Monday, October 03, 2011

Caracal 9mm Compact

There are a few pistols that feel like the warm handshake of an old friend when you pick them up: the Browning Hi-Power (with the right grips), the CZ 75, and the SIG P210 (drool, drool) to name a few.  Well you can welcome the Caracal line of pistols to your list of friendly grasps as well.

I was delighted to find both the full sized and compact Caracal models on display at Bill's Gun Shop and Range in Robbinsdale, MN.  If you're not familiar with the Caracal you'll want to be.  For the record Caracal International LLC (a subsidiary of Tawazun Holding Company) manufactures semi-automatic pistols in the United Arab Emirates.

In looking over the Caracal externally you will make an immediate comparison with the Steyr Model M and S pistols and internally you will you will see a resemblance to the Glock line.

There is a good reason for the comparison; Caracal brought Austrian handgun designer Wilhelm Bubits to bring their pistol to life.  Even if you are not familiar with Bubits you will probably not be surprised to find out that he worked for Glock before joining Steyr in 1997.  There he created the Model M and S pistols before being summoned to Abu Dhabi to head Caracal's research and development team.

After the Caracal pistols were manufactured they were independently tested by the Federal German Armed Forces Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunition.  They put the pistols through an extensive examination of the strength of the metallurgy all the way through thorough endurance testing, exposure to the elements, reliability, safety, and accuracy.  The pistols passed all tests and were approved for used by NATO forces.

To get into the specifications the Caracal pistols are polymer framed with carbon steel slides.  Additionally the 9mm Compact model has a capacity of 15 +1 rounds, a 3.67 inch barrel, a slide length of 6.7 inches, a height of 4.8 inches, a width of 1.1 inches, weighs in at 26.1 ounces, sports 2-dot sights and has a trigger pull of 4.14 pounds.  All in all in a comparison with the Glock 19 it is a little smaller with a better trigger pull.

The two striking features that immediately draw your eye are the grip frame and the bore axis.  The ergonomical grip has a nicely rounded butt with a grip angle of 111 degrees.

What the grip doesn't have are the bothersome finger grooves found on Glock pistols.  While they fit some hands very well there are other hands that they don't fit, mine being two of them.  The Caracal grip has some nice sized checkering molded into the grip making the finger grooves unnecessary.  The pistol also does not have interchangeable back straps to increase or decrease the size of the grip.  While this is a welcome addition to the Glock Gen 4 pistols I don't seem to feel that the Caracal needs this feature.  

The very low bore axis (similar to the Steyr pistols) holds the barrel and slide about as close to the shooter's hand as possible which allows you to get a very high grip on the pistol.
This reduces muzzle flip which allows for faster recovery time between shots so your follow-up shots can be taken more quickly.

The trigger also contains the inner pivoting trigger safety that keeps the trigger locked until the trigger is fully acquired by the shooter's trigger finger.  The trigger pull is lighter than the Glock with just a little take up before engaging the sear and letting off at an average of 4.14 pounds of pressure.  The trigger guard is nicely rounded rather than the squared version on the Glock pistol.  The squared Glock trigger guard seems to have fallen out of favor as there is a cottage industry of gunsmiths who are making a living customizing the Glock and rounding off the trigger guard.  The portions of the frame forward of the trigger guard contains a molded-in accessory rail for mounting tactical lights, lasers, hoop earrings, car keys, holiday tree lights, health club access cards, and a host of other things I do not want hanging off my pistol.  

The Caracal sports fixed sights that feature a two-dot sighting system akin to the Heinie Straight Eight sights.  These consist of a white dot on the front sight post and a white dot on the bottom of the rear sight groove.  You simply stack the front dot on top of the rear dot; it is really quite simple.

I have several friends that don't like the straight eight sights reasoning that they are not built for accuracy.  They may have a point; they are built for fast target acquisition under stressful situations not precise "I can take as much time as I want to in order to line up my sights" scenarios.  In terms of accuracy please examine the targets posted below and see what you think.  The rear sights are an integral part of the striker back plate and thus are not adjustable for windage.  With the advances in precision CNC machining the rear sight is exactly in the middle.  If your shooting style requires any further adjustments the front sight is dovetailed into the frame and can be drifted (but remember that when adjusting the front sight you move the sight in the opposite direction as your point of impact).

