Monday, February 13, 2012

Changing of the Guard

My carry Glock 19 w/Raven Vanguard II holster
I've carried a Glock 19 for many years.  I have always liked the Model 17, which is the G19's bigger brother, but found it to be a bit to large for comfortable concealed carry.  I find the G19 to be a good compromise of size, weight and capacity for use as a daily carry pistol.

The G19 is a boringly reliable handgun that I've learned to shoot very well, however it lacks features found on more contemporary designs.  Things like ambidextrous controls for the slide stop and magazine release have never appeared on later generations of Glock pistols.  Glock has made some effort to modernize the design of its aging pistols, but I've not been impressed with these modernization attempts.

The user replaceable backstraps that appeared in the Generation 4 Glock pistols were a bit disappointing. The Glock design doesn't have a user replaceable backstrap per se, it has user installed backstrap additions that make the already bulky Glock grip even bulkier.

Glock attempted an ambi-magazine release with the Gen 3 Model 21SF, but it was destine to failure.  As soon as it was released, reports of broken magazine catches and dropped magazines started flying.  Glock quietly dropped the G21SF with the ambi-magazine release.

I've never really progressed past the Gen 3 Glock pistols, I stopped buying them once the Gen 4's were released and had numerous issues with failures to feed.  I felt that Glock's decision to go with a dual recoil spring system was misdirected and unnecessary.  To me it seems as though Glock is floundering, unable to come up with purposeful updates to the basic Glock design.  But that's fine, I'm mostly content with the Gen 3 Glocks.

M&P w/Raven Phantom Holster
Despite being mostly content with my G19 as a carry gun, I'm always keeping an eye out for any new developments on the defensive handgun market.  I expect someone to eventually build a better mousetrap.

The first pistol to come along that piqued my interest as a possible replacement for my Glock 19 was the S&W M&P 9mm.  I didn't jump on the bandwagon early with this pistol, I want to take a "watch and see" position during the roll-out.  As with all new pistols there were reports of various problems including the magazine unexpectedly falling out of the pistol while firing.

S&W moved quickly to remedy these issues and once I was satisfied that all was well in M&P land, I bought my first pistol for evaluation.

Right away I noticed the ergonomics of the M&P were a substantial step forward from the Glocks' rather pedestrian erogo's.  The M&P features a nicely contoured grip that fits your hand like a custom fit glove.  It has, by far, the best feeling grip of any handgun I've owned previously.

The pistol is a natural pointer, you can instinctively point the pistol and hit targets at standard combat ranges quite effortlessly.  The sights are common, but easy to pick up and use.  Things were going great with the M&P except for one minor issue.

My finger hooking the M&P trigger
The trigger.

The M&P's trigger is the weak point in the design as I see it.  It's designed for people with much smaller hands than mine.  The reach from the back strap to the trigger is so short that I'm forced to hook my finger around the trigger when I shoot.  This is not conducive to good accuracy and it's uncomfortable.

Another problem with the trigger is that it lacks a tactile and audible reset, meaning you can't feel or hear when the trigger resets for the next shot.  This drives some people nuts, myself included.

I've been trying to work around the issues with the M&P by shooting it regularly.  I was on the fence trying to decide if this pistol was worthy of taking the daily carry title from my G19.  After considerable thought, many rounds fired and even taking the pistol for a few test runs out on the town in my Raven Phantom holster, I've decided this pistol isn't the right choice as my daily carry gun.

I had resigned myself to the fact I could not find a suitable replacement for my Glock 19.  I'm not heart broken by any means, I'm content with my Glock 19.

Or so I thought.

Caracal F w/Raven Phantom holster
Then I stumbled upon the Caracal 9mm pistol.  When I first spied this pistol, I didn't have very high expectations.  It looked like a Glock clone, and clones hold little interest for me.  Then I picked one up at my local gun shop.  Ok, it's nice.  It feels familiar, like a Glock, but improved.  Hey, it has a ambi-magazine release!

A few weeks pass and I pick a Caracal up from my friends over at 21st Century Firearms to test out.  Once I started shooting the pistol I realized this is what the Glock should be today, after 25+ years of evolution.  It's more ergonomic.  The recoil is straight back into your hand since it has a very low bore axis.  The sights are easy to pick up.  The trigger is lighter, cleaner and more crisp than a factory Glock trigger and the reach is perfect.

I'm back on the evaluation train again.  While I'm not 100% sold on the Caracal as my daily carry gun, it is the best candidate so far.  In a couple of months I will decide if this pistol will officially replace my Glock 19 I've been carrying for years.  I'll keep you posted.


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  2. the most disappointing thing about the Caracal is the fact that is is made in UAE. It is hard to support Middle East companies as you never know where or what your money might be funding. I would hate to find out that the guns I am buying to protect me are funding terrorism.

  3. Maybe the FN FNS will be available soon and be the answer to your questions; and it's American Made.

    1. Required to carry a Glock 22 as a deputy sheriff, required to carry a M&P 40 for my job at Brinks Armored, my personal choice the XDm 40 3.8 compact. Closest i can find to the feel of a 1911 with higher round count and much better trigger than the other two. I have the full size frame as well and would carry it for both of my jobs if they would leet me. Just one Guys opinion.

    2. I'm a fan of the XDM as well, but I also like the FNP Tactical. I'm curious to get a look at the FNS. Anyone had a chance to get their hands on one?

