When a company calls its products “Perfection,” boldly proclaims itself to be America’s Gun (as if we have only one) and outsells every other marque of polymer-frame pistols, it had better be prepared for challenges to its market dominance. Enter the Caracal-C, a plastic 9mm manufactured in the UAE and Germany. The pistol is cleverly named after a desert feline with ears as long as a mother-in-law’s memory. The Caracal clearly has the Glock 19 in its very odd sights, but the question must be asked: is the Caracal a pussycat, or should the manufacturer pound sand?
The Big Dog vs. The Little Cat
Laying them out “a side by each” (as they say in Woon-sock-ett) it’s easy to see that the pistols are comparable in size, portability and concealability.
The Caracal-C is 3.67 ounces heavier that its Austrian counterpart. In all other dimensions there’s little variation twixt the two. Both pistols use 15-round magazines, both are striker-fired, both have ambi controls.
A national catalog retailer currently offers the Caracal for $400. Glock 19s usually sell for a Franklin more, but the Gen4s are boxed-up with three mags and replaceable backstraps. The Caracal comes with two mags and any grip modification you want so long as you file it yourself. Strictly on price-value ratio, the desert cat scratches out an edge.
Jaded shooters may think that the Caracal-C is yet another snooze-inducing compact nine Glock-off. Oops, I mean knock-off. But let’s not jump out of the sandbox yet; the Caracal has some interesting tweaks that separate it from the humdrum. Let’s start with the sights . . .
The Austrian/Georgian’s sights are comprised of a Glock-standard U-shaped rear with a dot front. Some people love ‘em. Others swap them out for tritium three-dots on the way home from the store (not recommended). Caracal offers a more comprehensive menu for your dining and dancing pleasure. You can buy the Caracal-F (not reviewed here) with either standard 3-Dots or 2-Dot Figure-8s (similar to the well-regarded Heine Straight-Eights).
On the compact Caracal-C the weird turn pro. The Arabian-German partnership sells the C model with their Quick Acquisition Sight (QAS) System. It’s a big deal. A fixed, white dot front sight sits at the business end of muzzle. The rear sight is way up in front of the ejection port. Caracal’s added a set of squared-off pussycat ears built into the slide; those ears are part of the rear sight.
Of course, there’s more to the QAS than just a couple of feline auditory organs. To channel the shooter’s vision, there’s a deep trough leading from the ears to the front sight. The channel flares trumpet-like toward the muzzle end, letting in plenty of light and adding to a terrific sight picture.
The sight system looks as wrong as socks on a rooster, but it works. And if that ain’t trippy enough for ya, there’s this: the Caracal-C has a sight radius about half the length of a Smith & Wesson 642.
The diminutive sight radius keeps the front and rear sights on the same focal plane, allowing even the most ancient eyeballs to focus on both sights at the same time. In other words, when a shooters focuses on the front sight as we have all been taught to do, the rear sight is so close that it, too, will be in sharp focus. To quote Wallace (of Gromitt fame) that IS clever.
To check out the second big deal with the Caracal clock the handle-to-handle comparison with the Glock 19. The bore axis of the Caracal is low, even lower than that of the Glock and possibly lower than any other pistol of a similar size. If there was a 9mm ergo limbo contest, the Caracal C would eventually be banned.
The Caracal C’s handle sports a 111 degree slant. That’s about the same as the Glock, but the Cat’s frame is deeply undercut. The C places the shooter’s hand closer still to the bore axis of the pistol and closer to the center of the pistol’s mass. The entire handle package is reminiscent of the Steyr M, only more so. Which should come as no shock, since the designer of the Caracal also worked on the Steyr and, oh yeah, the Glock.
There are shooters who love a lot of rake in the handles of their pistols, and some who prefer less. The Caracal’s rake is less than the slant of a Luger 08, a pistol that some consider the most natural pointer of all time. But the geometry nestles the shooter’s hand in a more neutral position. The claimed result: a reduction in muzzle rise.
The firing systems of the two pistols are similar. The Caracal web site describes its striker-firing mechanism as “double action,” but I’m not so sure about that. I didn’t tear the gun down to reverse engineer it, but when the slide is racked, it certainly feels like the firing pin is pre-tensioned, much like the Glock’s.
To prove that the Caracal is ready to rock and roll, there’s a “cocking indicator” at the rear and a witness hole in the middle to check for a chambered round. Needless to say, anyone who depends on external devices for safety should be prepared for a nasty surprise. However, little safety gizmos have a way of impressing lawmakers and regulators who wouldn’t know a Caracal from a cucaracha, so I’m guessing that’s why the pistol has them.
