I’m always on the lookout for a sub-compact 9mm that I like. I like the Naroh N1.
I’m a big fan of little guns. It’s a miracle of the modern age of how much potential power and utility such a small object can have, and I’m a bit in awe of them. You aren’t under-gunned with a little gun.
I’ve always had a sub-compact for discreet carry, as a backup, or when my clothes simply won’t permit a full-sized gun. Those guns have ranged from my long time friend, the J-Frame Airweight in 38 Special, to a Kahr PM9, to a GLOCK G43, to my current G42.
When I heard about the Naroh N1, I wasn’t expecting it to be as small as it was. Note the photo above. That’s my GLOCK 42 in .380 ACP on top of the Naroh N1 9X19. I swapped my G43 with the G42 because the G43 was just a little too big to boot carry. I can boot-carry the N1.
The Naroh N1 is an entirely US-made sub-compact handgun. And I mean all of it, right down to the polymer case it comes in. How is that possible for a budget sub-compact from a new manufacturer?
Although the N1 is Naroh’s first 100% in-house-designed firearm, the same folks have been wholesale suppliers for other people’s gun parts for years now. They already have the machine capability, the in-house design team, and several patents.
Complete firearms may be new to the company, but firearms manufacturing itself isn’t.
The N1 is just as notable for what it isn’t as for what it actually is. It’s not just another striker-fired polymer framed pistol. Most obviously, it’s not striker fired. In a break from the modern trend, Naroh decided to go with a hammer fired pistol. The hammer is unseen during use, except for the back end.
You can see it move slightly as you work the trigger. Pulling the gun apart, you’ll see the hammer rises just above the internal frame. Although this is a hammer-fired pistol, it’s not double strike capable. The slide must reciprocate each time in order for the hammer to move and drop.
Although it looks like it, this is not a true polymer-framed gun. Look closely and you’ll see the serialized internal frame sits inside the polymer grip. That internal frame system is the familiar hard-coat anodized 7075 aluminum and includes the full length bottom rails.
The polymer portion of the gun is the grip itself. The slide itself is a nitride-coated 416 stainless steel. The barrel is 4140, also nitride-coated.
Naroh described the N1 as a “metal gun with a polymer interface”. I bristled when I first heard that, but in comparing it to guns like the GLOCKs, that description is pretty spot-on.
The most eye-catching thing on the N1 is that bright red 7075 aluminum trigger. The long double action trigger has a tiny bit of grit to it, and breaks at just over 6 lbs. In his first look, Jeremy noted there is a slight stutter step in the reset. If he hadn’t said so, I wouldn’t have noticed it, but it’s definitely there.
There is no manual safety. There is no uncomfortable “safety blade” on the N1s trigger either. The complete cycle of the trigger removes the internal drop safety and the gun won’t fire unless the trigger is fully depressed.
If I wanted to get picky — and you know I do — I don’t particularly like the shape of the trigger. That forward angle at the bottom rubbed on my firing finger and left it a bit red and sore.
Of course, that’s after putting a very high number of rounds through the gun in a very short period of time, more than most folks would shoot even in a tactical pistol course. If I had to complain about something on the N1, that’s about all I got.
The N1 has quite a few well thought-out features that we see on some other guns, but rarely all together. First, takedown is incredibly simple, and doesn’t require the user to squeeze the trigger. Simply lock the slide back and rotate the release lever above the trigger of the gun, and push the slide forward.
You should always read the manual, but field stripping and cleaning this pistol is as straightforward as it gets.
Take a close look near the muzzle. There’s a two-slot 1913 Picatinny rail. I was unable to try lots of different lights, as I run the same light on all my pistols, but the same Streamlight TLR1 that fits on those guns fits on the N1 as well. It does, however, look a little ridiculous.
Textures abound. There’s no reason to take a soldering iron to this gun. The grip is textured on all four sides, the there’s a bit of texturing just forward of the trigger well where your support thumb lies. Finally, the slide is aggressively textured both fore and aft, making slide manipulation easy even with sweaty hands.
