April 2009

Double-Column 45 ACPs: CZ, H&K, and FN Shoot It Out

Consistency marked our test of the $779 CZ 97B, the $780 FNH USA USG, and the $1099 HK 45C pistols. Pluses: The CZ is big and strong, the USG held 15+1 rounds, the H&K has a slim grip.

Not all 45 ACP pistols are built to feed from a single-column magazine or be ignited by a full-time single-action trigger. In this test we will evaluate a trio of pistols that feed from double-column magazines and trigger systems that can alternate between offering a double-action first shot and single-action-only operation. Our three pistols are the $779 CZ USA 97B, Heckler & Koch’s $1099 45C, and FNH USA’s new $780 FNP USG pistol. The CZ 97B is an older design finding its beginning with the CZ75 pistol. But its full-length dustcover and 10+1 capacity of big 45 caliber ammunition gives it modern appeal. The HK 45C is a refinement of the USP design. Like the FNP45 USG, the HK 45C includes features that reflect input from military and law enforcement studies.

In every test accuracy and reliability are a must. But in the case of guns that feature both double- and single-action operation the task of charting accuracy is more complex. Our accuracy data reflects firing from support single-action only, but we also wanted to know how quickly and accurately these guns can be fired from the hammer-down position. Or were they limited to cocked-and-locked carry? In addition we asked how safe and secure was the decocking process, and how safe and secure was the manual safety? Would hammer-down first-shot double action prove to be a realistic carry option? Or would such condition be relegated to "off duty" administrative handling, such as when placing the gun in a night stand or desk drawer?

With rain in the forecast we chose to test indoors at the famous Top Gun Handgun Training Center in Houston (topgunrange.com). With a corporate event scheduled for late afternoon we were able to set up our shooting bench for the balance of the day.

Our test ammunition consisted of 230-grain Hornady TAP hollowpoints, Black Hills remanufactured 185-grain jacketed hollowpoints and handloaded rounds featuring Sierra’s 230-grain FMJ bullet number 8815. We drove the Sierra bullet with a moderate load of Winchester 231 powder and Winchester primers. Accuracy data was collected firing single action only from a distance of 15 yards. Support was supplied by a Caldwell Rock Jr. pistol rest, and we aimed at Caldwell’s 3-inch Orange Peel circles (battenfeldtechnologies.com).

Our next test was to determine how quickly and easily each gun could be fired beginning with the first shot double action. Standing 7 yards from a Hoffners ABC16 Action Target (hoffners.com), we began with hammer down. Upon an audible start signal we engaged the center mass A-zone with a first shot double action followed by a second shot to this same point of aim fired single action. Our third shot of continuous fire was fired single action at the cranial pocket, or B-zone. This test was repeated for a total of 10 separate strings of fire. We recorded elapsed time, accuracy and took careful note of each gun’s handling and response. We experienced no malfunctions with any of the pistols during our tests, so when it came to grading these pistols on the Report Card, our job was that much more difficult. Here is what we learned.

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