This is Part II and the final part to the “A 9mm Difference” series that was featured as our cover story in our July issue. To read Part I, click here!
A 9mm Difference
A Semi-Auto Handgun Trio Chambers the Humble and Hardy 9mm Parabellum
The word Parabellum is derived from the Latin phrase: Si vis pacem, para bellum (“If you seek peace, prepare for war”). This phrase was the motto of DWM, the German manufacturer who brought us the Luger semi-auto and its 9x19mm cartridge.
Top Guns, Tough Choices
At the range, we had a safe environment to handle the pistols and to review the attributes of each. First, we noted that the 3913 (the oldest) was the odd man out. All three handguns will not fire unless the trigger is pulled, but the 3913 also has an external safety. It is also the only one with a hammer. The 3913 can be loaded, a round chambered, and then has its hammer dropped safely. The first round is fired double action and following shots are fired single action.
The new Smith and Glock are both supplied with a striker fired action and the trigger pull is consistent for each shot. All had a magazine release located in the same spot at the rear of the trigger guard. The new SD9 VE won the capacity issue by holding 16 rounds, one more than the Glock. The 3913 only holds 8 rounds, but it should be noted that it does have a twin brother, the 6906, that held 12 rounds by use of a thicker grip frame and staggered magazine. The slide locks open after the last shot on all three, and the slide release is located on the left hand side.
Although the take down on the three guns was slightly different, once reviewed, no one had difficulty with any of the three guns. As to weight, the new SD9 VE fell right in between the other two at 22.7 ounces. The Glock 19 was 20.9 ounces; the 3913 is 25 ounces. All of these weights were “unloaded,” and this rating would shift once each was loaded to full capacity.
Once everyone was familiar with the function of each handgun, it was time to do a little live fire. We started by having the three shooters rotate through the three different handguns while firing off a sandbag rest at a standard 25 yard pistol target. All shooters ran their best results with the SD9 VE, but the difference between it and the Glock was hardly enough to mention. The two newer shooters both had a hard time with the long double action pull for the first shot with the 3913, and if we omitted that first shot, it ran as well as the other two. Given a little more practice, two to three inch groups would be the norm for these compact handguns.
Other than enlarging the group sizes, firing off-hand did little to change the results. Paper targets will give accuracy results, but it is the speed runs on metal plates that give you the instant gratification. Grip comfort and control of recoil becomes more apparent once you speed things up. Running three shooters, through three guns, for three rounds, each with a different 9mm loading, gave all of us a chance to form our opinions.
Drawing Some Conclusions
I didn’t expect to see much difference between any of the firearms, but I was wrong. The bore to grip height on the 3913 is much higher than the other two firearms. Both newer shooters were convinced this give them less “felt” recoil, but photographs taken during the session actually showed it to recoil greater than the other two. All of us felt the SD9 VE was the most comfortable to shoot by a very small margin over the Glock. None of the handguns were uncomfortable, and I attribute this to the 9mm cartridge as much to the handgun designs. When asked, the two new shooters favored the 3913 for perceived safety, so chalk one up for a visible external safety.
I completed the range session by asking the two to rate the three firearms in order if they were to purchase one today. They responded by saying they would like to have all three, but given one choice they split their decision between the two newer weapons. If you wonder how I chose, the 3913 is my conceal carry weapon. It has served me well, and the older I get, the more I resist change.
The 9x19mm continues to fight a hard battle to gain acceptance in America, but I doubt it will fade much in the years to come. There is no doubt in my mind that in another fifty years the 9mm and .45 ACP will still rule the self-defense market. And for all of you that shoot the newer .40 caliber handguns, wait until it reaches the 100 year mark and then ask my opinion.
Story & Photos by Terrill Hoffman