By Austin Knudsen
If the BUL Cherokee pistol was sold stateside, the Israeli-made handgun would compete with the CZs, Jerichos and Caniks of the world. But it isn’t. So it doesn’t. Still, I was impressed enough with my used Gen 1 model that I tracked down a full-size Cherokee Gen 2 from BUL’s importer, International Firearms Corporation. Is it better than what’s already on offer in The Land of the Free?
Well, it’s a better gun to have and to hold than the Cherokee Gen 1. For one thing, the Gen 2 Cherokee’s full-grip stippling is a vast improvement over the Gen 1’s minimal, strange “cobblestone” grip pattern. It’s more secure in the hand and less hard o the eyes.
The Gen 2 Cherokee also adds finger grooves.
Almost as intense as the caliber wars, finger grooves evoke either lustful passion or partisan hate. I think it’s a matter of fit; either they do or they don’t. If they fit you must acquit. For me, the Cherokee’s finger grooves are innocent of all charges. It’s like BUL measured my hand and built a grip around it.
BUL also added a Picatinny rail and a squared trigger guard. The latter feature’s nearly identical to GLOCK’s guards, right down to the stepped texturing on the front. The rail is a welcome addition for the light-‘n-laser set. The squared trigger guard? Meh.
When my dad introduced me to shooting his Beretta 92FS, he taught me to put my left index finger on the front of the trigger guard. I haven’t shot that way in 20 years. And I don’t know many shooters who still use the “finger on the trigger guard” shooting grip. I suspect its existence is a GLOCK-a-like marketing move.
The Cherokee Gen 1 magazine has a removable steel baseplate. Gen 2 has a larger plastic baseplate. The Gen 1 magazine’s finish looks like the factory gave it the Krylon touch. The Gen 2 magazine has a more pleasing, highly polished blued finish. The changes are purely cosmetic. The Gen 1 magazines functioned perfectly in the Gen 2 gun, and vice versa.
The Cherokee takes down like any CZ-75 or clone: line up the witness marks on the slide and frame and push out the takedown/slide stop pin from the right side of the pistol. This is best done with the bottom of the magazine; the takedown/slide stop pin is under spring pressure.
Notice the tool marks on the barrel cam. Granted, they’re on the sides of the cam and not on any bearing surface. But tool marks on a firearm are at least a mild concern; they may indicate workmanship and/or quality control issues elsewhere. I found no other such blemishes anywhere else inside or outside the Cherokee. Equally reassuring: Cherokee’s bore and rifling were perfect and the feedramp was mirrored and smooth.
The Cherokee’s three-dot sights are the exact same as on the Gen 1: a front sight post milled integrally to the slide and a Novak-style non-snag combat dovetailed rear sight that’s held in place by a set screw. They aren’t target sights, but they’re sharp and crisp enough for a good sight picture.
The controls are pure CZ-75: a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) system with a safety lever (not a decocker). If you want to fire a double-action first shot, you have to load the chamber and manually decock the hammer (carefully). Or carry it in condition one: chamber loaded, hammer cocked (single action), safety lever engaged. Like the CZ-75, the Cherokee doesn’t mandate a double action first shot — as almost all other DA/SA designs do.
The full-size Cherokee’s trigger is better than the trigger on the G-Compact Cherokee…and most polymer framed service pistols besides. Whereas the G-Cherokee Compact’s trigger had two distinct “stages” to the single action before it hit the wall — and then a lot of creep — the full-size Cherokee had only one slight stage before it hit the wall and the shot broke.
The single-action trigger maxed out my five-pound trigger pull gauge before the shot broke, but just barely. But it was fairly crisp with only a bit of creep. So there’s that.
For accuracy testing, I used six commercially available loads: Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ, American Eagle 147 grain FMJ, Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dots, Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok and Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok.
I tested the Cherokee’s accuracy seated, pistol resting on a sandbag, at 25 yards. I then shot five-round groups with a sixth round loaded in the magazine to maintain consistent pressure on the barrel (if you believe in such things).
The Cherokee’s point of impact was nearly perfect, so the sights from the factory didn’t need adjusting. It’s not a big deal to adjust sights, but it’s nice not to have to.
The BUL Cherokee liked Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok the best. This premium offering (my usual carry load) delivered a two-inch group, with three very nicely clustered shots.
Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ ammo clocked-in with the worst results: a four-inch group with no real solid grouping. Still, at 25 yards, that’s more-than-merely-adequate accuracy from a combat pistol with combat sights. (I typically don’t expect better than 2½ to 3-inch groups at 25 yards.)
My primary gripes with the full-size Cherokee Gen2 are the same as my gripes about the G-Cherokee Compact: the very bottom edges/corners of the trigger are too sharp. And the single action trigger pull is still not as good as it could be, absent labor-intensive hand-polishing.
The BUL Cherokee Gen 2 is a very good gun: comfortable, reliable and accurate. It’s as good as many of its potential competitors — just not appreciably better. And unless BUL builds it here, the Cherokee probably can’t beat the well-known players on price. So the Israeli pistol’s destined to remain an obscure firearm here in The Home of the Brave. Loved, but obscure.
Specifications: BUL Cherokee Gen 2 Pistol
Caliber: 9mm and .40S&W
Capacity: 17+1 (9mm), 14+1 (.40)
Barrel length: 4 3/8 inches
Overall length: 8 ¼ (approx.)
Width: 1 ¼ inches (approx.)
Height: 5 ½ inches
Weight: 1 ¾ pounds
Ratings (out of 5 stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Surprising accuracy from a service pistol with combat sights.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The stippling is a vast improvement over the Gen1 Cherokee and the finger grooves work well (for me). The controls are CZ-75, just where I want them.
Reliability: * * * * *
No problems. [Note: I only put 300 hundred rounds through this gun.]
Customize This: * *
Standard Picatinny rails allow for lights, lasers, or whatever other tactical widget you want to mount under the dustcover. Aftermarket sights and other parts are easily available — in Israel.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
The BUL Cherokee Gen 2 is well-built with excellent ergonomics and accuracy. [Not available in the U.S. market.]