It seems like the U.S. concealed-carry market can't get enough of comfortable-to-carry single-stack 9 mm pistols these days. So, it's a good thing that Honor Defense, a new American firearm manufacturer, decided to launch the company last year with the release of the Honor Guard 9 mm pistol. One advantage of joining a particular segment of the shooting market mid-trend is a better understanding of what customers want. Honor Defense successfully borrows and blends several popular design features in its 9 mm while adding some unique touches.
The Honor Guard 9 mm pistol is a compact striker-fired semi-automatic with a lightweight polymer frame that accepts single-stack magazines. The HG9SC model, which was tested for this review, has a standard frame, a 3.20" barrel and does not have an external thumb safety. The company's other frame option is the FIST model, which stands for Firearm Integrated STandoff. This frame has a toothed extension which protrudes past the front end of the slide. The purpose of the FIST extension is to prevent the slide from being pressed out of battery if the pistol comes into physical contact with an assailant.
Polymer is reserved for this pistol’s frame and magazine base. The rest of the components are made primarily of stainless steel. This makes the Honor Guard a little heavier than some of the competing models on the market but it does increase the pistol’s durability. The rounded flat-top 416 stainless steel slide has a beveled nose for easy re-holstering and generous cocking grooves at the front and rear. These grooves wrap up and over the slide to provide plenty of purchase and give the Honor Guard a unique appearance.
The metallic 3-dot sight system provides a large bright orange dot in the front and two white dots at the rear. The drift adjustable rear sight's back edge is curved for a no-snag profile with a flat front edge that can be used to cock the slide single-handedly against a belt or shoe heel. The 410 stainless steel barrel is cut with traditional lan-and-groove rifling and treated with black oxide for increased durability. The dual spring recoil assembly employs 416 stainless steel guide rods. Other notable slide features include a stainless steel striker housing (instead of polymer), a CNC-machined striker and a large claw extractor.
Supporting the slide assembly is a removable CNC machined stainless steel chassis that also houses the trigger, ambidextrous slide catch and a beefy ejector. Taking a page from the Sig P320's play book, this chassis is the serialized portion of the gun. It can be removed for easy cleaning or transferred into another frame.
The polymer frame's aggressive grip texturing is reminiscent of a coarse fabric weave. This unusual, but effective, texture wraps all the way around the grip and along the sides of the frame. There are two smooth strips on either side of the grip that provide a tactile path to the finely checkered teardrop-shaped metallic ambidextrous magazine release.
The narrow grip is dimpled on both sides behind the trigger guard to provide more comfortable channels for the trigger finger and thumb of the shooting hand. A subtle single finger groove is located on the front of the grip while the backstrap can be exchanged by tapping out a single role pin. The pistol arrives with two backstraps including a slightly curved model (installed at the factory) and a straight strap. Both straps fit tightly in place without any gapping.
The back edge of the grip frame extends down behind the polymer base plate of the seven-round flush-fit blued steel magazine. This is a nice touch because it prevents the magazine from pinching the shooting hand. The extended eight-round magazine converts the grip from a two-finger to a three-finger size. Both magazine base plates are grooved along the sides to provide a grasping surface in case the magazine has to be pulled out for an emergency reload.
Field stripping the Honor Guard for cleaning is easily accomplished without cycling the trigger. After removing the magazine, lock the slide back into the open position and verify the pistol is completely unloaded. With the slide locked back, pivot the left side takedown lever downward from the 3 o'clock to the 6 o'clock position. Release the slide and press it forward off of the frame. Remove the recoil assembly and barrel from the slide and the gun is ready to clean.
If you are looking to add a laser sight to this pistol, Crimson Trace has stepped up to the plate with the LG498 Laser Guard. I was impressed with how completely this red laser unit fit the pistol. Once it was installed, it looked like it came from the factory that way. Factory sighted at 50 feet, the Instinctive Activation switch activates the laser as the pistol is gripped. A single 1/3N Lithium battery provides over four hours of run time.
At the range, the Honor Guard proved to be more comfortable and manageable to shoot than a typical concealed-carry 9 mm. The weight of the stainless steel slide, the recoil assembly, the easy-to-see sight system and comfortable grip makes the pistol comfortable to practice with. And practice is the key to success with any concealed-carry platform.
The low profile controls all worked properly. The ambidextrous magazine release was easy to work with right- or left-handed. The slide catch, however, is so trimmed down and tightly fitted that it wasn’t possible to use it to release the slide after a reload. Since I usually grasp and pull back on the slide to reload, a tight slide catch was not an issue.
The smooth-faced aluminum trigger exhibited a 7 lb. 5 oz. trigger pull. according to my trusty Lyman digital gauge. The feel of the trigger stroke was similar to other striker-fired pistols but a bit smoother, a bit shorter, with a slightly longer trigger reset.
Although "+P" is not stamped on the barrel, Honor Defense is explicit in stating on the company website and in the owner’s manual that this pistol can safely digest +P ammunition. In fact, each Honor Guard ships with the empty cartridge case (painted red) of a high pressure proof load fired from that particular gun at the factory. However, the company is just as clear in pointing out that ultra hot +P+ rated loads should never be used in this gun.
The Honor Guard had a healthy appetite for all the ammunition it was fed ranging from bulk box practice loads to +P defensive hollow points. Although the company recommends a 150+ round break in period because of the pistol's tight tolerances, this particular gun operated properly from the get go without any malfunctions throughout the course of testing.
Formal accuracy testing consisted of five five-shot groups fired from a bench rest at 7 yards using the factory iron sight. Winchester W Defend 147-gr. jacketed hollow points produced the single best five-shot group of 1.77" with a five-group average of 1.98". Black Hills 124-gr. +P jacketed hollow points yielded a best group of 1.97" with an average of 2.14". Federal's new American Eagle Syntech 115-gr. total synthetic jacket (TSJ) load turned in a best single group of 2.06" with an average of 2.18".
Honor Defense takes pride in being a veteran-operated company that builds 100-percent American-made pistols. The Honor Guard is a memorable offering in a market flooded with concealed-carry pistols because of its top notch fit and finish, the generous use of stainless steel components (instead of polymer) and the shooter friendly design. This level of quality is usually reserved for pistols in a higher price bracket. Holsters for the Honor Guard are currently available from several reputable manufacturers, including Crossbreed, DeSantis and Galco.
NRA Specifications Manufacturer: Honor Defense Model: Honor Guard HG9SC Action: Striker Fired Double-Action Only Semi-Automatic Caliber: 9 mm Slide: 416 Stainless Steel with Matte Black FNC Coating Barrel: 410 Stainless Steel, Black Oxide Finish Recoil Assembly: Stainless Steel with Dual Recoil Springs Frame: Standard Configuration, Textured Black Polymer Sights: 3-Dot, Drift Adjustable Rear Barrel Length: 3.20" Overall Length: 6.20" Height: 4.60" Width: 0.96" Weight: 22.6 oz. with Empty 7-round Magazine Capacity: 7+1 or 8 +1 Rounds Twist: 1:10” RH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: One Flush Fit 7-Round Magazine, One Extended 8-Round Magazine, Two Interchangeable Backstraps, Lock, Owner's Manual MSRP: $499 Crimson Trace LG498 Laser Guard $229