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Shadow Systems CR920P Subcompact: Compensated CCW

As with most trends, things often come full circle, and this clearly applied to compensated pistols. However, the most recent iteration we’re seeing – compensated subcompacts or micro pistols – is a relatively new one. 

Compensators themselves are not new. Their history extends back almost a century to the likes of John Dillinger running a full-size 1911 chambered in .38 Super with a Thompson foregrip in the 1930s. Then came the ’70s and ‘80s, when we saw compensated full-size guns in various action movies of the era, and now, even still, you can clock a compensated Beretta here or HK there. 

However, taking a subcompact that is already relatively snappy to shoot and adding a compensator to it seems to be all the rage. For example, the market has the FN 509 CC or Sig Macro Comp – the former has a compensator that detaches, but the latter does not. Some companies, arguably, do it better than others; but should you want a compensated subcompact without a thread-on or after-market compensator, Shadow Systems dropped a new release – the CR920P. 

The CR920P, as it is dubbed, stands for performance. Their micro-pistol design has long been marketed as a “subcompact that shoots like a full size,” and while this is a subtle exaggeration, in my experience with the non-compensated version, it does shoot flatter and is less snappy than the similarly sized Glock 43 despite weighing slightly less. 

However, after having run several hundred rounds through the all-new CR920P, which is available 5/20/23 nationwide, I can say that it’s a blast (pun intended) to shoot and lends itself to reliability, accuracy, and fast, flat shooting. 

Overview 

The CR920P is very, very similar to its uncompensated brethren, which came out last year – the CR920. However, it has a key difference – the compensator. This particular compensator is zero-fit and utilizes an ingenious locking lever and detent system to hold the compensator in place.

Similar to the DR920P – their full-size integrally compensated offering – this comp does not need a threaded barrel, making it legal in all 50 states. Instead, the compensator uses detents and zero-fit mechanisms to lock into the 3.75-inch spiral fluted TiCN finished barrel. Also, different from its big brother, the DR920P, the sights are on the slide itself, not the compensator.

It comes with the standard fixings you’d expect from Shadow Systems and some extras – it ships with two magazines, an OD green bag, manual, box, docs, different screws and mounting shims for optics, and a punch used for detaching the compensator, as well as being adorned with tritium green front sights that are emblazoned with the Shadow Systems emblem. 

Styling 

The overall lines of this gun are in keeping with Shadow Systems' other “Gucci pseudo-Glocks” – serrations front, rear, and top of the slide, window cuts in the slide which allow the bronze barrel to peek through ever so slightly, and their patented optic mounting system – allowing the user to mount a litany of micro-RDSs (which, as an aside, the market is producing hand over fist since you can throw a rock now at any match and hit a Carry Optics shooter).

I, for one, love the stipping on the grip frame as it’s in that Goldilocks zone for my taste – I can carry it without feeling like my stomach was attacked by 50-grit sandpaper, but I also don’t need to worry about losing my purchase if my hands are wet or I’m doing weapons manipulations in the rain. 

As with their other offerings, the little touches are what let this pistol stand out – the material removed from the back of the slide to make it less rectangular and thus more comfortable for 3-4 o’clock carry, the extra texture on the mag release, the texturing where your support hand thumb would be (as an index point). 

Performance 

Performance that involves a subcompact – for me – always involves capacity. This particular pistol uses the same magazines as a CR920 and can run a 10+1, 11+1 (pinky extension), or 13+1 extended magazine.

No matter how you cut it, it’s pretty remarkable since the slide width is identical to the Glock 43/48 series, and grip frames are similar in dimensions, but it holds many more rounds – roughly 30% more. While, yes, the magazines are proprietary, they are metal and only cost around $25 and are drop-free. Scratch that, they shoot out of the magazine well, a welcome feature for a defensive handgun. 

From an accuracy perspective, the match-grade barrel, tight machining, and light slide make this more accurate than the shooter would be and, even with irons, makes easy work of plate racks far beyond what I would consider “self-defense” distances (20-30 yards).

I was able to get my splits with this pistol below 0.2 seconds consistently and, most importantly, controllably. Mag dumps with this compensated little devil are almost as easy to perform as with a full size.  

