We recently tested four new or newish 9mm polymer-frame pistols that use mostly proven designs and come in at affordable prices. The first member of our new group is the Savage Stance, $408; followed by the SCCY-DVG-1, $255, a new optics-ready model that we covered on the Gun Tests YouTube page in January 2022; the very new Mossberg MC2c, $380; and the latest introduction, a SAR USA SAR9 Compact X, $631, which was announced in April 2022. How well do these affordable pistols work in an everyday-carry environment? Well, when we shot them head to head, we found some were more accurate than others, and even more important, some were more dependable.
Your eyes do not deceive you about the maker of the first pistol, the Savage Stance. Savage! Savage, you say! What does Savage, the maker of great rifles for more than 100 years know about pistols? Quite a lot, actually. Savage was one of the two finalists in the military trials that eventually accepted the Colt 1911 submission as the winner. A scaled-down version of that pistol was produced from 1907 until 1920. It featured a 10-round double-stack magazine almost 30 years before the famous Browning Hi-Power. Now, a mere century later, Savage is back in the pocket-handgun market with a fascinating entry.
SCCY (pronounced sky, as best we can determine) is out of Florida, and the company has a reputation for producing relatively simple, affordable, and effective firearms. We tried out their new optics-ready DVG-1 model to find out for ourselves. The DVG-1 departs from previous models in that it is striker fired, where previous versions were hammer fired. The required changes in leverage and springs can increase the effort needed to retract the slide, but ours did not show that to be a material factor. The other three pistols in this test averaged in the sub 19-pound category where the SCCY required 20.3 pounds of muscle to retract the slide. We did not feel the 7% increase was noticeable.
Next is Mossberg’s MC2c, a modern 9mm semi-auto with a 14-round magazine, which is a great compromise for most small or big hands. It is very similar in size to a Glock 48. There are many very good reasons why different firearms are shaped differently, primarily because people are as well. About the only assumption that can be made on the potential user of a new firearm is that five out of six will be right-handed. For example, one member of this group of testers has long, slim fingers. The rest of us tend to have bigger hands and shorter digits. That means that pistols of a size that work well for him don’t necessarily work for us at all. The Mossberg MC2c handgun seeks to strike a balance that most users will like.
SAR USA is the exclusive U.S. importer for all firearms and ammunition products produced by Sarsilmaz Silah Sanayi of Istanbul, Turkey. Sarsilmaz is one of the oldest firearms manufacturers in the world, being founded in 1880. It would appear that the “X” in the SAR USA SAR9 Compact X name stands for “extras.” Our sample included a nice hard case along with an inexpensive, but functional, mag pouch and holster. The package included a second 15-round magazine with weighted base pad perfect for those of us still practicing El Presidente–type reloads. Also included was a nice, Picatinny rail-mounted LED light. But intentionally, apparently, SAR did not include the battery. Curious. All told, a very nice collection of gear.
How We Tested
We shot the pistols at American Shooting Centers in Houston, firing accuracy groups at 15 yards. We posted multiple five-shot groups from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistolero shooting rest, assisted by a Mini DRC Fortune Cookie from Wiebad.com. We obtained velocities in one session using a LabRadar chronograph.
We tested using three different types of ammunition. First was 115-grain Remington Range ammo, along with Winchester White Box 115-grain FMJs. We also tried our standard match reload in the form of 147-grain FMJ bullets from Precision Delta, powered by Hodgdon Tite Group powder and CCI small pistol primers. On a pistol-by-pistol basis, here’s what we learned during our testing:
Gun Tests Grade: A (OUR PICK)
This SAR9cx reminds us of a Glock 19. Arguably one of the most successful mid-size pistols, the G19 is worthy competition, and we think SAR USA engineers did their homework well. Length of the 9cx is almost exactly as long as the G19, as is the height. Width closely mimics that of the Glock, and weight is only about 2 ounces heavier.
