Lionheart Compact 9mm
A Quality Personal-Defense Handgun Returns
To The American Market From South Korea.
Lionheart Industries of Redmond, Wa., is now importing high-quality personal-defense handguns based on the South Korean service pistol. Several full-size and compact variations are available and identified by acronym. My sample is the extremely attractive, top-of-the-line LH9CN for Lionheart 9mm, Novak Compact. More basic models have shorter alphanumeric names, but they all are built to the same high standards and wear the attractive and practical Cerakote hostile environment finish. My sample is 2-tone with a black slide and patriot brown frame and, combined with its size and overall symmetry, is a very nice-looking handgun.
The Daewoo Conglomerate designed the original pistol in the late 1980’s. The DP51 incorporated the common features of the locked-breech, double-action pistols including the cam-actuated locking sequence with barrel lugs that mated with internal lugs in the slide. A double-stack magazine held 13 rounds and Smith & Wesson 5906 magazines were a usable alternative.
A major selling point was the “Tri-Action” fire controls. The 51 had frame-mounted ambidextrous safety levers in combination with a trigger actuated passive firing pin block, allowing safe carry in the cocked-and-locked mode. Carefully capturing and lowering the hammer by releasing the trigger puts the pistol in the standard double-action first-shot mode. The shooter activates the third option by keeping his finger off the trigger and simply pushing the hammer forward to rest on the frame. The mainspring is under tension but the hammer is disconnected until a light pull on the trigger brings it back to full cock and set up for a single-action trigger pull. The manual safety disconnects the trigger but allows most of these manipulations to be performed with the safety engaged.
The “fast action” was borrowed from Fabrique Nationale and was designed for the Browning Hi-Power. The DP51 quickly established a reputation for reliability and shootability and owners continue to give them high marks. The Daewoo Company broke up due to economic and political factors, and the current pistols are made by an independent element of the former industrial giant.
Demonstrating its primary role as a concealable personal-defense sidearm,
the LH9CN delivered consistent accuracy and speed on the Texas CHL Proficiency course.
Kristina Woodruff is a tenured and highly respected homicide investigator
with the Waco, Texas, Police Department. She and her son, Cole, gave the Lion
Heart Compact high marks for ease of handling and utility as a personal-defense arm.
The compact LH version tested is 7 inches long, half an inch shorter with a 3.6-inch barrel opposed to the standard 4.1 inch of the standard version. The wide-body magazines supplied have 10- and 13-round capacities. Compact models weigh 25.7 ounces—down from the standard-sized pistol’s 28 ounces.
The Novak models have a standard dovetailed mounted Novak rear sight and a dovetailed post front with a white dot. Tritium and fiber optics are available as replacements. All components save the grips and external magazine bases are metal. Plastic is found nowhere else.
The full-length recoil spring guide is steel. The slide is forged of 4140 steel with a barrel of 4150 while the frame is 7075-T6 forged aluminum—top-grade materials selected to provide trouble-free service and engender pride of ownership. The pistol comes in a soft compartment zipper case with the usual cable lock, an owner’s manual and cleaning kit.
The Buffalo Bore Company has managed to maintain a steady supply of ammunition for the popular cartridges during the most severe ammunition shortage in the last 70 years (incidentally retaining enough components to continue load development). My stock of test ammunition ranged from mild and tractable standard-pressure 147-grain FMJ and JHP through a range of +P and +P+ loadings of 115- and 124-grain standard JHP’s and the hot 95-grain Barnes TAC lead-free HP. A sample of one of my handloads and a remnant of Hornady +P Critical Duty went into the mix. Over about 200 rounds there was one malfunction produced by shooter error—failing to fully seat the magazine—and another unexplained and minor failure to fully feed a 147-grain load.
A 25.7-ounce pistol with a 3.5-inch barrel and 5-pound single-action pull presents a certain level of challenge when shooting bench groups from my Caldwell rest. The results do not perfectly reflect the capabilities of the pistol or even the relative accuracy of the loads. Nevertheless, the results are about what I get shooting similar handguns.
The recoil was mild with my handloads and the standard pressure loads and there was quite a bit of muzzle rise with the hotter JHP loads. The recoil was never remotely uncomfortable or productive of a shift in my grip on the handgun. At our normal Texas qualification ranges, 3 to 15 yards, the LH9 made it easy to ace the Concealed Handgun License course. Toward the end of one range session, I tossed off a single-handed “NRA” slow-fire string that put 4 rounds in a 3-inch circle with a fifth round about 3 inches out.
The Lionheart series is made with premium forged steel and aluminum,
well and closely fitted with an attractive and durable Cerakote ceramic finish.
I found the fast-action mode was quite convenient for shooting through the qualifier. It made it easy to return the gun to safe and, in the familiar, low-stress exercise, I seamlessly staged the hammer to full cock and then controlled release. Likely, in the crunch, fine motor control would fly out the window. The fast-action mode would become a straight pull through with no thought to staging. Without considerable and exclusive training with this mode, the defensive shooter would probably do better to select between the single action or the traditional DA option.
Waco, Texas, Homicide Detective Kristina Woodruff and her son Cole both shot the LH9CN and pretty much echoed my observations of its favorable shooting characteristics and esthetics. Woodruff, accustomed to the somewhat heavier “safe-action” of her Glock service pistol, did not argue with my caveat about the similar mode on the Lionheart.
The LH series comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Lionheart commissions dedicated holsters and ammo carriers from Edge Works Manufacturing Company.
By Mike Cumpston
Edge Works Manufacturing
1171 Halltown Rd
Jacksonville, NC 28546
Maker: Lionheart Industries
7130 180th Avenue NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Action: Locked breech semi-auto
Capacity: 10 or 13 Length: 7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.6 inches
Weight: 25.7 ounces
Sights: Novak rear, white dot front
Material: Steel slide, aluminum frame