The battle lines have been drawn, so let’s talk about shooting these two pistols side by each.
I started out by slow-firing both pistols offhand at five yards, just to get a feel for how they worked and felt, and also to acclimate myself to the unusual QAS sights on the Caracal. I was not disappointed with the accuracy of either gun. Here’s five from the Caracal.
Even though I’ve been shooting with three dot sights since the Earth cooled and formed from a gaseous cloud, I found the Caracal’s QAS sights intuitive. Leveling the sights was a bit more challenging than centering them, but it was rapidly mastered. There’s one “flyer” in this group, less than ½ inch outside the bull. I feel that with additional practice, a competent shooter could decorate a target with pretty cloverleafs all day long. The Caracal was absolutely a pussycat to shoot.
Next up, I slow-fired the Glock, which is well-known for accuracy.
You’ll notice two distinct groups, which was intentional on my part. The pistol was shooting a bit high-left. To compensate, I lowered my point of aim for the last two shots and moved my sight picture a bit to the right, creating a second group. Had I maintained my point of aim, all the shots would have been touching but none of them would have been centered. The pistol was shooting left and I didn’t think it was my fault.
There’s a laser on the test G19 which I did not use for this comparison since the Caracal had none. However, when I checked the alignment of the Glock’s plastic sights using the laser, my fears were confirmed. The Glock’s sights were out of alignment. Still, I’m calling the slow fire test a dead heat between the G19 and the Caracal-C. Both guns are very accurate at self-defense distances and will shoot tight groups.
The Caracal’s Quick Acquisition sights clearly were made for something other than slow fire, yah? So, I decided to test the ability of both pistols to acquire targets and shoot rapidly. And just to add some spice to the stew, I shot one-handed, because in an SD situation, I might have to use my non-shooting arm to protect a child or to hail a taxi.
I did not use a bladed target stance; in a self-defense situation I don’t think anyone is going to assume the dueling position and wait for their second to yell “fire.” So, I squared up to the target and blazed away as fast as I could, with the guns at eye level but not focusing hard the front sights. I was looking for a true “flash sight” picture. CC indicates a Caracal hit; you know what the G stands for.
With enough trigger-time, the vertical stringing would go away. Also, you can see that I had a tendency to pull Caracal shots to the right when shooting one-handed, while the Glock hit left because of the sights. Still, I was very pleased that every round from each gun was inside the kill box, and that both pistols were easy to control with only one hand.
With its minimal recoil and muzzle rise, the Caracal may have won this round, but the margin of victory was small. The Caracal’s sights work as claimed, yet my results with the Glock were just as good. The Cat was especially nice to shoot. The Glock 19 is not known as a gun with recoil issues, but as gentle as the G19 was, the Caracal was a real, yes, pussycat.
Since both pistols seemed to point pretty naturally, I decided to put both pistols to the test with some point shooting. The protocol was to present and shoot with the plane of the pistol below eye level, eliminating any chance of sighting. I would have preferred a fast draw into a low presentation, but with the RSO standing directly behind me for some odd reason, I decided that discretion was the better part of not getting banned from the range. Here’s the Caracal’s target.
Since no sighting was permitted for this shoot, the exercise was focused exclusively on firing ergonomics. Subjectively, the Caracal felt very natural in the hand and seemed to be drawn to the target like catnip. Performing the same test with the Glock yielded a somewhat different result.
While the Glock 19 points well, it simply did not point as well as the Caracal. To say that your mileage may vary understates to issue. Ergonomics may be the most subjective of all criteria, and as Lucretius said in the first century BCE, one man’s meat is another man’s pasta e fagioli. For me, ergonomically speaking, the Caracal served up the more savory dish.
I expected that the Caracal’s short sight radius would give me fits at longer distances. But no, the Caracal’s sights proved to be less of a problem than I expected. When I shot the G19 and Caracal-C pistols at a TQ-15 full-size silhouette, both guns did an admirable job of scoring sighted center mass hits at 25 yards time after time. While neither gun exhibited target pistol accuracy, they both did the business. If I’m ever called upon to sling lead at a murderous fiend 25 yards away, I would be confident with either of these guns.
So what about the triggers? The Glock 19 shot like . . . a Glock. The trigger was very nice although it was little on the vague side and just a tad spongy. Yes, I’m nit picking. For many years, the Glock trigger has been the standard off-the-shelf go switch for obvious reasons.
