NEW handguns come and go. For many reasons, both good and bad, some guns don’t ever take off, and are rarely, or never, heard from again. Sometimes, with a little refinement and a new name, an old concept can be brought back. Such is the case with the Lionheart LH9N.
Two decades ago, Daewoo Precision Industries won a contract to provide the South Korean armed forces a 9mm handgun designated the K5. Like many companies that produce a pistol adopted by a large nation, the desire to import it to take advantage of the American private citizen market was high.
Daewoo imported the pistol, labeling it the DP-51, a compact version called the DP-51c, and a .40 S&W chambered variant called the DH-40.
Unfortunately, these pistols came about in a time flooded with many “Wonder Nines” of various makes, and sales suffered, though many owners held on to these pistols for years, and there were/are many fans of them. I had heard of these pistols only in passing, but had seen very few for sale over the years.
DIRECT FROM SOUTH KOREA
As I was leaving my local indoor range recently, I perused the gun counter and spotted a new handgun called the LH9. I asked to take a closer look at it, and it felt like I was holding an S&W 59, similar to a 5904 actually. The DA and SA trigger pulls felt like that of the Beretta 92 series.
I was advised it is the South Korean pistol of choice, and imported by Lionheart Industries on the west coast. That’s when I realized I had seen this pistol 20 years ago as the Daewoo DP series, but now it is marked S&T Motiv.
I was intrigued enough to do some research. I went to the Lionheart Industries website and found five different offerings: four full-size models and a single compact model. The LH9, LH9N (Novak sights), and an MKII variant of each, which features a railed dustcover. The LH9Nc is the compact model and has Novak sights as standard. Any model can come in the buyer’s choice of a Black or FDE Cerakoted frame.
Flash forward a few months and a new LH9 was waiting for me at my local FFL. I was surprised and impressed. Instead of finding a massive plastic box, or worse, a cardboard box, I got a well-thought-out, heavily padded 1000D nylon case.
The pistol was in a sealed plastic bag, in its own zippered compartment. Two magazines were included: a flush-fit 13-round mag and an extended 15-round mag, both tucked into dedicated loops. Also in the case was an honest-to-goodness cleaning kit including bore brush, rods, and a small vial of FrogLube.
The slide is 4140 hammer-forged, heat-treated steel. The front sight is staked into the slide, while the rear sight has a set screw so windage can be adjusted. The slide also has relatively deep and sharp front and rear cocking serrations.
Another plus are the serrations on top of the slide. They help eliminate glare and provide extra traction for shooters who use the “slingshot” method of chambering a round.
The slide rides on a forged frame made of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy. This provides for a frame that is light in weight but very durable. The front and back straps feature vertical patterns to help with grip.
The frame wears diamond-pattern synthetic grips that were incredibly sharp and dug into my hands. They didn’t cause discomfort, but I sure knew they were there!
FIRST RANGE SESSION
I took the gun out for its first range visit with 220 rounds of various 9mm FMJs and JHPs, as I figured that would make for a decent first shooting impression. I had no failures of any kind, and the LH9 exhibited normal service-pistol accuracy for me. It did seem to like heavier bullets better, which is good, because I prefer those. Mid-weight bullets worked well, including the all-copper Black Hills 115-grain Tac-XP.
The DA to SA transition was new to me again, since I have used striker-fired autos for years, but I was able to improve my speed over time. As mentioned earlier, the trigger pull was very reminiscent of the Beretta. A friend brought a 92G to the range to compare them, and it confirmed my belief.
I found the DA+ took some getting used to. The DA+ functions when you cock the hammer and then physically press it forward. The hammer spring remains cocked, but the trigger and hammer are returned to DA position. When the trigger is pulled, the weight is about five to 5.5 pounds, and returns to the SA position.
When used as it should be, as one fluid trigger press, I liked it over the traditional DA pull. But I can imagine a shooter with poor discipline using it to bring the pistol to SA before being ready to fire.
In SA mode, cocked and locked, I decided that while the trigger was nice, the safety leaves a lot to be desired. Disengaging the safety wasn’t a problem for me, but engaging the safety was.
Instead of pressing down or pushing up on the front, the shooter must do so on the rear. This may not seem like a big deal, but with my short, fat, stupid fingers, it meant I had to alter the firing grip to actuate the safety. The thumb safety, while ambidextrous, pivots on the front of the lever instead of the back, like a Hi Power, 1911, or M&P.
Those were my impressions, but I am always curious what other shooters have to say about a gun when they get hands-on time.
I handed the LH9 to my friend Jarrod Truog and, after a quick briefing, left it with him and his staff at DFW Gun Range along with instructions to shoot it as much as they’d like.
After four days and 500 rounds, I stopped by to pick up the gun and hear what they had to say. I was happy to hear there were no malfunctions to report. All shooters found the gun reasonably accurate.
I decided I needed a shooter who is extremely accurate with handguns. I contacted Wayne Dobbs of Hardwired Tactical Shooting and asked if he would try the LH9. When we met, I gave Wayne the LH9 and he began firing five-shot groups at 25 yards. At this distance we began noticing the gun would often string its groups. Sometimes three or four rounds would be clustered nicely, but the last rounds would hit three inches higher. On occasion the gun would produce a nice three- to four-inch group.
Wayne wanted to figure out why the problem existed, so he tore into the LH9. The barrel has twin locking lugs and locks into battery similar to a 1911. The 4150 steel, hard-chromed barrel also engages the slide release. We supposed that the barrel lockup with the slide release could be inconsistent. I have not read of similar problems anywhere else, and other owners seem happy with their LH9s.
TRIGGER AND MAGAZINES
The DA/SA handgun is making a comeback, or perhaps it is finally getting its due. With the popularity of appendix inside-the-waistband carry, many shooters prefer a pistol with an exposed hammer so they can place their dominant hand’s thumb over the hammer to ensure a round isn’t fired into sensitive regions of the human anatomy. I think the LH9N will serve someone very well in that, or any other carry method.
I believe the LH9’s three different options for triggers will benefit a wide range of shooters. The DA+, while a bit gimmicky-looking at first blush, turned out to be something I am quite fond of. I can see shooters who prefer a typical DA/SA-type handgun but don’t have the strength to actuate a traditional DA pull, having success with the DA+.
The LH9 series offers another incentive to the shooter: magazines. The Lionheart LH9 accepts many, but not all, S&W 59 series magazines. Because 5900 series guns aren’t riding in the holsters of peace officers as much as they used to, 5900 magazines can be bought in quantity cheaply, as low as $10 apiece. That means significant savings for the end user—money that can be spent on more ammo, or better yet, quality instruction.
With any new gun comes an aftermarket support dilemma. Will any of the name brands make accessories for the new pistol? I asked Josh White at Lionheart Industries about holsters and sights, and he stated several manufacturers are indeed making holsters. When I requested the LH9, Josh graciously sent a G-Code belt holster with adjustable cant.
Josh added that demand would dictate progression on sights. I didn’t care for the Novak sights, because they make one-handed manipulation difficult at best. I prefer U-notched rear sights.
If you’re looking for a concealed-carry piece, the Lionheart LH9 is a reasonable choice. The features it offers, the available variants, and an affordable street price should make it attractive to those who desire a traditional DA/SA-type pistol.