The 2021 Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous enabled Athlon’s top content creators to spend three days visiting different firearms manufacturers, ammunition makers, and optics companies. Those companies used the opportunity to preview writers on their newest products. Found among the products present were the top CCW pistols of 2021.
Top CCW Pistols of 2021
In addition to the beautiful scenery, creators got to not only see these new products but also shoot them on our improvised range, set up on a farm field. We placed steel targets as close as 15-yards and as far as one mile away. Exhibitors each ran their own canopied area, set up with tables and shooting benches. One of my assignments for this Rendezvous was to find out what was new for the Concealed Carry market.
Springfield Armory XD-M Elite
Springfield Armory just released its new XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact OSP, chambered in 10mm. Built on Springfield’s proven XD platform, the new gun possesses potent ballistics with a compact footprint.
The polymer-framed, striker-fired gun comes with a flush-fit 11-round magazine for concealed carry and a 15-round magazine for use in bear and cat country—or as a nightstand gun. The dust cover does have a rail for tactical lights/lasers, and it comes from the box configured with a magazine funnel.
Featuring fully ambidextrous controls, the XD-M Elite also possesses a META (Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly), developed in part by Springfield Armory’s professional shooter, Rob Leatham. It delivers a pull range between 4-5 pounds with a crisp break.
Springfield sells the XD-M Elite with their OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) plate, which allows users to attach a red dot sight. MSRP for the XD-M Elite Compact is just $633 and $818 for the gun outfitted with Springfield’s own HEX Dragonfly micro-red dot.
For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.
Springfield Armory SA-35
Springfield Armory also introduced their SA-35, a domestically made version of the commercial Browning Hi-Power, which was discontinued several years ago. I’d actually acquired my test sample about a month before Rendezvous, finding it superior in every aspect to the Browning Hi-Powers I’ve owned over the years.
Springfield outfits the SA-35 with good sights, a great trigger, and an extended safety, right out of the box. In the old days, you’d have to drop your Hi-Power off with a custom pistolsmith and pay a lot of money just for those three features.
The testing I performed for my evaluation revealed the gun to be 100-percent reliable with all ammunitions in my testing, from 77-grains to 150-grains, and my aggregate group size was under 1.5 inches, at 25 yards!
If you missed out on the chance to own an original Browning Hi-Power, fear not, Springfield Armory’s SA-35 has a suggested retail of just $699!
For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.
Springfield Armory Emissary 1911
I had also received a sample of Springfield’s new Emissary 1911 pistol. It is a big, bold brute of a gun with rugged good looks. And nothing about it is subtle! From its squared trigger guard, grenade-style frontstrap, and mainspring housing checkering to its tri-top slide design and wide and deep cocking serrations, it looks as though Springfield has somehow infused the Emissary with testosterone!
Constructed from forged components, the Emissary possesses a near-perfect slide-to-frame fit with a stainless steel frame and carbon-steel slide. It also has a single, strong-side-only extended thumb safety, high sweep beavertail grip safety and blue G10 grips.
Springfield equips the Emissary with a heavy, bushing-less barrel and tunes the trigger for performance. My test sample’s trigger broke at 3.75 pounds. At 25 yards my aggregate group size was just 1.18 inches!
Priced at $1,279 the Springfield Armory Emissary produces custom gun results at a production gun price!
For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.
SCCY Firearms DVG-1
Chris Cerino and Chris Davis of SCCY Firearms attended the Rendezvous with big news. The DVG-1 is finally in production. You may recall that I broke the story about the new striker-fired SCCY pistol almost two years ago, with a video and article to announce its arrival. But some engineering problems—along with COVID—prevented SCCY from shipping the DVG-1 until just recently.
DVG stands for David Versus Goliath, and I suppose that’s how SCCY feels going up against much bigger manufacturers. But it is a force to reckon with, as its iron sight model retails for just $299. Likewise, the red dot-equipped version will sell for just $399.
SCCY’s line of hammer-fired, DAO 9mm pistols are still available, and their magazines will also work with the DVG-1. Those knowledgeable of the SCCY line-up will also notice that the grip circumference of the DVG-1 is smaller than that of the CPX line and, in my opinion, more comfortable.