As far as holster options, I tried Kydex holsters for the G42/43, the SIG P365, and the Bersa Thunder Carry. Of course none of them fit, but I had to try. Soft-sided holsters for the G42 fit fine, but I wouldn’t carry a round in the chamber like that as it is still possible to manipulate the trigger.
In an email response to a question on holsters, Naroh staff told me “currently we have partnerships with CrossBreed, ProTEQ Custom Gear, Sticky Holsters, Tuxton Tactical, Henry Holsters, & LAS Concealment, with multiple others in the process of developing holsters for the N1 now.”
If that’s the case, there will be many carry options available.
The N1 includes two 7-round 9mm magazines. One is flush fit, the other has a pinky grip extension. Like all pistols of its size, you will likely have to change your grip to get the magazine to drop when using the flush fit magazine. The grip is just so short that the magazine bottom will likely dig into the meat of your palm, as it did mine.
Naroh says there are working on a +2 magazine extension. The proprietary magazines are $29.25 for either style on their website, although at the time of this writing it says they are currently out of stock.
The magazine release on the tiny N1 is not round, but square and textured. For folks with big hands and fat thumbs, the magazine release may be a little difficult to depress. There were a few times where I had to roll my thump forward a bit to get the magazine release to engage, otherwise I was just pushing over the whole area and not applying pressure directly to the magazine release.
Again, this is pretty picky. The surface could be a little larger, but if it stuck out any more there would be a danger of inadvertently hitting it in the holster or on the draw.
Naroh ships the N1 with a standard 3-dot set of sights. I found a lot of blank space on either side of the front sight when aligning the sights. This is not ideal for precision work, but for a purely defensive gun, being able to see a lot of your target around your sights is an advantage.
The N1 doesn’t have any other sight options from Naroh. However, if you want different sights, I can confirm that any of the GLOCK 42/43 footprint sights will fit right in. There are many different options to choose from there, and I’d certainly put a tritium front sight on this pistol if it was my carry or backup gun.
The Naroh N1 includes a lifetime warranty for defects in materials and workmanship. That “lifetime” is the lifetime of the gun, not the owner.
So how does it shoot? By the end of my first 50 rounds through the gun I was pretty impressed. Both Jeremy and Dan had previously mentioned that this gun didn’t feel particularly snappy for a 9mm of its size. I have to agree, and I really can’t explain it.
The gun doesn’t seem to have an unusually low bore axis, and like the much larger Sig P320, it’s quite top heavy. That is, the slide is heavy when compared to the lower half of the gun.
Maybe that’s it, combined with a comfortable grip angle, or how the gun cycles on full length rails. Maybe it’s the fact that the trigger pull actually fit my hand.
I don’t know, but I definitely noticed over hours of shooting the gun that my hands didn’t fatigue the way they do with some of my other sub compacts. Even single-handed, the gun fires easy and recoils well.
Of course, like any sub-compact 9mm, there’s going to be some snappyness to it, but the N1 just seems to have a bit less snap than a lot of others. Setting a target at 7 yards, putting 14 rounds into an 8″ circle in 14 seconds, including the magazine change, was not very challenging.
The gun cycled everything I put through it, in any manner I fired it. Considering what I shot, this is impressive for such small format weapon. I treat every new-to-the-market manufacturer like it’s their first time at Fight Club. They’re HAVE to fight.
I put 460 rounds through this gun in the first 24 hours alone. There were several hundred rounds of 115gr Fiocci and Armscor FMJs. Then I upped the ante quite a bit with my “box o’ random loosies.”
Whenever I have loose rounds, I throw them all in a plastic container and save them for reviews just like this. Then I just load them all, mixed manufacturers, standard and Plus P, different weights, different bullet types, everything into the magazines and fire the gun.