The Caracal’s trigger was better in every way. It’s lighter by about a half a pound, sported a very positive, audible reset, a shorter throw and felt just about perfect. If I was going to order a trigger job from my gunsmith on any traditional striker-fired pistol, I’d hand him the Caracal and say “make it work like this.” The Caracal’s trigger shines like the desert sun.
So would I pick the Caracal for my EDC? Probably not. There are two issues that lead me away from the Cat.
I usually don’t use black targets for range reports because they don’t photograph well, but that’s what I had for my first date with the Caracal. Shooting at black B24s, I discovered immediately that a black gun aimed at a black target using black sights in dim light is a recipe for failure. It was just too hard to get the gun on target with the QAS.
Since most confrontations occur at night, and most home invaders don’t wear brightly colored Hawaiian shirts with white trousers, I’m thinking that the sights might be a problem in the real world. Still, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a new front sight (all that’s needed). RF will modify and report.
The real issue for me: the plastic Arab lacks the Glock’s record of reliability. Even though TTAG’s testers have thrown well over a thousand rounds of God-knows-what downrange with the Caracal C with only a single bum bullet, I’d only consider the C for my Every Day Carry (EDC) after the gun’s reliability and durability were proven through some kind of torture test. Or a longer track record.
When I can be sure that the Caracal is as well made as I think it is, you can be damn sure I’ll own one. It’s faster than a tabby chasing a ball of string and more fun than a roomful of kittens. Maybe that’s why RF has adopted the C for his EDC. With a .45 due out next year and holster options growing, no doubt about it: Caracal is one to watch. Meanwhile, is the C better than the Glock 19? Yes. Yes it is.
Model: Glock 19 Gen4
Magazine capacity: 15 or 10 rounds
Materials: Reinforced polymer frame, steel barrel and slide
Weight empty: 20.99 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.02″
Overall length: 7.28″
Sights: Polymer, windage adjustable
Action: Striker fired, “Safe Action”
Finish: Parkerized Tennifer with RTF
Price: Around $500 “street price”
Magazine capacity: 15 rounds (10 round magazines are available for AWB states)
Materials: Reinforced polymer frame, steel barrel and slide
Weight empty: 24.67 ounces
Barrel Length: 3.66″
Slide Length: 6.57″
Sights: Caracal Quick Acquisition Sight System
Action: Striker fired, double action
Finish: Black with proprietary “Plasox” coating
Price: Around $400 “street price”
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * * * 1/2
The proportions look great, and the swoopy, space-age contour lines of the handle are so very avant-garde, you’ll think you’re Captain Kirk. The Quick Acquisition Sight System looks cool in a goofy kind of way, or goofy in a cool kind of way. I’m not sure which.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * * ½
It’s a couple of ounces too heavy. The extra weight is a reasonable tradeoff for a comfy all-finger grip, but boys and girls with hands the size of oven mitts won’t like it. With a slide thickness of 1.1”, the gun is lean and flat and nicely concealable.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * * 1/2
The rakish handle geometry and undercut frame makes this gun a natural pointer. The Caracal-C is nicely balanced and easy to shoot well. The trigger was light and positive. The teeny-weeny trigger travel of .314 inches and the feathery 4.85 lb. pull made this trigger one of the best in class. Those concerned that the light, short trigger might cause an AD can order their Caracal with an optional manual safety.
Reliability * * * * *
No issues, but this is a new pistol and long-term reliability remains to be seen.
Customize This * * *
The Caracal-C has an accessory rail for your gizmos. In an era where replaceable palm swells are the norm, this pistol falls short. You either like the Caracal’s grip as is or pass it by. The swoopy triangular-ish panels on the handle are replaceable with several colors to differentiate one pistol from another, but the panels don’t change the grip. A fiber optic front sight is available should you need more fiber.
OVERALL RATING * * * * 1/2
The Caracal-C is a wonderful gun to shoot. The low, low bore axis almost makes muzzle rise an obsolete term. The fast, positive trigger is the sweetest switch this side of custom. Despite its short 3.66” inch barrel, the Caracal-C is very accurate at self defense distances and the Quick Acquisition Sight System does what it claims. Since the UAE is our top trading partner in the region and is strongly committed to quality of manufacturing, this pistol and spare parts should be available for decades, easing concerns about functional obsolescence. At around $400, this pistol’s “introductory price” is a bargain. Grab one before the street price climbs, which it inevitably will.