BULLSEYE: GUN REVIEW ‐ The Grand Power P1 Pistol: A Quality Handgun from Slovakia

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Bullseye Gun Review The Grand Power P1 Pistol-A Quality Handgun from Slovakia

By Steve Tracy

I try to have an open mind, but to paraphrase Arthur Hays Sulzberger, not to the point where my brains fall out. I remember handling a Glock 17 for the first time in the 1980s and my impression was that it was ugly and the grip didn’t feel right in my hands. But I did appreciate the durability of the polymer frame and its 17-round magazine. I also pondered, “Do they make quality guns in Austria?”

Two and a half decades later, I’m glad I didn’t let a closed mind get in the way of my acceptance of Glock pistols. They’ve proven to be reliable, durable, and accurate and have prospered from acceptance to market dominance.

I was intrigued when I first learned that Century International Arms was importing the Grand Power line of pistols from Slovakia. Keeping an open mind, I reminded myself that Slovakia borders Austria where Glock is from. CZ’s fine line of firearms are made in the neighboring Czech Republic as well, so there is no reason Slovakian firearms wouldn’t be high-quality as well.

Three versions of the 9mm Grand Power pistols are available: the full-size K100 (4.25-inch barrel), compact P1 (3.66-inch), and the sub-compact P11 (3.35-inch). All three are assigned the Mk7 designation to note improvements that have taken place since its introduction in 1996. The Grand Power was first imported to the USA by STI International, Inc. in 2006, but Century is now in charge of bringing it into the country.

Century shipped a test pistol upon request and I chose to receive the mid-size (27.2 ounce) version. Its overall length is shorter than the full-size (28.8 ounce) pistol while still retaining the full-size grip. The compact’s (22.4 ounce) barrel is even shorter and its grip is shorter as well to make it suited for off-duty concealed carry.

Features Galore

Opening the black plastic case reveals the P1 in a form-fitted foam liner, along with a spare magazine. Also included are four interchangeable backstraps ranging in size from small to medium to large to extra large, which made the 9mm feel like a Desert Eagle! Everything about the steel-reinforced polymer frame feels right when grasped. The P1 points naturally and the flow of its curves, combined with mild texturing on the grip and front strap, provide positive ergonomics. A Picatinny rail allows the use of a tactical light or laser under the muzzle.

The two included steel magazines store 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition (although I was able to press 16 into them). They did not require too much effort to load to their maximum capacity. They inserted into the pistol without a problem, even when there was already a round chambered. The magazines can be quickly disassembled and cleaned by pressing the spring-loaded retaining pin in the center of the plastic bottom. The compact pistol’s magazine holds 12 rounds.

Everything about the P1 is set up for either left- or right-handed shooting. The magazine release button, 1911-style manual thumb safety, and slide stop/release are on both sides of the gun. The mags drop free when the slide is locked back on an empty chamber. When pressed, the slide release readily chambers a round from the magazine.

Front and rear slide serrations are deep and aggressive for manually racking, releasing, or press checking the slide. The matte black slide is made from CrNiMo stainless steel that contains molybdenum for superior corrosion resistance.

The tough steel sights feature three white aiming dots for low-light use. The rear is dovetailed and secured with an Allen screw. The half circle-style rear sight is a uniquely snag-free and robust design. The front sight is pinned and slides forward out the muzzle end for replacement.

Lower Recoil Operation

The Grand Power pistols operate like the classic CZ-75 pistol. The exposed hammer can be fired with a traditional double-action trigger pull (measured at just over 8 pounds, which is very light) for the first shot and then the action will transition over to a single-action pull (measured just over 4 pounds with no over travel, which is just about perfect for a combat pistol). The trigger’s reset is extremely short for fast follow-up shots. The Grand Power is used in competition in Europe because of its numerous attributes.

Like the CZ-75, the Grand Power can also be carried cocked and locked. With a cartridge chambered, the manual thumb safety is flicked up to disallow trigger movement. There are tiny icons on the safety of an “X” and a dot. They line up with an icon of a bullet on the frame. 1911-style pistols have never had these superfluous icons. A red circle also shows around the detent that keeps the safety on. However, the general color code for fire has usually been red (or “red is dead”). This circle should really be white or be eliminated.

