(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 26th!)
“Nice gun ya got there,” asked the grey haired counter jockey. “Reminds me of a CZ75.”
“Oh, but it’s not…..” was my response, for reasons soon to be clear.
“Nice. What is it?”
The words died in my throat. For the first time in my gun-owning life, I was at a loss for words to that basic inquiry. Typically the answer to the question of what kind of gun you have isn’t this difficult to answer. Then again, this isn’t your typical 9mm pistol. Forged frame, adjustable sights, all metal construction, checkering on the front and backstrap…where’s the striker? Manual frame-located safety? Sixteen-round magazine? . . .
Much like Jason Bourne, this is a pistol with many identities. So let’s answer the basic question of what this thing is.
The story of the “Armalite Identity” opens in Cold War Czechoslovakia, circa 1975. Two men invent a pistol which in many respects advances the game on 9mm duty guns. They just had the misfortune of doing so under a socialist regime. Given the traditional communist attitude regarding intellectual property, their design was not safeguarded by international patent protection. A fortunate development for us, given the CZ 75 design was not available for mass import to the US or Western Europe.
Yet amidst the international intrigue, small arms company Tanfoglio spotted an opportunity. They built direct copies of the CZ 75 design and sold them to eager shooters craving the real article after Col. Jeff Cooper’s endorsement of the embargoed Czech pistol. As the years went on, Tanfoglio would redesign the fire control unit of their CZ copies, and made further evolutions which set their design apart from the parent gun in measurable ways.
Due to the aforementioned embargo, CZ could not seek military contracts with western nations for the CZ 75. Tanfoglio was under no such restrictions, and their partnership with Israeli arms manufacturer IMI (later IWI, importers of the delightful TAVOR bullpup) resulted in the Jericho 941, which has since evolved into its own lineup. Fun fact: the first series of those guns were made in Italy until the Israeli factory spun up.
The next part of the story takes us to Turkey, home of the ancient city Constantinople. Even there, we have an identity crisis — modern maps call it Istanbul. Tanfoglio sought to partner with the Turkish state arms maker Sarsilmaz in the same respect they did with Israel, but things went south. The specifics seem to be lost to history, but the result is easy enough to determine. Sarsilmaz, the oldest of the Turkish gun firms, broke off the association with Tanfoglio and made their own models based on those designs without Italy’s sanction.
In this fashion Sarsilmaz made CZ-based Tanfoglio clones for years. But they did it well, as a gun firm founded in the 1800s ought to. Armalite President Mark Westrom was impressed enough with the quality of Sarsilmaz’s work that he saw an opportunity to import their wares under the Armalite brand.
Thus was born the AR-24.
Styled after the SIG P210, it’s hard to argue against its aesthetic qualities. Devoid of polymer excepting the soft-touch grips, it stands out from the crowd of striker-fired contemporaries — an appealing feature for me, a shooter irrationally prejudiced against polymer. There’s a certain heft and old-school charm about its metal construction lost in an age of grip force adapters and changeable backstraps. Good features to be sure, but there’s no emotional replacement for making a pistol out of the same solid stuff which underpinned the good Colonel’s 1911, and the noble weapons of ancient Rome before that.
Leaving behind nostalgia, we come to the prominent Armalite engravings all over the pistol. It’s only sign of origin is the “Made in Turkey” subtly engraved beneath the Armalite markings prominently proclaiming “Geneseo, IL USA”. Given that Illinois barely resembles American republican government, there’s room for debate on that subject. A gun with this much text on it would normally be ugly as sin, but its muted black matte finish lends it a futuristic and purposeful appearance – and also makes the trademarks hard to view. How unfortunate (not!).
This is the AR-24-15-C variant. One was produced with fixed sights and non-checkered grips, but the one in my possession is the upgraded version, hence the alphabet soup name. The letter denotes the aforementioned grip enhancements, and LPA low profile sights in the rear which are windage and elevation adjustable. Not bad. Such modifications rarely ship on guns from the factory, unless there are four digits on the price tag.
