The citizens of Abu Dhabi, UAE are some of the strongest allies the United States has in the Arab world. During Desert Storm the USA flew F16s out of nearby Al Dhafra airbase and we are still there today, mostly flying armed UAVs and KC-10 tankers. After withdrawing from Iraq, we are looking to build good relationships with strong Arab countries that will counter Iran’s desires in the region. Abu Dhabi is one of the most tolerant countries in the Arab world, with Christian churches and Hindu temples right next to Mosques. You can have a pulled pork sandwich and wash it down with a beer in Abu Dhabi, if your personal religion allows it. And thanks to worldwide petroleum sales, Abu Dhabi is the richest city in the world. All of this makes it a huge target for extremists who want to destroy any oil-producing country that aligns itself with the USA, so the Emirates take their security very, very seriously. What happens when men constantly worried about terror attacks decide to build a self-defense pistol from scratch, and have unlimited oil money to spend on it? The Caracal. Caracal claims their polymer-framed pistol is the most simple in the world, with a total of just 28 parts, most of which are contained in a “tub” that pulls out of the frame as a modular unit. The internal rails travel nearly the whole length of the slide to avoid frame flex and promote accuracy. The metal magazine holds 18 rounds of 9mm ammo in the full size F model, and 15 rounds in the compact C model. The magazine catch is ambidextrous, and there is no manual safety or decocker. The trigger incorporates a Glock-style safety which combines with two other internal safeties to make the gun drop safe. The loaded chamber indicator looks similar to the Walther P99 type. There is no magazine safety, so the Caracal will fire a chambered round with its magazine removed. The slide stop is small but sticks out more than a Glock’s, and the disassembly lever doesn’t require the trigger to be pulled before field stripping the pistol. All of these features are what we have come to expect out of a modern, state of the art polymer pistol. What’s less expected is the trigger, which by all accounts is excellent. One online reviewer noted that his Caracal’s trigger measured 3.75lbs right out of the box, and his Glock, Steyr, and M&P all had trigger pulls over 5lbs despite having thousands of rounds fired through them. The trigger reset is short, with an audible and tactile “click” telling the shooter when to begin pulling rearward again.
Other state-of-the-art features of the Caracal are its low bore axis and proprietary finish. The bore axis on this gun is incredibly low. Placing the barrel as low as possible in the shooter’s hands makes the gun kick straight back instead of flipping upward. Bore axis placement is the reason why an M&P seems to kick less than a Springfield XD9 of the same size. The Caracal appears to have the lowest bore axis of any 9mm pistol I’ve ever seen, including exotics like the Sig P210. This should make the Caracal very controllable in rapid fire. The metal parts of the pistol are coated by a unique form of nitride finish applied using plasma, called PLASOX. Nitride is the new wonder-finish of the 21st century and Caracal claims this new method of applying it results in unparalleled corrosion resistance. The quality of the finish was tested heavily during the long development of the gun, which began in 2002. By 2006 the pistol had passed the rigorous NATO D14 Standard allowing it to be adopted by NATO forces, as well as the testing regimen of the Federal German Armed Forces.
The Caracal was designed by Wilhelm Bubits, who left Glock for Steyr in 1997 and designed the Steyr M and S pistols. Some of the design elements of the Steyr pistols can be found in the Caracal, particularly its use of unique sighting systems. The Steyr trapezoid sights were either great or awful, depending on who you’re talking to, and so the Caracal has two different sighting options. The F model is the most traditional, with a “straight eight” two-dot vertical set up and the longest sight radius possible because the rear sight is built into the end plate that retains the firing pin, extractor, and other slide parts. The area around the rear sight slopes down at a sharp angle so the shooter can see around the rear sight easily, helping the field of view. The C model features sights unlike any I’ve ever seen. Caracal’s “Quick Sight” system puts the rear sight in front of the gun’s chamber, on the front of the slide, for a total sight radius that’s only a couple of inches long. Wait, what? Caracal says this is the fastest iron sight for a pistol ever made, because the rear sight and front sight are in the same focal plane. Instead of the shooter’s eyes juggling back and forth between the rear sight and the front sight, they’ll be able to see both sights in focus at the same time. Focusing on the front sight properly will be much less work and will happen almost instantaneously. This is said to give a major speed advantage at short-range and rapid fire shooting, but at the cost of long-range precision. The Quick Sight is an option on the C model intended for situations where speed up close is everything, and attempting long-range shots with the C model’s 3.6-inch barrel isn’t a big priority.
Caracal plans to market their pistol directly against Glock, S&W, Springfield, CZ, and the other hordes of polymer 9mm pistols on the market. With a street price just shy of $500, Caracal is betting that shooters will choose this new, state of the art gun over more proven designs with established reputations. At the 2012 SHOT Show Caracal made a big splash with a huge custom-built display, and colorful advertising on the LasVegas city buses. With Caracal USA taking over distribution of the pistols from Waffen Werks, holsters by Serpa and Ghost on the way, and orders from several Middle Eastern countries already in hand, Caracal enters the U.S. market with high hopes. Will they succeed? Leave a comment with your thoughts.