The subcompact semi-auto handgun market has become considerably more crowded over the last few years. These days every gun manufacturer under the sun has filled out their product lines with small pistols perfect for concealed carry. Despite this crowded marketplace, a new company named Honor Defense thinks their Honor Guard pistol is a sales-winning concealed carry semi-auto 9mm handgun — and they’ve priced it to move. At first blush, Honor Guard’s new gun looks like just about any other polymer-framed compact 9mm handgun. But there are some distinct differences . . .
The HG9SC stainless-steel slide boasts cocking serrations both fore and aft — something missing from similar offerings from major competitors. I personally don’t use forward cocking serrations often but I love having the option.
Despite those serrations, the HG9SC’s slide is still on the slick side. Unlike the sharper and chunkier design of the SIG SAUER X38 series of firearms, the Honor Defense handgun feels smooth. It’s less like to snag on your clothing or stick annoyingly into the side of your body. The rest of the semi-automatic follows suit, flowing almost seamlessly from one feature to the next.
A flowing design might be good for everyday carry and self defense, but it does have some downsides. The rounded ambidextrous slide catch lever on the side of the frame is designed not to stick out past the body of the gun. It makes this compact pistol streamlined and nice in the hand, but trying to use the slide release under pressure can be a challenge. That said, the majority of firearms instructors these days advise against relying on a slide release to send the slide home, suggesting instead suggesting that you slingshot it back into battery. If you’re racking your slide release to lock the gun open, it works great.
Moving south on the gun we get to the frame proper, which is made (as is the style these days) from polymer. That makes for a very lightweight yet strong gun. The grip’s got some serious stippling; enabling a secure grip that isn’t aggressive enough to shred your skin.
Another benefit of the HG9SC’s polymer frame (and their specific implementation): the entire frame can be replaced. The actual serialized firearm is nothing more than a metal chassis, which can be removed and placed in a different frame should you wish to change the geometry. Or replace a broken grip if you accidentally run over it with a tank.
The HG9SC I tested is the traditional carry style with a rounded nose. Honor Defense also offers a version of the gun with a standoff device built-in below the barrel ahead of the trigger guard. You can press the HG9SC’s muzzle directly against the body of an attacker and fire repeatedly without worrying that the gun will jam — something you can’t do with any other semi-auto firearm. The downside: It makes the gun larger and more uncomfortable to carry.
Honor Defense ships the gun with two magazines: one 7-round flush-fit magazine and one 8-round extended magazine. With the flush-fit magazine my little finger hangs off the bottom of the gun. The 8-round magazine allows for a proper full grip on the pistol. Both magazines fed equally well (and with no malfunctions) with the cheapest and crappiest ammunition I could find. The ambidextrous magazine release worked without issue.
Unfortunately, additional magazines are impossible to find. There’s no aftermarket option to acquire new mags. If you want to carry more than the issued two magazines, you will need to order them directly from the factory.
Something that is available immediately is a holster. Options are available from the likes of Galco, Crossbreed, and others to enable you to tote the gun securely on your person. For a gun that launched less than a year ago that’s damn impressive.
The gun ships with traditional three-dot sights installed on the slide, with one difference: The front sight is gigantic and orange. It’s extremely easy to pick up even when shooting under pressure. I like it.
If you don’t like the sights then change them! The dovetail mount is compatible with GLOCK sights, so if you can get them for a G19 then you can put them on your Honor Guard.
The gun also comes with two backstrap panels to customized the grip size to your preference.
Out on the range the HG9SC performs admirably. I didn’t experience any issues with reliability, no matter which brand of ammo I fed it or whether the gun was in the hands of a novice or an expert. My only complaint is the same one I have with every single-stack compact 9mm semi-auto firearm: Holding onto it can be a challenge when firing quickly. The small frame doesn’t provide a ton of real estate for your hands; the support hand has a tendency to slip off after repeated firings. At least in my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Just like other polymer offerings, the Honor Guard HG9SC uses a striker-fired trigger system. The look and feel is eerily similar to the SIG SAUER P320, with a one-piece trigger and a crisp clean break. There’s a bit of take-up before you hit the sear on the trigger pull, though, that spoils some of the fun. Another issue is reset — the trigger has to be released about an inch for it to reset, which is further than most. I’m not that concerned since the reset is very positive, both in a tactile and audible sense. You know when it is ready to fire again.
Accuracy is standard for a compact 9mm. Not outstanding (again due to the compact size) but my target looked remarkably like the targets Dan posted in his GLOCK 43 review.
Overall, the made-in-the-USA Honor Guard 9mm is a honorable competitor in a crowded field. The trigger is okay, the form factor is comfortable, and the gun has some great features. Take-down for disassembly is easy. While that’s all well and good the real killer feature here is the price.
Guns like the (now) venerable GLOCK 43 command an MSRP of $529, while the Honor Guard sub-compact is $499. That might not be a ton of cash, but it’s enough of a difference to make you stop and consider this as a viable option before you plop down the samolians for a GLOCK.
Specifications: Honor Defense Honor Guard HG9SC
Overall Length: 6.2”
Barrel Length: 3.2”
Magazine Release: Ambidextrous mag release
Sights: White-dot rear sights and orange front sight
Safety: Ambidextrous manual safety
Weight: 22 oz.
Capacity: 7+1 or 8+1
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability: * * * * *
Reliable as the day is long – I had no problems.
Ergonomics (carry): * * * * *
I’m a big fan of the rounded edges and the curved design of the gun. It makes concealing the gun very easy, and wearing it around even easier.
Ergonomics (shooting): * * * *
Keeping the support hand engaged was a bit of a challenge, but I always have that problem with compact handguns.
Customize This: * * * *
Just like the P320, the chassis can be swapped out and the entire frame replaced. That alone is excellent. Add in the already available holsters and replacement sights and you can really make this gun your own.
Overall: * * * *
What we have here is a very good 9mm carry gun at a great price. The trigger needs some work, but I would be perfectly happy carrying this gun for personal protection on a daily basis.