Part Glock, a bit H&K, and just a touch of 1911: The SAR9

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SAR 9

For some time now, some pretty nifty firearms have been coming to the US out of Turkey, including some very decent handguns.  Now they are joined by the SAR9 pistol manufactured by Sarsilmaz, and imported by SAR USA.

SAR9 was tested with 115, 124, and 147 grain ammo.

SAR9 was tested with 115, 124, and 147 grain ammo.

First Glance

When the test sample came out of the box at the receiving FFL, ProArms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Florida, the first to examine it were staffers Ray Millican and Allen Davis, the general manager.  “Turkish gun-makers seem to copy freely,” observed Allen, a retired lawman and champion shooter. “Looks an awful lot like a Glock on top….”

Perspective: SAR9, left, and Gen4 Glock 17, right.

Perspective: SAR9, left, and Gen4 Glock 17, right.

“And an HK on the bottom, judging by the grip insert treatment” finished Ray, a retired Special Forces Command Sergeant Major.  About all I could add to that was that the SAR9 had just a touch of 1911 DNA too, in the form of a safety that worked for a shooter much the same as John Browning’s masterpiece.

Though witness holes only go up to 15, SAR9 magazine actually holds 17 rounds.

Though witness holes only go up to 15, SAR9 magazine actually holds 17 rounds.

The magazines (it came with two) are all steel. Oddly enough, though the witness holes in the back of the mags only go to “15,” the magazines held seventeen rounds apiece.  The last round or so did take some persuasion to get under the feed lips.

As is currently in fashion in the American market, the SAR9 has an accessory rail, and also well-designed slide grasping grooves both fore and aft on the slide.  Your reviewer is not a fan of front grasping grooves, but that is of course subjective.

Modern touches include forward slide grasping grooves and accessory rail. Note “Des Plaines, IL” marking for US importer’s benefit.

Modern touches include forward slide grasping grooves and accessory rail. Note “Des Plaines, IL” marking for US importer’s benefit.

Caliber is 9mm Luger, barrel length is 4.4”, and unloaded weight is 27.1 ounces. Its fixed sights are all steel, the rear dovetailed in, and come with three white dots. Suggested MSRP is $449, but one in-the-know source expects that its out the door price before taxes will probably come down to around $399.

In the Hand

The homage to Heckler and Koch in the grip treatment was splendidly executed, with a palm-filling swell in just the right place and a trigger reach that put the index finger of my “average size adult male hand” almost perfectly at what I consider the sweet spot for leverage, the distal joint.

Short trigger reach on SAR9 allows shooter to “insert more finger” and gain more leverage.

Short trigger reach on SAR9 allows shooter to “insert more finger” and gain more leverage.

The trigger design is more Glock-like than the pull.  There is less take-up than a Glock as the pull begins, but more “roll” between firm trigger resistance and the shot.  There is little if any “backlash,” or trigger movement after the sear releases.  I used a Lyman digital trigger gauge to measure pull weight, once at the toe of the trigger which seems to be the industry standard, and once again at the center of the trigger where the shooter’s finger most often comes to rest.  The latter, I think, is the measurement most relevant to the shooter.

Grip configuration of SAR9 reminds many of H&K, and was liked by all who participated in test. Note thumb safety, here “on safe.”

Grip configuration of SAR9 reminds many of H&K, and was liked by all who participated in test. Note thumb safety, here “on safe.”

At the toe, the pull weight averaged 4.98 pounds, but at the center it went up to an average of 7.13 pounds.  That’s a bit more increase than I usually see between the two trigger contact points, but such are the variations in trigger system geometry. That said, in the hand the pull didn’t feel heavy at all. That may have been partly due to being able to get more finger on the trigger due to the SAR9’s shooter-friendly trigger reach dimension.

Shooting the SAR9

The first thing I noticed when I started shooting the SAR9 was that it had been sighted in for point of aim/point of impact at the factory. Any gun writer can tell you that this is not exactly the norm in the industry, which is why most of us keep dovetailed sight pushers on hand.  The SAR9 had scored a positive point with me out of the starting gate.

147 grain Winchester WinClean practice ammo, SAR9, 25 yards.

147 grain Winchester WinClean practice ammo, SAR9, 25 yards.

My accuracy protocol is to test from a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench at a measured 25 yards.  Each group is measured twice, once for all five to get an idea of what an experienced shooter can do with the gun as steady as human hands can make happen, and again for the best three hits in the group.

Experience and research alike (see American Handgunner magazine, March/April 2002) have shown me that this will roughly duplicate what the same gun and load will deliver for all five from a machine rest; dropping the worst two seems to factor out unnoticed human error. Measurements were taken center to center between the farthest bullet holes examined, to the nearest 0.05”.

I try to test a handgun with the three most popular bullet weights in its caliber. The SAR9 being chambered for 9mm Luger, a/k/a 9X19 and 9mm NATO, that meant 147, 124, and 115 grain.  For each I used ammo that has earned a reputation for accuracy.

The 147 grain is more popular in North America than anywhere else in the world. Here, I used Winchester WinClean with jacketed truncated cone bullet, the most accurate low-lead 9mm practice round I’ve worked with yet, and one I’ve seen win numerous matches.  The five-shot group went 2.55”, and the best three were well under one inch at 0.85”.

