Grand Power XCalibur 9mm: An Excellent Fit

By Oleg Volk

I seldom shoot in competitions and never took an interest in sporting pistols. Finding myself at an informal club shoot with a new-to-me Grand Power XCalibur 9mm, I decided to shoot falling plates with it just to keep D.J. Petrou company. He shot a compact XD with a laser; I used the XCalibur with iron sights—pretty much everyone else ran their standard competition pistols. Half-way through the shoot, we swapped guns just to keep it interesting. As I said, the competition was very informal, and all restrictions on what could be fired were lifted for the evening. Turned out that running a green laser is as good as winning when the opponents have to use conventional sights. We also found that shooting the XCalibur, even with iron sights, was enough to give one of the top spots to a mediocre and slow shooter like me. The secret advantage was the utter absence of recoil and muzzle rise, making my 9mm pistol feel like a .22 bullseye gun next to everyone else’s less tame sidearms. Grand Power XCalibur, distributed in the US by Eagle Imports, is a fancy longslide evolution of the humble but capable K100, the Slovak army pistol.

Designed in Slovakia in the mid-1990s, the K100 pistol was eventually adopted there as a military sidearm. A conventional DA/SA 9mm on the outside, the K100, and the wide family of variants it spawned in every size and caliber, is actually a very unusual design with a rotating barrel. Rotating barrel lockup goes back to the early 20th century, but it failed to gain the popularity of Browning’s tilting lockup. Rotating breech pistols from Steyr and, later, Beretta were generally bulky and known for jamming when even moderately dirty. With wear, such designs also lost accuracy. With the availability of computer-aided design and greater accumulated knowledge, successful rotary pistols like Boberg-designed Bond Derringer and Jaroslav Kuracina’s Grand Power K100 became possible. Originally imported to the US by STI as GP6, it didn’t really fit their lineup and was eventually passed to Eagle Imports. Eagle Imports offers the GP100 family in .22 and 380ACP (both blowback, but with common interface), 9x19, 40S&W, 45ACP and 10mm Auto.

A short recoil design, the K100 used a precision-milled raceway on the outside of the barrel to interact with a roller pin embedded in the frame. Although the frame appears to be plastic, the grip and dust cover mold conceals a solid steel subassembly within. Partway through the recoil, the rearward travel of the barrel stops, allowing the extraction and the ejection to proceed. The full firing cycle time is about 1.25ms, substantially slower than the 0.8-0.9ms typical of Glocks and other tilt-barrel systems. That and the generally non-impact nature of the lockup give the pistol very low felt recoil and muzzle flip. A mid-size Grand Power chambered for 10mm proved more accurate than a Glock 41 longslide in the same caliber and with lower felt recoil despite lighter weight and smaller size. The longslide XCalibur felt recoil is closer to the PMR30 in 22 Magnum than to other centerfire pistols. Since the K100 did away with the intermediate locking block of the Beretta Cougar, the pistol sports an impressively low bore axis, a help with both muzzle flip control and accurate pointing of the gun. Another major advantage of this design is the fully supported barrel, possibly by the elimination of the unnecessary feed ramp.

Disassembly of this pistol is as unorthodox as the internals. To field strip the K100 or the XCalibur, point in a safe direction, drop the magazine, rack the slide to ensure it’s clear, then hold down the disassembly notches by the dust cover, pull the slide all the way back and then lift it. The process resembles Walther PP or the Soviet PM more than it does the disassembly of most locked breech pistols. The gun doesn’t have to be dry fired for disassembly.

