Review: Grand Power P40 – Slovakian DA/SA Full Ambi Rotating Barrel Plastic Fantastic

    I’m a long term loyal customer for proven platforms. As many of our readers know, I have shot Glock’s for years. The Austrian wonder pistols are a fine example of what can be done with rampant simplification, but they are not the be all and end all of handguns. In fact, some of the weaknesses of the platform have kept me on the lookout for the next best thing.

    Still, change is not easy, so there has to be a reason to do so. Specifically, I have been looking for the following criteria for the potential for change, in no particular order:

    • Full, complete, and mirrored ambidextrous controls.
    • Reliable
    • Excellent trigger for single action or striker-fired.
    • Fully scaled platform across all handgun sizes from concealed carry to competition rocket

    Few handguns currently meet this requirement. Even the new M&P 2.0 falls short with the better but still not good trigger and lack of an ambi mag release. Even the supposed upcoming “M” series Glocks would fail those requirements with the reversible only magazine release. Nuts.

    Constantly searching for new offerings, and hoping the “big guys” would hit the mark, I was surprised a couple years ago to stumble across a company called Grand Power out of Slovakia. Then, I was more surprised that after years of asking a T&E sample, their US importer, Eagle Distributors finally relented.

    Within days of each other, two Grand Power handguns arrived at my doorstep. The first is the latest MK-12 compact 9mm, and the other the full-size P40 .40 S&W model. The focus of this review is on the .40 version, with it being the first out to the range and shot in detail. Another review will be coming on the MK-12.

    Handing the Grand Power P40

    Perhaps taking a page out of Glock’s handbook, the P40 arrives in a very basic foam pistol case. In it was the handgun and two 14 round .40 magazines, and that’s about it. The exterior is not custom embossed, only having the single sticker with the model, company logo, serial number, and few other details. Packaging is decidedly “no frills,” but at least there was a hard case.

    At first glance, the handgun just looks awkward. The slide seems normal, but the sudden raking of the grip to the rear below the trigger guard gives it an almost alien mood. It’s certainly striking. The slide is Sig-ish in profile, just not as tall. Machine marks are present on the top radius of the blued surface and the barrel sticks out easily in its uncoated state. Laser engraving on the barrel matches the slide and frame serial numbers. Good to know all components are tested with one another through production.

    It seems like a big gun, if only for the width. The height and length are nearly identical with a Glock 22 or its Glock 17 9mm cousin, but the width is noticeable in the hand and on the hip – even though at 1.4″ its only .2″ wider. Perhaps its also the added length of the hammer that just makes it feel bigger.

    But, upon picking up the handgun, the aggressive grip comes into its own. For my almost perfectly 50th percentile sized hands, the P40 was a natural, if large, fit in the hand. What looks to be a long length of pull, is just about standard and the sloped back is actually quite ergonomic. Horizontal serrations are on the front strap, with texturing around the palm and for the heel of the hand. The backstrap is smooth with no interchangeability.

    Moving to the controls, the Grand Power P40 is 100% full and mirrored ambidextrous controls. All three external controls are duplicated on both sides in both looks and feel – a nice touch (and I would assert any new handgun design that does not have this is already falling behind). The slide stop/slide release is serrated flat in the perfect position to not be accidentally disengaged by the hand.

    Of note, I want to further compliment the designer’s choices on the magazine release and manual safety. The magazine release is placed farther forward on the handgun than is common to most American designs. Placed right at the crux of the frame and trigger guard, it’s ideal to avoid accidental release by either hand. The firing hand’s middle finger runs just below and the trigger finger has other things to do.

    The manual safety for the double/single-action is likewise placed and shaped well. Frame mounted, its movement is obviously inspired by the 1911 and is easily engaged and disengaged by the firing hand thumb; nice for “cocked and locked” carry. Instead of having to “ride” the safety like many 1911s, the low-profile levers are about perfect for running the hand underneath without fear of engagement during firing. It took me some getting used to not “riding” them, but going back to the1911 became an unwelcome change afterwards – its that good.

    Racking the action is surprisingly smooth and light – especially for a .40 where heavy springs are used to handle the “snappy” recoil of the weapon. Pulling to the rear, one notices almost immediately the lack of definitive “clicks” during each phase of a handgun. The unusual rotating barrel architecture is quiet. Further, I was not able to see any difference in feel with the hammer cocked or with it fallen. The interface between the slide and hammer was nearly polished smooth – excellent.

    Finally, the hammer is serrated and spurred with the trigger being aggressively curved – perhaps a bit too much (more on that later). Markings are kept to a minimum and are subdued. Overall – it’s a handgun meant primarily for business. It’s all function with form following closely.

    Shooting the Grand Power

    Heading out to the range, I had quite literally a bag of random ammunition all thrown together. Options for the guns digestion included Blazer, Federal, Winchester White Box, and defense loads from Hornady (Critical Defense) and Federal (HSTs). Outside of the defensive loads, the ammo was intermixed – a challenge for any handgun.