124 grain SIG V-Crown JHP shot well in the SAR9.

124 grain SIG V-Crown JHP shot well in the SAR9.

124 grain, once the heaviest commercially available in this caliber, for the last three decades has been the popular “middleweight” 9mm.  I chose SIG’s V-Crown jacketed hollow point, and it gave a 2.65” five-shot measurement with the best three still under an inch at 0.95”.

The 115 grain choice was Federal’s famous 9BP, an “old school” standard velocity jacketed hollow point that earned a better stopping record on the street than anything else of its kind, and was also chosen by great shooters like Tom Campbell for accuracy-intensive matches such as Bianchi Cup.  With the SAR9, in punched five holes in 2.45”, with four of those in an inch and a half and the best t here in 1.30”.

This very consistent performance with all three bullet weights averaged out to 2.55” for five-shot groups, and 1.03” for best-three clusters. In a world where “four inches at 25 yards” is widely quoted as “acceptable service pistol accuracy,” I am more than happy with the accuracy of the SAR9.

Loading and reloading went smooth and easy. Because that last round didn’t want to go into the magazine easily, I had feared the cartridge stack might have so little spring flexion left that it wouldn’t want to seat easily fully loaded with the slide forward. Happily, I was wrong: “combat reloads” with the slide forward were easy and positive with all seventeen rounds in the mag.

Glock 17 Gen4 and SAR9: which is which? Hint: look for ambi thumb safety levers, a SAR9 feature.

Glock 17 Gen4 and SAR9: which is which? Hint: look for ambi thumb safety levers, a SAR9 feature.

What did happen was that there was enough downward pressure to make the mag release button very hard to operate when removing a fully loaded magazine to unload the pistol. Happily, there’s a cure for this: push up slightly on the floorplate of the magazine while manipulating the mag release button with the firing hand, and the problem is solved.

I found the thumb safety a bit stiff to thumb down into the “fire” position, and very stiff to push back up to the “on safe” position. I thought at first it might be my arthritic old thumbs, but other testers with no such problems found the same issue. I had to shift hand position to on-safe one-handed.

Worn in Ted Blocker #5 holster for large frame Glock, SAR9 was comfortable and discreet in concealed carry.

Worn in Ted Blocker #5 holster for large frame Glock, SAR9 was comfortable and discreet in concealed carry.

In Action

For a benchmark for “shootability,” I like to run a test gun in a match or at least a qualification, but neither intersected with my schedule during the SAR9 test.  To get a feel of it for shooting under time pressure, I figured a Glock course would be good for this Glock-ish pistol, and I went with the 50-shot GSSF Indoor Course (shot outdoors, in this case). Distances are 25 to 75 feet. I was all in the ten ring and clean on points out past the 15-yard line, but honked two shots low at 25 yards.

The next ring out from the “ten” is the “eight ring,” so that brought me down to 496 out of 500 possible points, and 39 out of 50 hits in the tie-breaking center “ten-X” ring, which is four inches in diameter. That’s ball park average for me on that course with my own familiar Glocks, so the performance with a different pistol was not at all unsatisfying.

Not bad for a gun that retails under $400.

Not bad for a gun that retails under $400.

Bottom Line

The first criterion is reliability, and our test SAR9 ran 100% in that regard, for hundreds of rounds.  Recoil was mild as expected. It wouldn’t go into Kydex holsters for my standard size Glocks, but fit quite well in leather ones built for the Glock 21. A day of carry with the SAR9 in a Ted Blocker #5 Thumb-break showed it to be just as comfortable as carrying a Glock 17. (Big surprise, huh?)

Mas runs SAR9 over 50-round GSSF course.

Mas runs SAR9 over 50-round GSSF course.

All in all, I liked the SAR9, my only real complaint being the difficulty in manipulating the thumb safety.

Massad Ayoob

has been handgun editor of GUNS magazine and law enforcement columnist for

AMERICAN HANDGUNNER since the 1970s, and has published thousands of articles in gun

magazines, martial arts publications, and law enforcement journals. He is the author of some

twenty books on firearms, self-defense, and related topics, including “In the Gravest Extreme”

and “Deadly Force,” widely considered to be authoritative texts on the topic of the use of lethal

force.

The winner of the Outstanding American Handgunner of the Year Award in 1998, Mas has won

several state and regional handgun shooting championships. Ayoob was the first person to earn

the title of Five Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association. He served 19 years

as chair of the Firearms Committee of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, and

several years as a member of the Advisory Board of the International Law Enforcement

Educators and Trainers Association. In addition to teaching for those groups, he has also taught

for the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International

Homicide Investigators seminars.

Mas has received judicial recognition as an expert witness for the courts in weapons and

shooting cases since 1979, and served as a fully sworn and empowered, part time police officer

for 43 years, mostly at supervisor rank. Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and

served as its director until 2009, and now trains through Massad Ayoob Group. He has

appeared on CLE-TV delivering continuing legal education for attorneys, through the American

Law Institute and American Bar Association, and has been retained to train attorneys to handle

deadly force cases through the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Ayoob served for two

years as co-vice chair of the Forensic Evidence Committee of the National Association of

Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also appeared in each episode of Personal Defense TV

(Sportsman’s Channel).

  • Dave Wilson

    Is it just me or has Massad Ayoob’s bio finally eclipsed the length of the actual article?