9mm PCCs have been one of the fastest-growing sub-sections of the firearms industry and with so many offerings out there already, it’s hard to stand out. When I first heard about Extar USA and their virtually all-polymer firearms, I was almost certain that they had to be cheaply made import guns. To my surprise, it was the exact opposite and it’s the first reason why I really like the EP9 for what it is. Extar USA was founded in 1995 and was one of the first manufacturers of molded polymer rifle caliber receiver sets. The Extar EP9 was released just a short while ago, and the much anticipated and desired EP9 Carbine followed shortly afterward. With the recent release of the EP9 Carbine, I thought it was finally time to give you all my review of the EP9 “large format pistol” that I’ve been shooting for the last several months. Today I’ll give you some insight into where the platform excels, what I think it’s good for, and where it might fall short for some shooters with specific shooting tastes.
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What makes the Extar EP9 so weird even from its closely related competitors is that it’s almost entirely made out of polymer. The first thing you’ll notice about picking one of these things up is that they’re incredibly light. An unloaded pistol-format EP9 without a brace adapter on it weighs only about 4 pounds and this makes the pistol quite handy even with just a simple cheek weld on the buffer tube. The pistol features a reciprocating left-side mounted charging handle and comes with its own “flash can” on its 1/2×28 threaded 6.5″ barrel.
The EP9 features a pretty lengthy top Picatinny rail section which gives you plenty of space to mount optics, magnifiers, and even night vision devices if you’re so inclined. The handguard of the EP9 features M-LOK sections at the three, six, and nine o’clock positions and each position features 3 slots – perfect for a weapon light or angled foregrip. Finally, the EP9 features very familiar AR-15 controls and accepts any 1/2-28 threaded muzzle accessories, some SB Tactical Stabilizing Braces, AR pistol grips, and some AR fire control groups.
The Extar EP9 feeds from regular Glock magazines. Extar manufactures their own Glock pattern magazines which I can confirm are cross-compatible with one another. The EP9 comes with one magazine from the factory for its $450 asking price and each additional magazine sets you back around $9-$10 depending on how many you want to buy.
With this being a completely polymer product I expected it to be quite affordable, but once I heard that Extar is not only based in the USA but manufactures everything in the USA from start to finish, I thought the price would be much higher. Extar controls its entire supply chain from start to finish by receiving the raw materials, manufacturing its own components, assembling its own firearms, and then selling them direct to the customer rather than to a distributor. All of these cost-cutting measures mean that the EP9 and all of its new derivatives start at a meager price of $449. Of course affordable doesn’t always mean well-constructed and reliable which leads to our shooting portion of the review.
The Range Experience
Together with fellow writer Lucas D, we shot around 500 rounds through the EP9 and used the much more expensive SIG MPX as something to help compare and contrast what each of these vastly different yet similar platforms do well. There are a lot of high round count reviews out there of the Extar EP9 platform and today I’m not here to beat that dead horse. It’s been proven time and again that the EP9 is extremely reliable and durable.
Some users and reviewers have shot their EP9s so much that parts have broken, but replacement parts from the buffer, fire control group parts, firing pins, bolt assembly, and other small parts are both affordable and available directly from Extar. For the casual shooter, you will probably never have to replace these parts but they’re there and made by the same people who made the gun in case you ever need them. That being said, in my fairly low round-count review, I experienced no malfunctions, stoppages, or parts breakages whatsoever.
The manual of arms is familiar enough and the forward rail section is easy enough to grip if you have large hands. The trigger is nothing special and is likely a mil-spec trigger group – very reliable. Back-to-back mag dumps or strings of fire will lead to the small metal ring near the back of the handguard heating up quite a bit – not enough to notice when wearing gloves, but to an unprotected hand you could risk burning yourself just like you would handle any other hot firearm. That one spot appeared to be the only one that heated up that you could easily touch through normal safe handling.
The Recoil System
The Extar EP9 operates on the direct blowback system while the SIG MPX makes use of a short-stroke push-rod gas system to reduce the felt recoil. While there are fewer parts on a direct blowback system, the resultant heavier bolt requirement usually means the recoil from closed bolt blowback operated guns is some of the worst out there in terms of not disturbing your sight picture. The EP9, however, reduces the first half of the effects of the blowback system. The EP9’s initial recoil is very soft and is soft enough that you can shoot the pistol with just the bare buffer tube without getting bruised up. The latter half of the recoil, as the bolt returns home, is a bit violent with the massive weight of the bolt slamming home and bringing the muzzle down after each shot.
The magic of the EP9 starts in the rear section of the receiver extension that houses a soft flexible cone designed to absorb the energy of the recoiling bolt assembly within the buffer tube. While you can’t remove the piece responsible for this (as far as I can tell), you can feel it working by retracting the bolt fully with the charging handle and then releasing it about an inch forward, and then drawing it back again.
This little additional “buffer cone” (there is no official name for it) produces a soft, springy bounce, which is presumably what gives the EP9 its unique soft initial recoil impulse followed by a sharp jump downward as the bolt closes again. Extar opted for this system at the rear rather than adding more moving components at the front of the bolt, such as radial or roller delays. This setup doesn’t demand nearly as much maintenance, yet effectively mitigates felt recoil and regulates bolt speed without adding additional cost. For a more closely related comparison, the Ruger PC Carbine accomplishes its recoil mitigation simply by being very heavy and slamming its tungsten-weighted bolt assembly into the rear of the receiver.
The SIG MPX by comparison shoots much faster, recoils less, is compatible with more AR-15 components, and would probably also last longer if it fell into a campfire. The example used during the review also has a compensated muzzle device whereas the EP9 comes standard with a flash can, but you could presumably upgrade this with any compatible compensator or brake that you wanted to increase the recoil performance. If I had my choice and money weren’t an issue then the MPX would be my choice every single time as it’s simply just a far more complex and refined iteration of the PCC concept.
If extremely fast splits and very low recoil impulse are worth the extra $1500, the MPX might be a better choice for you. For the working man, the EP9 Carbine is 1/4 that price and does enough for most people looking just to have fun at the range or to be used as an entry-level PDW for home defense.
If tinkering is your kind of thing then the EP9 is also a great affordable place to start as it has just enough parts compatibility to make it worth investing a few aftermarket parts into. With the release of the EP9 Carbine, you could have a very shootable and customizable 9mm pistol caliber carbine for less than $750, complete with an optic and accessories. For $450 I’m actually quite impressed that this is not only a genuinely American-made firearm, but one that holds up to a lot of abuse while maintaining a price point affordable enough for most Americans.
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