In modern times, it gets more and more difficult to find value-based manufacturers who prefer to cut out middlemen and think only of the consumer. Extar USA is one of these few companies, and if you’ve never heard of this firearm manufacturer, I wouldn’t blame you. This being my first experience with Extar myself, I had to keep an open mind when walking into a review of one of the most underrated firearms I’ve ever held. By the end of the review, I can almost guarantee you’ll have Extar’s website pulled up in another tab so you can look at what Extar has to offer.
Extar sent us this pistol to run through the paces and do a thorough hands-on test for y’all.
The specific product under review today is Extar USA’s EP9 Essentials Bundle. The EP9 is an AR-based 9mm with a 6.5” barrel. The essentials bundle comes with a cloth carry case, 4 Glock-compatible 18-round magazines, and a sling with a quick detach (QD) sling point. The EP9 by itself runs $450 with the essentials bundle running only $90 more.
Extar is a “direct-to-consumer” business which is most likely why you haven’t seen many Extar firearms on the shelves at your local gun shop. This is a great way to buy since Extar doesn’t have to pay any middlemen to get their product onto store shelves. This helps keep product costs lower, allowing the consumer to pay less for a quality firearm. Still, though, we’ll be thoroughly testing the gun for its feeding reliability, overall durability, accuracy, and overall ergonomics to see what kind of value you’re getting for your money. Let’s start with first impressions.
The EP9 Essentials Bundle is like opening your first present on Christmas day. There are so many little packages inside the box for you to get into and get sorted. The firearm itself was much slimmer and more attractive than I thought it would be. The carry case is of nice quality, and the sling was extremely well-made. The sling only has one QD attachment point that goes into the back of the EP9, right under the buffer tube. This allowed a great connection point that kept the pistol close to my body when not in use, but still quick to access. Looking through the bundle on my couch, I could already tell that you get a lot for what you pay, but there was one aspect I noticed more than anything else.
The weak point I initially saw in this system was the magazine. It’s awesome that the EP9 is compatible with Glock magazines, as there are endless amounts of aftermarket Glock mags to choose from. The mags you get in the essentials bundle feel cheap and somewhat flimsy, and I was even able to pull a round out of the mag through the feed lips. This should be expected, however, since these magazines are for sale separately on Extar’s website, and they only cost $12 per mag (you can get some discounts by ordering 3 or 5 magazines). Magazines are a disposable piece of kit, so it didn’t worry me that these didn’t feel that great.
And in all fairness, as long as the magazine retains the bullets when not stored in the gun, it doesn’t matter if they feel cheap, so long as they feed the firearm reliably. That test will come later, but just so we can get there faster, we’ll hop right into the features of the EP9 Essentials Bundle.
Like I said before, you get a lot for what you’re paying. Four magazines are a huge positive when you’re purchasing kit seeing how mags are often the piece of kit most forgotten about until after the firearm purchase. The sling is also one of the best quality single-point slings I’ve ever seen. All that aside, here’s the feature list for the Extar EP9 Essentials Bundle:
- Side-Charge Handle
- Flash Can
- Just Over 4 Pounds
- Comes WITH a Carry Case
- Glock Magazine Compatible
- AR Trigger Compatible
- Great Quality Single-Point QD Sling
- Four Magazines
- Buffer Tube Protector Sleeve & Cap
- Made in the USA
This is a long feature list, but there’s a lot to this little bundle of awesomeness. The fact that this gun takes Glock mags is a huge benefit as the aftermarket variety of Glock mags is huge. Speaking of aftermarket parts, you can put an AR-15 trigger group in this gun and it’ll pop right in. This is one of the first upgrades I would consider for the EP9 as I found the stock trigger to be horrid.
I love a good side-charging handle, and they even found a way to keep it on the correct side for a right-handed shooter. Reloading is efficient with the Extar because you don’t have to lower the weapon to load and charge it. The charging handle is connected to a big block of polymer inside the gun that grabs the bolt when you charge the weapon, and during testing I found this to be an easy and reliable system.
We’ve already discussed that the sling and carry case are of good quality. My preferred method of using the EP9 was using the sling tension to steady the gun during shooting. The sling offers an elastic resistance when you pull the gun up, but it’s firm enough to where you don’t have to push out very much for the correct tension. The case also held all four magazines in two pouches, so I had room for two 40-rounders that I already had lying around. In reality, I stored 152 rounds housed in magazines in the case, which I think is pretty awesome.
The last feature we’ll specifically talk about is the flash can. The job of this flash can is to direct the noise and gas out towards the target and to restrict any blowback to the sides or rear. In all honesty, it also makes the gun look cool. The handguard of the EP9 does extend slightly over the end of the muzzle, so the flash can is necessary to keep the gas from melting the end of the handguard, or burning your hand if that’s where you’re holding it.
