So you’ve got a handgun. Maybe you took an introductory safety course or a Level 1 handgun course. Perhaps you went so far as to get your license to carry. What’s next? Answer: more training and lots and lots of practice. But how to practice? What do you work on? How do you know? And How do you know if you’re equipped for the next level of training?
A few weeks ago I took the new Introduction to Intermediate Pistol class at Eagle Gun Range. The course has a valuable premise: it’s an introduction to running and manipulating your pistol properly, safely, and effectively—and—shooting faster and more competently. It’s not touted as a super-tactical gunfighting class and it is not that kind of class. Rather, it is supposed to be an instructional bridge that teaches relative beginners how to train toward that next level of gun-manipulation and operation competence.
Here I’ll present my impressions and evaluation of the class and point to what kind of shooter I believe this class is best suited.
Who is This Class Made For?
I believe this class is good for all kinds of people. It will be valuable for relatively new shooters as well as those who are experience, but have only ever practiced at a strict indoor range or engaged only in target practice. It is good for those who want to improve their self-defense competencies and those who are considering getting into competitive shooting. This class is in many ways a bridge from static target practice to high-speed run-and-gun shooting, as this class teaches the skills required in order to get there. That said, it is still a beginner-friendly class provided one has solid safety fundamentals.
Instruction for this class starts in the classroom. There, the focus begins with safety fundamentals and then those of grip, body attitude, and engagement technique. For many students, the demonstrations and explanations of safe and competent gun handling basics will hold value and provide fodder for practice.
The instructors’ detailed examination of proper grip is a vital component of the instruction. I find that many shooters at any gun range I visit lack proper understanding of grip. Their competence is greatly harmed by their poor technique. Even experienced shooters will do well to pay close attention here.
With that foundation, the classroom instruction moves into explanations and demonstrations of various gun handling operations. For example: proper techniques for reloading your pistol by exchanging magazines and an examination of various malfunctions and demonstrations for how to clear them. There are also examinations and explanations of what happens when you’re under stress and recommendations for how to maintain proper fundamentals and effective gun handling in those circumstances. Lastly, there is demonstration and explanation of the 4-step draw from a holster.
When the class moves out onto the shooting bay, as you might expect, there is the opportunity to put into practice all of the fundamentals and techniques discussed in the classroom portion. There is also, however, the introduction of some new things and the course of fire is designed to progress from easy to difficult with each technique practiced. The result is an opportunity to experience some of the under-stress shooting and gun handling presented as theory in the classroom portion.
My Thoughts on the Course
I was largely impressed by both the course content and the instruction. While every other class I’ve seen dwells either on basic fundamentals or practical techniques, this class bridges the gap. While proper grip and body attitude fundamentals are still fresh in mind, students in this class get to dive into practical techniques, like accurate rapid fire and mid-shooting-string reloads. There is great value in this approach.
I particularly like the way the shooting portion presents a course of fire that progresses from easy to difficult, allowing students to A) learn to progress in an effective and regimented fashion, and B) stretch their abilities and find failure points in a safe environment. What’s more, the instructional method in this class gives the student an effective blueprint for further self practice.
I left the class feeling like this was a course largely lacking in the industry; one that helps firearm owners and everyday carriers learn the most important practical techniques vital to responsible manipulation and operation of their tools, while at the same time allowing them to explore failure points rather than simply meet or fail to meet a class standard. This is a class that also allows students to come away equipped (after self practice) to try more advanced classes or perhaps dip their toe into the competitive world.
So I’m a big fan of this Introduction to Intermediate Pistol class and I’m very glad to see Eagle Gun Range offering it. I sincerely hope every one of their customers takes it!
One common approach to everyday carry of a handgun involves carrying a different model or even different platform in different carry positions or using different carry methods, all depending on the circumstances, weather, and clothing. There is some concealment logic to this approach, but I’m going to argue against that as a long-term strategy. Instead I advocate carrying a single larger gun model, no matter the context or your clothing. There’s a learning curve and experience factors involved, but I believe that anything else introduces unacceptable compromises of concealment and defensive capability.
