As a result, people developed unrealistically high expectations and ended up becoming really disappointed because that’s just the nature of disappointments, like when your wife is disappointed in you because you can’t stop hiding money from her to buy guns. 

Just as a quick disclaimer, this is an opinion topic and everything I say is subjective. There’s a pretty good chance that some of you love the firearms I’ll talk about for one reason or another. If that’s the case, you can feel free to sound it off in the comments below. 

Regardless of my opinions, I’ll recommend some other pistol models that I believe offer much better value especially considering the price. And with all that out of the way, let’s begin.

5: Shadow Systems CR920 Combat

I know of a lot of people who are fans of Shadow Systems, a designer and manufacturer of premium guns and gun parts based in Plano, Texas. They only started their business in 2016, which makes them the youngest firearms manufacturing company in this topic, but their team is made up of combat veterans, former law enforcement officers, and competitive shooters. 

Theoretically, that alone should give you confidence that whatever firearm makes it out of their assembly lines will get the job done. And if you also consider their target market — they don’t exactly build budget oriented guns like the ones being bult by Taurus or SCCY — then you know that whatever firearm you buy from them will just work.

While it’s true for the most part — their MR920 is one solid piece of hardware — fans of the company can’t hide their disappointment in the CR920, a Glock inspired pistol that shares similarities with the SIG P365 as far as size to ammo capacity ratio and weight. 

The CR920 comes with front and rear slide serrations and has a three inch barrel with a 10 or 12 round mag capacity. It comes optics ready right out of the box and is aesthetically pleasing unlike the Glock 43X which looks boring 

The CR920 also has great texture, and people really love the grip angle. It feels great in the hands and is essentially a better version of the Glock 43X as it is easier and more comfortable to carry concealed. Everyone was excited when it was released in January of this year at SHOT Show 2022.

But with all the good things it supposedly has going for it, the CR920 is now Shadow System’s least trusted pistol as it is plagued with reliability and feeding issues. Numerous online reports from dissatisfied and disappointed owners all center around reliability issues, but there are also those who complain about the barrel’s finish chipping.

Six months after its release, Shadow Systems released a statement that all reliability and feeding issues associated with the CR920 have been resolved. They stated that all the problems are isolated to early production CR920 barrels that included a machined feature they refer to as the “butt”. 

Regardless, the damage has been done to the brand and disenchanted owners expressing dismay over the company’s practically non existent customer service is making matters worse. You don’t have to look far, there are a handful of such complaints posted on the company’s website under the Reviews And Raves section.

If you really want a no frills micro compact with a 10 round mag capacity and comes optics ready out of the box, just get a Glock 43X MOS.

4: Nosler Model 21 in 6.5 PRC

This ammo manufacturing company was founded by John Nosler. It is said that while he was hunting moose in 1946, the bullets he was using did not have the necessary terminal performance to reach the animal’s vital organs which resulted in a wounded animal that could not be killed humanely. 

During those times, bullets used a single copper alloy jacket around a single lead alloy core. The jacket on most full metal jacket projectiles was opened at the base and closed in front and offered great penetration with no expansion. 

Soft points for hunting had a copper jacket applied in reverse, covering the bullet’s base and leaving the nose open for guaranteed expansion and bigger wound channel, But the bullet would fragment upon hitting bone, causing insignificant damage.

John Nosler set out to develop a bullet design that has the best of both worlds, one that would expand quickly at low impact but would still remain intact upon hitting bone. He formed a company, Nosler Inc., and started to commercially sell his bullet designs in 1948. 

In September 2021, Nosler announced their Model 21 bolt action. Rifle hunters and gun enthusiasts were all excited to hear about it. The rifles were released earlier this year with an MSRP of $2,795 and at that price point, it was intended to compete with some of the top bolt actions on the hunting rifle market. 

Nosler Model 21 in 6.5 PRC

The Model 21 can be had in a dozen chamberings. All major Nosler cartridges make the list, including the .22, .26, .28, .30 and .33. These rifles can also be found chambered in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .280 Ackley Improved, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .375 H&H. 