The trigger pull on guns I have shot break right around 5.5 pounds and are reasonably crisp. SCCY outfits the gun with a flat-face trigger for better control. Users have a choice of a stainless-steel slide or a black nitride over stainless steel slide. SCCY also black nitrides the magazines, to aid in corrosion resistance. Those looking for an affordable CCW gun should give SCCY’s DVG-1 pistol a very strong look!
For more information, please visit SCCY.com.
Mossberg introduced its new MC2sc micro-compact pistol in October. Like some of the other guns, I received a preview of the gun before our Rendezvous. The previous June, Mossberg had gathered some writers at Gunsite to get some feedback on the gun before it went into production.
Though Mossberg’s MC1sc had met with moderate success, Mossberg decision-makers realized that they needed to increase the gun’s capacity after SIG introduced the P365 pistol.
Mossberg’s answer was to create the MC2sc with an 11+1 capacity, with its flush fit magazine, and 13+1, with the extended mag—both of which come with the gun. It was a logical refinement to an existing platform.
The polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol uses a comfortable 1911-ish grip angle, and the gun points naturally. Its trigger possesses a blade-style trigger safety, and it breaks with 4.5 pounds of pressure after some take up.
The MC2sc comes with dovetailed sights, with the common three-dot pattern. However, the slide is also cut for an optics plate, compatible with the Shield and JPoint micro-red dots. I shot all of my groups with a Crimson Trace CT-1500 in place and found that I could get any 9mm ammunition to group five shots under an inch, at 15-yards!
Priced at just $555, the MC2sc offers shooters an accurate and reliable concealed carry gun, with the ability to add an optic!
For more information, please visit Mossberg.com.
Smith & Wesson
Earlier in the year Smith & Wesson revamped its popular Shield pistol to have more capacity. Redubbed the Shield Plus, the new gun had a capacity of 13+1 rounds, with its extended magazine, or 10+1, with the flush-fit mag.
One thing S&W executives underestimated was the consumer’s desire to equip their Shield Plus with a red dot optic. With optics-ready guns being all-the-rage, the Shield Plus was greeted with underwhelming enthusiasm. That’s now been corrected.
Smith & Wesson Shield Plus 3.0
The first day of the Rendezvous I met with S&W’s Corey Beaudreau, and he showed me the brand-new S&W Shield Plus 3.0 Optics Ready pistol. Like its predecessor, it has a 13+1 capacity, with the extended mag, 10+1, with the flush fit. Additionally, this model has an optics plate with a footprint that takes the JPoint and Shield Microdot optics.
Not long after I returned home from the Rendezvous, I received a brand-new S&W Shield Plus 3.0 Optics Ready pistol for evaluation. I attached a new Crimson Trace RAD microdot optic and tested the gun for accuracy at 15 yards. I was able to fire some truly small five-shot groups with the gun, thanks to its crisp trigger.
My test sample’s trigger broke at just a hair over 4 pounds. Its flat-faced trigger made trigger control easy, and the reset was firm—like it should be. I tested the 3.0 with two common range-type ammunitions and four hot defense loads, including one +P ammunition. All rounds fed and cycled without a bobble and my aggregate group size for all six ammunitions was just .82-inch!
I carried my original single-stack Shield for a few years and was pleased to find out my Kydex holsters will also accommodate the new Shield Plus 3.0 Optics Ready pistol, without any modifications.
S&W retails it for just $595, and that’s a lot of gun for the money!
For more information, please visit Smith-Wesson.com.
CZ-USA/Dan Wesson Guardian
CZ-USA also attended the Rendezvous, and one of the guns I fell in love with was its Dan Wesson Guardian. It is a Commander-size 1911 built on an alloy frame, bobtailed for concealed carry, and chambered for 9mm. Built from the ground up as a carry pistol, the Guardian possesses many features that 1911 aficionados desire.