First, the problem. A common, contextual approach to everyday carry typically involves something like this:
a larger gun and a backup magazine in winter, carried in one’s default carry position, when heavier clothes make concealment easier
a smaller gun and no backup magazine in summer, when lighter clothing make concealment more difficult, possibly carried in a different position than in cooler months
a smaller, single-stack gun and no backup magazine for formal dress, when a tucked-in shirt and thinner fabrics make concealment and carrying extra gear more difficult, possibly carried in a different position than with informal attire
a larger gun and one or two backup mags for potentially more dangerous contexts (like going into the city or to a movie theater with the family)
Surely not all concealed carriers do all of these things, but my reading and conversations indicate that almost all concealed carriers make some or all of these contextual changes (and I was one of them). For many people, however, these changes are unnecessary. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe they work against better concealment rather than helping it. Moreover, these supposedly advisable contextual changes are in many ways detrimental to competent self defense.
I advocate for a larger size carry gun (the largest you can carry), carried one way, in one position only, in all contexts and weather, and with all kinds of clothing. Having done this myself, I can tell you that it is economically beneficial and enhances concealment, confidence, and competence. It makes my everyday concealed carry lifestyle simple and reassuring. In peaceful times, this approach offers fewer opportunities for me to exhibit physical behaviors (telltales for concealing something) that pique the interest of those looking at me. Should violence threaten, it offers surety and the opportunity for an unambiguous and unfettered automatic response.
Aside: Note that in the hero photo for this article, I’m carrying my Glock 19 (a 15+1-capacity, mid-sized pistol) right in front in appendix position. No one in public would know.
Why a larger carry gun?
Concealed carry is not about what is likely to happen. As I’ve observed before, one carries a concealed weapon for what is highly unlikely to ever happen. When something terrible or threatening does happen, we have no say in its context or severity. It’s easier to be competent with a larger gun than with a smaller gun, especially as the number of threats and the engagement distance varies.
The rise of Islamic terrorism means that we are living in a war that could erupt at any time in any public place. Concealed carry used to occur almost exclusively in the context of providing a means of defending against, most likely, one or two threats at very close range. Modern concealed carry is wartime concealed carry. It is potentially about defending yourself and possibly your family against five or six terrorists armed with automatic rifles and suicide-bomb vests, at ranges far greater than 5 yards. In such a horrible scenario you may not be able to escape and instead have to fight your way to safety. This is not to say that one must approach concealed carry to account for such a scenario, but rather that the potential exists and one may want to responsibly prepare toward the needs of a difficult and unthinkable context.
Why one carry position/method only?
If you carry your primary concealed handgun in different locations and with different carry methods depending on context or clothing, that means you have to train to be subconsciously competent bringing your gun into the fight from each of those positions and methods, with all of those different kinds of clothing—AND—defending your gun in all of those positions (retention against an attempt to take it from you). It means you have to have to accumulate thousands upon thousands of practice reps from each of those positions, with all of those different kinds of clothing; dry reps and live-fire reps.
As one who trains almost every day, I can tell you that I barely have time to keep up with requisite training and practice from just one carry position and method (with all kinds of clothing). If I had to multiply my training by two or three different positions & methods, there’s almost no way I could develop sure competence and confidence. But even if I could, there would be one issue remaining: my unthinking, automatic response in a panicked moment of crisis. I simply wouldn’t have a sure response to get to my gun.
When I began competing in pistol competition, I trained to get my draw from holster smooth, fast, and sure as I began to engage targets. What I found, though, was that my training to draw from my OWB holster on my hip conflicted with my training to draw from my IWB concealed holster in front of my body for everyday carry. By training, I was effectively muddying the waters and ensuring I would be confused, wrong, or tentative when it came to drawing the right way from the right location depending on the circumstance. My training two different ways made sure I had no proper, automatic response. I faltered in both situations on a regular basis.
Because of this and because my life was more important than my match results, I resolved to compete only where I was allowed to run from concealment at all times. That way all of my training was concentrated on the one way I would get to my gun should a deadly threat arise. I put it to you that if you practice getting to your primary gun at different carry locations, you’re training your mechanics, but destroying any chance of an automatic response in a moment of crisis.
Practice makes permanent. For your emergency draw from concealment, when you’ve no time to think, you’re going to have one and only one intuitive response. If you train to draw from two or three carry positions, which one is going to be the one you go to in an unthinking, panicked manner? Will it be the one where your pistol is right now? No, there’s no way to know that. It’s going to be the one you practice the most. Therefore, there should be one and only one carry method and position for your primary defensive weapon.
