receiver where a standard rear sight would have gone.”
at the up-close and personal distances. At 15 yards, our best five-shot group was 1 inch with very deliberate slow fire, standing, unsupported. At 25 yards, getting rounds on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper with fairly rapid fire was doable. Other shooters could probably do better and your mileage may vary. Regardless, with such a short sight radius, center-mass hits at 25 are acceptable. Caracal claims 50 yard hits with the Quick Sight System however there was not time to validate that claim for this article.
Over all, our brief experience with the Caracal Limited Edition Enhanced F “Quick Sight System” pistol was very positive. It’s comfortable and fun to shoot, easy to disassemble and clean and the 18+1 capacity gives it a leg up on some other pistols out there.
On the later released 100% American-made guns, Caracal will offer different frame colors as well as threaded barrel options for shooters who prefer to shoot suppressed or comped. Caracal USA is also currently developing an Enhanced C (compact) variant and notes there are more accessories coming to market for their pistols. Currently Bladetech and Blackhawk make holsters for these pistols. Caracal USA also teased us with more surprises coming in the near future, but in the end they would not kiss and tell.
For now, we get to look forward to Enhanced F pistols finally being made in the good ol US of A after the limited release has concluded. For those of you who loved your F and C models, you will certainly enjoy the Enhanced versions. We know we did and are looking forward to what the future holds for Caracal USA.
“The upgrades include a modified trigger shoe, trigger bar and a newly designed one-piece multifunction unit.”
Caracal’s presence in the United States allows the importation of handguns which had previously only been offered to various international governments.
The Enhanced F upgrades include a modified trigger shoe, trigger bar and a newly designed one-piece multifunction unit.
Two versions of the Limited Edition Enhanced F are offered: a full 6.5inch, 3-dot sight radiused slide, and the Caracal "Quick Sight System" with the rear sights integrated into the slide.
The frame is polymer, with good ergonomics, and features a dust cover rail for a weapon-mounted light.
Pictured at right, the Quick Sight System is fast, the sight radius being a mere 2.5 inches in length, but your eye picks up the front sight immediately.
Caracal USA intends to distribute its specs to other manufacturers to help develop aftermarket sights.