Hudson Mfg’s H9 pistol was the belle of the SHOT Show 2017 ball. And why not? Hudson was a brand-new company making a brand-new pistol — a truly unique pistol, at that. Today, the first production H9s are hitting distributors. It’s time to see if it lives up to all that
The H9 is sure to confuse the loyalties of GLOCK and 1911 devotees alike. This Temple, Texas-built firearm lives in a new realm of its own creation somewhere in the middle. It’s an attempt to marry the best aspects of John Moses Browning’s time-proven design with the size efficiency of a striker-fired system. It’s a handgun, Jim, but not as we know it. Funny looking and futuristic.
But let’s get one thing straight: that tall snout doesn’t house a light or laser. And, no, the H9 isn’t integrally-suppressed. In fact, the H9’s distinctive front end contains mostly nothing: air space between the bottom of the barrel and the top of the recoil spring.
Hudson arrived at this design for two reasons. First, the barrel could then be lowered down towards the frame, reducing slide height and bore axis. Second, lowering the recoil spring is supposed to direct its force into the frame at a lower point, thereby reducing muzzle flip.
This design results in a unique, slab-sided look. The H9’s dust cover practically extends the flat bottom of the trigger guard all the way to the muzzle. Ultimately, the H9’s appearance is polarizing; it seems like people either really like it or really don’t. Personally, I dig the Robocop meets pregnant guppy aesthetic.
That said, the Hudson H9 looks a bit absurd with even a small light bolted to the accessory rail. As often as I whine about the single slot on a GLOCK’s rounded, angled, not-to-spec rail, I think the H9’s single slot lends a cleaner look to the gun than if it had four or five slots in that space. [Note: reaching the activation switch(es) was a non-issue.]
Bro, can you even make a holster for that thing? I’ve been seeing that question a lot on TTAG’s Instagram and Facebook pages, and the answer is “yes.” As I write, at least 14 manufacturers make holsters for the Hudson H9; from leather to Kydex to hybrids, IWB and OWB. Ft. Worth-based DSG Holsters‘ Kydex OWB holster is seen above.
Mistaking the H9’s wide muzzle for its grip could be forgiven. Thankfully, Hudson respects their customers enough to leave the “GripZone®” silliness to a certain Illinois-based gun importer. But I digress…
The grip frame is one of two areas where the Hudson H9 screams “1911.” If you like the shape, width, and angle of the 1911 grip (and we all know you do), you’re going to love the H9. G10 grip scales from VZ Grips are fit flush into the forged steel frame for a slim, clean look and feel.
The H9’s frontstrap checkering is wonderfully precise. I’d prefer sharper peaks, but blunting them off is a better market-pleasing choice and they still offer sufficient gription.
There’s a ball dimple at the base of the frontstrap, matching the dimple in the proprietary magazine‘s baseplate. This feature facilitates the quick stripping of a stuck mag, without going overboard like some guns I could mention.
Over at the H9’s backstrap we find a traditional, two-piece 1911 construction with one huge departure: the beavertail is that and only that; it doesn’t function as a grip safety. Below it sits a Hogue G10 Mainspring Housing. Again, I could go for more aggressive texturing but this gets the job done.
Surprising many, the H9 is not a single-stack pistol holding 10 rounds of 9mm. It’s a double-stack affair with a capacity of 15+1. Another benefit of a fatter pistol mag: it’s still skinny at the top, acting like a reverse magazine well and facilitating easy mag insertion. Even so, Hudson has beveled the magwell well.
Controls on the H9 consist of an ambidextrous slide stop and a magazine release. Unlike a 1911, there’s no manual thumb safety. Yet. As you may have guessed from the plug at the top rear of the frame, Hudson will be offering an add-on safety soon. Three, in fact: left-side-only, right-side-only, or ambidextrous (a lever on both sides).
While the magazine release isn’t ambidextrous, it’s insanely easy to swap from one side to the other. Simply turn that flathead screw a quarter turn and the mag release slides right out of the frame. Flip it around, put it back in, turn the screw a quarter turn back the other direction, and you’re done. Awesome.
If the grip frame was the first area kept fairly pure to the 1911 design, the trigger is the second. Yes, despite the H9 being a striker-fired gun it rocks an extremely 1911-like trigger.
Just like JMB’s meisterstuck, the H9’s trigger is on a hoop-like trigger bow that slides straight rearwards into the frame rather than pivoting. There’s another notable departure from 1911 tradition: a trigger safety flipper dingus. In fact, this unique dingus even departs from the “tradition” of striker-fired pistol trigger dinguses (dingi?).