One question that will take some time to answer is how durable the finish will be and can the metal treatment adequately fight off the effects of oxidation. Another hallmark of the Glock pistols is their Tennifer metal treatment.  I have seen many slightly abused Glocks for sale in the "used handgun" cases at many gun shops and while the finish may be worn off I have never seen any rust.  Obviously this was a part of the German Army testing criteria and one would assume that it passed with flying colors but we will need some time to see how the Caracal pistols age with use.  I can tell you that the finish on the frame and slide are a very attractive grayish-olive color that is applied very evenly and has a "slick" appearance to it. 

The Caracal disassembles very much like a Glock.  Remove the magazine and triple check to make sure that the pistol is empty with no round in the chamber. Pull the trigger.  Slip your thumb under the rear of the slide and wrap your hand over the top.  Move the slide about 5mm to the rear and, with your other hand, pull down on the slide take-down lever located on the frame just above the trigger.  This lever extends to both sides of the frame and you will have to pull down on both sides as you would on a Glock.

The slide then glides off of the frame rails and you can remove the recoil spring and barrel...just as you would a Glock.

While Caracal went to great extreme to remove any sharp edges they did leave three, however they should not be a problem during combat firing.  The three sharp edges are all of metal and they are a tab on the front of the magazine, the slide release lever, and the slide take-down lever.  While these originally concerned me I have found that they do not play a role during combat shooting.

My fingers and hands do not make contact with the tab on the front of the magazine while conducting combat reloads and I use the sling shot methong of releasing the slide rather than using the slide release lever when charging the pistol.

Of the three sharp edges the least sharp edge is the slide take-down lever and it will only be accessed long after the stress of the shooting has stopped so it won't be a problem either.

So, enough with all this technical blather...let's see what happened on the firing range:


Range Ammo

Two fired at 21 feet with Winchester 115 grain FMC ammo:

Winchester 115 grain FMC ammo fired at 40 feet:

Winchester 115 grain FMC ammo fired at 50 feet:

Magtech 124 grain FMC ammo fired at 75 feet:

Zombie at 25 feet hit with 35 rounds of Magtech ammo:

Defensive Ammo All Shot at 21 Feet

Remington HD Ultimate Home Defense 124 grain Bonded Jacketed Hollowpoint

Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point

Speer 124 grain +P GDHP (the +P ammo did show the expected additional recoil but it was not too much of a problem):

HPR 124 grain Jacketed Hollow Point Ammo

Federal Guard Dog 105 grain:

The Guard Dog ammo contains a rubber filler in the cavity inside the round.  It is designed to provide maximum expansion and energy dispersal as soon as it hits the target thereby reducing the chance of over penetration or ricochet if the shooter misses their assailant.

Overall everyone who shot the Caracal was impressed including Ana

Who shot it well despite the handicap of the footwear she chose to wear to the range.

Caracal is also producing their pistols in .40 caliber if you find that you can't live with a 9mm pistol.  I would love to find one in .40 and see how the low bore axis affects the muzzle flip.

You can probably guess by now that I really like this pistol. The grip shape and angle give it excellent "point-ability". I would only have two requests:
1. Night Sights (which I would imagine will be available sometime in the near future)

2. Dish-Washer Safe (I am waiting for someone to make a pistol that can just be broken down and thrown in the dishwasher for easy cleaning)

Stay safe until next time,
Average Joe

For those who have been asking about who is distributing the pistol I now have that information.  It is OMB in Olathe, Kansas:

OMB Guns

15765 South Keeler Street

Olathe, KS 66062

(913) 322-8412


Fargazer said...

