September 2013

Turkish Pistol Shootout, Round Two: TriStar Versus Stoeger

Both the T-100 and Cougar 8000F had good performance and were affordable. But one handgun stumbled in a crucial area.

When comparing handguns for Gun Tests, there is a bottom line. That bottom line is reliability and acceptable accuracy. If the pistol isn’t accurate enough for personal defense, or if the piece isn’t reliable, then it doesn’t earn a passing grade. That is the baseline. Next, we look for above-average accuracy as a tie breaker. The next consideration is handling. When it comes to a personal-defense handgun then, the heft, balance, feel, and how these factors interact to allow the handgun to come to target quickly are very important. Anyone can make a handle feel like a 2-by-4, but only true craftsmen understand the subtleties of grip design and how to make a gun feel right. But with a bit of careful design and a study of ergonomics, you might just find a shape that fits most hands well. The rub is, this may be difficult when the shooter also demands a magazine capacity of 13 rounds or more. This makes designing a handgun with comfortable hand size more difficult.

We say all this as an introduction to a second test of handguns from Turkish companies to follow up on our July match up. TriStar Sporting Arms imports the Canik 55–made T-100 No. 85110 9mm Luger, which sells for $439. Stoeger itself makes the Cougar 8000F No. 31700 9mm Luger, $449, in Turkey. The companies did not design either of these handguns, but they are producing them, and the pistols are built upon proven patterns. Just the same, there is much to recommend in either handgun and much that differs as well.

The differences in opinions among the raters were interesting as well, and in some cases profound. Our rater with the most military experience is a military intelligence officer who often sees the big picture. According to him, the pistols are tactically equal. There isn’t anything that could be done with one compact high-capacity 9mm that couldn’t be done with the other pistol. There is some merit in that supposition. Just the same, he came to lean toward the Cougar because it was most like his issue Beretta. Another rater who prefers the 1911 handgun for most uses found the CZ 75 system in the T-100 favorable. He felt that the Cougar was more technical than tactical. And so it went. One pistol is possibly better suited to all around service or as a belt pistol, while another may be better suited for concealed carry.

Another question might be how each compares to the original they are copied from. How does the Stoeger Cougar compare to the Beretta Cougar, now out of production? Well, if you like the Cougar, it is either the used market or the Stoeger. If you like the CZ 75, there is the original and many clones or copies. So, we had many questions to answer. And with all due respect to our military rater, though the pistols are tactically equal, the differences in handling and favored features are substantial. The opinions of experienced raters are particularly valuable in this case. This isn’t simply a comparison of two Turkish-produced pistols, but rather a significant look into double-action and selective double-action pistols.

TriStar Sporting Arms T-100 No. 85110 9mm Luger, $439

The T-100, in simple terms, is more similar to the Baby Eagle compact pistols than the full size CZ 75 or its compact versions. The importer, TriStar, also offers a version closer to the CZ 75 in appearance. The pistol as tested features a satin chrome finish and rubber grips. The finish was very nice, with no discernible flaws. Final fit and polish were good.

The CZ 75 is unique in that the slide runs inside of the frame. This combination seems to make for greater accuracy and also lowers the bore axis. As a result, the pistol sits low in the hand without the usual muzzle flip of double-action pistols. The pistol is a selective-double-action first-shot action. Selective double action means that the pistol may be carried cocked and locked, but there is much more to the action than that. Our 1911 aficionado pointed out that the pistol gives more tactical options than most. Unlike some CZ variants, the safety may be applied when the hammer is down. (In numerous variants, the safety may be applied only when the hammer is cocked.) For those who feel that a pistol without a manual safety abrogates some of the advantages of the self loader, this is an advantage. The T-100 may be carried hammer to the rear, safety on, or cocked-and-locked, or simply hammer down and ready for a double-action first shot, which we recommend. However, another advantage not often appreciated is the pistol may simply be placed on Safe during tactical movement. Once you have fired the first shot and you are running for cover, you do not have to decock the pistol to make it Safe. A Beretta 92 or the Cougar will have to be decocked for safe movement, while the CZ may simply be placed on Safe, an advantage even if you prefer a double-action first shot. The disadvantage is that the pistol’s hammer must be lowered manually on the loaded chamber. This is done by pressing the trigger and controlling the hammer as it is lowered. This is not a practice that modern police agencies or most shooter prefer, but the tactical minded who appreciate the system are willing to master the process. The point is well taken and those preferring the CZ 75 system feel that the tactical advantages are very real.

Unfortunately, the T-100 exhibited a very heavy safety. We prefer a safety that is positive, but this one was stiff enough to impede on-Safe carry. With use, the safety did become easier to use well, but it remained uncomfortably stiff.

The slide lock and magazine release worked as designed, and were not difficult to handle. Disassembly wasn’t difficult. The slide was pressed partially to the rear and a slash marked on the slide lined up with the slide, and then the slide stop was pressed out to the left. The pistol featured the angled camming surfaces first used on the Browning Hi-Power. Disassembly and field stripping were not difficult.

The magazine was a well-made steel unit produced by Mec-Gar. Capacity was 15 rounds. The frame had a rather rakish contour different from the general run of CZ compacts. The slide was also angled in a different profile. There was a rib on the slide to reduce glare. The sights were excellent high-visibility types with three luminous dots. No, they were not night sights, but the application was impressive. Once exposed to sunlight, they were quite bright in dim light or complete darkness. We tested how long the luminosity lasted. After exposing the sights to bright sunlight, we moved to a dark closet and set the gun on a shelf. It took about 7 minutes for the sights to lose their brightness, though some light was visible well past 10 minutes. On an economy pistol, this was a nice touch.

