Tristar Arms is relatively new to the handgun market. They make six models of handguns, each modeled after some other very successful designs. The guns are manufactured in a NATO approved plant in Turkey for Tristar.
The gun we’re going to take a look at is the T100 offering. It resembles a Baby Eagle an awful lot. Personally, I like the looks of this gun. Our test model came in their Titanium Cerakote finish.
The gun ships with two 15 round double-stack magazines, a nice plastic case, gun lock, magazine loader, owner’s manual and cleaning tools. It does not come with a cheapo cardboard box. If a gun at this price point can come with a nice plastic case, what’s wrong with the other retailers that charge the same or more for their guns and still send them out in crap cardboard?
This gun tips the scales at a claimed 1.64 pounds. Our scale showed it weighed 1 pound 8 ounces without a magazine, and 1 pound 10 ounces with the magazine inserted. Both of which are right on target for their claimed weight. The gun is a bit nose heavy when unloaded, but achieves a good balance once it’s loaded up. I didn’t notice any balance point transfer while shooting it, but it is certainly there.
It has an overall length of 7 inches, with a barrel length of 3.95 inches. Maximum height is 5 inches and width is a slim 1.35 inches.
The forward portion of the slide and the muzzle are both nicely beveled. The frame leading into the trigger well follows the beveling nicely and then radiused down to the grip handle. Really well-done stuff. The trigger guard is large enough to allow the shooter to wear gloves comfortably. The front of the trigger guard has horizontal serrations for those of you who rest a finger there. The grip is nicely shaped to fit a human hand. The front of the grip and the backstrap have vertical serrations where you hold on to it. The grips are plastic and well contoured. They are also heavily checkered, but not as aggressive as I’d like to see. The checkering is so tiny and so prevalent that the grip almost becomes smooth in the hand. The grips are held in place by a single fastener placed just past the center point from top to bottom, and pretty far rearward. Now, I’m from the school of “you can’t have too many fasteners in something”; however, there is always the matter of aesthetics and weight savings to balance that philosophy with. I found myself tightening the screw on the left side after a few hundred rounds or so. Nothing major, but when the screw loosens up, the top portion of the grip will wiggle a little bit. The beavertail fits nicely into my hand. The hammer is skeletonized and heavily serrated on top. The rear of the slide is really well scalloped allowing you to get a good grip when racking the slide.
There are a couple of things on this gun that I think need attention. If one of the possible uses for this gun is for concealed carry, then Tristar must look into keeping the controls and levers as flush as possible. On the right side where the slide stop comes through the frame, this part sticks out like a flag pole. This is sure to snag a holster or your clothes. For that reason, I would not recommend this as a concealed gun unless you took it to a gunsmith and had that part shaved down. Perhaps Tristar will read this and make some changes in their tooling and make a retrofit kit.
The slide is of the CZ design variety, with a low bore axis and the slide rails built right into the frame. This makes for a very durable gun. A low bore axis provides more leverage of the strong shooting hand giving it a better grip while lessening the muzzle flip and perceived recoil. The sight radius is very good. It comes standard with three-dot “combat” sights. The rear sight is pretty tall, overall. The front sight is diminutive and looks out of place on this gun.
The slide stop and manual safety reside on the left side of the gun but can be transferred to the other side for lefties.
The trigger has a nice feel to it with a good feel to the radius of it. The gun fires in both DA and SA. No mysteries there. Double action trigger pull was off my scale, which has a maximum reading of 12 pounds. To say it is heavy is an understatement. Single action came in at 6 pounds. Trigger sweep is smooth all the way through the pull. The trigger reset is at virtually the top of the sweep.
