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Redemption: SCCY CPX-3 Pistol

Redemption is an occasional column giving manufacturers a chance to address product shortcomings revealed in a previous CONCEALMENT review.

Heel-Face Turn?

I don’t enjoy writing a negative review and had to do so in the previous issue of CONCEALMENT. While I appreciate the editorial candor here at RECOIL that allows an honest, hard look at a firearm that didn’t perform up to expectations, it’s not a fun thing to write.

As a writer, if a test gun has issues, my first course of action would be the same as any regular customer’s — get the gun to the manufacturer and give them a chance to make it right. With the SCCY CPX-3, however, a tight deadline combined with the fact that I went into this with the expectation that it was just going to chew through all that Hornady Critical Defense without a hiccup and … well, that just didn’t pan out.

So I sent the gun in with a description of the issues it had experienced, the various failures to feed and eject, along with my spit-balling guess about what was causing those issues and waited.

SCCY, meanwhile, was hip-deep in their move to their new digs in Maryville, Tennessee, and so it was a while before the gun could be looked over, have any issues addressed, and get sent back to me for a second chance at the remaining pile of Critical Defense .380 ammunition.

When I got the call that the gun had been returned and was waiting for me at the shop, I’ll confess to feeling no little trepidation about what I was in for. Partly, this was due to the whole “once bitten, twice shy” factor, and the other was that they didn’t throw in the 10 extra magazines like they did the first time around. Piling up a serious round count takes a lot longer when you can only show up at the range with 30 rounds pre-loaded into magazines as opposed to 130.

I was also curious to see if it was up to the challenge of the Critical Defense ammunition. Hornady’s novel Critical Defense (and Critical Duty) projectiles are good tech from a terminal ballistics standpoint, and Hornady’s attention to detail and QC are as good as anybody’s, but that truncated cone projectile shape and the rubber flex tip in the cavity can offer a challenge to pistols with less-than-stellar feed geometry.

Before commencing with the actual shooting, I field-stripped the pistol and hit all the indicated lubrication points with a drop … OK, a fairly healthy-sized drop … of Liberty Gun Lubricants synthetic gun lube.

Reassembled, function-checked, and then basically that first range trip was nothing but loading magazines and doing big, long, stupid magazine dumps at 7 yards until I’d used up 100 rounds. If the gun was going to start malfunctioning, I hoped it would do it quickly.

Instead, what I got was a hundred boring rounds of pleasantly low-recoiling, smoothly functioning locked breech .380 sent downrange with no fuss or bother. Like the defunct .380 version of the similarly defunct Sig Sauer P250, the SCCY CPX-3 is a surprisingly pleasant gun to fire compared to either similarly sized 9mm pistols, or the more common blowback-operated .380 autos.

Granted, it was only 100 rounds, so maybe the gun was just waiting to surprise me?

Sure enough, on the second range trip, round number three failed to eject cleanly. It was a classic “stovepipe,” however, with the spent case sticking straight up from the ejection port. And at the time, I’d been holding the gun fairly lightly, trying to shoot 2-inch squares at 10 yards with a tiny DAO pistol. That’s a classic grip-related malfunction … so would it do it again?

Long story short, no, it didn’t. In total, I put 690 rounds through the CPX-3 during this round of testing, 600 of it Hornady Critical Defense, 50 rounds of Sig Sauer FMJ, and 40 Gold Dots, and experienced not one more malfunction in that time. This despite the fact that the gun received no lubrication beyond the initial dollops of Liberty lube and no further cleanings over the course of that time.

My only complaint for the rest of the test is that the magazines did require care in loading, lest rounds get bound up in the magazine body. I’ve encountered this problem in a range of pistols as diverse as the Walther PPX and the Smith & Wesson M&P9, though, so it’s not unusual.

Is this a redemption arc storyline? I guess it is. I mean, SCCY certainly fixed the extractor issues that plagued the initial testing, and being brutally honest, this gun has now fired more rounds than the vast majority of bargain-priced .380s will ever see. Push comes to shove, I’d have no qualms about carrying this particular pistol and counting on it to work if needed.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from my entire saga with the SCCY CPX-3 on these pages, it’s that you should never trust a pistol to run reliably until you’ve personally verified its reliability yourself, with your choice of carry ammunition. After all, the life you save may be your own.


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