STRIKER-FIRED SHOOTOUT

AN EX­AM­I­NA­TION OF THE FIVE MOST VAUNTED STRIKER-FIRED HAND­GUNS

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Al­though most shoot­ers don‘t re­al­ize it, striker-fired pis­tols are ac­tu­ally noth­ing new. In fact, they’ve been around for a bit more than 100 years.

How­ever, what is new about them is the ex­ten­sive use of poly­mer frames, whereas the early ver­sions were all steel and la­beled as be­ing “ham­mer­less.” The first of the so-called “modern” striker-fired, poly­mer-framed gen­er­a­tion was the Glock G17, which first ap­peared in the mid-1980s. It was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess, but most of the gun man­u­fac­tur­ers ap­par­ently didn’t ex­pect it to be suc­cess­ful and ab­stained from pro­duc­ing their own ver­sions for nearly three decades.

They were, of course, wrong and fi­nally re­al­ized that the Glock had started a rev­o­lu­tion in pis­tol de­sign. They has­tened to get their share of the mar­ket, which, by then, was to­tally dom­i­nated by Glock and con­tin­u­ing to grow. In­deed, by 1995, the Glock had be­come the most pro­lific mil­i­tary and po­lice pis­tol in the world, with nearly 75 per­cent of the law en­force­ment agen­cies in the world car­ry­ing them. The rest is his­tory; and by the turn of the 21st cen­tury, the Glock had be­come an icon like the Thomp­son sub­ma­chine gun or M16 ri­fle.

P320 CON­TRO­VERSY

Then came the U.S. mil­i­tary’s re­cent in­ter­est in re­plac­ing its ag­ing Beretta M9s with some form of striker-fired 9mm pis­tol. En­tries from Glock, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wes­son, Fabrique Na­tionale (FN) and CZ were con­sid­ered, with the SIG P320 end­ing up be­ing the fi­nal se­lec­tion. While the ac­tual “test­ing” re­mains shrouded in se­crecy, the other com­peti­tors— of­fer­ings from Glock, S&W, FN and CZ—were dis­missed one by one, leav­ing the P320 as the fi­nal se­lectee. Un­for­tu­nately, the P320’s se­lec­tion im­me­di­ately fos­tered in­tense con­tro­versy, which be­came even more in­tense when al­le­ga­tions sur­faced that it would of­ten dis­charge if dropped. Al­though SIG de­nies it, at the time of this writ­ing, a num­ber of videos are cir­cu­lat­ing on the In­ter­net wherein the sub­ject

P320s did, in­deed, fire when dropped.

… THERE IS ONE AD­DI­TIONAL

EL­E­MENT THAT, AL­THOUGH TYP­I­CALLY OVER­LOOKED, EX­ERTS GREAT IN­FLU­ENCE ON PER­FOR­MANCE: ER­GONOMICS .

Hav­ing al­ready tested the P320 against the Glock G17 Gen5 my­self, I can only say that I hope the prob­lem is lo­cated and rec­ti­fied, be­cause the mere sug­ges­tion of its ex­is­tence has caused a num­ber of prom­i­nent law en­force­ment agen­cies to can­cel its adop­tion. I can state with some de­gree of au­thor­ity that when I be­came aware of the sup­posed prob­lem, I ini­ti­ated some drop-test­ing of my own P320, but no dis­charges oc­curred.

So, what about the FBI’s new Glock G17 Gen5, the S&W M&P9 2.0, FN 509 and CZ P-10C? Is the P320 re­ally su­pe­rior, or was there some other rea­son for its se­lec­tion? The an­swer is prob­a­bly that the ex­tremely low per-gun price of­fered by SIG was more tempt­ing than even the most cyn­i­cal gov­ern­ment ex­am­iner could re­sist. Still, claims that the test­ing was flawed con­tinue to be voiced, and, as this is writ­ten, no clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the U.S. mil­i­tary has been forth­com­ing.

TEST­ING VIA THE ASAA HCM QUAL­I­FI­CA­TION COURSE

Thus, I de­cided to con­duct some test­ing of my own—much sim­pli­fied in com­par­i­son to that con­ducted by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, but, I be­lieve, more to the point. To me, a sim­ple fea­ture-by-fea­ture phys­i­cal anal­y­sis, fol­lowed by run­ning all five pis­tols through the ex­tremely dif­fi­cult Amer­i­can Small Arms Acad­emy Hand­gun Com­bat Master Qual­i­fi­ca­tion course, is quite in­dica­tive.

