A closer look at Shadow Systems’ DR920 pistol series, including both the DR920P and DR920L.
I’ll preface this entire article with a factual statement: I’ve owned several Glock 34s and a few Glock 17s. I sold all of them. I just couldn’t get on board with the grip angle, and unless it was stippled with a grip reduction and magwell, I just couldn’t index the pistols as well as I could something that was closer to a Glock 19. I thought this was due to my medium-sized hands, or my wrist geometry, and rather than smashing a square peg in a round hole, I moved onto platforms that tangoed with my own personal geometry a bit better.
Then I had a dance with Shadow Systems’ full-size DR920 pistols—the DR920P and DR920L (P for performance, and L for long). I’m starting to change my tune.
Out of the box, both of these full-size guns pointed well for me and indexed very naturally.
Then I started to run some rounds through them. I may or may not have said holy sh*t after running a mag or two through the long-slide offerings. I’m going to tackle each gun individually, as they each have their own personality and nuances—the DR920L specifically, but I’ll briefly discuss what they have in common now.
Their frames are essentially identical. It’s the DR920P frame, with all the fixings Shadow Systems is known for: Interchangeable backstraps—NPOA (natural point of aim), extra material guarding the slide stop, refined grip angle beavertail and what I regard as Goldilocks stippling. Not too rough, not too slick, it’s just right. They both come wearing a magwell, which contrary to previous articles I’ve written on the MR920—I’ve grown to love. It isn’t ostentatious like a Dawson Ice magwell, but also isn’t adding a mere .001mm to the magazine opening. It’s, again, not too big, not too small. It also, like most of their compact and full-size offerings, comes with a thumb ledge on either side forward of the trigger guard, lending itself to shooting fast and applying downward pressure.
Essentially a gassed Glock 17/34 frame, these are compatible with those Glock 17/34 mags you have lying around, or the Magpul 17-rounders. These guns ship with two of the latter.
Other DR920 Commonalities
The two DR920 pistols (clearly) have different top ends, muzzles and barrel lengths, but they share a few key features on the top end. Namely, Shadow System’s patented optic system. I’ve covered this rather extensively in my other pieces on the company’s MR920 offering—the Glock 19 size counterpart—but suffice it to say you can direct-mount pretty much anything right to the slide with the help of a variety of shims and screws of various lengths—pretty cool.
They also both sport bronze-colored spiral fluted barrels, which are match-grade, conventionally rifled, 416R stainless and incredibly accurate—the DR920P has a 4.48-inch barrel and the DR920L a 5.3-inch barrel. Both of these fit into a Glock 34 holster (or one that’s open-ended and meant for a G17) and are essentially the same length. The compensator adds about another 1.3 inches to the DR920P. I consider the MR920 as one of the flattest, fastest shooting plastic fantastics out there, but I’m here to tell you that either of these guns can take that spot on the mantle. They’re fast, eat recoil for breakfast, and man, the 920L shoots like a phaser gun: both with accuracy and minimal felt recoil.
Both guns come with tritium front sights and blacked-out rears, but it’s worth calling out that the DR920P’s sight is mounted to the compensator and fixed, whereas the 920L’s is mounted to the slide and user-serviceable. They also both have captured recoil springs and stainless-steel guide rods.
Now let’s talk about each of them individually.
The P in DR920P stands for performance (the DR stands for Duty Role; as an aside, I’ve heard that SWAT units are running this rig). And while I admittedly did have some issues getting this gun to run reliably, I still would label it a performance firearm. I spoke to Trevor Roe, the CEO of Shadow Systems, and he let me know that when they were coming up with this pistol, they first asked consumers if they wanted the flattest shooting gun that’s ammo selective, or something more reliable with a little less compensation.
