Is the Polymer 80 PFC9 9mm pistol a rock-solid handgun or just an off brand, low-rent Glock wannabe?
When Gaston Glock’s company introduced their polymer framed, striker fired semi-automatic pistol (coincidently named the P80) in 1980, few people could have predicted the revolution it would create in the firearms industry. Forty-two years later, Glock’s pistols are still the pre-eminent handgun for law enforcement, military, and civilian shooters around the world. As the company’s original patents have expired, though, other gun makers, both small and large, have rushed to bring forth their own models based on Glock’s famous design.
One such knock-off artist is called Polymer 80. The name derives from the company’s original mission: it manufactured 80 percent complete polymer pistol frames which the end user could finish into an operable firearm at home with basic tools. We’ll ignore the “ghost gun” kerfuffle which this loophole in U.S. gun laws created, except to say once the BATFE executed a search warrant at Polymer 80’s Nevada factory in 2020 to stop them from selling complete DIY pistol kits based on their 80 percent frames, Polymer 80 decided to make complete, serial numbered guns as well as unfinished frames. Their guns looked like a Gen. 3 Glock, walked like a Glock, and quacked like a Glock, but for a much lower retail price than a Glock. They kept things simple and produced just a few models rather than compete with Glock’s broad and ever expanding catalogue.
Enter the PFC9
The marketeers at Polymer 80 weren’t stupid. They knew the Glock G19 mid-size, double stack, 9mm pistol is a top seller for the Austrian arms giant, so they made their own version and dubbed it the “PFC9.” The PFC9 is, in every important dimension, a Glock G19—but it’s not a G19.
We obtained a new Polymer 80 PFC9 at a local gun store. It carried a price tag some $150.00 less than the Austrian Wundergun. The frame lacks the signature Glock curve along the back strap which alters the grip angle more toward what one would find on a 1911. Despite the new angle, the PFC9 points as well as a Glock. The back strap modification increased the grip’s circumference over the G19’s by almost a quarter-inch. Bad news for small handed shooters.
The Polymer 80 PFC9 is a typical short-recoil operated, double stack semi-automatic pistol. The barrel lockup uses a system developed decades ago by SIG in which the area around the firing chamber is cut square and fits into the slide’s ejection port. This eliminates the need for lugs machined into the barrel and slide, ala the 1911. When the pistol is fired, the slide and barrel recoil for a short distance coupled together, then a lug machined into the barrel under the feed ramp engages a cam block in the frame similar to the system found in the Browning P35 Hi-Power. The block levers the barrel downward to disengage it from the slide which continues reward to complete the extract-eject-feed cycle. This is identical to how Glock pistols function and is a time proven mechanism.
The Polymer 80 PFC9 uses a double stack magazine which holds 15, 9mm rounds. The magazine is similar, but not identical to a Glock magazine: polymer shell with steel reinforcement inserts molded into the magazine body. When viewed next to a genuine Glock mag, the Polymer 80 appears to have thinner gauge steel feed lips and the overall sense is the P80 mag is less robust and less well finished.
We already described the PFC9’s basic operation and magazine. The gun copies the Glock’s striker-fired trigger system. A small blade set into the flat-faced trigger prevents the trigger from backward travel unless said blade is pressed flush with the trigger’s face. Once the trigger is unlocked via this blade, the shooter presses it rearward which draws the striker back and disconnects the internal striker block. At full travel, the trigger trips the striker sear which allows the striker to thrust forward under spring tension, strike the chambered round’s primer, and fire the weapon.
The polymer frame has a rough texture on all grip surfaces which is much more aggressive than what Glock uses. However, it is not uncomfortable to hold or shoot and is a bit more positive than current Glock finishes. The frame’s rear terminates in a modest beavertail which, while longer than a Glock’s by a few millimeters, is not as absurd as so many aftermarket add-on types.
The Polymer 80 PFC9 sports a broach rifled barrel a bit under four-inches long. Overall length is right around seven inches, and it weighs just over 21 ounces unloaded.
The trigger guard is undercut to facilitate a high grip on the weapon and also has a finger groove molded into its face if you wish to rest your supporting hand’s index finger there. The frame’s front terminates with four Picatinney M1913 grooves which allows you to mount accessories such as weapon lights or laser sights. The G19, by contrast has a single groove just behind the muzzle. The grip’s base features a slight magazine well chamfer, and a lanyard hole at the heel. This area is also relieved enough so you can get a grip on the magazine’s floor plate to extract the mag if necessary—just like, um, a Glock.
The slide is finished with a black nitride treatment and has deep, positive groves cut into the rear and front sides. The groves give a firm purchase on the slide and are almost a bit too sharp. The slide’s muzzle end has steep chamfers cut into it which help guide the gun into a holster.
Sights are steel with a fixed front blade and “U”-notch rear. The front has a white dot painted on it, while the rear is grooved to reduce glare and has no reference markings at all.