Many of us carry more than one defensive weapon, even more than one handgun at a time. A backup gun means carrying in a different location than your primary, but the defensive context is different for a BUG and is not contextual to or compromised by what I’m advocating here. With a primary gun of a single model, a BUG should be of either the same model or at least the same platform as your primary.
Why only one model, or at least one platform?
For the same reasons mentioned earlier; training allows us to develop competence with automatic, subconscious technique. We can develop one automatic response, but not two or more. Different platforms (e.g. 1911 and Glock) demand different initializing actions as we bring the firearm into the fight and as we reholster. As responsible gunmen, it is required that we accomplish these tasks automatically, correctly, and safely. We can think our way though variations, but only if we remember to do so (which, as history shows, doesn’t happen in a stressful situation).
Therefore, the vast majority of our training should be with a single platform and, ideally, a single model of handgun. Only in this way will one be able to develop safe, subconscious, automatic competence.
Toward Better Concealment
Concealment is as much about skill as it is about anything else, including clothing and gun size, but it helps when you can concentrate on a single firearm model, a single carry method, and single carry position. By skill I mean competence with how to stand, how to walk, how to run, how to work, how to engage in all manner of physical activity without betraying your concealment and without looking odd doing it.
With experience one can learn to determine the optimal carry position for all circumstances, the optimal gun angle for that location, and the optimal ride height for the gun, all to maximize concealment and comfort with any kind of clothing. Skill and experience aside, equipment can contribute substantially to proper concealment. Here are a few advisable components:
The Right Holster:
Concealment for any firearm will be impractical or even impossible without a holster of proper quality and geometry. The right holster should be 100% Kydex and not leather or some combination of leather or rubber and Kydex (“hybrid” holster). The holster should be one that has a proven track record of retention, longevity, proper belt grip, location stability (stays where it’s put), and it should provide proper angle on all 3 axis—inherently or with built-in adjustment.
Very few holsters meet these important requirements. In my experience, for IWB, only the Incog Eclipse and Incog Shadow Eclipse holsters and the Raven Concealment Eidolon holsters are made to conceal properly, retain well, and stay in place. Moreover, they’re adjustable. Note that only the Incog holsters are comfortable to wear and easy to don and remove. It is also easy to train with (for repeated draws and reholsters). The Eidolon conceals very well, but it’s rather less comfortable and difficult to put on and take off. It is also not so great for repeated draw-reholster reps in training. In time you will learn from experience exactly what suits your individual preferences and needs, and you may discover a suitable holster I’ve missed here, but for now you might simply start with one of these systems as a first step.
One must have a reasonably flat belly to find the greatest advantage to appendix-position carry. This position allows for a larger gun because the front of your body is squishier than the side or back of your body. The position allows for a natural, fast, and easy deployment of your gun and is far easier than any other position for defending your gun from someone trying to get it. Note that if you’re a man you will have to learn how to arrange your anatomy to maintain comfort when carrying in this position (I see many who neglect this aspect and needlessly reject appendix carry).
Caveat:I recommend appendix carry only for experienced, safe gun handlers who train every week from concealment. If you don’t get a hundred or so live-fire reps from concealment every week, choose a different carry position. It could save your life.
A Rigid Gun Belt:
A belt made specifically for everyday carry allows for better concealment and easier belt-carry of a heavier gun and items like backup magazines, trauma gear, or a phone (or all of these).
Backup Magazine Pouch(es):
Habitually carrying backup magazines is a baseline responsible approach to EDC. Two magazines is no more difficult to conceal than one, so carry two as often as you can (I do this every day). Get good, concealable pouch models, like those from Gunfighters, Inc. and Bravo Concealment. Since these are OWB items, they’re not appropriate for when you’ve tucked in your shirt. In such cases, pocket carry of a backup is a good option.
Advisable Clothing Conventions:
Learning to carry concealed well means learning to adapt your wardrobe to your responsible purpose and lifestyle. Concealed carry is easier when you wear darker and/or patterned shirts that are un-tucked, and pants with more/better pockets. Practice concealing your pistol with a tucked-in, more formal shirt. Yes, practice matters and the confidence you’ll gain will help, too.