For the N1, that means some magazines were loaded with seven different manufacturers’ rounds. I shot Winchester, Hornady, Armscor, IMI, Sinterfire, Wilson Combat, Remington, and more, in weights from 90 to 147 grains.
Nothing failed to load, fire, or eject. As the gun came to me already nicely lubed. I never lubed or cleaned it, or opened up the gun in any way during the entire firing sequence of the review.
I intentionally limp-wristed the N1 with a two-handed grip. No issues. I limp-wristed the gun holding with my weak hand only. No issues. I laid on the ground and fired across my body with only two rounds in the gun. No issues.
I drove around with the gun unloaded and under my back seat, not in a holster, where it collected all sorts of lint and discarded bits of food from my children and dog. Then I drove to The Range at Austin and fired the gun. No issues. At no point did the little N1 fail to load, fire, eject, and chamber another round.
There were many times that the gun failed to lock back on an empty magazine, but in each case it was because my thumb was resting on the slide lock/magazine release. Those of you with size large hands, like me, may have the same issue.
I have this problem with every small format pistol as there’s only so much space on the gun for the controls. The slide lock is not ambidextrous, and the gun never failed to lock back on an empty magazine if I was shooting left-handed.
When it comes to accuracy, the N1 scored right alongside other pistols of the same size. Shooting off a bag at 25 yards, the Armscor 115gr averaged 2 3/4″ five round groups over four shot strings. A great defensive round, the Winchester PDX1, scored a very consistent 3-inch group under the same conditions.
Most of the rounds I fired were right around the 3-inch mark. This is typical of the better groups I can get from other subcompacts, and has more to do with the short sight radius of these guns than anything else.
All around, the N1 performed admirably. I’m actually pretty smitten with the pistol, and like most new things, I was suspicious of it in the beginning. No, not particularly suspicious of its performance. After all, I had no claims to be suspicious of.
I hadn’t read any reviews of the gun before I shot it or anything Naroh had released. Heck, I didn’t even read an owner’s manual. (Always read the manual.)
I was suspicious of why this gun should exist in the first place. I mean, it didn’t use to be this way, but there are several good options for subcompact 9mm pistols now. I asked Naroh just that: “Why did you build this gun now?” They replied:
Many of the firearms in this market space (subcompact 9mm “pocket guns) were too limited in our opinion, and many of the less expensive options are less than optimal in terms of fit, finish, and reliability. We set out to accomplish providing a slim, compact, high quality firearm, with many of the fine tuning options included, that could eat up ammo, and wasn’t locked into using only the sights it shipped with.
Naroh may actually have something here.
This is a hammer-fired, serialized metal internal frame gun with full-length rails and a glass reinforced polymer grip. Everything important is either nitrided stainless steel or hard coat anodized aluminum.
For such a small, lightweight gun, the N1 is very well built. The gun is entirely US made with a lifetime warranty. And all that for a gun with an MSRP of $399. That’s less than the retail price of its competitors.
At any price, this is solid, well performing sub-compact. At less than $400, it’s an exceptional value. Naroh says they will be shipping to distributors the second week of July. In the meantime, anyone interested in purchasing the N1 should contact their local dealer and request one.
Specifications: Naroh N1
Barrel length: 3 1/8″
Total length: 6.1″
Width: .875″ at slide, .95 at grip
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
The flash of the trigger gives it a little bit of pop. The finish is durable, but nothing to special to look at.
Customization * * *
Making a brand new pistol that accepts other common aftermarket sights was good thinking. When additional magazine lengths come out, as are planned, this rating should go up.
Reliability * * * * *
All the stars and then some. This little gun eats everything and never fails. Ever.
Accuracy * * *
This gun scores right along with the better guns in this category.
Overall * * * * 1/2
I can’t give this gun five stars because it wasn’t more precise than other subcompact nines. But dang, I wanted to. This little gun handled well and performed better than my expectations The closer I inspect it, the more impressed I get. And under $400? Too easy.