The magazine release is oversize, but not so large as to promote inadvertent mag drops when the gun is fired.
A quick test fit with several holsters designed for the Glock G19 revealed the PFC9 does not fit these holsters. A PFC9 owner would have to purchase holsters designed for this specific gun. So much for easy interchange between the Polymer 80 PFC9 and Glock. Polymer 80 claims the gun will fit any G19 holster designed to accommodate a rail mounted weapon light. This is less than optimal, in our opinion, as light compatible holsters are much wider and bulkier than standard holsters–an important consideration if one carries the gun concealed.
At the Range
We took the Polymer 80 PFC9 to our clandestine alpine test facility and turned it over to our ace tester, Nigel, the slightly better than average Ninja. Due to the sparse ammunition supply—and exorbitant prices—we did not perform an extensive shake down test, but we did get a sense as to how the Polymer 80 PFC9 shoots. We used Federal’s American Eagle brand, 124 grain, full metal jacket ammo.
We had some reservations right from the start. The purported 15 round magazine would allow just 14 rounds into it—no matter how big a hammer we threatened to use. By contrast, the 15 round Gen 5 Glock G19 Magazine we brought along for comparison digested all 15 without protest just as every other Glock mag we’ve ever used.
We expected this thing to shoot well based on how the gun points and the trigger’s action which is short and crisp (for a striker gun) with a nice reset. Once lead flew downrange, we changed our mind.
First, the sights, which so many people laud, proved difficult for Nigel to see—at least in the overcast winter afternoon light. We would much prefer some dots on the rear sight or a color outline along the U-notch. Novak Low-mount Carry sights are the first thing we would add to this gun.
Nigel began at seven yards with slow, deliberate single shots fired off-hand from a two-hand grip. The gun’s first round went way high, as in over the target. Nigel adjusted to a six-o’clock hold mid-target and began to get hits, albeit a loose, eight-inch, or so, group.
The Polymer 80 PFC9 had much more muzzle flip than anticipated. The slight beaver tail and undercut grip did not compensate for the gun’s reduced weight and Nigel found it much more difficult to get accurate follow up shots.
Watch our first range session:
Nigel emptied all 14 rounds from the Polymer 80 brand magazine with the slow fire regimen and then inserted the Glock brand magazine for some rapid-fire strings. The somewhat indifferent accuracy continued as the groups opened up to over ten inches. In frustration, Nigel expended the magazine’s last 7 rounds in an instinctive point “OMG they’re shooting at me,” frenzy. Except for the first flier over the target, all rounds did stay on the fifteen-inch target, but just so. Accurate enough for basic service, we suppose, but we had much higher expectations—as did Nigel.
Other issues reared their heads as well. Ejection proved lackadaisical. Spent cases threatened to not clear the ejection port and fell pell-mell in all directions—not the forceful, one spot every time, cover it with a trashcan lid, ejection you get with a Glock. One case, in particular, tipped over the ejection port, did a slow walk down Nigel’s right arm, and fell to the ground off his shoulder. Another bounced off his forehead, and yet another came millimeters from our camera operator’s eye.
We also experienced one failure to fire. While Nigel should have removed the round to examine the primer (As we said, he is just slightly better than average.), he just pulled the slide back enough to re-cock the action, gave it another go, and—Bang! We didn’t have any other malfunctions afterward, and can only conjecture as to the misfire’s cause.
A second test a few weeks later with Blazer 124 grain FMJ proved just as problematic. While the accuracy improved a good fifty-percent, the gun experienced a major malfunction. The so-so ejection described earlier reared its head again and produced an ugly jam. The PFC9 managed to flip a fired shell case 180 degrees and lodge it length-wise in the ejection port. Meanwhile the next round in the mag found its way upward just enough to block the barrel throat. As Stan Laurel used to say to Hardy, “Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us in.” A nasty jam such as this could cost someone their life in a gun fight.
Overall, the word disappointment describes our opinion about this particular Polymer 80 PFC9 pistol. It demonstrates the fact you can’t just smash together some parts and expect the result to equal or exceed a product which took many skilled engineers and millions of dollars to develop. For now, we won’t trust it for anything other than range duty, and for certain would not trust our lives to it—nor would Nigel.
What We Liked About the Polymer 80 PFC9
- Nice trigger
- Good grip texture
- Grip angle
- Useful magazine release
- Take down and operation similar to Glock—no retraining required
- Full M1913 rail on frame
- Light weight
What We Didn’t Like About the Polymer 80 PFC9
- Magazine will not hold rated round capacity
- Magazine appears less robust than Glock magazines
- Excess muzzle flip in rapid fire
- Indifferent accuracy
- Lackadaisical ejection
- Get you killed unreliability
- Difficulty remounting slide when reassembling gun
- Does not fit most Glock G19 holsters
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