You may have to adopt some changes in your clothing routine. You may have to start wearing an undershirt every day. You may have to stop wearing white shirts. You may have to switch your brand of jeans or other pants. You may even have to change the size of t-shirt you normally wear. These are small things in the face of a choice between a responsible or irresponsible lifestyle.
Make This Your Everyday Approach
One carry gun in one position for all contexts means 1) less money spent on other guns, 2) less money spent on ammo of various calibers, 3) no need to feel less competent with a particular gun at longer ranges, 4) focused and practiced competence for concealing your firearm (individual skill), and 5) Surety for reacting successfully and safely when you need to deploy your gun for defense.
If you live in one manner most days then abruptly change your clothes and/or physical mannerisms, people in your life tend to notice. You don’t want people to notice conspicuous differences so don’t portray conspicuous differences. It is advisable that if you’re going to live responsibly armed, adapt your daily conventions to accommodate your approach, holistically.
Make these aforementioned components your conventional, daily norm and you’ll find it easy to live more responsibly while having the mental surety and physical reliability of having but one habitual response for deploying your weapon should deadly circumstances arise. Moreover, you’ll find that you’re able to settle on a single, larger, more accurate firearm with better capacity for all carry contexts.
Ruger has recently been on fire, coming out with interesting and even compelling new firearms in quick succession. At a time when so many manufacturers are missing the boat, it’s good to see an American gun manufacturer doing some good things.
One of the new releases from Ruger is a compact 9mm pistol, the Security-9. It’s a double-stack, mid-sized pistol that very closely follows the dimensions of the Glock 19, but in a hammer-fired configuration that doesn’t show the hammer (it’s internal). The exterior and interior of the Security-9 make it seem very much like a larger version of the LCP II. But since it so closely mimics the Glock 19, it would seem to be a direct challenger…for nearly half the price!
Why Consider the Ruger Security-9?
Price and size vs. capacity would seem to be the strongest reasons to consider the Security-9. Its height, width, and length are almost identical to the G19 and it has the same 15+1 capacity. However, instead of a $500-$600 price tag, the Ruger comes in at $289-$380 (I’ve seen $289 already).
Its size and capacity make it a good choice for concealed carry, but it has other features that may appeal to some people. Being hammer fired, the slide is a bit easier to rack than that of a striker-fired gun. So people who have trouble with stiff recoil springs will better enjoy the Security-9. Also, the grip has a smaller circumference than that of many pistols, so those with smaller hands may like this pistol for that feature.
Ruger Security-9 Specs:
Barrel: 4” blued, alloy steel
Sights: Drift-adjustable U-notch
Safety: Left-side thumb lever
Weight: 23.7 oz. w/empty magazine
Slide: Blued, Through-Hardened alloy steel
Frame: Glass-filled nylon
Capacity: 15+1 or 10+1 (2 magazines)
First Impressions from Shooting the Security-9
I found nothing remarkably good or bad about shooting the Security-9. It feels and shoots pretty much like any other polymer gun. The rear sight is a U-notch, just like that on a stock Glock pistol. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I did find it a bit difficult to pick up the front sight in the U-notch—specifically because my near vision is not the greatest—like most men my age I use reading glasses. 3-dot sights are no problem for me, but the Security-9 sights were not as clear for me and I had to work harder than normal to get proper sight alignment. Therefore, those who need reading glasses would do well to replace the dovetailed rear sight.
The sight discomfort aside, I found the Security-9 to be an accurate pistol. I did some bench-rest shots and my hits were right on at 15 yards. Unlike a Glock 19, I felt no discomfort under the trigger guard. I did notice a bit more felt recoil with this pistol than with my Glock, I guess owing to the lighter recoil spring weight, but this was negligible.
Comfort, Controllability, & Capacity
The capacity is what one would expect from a pistol of this size, but which few deliver: 15 rounds in the magazine. Most guns with 15-round capacity have a taller grip than a G19, but this Ruger manages to match that height.
The Security-9 felt good in my medium-sized hands and allows for easy reach to the trigger. The controls seem well placed and I got no raw spots on my hands from abrasion or controls rubbing me while firing. It’s a comfortable gun.
