6. The compact 3.8-inch polymer frame Jericho is an excellent defensive pistol for easy carry.

IWI makes superb fighting pistols—the Jericho 941 line with steel or polymer frames. Both types of guns are highly evolved developments of the old Czechoslovak CZ-75 SP-01 variants, but with more ergonomic controls. Like its progenitor, Jericho uses a relatively narrow slide that rides inside the frame, rather than around it as most autoloaders. That makes the pistol less top-heavy but reduces the slide area available for grasping. In common, both model types have 4.4-inch barrels, 16-round magazines and DA/SA triggers with cocked-and-locked option. The sear- and trigger-blocking safety can be engaged with the hammer up or down and locks the slide-in battery. The slide stop and the safety levers are on the left side only, but they are substantial machined pieces with plenty of purchase even for gloved hands. Sights are basic, streamlined, drift-adjustable post and notch, with white dots. Both variants come with accessory rails on the dust cover.

The short recoil Browning action is conventional, as is the take-down. To field strip, line up two hash marks on the rear left of the slide and push the slide stop acting also as the barrel axis pin to the left. Due to the weight of the retaining spring, it’s simplest to do this by pressing against a hard surface. With the pin out, the slide comes off to the front, and the recoil spring comes out from the bottom of the slide together with its guide. The barrel comes out the same way, completing the disassembly for regular cleaning.

The differences are subtle but important. The polymer, full-size PL9 weighs 28 ounces empty, while the all-steel, full-size F9 is noticeably heftier at 36.8 ounces—about as much as the polymer model weighs but with a full-loader magazine. The PL9 frame is almost entirely plastic, with only a small steel locking insert and molded-in slide rails. Besides the weight differential, the plastic model also has the advantage of a lower cost by about $80. In a cold climate, in particular, the polymer model would be more comfortable to use due to reduced heat transmission to the hand. Granted, the grip panels are soft rubber, but the front and backstrap of the grip would be very chilly metal. With this terrific polymer-framed model available, why is steel still on the menu?

3. The polymer and steel pistols have identical manual of arms, permitting seamless switch-over between them.

Steel F9 Advantages

Turns out the steel F9 has some advantages of its own. The trigger is lighter, 5.5 pounds single-action versus the 7.5 pounds of the PL9. The double-action is correspondingly 12 pounds versus 16 pounds. The heavily curved metal triggers feel lighter than that on both models, but the advantage of lighter pull for accurate and rapid fire remains. With much of the extra weight residing in the prominent slab dust cover, the steel F9 feels more front-heavy. It’s a little harder to point but much easier to return to the target after each shot, generating less muzzle rise on recoil. I would estimate that the entire PL9 magazine can be fired off aimed in about five seconds, while F9 can be emptied in four seconds with about the same effect on the target and less wear on the hands. The polymer grip has prominent finger grooves and a more textured backstrap, while the rubber grips provide better hold than the slightly textured plastic side panels. Ergonomically, the sole challenge is with the racking of the relatively small slide against the combined pressure of the recoil and hammer springs. Cocking the hammer before racking makes the process much easier.

5. Slide stop and safety levers have just enough ledge for sure activation without snagging.

Making Decisions

4. A CrossBreed® hybrid Kydex/leather holster and magazine pouch make discreet IWB carry comfortable.

To some extent, the decision would be made by the available weight allowance. For backpacking, I would definitely grab one more full magazine for the same weight. Heading to an IDPA match, I’d go with old-fashioned steel. The plastic frame would cause less torque on the belt and thus be much more comfortable in a paddle holster, but steel would work just fine in a belt slide or IWB rig. I tried the two pistols against each other for accuracy at the range: there’s no perceptible difference. Both guns are impressively accurate: steel silhouettes ring reliable at 100 yards; an 8-inch steel gong got hit with almost every round at 50 yards. The edge goes to the all-steel pistol; mostly because it wears the shooter’s hands less and has a slightly lighter trigger pull. Mechanically, I didn’t perceive a difference. The accuracy with both pistols is limited by the shooter competency and the iron sights. There’s no ready provision for attaching optics.

A very useful JGear™ Kit is available from IWI: it includes an adjustable paddle holster, a two-magazine carrier and an UpLULA® magazine loader, a cleaning rod and, most importantly, Meprolight Tru-Dot® Tritium sights. Jericho is also available with a fractionally shorter 3.8-inch barrel in either steel or polymer, but with the full-size grip, producing a 3-ounce reduction of weight at the slight cost in sight radius. If weight is a concern, the IWI Masada at 21 ounces provides a rather more drastic reduction without as much barrel length loss, but the Jericho PSL9 mid-size offers a useful option for shooters with smaller hands (the polymer grip is slightly thinner), and it’s even less front-heavy, making it easier to hold on target before the shot. For shooters who like recoil, the mid-sized steel Jericho FS45 is also available in .45 ACP.

1. The slides are very similar, but the frames are not. The plastic frame is actually thinner and so requires a shorter action pin. Steel locking block and slide rails are visible.

To my mind, the two pistols are complementary to each other. They can use most of the same holsters, the same magazines, ammunition and the identical manual of arms. The steel-framed variant would make the most sense at home, in a vehicle, at the office or in any environment where its weight isn’t a handicap. For high-volume sport shooting, steel is the obvious winner. The polymer-framed model would feel better on a nature hike, on a boat or in an environment where armor and long guns already add up to a lot of carried weight. IWI produced a logical refinement of the CZ-75 concept rather than just a clone and at a very attractive price.

7. An adjustable paddle holster and magazine pouch are available from IWI as a JGear™ Kit.