The H9’s trigger safety pivots at the bottom rather than the top, encouraging shooters to pull the trigger straight back or slightly upwards instead of down and into the frame. Additionally, the safety runs the full height and width of the trigger shoe. You don’t feel it as a separate piece of the trigger; it isn’t a skinny “blade” and it doesn’t dig into your finger. The H9’s trigger safety dingus simply becomes the trigger’s entire contact surface. It’s a great design.
The Hudson H9’s trigger is also 1911-like in the most important way: it’s short and crisp and so is the reset. In fact, the reset is more pronounced than on most 1911s. That didn’t stop Robert from whipping out his Wilson Combat EDC X9 to remind me that the Hudson H9’s trigger is not as good as a hand-tuned, high-end 1911’s go pedal. In this he is correct.
That said, this H9’s trigger breaks at about 5.75 pounds. That’s 60 percent heavier than RF’s Wilson, which makes comparison of other fundamentals a little muddy. At any rate, we can settle the ol’ Walther PPQ vs. HK VP9 vs. CZ P-10 C “who’s got the best striker-fired trigger on the market” debate. It’s the Hudson H9. Those other guys are now left arguing over second place.
Rounding out the “Features” portion of today’s H9 show: the H9’s sights. A serrated black rear and a Trijicon HD bright orange and tritium dot front are dovetailed into the forged steel slide, which also sports serrations along its top to reduce glare.
To field strip the H9, clear the gun, drop the mag, lock the slide to the rear, and pop the takedown lever out towards the left side of the frame. You’ll probably need a tool like the corner of a magazine base place to pop that lever out. Rotate the takedown lever downwards until it stops, then release the slide from lock and ease it forwards. Once in battery, pull the trigger to release the striker and slide the slide off the front of the frame.
The first thing you’re likely to notice: the H9’s flat-wire recoil spring is captured on its steel guide rod and captured in the frame. The guide rod screws into a mount at the rear of the dust cover. As the spring’s under considerable tension even in its “rested” state (as above) and there’s precious little finger purchase area, I’d have added a hex cut in the front of the guide rod so you can use a tool to remove and install it. Just sayin’.
Once you rotate that takedown pin, the H9 is easier to field strip and reassemble than any other pistol I can recall. With the recoil spring captured in the frame, there’s no need to fumble with it. And the barrel drops in and out of the slide just as you’d expect.
As you can see, the Hudson H9’s frame rails bear no resemblance to a 1911’s but are a more modern design with short rail sections both front and rear. Those rails are part of a removable, one-piece, sub-chassis insert; the serialized “firearm” part of the H9. Should Hudson (or the aftermarket) make different grip frames for the H9, they would be available “over the counter” as they are for the SIG P320, Beretta APX, and a few other modern, modular pistols.
The H9 uses a unique barrel locking system that’s designed to lower the barrel towards the frame as much as possible while still allowing for suppressor use (unlike a rotating barrel, for example). The barrel moves rearwards and forwards and tilts down to unlock from the ejection port, but the vertical movement is very much minimized.
Boom. Detail stripped (except for disassembling the trigger, removing the slide stops from the chassis, and removing the sights). There are some 54 individual parts not counting the magazine. That’s almost the same number as a 1911, and there are quite a few strong similarities in the fire control group components.
Why detail strip a new gun? For science! To inform our readers! And also to clean it in my cheap-but-effective ultrasonic tank after putting it through an approximation of the Military Arms Channel’s famous torture test (video above).
In said torture test, the H9 did okay. Not great. It has no issue firing completely full of water, and handled light exposure to sand and mud. Twice burying it in that playground sand proved too much to ask; the hard grains got on the ammo and into the chamber and began preventing rounds from going into battery.
Nearly all the photos in this article were taken after abusing the H9 with that sharp sand, thick mud, and water, and attempting to force it into battery and generally manhandling it while absolutely filthy (the gun, not me…but also me). The nitride finish on the H9’s forged steel frame and slide still looks as-new. There are zero scratches, scuffs, or anything of the like.
Unfortunately, the black oxided steel chassis didn’t fare quite as well. Finish is worn away from some of the wear surfaces, and there were spots of light surface rust. It cleaned up just fine, but its surface resilience falls well short of the nitrided slide and frame. Hudson says the extreme surface hardness of nitriding isn’t ideal for the H9’s chassis, which sees repeated impact and has some thinner areas. They state the H9 will have a longer lifespan with a less brittle treatment on the chassis.
