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Carry On Pistols

The Caracal Pistol

by James Tarr   |  April 23rd, 2012 16

The polymer-framed Caracal, the service pistol for the United Arab Emirates, will start to show up in local U.S. gun shops if Tarr gets his wish.

The Caracal pistol is a new pistol I’ve had the opportunity to test.  The design has been floating around for a few years, but efforts to distribute it in the U.S. have repeatedly sputtered.  I saw a major push by the manufacturer at this year’s SHOT Show, so I’m hoping we’ll see some Caracals in gun stores this year, for an MSRP at least in the neighborhood of the Glock 17.


The polymer-framed Caracal pistol was designed by a team led by Austrian Wilhelm Bubits, who designed the Steyr M pistol and was on the original Glock design team.  A caracal, in case you’re wondering, is a desert lynx.


In 2002, Bubits began working with weapons experts from the United Arab Emirates, and the result was the Caracal pistol.  The Caracal is now the service pistol of the U.A.E. and more impressively, it was submitted and passed the grueling German Federal Police Standard and the German Federal Armed Forces Technical Purchasing requirements.


The Caracal pistol is offered in three models, the full-size F, the compact C, and the subcompact SC.  While it can be compared to a Glock 17 in size, the Caracal F is shorter by both length and height, although it is slightly wider. The Caracal C is roughly comparable in size to a Glock 19.  I received a Model F and a Model C with optional QuickSight for testing.


The Caracal does not have replaceable or interchangeable backstraps.  The distance from the backstrap to the face of the trigger is 2.9 inches on the Caracal, which is the same as on a Glock.  The Caracal’s backstrap is hollow and open on the bottom.


Pictures don’t do the Caracal justice.  The slide to frame fit is very nice for a polymer-framed pistol, which I believe has to do with the long frame rails.  The total frame rail length on a Glock is 1.58 inches according to my calipers.  The rail length on the Caracal F is a whopping 6.8 inches.  This is more than a 430 percent increase over the Glock, and is mostly likely responsible for the improved slide/frame fit on the Caracal.  Both slide-to-frame fit and barrel fit are tighter on the Caracal than the average Glock.  The metal finish looks like standard bluing but is actually a proprietary finish called Plasox.

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The grip angle is actually just a hair more than a Glock.  The front and back of the grip frame are checkered but not very aggressively, and the sides of the frame have very tame texturing.


The Caracal has a fully supported ramped barrel with traditional rifling.  The Caracal is supplied with metal magazines that seem very well made.  They’re able to hold so many rounds because they remain at their full width almost the entirety of their length, only beginning to narrow .7 inches from the feedlips.


While there are plans to offer it in a number of different calibers including .40 S&W and .357 SIG, at the time of my testing there were only 9mm versions in the states.  In 9mm, the flush magazine for the Caracal F is designed to hold 18 rounds.  In .40/.357, designated capacity is 16.  In the C version, respective capacities are 15/13.  The full-length F magazines will work in the compact model C.


The ambidextrous magazine release is metal, and empty magazines drop free from the gun.  Disassembly procedure is the same as with a Glock.


It doesn’t just look a lot like a Glock on the outside, the internal operation is very similar as well.  The firing pin remains partially cocked under spring pressure.  As the trigger is depressed, a tab on the rear of it pulls the firing pin back the rest of the way, then drops, allowing the firing pin to move forward under spring pressure and ignite the cartridge.


The advertised trigger pull for the Caracal is 2.2 kg, which equals 4.8 lbs.  The measured pull on the Caracal F I received was just under 5 pounds, and on the Caracal C it was 4.5 lbs.  This is far superior to the 6-8 lb. trigger pulls found on the Glock 17/22 or any Glocks equipped with 5.5-lb connectors.


The rear sight of the Caracal is part of the Firing Pin Unit.  The entire rear of this unit, including the sight, is serrated.  There is a large white dot on the dovetailed steel front sight of the Caracal F, and one just below the notch of the rear sight.


The Caracal QuickSight looks silly from the outset, but after using it during evaluation, Tarr believes the QuickSight works and wouldn't feel handcuffed by it in a social engagement at normal gunfight distances.

When I first saw pictures of the Caracal QuickSight, I honestly thought it was a pretty damn stupid idea.  With the Quicksight, the rear sight is machined into the slide…..forward of the ejection port!  For the Model C I was provided, this would mean the sight radius was all of 2.15 inches.  Who would deliberately shorten the sight radius on their gun?  It seemed totally counter-intuitive to me.  Then I got one in my hand.


The Quicksight works.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because the front and rear sights are so close together that they’re on the same focal plane when you bring the gun up.  There is no “front sight, rear sight, target, press”, everything is all there together.  What I know is that the sight points naturally—bring the pistol up, and the front sight is nestled in the rear sight.  Bang.  And this isn’t just me, everyone I know who has tried out the QuickSight were surprised (really surprised) to discover the same thing.


Is the QuickSight faster than a traditional sighting system?  I can’t say definitively, but I know that if I was carrying a Caracal with the QuickSight and got involved in a social engagement at normal gunfight distances, I wouldn’t feel handicapped.