Be­cause of its dif­fi­culty level, the course im­me­di­ately brings out not only flaws in oper­a­tor tech­niques, but the de­sign flaws of each gun, as well. Specif­i­cally, the shoot­ing por­tion of it en­com­passes—

Stage 1: Stan­dard sin­gle-tar­get en­gage­ments from arm’s length to a full 50 me­ters

Stage 2: High-speed pre­sen­ta­tions

Stage 3: Small tar­gets

Stage 4: Re­sponses to the left, right and rear

Stage 5: Mul­ti­ple tar­gets

Stage 6: Am­bidex­trous shoot­ing

Stage 7: Hostage sit­u­a­tions

Stage 8: An­gled/par­tial tar­gets

All these func­tions must be per­formed in ex­tremely fast time frames. Each hand­gun will earn a score out of a max­i­mum of 400 points, re­quir­ing 90 per­cent (360 points) to pass.

Phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of each gun shows right away that all five are high-qual­ity pis­tols, de­signed with the tac­ti­cal shooter in mind. All are me­chan­i­cally re­li­able in any rea­son­able com­bi­na­tions of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and

make no mis­take: Hu­mans, usu­ally un­der con­di­tions of great stress, must be able to ac­cess and use these guns to de­liver quick, ac­cu­rate fire on an ad­ver­sary at close quar­ters.

This is when we be­gin to see true strength and weak­ness. For ex­am­ple, the am­bidex­trous slide lock levers of the Glock G17 Gen5, FN 509 and S&W M&P9 2.0 are vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to op­er­ate quickly, whereas those on the P320 and P-10C op­er­ate with ease. The in­abil­ity to rapidly and ef­fi­ciently op­er­ate slide lock levers forces the oper­a­tor to reach over the slide and re­lease it man­u­ally dur­ing a speed load, thus de­feat­ing the pur­pose of the pro­ce­dure, be­cause it adds a full se­cond to the time re­quired to com­plete the pro­to­col.

The ridges around the FN 509’s am­bidex­trous mag­a­zine re­lease but­tons, as well as the ne­ces­sity to press the but­ton

OF THE FIVE, ONLY THE P-10C TRIG­GER WAS SUF­FI­CIENTLY LIGHT TO AL­LOW TRULY

FAST, AC­CU­RATE SHOOT­ING— AN IS­SUE THAT SUR­FACED RE­PEAT­EDLY WITH ALL OF THE GUNS DUR­ING THE COURSE.

deep into the grip frame to op­er­ate it, also cause prob­lems. Con­versely, the am­bidex­trous but­tons of the P-10C are a dream to op­er­ate, be­cause they‘re large, ridge-free and, there­fore, easy to ac­cess.

More­over, the ridges around the levers of­ten hin­der ac­cess­ing the lever to press it up­ward and lock the slide open when clear­ing a Type 3 (feed­way) stop­page. The levers, them­selves, need their bear­ing sur­faces pol­ished to al­low easy re­lease, and the ridges need to be toned down to al­low bet­ter ac­cess.

Stages 9, 10 and 11 of the ASAA HCM Qual re­quire speed/tac­ti­cal reload­ing and clear­ing of Type 1 (fail­ure to fire), Type 2 (fail­ure to eject) and Type 3 (feed­way) stop­pages, with 5-point penal­ties for ex­ceed­ing the spec­i­fied over­time or for administering er­ro­neous pro­ce­dures. As a re­sult, the in­abil­ity to uti­lize the levers quickly and ef­fec­tively caused nu­mer­ous over­time penal­ties to be as­sessed. In­ter­est­ingly enough, the ridges were in­cor­po­rated to pre­vent in­ad­ver­tent ma­nip­u­la­tion of the levers by those uti­liz­ing the cur­rently pop­u­lar “thumbs-for­ward” Isosce­les grip.

Trig­ger pull weights also ex­ert tremen­dous in­flu­ence on shoot­ing ef­fi­ciency, and all five guns need some work. From the box, the P320 and M&P9 2.0 had 8.25- to 8.50-pound trig­ger pulls. The FN 509 and G17 Gen5 had 6.25- to 6.50-pound pulls, and the P-10C had 5.0 pounds. Of the five, only the P-10C trig­ger was suf­fi­ciently light to al­low truly fast, ac­cu­rate shoot­ing—an is­sue that sur­faced re­peat­edly with all the guns dur­ing the course. None­the­less, trig­ger pull weights in the 4- to 4.5-pound range would be far bet­ter.

In the end, only the P-10C per­formed well enough to ex­ceed the 90 per­cent thresh­old needed to pass the test, with a score of 365 points (91 per­cent) out of a pos­si­ble 400. Next came the Glock G17 Gen5 with 349 (87 per­cent); the FN 509 with 317 (80 per­cent); the P320 with 288 points (74 per­cent); and, fi­nally, the M&P9 2.0 with 277 points (69 per­cent).

