August 2010

9mm Compact Pistols: Ruger, Springfield, CZ USA, and Glock

When we tested the Glock 19, Springfield Armory’s XDM 3.8, the CZ USA 75D PCR Compact, and the new Ruger SR9C, our evaluators found four very good handguns you’re sure to like.

Recently, we received a letter urging us to test more deep-concealment guns, claiming that they are the most popular gun of the day. Checking with one of the larger distributors (, confirmed that it is the subcompact and micro guns that are currently driving the market. In this test we’re not going to evaluate pocket guns, but we are going to shoot four compact pistols that in are just one step larger than the smallest model available from each manufacturer.

The first test gun we chose was the $697 XDM 3.8 from Springfield Armory. Since the first XD pistol to hit our shores from Croatia was the Four-inch Service Model, we were tempted to refer to the XDM 3.8 as belonging to a "sub-service" category. The $525 Ruger SR9C is another new model that attempts to cross over the design of a larger pistol (the Ruger SR9) into the role of concealed carry. The $646 Glock G19 is the smaller brother of the G17, found on the hip of law enforcement worldwide. The Glock 19 gets little press, but remains popular. Another pistol that continues to perform is the CZ 75B. In this test we shoot one of its little brothers, the $651 CZ USA 75D PCR Compact.

Throughout our tests, each gun ran reliably without a single malfunction. The Glock, Ruger, and Springfield Armory pistols operated with a single continuous trigger system. The Glock 19 required a longer trigger press because movement of the trigger is what loads the spring to propel the striker, or firing pin. Release of the striker was part two of this double-action system. The XDM 3.8 utilized the trigger to release the striker after rearward movement of the slide had loaded the striker spring nearly to full strength. Pressing the trigger on the XD series pistols tops off the compression of the striker spring and releases the trigger. The Ruger SR9C works with a similar action, but the trigger applied more final compression to the striker spring than the XD/XDM. The CZ is a hammer-driven pistol with two modes of fire. Once the slide has been moved rearward, the hammer stays back [IMGCAP(2)]and trigger is used for the single action of releasing the hammer. But after using the decocker to lower the hammer to a locked position about 0.36 inches from the firing pin, pressing the trigger will perform two actions. First to move the hammer rearward, and, second, to release it toward the firing pin. To collect accuracy data, our test team fired the CZ 75D PCR Compact from the bench in single action only.

We began with three choices of test ammunition, consisting of Remington UMC 115-grain JHP rounds, Federal American Eagle 124-grain FMJ rounds and 115-grain FMJ rounds of new manufacture (red box) Black Hills ammunition. When we realized our supply of the American Eagle rounds was going to be limited, we decided to shoot our action tests with a fourth, less expensive, round. These were the Black Hills remanufactured 124-grain FMJ rounds sold in the blue boxes. Curious about the accuracy of these economical rounds, we decided to add them to our bench session. Test distance from support was 15 yards.

After accuracy data had been collected from our bench session, we set up a timed close-quarters exercise. For this test we posted a paper replica of an IPSC Metric target from 7 yards downrange. The drill was to engage the target with two shots to the 5.9-by-11-inch rectangular A-zone at center mass, and then a third shot to the upper A-zone. The upper A-zone measured about 4-by-2 inches and represented the cranial pocket of this roughly humanoid silhouette. After ten runs we looked for 20 hits to the "chest" and ten to the head. Start position was holding the pistol in both hands at roughly the position one would clap their hands. We kept track of elapsed time by using a shot-activated timer and took note of our accuracy. Our operator began by dry-firing the exercise at the command of the audible start signal. Once the operator was able to completely visualize the run, at the sound of the timer the shooter was ready for live fire. But keep in mind that each gun was afforded one try and one try only at our action test. We almost broke this promise when it came time to test the CZ pistol. It was the last gun to be field tested and we suddenly realized that we had not yet fired the pistol beginning with a double-action first shot. We even went so far as to write in a warmup round on our score card. Then we decided to take the challenge and report how we shot the CZ from first-shot double action under pressure without additional practice.

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