While the H9 wasn’t a battle-ready standout in the MAC torture test, it did more than well enough for normal self-defense duty. Especially after it showed itself reliable with over 750 rounds down the pipe — 525 prior to the torture testing and nearly 250 after.
During my first range outing I shot the Hudson H9 straight out of the box, without cleaning or lubing it. I fed the firearm 500 rounds of mixed ammo including six types of hollow points and some aluminum-cased rounds. We’re talking everything from 90 grain Alchemist Ammunition frangible ammo to 165 grain Freedom Munitions HUSH (HUSH, DAMN YOU!) to flying ashtray hollow points to aluminum-cased Independence FMJ range fodder.
The H9 ran it all with only a single stoppage due to ammo failure. On the first range trip after detail stripping and reassembling the gun, I experienced one failure to extract practically right off the bat. It seemed like the extractor hadn’t grabbed the case rim at all; maybe it was a little sticky after installing it. The H9 has since run another 230-ish rounds of mixed ammo without another hiccup of any sort.
Six people have fired this gun so far and all of them agree: the Hudson H9 is an extremely flat-shooting, soft-shooting, fast-shooting pistol. Good Lord, is it fast and flat!
Weighing-in at 34 ounces, the H9 is five ounces lighter than an M1911. But it’s still 13 ounces heavier than a GLOCK 19. Heavy enough to absorb recoil, but that clearly isn’t the only factor here. Maybe the H9’s recoil spring location truly works as advertised — directing its force down near the bottom of the trigger guard instead of up at the top of the frame. Muzzle flip is only notable by its absence.
And then there’s the H9’s aforementioned limbo-low bore axis. In fact, it would be impossible for a pistol to allow for a higher grip. The bottom of the H9’s slide is a scant couple millimeters away from the hand, but never touches.
As much as I like the size and height of the beavertail, Hudson has made a mistake here. The beavertail doesn’t fit flush to the frame at its corners, which are pokey.
That small, almost-healed scab on my thumb used to be a cut. The left corner of the H9’s beavertail slowly scrapes me on the thumb until it breaks skin. This pokey frame gap is noticeable immediately but not bothersome unless the range session includes at least four boxes of ammo.
And there’s another, more serious issue . . .
We’re looking up inside of the magazine well, with the backstrap to the right. As you can see, it’s nice and smooth in there. A magazine will slide up the inside of the front- or backstrap without impediment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always look like that.
When releasing the trigger, it’s common for the trigger bow to travel forwards far enough that it sticks into the magazine well a couple/few millimeters. Far enough that the back of the bow sits just barely proud of the magwell wall.
On many occasions, this caused an obvious bump while inserting a magazine. With purposeful rearwards bias on the mag, its insertion can be physically blocked by the trigger bow. Without doing that intentionally, the mag will hit the bow and bounce forwards and/or bounce the bow back and continue on its way. But you can feel it hit that wall and pop over it, and this I do not like.
Hudson told TTAG that they’re aware the bow will sometimes ever-so-slightly protrude past the face of the magwell wall. But that, based on my photos and description, this H9 should go back for inspection. It appears to be beyond the acceptable tolerance. Speaking of which . . .
This H9 is not a highly accurate pistol. For one thing, the point of impact is low and the sights aren’t adjustable for elevation. On this H9, the rear sight needed to be taller or the front lower. And it isn’t me. At 15 yards from a sandbag this gun hits about six inches low. Every other shooter who attempted accurate hits saw the same results.
Issues with POA/POI aren’t necessarily related to mechanical accuracy, though. Sadly, this H9 doesn’t excel there, either. The pistol’s barrel lockup is relatively loose; I can push on the barrel hood and easily cause it to slide up and down, and can slightly wobble the barrel at the muzzle end, too. The H9’s slide-to-frame fit is also fairly loose.
From a sandbag, using the factory sights from 15 yards, I kept getting decent three- or four-round groups. But there was always a flyer or two in a five-round group somewhere. I thought maybe it was me, but I’m now confident the flyers were related to the H9’s loose barrel lockup.
Heading over to The Range at Austin, I bolted a laser to the H9’s accessory rail to take my sight alignment skills out of the proverbial picture. Five, five-round groups with five brands of ammo at 15 yards off a sandbag produced similar results, despite very high confidence that I was breaking that clean trigger with the dot dead-on in the bull.
