The Honor Defense Honor Guard 9mm handgun is a rule beater. All American, even down to domestic steel, the Honor Guard 9mm isn’t a cheap handgun made to undersell the competition.
It is an affordable handgun that costs a little more than some competitors and a little less than others. The thing to remember though, is that there is no compromise with this handgun.
As a reviewer and professional tester of firearms, I most often find little new under the sun. A new finish, or a different set of sights, for an established handgun isn’t particularly interesting. When a group of Americans with true talent channel their energy into a world-class handgun… Now that is intriguing.
Let’s start at the beginning. When I received the pistol from my local FFL, the piece was packaged in a rather nice red, white, and blue box. The box held the pistol, necessary manuals, and the supplied magazines in both 7- and 8-round capacity. The Honor Guard is a polymer-frame, striker-fired, 9mm compact handgun. As such, it will butt heads with the Smith and Wesson Shield and Glock 43.
The competitors may come away on the short end of the stick if the performance of my example is consistent with production quality. The pistol may be slightly heavier and stouter overall, but it isn’t noticeable when carrying the Honor Guard. There is a good reason for this sturdy construction.
The pistol was designed to handle +P 9mm Luger loads. These loads stress handguns. Slide velocity may be accelerated to the point that the ability of the magazine to feed is compromised. Often, an otherwise reliable handgun will begin to short cycle with +P ammunition. The Honor Guard doesn’t have this disadvantage. The recoil system and all-steel magazines are designed to handle +P momentum.
The mechanics of the handgun are interesting and user friendly. The pistol field strips easily without pulling the trigger. Be certain the pistol isn’t loaded, lock the slide to the rear with the magazine removed, rotate the disassembly lever and the slide is easily removed.
The recoil spring is very strong, which is good for a short-slide pistol firing a powerful cartridge. This strong spring helps control slide velocity and recoil. The striker is easily removed for service. The action is enclosed in a modular unit opening the way for offerings of interchangeable frames. The trigger action breaks clean. There is a trigger stop built into the frame which limits over travel. Trigger reset is positive and fast.
The slide features forward and rear cocking serrations, or perhaps they should be called cocking grooves. These grooves extend over the top of the slide forming a continuous path with the rear grooves. The sights, both fore and aft, break up the continuity of the grooves. The rear sight almost looks as if it is a Novak mounted backwards. The flat front of the sight is intended to allow snagging the rear sight on the belt or boot heel to rack the slide or clear a malfunction. The front sight features a bright orange dot for contrast against the rear sights two white dots. There is no better sight picture on a compact pistol. These sights gave excellent results in fast combat firing and in precise shooting. The extractor is a large piece of steel securely pinned into the slide.
The frame contains the take down lever and an ambidextrous slide lock. The slide lock is buried in the frame. I have observed many shooters in my training classes allow the support hand thumb to contact the slide lock in recoil—especially when using a compact pistol. I cannot imagine this happening with the Honor Guard.
A trade off is that it is difficult to use the slide lock to release the slide. I used the slingshot method and grasped the rear of the slide and released to load the pistol. I like this slide lock. This is a combat gun feature, not a target gun feature.
The frame is supplied with a cut out on each side that will accept a manual safety to be professionally installed when Honor Defense offers this option. The magazine release is a standard push button-type, positive in operation and securely locking the magazine in place. The magazine release is fully ambidextrous.
The frame treatment is amazing in its efficiency. It is similar to aggressive aftermarket treatment. The abrasion isn’t uncomfortable but adhesion in firing is excellent. Frankly, it doesn’t get any better. The curve of the grip fame is ideal for most hand sizes. The magazines are well made of good steel. There are no weld marks and polish is excellent.
In the case of the 8-round magazine, I simply could not load 8 rounds. The spring is very strong. A strong spring is good for reliability. After firing perhaps 60 cartridges, the spring loosened a bit and I was able to load 8 cartridges, giving the shooter a 9-round pistol. The flush fit 7-round magazine may be preferred for close carry. During firing, the magazines never gave any indication of problems.
Initial firing was addressed with Federal Syntech 115-grain ammunition. This load is clean burning and accurate. The bullet itself is covered in a polymer sheath. Overall, a good addition to the 9mm family, and an excellent choice for indoor ranges. This load was comfortable to fire in the Honor Guard.
While a mild load at 1060 fps from the pistol’s short barrel, the Honor Guard remained comfortable to fire with every load tested. Firing quickly at 7 yards, the Honor Guard gave excellent combat groups. The sights are well regulated, the trigger has a fast reset, adhesion to the grip is good, and the pistol handles well. At one point, I was firing double taps and hammers rapidly with two to three bullet holes touching at 7 yards. This is a fast shooting pistol. The slide cycles quickly. The Honor Guard performs in a superior manner in my opinion to any other handgun in the class. That is a strong statement but it is an accurate evaluation.
After the initial evaluation, I have fired a quantity of modern defense loads. These included the Fiocchi 124-grain XTP EXTREMA, Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P, Hornady 124-grain XTP, Hornady 124-grain XTP +P, Winchester Silvertip and the Winchester 124-grain PDX +P. All functioned normally. Due to the heavy recoil spring of the Honor Guard, the +P loads generated little more felt recoil than standard pressure loads. In short, the pistol is fine with standard loads and recoil is less than any handgun in its class.
With +P loads, the pistol is exceptionally controllable. Firing from the barricade rest at 15 yards, I was able to fire five-shot groups at 15 yards that measured 2 inches for 5 rounds. This is a capable handgun. With good sights, excellent human engineering, a good trigger action and reliability with all loads tested, the Honor Guard is well worth its price.