|Overall Length||7.25 in.|
|Overall Height||4.9 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.22 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||1.5 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||2.1 lbs.|
|Slide Material||Carbon steel|
|Slide Retraction Effort||18.6 lbs.|
|Front Strap Height||2.25 in.|
|Back Strap Height||3.25 in.|
|Barrel Length||4.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness (Maximum)||1.20 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.3 in.|
|Magazines||Two 15 round|
|Rear Sight||2 dots, drift adjustable|
|Front Sight||1 dot, fixed|
|Sight Radius||6.1 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight||5.5 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||3.1 in.|
|Safety||Trigger and striker|
Our comparisons were made between a current SAR9cx and a Gen 3 Glock 19. Giving full credit, Glock has improved its offerings, and we see modern features on the SAR as well. The SAR 9cx starts with lightening cuts on the slide. This reduces the reciprocating mass and thereby also reduces muzzle movement. Additional milling around the lightening cuts serves well as forward grasping grooves. When we looked inside, we noticed even the recoil coil spring assembly was heavier than normal. The rear of the slide has seven more grooves on each side, making it very easy to grasp forward or aft. The two-dot rear sight is metal and has a set screw to help hold it in place. Mounted in a dovetail, the rear sight is adjustable for windage. Located just forward of the rear sight are two holes where the slide has been drilled and tapped for optics mounts. The slide is not milled; rather, the red dot would sit directly on top. Our examination suggests that the 9cx uses Docter pattern holes. We also noted that the rear sight would have to be removed for a red dot such as a Crimson Trace CTS 1250 to be mounted correctly. An external extractor that pivots out to provide a tactile loaded-chamber indicator rounds out the top end.
The polymer frame provides almost 360-degree stippling and does so in a way that is easy to customize, though we think it needs to be a bit more aggressive in texture. The backstrap and both side grip panels are removable via driving out a roll pin at the base of the grip. By the way, SAR USA provides a nice punch. Small, medium, and large grip panels and backstraps are provided, allowing shooters to make the 9cx fit their hands.
The front strap has multiple finger grooves which, frankly, we wish manufacturers would do away with. A straight grip fits a lot more hands. The trigger guard is oversized for gloved hands, and the rear is cut up, allowing a higher grip. The magazine release is single-sided though, once again, reversible. The trigger is gently curved and uses the customary Glock-style blade. It is set far to the rear, making it easier for shorter fingers. If yours are longer, change out the backstrap to lengthen the trigger span. The trigger provides indication of a cocked striker. Red triangles are visible at the rear of the trigger just below where it protrudes from the frame. But only if the striker is cocked. With the striker at rest, the trigger sits further to the rear, and the triangles are concealed inside the frame.
To take down the SAR 9cx, use the twin tabs in front of the trigger a la Glock, but the sequence is different. Make sure the pistol is empty, push down on the tabs and ease the slide off. Wonderful!
Our Team Said: The SAR 9cx was the heaviest pistol in the group and had the least recoil. That’s the way it generally works. Among other things, the good recoil mitigation helped make the SAR the fastest in our speed trials, by a couple of tenths of a second. It was also the most accurate in this test, averaging under 2.25 inches per five-shot group.
9mm Luger Range DataTesting was done at American Shooting Centers in Houston. Muzzle velocities were determined via a LabRadar chronograph. All shots for group were done from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistol Rest from MidwayUSA and aided by a mini-DRC Fortune Cookie bag from Wiebad. Averages were taken for 5-shot groups shot at 15 yards.
|Remington 115-grain FMJ||Savage Stance||SCCY DVG-1||Mossberg MC2c||SAR USA 9CX|
|Average Velocity||1056 fps||1063 fps||1123 fps||1131 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||285 ft.-lbs.||289 ft.-lbs.||322 ft.-lbs.||327 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||4.10 in.||3.07 in.||2.43 in.||2.06 in.|
|Best Group||4.07 in.||1.82 in.||1.93 in.||1.81 in.|
|Winchester 115-grain FMJ||Savage Stance||SCCY DVG-1||Mossberg MC2c||SAR USA 9CX|
|Average Velocity||1083 fps||1090 fps||1157 fps||1140 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||300 ft.-lbs.||304 ft.-lbs.||342 ft.-lbs.||322 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||4.56 in.||2.70 in.||3.06 in.||2.00 in.|
|Best Group||3.35 in.||1.93 in.||2.59 in.||1.72 in.|
|Precision Delta||Savage||SCCY||Mossberg||SAR USA|
|Average Velocity||852 fps||856 fps||889 fps||899 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||237 ft.-lbs.||239 ft.-lbs.||258 ft.-lbs.||264 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||2.62 in.||2.96 in.||2.59 in.||2.58 in.|
|Best Group||2.12 in.||2.28 in.||2.44 in.||2.44 in.|
Drill Data (5x5x5)Process: Fire five shots from low ready at a 5-inch circle placed at 5 yards. Numbers are averages for two repetitions.