What’s more, I found this pistol to be less finicky and ammo selective than other compensated guns I’ve run – its big brother, the DR920P included. For example, this pistol handily ran 115, 124, and 147-grain loads with only a handful of stovepipes at the beginning of testing.

Unintuitively, the 147-grain rounds had the most pleasant shooting experience and the least amount of initial malfunctions. After the recommended break-in period of 200+ rounds, I had no issues with extraction or feeding. By contrast, my DR920P does not like the downloaded 147s that I like to run in a competition that my CZ or other shorter slide Glocks can cycle. 

This little pocket rocket, however, seems to like everything so far. To be completely transparent, this was my main concern with this pistol – reliability. Since it’s essentially only built as a carry or backup gun, not a duty pistol. 

Recoil Management 

“What recoil?” That’s what I thought to myself when I ran the first magazine through this gun. To be completely fair, I ran 10 rounds through the CR920 uncompensated, and then 10 rounds through this pistol, and the difference in perceived recoil and muzzle flip was stark.

Night and day are hyperbolic, but let’s just say dawn and dusk. While the grip frame and ergs on it are identical, and I had a mini red dot on the uncompensated version – I felt like I was shooting two completely different guns. Or subs out of one and +P out of another. It felt that dramatic.

One thing that’s worth noting, though, is the distinctly different balance of this pistol from its uncompensated brethren. Due to the longer overall length and the addition of a compensator to the end of the barrel, the pistol is more front-heavy relative to a standard CR920p. With that being said, it’s more noticeable with the shorter 10-round magazines than the extended 13-rounders. 

Trigger 

While I do fancy myself a bit of a trigger snob – e.g., none of my CZs have a stock trigger anymore – I don’t hate the Shadow Systems triggers. They are leaps and bounds better than any stock Glock trigger on the market and handily beat most fire control groups in other plastic fantastic – save for maybe the CZ P10 series or a kitted-out Sig P365.

There is a slight take-up, a definitive wall, a little bit of mushiness when the plunger is engaging, and then a crisp break with a tactile, audible reset. Even while shooting this gun for the first time, I could get to slide lock in less than 3 seconds. For a concealed carry option, the trigger is more than adequate. 

Accessories 

Given that this pistol was engineered, in a way, to be cross-compatible with Glock slimline holsters, there are ample aftermarket accessories that this gun will fit. In fact, the compensator itself, and its fitment, were designed to make it cross-compatible with most Glock 48 MOS holsters.

If you have an open-ended Glock 43X MOS holster as I do, you can run the CR920P with it – but be advised, the comp will not be shrouded. 

It also has a standard rail on the front which allows you to mount any amount of lights/lasers intended for a subcompact – like a TLR7 or 8-sub. This cross-compatibility is one of the top-of-mind design functions that Shadow Systems likes to abide by, it seems.

The MR920/XR920 series is cross-compatible with Glock 19 holsters, the DR series with 17 holsters, and so on, and they maintained that theme with the CR series and slimline Glocks. 

While the magazines are proprietary, that’s more of a necessity than a money grab. I spoke with Trevor Roe, CEO of Shadow Systems, when the CR920 was released, and he acknowledged that some people might be miffed that you can’t run standard single-stack mags in the CR.

However, the design of the pistol, its ergonomics, capacity, and the shootability of it relative to other micro-9s deserve overlooking the $25-$30 magazines.  

In addition, the pistols ship with a 13-round and a ten-rounder with a pinky extension. Flush fit magazines, as well as +1 pinky extensions are also available. 

Parting Shots 

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by both the reliability and recoil reduction from the CR920P. While the CR920 (uncompensated) isn’t difficult to shoot, the addition of the compensator makes an already flat shooting subcompact even more controllable.

The styling, attention to detail, machining, and novel compensator attachment are also worth mentioning again, as it’s a fine pistol for concealed carry/everyday carry use. In keeping with their larger pistols like the DR/MR/XR series, the CR series has all the fixings you get in the compact and full-size offerings, just scaled down.

Coupled with a match-grade barrel, (relatively) high-capacity magazines, and cross-compatibility with Glock 48 holster and accessors, it’s hard to hide from Shadow Systems' allure with this new release.

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