Gun Review: Grand Power X-Calibur 9mm

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RF has known me for a couple of years now. So when he told me to come over and pick up something interesting I was thinking more along the lines of a bottle blonde with chest ink and a couple priors. What I got instead was the Grand Power X-Calibur 9mm pistol. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little let down. Still, it’s a neat looking target pistol. Robert’s invitation may have been a disappointment, the pistol wasn’t . . .

Other than the gun itself, I didn’t have much information to go on. A Google search sent me straight to the Grand Power LTD website. Fortunately I have my Texas concealed carry permit, because otherwise I guess I wouldn’t be allowed to look at the site. As soon as you open the site a disclaimer reads:

Websites you are about to enter are dedicated to experts in field of firearms and ammunition. You state that you are firearms license or permit holder by entering these sites. OK.

From that moment on, everything I read had a thick Soviet-era accent to it. The website didn’t provide much information in the way of the gun’s manufacture or the functioning of the pistol, but it was well worth a read:

Appearance of the X-CALIBUR model follows well known X-TRIM model with typical shapes on the slide. The new shaping of the slide resulted in weight reduction, the gun appears light and predaceous. The revealed barrel together with emphasized castellation of the slide offers an attractive design putting the shooting experience on the first place.

“Light and predaceous.” How Jurassic Park is that? Eagle Imports brings this gun into the USA and you can find a description of it on their website. It’s in plain old boring English.  Anyway, Grand Power is a Slovakian manufacturer. The X-Calibur is their top of the line “sport” pistol aimed at the IPSC shooter (so to speak). Like many of the guns for this market, it’s a DA/SA full-frame 5″ slide 9mm with a 15+1 capacity. It looks and feels like many of the High Power/ CZ-75 guns vying for competitors’ cash.

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The Slovakian gun shipped with two 15-round magazines and multiple back straps. At first glance, gun is good! The X-Calibur’s 1mm wide fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight and long sight radius ((over 8 1/2 inches) are ideal for accuracy-minded shooters. Lefties and wounded righties rejoice! The X-Claiber’s safety, magazine release and slide lock are on both sides of the pistol.

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Takedown is pretty simple, but read the manual. It’s kind of a down and back and forward thing that’s easy to do and hard to say. Once stripped to its bits, the X-Calibur appears to be a steel-frame pistol wrapped in a polymer coating with a steel slide. The older K100 pistol by Grand Power was imported by STI here in Georgetown, Texas, with STI branding on it.  STI is the maker of the familiar 2011 race guns, and the heritage of that manufacturing is present in the X-Calibur as well.

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Grand Power heavily serrated the slide with deep decorative cuts. The resulting weight loss makes the gun feels light and maneuverable. Robert was right about one thing: the X-Claiber’s distinctive barrel alone makes this gun interesting. No, it’s not that it’s grooved, though it is and deeply. What really makes this barrel different: it doesn’t tilt. It rotates 90 degrees to accept a new round and then locks into battery upon rotating back.

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Very few pistols use this type of action. The Berretta Storm uses a similar system – and that’s all I can find. (No doubt TTAG Armed Intelligentsia will offer a full history, a list of guns so constructed and the rotating barrel’s pros and cons. Gratefully received.) After working dry fire drills with the X-Calibur and meditating on the internals, I figured the rotating barrel gives the gun a slightly lower bore axis in a common pistol length gun. At this point, the X-Claiber had my full attention.

To the range!

Loading the magazines to full capacity is pretty tight. (Despite sacrificing my epidermis for the cause, I could only load 14 rounds of Wolf ammo.) I loaded my first 30 rounds of Winchester White Box 9X19, locked the X-Calibur’s action back, flipped the safety up, and inserted the magazine. The gun immediately went into battery. I tried that again, with the exact same results. I didn’t disengage the slide lock. I didn’t pull the slide back and release it. I inserted a magazine and the gun went into battery, chambering the first round.

This is a design feature – one of which I am not a fan. That said, chambering a round fast on a full magazine is not the worst thing in the world; some people surely see it as a plus, or even as a feature. Especially in competition. A few people have told me their HK pistols do this, as well as some other manufacturer’s guns. I’ve had pistols that had this same “feature” and I don’t have any of them anymore.

Other than the slide and barrel decoration and the rotating bolt, the X-Claiber’s other “distinctive” feature: the truly massive ambidextrous plastic thumb safety. I’m a guy who likes to shoot 1911s with my thumb resting on the safety, so a continental plate-sized thumb rest hanging on the back of the gun may seem like a good idea. To me, it’s not.