|Pistol||Time to First Shot (seconds)||Split Average (seconds)||Total Time (seconds)|
Drill Data (5x8)Process: Fire five shots from low ready at a 6-inch by 11-inch A Zone placed at 8 yards. Numbers are averages for three repetitions.
|Pistol||Time to First Shot (seconds)||Split Average (seconds)||Total Time (seconds)|
Value Guide: Smaller 9mm Luger Handgun Rankings
|Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ M2.0 12436 9mm Luger, $499||2022-07-01 00:00:00||A||Our Pick. We liked the way this pistol handles and operates. Racking the slide is easy enough.|
|Kahr K9 K9093A 9mm Luger, $750||Mar. 2022||A||An excellent option for EDC. Metal frame mitigates recoil for faster follow-ups. The grip angle is comfortable.|
|SIG Sauer P365 365-9-BXR3 9mm Luger, $599||Dec. 2021||A||Our Pick. Small enough to fit in a pants pocket. Carries 10+1 rounds of 9mm. Felt recoil is less than with a 38.|
|Ruger MAX-9 No. 3500 9mm Luger, $544||Sep. 2021||A||Our Pick. This is a sophisticated pistol. No fault with the magazines, capacity, or general accuracy.|
|Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield Plus 13246 9mm Luger, $553||Sep. 2021||A||A step up from the previously tested 9mm Shield. The new pistol has an improved trigger and greater capacity.|
|Taurus GX4 1-GX4M931 9mm Luger, $398||Sep. 2021||A-||Best Buy. The Taurus is the most compact, and the Taurus is the only pistol with a changeable backstrap.|
|Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ 12437 9mm Luger, $479||Feb. 2021||A-||The Shield EZ9 was easy to manipulate and soft to shoot, but the sights needed to be calibrated better.|
|KelTec PF9 Blued-Black 9mm Luger, $358||Feb. 2021||B+||An inexpensive pistol that functioned flawlessly. It reminded us of a good 38 Special snubbie.|
|Taurus G3C 1-G3C931 9mm Luger, $306||Feb. 2021||B+||Best Buy. The Taurus G3C pistol is an inexpensive offering that functioned flawlessly and shot well.|
|Springfield Armory Hellcat HC9319BOSP 9mm Luger, $550||Mar. 2020||A||Our Pick. An 11+1 pistol, this small Springfield might be the most versatile pistol in the group.|
|Walther PPS M2 2805961 9mm Luger, $649||Mar. 2020||A||Best Buy. A smaller pistol with grips that will not abrade tender hands.|
|Ruger Security-9 Compact Model 3818 9mm Luger, $309||Feb. 2020||B||The pistol is adequate for the task of self defense and will not break the bank.|
|SIG P365 Nitron Micro-Compact 9mm Luger, $465||Feb. 2020||B||The SIG costs more than the Ruger Security-9 without overwhelming advantages.|
|Springfield Hellcat Micro-Compact 9mm Luger, $500||Jan. 2020||F/A||Hellcat #1 failed when the trigger wouldn’t reset (F). Hellcat #2 worked perfectly (A). Best accuracy.|
|Glock 43X Ameriglo Night Sights PX435SL301AB 9mm Luger, $542||Jul. 2019||A||Our Pick. Firing grip is superior to the G43 and allows better shooting with little compromise.|
|Mossberg MC1sc 890019mm Luger, $365||Jul. 2019||A-||Best Buy. The Mossberg 9mm gave up little to the Glock designs. Reliability was never a question.|
|Taurus G2S 1-G2S931 9mm Luger, $204||Nov. 2018||A||Best Buy. The Taurus pistol was reliable and controllable in rapid fire.|
|Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield SW180021BW 9mm Luger, $400||Nov. 2018||A||The Battleworn Shield is reliable, accurate enough, and compact enough for EDC.|
|Bersa BP9MCC 9mm Luger, $295||Nov. 2018||A-||Reliable, feels good in the hand, and offers excellent handling in fast-paced drills.|
|Honor Defense Honor Guard HG9SCF FIST 9mm Luger, $400||Nov. 2018||A-||The FIST option is viable. We tested it against barricades with excellent results.|
|Ruger EC9s 3283 9mm Luger, $231||Nov. 2018||B-||Most accurate handgun of the test, despite its light weight.|