What makes a Glock shootable is its low bore.  The bore of the Caracal is advertised as being 4mm LOWER than that of a Glock, so I did some measuring of my own.  I found the distance from the bottom of the trigger guard to the boreline was identical in the Glock and the Caracal, and from the web of the hand up to the boreline the Caracal sat 3mm lower—close enough.


In addition to shooting off the bench, I used the Caracal F at a local USPSA match.  I discovered, to my surprise, that the Caracal has more muzzle flip and felt recoil than a Glock 17.  Not a lot, only about 5+% (I shot them side by side), but I was surprised as the Caracal weighs the same and sits a bit lower in the hand.  I attribute this to two things—the shape and construction of the frame.


First, the polymer used in the Glock frame is about the softest you can find in a pistol without having it melt in your hand on a warm day.  Soft means that it flexes under recoil more, and that flexing absorbs some of those recoil forces.  Secondly, the frame of the Caracal, in addition to being stiffer, is narrower at the back.  Wider guns shoot softer than narrower guns, all things being equal.  Don’t misunderstand me, the Caracal is a very soft shooting and controllable gun, with less muzzle rise than a 4-inch Springfield XD.


When I went looking for holsters that would fit the Caracal, I know Blackhawk makes a Serpa, but other than that you might have to wait until the pistol is more widely available before holster makers get interested.


For the USPSA match I used a Galco Avenger vertical belt holster designed for a 4-inch Springfield XD, which fit the Caracal very well.  The Caracal magazines are a bit narrower than Glock magazines, but most magazine pouches designed for steel double-column 9mm magazines should fit.  Pay attention to this one, because once U.S. distribution becomes a reality I think the Caracal will be around for a while.

  • Dirty Devan

    I can see difference. I like them both.

  • Robert Johnston

    This gun wasn't made to look good–it was made to SHOOT good!

  • Wild_Bill_H

    Saw my first one today, tomorrow I pick it up! I've been aware of this gun for some time but already have 3 9mm's. My dealer got in a variety of Carcal's today and by fate I happened to drop in while he was unboxing the shipment. _The Qucksight doesn't make sense from a traditional view but when I tried it out I was blown over. Also checked out the conventional sighted Carcals but the Quicksight is fast. Not used to having both sights in focus and its frame angle lines up the sights perfectly for me. Very instinctive handling hangun.

  • Blade-Tech

    Blade-Tech makes holsters for Caracal pistols :)

  • Ron

    I have a F and a C model.approx 600 rounds thru both–not one problem.Both have the quick sites,and I prefer them to my glock 19.I seem to be able to acquire my target much faster.Accuracy at 25 feet and in is as good or better than the Glock. I had a Skimmer trigger put in my glock and it feels better than it did but I actually prefer the stock trigger on the caracal.The Caracal's rock, and if I had it to do over again, the Glock would be history.

  • Ricardo

    Glock, by which all others are measured.

    • rodger

      Glock is outdated and refuses to progress. Just like professional boxers–there is always one better, and Caracal is the better.

  • ernesto

    i want a caracal .40 where can i buy ir ????? pls help!

  • guest

    No way would I buy them if they were 50% less than a glock. Why give money to a culture that calls american people Infidels.

    • Guntoteninfadel

      It's because we are infadels u moron. Like calling them Muslims…. It's what they are. Calling atheist godless, there's another one, holy cow!

  • jerry52

    If the gun shoots better that is the point. What they call us means nothing, Its cheaper than a Glock and for many that means a lot. Less moving parts that means a lot. I carry a Glock 27 every day will they have an equal that is lighter that will mean a lot.
    How they handle warranty will really matter as the Glock had its issue when it first came on the market, a lot went back for warranty this will really mean a lot.
    Centerfire has them priced for $399 ,I think I will wait!

  • Jason Williamson

    Have put more than 2k rounds into my Caracal F pistol. This gun shoots very, very well!

  • nauman khan khalil

    caracal f gun shoots very very well.i like it.

  • rodger

    My Caracal C shoots better than all the Glocks that I have owned. The quick sights are much better than traditional sights. The trigger puts all Glocks to shame. This gun is a keeper that I carry daily, all day. As far as being from the Arab country, the United Arab Emirate has always been our ally and has helped us the whole time that we have been over there. You morons who think you know everything about the Arabs need to educate yourself before making foolish comments.

  • aztechhd

    Great write up! i just got this pistol and took it to the range today.., I think it really does have less felt recoil then any other pistol i have shot because of the grip design. Here is a video of me shooting it if you want to check it out

  • JayECee

    I have had the F for 7 months. Absolutely no issues although Caracal does have a recall on ALL of their handguns because of the possibility that one could discharge if dropped on a hard surface when chambered. Their offer is a full refund or a new gun. I opted for the new gun because, IMO, the Caracal F is the best 9mm I've shot. I gave 2nd place to the Glock. With my smaller hands, the low bore axis of both guns is fitting. Although I would have preferred to buy American, my goal was to buy the best shooting gun for me.
    Have enjoyed your shows and just signed up for a subscription to the magazine.

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