Last October we got our hands on the BUL Armory Axe C Tomahawk and while the performance was great, some viewers commented that the MSRP was a bit high and wished there was a simpler version to be had.
BUL Armory listened, and the Cleaver model is now available in the US, and at a price that is hard to ignore. We were curious to see and feel what the difference was. and so picked up both a "C" (compact) and "FS" (full size) Cleaver for review. The FS Cleaver review will come later, for now let's look at the C Cleaver and figure out how BUL Armory was able to provide a lower-cost alternative.
What Is It? Before we compare, the Axe C Cleaver is a 4" barreled, 15-rd 9mm pistol of the classic Glock 19 compact size group. The core design of the pistol is Gen 3 Glock compatable including sights and magazines. Glock's patent has expired, but rather than simply clone the classic, the wizards at BUL Armory brought it into the 21st century. You can take a look for yourself in the tabletop video above.
What's Better About it than a Glock 19? Pactically everything. First and foremost is ergonomics. The Axe C Cleaver uses the same frame as the Axe C Tomahawk we reviewed earlier, one that was designed with the human hand in mind. The contours and traction points may look busy to some, but provide nice traction without being abbrasive. Also of note are the index pads forward of the relieve takedown levers which provide an excellent point for a finger-off-trigger and for the support-hand thumb. As you saw in the tabletop video above nearly every part of the gun has been re-engineered. The Axe C Cleaver may be based on the aging Glock design, but BUL Armory realizes it's not 1988 anymore.
How did they lower the price? From the Tomahawk's price of $950, dropping to just $399 for the Cleaver seems like a lot of change. The Cleaver drops the custom, multi-layered range bag for a traditional plastic box, and the slide has considerably less machine time. The Cleaver barrel is also not fluted and polished like the Tomahawk was. The other major way of reducing cost was by not making the Cleaver optics ready. I know for newer shooters that will be a detriment, but established shooters and those without eyesight challenges shouldn't mind. Other than that the pistol remains the same with (as far as I can tell) the exact same frame and trigger. In short, you save over $500 by getting a simpler, heavier although more traditional slide, and a standard pistol box instead of a range bag. If you're curious about a potential performance difference see the end of the range video.
Specifications as taken directly from the product web page:
Barrel length: 102mm/4.02 inch
Slide: Cleaver serrations
Steel 3-Dot sights (glock dovetail)
Magazine capacity: 15 rounds
Weight without magazine: 1.3lb / 600g
3.5 - 4.0 LB trigger pull
Available colors: Black PVD
Integrated flared magwell with side cuts
High grip beavertail
Trigger guard with a high double undercut
Reversible magazine release
Extended slide lock lever (stainless steel)
Ambidextrous integrated thumb rest
Flat face trigger shoe
1913 Picatinny rail
Aluminum guide rod
Dimpled stainless steel pin kit
MSRP: $399 direct from BUL Armory
Range Time of course followed our signature protocol, though Ms Teya was absent for this one. The protocl includes:
Cold Shots: Truly our first rounds through the gun.
Full Magazine +1: Not all guns perform well when "fully stuffed".
What's For Dinner™: A test to see what ammunition the gun will eat. Does the gun feed the round from slide lock, will it cycle and feed another round of the same type, does the slide lock to the rear on empty, and is there any notable point of impact change with different loads.
For this gun we used the following ammunition:
Priced and linked where found at the time this article was written
50gr+p Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense: $27.54 / 20 at Sportsman's Guide
65gr ARX Inceptor: $18.67 / 25 at Firearms Depot
110gr Koenig JHP (not recommended with this firearm)
115gr Blazer Aluminum
115gr Wolf Steel Case: $13.77 / 50 at Sportsman's Guide
124gr Federal Punch: $21.74 / 20 at Brownell's
138gr Federal SJHP
147gr Federal Premium Law Enforcement Tactical HST:
150gr Federal Syntech Action Pistol:
158gr PPU Subsonic:
Sights & Trigger Control: on a 6" spinner target at a distance of 12 yards. We got this from Titan Great Outdoors and use it to gauge how learnable the trigger is and usable the sights are for forced, timed, precise shots.
Practical Accuracy: Five shots from a distance of seven yards at a one inch target. This isn't so much about printing a tight group as it is a culmination of our shooting experience and time for us to collect thoughts prior to making a conclusion.
After Shots: Final impressions and reflections from the range session.
Extra Test: I did my best to see if there was any discernable performance difference between the two models by attempting a drill I've not practiced.
The results of all of this can be seen in the Shooting Impressions video below:
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.
At the range there were a few hiccups with some loads. That doesn't particularly bother me as those were loads I'm not interested in running as defensive or range loads. I contacted BUL Armory about it and they'd like to take a look at the barrel anyways and have already issued a call tag to get the gun back for inspection. I appreciate that level of attention to detail and customer service, even after I told them I wasn't worried about it. I suppose we shouldn't be suprised that they care so much considering the levels of attention to detail and care that go into their designs.
Few markets have the wide range of ammunition options that we do in the US, and even for US manufacturers it would be a massive undertaking to test a pistol with every load type. If they did that still wouldn't account for how ammunition can vary from one production lot to the next. We run the What's For Dinner™ test to get a feel for how a gun might perform with certain loads, but it's not definitive.
In Conclusion the BUL Armory Axe C Cleaver brings the Glock 19 design into 2023. I know the lack of optics capability might be a deterent for some who will need to pay a little more for the Hatchet model promised to be available soon. I'm unaware of a better gun of this platform available for less, and can't say that the more expensive competition would be any better.