While the K100 design has been since replicated in all sizes, many calibers and firing mechanisms—DA/SA and striker fires—my own interest was in a very specific pair of pistol models. The 9mm XCalibur was selected mainly for the better, higher contrast sights, longer 5-inch barrel and extended safety levers. The pistol came with both extremely wide flappers and tiny, vestigial military style nubs. It turned out that the shooters were encouraged to mix and match them to personal fit, so I use a wide flapper reduced in width to about 60% of the original for the left side and a military-style nub on the right as a backup. The longer slide sports lightening cuts which also act to cool the already heavy-fluted barrel, a good feature for high round count competition use. The grip holds 15-round metal magazines and is thin enough to fit most hands. Thinner and thicker backstraps are provided. The companion pistol, a .22 rimfire XTrim, is a faithful copy of the XCalibur except for a fractionally shorter slide to allow threading on its 5-inch barrel. This sub-caliber clone permits cheaper and quieter practice with a pistol duplicating the weight and the feel of the 9mm original.

XCalibur weighs 28 ounces, similar to a Glock 34. While it looks like a large pistol, it doesn’t feel big in the hand or in the holster. It is very easy to shoot with one hand, with both left and right side slide stop/release control accessible and generously sized without protruding much. Unlike many competition guns with aggressive checkering, XCalibur is very smooth on the hand without detriment to retention. While I have long been concerned about the slide openings letting dust in, I’ve been told that it’s not a problem in reality. Considering that the cuts are well forward of the locking surfaces, and that dust enters regular pistols with every firing cycle, I decided not to worry about it. The slide cuts serve a secondary purpose, racking the slide with the thumb safety engaged.

In my very extensive use, I’ve had only one type of malfunction: the pistol will short cycle with extremely underpowered cartridges, specifically 90gr zinc alloy training round loaded to 1050fps. The same ammunition loaded to 1450fps, standard pressure, ran fine. Liberty 50gr frangible aluminum bullets cycled fine and with good accuracy. All kinds of brass, aluminum and steel cases ball in 115, 124 and 147 grain weight worked well. So did a wide variety of 115, 124 and 147gr defensive loads, standard and +P pressure. Firing a 124gr +P JHP from XCalibur feels like low-power practice ball from a G34. Aguila 158gr subsonics also ran fine. As anticipated, the pistol is not prone to overheating even after 75 rounds—five full magazines—fired from it continuously. The slide vents channeled what little heat shimmer may have existed away from the sight plane.

The double-action trigger is somewhere in the 9-pound range. It is smooth and can be shot with accurate results, but I much prefer running the gun cocked and locked for 3.5-pound single action. The trigger has some take-up and doesn’t feel crisp during dry fire, but worked perfectly in actual timed competition. I do not remember ever feeling that it worked against me, while stock triggers on a lot of other guns definitely affect my accuracy past 15 yards or so. The mechanical accuracy of XCalibur is impressive, especially considering it is obtainable with a side variety of loads. Slow fire, standing, all ammunition tested produced 15-shot groups under 2 inches at 10 yards. The best results came with 124gr JHPs from Speer and Remington, just over 1 inch with the pistol handheld unsupported.

My only complaint with this pistol is on the aesthetics. The geniuses who engraved the pistol name and other details into the slide used Zapf Chancery typeface, a stylized, affected font used on Apple’s Mac OS. While the Tenifer finish on Grand Power metal parts proved very durable, I had my slide refinished by Fighting Sheepdog in Knoxville, TN, to make that legend less visible. Other than that, the pistol has been maintenance free. It runs extremely cleanly, to the point where I’ve not had to clean it in a year with no change in performance.

Thanks to the relatively light weight, great performance and an accessory rail for light and laser, I evaluated XCalibur for daily carry. Robert King of Red Hill Tactical made a modular Kydex holster for it, and the pistol became my everyday companion. Any CZ or Beretta compatible pouch also works for GP magazines. To me, it makes sense to carry the same gun I would use to compete and train, otherwise the effort of improvement becomes only partially applicable to practice. Given the military origins of the design, it’s appropriate for self-defense. While military officers typically have other weapons available, civilians seldom do—so the pistol may have to play the main role. To that main role, XCalibur is an excellent fit.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N9 (November 2017)
and was posted online on September 22, 2017


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