Honor Defense Honor Guard: Gun Review
The new made-for-carry 9mm pistol, assembled by American veterans, has some subtle differences from others of its kinds. We take a close look.
The folks at Honor Defense are serious about their patriotism. When several shooting industry veterans decided to make a new line of handguns for concealed carry, they decided early on to embrace the uniquely American concept of carry for personal defense and optimize their pistols accordingly.
The Honor Guard pistols are not just made in the USA, they’re assembled by veterans. They come in a box that’s literally red, white, and blue. The company logo features those loud and proud red and white stripes, and the American flag is prominently displayed on the box. In fact, the only thing not made in the good old US of A is the gun lock. The folks at Honor Guard told me they tried, to no avail, to source a gun lock domestically, but they’re all made overseas. Feeling terrible about that, the company includes an apology in the product documentation card. Yes, really.
There are many carry pistols on the market, so when I review a new one, I like to identify what’s different, or stated differently, what uniquely makes it stand out from all the others. In my opinion, the Honor Guard is all about balance. As a gun intended for personal protection, it’s designed to be compact enough for easy concealed carry, yet meaty enough to shoot a lot without inflicting undue pain and suffering.
Here’s a closer look.
Weight and Construction
Lots of guns are small, but almost all of them are too light. Sure, they’re easy to carry and they’ll work when you need them to. However, a small light gun is not very pleasant to shoot. The recoil of defensive 9mm ammunition is a constant, and the only thing that will make it feel better is more weight in the gun. Simply put, the heavier a gun is, the more pleasant it is to shoot. But “pleasant feeling” isn’t what’s important. What matters with a defensive gun is your ability to shoot it well under pressure. What improves your ability to do that? Practice. Accordingly, I almost always only carry guns that I like to shoot, because I’ll practice more. The more I practice with any given gun, the better I’ll perform with it.
At 23.3 ounces empty with the extended magazine, the Honor Guard not only feels good in the hand, it feels good on the range. With its 3.2-inch barrel, 6.25-inch length, and 4.6-inch height, it’s about the same size as a Glock 43. However, the Glock weighs 18 ounces empty, and that extra five ounces of heft on the Honor Guard makes a noticeable difference. When testing, I shot a variety of 9mm ammo ranging in bullet weight from 115 to 147 grains. This included plenty of practice ammo and a fair bit of high-powered self-defense ammo. With no load was the Honor Guard snappy or unpleasant to fire.
The slide and barrel are stainless steel, as is the removable chassis system inside.
The sights are functional and fast. The front sight features an oversized orange dot. You can’t miss it when you raise the pistol into your line of sight. The rear sight features a “U” shaped cutout flanked by two white dots. The “U” cutout offers more visibility and faster front sight acquisition through that rounded notch. The leading edge of the rear sight is vertical and flat, so if you need to rack the slide of the Honor Guard with one hand, you can hook that sight on a belt to manipulate the slide. The back of the rear sight is ramped so it won’t catch on clothing when you draw from concealment.
Out of the box, the Honor Guard is ambidextrous. You’ll see magazine release buttons on both sides just behind the trigger guard. With my larger hands, I found it easier to release a magazine using the middle finger of my firing hand. You’ll also notice slide lock and release levers on both sides. If you’re left-handed or just want to be able to operate the Honor Guard with either, it’s ready to go.
The pistol comes with two steel magazines. The seven-round magazine has a flat base and offers maximum concealment. With that one installed, I can’t fit my firing-hand pinky on the grip, so I tuck it under. There’s also an extended eight-round magazine that adds almost ¾ inches of grip length. With that one in place, I can get a proper firing grip with all fingers.
Grip and Finish
The grip texture is unique not only in the pattern but in the location too. The texture is much like that of a fine mesh such as you might find on a screened-in porch. It provides a sure grip, but won’t abrade your skin when firing. More importantly, if you carry the Honor Guard inside the waistband, it’s not going to shred your sensitive love handle areas.
