CONCEALMENT 9 Archon Type B is a Unique Handgun Worth the Wait! Rob Curtis The Archon Type B is a duty gun shaped like a carry gun that performs like a competition gun. It uses a unique “AF Speedlock” cam system to operate. Archon Type B Origins First, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. This is, indeed, the Arsenal Firearms Stryk-B first announced at SHOT Show 2017. Second, the Archon Type B, as it’s now known, was worth the wait. It’s a modern chassis gun that improves on the current state of the pistol world by serving up a non-tilting action with an extremely low-bore axis, resulting in a pistol that’s not only accurate, but noticeably faster on the bull’s-eye than its Browning action-derived competitors. Backstory Archon’s Type B is the successor to the Strike One, an innovative, full-size service pistol introduced in 2012 by the Russian-Italian joint venture Arsenal Firearms. The striker-fired, polymer-gripped gun featured a low-bore axis and a novel, non-tilting action, harkening back to a floating locking block system first used in the century-old Bergmann-Mars 1903 pistol. While the Strike One’s performance and feature set turned heads, and even reportedly earned a place in the Russian military, the design was a bit too Euro to catch the attention of the American market. Plus, nobody wanted to deal with the risk and red tape of importing the pistol into the U.S. But, Adrian Chavez, one of the principals of Salient Arms International, recognized the potential of the pistol’s design and formed a partnership with Arsenal Firearm’s owner Dmitri Strechinski, introducing the company to the American market as Arsenal Firearms USA. Fast-forward to mid-2016. Arsenal Firearms USA worked with Arsenal Firearms on a compact version of the Strike One, blessing it with features that’d appeal to American self-defense, competitive, and mil/LE shooters. The resulting first fruit of its trans-Atlantic partnership was the Arsenal Firearms USA Stryk-B, released in January 2017. One of the few ways to take a striker-fired pistol out of action is to get crap in the striker channel. Archon recognizes this and made the slide internals easily accessible to the end user for maintenance. Archon Firearms Name Change Without wading into the deeply boring and inconsequential, before shipping guns to dealers, Arsenal Firearms USA decided to change its name to Archon Firearms in mid-2017. It did so to extricate itself from a complicated, three-way, international licensing deal over the use of the name Arsenal that went sideways just as the company was ready to start selling the pistols. It’s now spring 2018, Archon’s Type B is in production at RUAG Ammotec’s plants in Germany and Hungary, and RECOIL has spent weeks shooting one of the first production samples imported to the U.S. The mag release is proud, easy to reach, and swaps sides without tools. Type B Design What Archon calls the “frame of the gun” is the railed chassis that holds all the controls and sits in a glass-reinforced, polyamide grip module. As we expect, the frame is the serialized part. “One of the biggest challenges was the internal frame,” says Chavez. “The original Strike One had a metal internal frame,” he says, “but it was a MIMed part that was then machined to spec.” On the other hand, he says the Type B’s steel frame “is machined from bar stock. It’s a very, very expensive piece,” but the fully machined steel part and process give the pistol greater durability and accuracy. Frustrating, though, is the use of roll pins rather than spring-retained pushpins to secure the frame in the grip. Swapping grips is still doable, but since it involves (gasp!) punches and a hammer, Archon says it’ll likely only sell grip modules through authorized Archon armorers that’ll install them for free in an effort to prevent warranty claims for accidental grip damage. While the chassis construction is cool, everybody’s doing it these days. What really sets the Type B apart is its non-Browning action, non-tilting barrel and super-low bore height. Unique Cam System Operation Archon calls the Type B’s locking block system the “AF Speedlock” (AF refers to Arsenal Firearms). The system uses a cam-activated, floating, U-shaped locking block that locks the barrel, slide, and frame while firing, but drops during recoil. As the block drops, the barrel unlocks and slides straight back about a ¼ inch and stops while the slide continues its full stroke. In theory, since there’s no off-axis barrel movement, the slide and barrel lock up more consistently, leading to enhanced accuracy. Another benefit of the short stroking barrel is reliability, since the low barrel and high mag means the bullet’s feed path is almost a straight shot from the mag to the chamber. Building on the accuracy provided by the AF Speedlock, the gun also features a bore axis height that’s about 25 percent lower than a Glock 19. Conventional wisdom says a low bore axis is a good thing, because having a higher grip on the gun reduces muzzle flip. Archon overcame the limitations of the Browning-style, tilting action by using a floating locking block. In order to further control recoil, Archon looked for ways to reduce the pistol’s greatest source of moving mass, the slide. Designers chamfered the corners, reduced the wall thickness, added more cocking serrations, and re-sculpted the pistol’s signature visual accent, the cocking notch. The last portion of the Type B’s recoil reduction diet is the grip module. Instead of stippling or using a fine grip texture, Archon