March 10, 2023
By Guns & Ammo Staff
Sarsilmaz has been making guns in Turkey since 1880. It is the largest small-arms manufacturer in that country. With a long history of firearms production backing the brand’s reputation, Sarsilmaz has set out to bring more stateside awareness to its capabilities through the introduction of reliable, well-engineered handguns purpose-built for the U.S. market. They’re accomplishing this with Miami-based SAR USA. Formed in 2018, SAR USA is the exclusive importer of Sarsilmaz firearms. The flagship is the SAR9, which was adopted by the Turkish armed forces and law enforcement in 2017 after a 90,000-round comparison test. It was subsequently introduced to the U.S. market in 2018 and received a rave review in that year’s February issue of Guns & Ammo.
The SAR9 platform has been a success for Sarsilmaz. It is a striker-fired, polymer-framed handgun that now includes a compact variant. The SAR9 CX, or “Compact X,” adds the “X” package featuring an assortment of accessories. The “X” models come in full black, a stainless version, OD green, and a limited “Storm White” edition. (Yes, the pistol light comes with it.)
The Family Tree
After the 2018 launch of the SAR9, a downsized version was announced on gunsandammo.com on October 5, 2021: “SAR9 C” for SAR9 “Compact.” Months later, the SAR9 was announced with upgrades and an “X” suffix. It is a more premium-featured model with an “X Package” of accessories and Cerakote finish options. The new SAR9 CX is a similar upgrade to the also-new SAR9 C.
At its core, the SAR9 CX contains the same genetics as the original SAR9. It’s a striker-fired polymer-frame pistol designed for reliability in harsh conditions. Sarsilmaz boasts that the original SAR9 was subjected to a 150,000-round torture test, along with exposure to extreme environments such as use in mountains and deserts.
The SAR9 CX is delivered in a hard-plastic case containing: an instruction manual; cleaning rod; undermounted light; cable lock; cleaning kit; punch; holster; dual-magazine pouch; two 15-round magazines (10-round magazines are available for states with low-capacity laws); and three sets of backstraps and side panels. This is certainly an extensive list of accessories. SAR USA wants customers to know that the CX is ready for the range or concealed carry right out the box.
Given that the SAR9 is still relatively novel to the American market, there is concern for the availability of accessories because third parties eventually have to support the platform. Holsters may not be as widely available for the SAR9 CX outside of direct purchasing from SAR USA, so the inclusion of one straight from the factory helps to give prospective buyers some confidence. Those who want more options — leather holsters or holsters that accommodate undermounted lights, for example — may have to wait for the market to start adapting to the CX. With a retail of $632, the SAR9 CX is competiting with several 9mm handguns near its price: Beretta Px4 Storm Compact ($649); KelTec P15 ($425); Mossberg MC2C ($556); Ruger American Compact ($669); SIG Sauer P320 Compact ($597); Springfield Armory XD-M Elite 3.8 Compact ($609); and the Taurus G3C T.O.R.O. ($450), for example. It was a smart business move for Sarsilmaz to include a box of goodies.
At a glance, the SAR9 CX has some standout design features. The safety is built into the trigger on the gun. The trigger safety could prevent a discharge as the result of mishandling a gun. A red indicator on the side of the trigger lets users know that the action is ready to fire.
The SAR9 CX frame also has some similarities to contemporary compact 9mm handguns. Beyond aesthetics, the serrations on the slide are pronounced. The front serrations feature lightening cuts that reveal a steel, hammer-forged barrel inside the slide.
The molded textured grip feels comfortable to hold, and the triggerguard accommodates gloved hands with no issues. Generally, the G&A staff found the SAR9 CX’s default mid-size backstraps and side panels to fit the best. However, shooters with particular needs may prefer one of the backstrap/side panel combinations a better fit.
It is easy to swap the SAR9 CX backstraps. Sarsilmaz provides a punch tool with the X package. The tool may need a few taps of a hammer to initiate movement for the pins holding the straps in place, but changing them wasn’t difficult.
