Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pocket 9mm Pistols: Colt New Agent, Smith & Wesson Shield, Bersa BP9, and the SIG P938

Back at the dawning of 2012 I wrote that I expected the trend of pocket 9mm pistol to continue and this has certainly been the case.  With that I am going to look at four of them over the next several weeks.  Two of them I really like.  As I write these reviews I think it is important for everyone to keep in mind that, as in the case with most of my reviews, I am examining a sample of one pistol out of the hundreds and thousands that a manufacturer may produce.  Therefore there may be other specimens that come out of the factory that may work better or worse than the one I had the opportunity to handle.  

As pictured above and in order of their review, I will be looking at the Colt New Agent, the Smith & Wesson Shield, the Bersa BP9, and the SIG P 938.  For purposes of comparison a chart shown below lists a comparison of specifications and features between the four pistols.  For further comparison I am also listing the specifications for three additional popular pocket 9mm's: the Kimber Solo, the Ruger LC9, and the Kahr PM9.  The Kimber Solo has been reviewed and updated several times before: (http://averagejoeshandgunreviews.blogspot.com/2011/03/kimber-solo-9mm-review.html and http://averagejoeshandgunreviews.blogspot.com/2011/10/kimber-solo-revisited-for-fourth-time.html)

I have not reviewed the Kahr PM9 but it's stainless steel brother, the MK9, was reviewed here:

Additionally, I have not reviewed the Ruger LC9 as its frame and trigger just do not suit me well.  This is not a condemnation of the pistol as it works well for many other shooters.

The chart may be a little difficult to view because of its size so I recommend highlighting each row with your cursor as you view it.

Colt New Agent
Smith & Wesson Shield
Bersa BP 9mm
SIG P938
Kimber Solo
Ruger LC9
Kahr PM9
8 + 1
7 & 8 rounds +1
8 +1 rounds
7 + 1
6 + 1
7 + 1
7 +1
Single Action Only
Striker Fired
Striker Fired Short Reset DAO
Single Action Only
Single Action Striker Fired
Hammer Fired DAO
Trigger Cocking DAO
Barrel Length
3 Inches
3.1 inches
3.3 Inches
3 Inches
2.7 Inches
3.565 Inches
Trench Style
3 White Dots
3 White Dots
SIG Night Sights
3 Whit Dots
3 Dot Adj.
White Dot
Overall Length
6.7 Inches
6.1 Inches
6.35 Inches
5.9 Inches
5.5 Inches
6 Inches
5.8 Inches
1.26 Inches
.95 Inches
.94 Inches
1.1 Inches
1.2 Inches
0.90 Inches
.90 Inches
Overall Height
5 Inches
4.6 Inches
4.8 Inches
3.9 Inches
3.9 Inches
4.50 Inches
4.5 Inches
24.5 ounces
19 ounces
21.5 ounces
16 ounces
17 ounces
17.1 ounces
17 ounces
Trigger Pull
3.3 pounds
6.5 pounds
5.4 pounds
7.8 pounds
7 pounds
6.3 pounds
5 pounds
Gun Shop Price
$849 to MSRP
$429 to $475
$640 to $799
$699 to $799
$329 to $399

The Colt New Agent is not new for 2012 and in fact I picked it up before the close of 2011.  Shoulder surgery delayed my ability to do much shooting with it at the time of purchase.

Of the four pistols being examined in this series the Colt New Agent has the distinction of being the longest, widest, tallest, and most expensive handgun in the quartet.  It is also the heaviest of the group however the weight and John Browning's excellent design also produced the least amount of recoil.  In fact my shooting notes showed the words "minimal recoil".

The 3.3 pound trigger pull was excellent and the trigger reset was also very good.  At very close quarters, where he necessity of precise aiming would not be much of a factor, you would be able to make very quick follow-up shots.

The New Agent is a far cry from the fit of my first Colt Government Model bought brand new in 1978.  It was a nickle plated beauty that contrasted nicely with the diamond checkered walnut grips.  It did, however have quite a bit of shake and rattle between the slide and frame.  The New Agent is a solid little pistol with no noticeable frame to slide shake and the rosewood grips are even more beautiful than the ones on my original Colt 1911. This little pistol probably skirts the edges of concealed pocket carry with its length of 6.7 inches and weight of almost 25 ounces.  It rides OK in the pocket of denim jeans if they are deep enough but would cause too much "sag" in most dress trousers. Nonetheless it carries perfectly in an inside-the-waistband holster.

