(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Matt M.
Germans drive me nuts. I’ll never forget that time a disgruntled frau took twenty minutes to decry the technical imperfections in the schnitzel I ordered at a local restauraunt. Or how my uncle can dispassionately sneer at any car touched by American hands. Or how H&K expects Americans to pay over nine big ones for their (truly exceptional) Teutonic Tupperware. So, when this independent Yank was offered a gently used all-metal version of the Über-Spendy Pistole for $350 out the door, I just had to say yes.
But first, a word from our sponsors. Gun people are good people, and at the end of the day, most of us just want to hit range with the usual suspects. But times are both uncertain and tough: in the past month, half a dozen friends have come to me looking for handgun advice given tight budgets. Can a new shooter who just re-entered the workforce get a home defense gun nice enough to share with his son? Is there anything for the arthritic grandpa who is left in pain after shooting a 9mm GLOCK? Can a blue-collar guy still find an honest value these days?
Humble fellow that I am, I knew research was in order. A $350 experiment? Why, it’s for the children!
The Gun’s Origins
I’ve always been suspicious of Turkish pistols since the Canik TP9 craze. Everyone had to have one, but I just couldn’t believe that some Walther copy with no aftermarket support and a little miracle paint between it and the elements was a serious contender in the combat handgun market. I never took the opportunity to shoot one and was content to look the other way.
This all changed when friends started calling. They needed quality for around $300. After years of factory consolidations and recalls despite the progress of technology, I realized that there was no way the big names were the only game in town. When I started looking into US customs, I realized that a foreign pistol’s recognition had as much to do with procedural savvy and luck as being a quality piece.
Then someone told me about Sarsilmaz, the largest firearms manufacturer in Turkey and one of the best known brands across the pond. Hard at work since 1880, this company is the only private manufacturer licensed to produce small-arms for its country, NATO’s sixth largest military. FYI, its products exceed the same NATO standards as the Austro-Germanic volkspistoles you know and love. They’re also big into time-tested designs with a twist, satisfying any free-market rebel: let the best possible product be sold at the lowest possible price!
The Gun Itself
As even Diane Feinstein could tell you, the SAR ST10 looks awfully similar to that navy-seal gun Tom Clancy wrote about, and I hear that Sarsilmaz reps flinch when they hear “look, it’s a USP!” Get over it, gentlemen: creativity is overrated and you did a great job.
The distinguishing feature of H&Ks MK23 and later USP line, beyond a legendary reputation for reliability, durability, and bankruptcy-inducing prices, was a buffer system inside the Recoil Spring Assembly. Only the Germans….
Designed to reduce recoil and afford a long lifespan for MK23’s fed a steady diet of .45 Auto +P, a very heavy spring soaks up the final snap in the slide’s last eighth-inch of travel: bullet leaves barrel, barrel drops a la GLOCK, and slide comes back until RSA is gently stopped by pin ala CZ. The buffer spring will supposedly outlast the gun, and in Turkish configuration is contained by a roll-pinned collar under a floating shroud.
So: cool spring; what else? Not much. This is a boring gun, but as any 1911-ist will tell you, a boring day on the range is something to call mom about. What we have here is a full-size service pistol in traditional double-action without a de-cocker, as could be expected from a CZ-cloning facility. It’s dimensionally similar to a SIG and follows suit with steel on top, aluminum on the bottom.
Grips are a superb stippled plastic and as chunky as your average all-metal wondernine. Despite the hump on the grip, she points like a SIG; GLOCKsters like yours truly will have to unlock their wrist to bring the sights up.
Unfortunately, nothing comes for free and that recoil-abating magic takes up space. Good grief! Look at the slide: it’s huge. Cavernous! It’s is a full quarter-inch taller than a G17’s but almost an ounce lighter. That’s all air, folks, and it makes for a much higher bore axis.
Mercifully, the ST10 is taller than it is “big” and its snout is actually, well, kind’a svelte. All the girth is in the controls and grip panels. Given that this isn’t the gat for Thunderwear, your ability to handle the handle boils down to ergonomic preference.
The best feature on this gun, however, is the machining. Not only is the tooling near-perfect, but the slide and frame (matching serials!) fit together better than $900 duty pistols of similar construction. The rails are made up of a steel locking block above the trigger and cutouts in the aluminum frame at the rear. Think Springfield XD without the plastic shavings.
Enough talk! For your reading pleasure I packed up four types of standard-pressure ammo—sorry, EAA’s legal team says no +P—and made a couple trips to the range. Along the way, I met up with a loving, arthritic grandpa and my pal Harry.
The Gun In Action
“Holy crap! It can’t be this easy!” Such was our general consensus disassembling our ST10 for lubrication. The one thing I’ve always hated about CZ-style handguns are the blasted slide-stop pins, exorcised only by squinting, painful hand contortions and a rubber mallet. Idiot scratches abound.
Not so with this baby: drop the mag, line up the ample notch in the slide with the huge pin at the front of the slide release, apply pinky-pressure, and catch in your other hand. This is the easiest gun to disassemble any of us has seen, but locked up solidly during firing. Go Sarsilmaz!
Lubed up and ready to go, we got to testing. Forgive my accuracy, the indoor range was 94, humid, and still, but the ST10 shot pretty well. Several times, I would put three shots in under an inch before the group fell apart. Why? I’m so glad you asked….
As you can see, the serrated trigger is clearly intended for single-action duty, coming in on my Wheeler trigger gauge at a stout five and a half pounds. Actually, the SA pull feels heavier and is long by 1911 standards; the double-action was too ponderous for even this DAO revolver fanboy. That said, all agreed that the SA pull was spot-on for a duty gun. To Sarsilmaz’s credit, both single- and double-action pulls were very smooth.
