For those unfamiliar with Grand Power or its offerings, the X-Calibur is the latest variant of the Slovakian company’s popular K100 pistol, a semi-automatic originally developed for USPSA Production Division competition in Europe. Despite its lineage, however, the X-Calibur shouldn’t be viewed as geared strictly toward competition. Many of the features that make the pistol a suitable candidate for the shooting sports also lend it to self-defense.
At first glance, the X-Calibur resembles the multitude of polymer-frame pistols on the market. Of course, looks are deceiving. Unlike other manufacturer’s offerings, the X-Calibur (and the entire line of GP models) features a CNC-machined steel chassis permanently anchored to a polymer frame. A quick inspection of the pistol revealed a modular frame complete with four different backstraps, enabling the owner to customize the pistol’s grip circumference to match his (or her) hand size, or easily configure it to fit a family member within a matter of seconds. In addition, the pistol also sports fully ambidextrous controls, which surprisingly include a second slide-stop lever—a feature most other so-called ambidextrous pistols typically lack. As a left-handed shooter, I view the extra controls as a welcome addition, especially for those who share my southpaw affliction.
From a self-defense standpoint, should you become incapacitated such redundancy makes it easier to run the pistol with your weak hand. All the X-Calibur’s controls function smoothly and positively, especially the thumb safeties, which interface with ball bearings mounted to the frame’s exterior. Though the paddles are a bit large for my taste, each proved easy to actuate without sacrificing my firing grip. Strangely, the slide-stop levers aren’t as robust. Light serrations adorn each of the sheer faces and offer little purchase. A combination of stippling and raised serrations along the frontstrap create a nonslip grip, without sacrificing comfort or the X-Calibur’s good-handling characteristics. A deep recess located just below the frame’s tang serves to position the pistol as low in the hand as possible to provide greater control during recoil. With the pistol’s ambidextrous features, SA/DA trigger and enhanced ergonomics, the X-Calibur offers great versatility.
Internally, the pistol reveals the same degree of out-of-the-box thinking—not to mention an exercise in eye-hand coordination and patience. In a departure from the typical Browning-style, short-recoil system that has dominated the semi-auto pistol market for the past century, this handgun employs a unique alternative: a locked-breech system with a rotating barrel lock, similar to the Beretta Cougar and PX4 Storm.
The rotation is accomplished thanks to lack of contact between the barrel and frame-mounted recoil spring. When the pistol is fired, the barrel and slide move backward together and the barrel is rotated counterclockwise by a flat, twisting, helical cut in the barrel extension. Once the barrel and slide have moved to the point where the barrel has twisted about 45 degrees to the left, the slide is free to continue travel, while the barrel’s movement is stopped by an interface to the frame via the barrel extension. The barrel also contains a proprietary square-shaped lock, easily visible at the ejection port with the slide fully forward. This shoulder is rotated behind a solid column of steel and runs the length of the slide forward of the ejection port when the slide and barrel are fully in battery.
Such a design keeps the bore axis better aligned with the target, which in theory should provide greater accuracy potential. What’s more, it—in conjunction with the pistol’s ergonomics—suggests mild felt recoil and flip, but only range time would tell.
Out of the three loads tested at 25 yards, the X-Calibur displayed the best accuracy with Winchester 115-grain ammunition, grouping 1.10 inches from a bench. Given that, I have no doubt the pistol would be capable of producing ragged-hole groups at typical self-defense distances. Despite its lightweight polymer frame, recoil was quite manageable, which I attribute to the ergonomic grips, moderately low bore axis and the extra weight of its 15-round magazine. Despite its lack of night sights, the pistol’s red fiber-optic pipe was clearly visible amidst the wash of a Streamlight TLR-1 C4. Therefore, the X-Calibur would make a suitable household guardian, one that is easy to configure and capable of ample capacity without unnecessary bulk.
No malfunctions occurred during testing; the action functioned smoothly with no discernible difference between the X-Calibur’s cam-like recoil system and the age-old Browning. Yet, there’s something to be said for reliability. Rapid fire was just plain fun, thanks to the pistol’s almost non-existent reset, which allowed me to just barely ease my finger off the trigger and facilitated ultrafast sear reset during shots. This pistol may be a double-action semi-automatic, but it functions and handles like a 1911.
My dislikes concerning the X-Calibur are few: The skeletonized slide would be ideal for competition. Less slide mass equates to faster lock times, which fosters using a light recoil spring, lessens the slide slamming forward on the rebound and causing the muzzle to dip below your point-of-aim. However, for self-defense, added weight would help offset recoil and promote faster follow-up shots. Similarly, the pistol’s fluted bull barrel is perplexing, as less mass out front equals greater recoil—not less. Also, the absence of a live-round indicator, and the location as well as the size of the ejection port, make press checks difficult under low-light conditions. Neither are deal-breakers, though.
The Grand Power X-Calibur’s origins may be in competitive shooting, but it is built to fit a variety of shooters and their needs.