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Shadow Systems CR920 Review: Covert Role Pistol

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The CR920 is the newest offering from Shadow Systems, a Plano, Texas-based firearms manufacturer, and their first foray into the subcompact EDC market. If you go on their social media feeds, you will read a mixed reception to this pistol – the main detractors citing the need for proprietary magazines, whereas their compact and full-size offerings used Glock/Magpul magazines. I, personally, however, think this pistol outperforms most of the subcompacts on the market for a variety of reasons.

Upon opening the white box and the custom soft case Shadow Systems ships their pistols in, I was struck by the size of the pistol. It was much smaller than anticipated, and completely viable for pocket carry—if that’s your thing. Also, I was taken aback by the weight—or lack thereof. This pistol, with iron sights, clocks in at just over one pound empty at 17.8 ounces. It’s light.

Overall, the lines and aesthetic of the pistol are archetypally Shadow Systems: tacti-cool, aggressive slide serrations, and understated stippling. In the “capacity wars” as Trevor Roe, CEO of Shadow Systems, calls it—it’s near the top of the pack—with a 10+1 flush fit or 13+1 extended magazine. But even with the extended magazine, its size is rather diminutive compared to its nearest competitors—the Glock 43, Glock 26, Sig P365, and Springfield Hellcat – when you factor in capacity relative to size. The closest rival, in the author’s opinion, is the Sig P365, since when you hold it you can’t believe you can fit 10 rounds of 9mm in its narrow grip. But you can.

Shadow Systems CR920 with extended 13 round magazine. This is roughly the same size as a Glock 43 with a +1 extension on it, but holds 5-6 more rounds.

Shadow Systems CR920 with extended 13-round magazine. This is roughly the same size as a Glock 43 with a +1 extension on it but holds 5-6 more rounds.

Essentially, this is a Glock 43x with more capacity. It has the same width as the Glock 43 series – being just over an inch wide—but has more capacity than its double-stack brethren—the G26. Furthermore, for just a touch more on the purchase price ($679 starting MSRP) you get a whole lot of pistol in a very little package.

From a specifications perspective, the CR920 has a 3.41 inch spiral-fluted, 416R stainless match-grade barrel, “textured” (read, lightly stippled) grip frame, directional slide serrations on the front, rear and top of the slide (on the Elite model, as tested), and Tritium green front and blacked-out rear sights. It sports a flat-face trigger and of course, is a striker-fired handgun like most plastic-fantastics on the market today.

Shadow Systems CR920 Reliability

Considering this pistol is meant for one thing and one thing only—EDC and deep concealment—we would be remiss if we didn’t first address this aspect. Shadow Systems recommends a 200-round break-in period, which irks some, but I personally wouldn’t carry a firearm unless I proved its reliability and ammo appetite firsthand. Since the tolerances of this little pocket rocket are so tight, you need to wear the parts in so everything mates and works together.

In fact, my very first round from this weapon failed to eject (147-grain, poly-coated bullets, if you’re wondering). Thank God for the steel rear sights that come standard, as I needed to rack it off a shooting table to get the spent casing out. However, after a hundred rounds or so on the first range trip, this didn’t happen again. It cycled everything I fed it, from powder puff loads I use for Steel Challenge to +P hollow points. The proprietary, metal magazines in both 10- and 13-round capacities cycled and locked open. I tend to grip pistols high—especially subcompacts—to control the recoil and drive the gun. Often, my thumbs touch the slide. This did not affect the performance and it cycled flawlessly for the rest of the testing.

The optic mounts so low that you get a full co-witness with standard height sights.

The optic mounts so low that you get a full co-witness with standard height sights.

I then mounted an optic and put another 200 rounds through it without a single hiccup. In this session I practiced drawing and shooting steel from concealment, doing emergency reloads, shooting on the move, and mag dumps. No FTEs, FTFs, or failures of any kind. After the break-in period, it’s good to go.

On-Target Ergonomics

Leading up to the release of this firearm, Shadow Systems boasted that it’s a subcompact that shoots like a full-size pistol in their marketing collateral and on social media. While I wouldn’t have as much fun dumping 500 rounds through this as I would say a full-size handgun or even their “compact” Glock 19-size offering—the MR920—I can say that this little pistol has a high “shootability” factor.

Unlike their other offerings, this model doesn’t have interchangeable backstraps or their NPOA (natural point of aim) system. “There really isn’t a lot of real estate for that,” Roe commented in a phone interview in April 2022. “But we’re happy with the ergs on this gun.” I would tend to agree with him, as this gun points much more naturally than my other subcompacts—like my Glock 26 which I always point a little high due to the hump in the grip. Also, little nuances like an extended rear lip that comes over the magazine—avoiding the dreaded pinch when quickly changing subcompact magazines. What’s more, they have texturing just above the trigger guard where you can index your thumbs. It’s not a ledge like their MR/DR series, that would create more width and run counter to the “covert role” of this firearm. The magazine release is also textured but not as prominently as other models in their line, and on par with subcompacts from competitors. You don’t need to worry about accidentally releasing a magazine when you need to reload, though it’s easily actuated.

Textured “ledge” that helps with recoil management.

Textured “ledge” that helps with recoil management.

