Basically, there are three handguns that you are most likely to see on a Peshmerga officer’s hip: a Glock 19, a Walther P1/P-38, or an HS. Everybody knows what a Glock is, and the Walther is also a fairly recognizable piece. The HS, though, is unusual. What I find interesting about the HS, besides the fact that you’ll never see one inside the United States, is the fact that many of you reading this have probably fired, handled, or seen the equivalent at some point.
The HS2000 series of handguns bears a remarkable similarity to the Springfield XD coveted by Springfield fan boys. In fact, it’s essentially the exact same gun. The primary difference between the two is the company logo: Where crossed cannons should be, you’ll instead find a distinct “HS Produkt” engraving. HS is a Croatian company and stands for “Hrvatski Samokres.” The company has been around since 1990, and has produced some real home-run firearms, making it a very successful upstart.
The 9mm variant is the more common caliber for the Pesh, but the .45 ACP can still be seen from time to time—for example, the one worn by yours truly. The .45 is a rare enough sight that when an officer does the old “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” routine, and you whip out bullets twice the size of theirs, eyeballs pop out of sockets in wonder. Now, I’m not a huge proponent of the .45 ACP, and personally prefer 9mm, but I didn’t have a choice this time around. A guy’s got to take what he can get sometimes.
Another reason the .45 is a shit round here is the price point; in this case, they cost eight bucks a bullet! It has now become very expensive to gunfight with a pistol, as I would have to purchase my own replacement ammo. This brings new meaning to the phrase, “Think twice before pulling the trigger.” The pistol features a striker-fired system mechanically similar to that of a Glock. Some unique features include a loaded-chamber indicator located on the top of the slide and a nipple protruding from the rear of the slide that lets the user know the weapon is cocked. It even has a trigger safety like the Glock, but the pull couldn’t be more different: The HS has a softer, grainier-feeling break that is very mushy but predictable. In addition to the trigger safety, there is a backstrap safety like the 1911, making it impossible to rack back unless depressed. Overkill? Maybe. Functional? Absolutely!
Sights are standard three-dot style with fluorescent white paint. They’re nothing special, but they do quite well for factory standard, and I was able to engage silhouette targets at a variety of distances with relative easy of transition. They are seated atop a robust slide, with serrations found on the rear and fore end to maximize grip during manipulation. The spring/guide rod assembly is such a stout piece of hardware, I felt like I could use it for a concrete nail and use it in the pistol again when I finished. What’s more, it allows the pistol to perform contact shots on a target by preventing the slide from shifting rearward under applied pressure.
The barrel is quality and produces accuracy as long as the user can maintain the fundamentals. It is nitride coated along with the rest of the gun.The lower is a quality polymer with ample texture to maintain a positive grip, but despite being comfortable, it lacks the angle to really take up an aggressive posture behind the weapon. It just feels awkward. The magazine release is an ambidextrous design but has a sticky feel when under the pressure of a full mag. Magazines are drop-free stainless steel, and the .45 models hold up to 13 rounds.
OK, now for why I hate this firearm. While it’s an exceptionally comfortable pistol to hold, that all changes the moment you pull the trigger. The HS has a rather high bore axis in comparison to hand placement on the pistol. Combine this with a .45 ACP bullet and you get muzzle flip that causes bystanders to be concerned for your safety. That’s really saying something in the Peshmerga! Don’t get me wrong, it is manageable, and the recoil is the same as any other .45 handgun, but that muzzle flip after a good deal of shooting will start to work your wrist over. More importantly, it increases the time between accurate follow-up shots on target.
I’m just not a fan. The lower you can get the center of the weapon’s barrel in relation to your wrist bone, the better. Now this pistol goes for around $1,800-2,000 in Kurdistan unless it is acquired through standard issue. That’s a price I would never pay for a handgun, let alone one I can buy for around $480 back home. Nevertheless, it is at the disposal of Peshmerga forces, and most likely will go to an officer as a symbol of authority—helping him to look the part and maintain the status quo among the ranks.