Issue 45 Comparing Three of the Latest Heavyweight Pistols on the Market Nick Saiti Join the Conversation Photos By Kenda Lenseigne It’s funny how life comes full circle. Fashion, music, movies, and many other things in our culture get recycled. The recent influx of movie remakes creates the notion that all the good ideas have been used up, and the suggestion that there are a finite amount of stories to tell is an unsettling thought. Alas, the point of a remake isn’t just to top the original. It’s more about that first impression. Technology is a great catalyst; it plays with the concept that you can have a second shot to see things for the first time. It’s intriguing to see old ideas through modern eyes. That idea I like. Firearms have their own cycle. The progression of manufacturing has made things that were once impossible now commonplace. In the beginning (for reference I consider the “beginning” as the advent of the 1911 pistol), there was pretty much one way of doing things — everything was made from steel. HK and Glock revolutionized the polymer pistol idea and eventually lightweight Tupperware guns became standard issue. Even 1911s are being made with polymer. What would John Browning think? A few companies have decided to come full circle and bring back heavy metal pistols. Why is a heavy gun a good thing? Simple, less recoil. There are a few ways to mitigate recoil. Grip, stance, and technique all help in taming the muzzle, but adding physical weight to the gun doesn’t require effort on the shooter’s part. The caveat is to add the weight where it makes the biggest benefit. Tying a brick to the slide of your Glock won’t work. The idea is to add weight to the non-reciprocating parts, so the weight doesn’t throw the sights around. Conversely, shedding weight from the moving parts works to the same goal — the popularity of slide lightening isn’t just an aesthetic thing. Couple a light slide with a heavy frame and you’ve got something. Now that we understand why the weight is distributed the way it is, let’s get on with the show. ACT I SIG SAUER has been around before many of us were born, but it’s really been dominating the firearms market in the last few years. The MCX, MPX, and P365 are all game changers, but arguably the biggest feather in the SIG cap was being awarded the XM17 military contract for the P320. Since then, they went all-in with technology and came up with the latest iteration of the P320 pistol. The P320 X5 Legion is the first polymer-framed pistol to don the Legion chevron, and SIG’s Legion series is a higher-end product line intended for extreme use and featuring exclusive product offerings. The standard P320 X5 is tailor made for sport shooting. The undercut trigger guard, beavertail grip, bull barrel, magwell, optic mounting cuts, and Dawson sights all made a well-thought-out package for the game. The Legion builds on that layer and pays homage to Billy Mays with “But wait, there’s more.” The flat-faced trigger that was just OK before, has now become great, breaking at just under 4 pounds. The recoil system has been updated to use 1911-style recoil springs, and while this may seem like a step backward, the bonus here is the wide variety of spring weights available to tailor the gun to the shooter’s ammo. Magazine basepads are now machined aluminum from Henning group, instead of the plastic standard pieces. The downside there is the capacity has diminished to 17 from 21 rounds, which we can assume was to accommodate for certain competition limitations, but you have the option of adding a Springer Precision basepad to a factory 21 rounder for 28 BBs in the gun if you want to go full hi-cap. The biggest advancement in this model is the TXG grip module. The P320 platform features an interchangeable chassis system that allows for different grip modules to suit individual purposes, and this one is all about recoil mitigation. Why have a steel frame from the 1900s when you can have tungsten-infused polymer?! The mad scientists at SIG found a way to make plastic as heavy as steel, which is the pistol-shooting version of the Midas touch. Polymer isn’t as rigid as steel and frame flex helps with softening the recoil impulse, and the theory behind the TXG grip is to have the weight of a metal frame with the cost and flex of polymer. The TXG is an exciting product that could change the way things are done from now on, but then again Beta and VHS were once revolutionary ideas. The Legion X5 is the culmination of the modifications that were already being done by competitors to the standard X5, only straight from the factory. I can think of few people who go through as many rounds as competitive shooters, and to say their insights are valid is an understatement. It’s refreshing to see big companies like SIG SAUER listen to lowly competition shooters and implement changes. ACT II When testing a pistol, it’s important to distinguish feelings from analytics. The surefire way to discern the two is to use quantitative metrics to test by. The numbers become even more significant when adding more pistols. RECOIL has decided to invite two heavy hitters to take on the new kid. The Walther Q5 match SF (steel frame) and the CZ Shadow 2 are also touted as match ready. Unfortunately, there’s no standard when it comes to labeling guns, but “match ready” usually means bigger guns that have better triggers, upgraded sights, longer