As it has a premium price, it was also built with premium components and has premium features not seen in affordable offerings. With a TriggerTech Field trigger, McMillan stock, Shilen barrel and premium machining, the Nosler Model 21 is one of the best hunting rifles available on the bolt action rifle market. So why is it in this topic?

Because the particular Model 21 chambered in 6.5 PRC is known to have cycling issues that despite the company’s attempts, still have no fix 12 months after its release. It boggles the mind how these rifles made it into the market. Cycling a round is a basic function of any bolt action rifle with a magazine.

The Model 21 does cycle 6.5 PRC rounds — just ones that are manufactured by Nosler. That’s because Nosler doesn’t load their 6.5 PRC ammo to the maximum overall length. Load it with 6.5 PRC rounds manufactured by any other company, such as those made by Hornady, and it will not cycle. If you’re shopping around for a good bolt action chambered in 6.5 PRC, get a Savage 110 Ultralite. 

3: Beretta APX A1 Carry

While most new firearms companies are struggling to stay in business in their first five years, Beretta has been in the game for just a little under five centuries, which makes them an authority when it comes to anything guns.  

Today, the company remains to be one of the most trusted names in the concealed carry civilian and law enforcement market, even with its bigger and more popular competitors such as Glock, SIG Sauer, and Smith and Wesson. 

Since SIG Sauer redefined the concealed carry pistols market with the release of their SIG P365, all known and unknown gun makers started to design and develop their own high capacity microcompacts — polymer framed pistols that are thin, lightweight, chambered in 9mm and have a capacity of 10 rounds or more in the mag. 

In late 2021, Beretta announced their APX A1 Carry, an upgraded version of the company’s first subcompact single stack pistol, the original APX Carry from April 2019 which itself was a carry version of their striker fired pistol line under the APX brand introduced in 2017. 

The new APX A1 Carry with its 8 round single stack mag went on the market earlier this year to compete directly with the SIG P320. Everyone was excited when it became available as it brings the micro compact CCW concept forward with a whole host of improvements in the areas of ergonomics, modularity, and ease of use.

Compared to its predecessors, the Beretta APX A1 Carry has a trigger with a lighter pull weight, a clean break, and a short reset. The modular frame is available in a variety of finishes, all of which are interchangeable due to that platform’s patented self contained, serialized, removable trigger assembly similar to SIG Sauer’s Fire Control Unit. 

Also, the APX A1 Carry’s slide has aggressive front and rear cocking serrations and comes optics ready with aftermarket mounting plates available for some of the most popular micro red dot sights like Burris, C-More, Shield RMS-C, and Holosun K-series. And with its $449 MSRP, it’s much more affordable than its competitors’ offerings. 

But somehow, the APX A1 Carry made it to this list. Why? Because of a few things: One, it has no rail for attaching a flash light or a laser; Two, there are numerous reports of this pistol simply failing to fire as its slide lock randomly engages when its trigger is pulled; 

Three, while Beretta does offer prepaid shipping labels for returning defective APX A1 Carry pistols to them, some of the pistols have yet to be fixed six months after they were sent back. And four, these APX A1 Carry pistols are so bad that the company offers a $100 rebate on every pistol purchased but people are also reporting issues getting their rebates.

If you want a micro compact for concealed carry that is within the same price range and will shoot every time you pull the trigger, spare yourself the headache and just buy a SIG P365.

2: SIG P210

If you’re an all steel pistol type of guy, one look at the SIG P210 and you’ll instantly fall in love with it. It’s a single stack pistol with a manual safety and a beavertail that gives it that beautiful 1911 look. 

Its slide rides inside of its frame similar to the CZ 75, which many people believe is the reason why the CZ 75 has better accuracy compared to other semi autos. And those very grippy Hogue G10 grips give it that no nonsense look and feel, befitting for its design purpose, as it is an every day carry piece.

