|A New Polymer-Frame Service Pistol From Croatia
It's amazing how quickly time goes by and things change. When I was a boy growing up, my stepfather used to take me shooting on the weekends. We used his service revolver, an old Smith & Wesson .38 made in the 1940's, and practiced with the 200 grain RNL Super Police round which was his duty load. He taught me a lot on those trips to the range, and about a lot more than just shooting. I have fond memories of those days, but it's interesting looking back to see how much has changed in the last 25 years. The sun has finally set on the .38 Special service revolver, just like it did on the old big block V-8 Fury cruisers. Today there is a whole new generation of service pistols from which to choose, the newest addition of which is the HS 2000 from Croatia.
The Hrvatski Samokres 2000 (Croatian Pisol 2000) is a modern polymer frame 9x19mm service pistol manufactured in the European country of Croatia. Formerly a part of Yugoslavia, Croatia has emerged from civil war and unrest with a surprising production capability. The HS 2000 is manufactured by IM Metal, which is located in the city of Karlovac. Established in 1990, IM Metal is a privately owned company that also produces industrial metal parts. They designed and manufactured their first service pistol, the PHP, in 1991 during the war. While a good design, the PHP had some disadvantages due to the wartime conditions under which it was manufactured. In 1993 development began on a new model which became known as the HS 95. This model featured a high-capacity, 15-round magazine, new safety, new firing pin construction, and other changes allowed by the development of improved production technology.
A team of engineers led by a Mr. Vukovic improved the HS 95 into the current HS 2000. Designed specifically as a military service pistol, it has been adopted by both the Croatian Armed Forces and Police. Slightly modified to allow importation into the United States, it is now available here at a very competitive price.
I received an HS 2000 for testing and came away very impressed by it. It arrived in a foam lined plastic storage box with a spare magazine, oil bottle, cleaning rod, and trigger lock. Also included was a ten dollar discount for an NRA membership, an extremely good owners manual, and a gun safety CD for your computer. The handgun itself is well made and attractive. First looking at it makes one wonder if it is the result of someone breeding a Glock with a SIG. After one has examined it for a bit, you realize that the design team responsible for the HS 2000 really did their homework. While not a revolutionary design, it is an extremely well thought out and well executed handgun incorporating proven technology with a Croatian twist.
Starting from the top, the first thing one notices are the excellent sights. Fixed, high profile, white-dot combat sights are mounted in dovetails at the front and rear of the slide. Not only are they quick to acquire and provide excellent sight picture, but they are also nicely rounded, with no sharp edges to cut or gouge you. If for some reason you wish to change sights, sich as to tritium night sights, you will be happy to know that the dovetails are the same size as that used by SIG. What this means is that any aftermarket sights available for a SIG will slide right onto an HS 2000. Also, as both front and rear sights are mounted in dovetails, an operator can easily change the sights on his weapon without the need of a gunsmith.
The sights are mounted on a precision CNC-machined slide milled from high-grade steel. It features a matte black Bruniral coating for a lifetime of corrosion protection. The markings on the slide are well executed and attractive. Cocking serrations are provided at the rear of the slide for quick and sure manipulation even with wet or slippery hands. The HS 2000 also features a loaded chamber and cocking indicator. A pivoting lever at the top rear of the ejection port rises to clearly indicate when a round is chambered. When the weapon is cocked, an indicator protrudes at the rear face of the slide. Both of these indicators are easily checked with a glance or by touch in low light conditions.
As is rapidly becoming the norm, the pistol's lower receiver is manufactured from a matte black polymer rather than steel or aluminum. This not only reduces the overall weight of the weapon, but the polymer dampens some of the felt recoil by absorbing it rather than transferring it to the shooter's hand. The front of the triggergaurd is squared with a slight hook, and is undercut at the rear to allow a high, yet comfortable grip. The grip frame resembles a CZ-75 in contour, and is very comfortable and points naturally. It features checkering on both front and back strap to ensure a secure grip even with wet, dirty or sweaty hands. The mag well is nicely beveled to facilitate trouble free mag changes even when the adrenaline is pumping. A substantial slide release is located above the thumb rest on the left side of the weapon. Forward of the slide release is a SIG-like take down lever. This pivots up through a space machined on the left side of the slide, allowing easy disassembly of the weapon.
