Once upon a time, pistols had no metal injection molded parts. They did not have polymer frames and plastic triggers with a spongy feel. Manufacturers did not cut corners to make their products easier and cheaper to build in large numbers. No, once upon a time they carefully milled slides from solid hunks of forged high carbon steel. Frames were hot forged and machined, and little parts like safeties and mag releases were through hardened. Pistols had hammers you could cock and decock and safeties that firmly clicked on and off. Plastic was just for the grips, if you weren’t classy enough to buy wood panels. All of this changed in the mid-1980s with the arrival of the Glock “wonder-nine,” and the old way of making pistols slowly died out as hordes of inexpensive polymer guns flooded the market.
Halfway between the great cities of Istanbul and Ankara is a town called Duzce, home to Sarsilmaz, the largest weapons manufacturing company you’ve never heard of. The Sarsilmaz K2 Kilinc (it means sword) is the standard service pistol of the Turkish army, which happens to be the second largest army in NATO. It’s kind of crazy that the K2 is almost unheard of in the USA, since Sarsilmaz produces over 40,000 K2 variants each year. About five years ago Armalite asked Sarsilmaz to make a version of the K2 with a slide cut to look like a Sig P210, and they’ve been selling them as “AR-24s” ever since. Based on the classic CZ-75 pattern, which has to be the most copied pistol design in the world, these are hefty, accurate pistols.
We always want what we can’t get, and that’s definitely the case for me when it comes to the 16 Sarsilmaz pistol models we can’t get here in the USA. Check out the lines of the K12 competition pistol finished in white hard chrome, with adjustable sights, large controls, and single action only trigger. The compensator solidly attaches to the match grade barrel and stainless steel recoil spring guide rod. The frame comes nicely checkered from the factory. The high ride beavertail behind the slide blends seamlessly with a deeply sculpted notch in the rear of the grip, forcing the shooter’s palm to stay high on the grip as fifteen 9mm rounds fly straight and true downrange. Why oh why can’t I rule my local USPSA matches with a Sarsilmaz K12?
Sarsilmaz also caters to those looking to give a presentation piece to a head of state, or perhaps the CEO of a large international corporation. The gold K2 Custom Deluxe pictured here is plated in, well, gold. Yes– the real thing. It also has 450 pieces of hand-crimped fine diamonds placed on white gold inlaid in various areas. The dots in the 3-dot sights are rubies. No kidding. Nothing exceeds like excess. Sarsilmaz builds each of these Deluxe guns exactly to the specifications of the buyer. Price? Oh, you had to ask. That’s too bad.
Another model that intrigues me is the ST10. The slide design is quite obviously a carbon copy of the HK USP full size, as are the safety/decocker and slide lock. It’s so close you have to wonder if parts will actually interchange between the two guns. I wonder if someone at Sarsilmaz shot a USP and said, “Wow, I really like this, except for the part where HK went all cheap and gave it a plastic frame and a light rail nobody else uses. Lets stick to a forged steel frame on our version, feed it with a 17 round magazine, and give it a standard rail too.” In case you’re wondering what a steel framed USP would weigh, the ST10 lists at 2.15 pounds empty. That’s half a pound more than a Glock 21, and this thing is a 9mm! I bet it doesn’t kick at all, but will I ever get the chance to shoot one?
Sarsilmaz also makes other interesting pistols that I believe would sell well in the USA. The P6 is nearly an exact copy of the famous Baby Browning model 1905. I know some folks who love the look and feel of the original “vest pocket” gun, but wouldn’t carry a 100-year-old collector’s piece every day or trust their life to it. The tiny P6 has a “gutter” type sight system, and an enlarged ejection port to promote reliability. Personally, I advocate carrying something bigger than a 9-shot .25 ACP, but I could see throwing the P6 into a coat pocket as a backup gun in case my primary sidearm goes terribly wrong.
Aside from the AR-24, the only Sarsilmaz to make it to the USA in any numbers at all is the K2 45, a 2.5-pound behemoth that looks like a CZ-97B frame fitted with a Sig P220 slide. Each magazine holds 14 rounds of .45 ACP ammo, and you can carry the K2 45 cocked and locked like the world’s largest 1911. With a grip 1.33 inches wide, its even bigger than a Glock 21, but the few people who got their hands on the K2 45s imported by European American Arms last year swear by their accuracy and reliability. If the FNP 45 tempts you but you disdain polymer-framed guns, watch for EAA to import more of these.
At the 2012 SHOT Show, Sarsilmaz introduced the ST9 “3-in-1”, a modular design allowing 9mm, .40S&W, and .45 ACP slide assemblies to fit on a single polymer (gasp!) frame which uses a steel bedding insert inside to hold everything together. The slide is similar to the USP or ST10 slide, but the ST9 is striker fired, with a striker status indicator out back that looks a lot like the Walther P99’s design. The fully ambidextrous ST9 is the most advanced gun offered by Sarsilmaz and truly takes the company into the 21st century. I am almost sorry to say that—I really prefer the old school, all-steel brutes and I know I’m not the only one who does.
Sarsilmaz is already major player on the world stage, and they have accomplished their success without much access to one of the largest firearms markets in the world. Will their U.S. subsidiary, SAR ARMS USA, or their current importer, European American Armory, be able to bring more of these pistols to our shores? Will there be more 14+1 K2 .45 ACPs available, or perhaps the competition K12 or the K2 Kilinc that has already proven itself for so long? Sarsilmaz is knocking on the door to the American civilian market—who will let them in?