WEAPON AND OPER­A­TOR PER­FOR­MANCE

If the P320, M&P 2.0, G17 Gen5 and FN 509 had bet­ter trig­gers with pull weights at 4 to 4.5 pounds, their per­for­mance would be hugely im­proved. Like­wise, pol­ish­ing the bear­ing sur­faces of the slide lock levers of the FN 509, G17 Gen5 and M&P9 2.0 to al­low them to be uti­lized more quickly; and also re­duc­ing the height of the ridges around the slide lock levers to al­low faster, more pos­i­tive ac­cess would have pre­vented the nu­mer­ous 5-point penal­ties for over­time speed load­ing and mal­func­tion clear­ing.

I had spent sev­eral days fa­mil­iar­iz­ing my­self thor­oughly with each pis­tol, but I never be­came ac­cus­tomed to the ex­treme rough­ness of the grip frames of the M&P9 2.0, FN 509 and CZ P-10C. They’re too abra­sive for com­fort­able shoot­ing and need to be smoothed out some­what for best ef­fi­ciency. In­ten­sive prac­tice and car­ry­ing of guns with this kind of rough­ness is tough on skin and con­ceal­ment cloth­ing. In con­trast, the P320’s grip frame tex­ture was quite com­fort­able, and the G17 Gen5 was at least ad­e­quate.

These ob­ser­va­tions are in no way in­tended to dis­par­age the guns or their man­u­fac­tur­ers. As I men­tioned at the out­set of this ar­ti­cle, all five are high-qual­ity firearms that rep­re­sent the apex of pis­tol de­sign. Also keep in mind that these are all “out of the box,” and sim­ple fixes would greatly im­prove per­for­mance. Still, the points I’ve noted af­fect their per­for­mance a great deal and should be rec­ti­fied if their max­i­mum po­ten­tial is to be achieved. In and of them­selves, things such as pol­ish­ing slide lock levers and re­duc­ing the height of the pro­tec­tive ridges around them, as well as re­duc­ing trig­ger pull weights to more rea­son­able lev­els, might seem triv­ial—but they’re not. They ex­ert a pro­nounced in­flu­ence upon weapon/oper­a­tor per­for­mance and can quite lit­er­ally make the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning and los­ing a deadly en­counter. When you bet your life on the gun you carry, give this some thought. GW All five pis­tols have flared mag­a­zine wells for fast, easy mag­a­zine in­ser­tion. They also fea­ture the abil­ity to quickly ac­cess and re­move a stuck mag­a­zine.

IN THE

END, ONLY

THE P-10C PER­FORMED WELL ENOUGH TO EX­CEED THE 90 PER­CENT THRESH­OLD NEEDED TO PASS THE

TEST, WITH A SCORE OF 365 POINTS (91 PER­CENT) OUT OF A POS­SI­BLE 400.

Of the five test guns, the slide lock levers on the P-10C are the most eas­ily ac­cessed and op­er­ated, mak­ing it faster and eas­ier to op­er­ate un­der stress.

The mag re­lease on the P-10C (shown) is most eas­ily ac­cessed and op­er­ated. It’s am­bidex­trous, as is the FN 509, whereas on the P320, G17 Gen5 and M&P9 2.0, it is re­versable.

The grip frame tex­ture of the P320 (above) is the most user-friendly, while the P-10C (below) is the most abra­sive. The tex­ture on the G17 Gen5 is sat­is­fac­tory, but the M&P9 2.0 and FN 509 are ex­ces­sively rough.

I The new Glock G17 Gen5 was de­signed to meet the needs of the FBI and rep­re­sents the state of the art of Glock de­sign.

A Tay­lor Com­bat Sil­hou­ette tar­get was used for the test. Hits in the X-box (tho­racic cav­ity) or Y-box (cran­iooc­u­lar cav­i­ties) when spec­i­fied, score 5 points. Hits any­where else on the sil­hou­ette score 1 point. The bul­let must break through the...

The Smith & Wes­son M&P9 2.0 is an im­prove­ment upon the orig­i­nal M&P hand­gun.

Also a rel­a­tive new­comer, FN’s 509 is well bal­anced, er­gonom­i­cally sound and re­flects cog­nizance of what tac­ti­cal shoot­ers need. All have a trig­ger block safety, ex­cept the P320 (shown), which is thus de­pen­dent upon an op­tional am­bidex­trous thumb...

In­tro­duced last win­ter, CZ’s P-10C is es­pe­cially well con­ceived and ful­fills the needs of vir­tu­ally every type of shooter. All five pis­tols fea­ture either a ro­tat­ing lever (bot­tom) or fin­ger­op­er­ated cross­bar re­lease (right) for rapid field-strip­ping.

The P320 has a va­ri­ety of grip mod­ules avail­able for pur­chase to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent hand sizes, while the rest come with swap­pable back­strap pan­els.

The mag­a­zine re­lease but­tons of all five guns are large, but the ex­ces­sively high pro­tec­tive ridge and stiff but­ton spring of the FN 509 (shown) make op­er­a­tion un­der stress too time-con­sum­ing. This would be a se­ri­ous prob­lem in a speed-load sit­u­a­tion.

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