Review: Show Low Manufacturing Black-Jack Rifle

A 9mm AK that's been to finishing school.

by
posted on April 15, 2024
Show Low Black-Jack Rifle

If there is a stereotype associated with AK-style firearms, it’s that of a rough-hewn, rugged, somewhat accurate, relentlessly reliable gun that is built using technology that can also build farm tractors or industrial machinery. To be fair, most of this is true. The AK was designed to survive a Russian winter and a barely-trained Russian infantryman, so aesthetics and performance took a back seat to reliability. 

The 9mm Black-Jack carbine from Show Low Manufacturing is an AK that’s been to finishing school. It looks and feels like a high-quality firearm, not a battlefield pickup. It has features you’d expect in a modern firearm—features that AK-style firearms often lack—such as bolt hold-open and a threaded barrel. The top of the receiver and handguard is one continuous section of Picatinny rail, making it much easier to mount optics on your gun. The handguard has M-Lok slots on the left, right and rear sides to let you mount all manner of accessories to the Black-Jack and the safety lever is oversized for easy use. The care that Show Low Manufacturing puts into these guns is self-evident from the moment you open the box, and that care also manifests itself on the range. 

Safety lever and triggerThe words “AK” and “great trigger” are usually separated by the words ‘doesn’t have a,” but this is not the case with the Black-Jack. The trigger is simply outstanding, with a crisp feel that needs just 2 pounds, 10 ounces of effort to set things in motion. The furniture on the carbine is also top-notch, with a Magpul MOE grip and an MOE stock, and the fit and finish is more like a high-end AR than a low-end AK. 

Not Your Normal AK 

Speaking of Magpul, the 35-round Magpul magazine for the CZ Scorpion that’s included with the Black-Jack is a big clue that while this rifle shares much the same shape as many an AK-style gun, it’s a Kalashnikov of a different color. Because it’s a pistol caliber carbine chambered in 9mm, it uses a patented direct-blowback action and not the usual short stroke pistol system found in AKs all over the world. This in turn means that the upper receiver and barrel are a monolithic whole (remember when I mentioned the Picatinny rail runs the whole length of the receiver?), removing the need to re-zero your optic every time you open your gun up for cleaning. In fact, taking the Black-Jack apart for cleaning is a simple matter of making sure the gun is empty, releasing the bolt and then pressing the detent in at the very end of the receiver, and presto change-o, the gun pivots open and can be field-stripped for cleaning.  

Rifle and optic
The Gideon Optics Advocate prism sight pairs well with the Black-Jack

 

At the range, one of the Ak’s peculiarities reasserted itself with a vengeance. I’m cross-eye dominant, so I shoot shotguns and rifles with my left hand, and the AK is not south-paw friendly. The safety lever is set up to be operated with the right hand, and while it can be switched on and off with the left hand, it’s nowhere near as convenient as operating it with your right thumb. 

A Heavy Hitter That Shoots Light 

With a milled receiver, aluminum handguard and 16.1-inch barrel, the weight of the Black-Jack is 6.1 pounds, unloaded. Not really heavy, but not svelte, either. However, that mass does mean that there is virtually no felt recoil when shooting the gun, the sights stayed on target, round after round, and transitions from target to target were a snap. I put 300 rounds of ammo from Magtech, Federal and Speer through the gun, and, true to its AK roots, the Black-Jack ran without a hitch. 

Pistol caliber carbines (PCCs) have been popular for years now, and while most of them either go their own way with unique designs or are built on an AR-15 pattern rifle, Show Low Manufacturing has flipped the table and created a carbine that has the fit, finish, accuracy and reliability of an high-end AR pattern PCC, and tied it together with a well-built, AK-style bow. 

Black-Jack Rifle Specifications 

  • Manufacturer: Show Low Manufacturing
  • Action Type: Delayed blowback
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 35 rounds
  • Grips: Magpul MOE 
  • Frame: 6061 aircraft aluminum / Type III Black anodized 
  • Barrel:  4150 CMV / 16.1 inches
  • Sights: None (Picatinny rail on top)
  • Trigger Pull Weight: 2 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Length: 34.25 inches 
  • Width: 2.5 inches
  • Height: 7.81 inches
  • Weight: 6.1 pounds (unloaded)
  • MSRP: $1,749

Accessories shipped with gun: One 35-round Magpul PMag35 EV9, manual 

Shooting Results 

Ammo Test

Average Group Size
(inches)

Average Velocity
(fps)

Minimun Velocity
(FPS)

Maximum Velocity
(FPS)

Magtech 115-grain FMJ

1.95

1,312

1,292

1,341

American Eagle 115-grain FMJ

1.45

1,348

1,338

1,357

Speer Gold Dot Carbine 135-grain JHP

1.38

1,120

1,080

1,179

Testing performed from a rest at 50 yards. Temperature: 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Velocities measured with a Caldwell chronograph positioned 10 feet away from the muzzle. 

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