This time the poor accuracy was likely a combination of that barrel-to-slide play and the slide-to-frame play. As the laser is bolted to the frame, not the slide or barrel, all of this clearance stacking can negatively affect accuracy. Conversely when using the iron sights, which are fixed to the slide, the slide-to-frame play is removed from the slow fire accuracy equation.
Bottom line: Hudson seems to have engineered the H9’s clearances with a larger nod towards reliability than accuracy.
At the end of the day, despite falling short of perfection in its first iteration, I really dig the Hudson H9. Its grip frame and overall ergos and controls are absolutely fantastic, and that trigger is incredible — as good as it gets in the striker-fired world. And while the H9 doesn’t shoot exactly where you aim it, it shoots as flat as Kansas cornfields, as soft as Texas cotton, and as fast as a highly-caffeinated New Yorker.
I also think the $1,147 MSRP is right. While many of us struggle to get beyond the fact that the H9 is striker-fired and feel compelled to compare price against Gaston’s gat, I don’t think that’s appropriate. With a nitrided, forged steel frame and slide, separate internal chassis, flawless finish and machining, great sights, G10 grip panels, three included magazines, and a lifetime warranty, the H9’s price is justified. In fact, I think it’s more appropriate to compare the H9 against decent 1911s, and on that scale it’s a bargain.
While the Hudson H9 is an absolute joy to shoot — and shoot fast — and delivers enough accuracy for self-defense and most competition use, it does fall disappointingly short in the hit-what-you’re-aiming-at department. Especially when compared to a halfway decent 1911. Though I take issue with a couple other aspects of the H9’s design, ultimately it’s the sub-par accuracy that prevents me from being completely gaga over this early production, brand-new pistol.
Specifications: Hudson H9
Capacity: 15+1 (ships with three magazines, which are based on but not compatible with 5906/Hi-Power mags)
Weight: 34 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.28 inches
Sight Radius: 6.26 inches
Overall Length: 7.625 inches
Height: 5.225 inches
Maximum Width: 1.24 inches
Slide/Frame Materials and Finish: forged steel, black nitrided
Trigger: 4.5-5 pounds pull (mine measures about 5.75 pounds). Approximately 0.115 inches of travel (not including safety blade).
Sights: serrated black rear, Trijicon HD front
Grips: VZ Grips G10
Safeties: Striker block safety and trigger blade safety included. Optional (coming soon): left-side-only, right-side-only, or ambidextrous thumb safeties.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * 1/2
In the real world the H9 has earned five stars. Unfortunately for the H9, I put it through a gauntlet test that showed it isn’t king of the adverse conditions hill. Would I carry this gun and trust it for all normal self-defense use? Definitely. Would it be my go-to-war gun for storming beaches and jungles? No. But I have no plans in that direction.
Accuracy * *
Disappointing. A tighter barrel-slide lockup could drastically improve the H9’s accuracy, which needs drastic improvement.
Ergonomics * * * * *
I love the H9’s grip angle, shape, and feel, along with the ability to get an extremely high grip on the pistol. The slide stop is absolutely perfect for me, functioning very easily as both a lock and a release, and the magazine release is spot-on. Yes, the beavertail pokes my thumb, but this is a relatively small gripe that’s only annoying on extended range sessions.
Customize This * * * *
Replacement grip panels are not yet available, but will be soon from VZ Grips and others. Various thumb safeties are not yet available, but will be soon. Magazine extensions are not yet available, but Hudson has designed the magazines specifically to make it easy for the aftermarket to create extensions. The mag release can be swapped from left to right in seconds. The H9 does have a single-slot Pic rail, though it looks a bit silly with anything clamped to it. And there’s already a nice selection of holsters available.
On The Range * * * * *
Few guns shoot nicer than the Hudson H9. Everybody who tried it instantly loved it, as it shoots as flat and as soft as a pancake and it’s faster than a greased Usain Bolt. The H9 points naturally, moves quickly, has great sights for self-defense and timed competition, and rewards with a truly 1911-like trigger. Though I’m giving it five stars here because it’s so stellar in so many ways, the shooting experience can still be meaningfully improved. Hudson should fix the POI, beavertail, and trigger bow issues, and needs to improve the H9’s accuracy.
Overall * * * *
Hudson’s first gun, the H9, is extremely impressive in many ways. It feels good in the hand and it shoots like a dream. But there are important improvements to be made as they refine this brand-new design.