  4. I'm happy with my Walther PPQ!

    1. I'll second the PPQ. It is basically a glock 19 with improved ergonomics, ambi-controls (if you don't mind the magazine release), and an amazing trigger. Cost is reasonable as well, except for the cost of magazines... Give it a look!

  5. (Cross-posted to Facebook)

    MAC, I do wonder why you don't look at the PPQ. You seemed to love it on your video review, except for the awesome mag release ^_^. I can't see how in any way the M&P is the better gun, let alone the Caracal. I'll detail why below:
    M&P: Bad trigger, tiny slide stop button, lower build quality than PPQ, less accurate.
    Caracal: Terrible sights and no provision for night sights, no US service/distributor in case of problems, and no track record to look at. Why would you trust your life to something that very few have any experience with?
    The trump card in all of this is how the gun feels in your hands, on your body, and how well you feel you shoot it.
    As for reliability, the ONLY real requirement for any personal defense tool, I can say the M&P is probably the best bet, including the PPQ. This is because it has the longest track record. However, my personal experience with the PPQ and feeding lots of ammo (reloads, quality defensive HP ammo, and cheap trash) is that it was 100% except for some issues with shooter riding the slide stop. My PPQ could feed empty brass all day long, which I have a lot of experience with since I used a bunch of range brass for ball and dummy drills.

    To close, I have questions:

    Is the Caracal trigger as good as the PPQs?
    Are the ergonomics better?
    Does it have less felt recoil?
    How is the build quality? Fit and finish? Barrel to slide lockup? Does the plastic "feel" cheap? I'm no expert but some guns feel cheap in the hand, and that's an awful feeling.

    I hope you do a video on this soon.

    1. I do like the PPQ but I don't feel it's well suited for concealed carry (for me) due to the super light short travel trigger, and the fact it's striker fired. For me this is too much of a liability. I prefer a heavier trigger on a carry pistol, and even on a combat rifle. A self defense weapon will be used when adrenaline is flowing and your mind might not be 100% focused on safety. Having a hair trigger is less than desirable in such situations, IMHO.

      I've also found that the PPQ has a sharper recoil impulse than the Caracal. The Caracal has about the lowest bore axis you could design into an auto loading pistol. The fit and finish of the Caracal is superb, it's very nicely made.

      I do think the grip of the PPQ is slightly more ergonomic than the Caracal (it's more M&P like) but the Caracal is very comfortable to my hand and is a marked improvement over the Glock. It feels similar to the Steyr M40.

      The Caracals trigger is lighter and crisper than the Glocks, but not as light as the PPQ's trigger. It's about as light as I would comfortably go with a safety-less striker fired pistol.

      The Caracal also has a magazine release that's far more ergonomic for me, which I do find to be important for my use.

      The Walther is a outstanding pistol, one of the most interesting new pistols on the market. I also am finding the Caracal to be just as interesting. Both are outstanding firearms in my opinion, so far. Ask me again in a couple of months. :) I don't like passing final judgement on firearms until I've shot them for an extended period of time.

  6. Thank you for your reply!

    I do see where you are coming at re: the trigger. It's just too easy to make the PPQ go "BANG." You've given me some food for thought as I might carry my PPQ in colder weather. I need to consider that trigger as a possible liability as well as the thing I love most about the gun.

    I agree completely on the PPQ having a sharper recoil impulse than the Steyr (and Caracal I'd imagine, as both have similar proportions). The Walther is a very top-heavy gun, and if I could really change one thing to make it more pleasant to shoot it would be to give it a metal frame to increase the weight lower down in the hands and not so much up over them.

    Good to hear it's a well-made pistol. That's been my one big fear: That Caracal would use new manufacturing and the low number of parts to make an inferior product.

    Out of my three pistols (Steyr M9-A1, PPQ, and Sig P220) the Steyr is the most joy to hold. Bubits got it right on, and the Caracal is basically more of the same. Even lower bore axis? Sign me up!

    I saw on your videos that you do have trouble with the HK and Walther style mag releases. Most likely due to your massive mitts. You have to go with what is comfortable. Not a big deal, all things considered.

    I hope to see more of the Caracal in the future, and especially at a local gun store so I can fondle it for myself. Your review and thoughts on it and the alternatives for concealed carry are most interesting. You gave me something to think about: Can a trigger be *too* perfect?

  7. My EDC is an XD40sc and I am currently working on getting either a service or tactical model to go with it. Have you tested the sc to see if it might be a choice? The Steyr A1's might be a choice as well, like the S-A1 which is about g19 sized, Steyr is bringing them in again and I came close to using them myself.

  8. I think you are on to something with the Caracal. There are several reasons why this gun should get some serious consideration, such as: 1) The Caracal passed the German Army pistol test and approved for NATO 2) For the past five years it has been tested and issued to police forces in Europe. 3) It is heavily and I mean heavily bankrolled by big oil money, which means everything will be done to make this gun a success. Like any new product there will be issues-doesn't every pistol have minor production issues- but I get the feeling over the long run it will make a positive impact on the industry. Keep making Caracal reviews, you're ahead of the curb on this product.

  9. Glock is over-priced and the design is out-dated (not a hater, just stating something that a lot of Glock-heads already know). The market is ready for full turnover and S&W/Springfield/HK/Walther have failed to deliver a quality product at a competitive price. Caracal *could* be "the one" provided it gets its price, distribution and production in line. Right now @ $400 street retail, the pistol is uber-competitive ans could make a sweep if all goes well. The design is obviously rock solid.