Now, about that fancy recoil spring. Don’t breathe the forum-farts: it works like nobody’s business. Our comparison is a CZ75 clone. Harry and I immediately felt a huge difference: the recoil impulse was the same but slower, missing that final snap when the slide rams into the frame. Our arthritic friend was very pleased but less impressed, preferring the CZ75.
If you’ll forgive the arrogance of youth, Grandfather’s observation of less CZ recoil was misguided: the ST10 had no snap, but the CZ had no kick, no muzzle rise. Also, he was wearing gloves. Bore Axis matters, kids, regardless of what ProphetBrowning45 wrote online. Take a peek at our skyscraper between the famously low-bored GLOCK and it’s one-up, the Steyr L9-A1.
Moral of the story: Sarsilmaz’ ST10 is a pleasure to shoot and should be kid-, arthritis-, and newbie-friendly. However, you’re going to be slowed down by the “street-friendly” trigger and muzzle-rise of this gently-bucking bronco.
The Gun in Retrospect
So, at the end of the day, what did we think of SAR Arms ST10? We had some quibbles.
The gun pointed low in my hands, but that’s what GLOCKs are for. The trigger was a little heavy, but in a comforting kind of way; with its fabulous, affirmative safety all of us would be comfortable carrying cocked-and-locked in a good holster. The slide was big, but that made it a pleasure to rack, even for arthritic hands longing for surgery this fall.
The gun was almost too easy to disassemble, but we had no problems on the line and wouldn’t expect any unless you’re grappling with an assailant over your gun: CQB with an autoloader is never a recipe for reliability; even then, you could expect to get a shot off before the works jam up.
Less inspiring, however, were the sights. Customization is overrated and, as Hickok45 pointed out with his three-inch S&W 65, you don’t need fancy sights on a great platform. The ST10 has a nice photoluminescent adjustable three-dot setup, the rear being windage-adjustable and the front presumably replaceable for elevation. However, while the young buck of our trio did just fine, everyone else thought the sights were a little tight.
Furthermore, the German within me railed against the loose front sight, held in place with a spring-detent, not the dovetail. If you love this gun but hate the sights, our condolences: aftermarket parts are non-existent, and deep-pocket gunsmithing, while appropriate for a piece of this quality, won’t interest my target audience.
Also frustrating were the grips. They worked very well and, like the gun, were of a very high quality. However, a gun this good deserves some G10, and there ain’t no stinkin’ aftermarket parts! This would be OK given that the grips really do work well, but… could they at least fit right from the factory? As you can see, the frame juts out sharply—just a bit—at the top of the grip panels. Thankfully, this was barely noticeable but for a little reddening of the palm after a long day.
The End of the Matter
Even with a street price over $400, the SAR ST10 is not so much “a deal” as it is an incredible value. Do a point test with a SIG. Grab one at the local gun store, close your eyes, and thrust it at the furthest corner of the ceiling with a white-knuckle grip. Do your eyes open to a perfect sight picture or at least good vertical alignment? If so, you’d be a fool not to pick one of these up for half the price of the thing you’re holding. If all ST10s are as good as mine, let it be known that Sarsilmaz makes serious hardware.
Long term, my deepest concerns boil down to aftermarket support. What if I accidentally over-torque a screw and crack the grips? How long will it take to get replacement springs? Will I ever be able to change the sights? Given that GLOCKs and CZs point better for me, I’ll probably sell this fighting pistol before the Clintocalypse, but what if we were a perfect match? Perhaps the issue will resolve itself if enough of you find Turkish delights as I have.
Specifications – SarArms (EAA) ST10
CAPACITY: 15 (feels right) 17 (max)
MATERIALS: Painted aluminum, matte stainless
WEIGHT UNLOADED: 33.25oz
WEIGHT LOADED: 40.75oz (Fed. 9BPLE)
OA LENGTH: 8”
OA HEIGHT: 5.6”
WIDTH: 1.34” (controls), 1.08” (frame)
SLIDE: 1.04” high, 12oz
SIGHTS: Photoluminescent adjustable Three-Dot
SIGHT RADIUS: 6.3”
GRIPS: Stippled Plastic
TRIGGER PULL: 5.5 lbs (SA)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Aesthetics: * * * *
Think H&K without the chintzy plastic. All-business machismo is marred only by imperfect grip fitting and inevitable dings on aluminum frame.
Accuracy: * * * *
I think I could shoot sub-one-inch groups at respectable distances if the trigger was lighter or I shot it more. Older shooters had no complaints here, but hated the tight sight picture. Either way, not perfect.
Ergonomics-Handling: * * * *
Points like a SIG with a sharp spot on the grip. Once Hogue makes G10 grips, she’ll be perfect. Keep those cards and letters coming.
Ergonomics-Firing: * * * *
The recoil control on this gun is AMAZING…but for the bore axis. If you think SIGs aren’t prone to muzzle rise, five stars. A solid four for the rest of us.
Reliability: * * * *
No news is good news, but the notion that this can’t take SAAMI-spec +P 9mm is offensive. All shooters felt that the frame was better suited to full-power 10mm or .45 Auto fare… just like the USP it’s derived from. On that note, EAA has three interested buyers if they’ll introduce the ST10 in more substantial calibers.
Customization: * *
Oooh, so sorry…no customization. It does have a rail, there are some grips and holsters on the dark corners of the internet, and it is cheap enough to play with a Dremel tool as much as your heart desires. It could be worse, but I can better customize a DAO snubbie with fixed sights.
Overall: * * * *
This gun is a great gun. It deserves five stars, but is merely almost perfect. Come on, don’t make me do this!