barrels, and whatever else companies deem match grade. The Walther Q5 Match SF is built on the PPQ platform with the addition of a steel frame. The Q5 features an adjustable rear sight, fiber-optic front sight, optics-ready cut with mounting plates, a match-grade trigger breaking at 5 pounds, and is touted as the flattest shooting Walther model to date. Staffer Tom Marshall reviewed one in Issue 43, and thought so highly of it, he wound up adding it to his collection. Since its inception, the Q5 has gained popularity as a match-ready platform both with and without optics mounted. The CZ Shadow 2 is basically a made for competition version of the CZ75. It features a fiber-optic front sight, adjustable rear sight, slide profile change for lightening, revised ergonomics, and longer barrel. The only thing lacking is the ability to mount an optic. The tried-and-true design is the heaviest of the three guns and features a double/single-action trigger (eight/three pounds.) DA/SA triggers are double-edged swords, single-action trigger pull is usually better than a striker-fired trigger, but you have to go through the heavier double action first pull to get there. On paper, all three guns look like a very close match-up. The weights are pretty close, so the differences are more about performance. A couple of fundamental shooting drills are the order of business. The first drill is the best way I’ve found to test the handgun’s ability to stay on target during rapid fire. The Bill drill is one target set up at 7 yards. The shooter must draw the gun and fire six rounds to the center of the target as fast as he or she can see the sights. One must focus on the sights in order to see the benefits of this drill, otherwise you’re just making loud noises, and turning live into brass which while fun does little for analytical testing. The SIG was the fastest here with the best time of 1.72 seconds. The flat trigger of the Legion is very forgiving when it comes to finger placement, which helped attain faster splits. The Q5 came in second with a 1.78. The unique ergonomics of the Walther took some time to get used to, but once on target it was just as capable as the other two. The CZ came in at 1.84 seconds. We’re measuring fractions of seconds here, so remember this is a double-action first shot. The extra bit of time is attributed to that long first trigger pull. The next test at hand was a simple setup of three targets at 7 yards and about a yard in between each. The shooter is to draw and shoot two shots in the center of each target. While the Bill drill tests the time between shots on the same target, this would track the time between multiple targets. Basically, testing the ability of each gun to transition to the next target. The SIG again came in with the fastest time of 2.19 seconds — faster splits are what set the X5 apart, and after reviewing the timer the transitions between targets were almost identical with all three guns. The Walther again came in second with a 2.29. The CZ brought up the rear with a time of 2.32 seconds. Accuracy is a major part of any firearm’s worth. After all, what good is a gun if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at? A single target was placed at 20 yards and the guns were all placed in a rest and bagged. The Walther came out on top in the accuracy department with an astounding 0.717-inch group. The CZ was next with a 0.762 group, and the SIG came in with a 0.832 group. The Walther is amazingly accurate and consistently so. Again, the guns are evenly matched in performance making my job that much more difficult, but the intention is to report the findings. The numbers don’t lie. ACT III All three accomplish the goal of being great range/competition guns, but each one has its own style of getting there. The heavyweights don’t lend themselves to being good concealed-carry companions and being a duty gun is pushing it. The SIG feels well balanced, the Walther is a fine crafted machine, and the CZ is a sturdy workhorse. In both time on and in between targets all three guns were closely matched. The minutia had to play the deciding role. The TXG grip had a softer feel during recoil than its heavy metal counterparts. The grip coupled with the light trigger of the X5 being the differentiating factors for faster speed. The double-action first shot of the CZ worked in the opposite direction, and it doesn’t offer factory optics mounting. The Walther fell bang in the middle. This was a surprise, as it’s rare to test guns so equally matched and a testament to how far things have come since 1911. The first impression of the standard P320 X5 is that it’s a good idea, but the Legion is a great idea. It surpassed the competitors in all of the speed tests at hand. It kept pace in the accuracy department. The kicker is that it accomplished all of these feats at a few hundred bucks less than the others. The X5 Legion comes in at right around a grand, while the Walther and CZ are in the $1,400 range. There’s no way around it; the intricate machining of the metal frames is more costly to produce, and it seems SIG found a way to reproduce the benefits of added weight without the added cost. If you’re looking for a high-end, go-faster range gun it’s hard to come up with a reason not to choose the SIG, unless money is not a deciding factor. And then you should buy two. 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