There’s a new 9mm kid in town, and I’m willing to bet he’s here to stay. The SAR 9 is a new full size, striker-fired pistol from the factory of longtime gun maker Sarsilmaz, of Turkey.
The Turks are accomplished gun-makers, and rather than default the country’s, and Sarsilmaz’s usual double/single action design, they put the modern striker fire action to work borrowing elements from many existing, familiar pistols, and adding original features to come up with a very functional handgun.
While that may not sound original, I think it’s brilliant. The company allowed the striker-fired platform market to mature, and then harvested many of the most popular elements of various designs—including, as far as I can tell, Glock, H&K’s VP9, and perhaps the Arsenal Firearms’ Stryk B, among others. The result is a user-oriented pistol that I think is destined to become popular.
What’s so great about the design? It starts with handling. The SAR 9 has a low bore axis and deep grip—that is, the barrel is aligned almost as closely as is possible to the long bones of the shooter’s forearm, and the web of the hand is seated not behind, but slightly under the rear of, the slide. This feature dramatically improves recoil management.
It’s not quite as low as the Stryk B’s, but is one of the lowest I’ve tested.
Many pistol makers have learned that consumers would rather not struggle to release a magazine. Sarsilmaz didn’t have to evolve its mag release like Glock, it simply put a protruding release on the first edition of this gun. It’s still an original design, though. The teardrop-like shape of the release button invites natural, correct operation, but doesn’t facilitate unintended dropping of the mag when the gun is in a firing grip.
Hands come in every size and vary greatly in proportions. Sarsilmaz brilliantly combined both existing and original elements to make this one very comfortable gun in terms of grip. The SAR 9 comes with interchangeable backstrap and side panels, so users can mix and match to find their preferred fit. This configuration is a near-replica of the VP9 by H&K, including the prominent palm swell integral to the large panels.
But the ergonomics don’t stop there. Sculpted depressions on each side of the grip make it easy to get the trigger finger placed just right, even for those of us with shorter fingers. The thumb side’s depression allows for a solid, fist-like grip with the strongest part of the firing hand. Recoil control is aided yet again by the design of the trigger guard—if this is a copied design, I’ve not noticed it before. The rearmost point of the trigger guard is thinned and slanted slightly upward, allowing the highest, most solid possible grip from the support hand.
Serrations fore and aft of the ejection port give decent traction for slide manipulation. There’s a rail for a light—or compact chainsaw, for USA Today readers. A cut-out on each side of the magazine well, and substantial magazine floorplates, insure a secure purchase on the mag for clearing double feeds. The magazines are metallic and drop freely in normal operation, full or empty. If they aren’t made by respected mag producer Mec-Gar, they’re a good imitation. Two 15 round mags come with a new Sarsilmaz SAR 9.
The SAR 9 is topped by a three-dot sight setup that’s really easy to use. The rear dovetailed sight is windage-adjustable; the front is pinned. They’re quality steel sights and the only downside I can see is that it’s not currently interchangeable with any aftermarket sights.
The trigger has a Glock-esque safety block which is consistent, if not the smoothest one I’ve felt. Travel is about 0.75 inches, and feels a bit like driving on fine gravel. There’s a very short section–a quarter inch, maybe–of roll between the very clear wall to the break. Reset is, in my estimation, just right. Not match-trigger close, but half or less to full extension, and distinct.
Words like “gravely” aren’t usually associated with compliments on a trigger. But I think this is an ideal handgun for new semi-auto shooters, or more experienced ones who’ve never developed a feel for trigger operation. Its consistent performance, palpable stages of pull, and ease of operation make it an easier gun to learn on than one a more precision-oriented trigger.
As an instructor, I see this as a valuable tool for developing good shooters. The SAR 9 is capable of putting in expert performances with a competent trigger-presser. It’s a gun to start with, and stay with.
The only thing I dislike about this pistol is its external safety lever, which is all-ambi, all the time. It’s nicely textured and appropriately adjusted for operating with the firing hand thumb. But I dislike external safeties and feel they cost precious time under stress, whether it be competition or defense. I rely on a good holster and finger discipline for safety. That’s a personal preference, and I respect that some folks attach great piece of mind to these devices.
The SAR 9 is accurate; it was easy to consistently hit an 8-inch steel target–a cool portable one, sponsored by CTS Targets, at 20 yards. There was some difference in ammunition. FMJ, all 124 grain, from LAX and Winchester performed well. Aguila’s 124 grain load tended to impact left for some reason. All three brands cycled without any problems.
Where field stripping is concerned, Sarsilmaz again took a good thing and made it better. The procedure is similar to that of a Glock or Canik: clear the gun, press the trigger, pull back on the slide slightly while pulling down on the takedown mechanism, and voila, a disassembled gun. The difference here is the SAR 9’s traction-enhanced, sizable takedown lever makes this already easy process even easier.
I don’t know about you, but I love not having little parts to risk lose, and the ability to quickly and simply clean my handgun so I can move on to what’s next.
Here are the specs on this good-looking and practical range gun–
Overall length: 7.5 inches
Barrel: 4.4 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Width: 1.4 inches
Weight: 26.4 ounces, unloaded
The SAR 9 has an MSRP of $495, below much of the competition. Finding a holster may be challenging, but with the success I believe this gun will see in the US, perhaps custom models will be available in the next couple years. The model in this test is blued/black, with a black-and-stainless model forthcoming as well.
All around, it’s a great shooter that I enjoyed very much. What do you think?
Check out what I have to say about concealed carry holsters for women, next.
*All photos by Team HB.