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Old-School Autos: ArmaLite AR-24 Review

by Doug Larson   |  December 24th, 2008 2


It has graceful lines, an upswept beavertail that lends flair and a rounded slide instead of the blocky, difficult-to-conceal slide that most gunmakers automatically put on their pistols these days. It appears to belong to a more elegant era, when guns were made of steel and wood, not plastic and alloy.

The AR-24 pistol was brought to market by an unlikely company, ArmaLite. The company is well known for making AR-15-style rifles, but until September 2006 it had never been associated with a line of pistols. ArmaLite is located in Geneseo, Illinois, but the AR-24 is manufactured in Turkey by a company called Sarsilmaz, a 120-year-old firm that produces firearms for the Turkish Ministry of Defense, including a pistol that served as the starting point in designing the AR-24.

Pertinent Details
There are four versions of the ArmaLite pistol. The AR-24 is a full-size semiautomatic recoil-operated modified-Browning locked-breech 9mm pistol, while the AR-24K is a compact version of the same gun. Both have drift-adjustable front sights. Then there are the Tactical Custom versions that have windage- and elevation-adjustable rear sights, and instead of grooves on the frontstrap and backstrap, they are equipped with checkering to improve grip qualities. These differences sound minor, but they aren’t. If you shoot different loads from time to time and want the gun to shoot to point of aim, adjustable sights are very nice to have, and although I found the gripping grooves on the standard models to provide a good, non-slip surface, the checkering on the Tactical Custom models improved it. All AR-24s feature slip-resistant checkered rubber stocks that are beveled to create a thumb rest and prevent hammer bite and an extended beavertail with a graceful curve on the lower surface that gives the impression of an upturn, adding to its visual appeal.

At the time of this writing, the AR-24 family is available only in 9mm Parabellum, but the gun is rated for +P and +P+ loads. A .45 ACP version is in the works, and a .40 S&W chambering will likely follow.

Real Steel Forgings
“We have purposely designed this pistol to emphasize the manufacturing standards of an earlier era rather than use less expensive processes now in common use,” says ArmaLite president Mark Westrom. So we have here a modern firearm that was built with a frame, slide and barrel made from traditional steel forgings but that are precision CNC-machined using modern tools to produce a superior fit. Even when the guns were fieldstripped, I could find no tool marks or sharp edges. These guns are finely finished in manganese phosphate with an evenly applied heat-cured black epoxy overcoat.

Fans of thumb safeties will be pleased to know that AR-24s come so equipped. Although it is mounted slightly farther forward than those found on 1911s, I could still flick off the safety quickly, but because it was stiff I could not set it with my shooting hand unless I shifted my grip. Unlike a 1911 safety, it does not lock the slide, so the gun may be unloaded with the safety engaged. The AR-24 also has an internal firing-pin block and a half-cock notch that serves as a sort of safety feature, although the gun should not be carried with the hammer in that position. There is no magazine disconnect safety, which will please some.

Because the AR-24 combines double action with a thumb safety, the shooter may choose to carry it loaded in one of three ways. The first option is so-called cocked and locked with a chambered round, cocked hammer and safety engaged, the way most experienced 1911 shooters prefer. The second option is with a round in the chamber, hammer down and safety disengaged. The third option is with the hammer down on a chambered round and the safety engaged. Because the gun is not equipped with a decocker, extreme caution must be exercised when lowering the hammer on a chambered round.

These guns do not have target triggers, but on the other hand, they are not target guns. The single-action trigger pull exhibited some creep and overtravel, averaging about six pounds, while the smooth double-action trigger pulls were characterized by an average weight of just over 12 pounds, with the stacking associated with DA service pistols.

The magazine release, located on the left side of the gun where the grip meets the triggerguard, is serrated and protrudes enough to make activation easy. Magazine changes were a breeze because of the double-stack, single-feed design. Put the narrow top of the magazine in the wide hole at the bottom of the grip and push. The full-size magazine holds 15 rounds, and the compact 13 rounds, but 10-round magazines are available.

Three-dot Sights
Whether adjustable or fixed, the sights have three dots, which is very common on fighting guns. Each dot has been treated with a luminescent substance that will cause it to glow in the dark, but these are not tritium-filled sights, so they need to be charged with a light source.

Both the front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide, which reciprocates inside, not outside, the frame. While the rear sight on the Tactical Custom model can be adjusted for windage and elevation by turning the adjustment screws, that is not so on the standard guns where the only adjustment is windage, which is accomplished by drifting the front sight after loosening its set screw. Although the rear sight could be drifted, it would protrude outside the dovetail cut, compromise the fine lines of the gun and create a snag hazard.

Each gun comes in a plastic hard-sided carrying case that contains a bore brush, bore swab, cleaning rod, two magazines, oil, lock and an operator’s manual.

Trigger Time
Most gun reviews involve one gun and a limited time to test it. Although I did not have unlimited time for testing, I was not operating under an editor-imposed deadline or a return-by date, so I spent quite a bit of time on the range with these guns.
Although the round count and number of guns involved were not large enough to produce credible statistics for the whole line of AR-24s, I was able to test four guns of the same basic design side by side for consistency of function and reliability. I had only two malfunctions. One was a stovepipe in the full-size AR-24 with fixed sights and the other a failure to extract in the AR-24K Compact Tactical model, both with Winchester SXT 147-grain JHPs. These failures occurred before the recommended 200-round break-in period, and both were with a load heavier than the factory-recommended 124 grain.

Most testing was performed indoors at the Scottsdale Gun Club, where I used a pistol rest and a PACT Professional XP chronograph with infrared sensing technology. All guns exhibited very good accuracy, and there was little variation in group sizes by gun. The smallest group of 1.15 inches was delivered by Hornady TAP/FPD 124-grain JHPs fired from the compact AR-24 with fixed sights, and the smallest average of three five-shot groups was 1.73 inches using Black Hills JHP +P loads in the compact AR-24 with adjustable sights.

After velocity and accuracy testing, I performed some drills at three to seven yards to see how the guns handled. Because these are all-steel guns and as such are not lightweights, recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable. The guns were fun to shoot and felt particularly comfortable in my hand.

I have to admit that I like the AR-24 series and am looking forward to trying out the larger-caliber versions when they are available.

The AR-24 Compact Tactical was as easy to shoot as the full-size version due to the comfortable grip and recoil-absorbing mass of its all-steel construction.

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