Overall, the essentials bundle is packed with features. But how did it feel while I was shooting it? Did the buffer tube protector and cap help with any recoil or comfort? We’ll discuss the design and ergonomics of the EP9 so we can get a feel for everything.
Design & Ergonomics
The EP9 is much more ergonomic and sleek than it appears online. I also had no issue shouldering just the buffer tube and feeling like I could make accurate shots. It does help that Extar throws in a rubber cap to go on the end of the buffer tube, and that helped mitigate what little recoil there was.
This handgun is still around 4 pounds, so while there is hardly going to be any recoil, there will be some noticeable jump from the momentum of the bolt moving through the buffer tube. This is a direct blowback system, meaning the gun uses the pressure from the cartridge going off in the chamber to cycle the bolt. Since that pressure might be excessive, the bolt has to make up the bulk of the weight on the EP9 to time the cycling correctly. It’s the moving of the bolt that creates most of the recoil as opposed to the actual cartridge creating recoil. That being said, this is a laughably easy gun to shoot, so recoil isn’t something to be concerned with. It’s just something worth pointing out in the design of the EP9.
The overall design of this pistol is very comfortable, though I would suggest purchasing an arm brace if you want to shoulder the weapon. Yes, it was easy enough to shoulder and use, but there was a little discomfort I had to get used to in utilizing a cheek weld on a buffer tube. Since I was mostly firing from sling tension, I can tell you that using the sling is a viable option. The handguard was a great place for your off-hand and even had some nice texturing to make sure you have a good purchase.
The EP9 also offers the user an opportunity to change some of the smaller design aspects like adding an arm brace, swapping the grip, or replacing some of the minor parts that are AR-15 compatible. The gun fits the shooter like a glove, as long as you can use a stabilizing method that best fits your shooting style. When utilizing the sling, I was at my most stable, and the ergonomics of the gun were fantastic.
If you’re going to put your life into the hands of the EP9, you should test the feeding of the ammunition you plan to use in self-defense scenarios. Even if you’re not putting your life on the line, pistols similar in design to this Extar pistol sometimes have feeding and jamming issues when they come out of the box looking all brand new.
To test the feeding and overall integrity of this pistol, I bought what I would consider to be both ends of the ballistic spectrum for 9mm. On the low end, I picked up some Winchester FMJ plinking loads because they’re cheap and I also need to test things like target transition, acquisition, and engagement. On the other end, I purchased some M17 Sig +P (+ Pressure) ammunition that should be about as high pressure and as high stepping as you can purchase for 9mm ammo. Regardless, I also threw in some Speer Gold Dot +P ammo and a different FMJ ammo to test feeding.
The first thing I did with the EP9 was load up all four magazines with different types of ammo and test how it fed when I cycled the action manually. I tried cycling the action as fast as I could to simulate actual firing and extraction, and I did manage to get a failure to feed and a double feed from both of my hollow-point ammo. In total, there were 72 rounds manually fed through the gun, so I can attribute the only two jams to user error, or the fact that manually cycling the bolt isn’t what this gun was designed to do. Regardless, the test isn’t complete until I take it out on the range to test feeding.
When on the range, I put over 200 rounds through the system. This involved everything from the +P ammo I used in the manual feeding test to the bulk plinking rounds I had. I tried everything to get this gun to jam, from holding the gun sideways, to firing as fast as I possibly could. The EP9 ate every bullet from the magazine and spit it out without any issues. The magazines I thought felt cheap fed flawlessly and didn’t pose any issues with the platform whatsoever. The ejection pattern for all of the ammo tested was the same, and it had no issues feeding hollow points which are normally a point of failure for some lower-quality handguns.
These test results were extremely impressive. There wasn’t even a noticeable “break-in period” that sometimes comes with less expensive firearms. Every round felt the same in terms of recoil, and while it had more recoil than I was expecting, it was still an extremely pleasant gun to shoot. Target transitions were a piece of cake and the gun was as accurate as you could ask for shooting up to 50 yards. There were absolutely zero problems hitting man-sized targets from 50 yards and in, and even hitting some dueling trees at 25 yards. The Extar EP9 was a blast to shoot, and the platform couldn’t have tested any better with 0 malfunctions or issues.