My only gripe about shooting this pistol was the lack of any structure or texture on the forward frame for my support-hand thumb (this is a common complaint of mine) so I was unable to enlist the help of my thumb to mitigate muzzle flip. It’s likely that a bit of stippling there would help (if it’s possible to stipple a glass-filled-nylon frame). Muzzle flip wasn’t bad, after all the pistol has quite the low bore axis, but I’d prefer a landing for my thumb.
Components and Features
The slide is nicely contoured and has curved serrations front and rear. I found them to be easily grippable for slide racking. The hammer is concealed inside the slide so this looks and seems to work like a striker-fired pistol. The glass-filled nylon frame grip has texture identical to that on the LCP II, so it’s grippy, but mild. I still say it’ll require stippling for daily carry.
The trigger is almost exactly like that of the LCP II. It is very smooth and almost without a wall. It does not bind up before the break, but has more of a hammer-fired characteristic (since it is a hammer-fired gun). There is absolutely no overtravel, due to the built-in stop on the bottom of the trigger guard. The reset is a bit long for my taste. I short stroked the reset a time or two when shooting. That said, the trigger is really quite nice and I would not balk at this trigger on any of my guns.
The sights are drift adjustable and are, I believe, metal of some sort, though I cannot find information on just what material they’re made from. There is a thumb safety lever on the left side of the frame. It is small and unobtrusive, but I found it very difficult to operate. I could not use my strong-hand thumb to engage the safety, but managed to thumb it “off”. I had to use my support hand to engage the safety. Really stiff.
Some components that immediately got my attention were the aluminum (!) slide rails and the thin, contoured barrel. The slide rails are the full length of the internal components, but they’re made of aluminum. I don’t know how common aluminum slide rails are among firearms, but I cannot imagine this is a good choice, as the steel of the slide will surely wear down the rails in time. The barrel is quite thin as compared to other 9mm pistol barrels, and it has that LCP contour toward the mouth of the barrel, rendering it paper thin at that point. Again, I’d prefer a thicker construction and have to believe this is a potential point of failure with much use.
Comparing the Security 9 with the Glock 19
Since the Security-9 is almost identical in dimension and weight to the Glock 19, one assumes it is meant to be a commercial challenger. So here is a side-by-side comparison of specs:
4″ cold hammer forged
Drift-adjustable w/U-marked rear
Polymer w/U-marked rear
Black Melonite +nDLC
This is a 15+1 pistol that is light and almost exactly the size of a G19 for about 60% of the price! This makes it an inexpensive way for responsible folks to carry an adequately sized gun. It is comfortable, easy to rack the slide, and is good for folks with smaller hands. The trigger is quite nice and it’s an accurate pistol for defensive ranges. The sights are drift adjustable.
The slide rails are made of aluminum. The barrel is of less than optimal construction and thickness. The sights will likely need to be replaced.
So for rating the Ruger Security-9 SECURITY-9…
It’s no Sphinx, but the grip is comfortable and most of the controls are well placed, but for the thumb safety.
Definitely an easy-to-shoot pistol, but the frame construction doesn’t allow you to use your support hand to mitigate muzzle flip.
I found it accurate out to 15 yards (likely more, but I didn’t test at longer ranges).
The Security-9 is slightly thinner than a Glock 19, making it eminently concealable for many folks.
For the price, the Ruger Security-9 appears to be a very good value.
This is an interesting pistol. It would seem to embody some important trade-offs. It’s a pistol almost identical in dimension and size to a Glock 19, but the construction and components are not on par with Glock quality. However, you get an otherwise nice pistol for around 60% of the cost of the Glock! It’s a hammer-fired gun, but you don’t see the hammer. You get a nice trigger, but the components may not last for as many rounds as would a more expensive gun.
My conclusion here is that if you’re looking for a mid-capacity, concealable, well-functioning, easy-to-shoot pistol but have a tight budget, this would be a good one to pick up. For the price, the Ruger Security-9 would seem to offer an excellent value.
Like most folks, I’m right handed. Like many serious shooters, I don’t like the idea of referring to my left hand as my weak hand because I don’t want to get comfortable with the idea or even the label of weakness. So for shooting, and like a lot of folks, I refer to my left hand as my support hand. It is a fact that I’m more competent with my right hand for most things, but responsibility requires that I work to develop and maintain left-handed skills; in shooting and in other things.