The grip fits most hands well, but trigger reach in the DA mode may be a stretch for some hand sizes. The double-action press was rather abrupt and took some getting used to. It broke at about 13 pounds. The single-action compression was 5 pounds with a modest backlash. The single-action trigger proved to be controllable and well suited to both rapid fire and precise fire, in our opinion.

Our shooters fired it with more than 300 rounds of ammunition ranging from 85 to 147 grains and from target to +P loads. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The pistol proved capable on the combat course once the shooter acclimated to the double-action trigger. The pistol was perfectly regulated for a 115-grain load, striking dead center with the first shot.

During accuracy testing, we shot the pistol with three types of cartridges, the Fiocchi 115-grain Extrema, the Hornady 147-grain XTP, and the Winchester 115-grain FMJ. Accuracy was outstanding with the Fiocchi 115-grain loading, posting a best five-shot group of 1.5 inches at a long 15 yards — excellent for a short-barrel 9mm pistol.

The Stoeger Cougar had a slight advantage in velocity over the T-100, hardly worth mentioning, as the accompanying table shows — 22 fps with the Fiocchi, 14 fps with the Hornady, and 16 fps with the Winchester. Velocity differences may vary more from gun to gun rather than across the lines.

Our Team Said: The TriStar T-100 is definitely accurate enough for personal defense, and, in our opinion, would excel at an IDPA match. As for its quality compared to the original CZ 75, the pistol is at least on a par with the CZ 75 and superior to most of the clones.

Stoeger Cougar 8000F No. 31700 9mm Luger, $449

The Cougar is a rendition of the Beretta Cougar, supposedly made by Stoeger on Beretta tooling now housed in Turkey. Apparently, the Beretta Cougar was too expensive to manufacture in Italy, but the Turkish connection gave Beretta/Stoeger a chance to offer the pistol at an affordable price.

The Stoeger pistol seemed comparable to Beretta Cougars we’ve examined; however, the finish seemed not to be as durable as the original, which is to be expected in an economy firearm. The slide exhibited some wear after the modest 300-round test.

The Cougar was designed to offer a more compact variant of the Beretta 92. The oscillating wedge lock-up of the Beretta 92 simply did not lend itself to downsizing, so the Cougar uses a rotating barrel. The rotating barrel was in vogue as early as 1900, with John Browning obtaining a patent for the type prior to the turn of the last century. The Mauser M2 and the Cougar are among the few modern handguns using this system. The Beretta Storm also uses the rotating barrel. In this design, the barrel rotates to unlock, with a wedge on the loading block traveling in a slot in the barrel. Reputation tells us that these pistols need more frequent lubrication than other action types. This has not been borne out in the raters experience with the Cougar, but just the same there may be something to it. Both the CZ- and Beretta-type handguns demand more cleaning and lubrication than the Glock, as one example.

The Cougar is a double-action first shot pistol. The trigger was pressed in the double-action mode and the pistol fired. The slide recoiled and subsequent shots were fired double action. The hammer may be lowered by a slide-mounted decocker combination safety lever. The lever wasn’t difficult to manipulate and, it operated in a positive manner. The pistol may be carried either on Safe or off. Most of the raters prefer the simplicity and safety of the decocker. So does the U.S. Army and most police agencies using the double-action pistol.

Disassembly was simple. Rotate the takedown lever and the slide runs forward off the frame. Take the various components out. The safety and takedown of the Cougar are more modern than the TriStar.

The double-action trigger broke at about 15 pounds, and the single-action trigger broke at about 6 pounds after some take up. The slide lock and the magazine catch were easily accessible. The slide was nicely tapered to the front. The sights had white dot inserts that rode a bit lower than the T-100’s sights.

All raters commented on the fit and feel of the grip. Designed by Beretta to give a better feel than the Beretta 92, the Cougar grip profile was definitely superior to the Beretta 92 and many other pistols in this regard. While grip feel was a toss up between the two test pistols, the trigger reach of the Cougar allowed the first pad of average size fingers to reach the trigger face, while the T-100 was a reach, a slight but important difference. Also, the Cougar was slightly shorter in length and height than the T-100. The abbreviated grip resulted in a 13-round rather than a 15-round magazine, but we did not feel that this was a minus considering the excellent grip design and the slightly greater ease with which the Cougar was concealed.

At the range, the pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. However, there were a couple of shooter-induced malfunctions. First was the thumb striking the slide lock and locking the slide to the rear while there were rounds in the magazine. Another problem was that the slide did not lock after the last round with most cartridges. Only +P loads seemed to generate enough momentum to operate the slide lock, and the cartridges that were fired in the test gun were clearly full-power loads. These two problems were enough for us to drop it a letter grade, but not enough to fail it.

Accuracy was adequate but not as excellent as that demonstrated by the T-100. Another deficit was that the pistol shot about 3 inches above the point of aim. The point of impact as compared to the point of aim was off enough that there could be some difficulty in striking small targets. This may be a function of the low-riding sights. As for felt recoil, the pistol’s muzzle-heavy feel dampened recoil. Neither pistol exhibited uncomfortable recoil.

Our Team Said: The Cougar had great appeal to those favoring the double-action first shot handgun and the decocker system. The pistol as tested also featured a tie-breaker. The newest Cougar lightweight 9mm featured a light rail. If you prefer a pistol with the ability to mount a white light, then the Cougar is the choice. We feel that the slide-stop issue of the Cougar could be addressed with a stronger spring, but as it was, those malfunctions put the Stoeger Cougar a step behind the TriStar.

Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

Accuracy and Chronograph Data

Tristar Sporting Arms - 100

Stoeger Couger