uses something it calls “grip mapping technology.” This refers to rows of large, raised teeth molded into the grip. The “mapping” part means the teeth in different areas of the grip are oriented to counter movement felt in that particular location. For instance, the teeth on the backstrap face downward, and the teeth on the front strap face upward to counter the pistol’s back and down motion during recoil. The teeth on the side panels are oriented to accomplish the same thing. The coarse treatment provides good control without the palm-shredding quality of fine stippling. And since the grip is polymer, if the teeth are too aggressive they can be knocked down with a bit of sandpaper. Testing The Type B’s innovation wouldn’t be worth a damn if the pistol crapped the bed when it hit the street, so Archon set up a pretty healthy testing protocol in an effort to find the pistol’s limit of reliability. Archon’s Chavez says the company used eight guns during its design validation testing, running five of them to 100,000 rounds with no unplanned stoppages and three through 10,000 rounds of +P+ with no unplanned stoppages. By unplanned stoppages, they mean the pistols suffered no stoppages attributable to the major components, while expendable parts such as springs were replaced. That’s 530,000 rounds without a malfunction. Got dayum. It’s not obvious, but the Type B has a trigger safety. As the trigger moves rearward, a block on the back of the shoe drops, allowing the trigger full travel. Archon Type B Controls The ergos on the trigger face alone are worth noting. The flat-faced, aluminum trigger has a smooth, dual-angled face with broad chamfers on the edges that accommodate both fingertippers and knuckle pullers. The shoe doesn’t have a trigger safety tab to distract, though the Type B still has a trigger safety to keep the trigger from moving when dropped. It works on the same principle as a tabbed trigger safety, but instead of a tab on the trigger, the trigger itself is a compound lever. Because of the trigger safety design, we call the Type B a 2.5-stage trigger, as the take-up has sort of two stages. The initial half-stage clears the trigger safety — it’s barely a few ounces and, while you’ll feel it at the gun counter, you won’t notice it when shooting. The next, or first, full stage is that familiar striker-fired take-up where the trigger bar begins moving against the striker channel safety and the sear and stops at a distinct wall. The second stage is pushing through the 4- to 4.5-pound sear wall. Altogether, the trigger pull feels a lot like a quality two-stage rifle trigger. The break is a crisp 4.25 pounds with incredibly short reset, though it won’t confused with a 1911. Thanks to the unique mechanics of the Type B’s trigger, Archon can play with the feel and weight of the break without messing with springs. The action is fully cocked, so the only thing that happens when pulling through the last stage of the trigger is the sear slipping off the striker. This means there’s no tradeoff between trigger feel and reliability, as is the case when adjusting the trigger pull of a popular Austrian pistol action that can end up with light strikes if the trigger pull is lightened too much. Since the trigger can be optimized with such precision, Archon is already working with its sister company, Salient Arms International, to release a trigger upgrade pack that’ll endow the Type B with a lighter break and an even shorter reset. Salient says the upgrade pack includes three parts — a sear, a trigger return spring, and a trigger stop — and could be installed by the end user with the help of an Internet video. But because replacing the sear necessitates digging into the frame, the company may require an Archon armorer to do the swap. They haven’t decided yet. Somewhere along the way, manufacturers realized guys were modifying magwells and buying aftermarket baseplates in an effort to make mags easier to strip from the gun when clearing Type 3 malfunctions. We’re glad to see Archon notched the front of the grip and left a fingertip gap that lets us get in there and claw out a double feed situation in short order. One of the few ways to take a striker-fired pistol out of action is to get crap in the striker channel. Archon recognizes this and made the slide internals easily accessible to the end user for maintenance. A Look at the Slide The high carbon steel slide, as well as the frame, sear, and barrel, all have a QPQ coating that’ll stand up to some hard living. We don’t know why we’re still grateful when a pistol comes with forward cocking serrations. It’s 2018, ferchrisake. Thankfully, the Type B is blessed not only with forward serrations, but also a decorative notch in front of the ejection port that’s a great surface to grab for press checks. A nice touch is the way the sights are installed using the ubiquitous Glock rear dovetail and front sight screw. That Glock compatible setup provides you with plenty of sight options, though the stock setup, with a narrow fiber-optic front, complements the Type B quite well. Archon will offer its own night sights, called AFR8, with a single tritium tube in the front and back for about $150. As much as we like the slide, we have to mention the trigger has to be pulled to remove it from the frame. It’s not a deal breaker, as we’re fine with big boy rules, but the institutional market favors guns that can be disassembled without touching the trigger. On the plus side, pulling the slide off is easy. Retract the slide a hair to