The SAR9 Sport is built on the premise of delivering everything you need for home defense along with a side of competition mastery. What do these two have to do with each other? Well, when it comes to realistic practice, I cannot stress the importance of practical shooting sports enough. While static target shooting is essential for learning the principles of stance, trigger control and follow-through, eventually, you need to start moving around. Assailants, after all, typically won’t stand still while you carefully line up your sights. Adding competition into your training is, therefore, a great way to improve your ability to defend yourself and others.
Like many pistols these days, the SAR9 Sport is a striker-fired, 9 mm, semi-automatic, polymer-framed design that feeds from your choice of 17- or 19-round detachable magazines; a SAR9 Sport Compliant model also lets you choose a 10-round magazine for restrictive states. Unlike most such guns on the market, however, it provides options to adjust not only the backstrap but also the side panels. In short, it is likely to be one of the best-fitting pistols you’ve ever picked up, all without breaking the $600 mark.
SAR knew that this pistol would be in front of many eyes, so it built the slide with a slick metallic-gray finish. Also eye-catching are the cooling ports on either side of the muzzle end. These ensure the barrel doesn’t overheat during the long strings of fire in typical competition and range practice sessions.
During initial handling, I took note of the texturing pattern and locations and liked what I saw. Years ago, skate-tape grips were all the rage, at least until we realized how destructive they could be to skin and clothing. SAR took this highly efficient pattern and dialed it back to create something that effectively keeps the gun in hand while not chewing up your palms under recoil. Small panels of this texturing are also positioned on the frame for trigger-hand thumb support. These were a little too far forward for my hands, but shooters with larger mitts will enjoy their effects.
Aside from feeling good, the frame also hosts an array of features that serve the home defender and competitor alike. Chief on that list is the dynamic trigger system that we measured to break cleanly at five and a half pounds. The SAR9 Sport features the popular blade-in-trigger safety that requires no thought to disengage and a thumb safety for those that like a little extra assurance and have the motion already built into their draw stroke. This lefty appreciated that it was made to be bi-lateral, as is the oversized magazine release that can be swapped to the “other” side for fellow southpaws. The only control that isn’t ambidextrous or reversible is the slide stop, but it is positioned far back enough that I was able to activate it with my trigger finger during left-handed operation, and was able to get the entire first joint of my thumb on it with a right-hand grip. Lastly, the SAR9 frame is molded with a three-slot accessory rail that fits the bill perfectly for a flashlight.
I took my sample to the range with a wide variety of ammunition to cover all purposes and to see what it might like best. Every firearm has a personality, and ammunition that shoots well in one often doesn’t shoot well in another. Among my stable were Federal’s heavy HST defensive fodder, HSM’s lightweight practice load and NovX’s featherweight CCW ammunition, which advertises an unheard-of velocity.
I started things off with a bench-rested accuracy test fired from the 25-yard line. This would be the first time I centered the “three-dot” sight system against a target. Typically, I don’t care for this setup, as such sights lack fine precision; however, in the interest of speed, which is the exact arena for which this gun is destined, they are unparalleled. As I pressed off my first round, I experienced the mild recoil that can only come from a full-sized pistol and observed an impact that was darn close to where I was aiming. I was happy to see that the sights came dialed in from the factory, as adjusting them requires drifting with a punch, and the guess-and-check method of sight adjustment is a pain we can all do without.
As I continued my testing, I enjoyed trouble-free operation with the SAR9 Sport across all three ammunition types. This included the 65-grain load from NovX, which surprisingly ran the slide just fine and even locked the gun open on its last round. From here, I took it to a field of steel and practiced some rapid-fire techniques. Shooting controlled pairs gave me the opportunity to check out the SAR9’s reset, which I found short and snappy,
as competition pistols should be. This allowed me to get two rounds on target with minimal trigger-finger movement, yielding extraordinarily tight pairs. Moving onto a two-silhouette box drill, I practiced transitioning between two targets and found that, although long, the SAR9 Sport was well-balanced and stopped wherever my eyes were planted.
I finished my range day by field-stripping the pistol to give it a bit of cleaning and lubrication and to get a look at its innards. A cursory inspection of the slide assembly revealed a dual-recoil spring system, which was largely responsible for the pleasant shooting experience that I just enjoyed. By using a lighter spring for the first stage and a heavier one for the second, the recoil pulse is elongated and smoothened out. This also relaxes the abrupt stop that your typical slide sees at the end of its rearward travel. Additionally, I noticed a firing-pin stop, marking this pistol’s third safety.
Overall, I found the SAR9 Sport to be soft shooting, inherently accurate and absolutely fluid with respect to transitions. It’s an excellent pistol you’ll be happy using at the range, for home defense and in competition.