A New Favorite: Extar EP9 Gen 2
We've had dozens (if not more) requests to cover the Extar EP9. We finally got our hands on one and it's rapidly becoming a new favorite.
What Is It: The Extar EP9 Gen 2 is a polymer-receiver, direct blowback, 9mm large-format pistol. It's fed with Glock-pattern magazines and is remarkably lightweight. Extar patented the original Glock-magazine last round bolt hold open for PCCs (obviously they've licensed it to many others) and has a few other ingenious designs stashed away in a US-made $450 gun.
Details from the Extar's Website:
Glock type Magazine compatible
6.5" Barrel Length
Extar Stabilizer included for optional mounting
(GB's note: This is a brilliant way of remaining safe with the ATF: it's not sold as a braced pistol)
Last round bolt hold open
Integral QD Point at the aft end of Lower Receiver
1/2-28 Muzzle Thread
Overall length 24"
Weight without Brace 4.06 lbs
Weight with Brace 4.22 lbs
What Took So Long: Extar didn't raise the EP9 prices during the 2020-2021 crunch, in fact they didn't raise their price for the improved Gen 2 model. That meant they were selling as quickly as they could make them which made it hard for us to get our hands on one.
Additionally, I must admit that at first impression I didn't think it'd be an enjoyable gun to shoot. Generally, direct-blowback 9mm guns have a lot of recoil for the caliber. This is mostly due to the bolt needing so much mass. Combine that with the EP9's low weight of just over four pounds and it sounds like a recipe for unnecessary shoulder punishment.
What Happened Once we got one: The in-box feeling is about right for a firearm costing less than $500 while still made in the US. I once again have to admit I wasn't expecting much of anything. Extar is able to make these guns so inexpensively and light weight by using polymer where most others would use aluminum. That's right, it's mostly a plastic gun but that's ok! Modern polymers can be impressively strong and there's not much to a blowback 9mm that needs a lot of strength. Take a look in the tabletop video below.
The build quality seems nice and they've included some unique features to give the EP9 Gen 2 an edge over rivals. The side-charging handle is one of them. Rear charging handles are one of my biggest dislikes of the AR platform. The need to move your face away from the firearm to charge on a rear-charger is just dumb in my opinion. Additionally, with the prevalence of suppressors we've found that area to be a major source of toxic gasses jetting int your eyes. Not an issue on the EP9, just be smart about your optic placement so you don't bust your knuckles while charging the gun.
With everything checking out fine on the tabletop, it was of course time to find out how the thing runs. Blowback guns can be ammo sensitive as they're typically tuned to run best around a standard load, in this case I imagined 115gr ball. Another big question I had in my mind was which Glock pattern magazines would work? Over the years several companies have made Glock-compatible magazines, but they all had either a Gen 3 or later Glock pistol in mind when they designed them. Each maker's magazines all have slightly different dimensions and fitment. It was time for our Multi-Mag test. I grabbed ten different Glock-pattern magazines and gave them all a run. The results can be seen in the Shooting Impressions Video.
Ammunition seen in our Shooting Impressions video was made possible by our Patrons and supporters of our ammunition savings account through Ammo Squared. Additional, on-demand ammunition through True Shot Gun Club.
After Shots: The first range session with the Extar Ep9 Gen 2 left me wanting more and seriously impressed. Extar's buffer system is patent-pending and does an amazing job at softening recoil, especially considering how light the gun is. Overall the EP9 Gen 2 presents a compact package that's easy to manage, lightweight, and offers more muzzle energy than a 9mm handgun thanks to the 6.5" barrel. I've experienced zero reliability issues so far, in fact the only complaint I can think of is that some aftermarket Glock-pattern mags didn't fit great, but even that's a weak complaint and out of Extar's control. This is a gun that a seriously recommend to anyone looking for a range toy or defensive tool. It's gun AND practical, AND very affordable!
Where Can You Find One?: Part of how Extar has kept prices down is by not selling through distribution. There are no middlemen needing their take so the final price to you remains low, but this also means the only place you can get one is by ordering direct from Extar. They seem to sell as quickly as they are made, so you may need to bookmark the page and check back frequently. As I've watched over the years it seems like inventory is there one day and gone the next. See what' they've got today HERE.