Photo by The Firearm Blog
Few products received more attention among gun journalists at SHOT 2017 than the Hudson H9. The buzz in the waiting line was that the pistol resulted from throwing a Glock and a 1911 into a volcano at the moment of eruption. With the double stack mag and reliability of a Glock and the trigger of a 1911 with some new design elements unlike any other pistol, it’s everything a pistol shooter could ever want, right? Yes… if it delivers on those promises. In this review based on our initial impressions at SHOT Media Day at the Range, we discuss the Hudson H9 and whether or not it reaches its lofty goals.
Flat or Fat?
The most oft-repeated claim about the Hudson H9 is that it’s very flat shooting. This claim comes from two design features: that it has a recoil spring set lower than any other handgun, and that the striker replacing the traditional hammer and firing pin of the 1911 – and thus the elimination of the mainspring of the 1911 which sits just inside the web of the shooter’s hand as it holds the frame – allows a higher grip on the pistol than that afforded by any 1911.
While these might make some difference to the shooter in terms of recoil control, they are more marketing features than practical ones. The pistol is an all-steel 9mm weighing 34 ounces unloaded, almost as much as a full size steel frame 1911 (38 oz with magazine) and a Big Mac more than a Glock 17 at 25 oz. In terms of size, it falls between a Glock 19 and Glock 17 for height, length, and barrel length. If it weren’t relatively soft and flat shooting regardless of the specific location of the recoil spring or the bore axis in relation to the grip down to the nanometer, something would be seriously wrong. But the major reciprocating components of the pistol in terms of mass, the slide and barrel, are still up above the shooter’s hand, not in front of the trigger guard. Also, moving the recoil spring in front of the trigger guard reduces the amount of compression or travel possible for the spring.
This brings me to my main point: it’s really not flat shooting. I’d have to shoot it back to back on high speed video with other 9mm handguns to compare objectively, but my impression based on shooting the gun was that it wasn’t any more flat shooting than any other heavy 9mm pistol. It looks like it shoots very flat in their promotional video, but the video also looks like it was shot with a high shutter speed and played back with a low frame rate. In addition, the H9 in the promo video is being held in a very tight manner by a strong shooter who is firing from a stationary and aggressive stance. The video is also shot from the rear quarter of the pistol instead of from the side. The effect of all of this would be to minimize visually apparent muzzle rise.
Some shooters of the pistol claimed to be able to track the front sight during recoil, thus confirming its flat shooting nature. This is not a feature unique to the H9, especially considering that it’s equipped with a very bright and colorful Trijicon HD front sight. I think that not many people have fired 9mm steel frame 1911s, one of the softest and flattest shooting production pistols in existence, and are thus surprised when a heavy gun in a less powerful caliber doesn’t recoil very much. Regardless, they should not be surprised at this result.
1911 Trigger Pull? Well, Almost
The trigger is supposed to be its other halo feature, being derived from the 1911 but with an integral trigger safety. Trigger safeties range from unobtrusive to highly noticeable, with the Hudson H9’s trigger safety falling somewhat closer to the latter on my objective scale. As you press rearward on the trigger, the safety moves at a different angle than the trigger, pivoting rather than sliding back. It also moves in more of a jagged than smooth manner, almost (but not quite) creating the impression that takeup is complete and any additional pressure will cause the gun to fire well before it actually does. These two things are somewhat disconcerting and do not contribute to an ideal trigger pull. Once you’ve dealt with the lackluster trigger safety, though, the remainder of the pull is generally very good. Reset is just slightly longer than it takes to reset the button of your nearest computer mouse. Accurate shooting with the H9 should be possible without too many hiccups, although I wasn’t able to stretch its legs at Media Day.
Doesn’t Go Bang Every Time
High levels of interest in the H9 meant high levels of people waiting to shoot it, which afforded me the opportunity to see at least a dozen people fire the H9. No shooter appeared to make it shoot any flatter than any other full size 9mm semi auto pistol I saw fired that day, and at least two shooters encountered malfunctions. When it was my turn, I did not encounter any malfunctions, but I was also not blown away by the experience.
The H9 promises a lot. It’s a beautifully machined pistol that in terms of visual quality lives up to every penny of its $1,147 MSRP, but it doesn’t have the performance to back up its looks – or its marketing campaign.