Gun Review – SCCY CPX-1 9mm
Folks, despite early overtures from SCCY trying to make nice, it seems the company still is not making for happy customers. At this point, I’m putting SCCY Industries firmly in the “don’t even think about it” category. Maybe someday they will turn around…
However, that does not mean that there are no other options out there for an inexpensive reliable firearm. If that’s what you’re looking for, then one real option for you is to look at Hi-Point Firearms. The first caveat is that their pistols are pretty ugly (especially if you come from a traditional firearms background). The second is that their guns are not tack drivers – they are functional, solid, close-quarters, personal defense weapons. I own one of their carbines (reviewed here) and one of their pistols (linked above). They work, they’re reasonably priced, and their built like the proverbial tank. I keep one in my primary traveling vehicle since I know it can handle the abuse and if it’s stolen it’s not a huge financial loss.
As with any semi-auto pistol you need to test your ammo before you trust your life to it. I’ve found that some of the cheap white-box ammo doesn’t cycle perfectly in the Hi-Point (or other pistols), but some other brands do. I’ll be posting a full review of the Hi-Point pistol in the next couple of days and linking it here so keep your eye out for it.
SCCY Industries (formerly SKYY) produces a single firearm called the CPX-1 9mm (available in all black or in two-tone). I picked one up last week to give it a go and see if it was worth the $300 price. In short, nope.
I really enjoy handguns and I am also a fan of companies that offer low-cost handguns. Often these are companies that are making a solid effort to make good in the marketplace and they’ll do what they can to provide a low-cost and effective firearm in the hopes of being able to grow their business. Sometimes a company like this is a sleeper that is destined for great things and a buyer can get a great deal out of the gate. In addition, they provide a valuable service to society by offering lower-cost defensive weapons that poorer members of our society need to defend themselves – if the gun is serviceable.
When I saw the SCCY at the gun shop I was impressed with the feel and the recommendation of the guy behind the counter. He felt that it was a good piece and I decided to give it a shot. Who knows? I thought, maybe it will be like my Bersa…
The CPX-1 is a 9mm blow-back handgun. There’s not a lot more to say. When disassembled it breaks down into the frame, the disassembly pin, the barrel, guide rod, magazine, and spring. One of the nice things about the gun is that it has a double-stack magazine that holds 10 rounds. For a gun that’s just under six inches long and weighs 15 ounces that’s a nice bit of firepower. In addition, the gun comes with a trigger lock and two flat base plates that can be swapped with the extended plates on the magazines.
The other interesting feature for this weapon is that it comes with a safety and an ambidextrous one at that. This seems a bit odd though since it’s a double-action only pistol. Each pull of the trigger cocks and releases the shrouded hammer. With a trigger pull of around 9 pounds having a safety on it is a bit superfluous (kind of like an internal locking mechanism on a single-action army). When I first saw the plastic safety lever something in the back of my mind told me that it looked a bit odd, but I dismissed the thought. After all, you don’t have to use the safety if you don’t want to.
After making the purchase I spent a bit of time surfing the web to read up on the gun. About all I could find were posts two to three years old trashing SKYY and the CPX-1. Users complained of bent guide rods, safeties that slipped on during firing, cracked frames, and generally poor customer service. Worse, there appears to have been an embarrassing series of posts on a competitor’s discussion board where a VP of SKYY attempted to talk up his product over the competitor – while pretending to be a first-time buyer.
The fact that the majority of posts were more than a couple years old and I had been able to find a few other comments (some more recent) about the guns improving gave me hope. Small companies often have problems with their initial products and, like with computers, early adopters often get burned. Once the company has worked out the design and production kinks there’s usually a good bargain waiting for the consumer. As for the posts on the competitor’s discussion board they had apologized. However, it did make me a bit nervous to notice that SKYY used to have a discussion board on their website but it had disappeared.
With all of that in mind I took the gun out to the range with some friends for some test firing. I loaded up the clip with five rounds because the springs were extremely stiff and I decided that it wasn’t worth sacrificing my thumbs to get ten bullets in the little double-stack. This is normal for most new double-stack magazines and didn’t concern me.