The lightweight frame is of 70 Series design, without a firing pin safety, and its frontstrap is checkered with 40 LPI checkering. Dan Wesson craftsmen bobtail the frame to prevent layering clothing from hanging up on the gun’s butt and the slide is fit with Novak-style low-profile night sights. All the sharp edges of the gun have been removed for painless carry and the magazine holds 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
When I received my test sample after the Rendezvous, I shot it at 20 yards for accuracy. The Guardian has great sights and a really crisp 4-pound trigger without any overtravel. As a result, this allowed me to shoot some really nice groups. Using three different defense ammunitions my aggregate group size was just 1.41 inches!
If you love everything about the 1911 but its weight, the Guardian might well be your dream CCW gun! Its MSRP is $1,899.
For more information, please visit CZ-USA.com.
One of the hidden gems I found at this year’s Rendezvous was the SAR9C pistol. It is a gun I was totally unaware of until minutes before I shot it.
Imported by SAR-USA, the Turkish-made gun features a polymer frame and striker-fired action. The original SAR9 pistols were built for the Turkish military and extensively tested. Having survived exhaustive 50,000-round torture tests, they are now approved for NATO use.
The SAR9C is a compact version, featuring an abbreviated grip frame and a 4-inch barrel. Its reduced dimensions and 15+1 capacity make this gun ideal for concealed carry use. It features a trigger safety, and a mechanical striker block that prevents the gun from being fired unless the trigger is purposefully pulled. The frame’s dust cover is railed for adding a light/laser to the gun.
Its barrel is cold hammer-forged and possesses a recessed target crown. I was unable to shoot the gun for groups at the Rendezvous but had absolutely no problem hitting the steel targets set out in front of SAR-USA’s tent. After running several magazines through the SAR9C my impression was that it is a well-made gun capable of providing its user with the accuracy and reliability needed for CCW use.
Priced at just $429, the SAR9C comes with two magazines and grip backstraps, so the user can tailor the fit of the gun to their hand.
For more information, please visit SARUSA.com.
Nighthawk Custom Delegate
Nighthawk Custom was also at the Rendezvous, and the one gun that really caught my attention is the new Delegate pistol! The Delegate is a serious piece of machinery! From its dramatic sculpturing and carry bevels to its unique slide profile, everything about the Delegate is first class!
The Delegate is a Commander-size gun built on a series 70-style steel frame. It features a coned, fully supported barrel and rakish styling, by angling the recoil spring area of the slide. The barrel’s crown is given a deep concave treatment, and this gives the gun huge styling points.
Nighthawk smiths perform a deep bevel treatment on its bottom to prevent it from cutting the shooter or expensive holsters. In addition, it has reverse, or raised, cocking grooves on its front. The slide also has a lowered and flared ejection port to give empties every opportunity to exit the gun.
Nighthawk Delegate In Depth
Nighthawk’s owner, Mark Stone, sent me home with a Delegate so that I could perform a more in-depth evaluation than I could at the Rendezvous.
My test sample possessed the Interchangeable Optics System (IOS) and came with two tapered dovetailed plates. One is set up with a standard rear sight, while the other had a Trijicon RMR, ruggedized miniature red dot.
The single-stack frame has checkering just on the center of its frontstrap, where it is needed and is undercut at the juncture of the trigger guard and frontstrap, for a high hold grip. It also possesses a high sweep beavertail, which has been precisely fitted along with an extended strong side-only thumb safety.
Nighthawk also includes its ingenious flush fit mag well for swift and sure reloads, without lengthening the frame. Nighthawk gives the entire gun a satin nitride finish.
My test gun’s trigger broke crisply at 3.75 pounds with just a little take-up and zero overtravel. I fired my groups from a seated rest, with the targets set out at 20 yards. The Delegate’s aggregate group size was an amazing .62-inch! That level of accuracy doesn’t come by accident!
Built for the 1911 connoisseur who understands that quality and pride of craftsmanship don’t come cheap, the Nighthawk Custom Delegate’s price starts at $3,899.
The Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous was a tremendous success! You’ll be reading about the exciting new firearms and accessories we were privileged to preview last October, right here, as well as in Athlon’s print magazines.
You won’t want to miss an issue!