Range impressions: splendid. A bad time shooting is hard to achieve, to be sure, but the combination of a forged frame and light Tanfoglio-derived trigger action make for an easy experience. Line up sights, apply fundamentals, press trigger, hit the target. The recoil is soft enough to prompt checking the slide to ensure you’re not accidentally firing a .22. Perhaps that’s why the left side of the slide is emblazoned “9mm Parabellum.” That settles any debate with incredulous bystanders marveling at your range performance. This is one of those rare guns which makes its handler look like a better shooter then he is.
As it’s a Tanfoglio under the skin, it takes 16 round EAA Witness magazines, a useful feature because owning a pistol with impossible-to-find or $50 magazines isn’t much fun. Not having to refinance your home to buy mags is a feature in my book, a fact SIG Sauer and HK should take to heart one of these days.
Alas, this is the only weak point I’ve found. One of the magazines in the box refused to feed the last round propery, an issue I’ve encountered with Tanfoglios before. It’s an issue readily fixed with liberal application of “Mec-Gar”. I’ve yet to log a malfunction using quality magazines, so I’m confident the design itself is quite sound. I wish 1911 magazine troubles were so easy to isolate.
Another benefit of the Tanfoglio-based action — the safety can not only be engaged to operate the gun C1, but the safety can remain engaged whilst actuating the slide. The piece can be loaded, carried, and unloaded without once taking the pistol off safe. It can also be carried hammer down with the safety engaged. You may many wonder why someone would want to do that. The answer: newbies.
I’ve handed off striker-fired pistols to brand new shooters before. I don’t know how police rangemasters at LE academies manage to avoid stress-induced aneurisms, with ten plus people manipulating ready-to-fire pistols with only novice command of trigger and muzzle discipline. A safety which works in all modes of operation takes a lot of stress away from the necessary job of teaching newbies about shooting and the four rules. This way, being swept by said newbie shooter is less “dive for the deck” and more “educational opportunity.”
Speaking of rules, there are few more absolute than the amount we can budget toward gun expenses…or the spousal reaction when a ‘budget overrun’ takes place at the gun shop. New, these pistols sold for about $650. I procured my example for $430 including FFL charges, an absolute bargain given what you get — the most refined 9mm shooter this side of a SIG P226 pre-Cohen.
Alas, as with most unique products nowadays, the AR-24 has been discontinued. The reason isn’t the gun’s fault. Sarsilmaz has entered the US market under their own label now, importing the B6 steel and K2 models via EAA-who also import the Witness as built by Tanfoglio. One wonders how tense the meetings are at EAA these days. As folks of my generation say, ‘awwwkwarrd.’ In any event, Sarsilmaz has no reason to make a gun for Armalite which competes with their own products.
So those who want an AR-24 are left to Armslist and Gunbroker to procure one.
As far as holsters go, Beretta 92FS holsters seem to work great for this piece. The AR-24 will also fit a Miami Classic Galco holster for the Beretta with some adjustment, and CZ 75 grips fit – one should only check to make sure the magazine release clears the right panel. Small-frame Witness parts work for this design, so while not enjoying the aftermarket support of a GLOCK 17, it’s hardly an orphan of the aftermarket as an HK or Steyr would be.
Compared to modern polymer frame offerings,the AR-24 Tactical is heavier, with less capacity than modern polymer-framed offerings. But you don’t own one of these because it’s a logical choice. Sometimes, as Jason Bourne demonstrates, the principle is a good enough reason on its own.
My answer to the question, after a moment’s consideration of its lengthy history, was simple:
“Its great .”
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability: * * * *
Total rounds fired-150. 2 Failures to Extract, traced to a defective factory magazine. No malfunctions with MecGar magazine.
Carry: * *
Fits Beretta 92 holsters with some adjustment, but it’s a heavy gun. No such thing as aftermarket holster support.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Its built on a CZ design and has checkered front and backstraps.’Nuff Said.
Fit and Finish: * * * *
Sig better look out; the Turks can make good quality hardware.
Customization: * *
Tanfoglio accessories and parts such as safeties and such fit,but ‘drop in’ they are not. Don’t google “AR-24” sights unless you want to stump the search engine.
MSRP( before being discontinued) ;$650. Can be found online used for less then $450.
Overall: * * * *
A very underrated effort by Sarsilmaz and Armalite worthy of serious consideration.