At the Range with the Tristar T100 Compact 9MM
I took this gun down to the range to see how well it fared firing. I used Blazer 115 grain FMJ 9MM for this test. I set up a target about 7 yards away and loaded the gun. The slide was easy to rack, with plenty of serrations on the back of the slide to get hold of. The rear sight is also massive, so if you needed to rack this thing against a table or something in an emergency, it could certainly handle that task, too. I clicked off the safety. For my hands, the safety switch is a little too high and rearward, but it’s not the end of the world. I can still reach it with my thumb with no real effort. I lined up the sight and pulled the bang switch. Nice. Felt recoil is relatively low, muzzle rise is consistent with the slide style (low bore axis). In all, it performed flawlessly. However, I didn’t. I shot a few more rounds. I found that the small front sight was difficult to regain after each shot. So, it took a little longer between shots to set up the next one.
I sent more rounds downrange. Checking each shot, I was a bit flummoxed at what I was seeing. All of my shots were hitting low and left of center. I’m no competition shooter, but, usually, I hit a lot closer to what I’m aiming at than that. I was set up at 7 yards, so really, I should be hitting closer to the center I was aiming at.
So, I decided to switch to my benchmark gun. I cranked off a few rounds and hit, relatively, what I was aiming at. Hmmmm….
I decided to pack it up for the day and make some inquiries. I got home and picked up the phone and called customer service to Tristar. The strangest thing happened. A person, yes a real live person, answered the phone. I didn’t even have to press “1” for English! So, I discussed the problem I was having with the very helpful folks at Tristar. Initially, they had no idea I was writing an article, so they treated me like every other customer of theirs. I was very impressed with the level of service and professionalism coming from the phone. The very same phone that gets horrible customer service with nearly every other number I call. I guess it wasn’t my phone all these years, after all.
In any case, I described my issue, which they hadn’t heard of before, and agreed to have me send back to the gun to see if maybe something was misaligned. Off it went through UPS.
A couple of weeks later, it showed back up at my favorite FFL dealer (G&G Guns, in Lakewood Colorado). I set off to go pick it up. This time instead of my chosen outdoor range, I headed for my local indoor range (Blue Core Shooting Center, in Lakewood, Colorado). The weather was predicted to be rainy, and I also figured that the more predictable indoor range would help me shoot straight.
I loaded up some American Eagle 115 grain FMJ 9MM rounds and went to work from 7 yards. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was still falling left and low. I stood and stared a moment. I loaded up the next magazine with the same result. I was doing my best to aim and hold that gun still. Stymied, I recruited one of the range guys, Doug, to take a few shots. We reeled the target out to 4 yards. He knocked the center out of the target with ease, and then told me what a good gun this is. He made some corrections in my grip and gave me back the T100. I shot some more — same result. I picked up my benchmark gun, hit the center, or very near it with all 15 shots.
At this point, people, I can tell you that I’m certainly humbled by Doug’s ability to pick this particular gun up and keyhole nearly all of his shots with it having never held it before in his life. Which means I want you all to take a look at Tristar’s T100 for yourself. For me, I had trouble with targeting. I’ve only ever had this problem with one other gun from a very reputable manufacturer. So, this issue lies solely with me. My trigger control isn’t good enough to shoot this gun as well as I’d like to. Mind you, even shooting it the way I was; I was still hitting the target in the kill zone. So, is the T100 for me? Apparently not until I get some better trigger control mastered. Is it a good gun? Absolutely. There are a few things I would change on this gun like the front sight post and the slide release button. I’d probably go buy some different grips, too. Despite that, it shoots predictably, has great recoil management, an excellent design, and overall I think it looks good. Call Tristar yourself and talk to them about this, or any other gun they have. You won’t have to wait long to talk with someone, and you won’t have to press “1” for English.
Also, take into consideration Tristar’s willingness to work with me on the issue, rather than to simply blame me (which turned out to be accurate). You get some great customer service to go along with this investment. In fact, there are a fair number of fortune 500 companies that could learn a thing or two about customer service from these guys. Include in your decision-making process the price. Tristar sells this gun between $459 and $479, depending on the finish. Academy Sports as of this writing is selling it for $349 in black Cerakote. That’s a heck of a deal.