February 24, 2022
By Jeff John
Polymer pistols have stormed the professional and civilian markets, offering affordability, durability, performance and especially reliability. With that baseline set, many shooters add custom touches such as slide lightening, special finishes and sights from a big custom aftermarket. The most popular gun is still basic black, and many have a military/police attitude coming in olive drab or flat dark earth, but few come stock with upscale looks for the civilian.
A pleasing new entrant specifically geared to the civilian is the SAR 9X Platinum by Turkish maker Sarsilmaz through SAR USA. The Platinum adds upscale styling cues with subtle, subdued color to the already rugged and proven SAR 9X pistol. Several premium accessories are included, and the pistol can go from box to range with little else except ammunition and perhaps a drop of oil.
Opening the big red box showed the 27.5-ounce, striker-fired, 17+1 capacity 9mm pistol with a striking “platinum” silvery finish—with Cerakote on the slide’s exterior that matches the color of the polymer frame. Contrast is provided by black controls and sights as well as the addition of one of the three black interchangeable grip inserts to tailor the fit to a wide variety of hand sizes.
Included are one 17-round mag and an additional 19-round extended mag. The blue-bodied magazines snap into place easily—even fully loaded when the slide is at rest—and rocket out even with the slide locked back.
A whole bunch of goodies are in the lockable case, too, including a hard-shell polymer holster adjustable for cant and featuring a retention button easily within reach of the forefinger to initiate the draw. The holster can be worn either belt or paddle style. A paddle-style hard-shell polymer carrier for two extra mags is provided. It is also adjustable for cant, as is the amount of tension on the magazines. Even with moderately heavy tension, magazines slide smoothly in and out of the mag carrier.
Two additional backstraps with four additional side panels allow changes to the grip for width and length. Except for a hammer to drive out the grip pin, all the tools to make these adjustments to the grip and the holsters are included. A nice, red mop is provided to ease cleaning chores.
Last but not least is the flashlight for the frame’s forward accessory rail. The bright focused-beam light is powered by one CR123 battery, which is not included. The switch is on the left side, so a simple flick of the left forefinger back towards you turns the light on or off. Flick it on, off, and back on and the light goes into strobe mode.
Pull down the nicely scalloped tabs on either side of the light to slide it on. Removal is just as easy, and the light must be removed before holstering when using the provided rig.
Interchangeable backstraps are a great idea, but having average-size hands means I’ve never needed to change one. The Platinum 9X was no exception, and it felt great right out of the box. Typical of striker-fired pistols today is a trigger with a “flipper” safety in the middle of the trigger.
Unique to the SAR 9X is a red triangle that appears at the upper part of the trigger on both sides when the striker is in the “cocked” position. Under the slide is a firing pin block to prevent accidental discharge if the pistol is dropped; it is raised by the trigger as the latter is depressed.
Not unique but welcome in my world is a thumb safety on both sides for right- or left-handed use. Frame mounted, up is Safe and down is Fire. There is no grip safety, loaded-chamber indicator or tactile striker-position indicator.
Thumb safeties help prevent accidents during holstering, especially if a thumb-break holster strap slips into the trigger guard, but there is a caveat to the SAR 9X’s safety. The owner’s manual makes it quite clear the trigger-blocking thumb safety should be applied only when the pistol is cocked.
“Warning! Safety is only activated when striker is cocked,” the manual reads. “Do not try to change the position to safe if not cocked. Forcing the safety into position while not cocked can cause damage which in turn will void the warranty.”
However—and this is important—if you do push up the thumb safety before drawing the slide back to cock the pistol, the pistol will fire when the trigger is pressed with the safety on! You may also break an internal part, as the manual indicates, but in my case it still works fine. The safety does not lock the slide, so the pistol can be cleared with the safety applied.
There’s no magazine disconnect, so the pistol will fire with the magazine removed.
The slide release is left-side only, as is the magazine release, but the magazine release can be reversed. I can reach the mag release without shifting my grip, but I never inadvertently dropped a mag. The slide release, mag release and thumb safeties are compact and don’t extend far from the frame. I found this caused no trouble applying them, sweeping them off or dropping the mag.
Just in front of the trigger are the twin disassembly pads. Like many other pistols of this type, the SAR 9X must be clearly unloaded with the magazine removed and the chamber visually checked before initiating takedown because you must first squeeze the trigger before disassembly. Then pulling back the slide a hair and depressing both tabs frees the slide to be removed to the front. Under the slide is a captured double recoil spring and forged, six-groove barrel with conventional rifling and a 1:10 right-hand twist. As is common today, the link-less barrel locks in the ejection port window.
The squarish slide is serrated with angled grasping grooves at the back and the front ones are ventilated to aid cooling of the 4.4-inch barrel. While some of the more militaristic among us might see those openings as a way for dirt and mud to clog up the works, the SAR 9X is intended for sustained shooting in the civilian world of competition and the longer days of defensive shooting practice rather than the trenches of the next war.
For everyday purposes, a barrel that’s able to cool more rapidly is an asset, although I can’t recall ever shooting a handgun fast enough and long enough to cause it any harm. Perhaps their greatest benefit is in improving the balance by removing forward weight.
What pleasantly surprised me was how solid the pistol felt, an impression that was amplified when drawing the slide back. Many polymer pistols often sound tinny, for want of a better word, when the action is worked. Drawing the slide back on the Platinum gives a throatier sound, with the substantial feel reminiscent of all-metal pistols.