    Up first was loading the magazines, which are smooth metal featuring the same geometries as the classic CZ series of weapons – with only the magazine release cuts different. As such, they should be reliable. I ran into only one difficulty, which was loading them to full capacity. 13 was reasonably easy, but it took quite a bit of force to go to 14 rounds, even with at MagLuLa. Trying to shove a full 14 round magazine into a closed breach weapon takes even more and is not something I would recommend. However, a fully loaded magazine works quite well at slide-lock, and with the magazine loaded I proceeded to fire.

    And herein is where the Grand Power shines – its factory trigger. While I would not call it the best out there, it’s darn fantastic. Double-action is two stages- about 1/4″ of take up before engaging glass smooth main stage. It stacks only at the very last smidgen of travel, which I like. This gives the shooter the ability to hold the trigger just before release if desired. Moving to single action, the reset is very audible and only slightly tactile but has little over-travel if completely removing the finger from the trigger. Under single-action, the trigger has about .100″ of take up, a wall, and 1911-level release. It’s heavier than most aftermarket 1911s, but the same feel. If “riding the reset” there is no take-up after reset. Shooting rapidly is a breeze.

    I do have one complaint on the trigger and that is the trigger shoe itself. De-cocked, it’s a wicked looking piece, with its heavy curve having the bottom of the trigger far forward in the trigger guard, making the opening small which can be a problem for small hands. Grand Power could opt to reduce the curve a hair and make the trigger itself longer which would greatly enhance the decocked pull. In single-action, you’ll never know.

    Recoil was unexpectedly smooth -especially for a .40. I thought I was going to have a bucking bronco on my hands with the light recoil spring, but the rotating barrel system does wonders to soak it all up. Rapid fire strings were highly enjoyable, especially with larger man-size targets. Going full-speed as fast as my finger could go, I managed a 10″ group at 25 yards. That’s impressive control.

    The sights are an entirely typical three-dot affair. The rear is windage adjustable and interesting, the front sight is not held in place with a screw or dovetail. It’s actually pinned in place in a dovetail. While effective and I am sure bullet-proof, it will make finding aftermarket offerings for the handgun a bit harder as that will require more machining from the sights companies.

    On the accuracy side (note- all accuracy testing was in single-action), the handgun was middle-of-the-road at 3-3.5″ at 25 yards using Hornady Critical Defense shooting off of a Caldwell 7 rest and sandbags. Accuracy was the same with the HSTs. Not quite “match” accuracy, but more than needed for “minute of bad guy”.

    Across the day and nearly 500 rounds of crap-tastic bullets, the Grand Power P40 had only a single hiccup – a failure to eject which can be easily attributed to bad ammo. No issues were present with any of the defensive loads though recoil was a bit pushier than the plinking loads.

    If anything, the range time that day and all the other ones affirmed my belief that guns should be ambi. Doing drills with either hand was so much easier as the manual of arms required no thinking or training. I just did the same action with the opposite hand to the safe effect. It made me appreciate the thought that went into the controls. Combined with the recoil, it was a thoroughly enjoyable firearm.

    The Good:

    • Excellent DA/SA trigger.
    • 100% complete and fully ambidextrous function.
    • Awkward looking, but the ergonomic grip is comfortable in all size hands.
    • Handles .40’s “snappy” recoil well.

    The Notable:

    • This is a true double-action, single-action handgun. Those liking consistent trigger pull should look elsewhere.
    • Field stripping the handgun is certainly unusual for those used to Browning tilting-block designs, but after a few tries, it comes naturally. After all, the Glock was once unusual too.
    • Aftermarket is slowly adding sight options.

    The Bad:

    • Slow aftermarket support, but does have strong parts availability direct from the importer.
    • “Full Size” but has only 14+1 capacity. I practically could only fit 13 in the magazine.

    Final Thoughts

    I’ve seen other reviews that have called the Grand Power’s “The Best Guns You have not Heard Of”.  While I had heard of them previously (and drooled over the X-Caliber model), I was never in a position to agree or disagree with the proclamation that they were “the best.”

    And now, having spent trigger time with the handgun, I am inclined to agree with the statement, albeit with a small caveat. With plenty of good and even great handguns out there, the Grand Power certainly is “the best” of those I have not shot before.

    But, does that make the handgun “the best” there is? Of course not, as that is always a deeply personal opinion. While I can’t in this review make the case for DA/SA guns, I can make the case for the Grand Power. It ticks all the right boxes, is completely ambidextrous, and ate all the cruddy ammo I could put through it with gusto.

    So now, I’d call it the best gun you have heard of and should go shoot. I think it will speak for itself on “the best” for your tastes within the first magazine.

    Nathan S

    One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

    The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.