Support-hand shooting is something that not many gun owners practice. From what I’ve seen, even those who are serious about training devote precious little time and effort to developing support-hand skills. This is especially true with regard to manipulation skills, like malfunction clearing and in-fight reloads.
That said, support-hand shooting competence is something every responsible citizen should continually work to develop. Among the reasons for this is the fact that if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a gunfight in defense of your life or family or home, it is not unlikely that you yourself will be wounded by gunfire. If one of those wounds is to your primary hand or arm (which is highly likely since it will probably be in front of your body), without support-hand competence you are no longer capable of defending life or home. As a result you will be defeated. In a gunfight, this means you and perhaps others will die.
Therefore, support-hand training is not something that should be relegated to the military or LEOs or competitive shooters. It’s fundamental and should be a part of each week’s training, in both live-fire and dry-fire practice. If one is not capable of support-hand manipulations and marksmanship, one is 50% incapable.
While support-hand live-fire and dry-fire drills are important, there is yet more one can do to improve support-hand competence. If you get into the habit of using your support hand in mundane tasks in your daily life, your body will grow new neural pathways and establish more confidence and a more holistic physical competence.
A Holistic Approach
What follows here are anecdotes from my own life and approach, but I share them as an illustration of ideas and methods you might adopt in your approach to become more competent in your left-handed activities, shooting or others.
I’ll admit right now that I’m a bit of an odd character because since childhood I have been uncomfortable with the idea of “handedness”—right or left—and so I have struggled against it in various ways. I can remember in high school I once turned in a 3-page essay I wrote with my left hand and in mirror-image cursive, which required my teacher hold it up to a mirror to read and grade (I got an A). While that was mostly a prank, it was also a test for me to see if I could actually do it and write legibly. Though I don’t practice it, to this day I can write near perfect cursive in mirror image at speed with my left hand. I’m strange that way.
I later adopted other practices that exercised my left hand and left-side competence. In the late 1980s I took up martial arts practice, which has a built-in doctrine of all techniques being practiced lefty and righty. I’ve since spent almost 30 years in several-days-a-week left-hand defensive training. In order to gain more competence with my left-handed defensive techniques early on, I changed conventions in my life outside of martial arts training. For instance, I took up eating exclusively with my left hand. I had to learn to not decorate my face with my food or perform clumsily on the plate with a fork or spoon. I also began brushing my teeth left handed. After decades, these are practices that I maintain today.
It is no fluke then that when I took up shooting I was eager to explore left-handed pistol technique and switch-handed rifle manipulations. The latter is especially useful for left-side barricade/cover shooting, as it allows you to conceal as much of your body as possible when defending from a left-side wall opening or corner. There are many drills one can do to practice support-hand competence, but I’ll show a few fundamental ones.
Here (below) is an example of a left-hand pistol drill, where my primary hand is out of the fight before I go to my pistol (the reload is just an opportunity to practice this component in a left-hand drill). Therefore I have to draw and reholster with my left hand only:
Here (below) is an example of a drill that simulates a primary-arm injury mid fight, where I have to switch to my support hand to finish and prevail:
And for rifle…
Here (below) is an example of right and left-handed rifle manipulations around a barricade:
These are just some practical drills, but there are many more drills one can do to practice support-hand competence. A good place to start is to do with your support hand anything/everything you do with both or just right hand during a training session. Just add left-hand sequences as a matter of course.
The biggest obstacle to support-hand training, and the reason almost no one does it, is because we typically suck at it, and it is hard and galling to spend time doing what you’re terrible at. This is especially true where there are other people at the range who will see you sucking at stuff. In this respect, we allow our egos to perhaps one day get us killed.
That said, this ego obstacle must be overcome if one is to become a competent shooter and gun handler. The alternative is that one lives as a secret incompetent; never publicly shamed until that fateful day when one gets killed by a punk because of an inability to draw a concealed pistol or clear a malfunction with the untrained hand.
Bite the bullet and resolve to be clumsy and inaccurate in front of other people. It doesn’t matter and most folks are ignoring you at the range anyway. An easy way to approach your training is to run every drill or shoot every string three ways: both hands, right hand, and left hand. In time that incompetence will turn into semi-competence and then actual competence. But that will never happen if you never work on what you’re now terrible at doing.