The recoil operation of the Grand Power utilizes a rotating barrel instead of the more common Browning-Tilt barrel system. An engineer would tell you that every time a tilting barrel unlocks out of battery, it requires extremely tight tolerances to make sure the barrel returns to the exact same place after each shot, ensuring accuracy. The twisting action of the P1’s rotating barrel action does not change the alignment much at all. A portion of muzzle flip is reduced as well, making for very light felt recoil.

The slide can be operated with the manual thumb safety on in either single- or double-action mode. The safety operates the same as a 1911 pistol’s, but it’s in just a slightly different location in relation to the grip. It takes just a little getting used to. Press checks and unloading of the chamber are accomplished without taking the weapon off safe.

There is no de-cocking lever for safely lowering the hammer for double action carry. The Grand Power style of pistol is best carried cocked and locked with the double-action trigger used for second strike capability on a hard primer. An internal firing pin safety locks the firing pin until the trigger is pulled to prevent discharge if the weapon is dropped.

To lower the hammer to its half-cock notch, care must be taken to first point the pistol in a safe direction, then hold the hammer tightly with your offhand thumb while carefully pulling the trigger. Then ease the hammer down very gently.

I had to read the Grand Power owner’s manual to figure out how to field strip it. Then I realized it actually comes apart similarly to a Walther PPK. Remove the magazine and be sure the gun is empty. With the hammer cocked back, pull down hard on the trigger guard and it will pivot at the frame and hold itself open. Then retract the slide as far as it will go and lift upward. The slide will then lift forward off the frame. The barrel and recoil spring are removed from inside the slide, but the recoil spring guide stays inside the front of the frame. Reassembly reverses the process, with the caveat that the flat portion of the barrel’s chamber must lay toward the underside of the slide.

300 Rounds Downrange

The slide to frame fit on the Grand Power is impressive. Shaking the pistol from side to side results only in silence. The Slovakian handgun is certainly well made and well finished and points well while feeling good in your hands. I had built up a bit of anticipation while I packed up 300 rounds of various ball and hollowpoint 9mm ammunition for the trip to the firing range. The pistol was a complete unknown when I walked onto the range.

A target was run out to 7 yards, and it was time to load up for the moment of truth. The first round struck dead center and punched out the small “X” printed in the middle of the target. Followup shots continued to blast the 10-ring. Moving the target out to the 15-yard line only opened up the group slightly into the 9-ring. At 25 yards, the pistol was able to hit the silhouette’s center consistently.

A new shooter in the next lane was firing a .40-caliber rental pistol for the first time. No 9mm ammo was available for sale at the range due to current shortages, so he was stuck firing hotter .40 S&W rounds, not the best thing for a brand-new pistol shooter. His shots were barely on the paper and couldn’t be considered to be in any kind of a group. I asked him if he would like to try the Grand Power and he readily accepted the offer.

I explained the P1’s manual of arms and the new shooter proceeded to fire two magazines into the 10-ring. He came away impressed with the Grand Power and committed its name to memory. JG Sales (www.jgsales.com) had the P1 for just $429.95, which compares very favorably to similar pistols.

After 300 rounds without a misstep of any kind, I came away impressed with the Grand Power. This Slovakian pistol is the real deal. It’s mild in recoil because it sits low in your hand due to the CZ-75-style grip contour. The rotating barrel lockup keeps muzzle flip to a minimum as well as contributing to the gun’s accuracy along with its excellent sights and outstanding trigger pull.

The quality trigger and sights combine with a natural point-ability, enhanced by the four backstrap options, to make the Grand Power P1 a terrific pistol. The lightweight 9mm worked well for a new shooter and it will work even better for a police officer willing to give it a try. Century International Arms’ newest import proves that an open mind can lead to the discovery of a very worthwhile carry pistol. PM

Captions:

1. The Grand Power P1 is a great choice for a medium-size off-duty pistol.

2. The Grand Power is a high-quality pistol made in Slovakia.

3. The pistol sports front slide serrations and replaceable front sight.

4. Ten different types of ammo and 300 rounds fired without fail. Accuracy at 7 yards was excellent.

5. Field stripping the Grand Power is accomplished by first pulling down on the trigger guard.

6. The slide and barrel lift off the frame to field strip simply without tools. Offhand accuracy at 15 yards is still outstanding.

7. Robust steel rear sight is snag-resistant and features white dots for low-light shooting.

8. Ambi Controls: The right side of the P1 displays its completely ambidextrous controls.

9. Four interchangeable backstraps are included with the P1 to fit any officer’s grip.

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