I test fired the Caracal F along side the new XDM 5.25 at Sevier Indoor Range a couple months back. I found the Caracal's trigger to be absolutely outstanding - smooth, crisp, and a pleasure to shoot. I ran about 200 rounds through the two guns, and my groups were significantly smaller with the Caracal.

My only concern is that the Caracal USA Facebook page has disappeared, and the page directly feeds I want to find out a bit more about their USA distributor presence before purchase.

Anonymous said...

As a heads up, it is known that the Glock series (noted 23 and 19's) have been washed in dishwashers before. Check out a few of the forums - whether this is true or not, I don't know, but I know the original Austrian Army requirements that the Glock was designed/built to fulfill are pretty incredible.

That said, Excellent article - as a Steyr owner, it's rare to see anyone that finds, much less reports, anything about our beloved Bubit's pistols.


Al said...

I read a review of this pistol in one of the gun magazines (rags) as I have also read them to be described anyway, a most interesting gun and as usual an excellent review.
Thank's Al
PS some many guns- so little time!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm sure there's a typo in your review where it states that the barrel length is 2.67" - I suspect you mis-typed the first number.

I appreciate your taking the time to review this one. I saw one of the full-sized ones in a shop in Santa Fe and was a little dismayed by the asking price - yet intrigued by the gun's slight engineering differences from other striker-fired pistols. Yours is the first review I've seen on these - thank you very much.

erich martell
albuquerque nm

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


You are indeed correct. It is 3.67 inches. I will correct it. Thanks for spotting it.

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


CaracalUSA does seem to be an enigma right at the moment. A local retailer was interested in ordering one after my comments but was unable to find either a distributor or a direct importer. The CaracalAE sight directs you to a person in Tennessee but it has been 48 hours with no answer to my email. I will continue to sleuth and see what I can find out.

Anonymous said...

Bill's a favorite stop for a bit since it is so close to my office and well....

Have to have a looksee at these next time I am there..

Need some range time also and will be there next week...

Anonymous said...

I knew a highway patrolman many years ago who said he took off the grips of his stainless steel S&W .357 and put it in the washing machine for cleaning. He probably blow dried it with his wife's hair dryer and then gave it lube job.

Matt L. DeTectre

Anonymous said...

Waffen Werks and Inrange C2 are the importers. There is supposed to be a shipment of Caracals in. They passed customs a few days ago.

Fargazer said...

I see the caracalusa page now says under construction; that's something at least. Waffen Works has basically a "placeholder" web page. Any more word on official Caracal presence on the web?

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

For those who have been asking about who is distributing the pistol I now have that information. It is OMB in Olathe, Kansas:

OMB Guns
15765 South Keeler Street
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 322-8412

If you contact them please let them know that Average Joe sent you!

Anonymous said...

OMB GUNS in Olathe, Ks is distributing the Caracal pistol. Any dealer can get one from them. They list the gun on their website.

T Gugs said...

Awaiting the .45 acp version supposedly coming soon....

Fargazer said...

I have just spoken to OMBguns (I'm on a business trip to Kansas City), and they are winnowing the number of guns they are carrying - they will no longer be getting Caracal guns. They are out of the compact, but they do have some of the full size models yet.

Warranty service is still through WaffenWorks. I'm stopping over today to get more details.

Anonymous said...

Shot the Caracal F the last 2 days and ran through 600 rounds of different ammo including WWB.Zero issues of any kind,fit and finish are top notch!

David said...

Thank you for all your reviews! Your review on the STI Rogue influenced me to buy one!

Now I am reading about this Caracal and once again I am intrigued.

Have you handled a polymer STI GP5? I am curious how this compares. I have narrowed my next pistol down to the Caracal and STI GP5 (I know, 2 completely different pistol types). :)

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


I have not shot the polymer STI GP5. I have only seen one in the gun stores in my neck of the woods.

David said...

Thank you for the reply! I ordered a "C" version today. Can't wait to try it out!

Blake said...

I just got a caracal pistol and took it to the range today... I think it really does have less felt recoil then any other pistol i have shot because of the grip design. Here is a video of me shooting it if you want to check it out