April 23, 2012
By James Tarr
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.
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.