You’ll also notice that the same pattern is used liberally around the frame. When you grip the Honor Guard, you’ll contact the textured surface with the web of your hand, your palm, your fingers, your firing-hand thumb, and even your trigger finger when it’s resting alongside the frame. That’s because the pattern not only wraps the front, rear, and sides of the grip but also extends forward past the trigger guard. I like this, a lot. Since so much of the surface area of your hands contact the grip texture, the gun feels secure while carrying or firing. The pistol includes two backstrap panels to adjust grip size to your personal preference.
One interesting design feature that you’ll notice the first time you rack the Honor Guard is that the serrations on the slide extend all the way across the top. Most pistols have such serrations on the sides only, and that’s where the majority of your hand surface area makes contact. However, with a sides-only design, you’ll often encounter sharp edges where the serrations end and the smooth top-of-slide surface begins. The Honor Guard has smooth serration ridges that loop up one side, across the top, and down the other. The result is a positive grip without the gouging effect on your hands. The ridges across the top have no impact on your sight picture, because all are below your line of vision.
The trigger is wide and smooth with a well-rounded face. Trigger shape is a personal preference, but for a practical gun, I like a big fat trigger. Using a trigger scale, I measured the pull weight at 6.25 pounds. It was consistent, and I got the same reading every time. You will feel a bit of grittiness as you press the trigger back to the point where the weight “stacks up” to the 6.25-pound break point. I freely admit to being a trigger snob, so I might have my gunsmith do a little extra polishing. I like the trigger weight for self-defense use; I’d just like the feel to be a little smoother.
Taking apart the Honor Guard for cleaning and maintenance is easy. After locking the slide back, just rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the frame, and the slide comes right off. There is no need to pull the trigger to disassemble the pistol, and that’s a nice safety feature. I should point out one other design feature here: The guts of the Honor Guard pop out of the frame as an integrated assembly. That chassis contains the trigger and striker firing mechanism as well as the serial number. That makes detail cleaning easy, since you can get to the important guts from all sides. Also, since the “gun” is legally that interior assembly, there’s no reason that Honor Defense couldn’t offer different frames down the road. Just remove the chassis and reinstall into a different frame, and you’ve got a different pistol. The Honor Guard folks tell me that this design is for manufacturing efficiency, but I’ll bet you lunch they’ll offer frames in different sizes, textures, and colors at some future date.
As I mentioned earlier, the Honor Guard is easy, and fun, to shoot. It’s a gun that you’ll enjoy taking to the range for practice or plinking, as I found when I tested accuracy with three different brands of factory ammo. Since the Honor Guard is a compact pistol, I set up targets 15 yards downrange and proceeded to shoot multiple five-shot groups with each type of ammunition. Averaging the results, I recorded the following group sizes:
American Eagle Syntech: 2.58 inches
Federal Full Metal Jacket Round Nose, 155-grain: 2.22 inches
Remington UMC, 115-grain: 2.99 inches
That’s only about a ¾-inch difference between the smallest and largest group.
Right now, the Honor Defense folks are making three varieties of the Honor Guard. The one shown here is the original subcompact version. You can also order a long-slide version. That one sports a 3.8-inch barrel, which will give you a little extra velocity. Since the sights are a bit farther apart, it’ll also be slightly easier to aim. The third variant is unique in the modern pistol area. Called the FIST (Firearm with Integrated Standoff), this model has a frame that extends about one-half inch beyond the barrel. Why? In a close self-defense encounter when the gun might be pressed against an attacker, typical semi-automatics can fail to operate because the slide is pushed out of battery. Not so with the FIST. You can jam it up against the target and fire. The company also offers all three models in a manual safety model if you prefer that mode of operation.
With an MSRP of just $499, the Honor Guard won’t break the bank either. To put that in perspective, the pricing is right in line with similar offerings from other manufacturers. The Springfield Armory XD-S 9mm retails for $499, the Glock 43 for $580, and the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield for $449. All three guns are nearly identical in terms of size and capacity.
It’s not often that a gun company breaks into the market. While the company is new, the people behind it are not, and that experience shows.
|Honor Guard Subcompact|
|Capacity:||7- and 8-round magazines|
|Weight (unloaded):||22 oz.|
|Backstrap sizes:||small, large|
|Ambidextrous slide catch||Yes|
|Ambidextrous Mag Release||Yes|