While the world may not think it needs another double stacked striker fired 9mm, I’m all for turning up the competition a notch. Here we’re talking price, features, and performance. After all, that’s why we do these reviews.

But let’s just say there are times when there’s simply more going on than just a list of features. To upgrade this test, our trial occurred in January in the state of Alaska while outdoor temperatures hovered at -3° F—and we just had to take advantage of that while putting the new Turkish-made SAR9 pistol through its paces.

What's In The Box...

The pistol comes with two 17-round magazines, a tool kit, a cleaning kit, grip extensions, and a hard plastic case. The full specs are listed below, but its worth noting the SAR9 weighs in at 1 pound, 11 ounces and that the two-stage factory trigger is set at 6 pounds. A cable lock is also included.

The Turkish-made SAR9 comes with two 17-round magazines, a tool kit, a cleaning kit, grip extensions, and a case.
The Turkish-made SAR9 comes with two 17-round magazines, a tool kit, a cleaning kit, grip extensions, and a case.photo by Peter B. Mathiesen

The release of the SAR9 from SARUSA of Des Plaines, IL has clearly been an artfully engineered presentation. Made in Turkey by Sarsilmaz, the pistol has a visual continuity that certainly cues in an HK/Walther-ish flavor.

The pistol is feature rich and priced at $449.00, right in the neighborhood of the S&W M&P 2.0 and well below the likes of HK handguns.

With a slight discount of $30-$40, that’s going to shake out at around $175.00 below that Glock 9mm you may be considering. However, unlike that Glock 17 Gen 4, this SAR9 has an ambidextrous manual thumb safety, which for some is a requirement, and for others a deal-breaker.

First Impressions

I’ll get right to the point, and start by saying this puppy shoots really well. Now, let me tell you why my shooting experience was so positive. First, right out of the box, the pistol fits the hand impressively well. In fact, I noticed immediately how well balanced and ergonomically suited it was for my hand.

The SAR9 has an ergonomic grip that reminiscent of Heckler & Koch pistols like the VP9.
The SAR9 has an ergonomic grip that reminiscent of Heckler & Koch pistols like the VP9.photo by Peter B. Mathiesen

Over the years, experience has taught me that fit goes an exceptionally long way in shooting performance.

Whether your hands are medium to XXL, this pistol comes with custom, form fitting interchangeable side panels and backstraps to tailor your grip. I wear a medium to large glove, and the grip fit me perfectly without changing out any panels or the backstrap.

Hanging On

The finish and machining on this pistol is remarkable for the price. Mine was a prototype, and the fit and finish was exceptional.

The slide is firm, but smooth, and can be operated without having exceptionally strong hands. The slide serrations at the front and the back well designed, and contribute notably to its operating practicality.

Baptism by Ice

I work outside year round in unfavorable conditions, and am often around water (see my story on bear protection here) even in the winter. So, I like to see how a gun will work when wet.

First, the SAR9 took a bath.
First, the SAR9 took a bath.photo by Peter B. Mathiesen

That means I want to know what will happen if my hand is wet, if the gun is wet, or if the gun or I fall in the water. I have been in the backcountry and fallen through ice. Let’s put it this way, the experience is memorable. You realize quickly that much of what you’re carrying becomes completely useless.

Consequently, the SAR9 was submersed into a bowl of water. The magazine was full and the chamber was empty. It was then drained and dropped into a snow bank at -3° F.

I savored a couple cups of coffee while I gave the pistol a good 30 minutes to stiffen up in the snow. I have done this test with revolvers, but never with a semi-auto pistol and had no idea how it would play out.

When the half hour was up, the gun was recovered. I checked and cleared snow out of the barrel and I tried to operate the slide. It was easy to rack and it smoothly loaded a round into the chamber. Then, I immediately fired off 15 rounds at 25 feet, shooting a highly pleasing group.

Then it took a dive in the snow, in -3 F temperatures.
Then it took a dive in the snow, in -3° F temperatures.photo by Peter B. Mathiesen

This was the first time the gun had ever been fired, and the target looked notably better than the one my custom 1911 put holes in earlier that day. The only issue that developed from the water and cold was that the magazine needed a little tug to pull free from the magwell.

I’m not saying other guns won’t work in these same conditions. What I am saying is…this one did.

The Bits That Make a Difference

On the accuracy side, the ergonomics play a big role. Another critical factor is the barrel features conventional rifling and a recessed crown. Typically, these features are found only in far more expensive or custom handguns.

The trigger is the only part of the gun that doesn’t feel expensive. When dry fired, the two-stage (red exposed when armed) trigger didn’t feel super smooth.

That said, every rifle I own has a custom 2-pound trigger. I admit, I am quick to criticize any trigger that doesn’t feel like a Timney. With that in mind, after three rounds I never thought about the trigger again. I realized the break was clean and completely predictable. My custom 1911 has a wonderful custom trigger, and I don’t shoot it as well, so take from that what you will.

The two-stage trigger displays a bit of red at the back when the striker is cocked.
The two-stage trigger displays a bit of red at the back when the striker is cocked.photo by Peter B. Mathiesen

NATO Tested

One of the mountains this pistol climbed before its release to US market was its thorough testing and certification from NATO.

When the Turkish Army stated they were considering Glocks, the question was put to Sarsilmaz; could they build a pistol that could compete with or surpassed a Glock?

Five years and 90,000 rounds of comparison testing later, the SAR9 was only pistol left standing in a group of impressive brands from Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the U.S.

Today, the SAR9 is the standard issue pistol of the Turkish Army.

SAR9 Pistol Specs
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 17+1 (19+1 coming soon)
Barrel Length: 4.4"
Overall Length: 7.5"
Height: 5.5"
Width: 1.4"
Weight: 27.1 oz.
MSRP: $449.00

The Chilly Bottom Line

This pistol screams value. Prior to the test, I expected it to shoot average to just above, and would have been reasonably happy for it to do so. Yet, it far surpassed my expectations.

It moved into the echelon of pistols that cost several hundred dollars more. As a bonus, if you’re a lefty, the gun is ready to go with fully ambidextrous controls.

There was a time when polymer pistols were considered unattractive and mere tools of the firearms trade. The SAR9 goes way beyond the classification as a working tool. It’s comfortable, accurate, and most importantly, the gun is going to fire when you pull the trigger—whether it’s dry, wet, or even frozen.