Recently, thanks to the generosity of Ethan Manning of Manning & Son Inc, I was granted the opportunity to have some quality time with a handgun that entered the market some time ago now, but combines features that caught the interest of shooters of all types upon its release.
The Hudson Mfg H9 (MSRP: $1,147.00) is an all steel, double stack, striker fired, full sized, handgun which embodies a bromance between the 1911 and Glock design features. Jokes have been flung around the internet for years about Glock producing a 1911 thanks to some clever photoshop work and periodic social media frenzies. The H9 is neither a 1911 or a Glock, but should someone be handed one while blindfolded, they would most certainly be able to distinguish features of both of them.
After several days of dry firing, admiration at my office desk, and a casual 500 rounds at the range, I would love to share my humble thoughts about this unique, American, handgun.
The first, and arguably most important feature of the H9 I’d like to touch on is its trigger. At first glance, it looks like a typical 1911 trigger except for the protruding Glock style safety lever. It is unique in that it hinges from the bottom and not the top of the trigger, but neither enhances nor detracts from the feel of the trigger pull. While not technically “light”, the advertised 4.5-5lb pull has negligible take up, a clean break, and hardly any over travel whatsoever. This brings me to my first criticism of the gun: its trigger reset. During dry fire drills, and just casual familiarization with the trigger, the reset is obvious and very short. What I couldn’t have anticipated was how nearly unnoticeable it is when actually firing it. It took several magazines into my testing to come to terms with the fact that I would just have to assume the trigger had reset, because try as I might, it was almost impossible to tell if it had reset or if I was about to yank on a dead trigger. During my testing, the gun’s flawless reliability gave me the confidence I needed to overcome the lack of the tactile reset, and just keep hammering away with rapid, center mass, hits. As far as triggers in new handguns are concerned, there are certainly far worse problems to have.
1911 fans will feel right at home with the H9 in their hands. Being an all steel gun it has significant heft, and the very naturally pointing grip angle, relatively low bore axis, and well balanced feel (both fully loaded, and empty) which made aiming, and rapid engagements effortless and comfortable. Even as a decade plus Glock shooter, the H9 had zero learning curve in my hands putting rounds down range efficiently. Of course, I’d be remiss if I excluded the downside to the weight of an all steel gun. It weighs a TON. This makes for a very pleasant to shoot range gun, but would quickly become a chore to lug around in any other application. Tipping the scales at 34oz unloaded, it is nearly 4oz heaver than a fully loaded Gen 5 G19. Also, the H9 sports an accessory rail, granting a shooter the ability to swiftly spoil the gun’s pleasurable balance, add yet more weight, narrow their already limited holster options, and to scream “All the lumens” while strobing imaginary intruders in the pantry. It is still better to have it than not I suppose. That would have been one of the first features the market would have demanded should it have been released without one, no doubt.
Getting to the aesthetics of the H9, it really is an obvious labor of love. The fit and finish were immaculate throughout. The satin black metal finish was even, and attractive. I can’t attest to its durability, but it doesn’t seem to be at all inferior. The slide and frame match up snugly, and the slide reciprocates more smoothly than any factory handgun I’ve experienced in a very long time. The H9’s slide also features front cocking serrations which is evidently so desirable in a handgun that even Glock has finally caved under pressure to include them in their latest models. As with the case for including the accessory rail, I can only imagine they were included to keep the keyboard critics at bay. In the meantime, I will keep my eyes and ears open for the next/first gunfight won or tragically lost due to their presence.
From the factory, the H9 comes with a fixed, low profile, rear sight with a U notch, and a Trijicon HD night sight front post. This combination lent to very fast target acquisition, a very clear sight picture, but due to the thick front post, a poor field of view and a largely obscured target. For defensive work, a larger front post is arguably faster to pick up and get your hits in asap which is great and all, but for any degree of precision I prefer at least a little daylight around a front sight. I was happy to see good quality, metal sights on the Hudson out of the box however.
One selling point for the H9 are its double stack magazines (2 included) in a gun with a single stack feel. I am a firm believer in choosing to have more ammo over less (looking at you 1911 fans), not because I necessarily think more rounds are needed, but you can never have too much ammo unless you are swimming or on fire, so theres that. That said, a full sized gun, slim or not, with a 15+1 round capacity didn’t have me all hot and bothered either. It is sufficient, no better, no worse. The magazines themselves seem to be an afterthought of the package. While they are metal, and functioned perfectly, they do not seem to match the quality exhibited by the rest of the gun. They were mildly uncomfortable to load and unload due to the narrow sheet metal feed lips. The base plates seem to be made out of an inexpensive plastic material as well. With the refinement of the rest of the gun, I would have really liked to have seen a more impressive magazine provided with it. A quality, aftermarket +2 aluminum baseplate would be a welcomed addition which I surmise will become more available should the gun’s popularity increase down the road.
The factory supplied G10 grips look great, but are very slick, and combined with the thin profile, the gun shifted easily under recoil requiring grip adjustments often. G10 rear checkered insert is much better, but the “checkered” front strap is not nearly aggressive enough. More aggressive grip surfaces, and a larger palm swell would be nice. Gloves would have helped due to warm, sweaty conditions even though I generally do not care for shooting gloves even when somewhat necessary.
Accuracy and reliability with blazer brass 124gr (only ammo on hand) were both very good. I did not experience one single malfunction of any kind. I didn’t do a ransom rest accuracy test, but from 7-25 yards, I can assure you any shot led astray was entirely my fault. A more narrow front sight would have led to much better precision, but the supplied sights afforded ample speed and accuracy for rapid engagements of targets within 25 yards.
The mag release and slide stop were both very easy to manipulate comfortably and quickly without protruding excessively. The ambi slide stop is a nice feature that is also not in the way at all or accidentally bumped. While it is obviously great for left handed shooters, I’ve grown to appreciate ambidextrous controls in a competitive setting when shooting stages requiring use of your non-dominant hand. It isn’t a situation that pops up often, but when it does, its nice to be able to access controls with either hand should you need to.
This gun has a perplexing overall purpose. It obviously is a very well designed, and thought out handgun, and is beautifully crafted. However, it doesn’t seem to be targeted at filling any particular role. The Hudson website claims that the pistol has “Unrivaled Modularity” which I won’t say isn’t true, but there are for sure a fair amount of rivals out there with similar features. The sights and rail are characteristic of a duty/carry gun, but it is far too large and heavy compared to, say, a Glock 19, to be a competitive option for that line of work. The weight, trigger, and recoil mitigation lend to being a powerful competitor for USPSA type shooting, but a more fine front sight would be better than the large tritium dot and the magazine capacity with the standard baseplate was lackluster. Theres no doubt the H9 would be a strong option for about any roll you would need a modern handgun to fill, but more purpose built versions in the future would be very interesting.
Pros: great fit/finish
Natural grip angle
Ambi controls, easy to use
Has a rail for a light/laser
Cons: identity crisis
Light/laser would add yet more weight and effect balance
Lackluster mag construction
Good defensive/duty sights, not great for precision
Trigger reset could be more positive
Grips not aggressive enough, shifts in the hand under mild recoil easily
Very heavy for a carry/duty gun