All of the controls on the New Agent are just exactly where you would expect them to be (magazine release, slide release, and thumb safety) and I was very happy that the thumb safety as well as the other controls were just large enough to use but definitely smaller than what is normally put on most pistols these days. I really appreciate the fact that Colt kept in mind that this is a concealed carry pistol and I did not feel that I was at any disadvantage due to the fact that the controls were not enlarged, enhanced, or otherwise super-sized. 

The take down of the New Agent is similar for most 1911 pistols. Having a three inch barrel means that a multi-spring coiled guide rod is necessary.  While these are usually a pain Colt has found a way to engineer the New Agent so that it can be disassembled without having to force and hold the springs back via an inserted pin or plastic collar as must be done on most three inch barreled 1911 pistols. The forward portion of the guide rod and recoil spring set up fits nicely into a separate cup that holds them securely in place below the barrel.  The rear plate on the recoil/guide rod seem flimsy but has just enough flex to be able to insert the rod and springs into the cup and squeeze them forward so that they can be properly seated against the barrel link.  Again, this is the easiest three inched barreled 1911 I have ever had to disassemble and reassemble.

The trench sights on Colt's New Agent are similar to what I experienced on the Kimber RCP several years ago.  The Kimber pistol shot extraordinarily well.  It came on target very quickly and allowed for fast follow-up shots.  I attribute this to the fact that you are not required to line up a front and rear sight picture.  However I did not find the same accuracy or ease of gaining a sight picture with the New Agent.  There seems to be two differences between the Colt and the Kimber trench sights.  First of all the Colt trench is significantly narrower than the trench on the Kimber RCP.  Secondly the Kimber trench is the same depth all the way down the top of the slide.  The Colt trench is very shallow at the rear of the pistol and gets gradually deeper as it nears the front of the slide.  I cannot tell you how each of these differences affected the accuracy but I can tell you that the narrower trench of the Colt pistol took longer for me to obtain the desired sight picture and the 9mm Colt New Agent is nowhere close to having the same level of accuracy that I experienced with the Kimber RCP. 

The target below is the first 25 rounds fired through the New Agent at 21 feet using Mag Tech 115 grain full metal jacket ammunition.  I thought this showed promise but this was actually the best target I could manage over several shooting sessions.

I decided to begin the defensive ammo shooting with  HPR 124 grain jacketed hollowpoint cartridges.  HPR (High Precision Range) is ammo made in the USA with US made components by US citizens.  Despite what others might tell you about the costs of stateside versus overseas products the ammo is quite reasonably priced.  This load has performed quite nicely other 9mm pistols however after dispensing with a full box of 50 rounds this is the best I could do with the Colt New Agent and the HPR ammo.

Next up is one of my favorite 9mm loads, the Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollowpoint +P.  Again this target is pretty representative of the others I fired with this load and while it is acceptable combat accuracy it does not measure up to my experience with the trench sighted Kimber which was chambered for the higher recoiling .45 ACP.

The groups did tighten up a little with the Speer 124 grain GDHP +P "Short Barrel" load and when I carried this pistol this is the load I used.

Lastly I used some Winchester Personal Defense 115 grain jacketed hollowpoint ammo.  The group was better but still not great.  I would not use this as a carry load as I just do not trust the that the penetration of non +P rated 9mm ammo is sufficient to get the job done.

Overall the Colt New Agent is a well made pistol that has been engineered to provide ease in carry as well as ease in disassembling and reassembling this small 1911.  It is just a shame that the trench sights are not  conducive to better accuracy.  Kimber seems to have this figured out and I hope that Colt reviews the New Agent to see if manufacturing adjustments are prudent. 



I'd like to shoot the Colt and see how it handles. I do like the Solo, and have not had any issues with it in 200 rounds, using the proscribed ammo. It's not even broken in yet. It's no Glock or Sig or any other larger and more ergonomically "designed as a shooter guns", but it sure does carry well in the Texas heat and humidity.

I look forward to seeing the new mini-Sig, the 938.

Unknown said...

Me, too, Fishing Musician. I'm really wanting that new Sig 938, but I can't justify that $700 purchase price without seeing some reviews from people I trust (like you, Average Joe). I like the 1911-style controls, and the long/narrow grip. It fits my long, narrow fingers really well. I'm trying to decide between it and the M&P Shield, so I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest of the reviews.

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

Shield is next. SPOILER ALERT: I am saving the best for last.

Unknown said...

Message received. Keep up the good work!