take pressure off the locking block pin, pull the spring-retained pin, and slide the slide forward and off. With the slide removed, you can see those long framerails and the floating locking block. (While it looked symmetrical, we were psyched to discover the locking block can’t be installed backward.) The three-stage recoil spring assembly pops out and back in easily and only needs replacing at 10,000-round intervals. Looking at the slide internals, we see the striker channel safety is a straightforward blocking mechanism that moves out of the way as the trigger bar moves to the rear. The striker system was refined from the Strike One design to accommodate end user maintenance. “The striker channel is something I want to maintain,” says Chavez. “Nothing takes a SFP down faster than a water/carbon slurry in the striker channel. So I like to get in there during field stripping and clean it out.” As a further reliability enhancement, Archon eliminated the hole in the Strike One’s back plate that served as a cocking indicator in order to prevent water and debris from getting into the striker channel. The striker itself was redesigned to reduce friction, something Archon noticed affected the Strike One’s reliability. Our test gun already had more than 3,000 rounds through it when we got it. We added another 1,000 more and it continued to produce centered, deep primer strikes. Archon Mags The last part of the gun we’ll cover in detail is the mag. It’s a steel mag made by Mec-Gar, a big OEM manufacturer that also makes mags for CZ, S&W, and others. It’s a 15-round, double stack without a floor plate, giving space back in favor of capacity. We also noticed there’s a dot matrix pattern on the bottom to easily ID and number mags with a silver Sharpie. Nice touch. Ergonomics and Feel As much fun as it is to dork out on this gun’s features and specs, holy crap is it fun to shoot. All that talk about the low-bore axis, the non-tilting barrel, and the grip topography … it all clicked when we started putting rounds downrange. Grabbing the gun, the first thing we noticed was the way it felt. You might not be as lucky, but this thing melted into our hands. The huge beaver tail allows a grip so high and affords so much authority that you might as well be fisting the slide. The grip angle is the same as a Glock, but the gun points more intuitively with the first and second knuckle of the trigger finger mimicking the pistol’s bore line. Notice the relieved areas above the mag release? Those contribute to the ergos, slimming the grip and allowing people with normal-sized hands to reach the mag release without giving up a firing grip. It’s not all good news, though. We don’t know why the textured, gas pedal area of the grip is so far forward. We can’t reach it with our thumbs and would like it a lot more if it were extended about an inch rearward. We’re also not completely sold on the coarse grip texture and would like to see a factory stippled grip option. Performance We shot three kinds of defensive ammo and a bunch of training ammo to get a baseline for accuracy and reliability. Our tightest groups came from our go-to defensive load, Winchester 9mm 147-grain RA9T. We printed a 0.48-inch group at 7 yards. The 147s felt soft and splits were fast on 12×12 steel at 25 yards, too. We shot 50 rounds each of the Winchester RA9T, SIG’s 124-grain V-Crown, and Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P loads. We then ran about 800 rounds of Blazer 115-grain FMJs over a couple of cold February days up in Northern Vermont. We encountered two stoppages with the JHPs. At first, the slide wouldn’t fully seat on one of the SIG rounds, and then we had the same problem with one of the Winchesters. Further, the slide seemed to seize up out of battery with the Winchester. Turns out, we had a preproduction barrel that was cut to the European CIP chamber specification, which is a little tighter than the SAAMI spec. The copper plating on these two bullets was just a hair thicker than the other rounds, and they stuck in the tighter chamber’s forcing cone. According to Chavez, this is a known issue that was corrected with a new chamber cut in the production barrels. At press time, we’re waiting on a new barrel to arrive, so we’ll update the online version of this review after it gets here. Final Impression With an $850 price tag, the Type B won’t fly off the shelves. There are a lot of great pistols to be had for under $600, but none of them combine the accuracy, shootability, and reliability found in a bone-stock Type B. If you’re the type of person who’s going to pick up a $500 Glock and spend a hundred bucks, or two, on trigger, sight, and grip upgrades, then you might want to check out the Type B. While it’s pricey, the inclusion of fiber-optic sights, four mags, and a serviceable range bag accounts for $150 in upgrades and narrows the value gap considerably. The Archon Type B has all of the reliability enhancements we want in a duty gun with all of the performance upgrades we want in a pistol set up for practical shooting competition. It’s as if Archon combined a 1911 race gun and an EDC Glock 19 to create the Type B. Archon Type B Specs Caliber: 9mm Luger Barrel Length: 4.3 inches Twist: 1:10 RH, 6 groove Overall Length: 7.75 inches Weight Unloaded: 1.75 ounces magazine Capacity: 15 rounds MSRP: $850 To learn more about Archon Firearms, click here. This article originally appeared in Concealment 9 Corey Graff contributed to this article. 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