July 2017

American-Made 9mms: Ruger, Springfield, and Honor Defense

Springfield Armory’s EMP 1911 leads the way, while Honor Defense’s LE Honor Guard provided backup. Ruger’s American Compact lagged behind in the estimation of our testers.

American-Made 9mms: Ruger, Springfield, and Honor Defense

We chose three concealable American-made pistols chambered for 9mm ammunition. Left is the $579 Ruger American Compact with 10+1 capacity. It might be the perfect size, but it developed cycling problems. We did like its ambidextrous thumb safeties that locked down the slide as well as the action. Shooting groups from the 15-yard line was too easy for the $1220 Springfield Armory EMP Conceal Carry, middle. Named “Conceal Carry” for the bobbed grip, its 9+1 capacity puts it in league with many small polymer pistols that are far less capable. Left, the $499 HG9CLE Honor Guard from Honor Defense is a new version sans an accessory rail, making it ideal for carrying inside the waistband. We also tested the Honor Guard with a shorter top end, sold separately.

When it comes to 9mm carry pistols, there are several characteristics that immediately come to mind. Polymer frame, striker fired, wide grips, and high capacity. Recently we found three, or should we say three and a half pistols, that didn’t quite fit that description.

The first was Ruger’s $579 American Compact model 8633 that featured thumb-operated safeties on both sides.

Next were products from Honor Defense, one of the newer makers on the market. The $499 Honor Guard HG9CLE is a single-stack double-action-only pistol. The LE suffix stands for law enforcement. This gun was a variation on the original Honor Defense pistol, but it lacks a Picatinny accessory rail to favor inside-the-waistband carry for undercover work. Our 3.8-inch-long-barreled Compact LE pistol arrived with a second top end ($250, sold separately) that housed a 3.2-inch-long barrel. The shared receiver boasted unique grip contours, and both top ends utilized the same guide rod and recoil spring.

Third was the $1220 Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4-inch Conceal Carry Contour pistol, which arrived with three 9-round magazines. The EMP operates with a single-action trigger, and this might have been our first test wherein a single-stack 1911 pistol packed more rounds than its polymer-framed competitors. Its descriptive name referred to the gun’s backstrap, which has been sliced diagonally, making the rear of the grip about ¾ of an inch shorter than if it were continued in a straight line to the heel of the magazine well. This made the pistol more concealable, specifically when holstered with a butt forward (or muzzle back) cant.

Our test sessions began and ended on the reactive targets located on Steel Alley at American Shooting Centers in Houston. Accuracy data was collected from a distance of 15 yards with the guns supported by a Caldwell Matrix rest. Our choice of test ammunition consisted of Browning’s new 147-grain BXP X-point jacketed hollowpoints and three different rounds from Black Hills Ammunition of Rapid City, South Dakota. They were the 115-grain JHP EXPs that were designed for maximum performance in guns not rated for +P ammunition, a 124-grain JHP +P choice, and a new subsonic round, the 125-grain non-expanding HoneyBadger ammunition. We tracked the velocity of each combination using an Oehler 35P (printing) chronograph.

All three guns were recent releases, so we really didn’t know what to expect. As always our goal was to reveal reliability and accuracy as well as handling characteristics. Would we find versatility or would the accuracy of each gun be limited to a single bullet weight? Our job was to deliver to point of aim every time we pulled the trigger. Would any of these guns make that job easier than the others? Here is what we learned.

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