First, the “on” position of the safety is too high, a bit of a reach. Also, the safety’s jumbo size makes it too easy to disengage. For range use, this feature is acceptable. Otherwise . . . even a light catch on my shirt from the draw would disengage the X-Calibur’s safety. The switch is also uncomfortable after long strings. The material is too thin and acts like a blade into the middle of your thumb. Shoot 50 rounds or so and it isn’t a problem. Shoot 500 and it’s an issue.

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Grand Power includes a smaller sized safety with each gun if, like me, you like your safeties smaller. I highly recommend making the switch.

Once I dropped that massive safety and squeezed the trigger, I was genuinely surprised. In double action, the trigger is too heavy, but it’s smooth enough and not too long. In single action, the trigger is good to great. Nice and smooth with minimal creep. The reset is solid, crisp and very short.

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That cut slide, and low bare axis combined with that bright front sight made for fast shots on small targets. Traversing targets was particularly rewarding. It’s a fast gun. I would have liked a little more weight on the front end, but man, that gun would move, and then stop on targets most riki tik.

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With some practice, I could shoot the 5 1/2″ plate on the dueling tree at 15 yards. Better yet I’d be ready to shoot it again by the time the paddle swung around to the other side. Now that was fun. I spent a goodly amount of time, and ammunition, running a mockup of an IDPA classifier stage.

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Which brings me to the gun’s reliability. Other than the immediate chambering of a round highlighted above, I shot 520 rounds with zero failures. This was over three days, one of them which was raining pretty heavily, with no cleaning of the gun of any kind. I did Rem-Oil it prior to the first shot.

In addition to the Winchester and Wolf FMJ rounds, I also shot Winchester PDX 124gr +P and 124gr Federal Hydra Shock round without any problems. By the time I finished shooting, the gun was dirty from carbon, and had plain old dirt and mud in it from repeatedly dropping the mags onto the muddy ground, reloading it, and reinserting them into the gun. It just kept running. But does the gun sacrifice accuracy for reliability?

It does not. Nothing I shot was more than a 2-inch group at 25 yards. The PDX round shot 1 1/4 inch groups at 25 yards off a bag, and the Winchester FMJ round shot a solid 1″ group over and over again. At the seven yard line it’s impossible to tell if I shot three or 15 rounds through the target. It’s just one hole. That’s exceptional.

The rotating barrel X-Calibur is not your usual handgun. In this case, unusual means unusually good. Remember: this a “race” gun, not an everyday carry piece. As such, I’d love to see it in the hands of a pro-shooter like the lovely, articulate and plain speaking Jessie Duff. I don’t think she’d be disappointed. And neither will you – once you sort that going-into-battery thing and wing masquerading as a safety.

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * *
I like the slide cuts and the fluted barrel, but I usually do.

Accuracy * * * * *
This is an $800 gun shooting one-inch groups with cheap ammo. Exceptional.

Reliability * * * * * and ZERO
That slide returning to battery upon magazine insertion is a deal killer for me.  It might not be for you.  Otherwise, this gun runs perfectly.

Customize This * * * *
The gun comes with a rail, four back straps and great sights that you can take off if you want. Considering the purpose of this gun, you’re already where you need to be right out of the box. Mounting an optic would require significant gunsmithing and it’s not threaded.

Overall * * * *
Based solely on its running performance, this is a five-star gun. Chambering upon magazine insertion dropped this gun from my very, very short five-star list. As a sport gun made to run in the production class, it runs very well. Fast, highly maneuverable, and very accurate. Swap the large safety with the standard-size one and you have an ideal gun for its intended purpose at a very reasonable price.

 

Added by Jeremy S. — I have TriggerScan data on a new Grand Power. SA clocks in at 4.3 lbs and DA at just under 11 lbs. Total travel distance before the break, including takeup (slack), is just 0.136″ in SA and 0.615″ in DA.
Grand Power SA DA

comments

  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    “I was thinking more along the lines of a bottle blonde with chest ink and a couple priors”
    Yup. Coffee. Right out my nose.

    I’m kind of digging the looks of this pistol. I’m always liking the odd ones.
    Accuracy seems good. Those safeties are huge! But I think I like that too.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      My FFL had an X-Trim (https://grandpower.eagleimportsinc.com/grandpower/firearms/k100-x-trim-series in for a customer and I was super impressed with it. Ergos were good, and the trigger was insane. The DA was closer to a CZ 75 Shadow than a CZ 75, and the single action was target quality. If you look at the rest of the line on the Eagle Imports site, there’s a bunch of 9s, a .40, a .45, and a couple of .22s w/ threaded barrels.

      The Grand Powers have always had very solid reputations. I just wish I could get a K102 or K105 with 2-shot burst and/or full auto!