There is precious little innovation in the firearms industry. With few notable exceptions, just about any new pistol is little more than a cosmetic makeover of another. But sometimes a company makes a bold move and releases something truly new and different. The results may be good or not so good, but disruption is a worthy goal.
Hudson is a new gun company, founded by Cy and Lauren Hudson. Their first pistol is the Hudson H9 chambered in 9mm. It’s an interesting attempt at creating a pistol with 1911-style geometry, but in a low-bore, striker-fired package and without all the crummy external controls. It’s the kind of Frankenstein creation that many gun enthusiasts have wished for and joked about for years. The H9 would seem to be the first serious attempt at realizing this fantastical ideal.
The Hudson H9 is interesting and I mean that in both the positive and negative senses of the term. Being the first of its kind, it is due both thorough exploration and likely much criticism. That’s the nature of going first. Pioneers take plenty of arrows and after spending some time this month shooting the H9 I aim to shoot a few arrows myself.
Why Consider the Hudson H9?
As a first for me, and unlike every other review I’ve written, I’m going to suggest that one should consider the Hudson H9 almost exclusively for its novelty and not for any specific use purpose. I say this because I cannot think of a specific purpose this pistol serves beyond representing an interesting exploration of new configuration.
The H9 is likely too large and too heavy to serve well as a concealed-carry tool. Its oddly-shaped forward frame means that any rail accessory, like a flashlight or laser, will produce an awkward pistol to holster for duty carry. Otherwise, duty carry could be a relevant consideration for this pistol, but I say that with reservation: this pistol configuration is as yet unproven and perhaps not optimal. I note that given its weight, good sights, and flat-shooting traits, one possible employment could be as a stock competition gun.
Hudson H9 Specs:
Trigger: ~5 pounds
Sights: Anti-glare iron rear, Trijicon HD front
Weight: 34 oz. w/empty magazine
Slide/Frame Finish: Black nitride
Before Shooting the Hudson H9
As there was a lot of buzz surrounding the H9 before it came to market, there was sure to be a lot of gossip about it after the fact. When talking to folks who had the chance to shoot it, and before I had that chance, almost to a man they told me that the H9 shoots low. The general consensus is that the front sight is too tall, resulting in a low point of impact vs. aim. I was therefore expecting to experience this same issue. As I’ll detail below, I did not…with an asterisk…
Shooting the Hudson H9
The Hudson website refers to their new pistol saying, “From its steel frame, to its straight-pull trigger, to its striker-fired design the H9 will feel instantly familiar to firearms enthusiasts.” I call false advertizing: there is nothing familiar feeling about shooting the H9. This is something different.
The recoil impulse is different. As compared to the 9mm 1911s I’ve shot, the recoil impulse is pretty strong. Having said that, there is very little muzzle flip with the H9 as compared to a 1911. I’ll attribute this to the deliberate and interesting placement of the recoil spring assembly, which rides low, inside the frame and just in front of the trigger guard. This lower placement of the recoil spring directs the impulse, in part, lower into your hand. However, the spring’s placement necessitates a shorter spring assembly, which allows for a bigger kick (I believe).
Right off the bat the pistol experienced a malfunction, as it failed to feed the first round of the first magazine when I slingshot the slide. I tapped the back of the slide and it went into battery, loading the first round. I saw no hiccups after that. My first shots were not consistent and I later attributed this inconsistent shot placement to the odd trigger construction and action. The H9’s trigger has a full-width shoe/safety that compresses upward, as it is hinged at the bottom. This action is unlike any other trigger on any pistol. The rest of the trigger press is, like that of a 1911, straight back. After the safety shoe takeup, there is very little travel before the crisp break. However, the odd, bottom-hinged safety action tends to result in an odd-feeling press action and perhaps compensatory hand manipulation. It is this odd mechanic to which I attribute the low hits so common to folks who have shot the Hudson H9.
In short order I was able to correct my tendency to use a different press action and accuracy returned. I soon found the H9 to be as accurate as most pistols I’ve shot. Granted, I only took the H9 out to 15 yards, but I was able to get good groups while firing multiple shots at less-than-a-second intervals. The bright front sight certainly helps with mechanical accuracy. Note that I did not do any bench-rest shooting to test the true precision of the H9.