All of this being said, its “shootability” for a subcompact is second to none. I shot this alongside a Glock 43, 26, and a borrowed P365 and found the CR920 much more pleasant to shoot with less snap than the others. To be clear—it’s a subcompact that weighs a hair over a pound and has a 3.4-inch barrel, so there is some snap. But it truly is much more shootable than other subcompacts in the market. I didn’t want to put my hands in ice water after the 300 or so rounds I ran through this pistol.

The CR920 fills my medium-size hands, and with the flush fit, I can get my entire pinky under the magazine. Believe it or not, this helps control and index the gun. With a 13-round extended magazine, I can get a full purchase, very similar to a Glock 26 or 43 with a pinky extension. However, it feels much better in the hand than either Glock, with a better beavertail that allows a high grip and thus more control when firing.

CR920 Concealability

I've been carrying this pistol for a few weeks in an appendix holster with a “claw” and a Holosun 407k, 6 MOA green dot on riding on the slide. While this isn’t the most spartan rig, the CR920 disappears under summer clothing, even with a 13-round magazine loaded into it. While most of the time I carry the flush fit 10+1 to minimize the profile, the 13+1 magazines easily conceal under a T-shirt. It’s small—6.37-inches long, 1.05-inches thick (think Glock 43/43x/48), and 4.27-inches tall with a flush-fit magazine. If you can conceal a “compact” size handgun like an M&P, Glock 19, CZ P01, or anything similar, this will disappear with the right holster.

As you can see in the photo below, with the 10-round flush fit magazine, this pistol is smaller than a Glock 43 with a +1 pierce extension. With its 13-round extended magazine, it’s pretty much the same size, yet offers double the capacity.

Performance and Accuracy … It's Good!

This is where this pistol shines. It has a fantastic stock trigger—just over a 5-pound average by my trigger gauge – with a tactile and audible reset. With virtually no take-up, you don’t need to stage the trigger, just pull and press. The trigger is much crisper than the other subcompacts mentioned in this article.

Due to a low bore axis, the pistol has very little muzzle flip or “snap”—which is rare for a subcompact. Again, it’s not something I’d want to go shoot a case of ammo though, but let’s be mindful of the role of this gun: concealment and everyday carry.

Accuracy is more than serviceable. While with most of my subcompacts or carry guns, I wouldn’t confidently reach out past 15-20 yards, I can confidently say that this pistol even with irons, is exceptionally accurate. I rarely carry my Glock 26 and have never shot Shadow System’s gun before testing, but my groups and speed between follow-up shots with the CR920 were markedly better than the G26 as an apples-to-apples comparison. Once I mounted the Holosun 407k on it, however, my accuracy leveled up as is expected with most pistols. I was able to hit a 3-inch plate at 30 yards reliably and repeatably on a steel hostage target. A reminder, this is from a 3.4-inch barrel sub-compact pistol—not a full-size gun. That is nothing to sneeze at. As far as the plate rack, let’s just say you wouldn’t have to do the dishes – 8-inch plates at 10 yards were no problem with irons or optics.

Shadow Systems Modularity

The CR920 has a standard rail for all your accessories and fits pretty much any holster built for the Glock 43x MOS. The fact you can put the same lights on this pistol as any of your full sizes is a huge plus in my book. Compare this with the Sig P365 that needs a proprietary rail or your standard G43/G26 that needs a specific Streamlight, for example, due to the lack of a rail altogether. Both the Elite and Combat trim levels come with optic cuts, so you would need a MOS-compatible holster for an optic, but if you like to run irons, a G43x holster should do the trick.

From an optics standpoint—it accepts pretty much all the micro red dots you would mount on a pistol—the Holosun 407k and EPS Carry, Shield, and Swampfox Sentinel. It does not accept the RMRcc by Trijicon, however, due to screw placement.

Now the 600lb gorilla in the room—it does take proprietary magazines. However, this isn’t because Shadow Systems wants to gouge anybody. They just needed to engineer the gun to be super compact with a high capacity, and the chunky profile of a double-stack Glock 26 magazine didn’t jibe with this endeavor. I know this may be a dealbreaker for some. However, they’re usually in stock, and for the same—or less—than factory magazines from Glock, Sig, Springfield or any other manufacturer ($25-$28 or so). Also, let’s remember the role of this pistol—a subcompact, deep concealment firearm. This is not a duty weapon nor a gun you run in competition, like the MR920. So, the need for extra magazines is moot, in my humble opinion. It ships with a 10-round flush fit and a 13-round extended magazine, and I bought some extras just because I don’t like reloading magazines on the range—I like shooting.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Shadow Systems did a fantastic job with their first trek into subcompact territory. Their MR920 and DR920s have been getting some great press and deservingly so. Save for the magazine interchangeability point, I don’t see any potential issues with this firearm for its intended role and use. It’s comfortable to shoot, a rarity in small, defensive firearms. It’s accurate, well machined, has details that shooters will appreciate, and keeps the end user in mind. Little nuances like extra material by the slide lock to stop inadvertent actuation or angling the rear of the slide to make concealed carry more comfortable and the pistol less boxy will be well received by a discerning consumer.

In short, if you see one, I’d pick it up and some extra magazines. It’s a fine EDC that shoots quickly, accurately, has one of the best-in-class triggers, and you get a lot of bang for your buck (pun intended).

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