Armscor 10mm Longslide

By Oleg Volk

"A handgun is merely a weapon used to fight your way back to your rifle—which you shouldn't have left behind." - Jeff Cooper

While witty, Jeff Cooper’s maxim applies more to wartime than to daily life of the majority of Americans. Carrying rifles isn’t often practical, isn’t always legal, and so handguns end up being used for the vast majority of defensive actions outside of home. The style of gun differs from person to person; some consider any subcompact to be adequate for scaring off opportunistic criminals, others prefer larger caliber, capacity and controllability to win gunfights physically.

Along with plastic fantastic, the old M1911 updated with a double-stack magazine is one such platform. Available in calibers from 22TCM to 45ACP, 2011 and similar models attempt to provide maximum capacity along with decent sights and triggers. Of the several popular defensive calibers, the 10-mm Automatic holds the most mystique. Science-fiction writers hold it up as the one chambering to join humanity in space, either in dueling pistols of David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” universe or in hunting guns of L. Neil Smith’s “Pallas.” 10 mm is an odd round, more popular in the theory than in actual weapons, despite obvious performance merits.

Designed in 1983 and selected by the FBI in 1986, 10 mm promised to be the perfect fighting cartridge. It provided enough energy and mass to penetrate deeply and enough velocity to expand reliably. Unfortunately, the blast and the recoil proved hard on both guns and shooters, and it lagged behind its “child,” 40S&W, in popularity. Today, 10 mm is mainly a hunter’s cartridge, meant to stop a predator charge up close. While known for high penetration, 10-mm Auto actually comes in a wide variety of loads, from jacketed and monolithic ball to heavy, controlled expansion hollow points to lightweight expanding rounds meant for no more than 8 inches of penetration. Bullets from 135 gr to 230 gr are available, made with anything from jacketed lead to zinc alloy to machined copper.

Likewise with pistols, you can get a short, fat Glock, a medium-size rotary breech Grand Power or a variety of 1911 and 2011 pistols, full-size or even longslide. While rotary breech does much to tame recoil, the most effective 10-mm launch platform is the longslide 2011, such as the Armscor Pro Match Ultra HC. Heavy and wide enough to absorb the recoil sufficiently, it also comes with a long enough barrel to make good use of the cartridge potential. Muzzle velocity rises by an average of 50 fps compared to the 5-inch models, the brightness of flash and the severity of concussion subside, and the long-sight radius speeds up the target acquisition. The long barrel puts the muzzle blast far enough forward that lights or lasers mounted on the dust Picatinny rail aren’t much affected. All those taken together and mated to 17+1 capacity make this pistol a viable defensive tool for realistic self-defense ranges. It won’t match the range of a rifle, but it can come close enough on stopping power to make the upgrade from the more typical 9-mm Luger or 40S&W worthwhile. The power upgrade, by the way, requires careful ammunition shopping, as some companies load relatively weakly, while others stay with the original, more potent recipe. It’s the same situation as with a .357 Magnum.

Pro Match Ultra is a big, heavy weapon. It weighs just less than three pounds unloaded. While that much weight can be worn comfortably all day, a good holster and a sturdy belt are mandatory, along with a couple of spare magazines on the off side for balance. While called a match pistol, the 10 mm is entirely too powerful for punching paper or ringing steel. It’s meant for the kind of competition in which the loser goes to the morgue, and the winner blows smoke from the muzzle of his 10-mm automatic.

While it’s one of Armscor’s top models, it’s inexpensive relative to its US-made competitors. For the price, somewhere around $1000, you get a very reliable and accurate pistol with well-designed sights and a decent, if slightly heavy, 5-pound trigger. After a short 1/16-inch take-up, the release was crisp and consistent. The fit is pretty good, while the parkerized finish is uneven and wears relatively quickly which is ok, because a couple of parts—the safety levers and the magazine well funnel—could use smoothing for greater comfort, followed by re-finishing. In use, both right and left safety levers pinch the top of the right hand. Since the flaws are minor or cosmetic, the pistol definitely has customization potential. Compared to Glock 40, the pistol has similar accuracy and less felt recoil by far but weighs nearly a pound more, and field-stripping is much more involved. Although bulkier in appearance, the Armscor pistol is no thicker than the Glock. Magazines for Pro Match Ultra are easy to load with just fingers and drop free consistently. Thick basepads keep them oriented in freefall to protect the feed lips.

Disassembly was a sticking point, literally. The recoil guide plug is slotted for a screwdriver, but mine wouldn’t budge. Turned out it was filled with red Locktite for reasons unknown. Once cleaned out, the pistol would disassemble easily. Re-assembly required strong fingers to get the recoil spring back into the slide. Instead of two parts (recoil spring guide and bushing), this pistol uses a two-part recoil spring that screws together and a “tunnel” through which the spring passes.

The proof of utility is in the shooting. The pistol ran reliable with one hand or two. Muzzle flip is unremarkable, on part with a full-size 9 mm. All loads functioned fine; some with bright muzzle flash, some—with heavier bullets—with almost none. The click-adjustable rear sight has painted white dots that work well enough. Thanks to the heft and the wide backstrap, the recoil was moderate, permitting extensive practice. The texture of the backstrap was irritating to the hand after a hundred rounds, but the recoil itself wasn’t at all bothersome. Accuracy was not what US shooters would consider “match grade”—at 25 yards, all loads grouped 3-4 inches with the pistol on a sandbag. Part of the variation was due to the sighting, part to the gun itself. While different loads produced slight variations in points of impact, the greatest difference came from the hold. At 10 yards, more or less support hand pressure meant a couple of inches difference in windage. Rapid fire at 7 yards was more of the proper task for this pistol—it’s more a weapon than a sports shooting tool. With flat trajectory and plenty of power even at distance, this is definitely the pistol to take into a fight if a rifle is unavailable.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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