The kit’s light attaches easily to the frame’s single-slot mounting rail. While the included holster does not allow for the SAR9 CX to be holstered with this light, the light is easy enough to install that it would make for a smart addition for a gun owner wanting to use the SAR9 CX for nightstand defense.
The holster attaches for outside-the-waistband (OWB) carry using a paddle. The holster provided is made of a polymer composite. It has a lock that is disengaged by pushing down on a release button using the index finger when drawing the handgun. (Think back to the SERPA holster.) The lock holds the SAR9 CX in place, and it is cant adjustable with a single screw. The dual-magazine pouch can also be adjusted for tension.
At the Range
The SAR9 CX made good on its advertised reliability during G&A’s evaluation. There were no stoppages or failures to load, eject, or fire. Five hundred rounds were expended in a single range visit. There was no break-in period provided. From our point of view, the gun only needed a quick wipe down out of the box. Rounds ejected with gusto, consistently clearing any brass from the chamber.
SAR USA achieved their goal: They are shipping a range-ready compact carry gun. The SAR9 CX was a blast to shoot. Anyone looking to simply get some range time or practice group therapy won’t be disappointed in what’s offered here.
Recoil was more than manageable when firing through magazines of 115-grain range ammo. The SAR9 CX has an unloaded weight of 1 pound, 11.8 ounces, which is a nice number for a compact shooter. The weight is not too high to be noticeable when carried, but it still provides a good counterbalance to recoil. There was a noticeable increase in felt recoil that came with prolonged shooting of 124-grain and +P loads. There is something to say about a few extra ounces contributing to improved control of a grip.
Serrations do their job and provide a great grip to work the slide. The slide was otherwise smooth. It was easy to cycle the first round from a magazine by hand or with the slide catch. While the slide is optic-ready, an optic is not included with the X Package. SAR USA recommended a Riton Optics 3 Tactix MPRD 2 ($350, ritonoptics.com), though adding any optic will naturally increase one’s initial investment.
As is standard with most magazines coming from the factory, the SAR9 CX mags put up a fight before they could be fully loaded at first. The provided mag loader did not help much. The staff sourced a third-party mag loader to get the job done through testing. However, by the end of the range session, loading ammo was an easier chore.
Aiming with the three-dot sights was typical, but the trigger experience was the real star. A light, smooth trigger pull was noted: 2 pounds, 14 ounces was averaged from a 10-pull test. Plus, the reset was quick. The trigger incorporates a familiar safety lever mechanism that did not impede movement, and it did not cause any discomfort while shooting.
As a result of the sights and trigger, our accuracy results were better-than-average for a compact handgun of this price point. Five different loads were tested, and only one fell outside of 31/4 inches at 25 yards. Some of the best groups were surprising in the moment, though they were balanced out by when other five-shot groups were accounted for. Still the session impressed us.
Given that the slide is optic-ready, adding an electronic sight would likely improve our results further. Velocity for the barrel length was as-expected for all loads; there were no serious outliers in performance aside from the Winchester USA Valor 124-grain rounds. Our test gun did not tend to shoot Winchester’s new military inspired load very well.
The Complete Package
Sarsilmaz didn’t disappoint with its new SAR9 CX, and it seems priced right for what the X Package includes. The handgun is reliable, well-engineered and affordable.
Though Sarsilmaz offers the SAR9 CX in range of popular colors, the editorial couldn’t help but to select the limited Storm White edition when ordering a sample for this review. Everyone made the same “Storm Trooper” reference, which was contagiously followed by quotes from the various “Star Wars” movies. It made testing this pistol a little more fun.
Shooters considering the purchase of a compact handgun have a lot of options in today’s market. If you like bundles, the SAR9 CX is one that deserves your consideration.
Sarsilmaz SAR9 Compact X
- Type: Recoil operated, striker fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 15 rds.
- Barrel: 4 in.
- Overall Length: 7.2 in.
- Width: 1.4 in.
- Height: 5.1 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 11.8 oz
- Materials: Polymer, steel
- Finish: Cerakote (steel)
- Sights: Three dot, steel
- Trigger: 2 lbs., 14.1 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $632
- Importer: SAR USA, 833-727-4867, sarusa.com
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