Heft was different, too. While a weight of 27.5 ounces is right in line with pistols in this class. Many other polymer pistols feel top heavy especially with the magazine removed. The SAR 9X once again felt more like an all-metal pistol. Removing the slide shows construction similar to other polymer-frame pistols, but the Platinum just feels beefier than I’ve come to expect from these types.
One very welcome detail: the frame’s mold lines at the bottom of the trigger guard are barely distinguishable, leaving a smooth surface all the way around. Too many times in the past I have had to tape my trigger finger over a long shooting session when the sharp mold line commonly found inside the trigger guards of many other pistols raised a blister.
The frame has other nice touches that adding utility as well as beauty. The frontstrap is textured, but not aggressively so, and complemented by comfortably shallow finger grooves. There are scallops for the thumb and forefinger, and they work for right- or left hand-shooting. These extend just a little over the magazine release at the bottom to prevent an inadvertent magazine drop.
The slide release has a little shelf under it so your thumb won’t accidentally bump it into the path of the slide during recoil. The takedown levers are flush fitting and have a textured surface doubling as a gripping area to initiate disassembly and giving a sure place to rest your forefinger when the gun is drawn and at the ready. If you have short fingers, the frame has a little texturing behind the latches to do the same.
The bottom of the frame has scallops on either side to help grasp the base of the magazine in case it doesn’t want to drop easily. It’s hard to imagine needing them since the magazines flew out of the gun and mag changes were quick.
The trigger pull is a little heavy at six pounds. It isn’t unmanageable to those familiar with these types of pistols, but the initial pull is long and a little gritty before the break. Allowing the trigger to move forward just until it resets with an audible click gives a much lighter and crisper pull. Then the trigger is quite manageable.
It requires a lot of practice to run the reset quickly, and I can’t do it well under the pressure of a clock. My practice/training sessions have been spotty the last few years, I’m ashamed to say. The good news is I don’t notice the grittiness of the long, full pull when shooting fast.
Loading the magazines to full capacity is a chore. I was able to get all but one round in before resorting to the provided mag loader. After loading them a couple of times, the mag loader was welcome at the party. Such a heavy mag spring helps ensure reliability, so this is just an observation and not a complaint.
The sights are of the three-dot variety with a fixed front and a rear adjustable for windage. The rear has a setscrew in the center requiring a small Allen wrench to loosen, which is not provided. The front sight is 0.160 inch wide, and the rear sight’s notch is the same width.
The sight picture was good for target shooting as well as fast firing, especially since the high center of gravity brought the sights quickly back on target. The top of the slide is drilled and tapped for a red dot sight.
The backstrap rises high from a generous palm swell in the back to put your hand closer to the bore line than do many of its competitors. This helps reduce muzzle flip and puts the sights faster back on target. Quick double-taps were possible, and I found one-hand/weak-hand drills far more comfortable to perform.
There were zero malfunctions when shooting strong hand, weak hand, or with both hands. All the cases ejected to the three or four o’clock position about a yard from the gun in the dirt and not much farther on the concrete pad at the local range. The texturing on the frontstrap and inserts gave a sure grip even in 90-degree summer heat.
In addition to the loads shown in the accompanying chart, I also shot American Eagle 115-grain full metal jackets. During the accuracy testing, Hornady’s load produced the best single group of the day—2.5 inches—but the SIG ammo produced the best average at 25 yards.
Not surprisingly, SIG’s 147-grain load was the softest shooting and, even better, was right on for windage and elevation. The other loads shot right near the point-of-aim for elevation but not for windage. The Hornady load was a little off to the left and the Federal load shot wide enough that a sight correction would be mandatory if it was to be the load of choice.
Highly reliable and decently accurate with a capable load puts the SAR 9X Platinum on the list of guns you shouldn’t overlook. The skilled workmen at Sarsilmaz have turned an already rugged, dependable duty sidearm into an elegant sidearm fit for the hip of the discriminating shooter.
SAR USA 9X Platinum Specifications
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto centerfire
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 17+1 and 19+1
- Barrel: 4.4 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.6/5.5/1.4 in.
- Weight: 27.5 oz.
- Construction: Platinum Cerakote carbon steel slide, platinum polymer frame
- Grips: Interchangeable grip inserts and panels
- Sights: Low-profile three-dot; fixed 3-dot front and rear; drilled and tapped for optics
- Trigger: 6-lb. reset-style safety trigger; 6 lb. pull (measured)
- Safeties: Ambidextrous thumb, trigger lever
- Price: $632
- Manufacturer: Sarsilmaz, Turkey
- Importer: SAR USA, sarusa.com
Sarsilmaz has been making guns in Turkey since 1880. The company began by making sporting shotguns in a small workshop and is now led by Aral Alis, who is a fifth-generation descendant of the original owners. Sarsilmaz has grown in complexity over the years and now operates in a brand-new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility equipped with CNC machining equipment, including 11-axis mills and robotic cells.
Currently, it produces pistols and shotguns for customers in 78 countries and is the only privately owned company in Turkey producing guns for law enforcement, military and civilian use. Sarsilmaz is the sole supplier of pistols for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces. The firm also makes aviation components for Airbus Military, Sikorsky, Boeing and AgustaWestland.