    2. avatar bontai Joe says:

      “I was thinking more along the lines of a bottle blonde with chest ink and a couple priors”

      I used to think along those same lines, until I realized that those women come with a price tag, a moving van full of excess emotional baggage, drug crazed ex-boyfriends, multiple children with multiple fathers (usually one currently in prison) and typically have a disease that antibiotics won’t cure. Cost me some money and a couple of scars to learn that because i tend to be a slow learner, I hope you can learn it faster/easier than I did.

      As my dear departed grandmother used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone.”

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The way I heard it (and saw it proven true in LA) was “Beauty is only skin deep, cute comes from the inside, and ugly goes clear to the bones.”

        And the older I get, the more true I realize that is.

      2. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “I used to think along those same lines, until I realized that those women come with a price tag, a moving van full of excess emotional baggage, drug crazed ex-boyfriends, multiple children with multiple fathers (usually one currently in prison) and typically have a disease that antibiotics won’t cure.”

        You say that like it’s a bad thing. or something…

        “As my dear departed grandmother used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone.””

        Your Granny ripped-off 70’s comedy genius Redd Foxx?

        http://www.korpisworld.com/quotes/redd_foxx_quotes.htm

      3. avatar Lo Kruth says:

        Eh ever heard the word “humour”?

    3. avatar 9mmFun says:

      Same LOL

    4. We love this gun. I used it as an instructor to help calm people about shooting. It’s just that smooth. You can see our review here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk41ClwO-m4

  2. avatar Mike says:

    For a competition race gun its supposed to go into battery upon mag insertion, it saves time. Remember this is not supposed to be a carry gun. Doesn’t the x-caliber come with smaller safeties you can switch out?

    I dont own one but I’d sure enough give it a run.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “Doesn’t the x-caliber come with smaller safeties you can switch out?”
      This one didn’t, but I can find photos online of the same gun with a different safety. So I can only assume it is possible.

      1. avatar David Copping says:

        The thin safety levers are shipped with the gun under the foam box liner with the spare springs. The end user can switch one or both to suit there needs.

        All the Grand Power pistols will auto forward when you slap in a fresh mag.

  3. avatar ChiDog says:

    Commrade Jon, vhat is reasonble price of dis gun??

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I can find them on GunBroker for just under $800 and the gun is well worth that.

      1. avatar Fred says:

        Ouch, that’s in M&P CORE territory. I expected a $500-700 range. I guess that would have to include import costs.

        1. avatar RenegadeDave says:

          You’re doing far better than an M&P core with this gun.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Fred, having fired the M&P CORE about the same number of rounds at the X-Calibur, I’d take the X-Calibur any day of the week.

        3. avatar DangerMouse says:

          Bro, this thing outclasses the M&P in every way except maybe domestic aftermarket support.

          There are some aftermarket optic mounts. Both low profile and over the slide mounting plate style.

          Also if you look on Brian Enos’ forum there are some custom guns with milled slides to accept melted in optics.

  4. avatar Fred says:

    Being marketed to competitive shooters the auto slide release makes sense. Some competitive shooters look for guns that do that every time. I got used to it on my P30 until I sold it and it’s not an every time occurrence on my P07. I remember getting a chuckle out of a S&W forum where every member suggested returning any gun that released the slide when a mag is inserted, even if it only happened once.

  5. avatar dlj95118 says:

    Jeese Louise… X-Caliber, X-Calibur, X-Claiber – pick one, and stick with it.

  6. avatar BDub says:

    “Very few pistols use this type of action. The Berretta Storm uses a similar system – and that’s all I can find.”

    GSh-18 – Another Russian —> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSh-18

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Beretta/Stoeger Cougar/8000 as well. And the Colt All American.

    2. avatar Butch Nowak says:

      Have nice day…………..

  7. avatar Pwrserge says:

    I rather like the auto slide release even in a personal defense firearm. The only caveat is that it must do so every time and must not induce a feeding malfunction. It’s one less step to worry about in a high stress reload.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “The only caveat is that it must do so every time”
      That’s where I am. If it did it on a hard magazine insertion as well as a gentle magazine insertion and did it every time, I wouldn’t have dinged it.

      1. avatar Xanthro says:

        I actually have no problem if every time it’s a hard insert it goes into battery, and every time it’s a soft insert it does not.
        In fact, I’d like that feature.
        It would need to be consistent that for each. Soft insert, not in battery, hard insert in battery.
        That why I could determine whether it goes into battery in changing the mag.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          I wouldn’t mind the “feature”, if two things were in play – 1) if an empty magazine left the slide locked back, and 2) loading a full mag with the trigger depressed didn’t fire a round.

          I don’t suppose you tested that last one, John?

        2. avatar DJ says:

          Is there ever a time you insert a loaded mag that you don’t want it to go into battery?