Comfort & Controllability
The grip of the Hudson H9 is chunkier than I imagined it would be. But after all, it is still a double-stack pistol. The lack of grip contour on the front and back makes this not a terribly comfortable gun to hold, but it’s not particularly uncomfortable either. My medium-sized hands could get decent purchase, but I felt like my trigger finger needed to be slightly longer. Perhaps this is something that smaller grip shells (something coming in the future) could mitigate.
One thing I don’t like about the H9 is the flat and slick forward frame. There is neither contour nor texture for the support-hand thumb to gain purchase to help manage the recoil motion. As a result, I got more muzzle flip than I wanted, but this is not a gun that has much muzzle flip in the first place so the result was not as bad as one might expect. I expect that the relatively low bore axis and lowered recoil spring location has something to do with this. The recoil is a bit stiff for such a heavy gun, but it is rather flat shooting and easy to get the excellent sights back on target immediately.
The slide lock mechanism is kind of touchy, resulting in the pistol going into battery most times when a new magazine is inserted. It also results in the slide slipping into battery when you gently set a cleared and open pistol down on the bench. This happened to me a few times. I’d prefer a surer locking mechanism.
Components and Materials
The Hudson H9’s frame is steel and the forward slide configuration is large, which makes for quite a heavy gun. The grip shells can eventually be replaced so one will soon be able to configure the size and texture to suit. As is, the gun is a bit slick and I would not want to run it in the rain or if I had sweaty or bloody hands.
As mentioned earlier, the trigger is an odd bird. The action is straight back, similar to a 1911 trigger. However, the first press movement is the finger closing the safety/shoe onto the trigger body. This safety is hinged at the bottom so the safety moves at the top rather than at the bottom, as all other trigger safeties work. The result is a trigger press that makes the Hudson H9 feel like no gun ever made. I believe this “upside down” feel is responsible for most folks shooting low with the H9. The trigger reset is very short and quite pleasing.
The sights are excellent. The rear is serrated and blacked out and the front is a Trijicon HD sight that is highly visible and certainly helps with proper aim when shooting. Both are dovetailed and one assumes replacements will eventually be available (though likely not necessary!).
I found the external controls to all be well located for my medium-sized hands. The reversible mag release and ambidextrous slide-lock controls will be a boon to some folks. The one component that I think is just poorly done is the slide serration. I don’t care about the front serrations, but the rear serrations are rather mild, shallow, and slick. I found it easy to miss my grip and fail to cycle the slide sometimes.
With its straight movement and short reset, the trigger is great to run during fast-string shooting. The sights are excellent and the overall aesthetic, the chunky nose aside, is handsome. The recoil impulse, while stiff, is not accompanied by much muzzle flip. The Hudson H9 is an interesting exploration of a concept. I give Hudson props for jumping in with both feet in this admirable effort.
Unfortunately, I think this gun is a solution to a problem that does not exist. The H9 does not approximate the soft-shooting action of a 9mm 1911. The grip lacks any ergonomic contours. The trigger, while having some good qualities, feels odd to engage and I believe this causes sympathetic hand manipulation during the press. The slide serrations are nowhere near aggressive enough. This is quite a heavy pistol and…it’ll cost you $1,200 bucks!
So for rating the Hudson H9…
The interesting trigger is not smooth enough and has a weird-feeling press that I believe compels inaccuracy. However, the gun stays relatively flat when firing and the stock sights are excellent. Ambi controls are in the right spots.
The Hudson H9 is not a very ergonomic pistol. The ambi controls are a plus, but the grip is like a shovel’s handle.
I found the H9 to be hard to shoot accurately at first, but later found my groove. I’d say it’s as accurate as a Glock 17.
The Hudson H9 is a gun that someone needed to make. I called it a solution to a problem that does not exist, but it is the answer to a question many have had for a long time. I believe that Hudson did a pretty good job here, but there’s just too much that is not yet right, in my opinion. The concept may have legs, but Hudson needs to stretch them a bit before I’ll be sold on a gun like this. Designing toward a specific purpose would be a great next step. At present, this gun has no specific purpose for existing, beyond novelty.