By Bob Campbell,
With modern handgun quality there are quite a few choices for every niche. Most often the various pistols are individual enough an interested shooter is able to make an intelligent choice geared toward their personal ability. Seldom does a single pistol in the class stand head and shoulders above the rest.
This is the case with the Honor Defense Honor Guard 9mm handgun. This new handgun from a bright new company offers the best performance in its class. The polymer frame striker-fired single column magazine market has a new star in my opinion. It is exciting to see a group of Americans with great talent channel their energy into a world class handgun. The Honor Defense Honor Guard 9mm handgun is all American in design and material. The Honor Guard 9mm isn’t a cheap handgun made to undersell the competition. It is an affordable handgun that is in the middle of the road in cost, a little more than some competitors and a little less than others. When examining the pistol with a professional eye I find no compromise.
When I received the pistol at the local FFL the piece was packaged in a red white and blue box. The box held the pistol, necessary manuals, and the supplied magazines in both seven and eight round capacity. The Honor Guard is a polymer frame striker-fired 9mm compact handgun.
The pistol may be slightly heavier and stouter overall than the Smith & Wesson Shield or Glock 43 9mm but this is a good thing. There is a reason for this sturdy construction. The pistol was designed to handle +P 9mm Luger loads. These loads stress many handguns. Slide velocity may be accelerated to the point that the ability of the magazine to feed is compromised. Often an otherwise reliable handgun will begin to short cycle with +P ammunition.
The Honor Guard doesn’t have this disadvantage. The recoil system and all steel magazines are designed to handle +P momentum. As a plus the pistol is very controllable with standard pressure loads. As an example when loaded with the Winchester 115-grain Silvertip the pistol seemed objectively as comfortable to fire as a full size service pistol. +P loads are in higher pressure than standard loads and may exhibit one hundred feet per second more velocity. This is an important advantage with a small caliber handgun such as the 9mm Luger. The 9mm Luger is a powerful cartridge but some loads maximize the caliber.
The pistol field strips easily without pulling the trigger. Be certain the pistol isn’t loaded, lock the slide to the rear with the magazine removed, rotate the disassembly lever and the slide is easily removed. The recoil spring is very strong, which is good for a short slide pistol firing a powerful cartridge. This strong spring helps control slide velocity and recoil. It simply requires a slight extra effort to remove. The action is enclosed in a modular unit opening the way for offerings of interchangeable frames. The trigger action breaks clean. There is a trigger stop built into the frame which limits over travel. Trigger reset is positive and fast. The slide features forward and rear cocking serrations, or perhaps they should be called cocking grooves. These grooves provide plenty of area for grasping to rack the slide. The rear sight features a front flat intended to allow snagging the rear sight on the belt or boot heel to rack the slide or clear a malfunction.
The front sight features a bright orange dot for contrast against the rear sight’s two white dots. This sight picture allows both rapid hits on combat targets and precision shooting at longer range. The extractor is a large piece of steel securely pinned into the slide. The frame contains a takedown lever and ambidextrous slide lock. The slide lock is buried in the frame. I have observed shooters in training classes allow the support hand thumb to contact the slide lock in recoil when using a compact pistol. This simply will not occur with the Honor Guard. A trade-off is that it is difficult to use the slide lock to release the slide. I used the slingshot method and grasped the rear of the slide and released to load the pistol. I like the buried slide lock. This is a combat gun not a target gun. The frame is supplied with a cut out on each side that will accept a manual safety to be professionally installed, when and perhaps if Honor Defense offers this option. The magazine release is fully ambidextrous. The frame treatment is efficient. The abrasion isn’t uncomfortable but adhesion in firing is excellent. This is the best frame treatment I have yet seen on a polymer frame handgun. The grip frame is ideal for most hand sizes. A single extra frame insert is supplied with the pistol. The magazines are well made of good steel. There are no weld marks and polish is excellent.
It wasn’t difficult to load seven rounds in the 8 round magazine but the final round was difficult. After firing extensively the spring loosened a bit and I was able to load 8 cartridges, giving the shooter a 9 round pistol. The flush fit 7 round magazine may be preferred for close carry. During firing the magazines never gave any indication of problems.
I have fired the pistol to this date with well over 600 cartridges without malfunction. Among the favored practice loads is the Federal Syntech 115-grain ammunition. This load is clean-burning and accurate. The bullet itself is covered in a polymer sheath. It is perhaps the cleanest load in the caliber. This load was comfortable to fire in the Honor Guard. With a mild load at 1060 fps from the pistol’s short barrel the Honor Guard remained comfortable to fire with every load tested. Firing quickly at 7 yards the Honor Guard gave excellent combat groups. The sights are well regulated, the trigger has a fast reset, adhesion of the grip is good, and the pistol handles well. At one point I was firing double taps and hammers so rapidly I had two to three bullet holes touching at 7 yards. This is a fast shooting pistol. The slide cycles quickly. The Honor Guard performs in a superior manner in my opinion to any other handgun in the size, weight and mission profile class.
The Honor Guard was also fired with a wide variety of personal defense loads. To date these include the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP, the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP +P, DoubleTap 77-grain JHP and DoubleTap 115-grain +P, Sig Sauer 124-grain V Crown JHP, Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P, Hornady 124-grain XTP, Hornady 124-grain XTP +P, Winchester Silvertip and the Winchester 124-grain PDX +P. All functioned well without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject.
Due to the heavy recoil spring of the Honor Guard the +P loads generated little more felt recoil than standard pressure loads. In short the pistol is a joy to fire with standard loads and felt recoil is less than any other handgun in its class.
With +P loads the pistol is exceptionally controllable. Firing from the barricade rest at 15 yards I was able to fire five shot groups at 15 yards measuring 2 inches for 5 rounds. This is a capable handgun. With good sights, excellent human engineering, a good trigger action and reliability with all loads tested, the Honor Guard is well worth its price. As for the final word in personal defense—for most uses the Black Hills Ammunition EXP is a good choice. It is a fast expanding JHP that doesn’t move into +P territory. The Winchester Silvertip is another load with good expansion. The heavier Sig Sauer V Crown offers good expansion and a little more penetration. If I were likely to be facing felons bundled in winter clothing or feral dogs then one of the 124 grain +P loads would be my choice. Since I like to plan for the worst case rather than the average case my 9mm handgun will be loaded with 124 grain +P ammunition.