        3. avatar Xanthro says:

          Is there ever a time you insert a loaded mag that you don’t want it to go into battery?
          —————–
          Yes, such as demonstrating firearm handling and how firearms work to beginners.
          I’ve learned to warn people about the slide going into battery, as the sounds sometimes startles people. When explaining how a firearm works, I want the slide locked back after the magazine is inserted so they can see the internals and a snap cap isn’t in battery yet. (I always use snap caps in demonstrations) I could lock the slide back and eject the snap cap, but now I have to catch the snap cap.
          It’s why I like that it stays locked back if the mag is gently inserted, as they only time I’d do that is why demonstrating how it works to beginners.

    2. avatar DJ says:

      I agree, Serge, but I’ve never owned a pistol with that functionality that worked reliably (ie, it always went into battery every time).

      It’s funny, the tacticool guys all teach “grab the slide to get into battery” now, but after 20 years of “insert mag, hit slide release” these muscles are not being retrained. Hell, that’s what it’s there for…

  8. avatar NDS says:

    I’m not an M&P owner because of the auto slide release “feature” – it does not sound as consistent as this particular gun but it does it often enough for me they are a no-go.

  9. avatar Jeremy in AL says:

    If this is a competition gun why are the mags only 15 rounds? Are there basepads/extensions to get to the common 140mm length limit?

    1. avatar RenegadeDave says:

      It’s an IPSC gun and a production gun. IPSC is 15+1 and Production is 10+1. If you want to run it in limited, I guess you’re welcome to.

  10. avatar Dm says:

    All my M&P’s would chamber a round when a new mag was inserted. Worked 100% of the time. I liked it and really can’t see a downside.

    1. avatar John says:

      Mine do not (full size 9 and also a 9mm Shield). I can’t think of a downside, though, unless maybe the practical shooting course rules have a problem with that. I’ve been wanting to go try some of those, haven’t made it yet.

  11. avatar Geoff PR says:

    JWT –

    The fact barrel rotates may mean even if you thread it, the additional mass of the suppressor may substantially slow it down in returning to battery, or make it do other weird cycling things. Or even try to un-thread itself…

  12. avatar RenegadeDave says:

    I think these things are neat, super illegal for IDPA unfortunately, like most IPSC production race guns.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Not even ESP?

  13. avatar Fuque says:

    Much sexier than the blonde with chest Ink living on my street.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Much sexier than the blonde with chest Ink living on my street.”

      Move to Florida.

      *snicker*

  14. avatar Bill Kohnke says:

    The Mexican Obregon 45 pistol made in the 1930s is the first rotating barrel sidearm I am aware of. It was a fascinating design and should have caught on, but didn’t.

    1. avatar PeterC says:

      Steyr 1912 used a rotating barrel, if I remember correctly.

  15. avatar Mike says:

    Don’t they make a full auto version ?

  16. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Looks cool…

  17. avatar John in CT says:

    STI’s version of the GrandPower K100 (GP6) is one of my favorite guns I’ve ever shot.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get it in time for it to have been grandfathered under AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDREN’S SAFETY (SB1183) and finding compliant magazines for them is more than a bit of a hassle, so I’ve never made the effort to obtain one for myself.

    Once I move, it’s definitely on the shortlist.

  18. Has anyone tried running a CZ99 magazine in one of these? The catches look very similar.

    I gotta say, the Grand Power K100 X-Cal and the Canik55 TP9SFX are really at the top of my pistol list for next year. Nice to see some foreign imports that bring a lot to the table and don’t have insane pricing (especially with magazines).

    1. avatar Winston Mew says:

      my Grand Power mags will work fine in my CZ SP01 Shadow because they have the mag retention notch in the corner of the mag. My CZ mags lack the front center mag retention notch, so while they will fit in my Grand Power guns, they won’t retain. I have heard some users who have successfully added that notch by drilling and filing, but that could be pretty tricky.

  19. avatar Fred Frendly says:

    Saw the video of the Slovakian factory these are made, looks like a high tech operation. The only consideration is they could fold up or quit exporting at any time, making parts and magazines tough to obtain.

    1. avatar Winston B says:

      Grand Power’s actually the official sidearm of the Slovakian Military and Law Enforcement so I doubt they’re going away anytime soon.

  20. avatar Jody Buck says:

    I have the X-caliber and it has quickly become my favorite pistol! If you want the slide to stay locked open when you insert a mag just push up on the slide release when inserting. I have several pistols that do this. I love the large safeties but when I carry I change the left side to the smaller one that comes with it.

    1. avatar Joe says:

      How do you change the safeties? I’ve been ripping my right index finger with the right sided safety during competitions

  21. avatar Patrick says:

    It is possible to mount a red dot on the X-Calibur. The sight cut is for an Eliason sight / 1911 Gold Cup. EGW makes mounts for the Gold Cup that work perfectly in the X-Calibur.

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