The Drop Test

Caracal In­ter­na­tional in­fil­trates the Amer­i­can firearms mar­ket with Caracal USA

Firepower - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY STEVE COULSTON / PHO­TOS BY TRACERX

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.

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