Looking at the frame, the first thing one notices is that it features a grip safety. While this might seem at first thought to be a left over from times long past, I don't believe this to be the case. On the HS 2000, a grip safety offers some extra peace of mind as this pistol, like a Glock, does not incorporate a traditional externally located manual safety. Unless the grip safety is depressed, not only can the weapon not be fired, but the slide also cannot be retracted. This is useful such as when reholstering your pistol to ensure your slide isn't accidentally pushed slightly out of battery. The HS 2000 also incorporates three other safety systems: a trigger-lever similar to a Glock's, a firing pin block, and an out-of-battery safety.
At first glance, the magazine release simply looks like a traditionally located button. However, if you examine the pistol, you can see the amount of thought that went into such a seemingly simple control. To begin with, there is one on each side of the frame, allowing true ambidextrous operation. You're equally good to go whether you're shooting with your dominant or non-dominant hand. Additionally, they are surprisingly well shielded to protect against accidentally releasing the magazine, yet are still easily accessible. Punching either button send the chrome plated metal magazine for a ride. No plastic "I-hope-it-falls-free" magazines here. Not only does it eject cleanly even with the muzzle held straight up, it is well made with robust feed lips. Two ten-round magazines are provided with each pistol, while 15-rounders are available for law enforcement use. Each magazine is equipped with witness holes in the rear to allow you to keep track of how much ammunition is left.
To strip the HS 2000, first clear it and ensure it is indeed unloaded. Then remove the magazine, and lock the slide to the rear. Next, simply rotate the takedown lever up to the 12 o'clock position, release the slide, and pull and release the trigger. The slide can now be pulled straight forward and off the frame. The captive recoil spring assemble can be removed, followed by the barrel. That's it. Assembly is the reverse.
You will notice that the recoil spring assembly is all metal and uses dual springs. Of interest is the fact that it incorporates a "stand off device". The recoil spring plug protrudes farther forward than any other part of the weapon, and is designed so that direct pressure against it will not push the slide back out of battery, rendering the pistol inoperable. In the real world, gunfights don't always occur at seven yards. It is quite possible to find yourself in the unenviable position of being on the pavement grappling with an attacker as you try to bring your firearm to bear. The stand off device is to allow the pistol to fire even if it is jammed directly into something - like the chest of your assailant.
To find out if the HS 2000's performance would match its good looks, I gathered together a variety of different 9mm loads. After informally firing a couple hundred rounds of various loads at two to 25 yards, it was time to get serious. Five five-shot groups of each load were fired from a sandbag rest at 15 yards. Velocity readings were recorded ten feet from the muzzle. All data can be found in the accompanying chart. The best five round groups measured a scant 1 and 1/16 inches, and was shot with Triton's Hi-Vel load. No malfunctions of any kind were experienced during testing, however one thing quickly became apparent: this particular pistol tended to throw the first round. As this is a brand new pistol, it may simply need to settle itself. Accuracy was still excellent, but it would have been better without the one flyer.
With accuracy testing out of the way, I reloaded the HS 2000 and then dropped it into a nearby stream. After swirling it around in the mud for a bit, I fished it out. A quick yank on the slide chambered a round, and then I dumped the entire magazine as fast as I could. The HS 2000 never missed a beat. The only thing I got for all my troubles was a face full of muddy water from the first few shots. The sights are excellent, the trigger crisp and light, and the pistol very controllable, even with +P ammunition. The controls are all well placed and the pistol is very comfortable in the hand. Although it was never cleaned or even rinsed out after being stuck in the mud, it never malfunctioned.
I came away very impressed with the HS 2000. While not revolutionary, it is an extremely well thought out and precision manufactured combat pistol. It looks good, feels good, functions flawlessly, and is accurate. Time will tell on the durability of the HS 2000, but it appears to be a first rate service pistol.