I pulled the trigger and the gun did what it was supposed to do. It went bang and made a satisfying hole in the target. Since this is a short-range weapon I wasn’t worried about shooting for groups and I was happy enough to see a hole in the 12″ target at twenty yards. Besides the fixed sites really aren’t designed for fine work anyway. I fired a couple more rounds without a problem.
The gun is not what I would call “comfortable” to shoot. The 9mm in a subcompact kicks abruptly and the grips on the gun are designed for someone with smaller hands than mine. The finger grooves on the front don’t quite fit my sausage-size digits although they would most likely fit the average male’s hand and definitely would fit the smaller hand of most women. Still, I wasn’t too concerned. This is not a range gun. It’s a small personal defense weapon. It’s not supposed to be comfortable for a 300 round shooting session. It’s supposed to go bang when you pull the trigger.
And that’s why I can’t recommend this gun. When I pulled the trigger on the fourth round nothing happened. There was no tension on the trigger at all. I realized that the safety had somehow come on during firing. The first thought that flashed through my mind was, “Well, that would be a problem in a gun fight.” I reached up with my thumb to flick the safety back down but found that it was too awkward for me to reach without shifting my grip. “Uh, oh,” I thought, “That’s really not good…”
The safety itself is a trigger disconnect and when it is in the on position the trigger can be pulled all the way to the rear, but the linkage will not engage. The problem is that SCCY designed the safety to ride at the back of the frame and just above where the shooter’s thumb sits. If you look closely at the picture you’ll see that the safety in the down position (off) will sit right next to the first knuckle of the thumb when held in a standard grip. In full recoil the safety is likely to bump against the thumb and slide up to the on position. The only way to avoid this is to have extremely small hands or to use a non-standard grip and hold the gun lower than what most experts say you should.
There are two separate design problems here. First, the placement of the safety is poorly chosen. If it were slightly forward or higher then the chance of knocking it on safe during firing would be much less. In addition, if the safety were moved forward a bit it would be a whole lot easier to sweep to the off position when drawing. Second, the safety is too loose in the frame and is too easily moved to the on or off position. Not only is it too easy to slip the safety into the on position when firing, it’s also too easy to slip it to the off position. As I said, the 9lb trigger should be safe enough, but if somebody thinks a safety is on they might do something (stupid) that they wouldn’t normally do. A safety needs to work or it isn’t safe.
I contacted the manufacturer via e-mail and asked them if there was a way to remove or disconnect the safety entirely. Their response was a very short note (one sentence really) that said I should try to tighten the screw on the lever. This seemed to make sense so I did just that and found out that SCCY still has some work to do.
First, the head of the screw is very soft and immediately started to show marks from the screwdriver with even the slightest touch. Second, when I turned the screw one quarter turn, the plastic safety lever promptly cracked at its thinnest point. I backed out the screw slightly and tried the safety. The left side lever now failed to place the gun on or off safe. The right side lever still worked properly. Being that I’m right-handed that didn’t solve the issue. Unfortunately, there was also no way to simply remove the safety levers since the lever itself pushes down on the linkage. Nor could I simply remove the left-hand lever and leave the right since the left is required to keep the right from falling out.
I did a few more searches online and found that others have had similar issues and some had been offered a kit that helped solve the problem as part of SCCY’s warranty program. The fact that the custom rep who answered my e-mail didn’t offer the same to me definitely rubbed me the wrong way. Tomorrow the gun goes back to the dealer.
It’s too bad really. Aside from the safety the rest of the gun seems to be well made and they seem to have resolved the issues that buyers reported early-on. Still, they’ve had more than a couple years to solve their design, production, and customer service problems. If they can’t get their act together by now it’s not likely that they ever will. I’m predicting that this company won’t survive. Maybe that’s a good thing. I’d rather see a company die than a customer do the same because a faulty design left them pulling a disconnected trigger at the very moment they need it most.