But if you’re not an all steel pistol aficionado, the SIG P210 Carry will probably look like an odd duck. I remember when SIG SAUER first announced it, people in the firearms community had one question: What’s the point of a carry version? 

The SIG P210 handgun is one of the most accurate and well made production pistols chambered in 9mm which makes them a fun range gun. But because it uses an older design with a grip frame that doesn’t allow for high capacity double stack mags, a carry version just doesn’t make sense to purchase in this day and age when high capacity micro compacts like the SIG P365 and the Springfield Hellcat reign supreme. 

SIG P210

And its high MSRP of $1,450 isn’t typical of every day carry guns which doesn’t help its case either. Yet, in spite of all this, SIG fan boys still went to their local gun store and purchased a P210 Carry anyway, and not too long after, reports from owners about the pistol failing to return to battery started surfacing on SIG’s very own message boards.

Owners who experienced this malfunction say it only happens when they attempt to hand cycle the slide while it’s locked on an empty mag. Some owners remedied it by pushing the slide forward a little bit, while other users had to resort to some other means, like using a mallet to tap the slide forward.

Granted, the P210 Carry has some of the tightest tolerances seen in any production firearm because it was designed primarily for accuracy, but this doesn’t change the fact that it has a really high MSRP of $1,450. For that price, you can purchase an FN 509 Tactical and still have close to $400 to purchase a red dot sight and a few boxes of ammo.

1: Smith and Wesson CSX

Smith & Wesson has been on a roll in the past several years releasing some of the most innovative pistols for the civilian self defense market. Personally, I’ve been a Smith & Wesson fan since I first shot a Smith & Wesson Model 686 in 1997.

They’ve been putting out a lot of cool pistol models but I personally love the Shield, especially the Shield Plus and the Shield Performance Center. When the CSX was leaked before its anticipated launch date, it generated hype. Everyone who heard of the leak wanted to have one. 

That’s because polymer framed striker fired handguns have been selling like hot cakes in the last two decades to the point that that market has become oversaturated, and people simply want something out of the ordinary. 

SIG Sauer caused a bit of ruckus in early 2021 when they released their P320 AXG, essentially a P320 with all the bells and whistles but different in that it uses an aluminum frame instead of the conventional polymer frame P320s are known for. Smith and Wesson followed suit and released the CSX.

The CSX is a hammer fired micro compact pistol with an aluminum frame with a slim grip for which interchangeable palm swell grip inserts are available. The handgun has a 10 or 12 round mag capacity, and the best thing about it is it has a single action only trigger. 

Smith and Wesson CSX

Because it is a hammer fired pistol, it has to have a beavertail to protect the operator against hammer bite. The exposed hammer and beavertail give the CSX that 1911 look and feel. If you’ve ever fired a 1911, you know that it has one of the smoothest and lightest triggers out of all modern pistol designs. 

So on paper, the CSX has the best of both worlds: the reliability and simplicity of the Shield, and the comfort and superior trigger pull that all steel SAO pistols are known for. But it’s number 1 on this list because it’s simply the most disappointing gun released in 2022. 

For one, the single action only trigger of the CSX is much heavier and has an even longer reset than the Shield. There are also times when it just doesn’t want to reset at all. This is dangerous in self defense situations, which means at its current state, the CSX should strictly be used for target practice.

The aluminum frame of the CSX is heavier and a bit more rigid than polymer and is supposed to give its shooter better recoil control but it shoots and feels worse than the Shield. 

With the Shield, some of the recoil force is absorbed by the polymer as it flexes a little, but with the CSX, the rigid aluminum frame redirects all recoil forces to the palm of the shooter’s hand. And because the aluminum grip of the CSX is smooth, you won’t be able to grip the gun as tightly you’d want to.

And lastly, the Smith & Wesson CSX has an MSRP of $609, $110 higher than the Shield Plus’ MSRP of only $499. If you’re itching for an all steel hammer fired SAO Shield, you’ll have to wait for Gen 2 of the CSX. Otherwise, just get a Shield.

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