There’s a lot to like about the EP9. It may be a polymer-framed AR-style pistol, but the bolt, barrel, and trigger are all steel. Extar knew they had to make the right parts from the right material, and their design process shows that they wanted to create a firearm with a lot of value. During testing, here were the pros I found:
- Steel Trigger Group
- AR Trigger Compatible
- Ran Flawlessly
- QD Sling is Practical and Quality
- Lightweight and Good for Practice
I’ve handled $2,000 AR-15s that wouldn’t cycle as well as this gun. Granted, that’s a whole different platform, but if you want to train with an AR-based pistol, I couldn’t think of a better gun to do it with than the Extar. As mentioned above, the right parts are made from the right material, so even if the stock trigger has a long pull, at least it won’t break off in the gun like similar polymer triggers. And if you wanted to swap the trigger out for a better one, the Extar accepts an AR-15 trigger, so your aftermarket options are wide open there.
This is a great training platform for target transitions and engagement. The recoil combined with the capabilities of the gun make it a very deadly package. The QD slot in the back of the gun is not only practical, but I feel as if it’s necessary for this type of firearm. The EP9 is a great lightweight option that provides practical features and is a great option for firearm training.
This may be a short list, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to note that the EP9 had zero malfunctions during firing, and I was using high-pressure ammo along with plinking rounds. Knowing the gun can go through the full spectrum (brand new mind you) without gumming up, jamming, or failing is a big weight off the user’s shoulders.
The $540, this package holds a lot of value, but that doesn’t mean it’s a flawless platform. For example, it’s awesome that the trigger is made of metal, but it took a ridiculous amount of force to get through the creep and the weight required to make the gun go off. Personally, the first two upgrades I would make for this firearm are the trigger and some magazine upgrades. Those two take up most of the cons list, but here’s the full list of cons I found during testing:
- Extremely Heavy Trigger
- Extar Mags Feel Cheap
- Buffer Tube Shouldering is Somewhat Awkward
The only other thing worthy of note is that it could be uncomfortable to constantly shoulder this with the stock buffer tube. The cheek weld is not fantastic as you can probably imagine. Putting your jaw onto a rounded cylinder isn’t exactly the peak of comfort for AR pistols, but it can be done if you don’t mind the discomfort. I prefer the sling tension method, but I know some enthusiasts would prefer to purchase this with the thought of shouldering it like a normal firearm.
For future applications, I plan on adding a weapon light, forearm grip, and a different red dot sight to the EP9. Home defense will be the specific application I’m looking for with this gun. It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver around corners, and even has MLOK rails to put additional attachments on if you need to.
Other applications could include competition or short-distance shooting. If you’re shooting man-size steel, I could see this firearm taking 9mm out to 100 yards with a good amount of ease. It would be difficult for me to get used to shouldering a buffer tube, but I would most likely add an arm brace to help with the comfort side of things. In all reality, any application under 100 yards that doesn’t involve shooting living things would be a great fit for something like the EP9. Feeding is a huge factor in the reliability of the firearm, so you can’t talk about application unless your firearm can be dependable in any situation. With how the Extar spits everything out, it opens up a lot of doors that could offer many different applications for a reliable platform.
Cost vs. Value
I knew this was a great bang for the buck the moment I opened the box. It’s very difficult to find quality firearms at decent prices in the modern market, so offering a semi-automatic 9mm AR-style pistol at $540 is a hell of a deal, even without the essentials bundle. Not only can you really kit this pistol out to fit a purpose, but you can also keep it bare bones and still have a usable and fun plinking gun.
The EP9 Essentials Bundle is completely worth the money. If I were searching for an AR-style 9mm pistol for home defense or competition use, the Extar would be the top contender on my list. It’s expandable to whatever extent you want, and 9mm is plentiful, cheap, and light recoiling. Not to be too off-topic, but Extar has also released an EP45 which is an EP9 only chambered in 45 ACP. If that firearm is anything like the EP9, it’s going to be the next thing to end up in my shopping cart.
If you need an AR-style pistol, look no further than the Extar EP9. The essentials bundle isn’t necessary, but it’s a turn-key option to get all your bases covered for things like training reloads, training shooting platforms (sling tension method or standard shouldering), and weapon transportation.
If you already have Glock magazines, you can save yourself a little money and purchase the EP9 while adding on the sling and carry case separately. If you do end up going to Extar’s website to buy one of these pistols, I recommend purchasing one with either a sling or an arm brace. The essentials bundle, as mentioned, is your turn-key option, but if you don’t need the magazines, it saves you money just to buy either the brace or the sling with the gun itself. Even if you just need a new plinking gun, take a serious look at the Extar EP9 and see if it has a place in your gun safe.
Growing up, Buck was taught about firearm history and appraisal. Getting to know so many different firearm platforms eventually lead to his long-distance shooting exploration. While his main hunting past time is coyotes, he still find just as much satisfaction punching steel at distance. Every shot taken is with the purpose to become a better shooter.