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Lionheart Industries LH9 Series Review
Several weeks ago, the Austin Sure Shots were invited to test and evaluate two pistols from Lionheart. Having never heard of Lionheart prior to this generous invitation, I decided a little research was in order. I learned that Lionheart is the US-based importer of the S&T Daewoo K5, a South Korean military pistol in use since the 1980s. The K5 is actually based on the Smith & Wesson 39/59 series of pistols and is made in a Korean factory built in the 1970’s by Colt firearms. Many of the parts are machined on original Colt equipment. Apparently Daewoo has built a reputation for quality firearms in the international market. I couldn’t help but think I wouldn’t expect anything less from a pistol with such a heavy Colt manufacturing influence. Lionheart has put some fairly significant and unique modifications on the pistols for the American market and debuted their product line of 9mm pistols in the US earlier this year.
After further investigation into the features of the guns, I decided that Lionheart may have the compact 9mm I’ve been looking for as my concealed carry weapon. I was eager to give the two pistols a try.
The Lionheart pistols come in two tiers based on their sight system (Novak or ramped rear sight vs. standard). The Novak sight system adds about $100 to the price of the gun. They are also available in two colors: black or coyote brown. We had one of each, and they were equally beautiful and badass-looking.
First out of the box for me was the LH9N-MKII ($738 retail). This is Lionheart’s top-of-the-line 9mm with Novak sights and a Picatinny rail system. It is their largest pistol with an overall length of 7.5” and a barrel length of 4.1”. I found it comparable in size to my current 9mm, a Glock 19. It was love at first sight—what a sexy looking gun! The jet black Carakote finish was not only very well done, but is sure to be extremely durable. The grip pattern and lion logo add to the good looks. But, since looks aren’t everything, my new little friend and I headed over to the range to see if function matched form. My first impression of handling the MKII was that it was the perfect size for my average female hand. I had no trouble wrapping my fingers around the grip and I could easily manage the ambidextrous safety without adjusting my grip position. Compared to the grip on my Glock, the textured grip of the Lionheart felt surprisingly soft to me, and I recall thinking that it could possibly help to avoid fatigue during a long day of training at the range. The two included 10-round magazines were easy to load and clicked into place quite tightly with very little effort required (13- and 15-round magazines are also available). The slide was easy to grip and racked smoothly and very easily. This brought me to the most unique feature of the Lionheart pistols: The Double-Action Plus+ system.
Enter my confusion. What in the world is all of this action-plus-plus stuff? Bear in mind, my most comfortable weapon is a Glock with no external safety and no hammers to cock or decock or what have you. I needed a brief “action lesson” and Niki Jones was kind enough to oblige.
First, there is the usual single action mode, where the trigger releases a cocked hammer. Next is the double action mode, in which the trigger cocks the hammer and then releases it to fire the gun. And then there is the unique “double action+” mode:
1. Rack the slide to load a round into the chamber. This cocks the hammer back fully
2. DO NOT PULL THE TRIGGER.
3. FLIP THE SAFETY ON.
4. Using your finger, push the hammer forward towards the firing pin. With the firing pin block the gun is designed not to go off without the trigger being pulled.
5. When ready to fire, flip the safety off. A light touch of the trigger will snap the hammer back to full cock and give you a single action trigger pull.
The double action plus mode is meant for faster firing speed in a carry situation and is meant to be the way the gun is prepared before holstering so that when one draws and flips off the safety, firing can be quick and smooth.
For me, the double action plus was awkward, but that’s to be expected without practice. Once I figured it out and felt the exceptional ease of firing that it created, I could see what the buzz is about. However, I question whether or not I would carry a gun in that mode. It seems a bit too touchy for my taste from safety point of view.
Once I had the double action plus figured out, it was time for some fun. I tried the double action plus for the first round and then settled into firing off the rest of the first magazine. 10 rounds went by quickly for someone who is used to 15-round magazines. I found the magazine release to be easy to reach with my thumb; the magazine fell out with ease and a new one clicked in place with no fuss. Throughout, I was impressed with the trigger action. I can only describe it as “smooth like butter”! The reset was pleasantly short, allowing for more rapid turnaround with minimal disturbance of the sight picture. Then there were those Novak sights. I had never seen them before but found them easy to use and was able to quickly acquire a proper sight picture. There was minimal recoil (less than my Glock 19) and this made the MKII very fun to shoot. After another 10 rounds down range, it was time to assess the damage. Wow! I’m not one to just pick up an unfamiliar gun and have any sort of tight grouping of my shots, but this was exceptional. I had one of the tightest groupings I’ve ever managed—many in the X-ring—with only 20 rounds down range. It was then that I confirmed that I was in love. I was now eager to try the smaller LH9CN model, which made more sense for me because I am looking for a pistol that is smaller than my current weapon.
Two weeks later, I had a date with the little fellow. The LH9CN is Lionheart’s compact 9mm ($695 retail). The overall length is 7.0” and the barrel length is 3.6”. It does not have a rail system, so it is more slender but just as sexy as its bigger brother. Having tested the MKII previously, I was more comfortable from the get-go with the 9CN and was quickly loaded and ready to go. My first impression was that the grip circumference was the same as the larger model, but the grip itself was almost too short. I don’t prefer to have my little finger slide under the magazine. One of the two magazines available to me had the flared extension on it and this took care of my problem. The Double-Action-Plus was just as smooth as was the normal trigger action. Sight acquisition was again a snap with the Novak sights. Time to fire. I was not prepared for the recoil. I know that shorter barreled guns tend to have more recoil, but I was surprised at how much difference there was for only 5mm difference in barrel length. And my shot grouping reflected the recoil I was feeling—consistently low and to the left. Much less accurate than with the MKII model. I took out my Glock and fired a few rounds through it to make sure it wasn’t just a bad night for me and my accuracy and my tendency toward anticipation, but that was not the case as those few rounds clustered near to their intended point of impact. Back to the 9CN for a few more rounds and I discovered that the recoil was magnified after taking the short Glock break. I was disappointed. I really wanted to love this little gun, but it was not meant to be. Not that night, anyway.
Overall, I would say that I was impressed with the look, feel and action of the Lionheart guns. For me, however, neither of the two that I tried made sense as my second gun. The LH9N-MKII was, in my opinion, excellent, but since it is the same size as my current gun, it really doesn’t have an advantage. I was not a fan of the recoil on the LH9CN. Of course, with time, one becomes accustomed to a gun and overcomes the recoil issues, but I think having tried the “big brother” first, I was a bit spoiled.
I do recommend trying the Lionheart guns if you have an opportunity. The Double Action Plus trigger action is so unique, it is worth testing it out just to feel something new and different.
reviewed by Karen Holmes
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