Now, before I proceed, I will admit that I was running some downloaded 147gr reloads which do not cycle in some of my other factory guns. This also voids their warranty per the manual. Read: don’t try this at home. The DR920P ran factory 124s and 147s just fine, but with how much I shoot, and the matches I shoot, I need to roll my own. I got plenty of short strokes and stove pipes when running my competition reloads, even after changing the spring out to a lighter 15-pound one (which was included, by the way!). I pressed out some 115gr and 124gr ammo that was a bit hotter, and they ran perfectly fine. The moral: compensated guns need full-power ammo. And hell, it’s compensated, whatever extra recoil you pick up is mitigated by the downward force of the vertical compensation ports.
Speaking of the compensator, they have a very novel design that’s zero-fit and doesn’t need a threaded barrel (in case you live in a state that doesn’t love freedom). This patent pending design makes it easy to break down and clean. And in my experience, this thing will need to be cleaned—I shot it so much I occluded the tritium in my front sight and had to start point shooting at one point.
I did catch myself shooting a bit high with this gun, and I needed to use a 6 o’clock hold to clear the plate rack as fast as I wanted to. I was pretty dead set on not running an optic on this since the compensator has a front sight mounted directly on it. This is both cool from an engineering perspective and useful for accuracy, since the compensator doesn’t reciprocate with the slide, you don’t get that dancing front sight effect. That, admittedly, could be why I had to change my POA a bit. However, I broke down, like so many that have moved the carry optics dark side and put a dot on it. And now, it’s smoking plate racks and 10-shot fist-sized groups at 25 yards.
True to Shadow System’s roots, this gun has all the features we’ve come to expect—the stippling as I mentioned, the bronze-colored spiral fluted barrel, window cuts, and more. It doesn’t have the top serrations like other Elite models but does have the forward and rear cocking serrations. It also has a very elegant integration of the comp to the slide which mate together seamlessly. The front sight, as referenced, rides on the comp, which forced me to adjust my grip when press checking so as not to pinch my hand between the slide and the comp. But overall, it just looks cool, fast, and refined.
The DR920P is loads of fun and shoots very, very flat. It’s loud, of course, due to the compensator, but it’s billed for that. It shoots fast, but I would not want to run retention shooting drills with it. Recoil? What recoil? Even with 115s or hot Winchester brown box 124s, this gun stayed flat and performed like I was shooting 147s from an uncompensated gun. My groups and follow-up shots were tight, due obviously to the comp preventing muzzle rise. And the larger grip frame definitely helps the shooter maintain a good purchase for Bill Drills and mag dumps.
The trigger is solid for a “stock” gun, even though most of Shadow Systems’ higher-end offerings are “Gucci from the get-go,” with a 3-pound, 1-ounce break on average for my scale across 10 pulls (which is lower than what’s listed on the spec sheet). It’s leaps and bounds better than a stock Glock or M&P trigger, for sure. With a crisp tactile reset and short travel, this gun is very shootable, with irons or dots. As mentioned, I did eventually break down and put a dot on it (the optics mounting system makes it far too easy), and this thing just flies through plate racks and rapid-fire drills.
One of the main selling points of this gun is the cross-compatibility with most G34 holsters. Given that the DR920P’s comp is streamlined and not blocky, the user can use the G34 or open-ended G17 holsters they have laying around. Since the frames are similar to G17/34s, you can obviously use any double-stack magazine that is 17 rounds or more. Since it has a rail on it, you can also run a light, laser, or whatever other accessories you have for your full-size pistol. Besides the removable magwell and lighter spring, this DR920 variant also comes with some extras from the factory such as extra high-temp O-rings for the compensator (they’re only a couple of bucks if you burn through them), backstraps and a Shadow Systems range bag.
- Frame: Textured polymer
- Slide Material: 17-4 Stainless Steel
- Barrel Material: 416R Stainless Steel
- Trigger pull: 4.0-4.5 pounds
- Weight: 21.5 ounces
- Length: 8.44 inches
- Width: 1.20 inches
- Height: 5.25 inches
- Capacity: 17+1
- Barrel Length: 4.48 inches
- Caliber: 9×19
- Action: Striker-Fired
Now to the newest addition to the Shadow Systems line, and one that I’d hazard competition shooters have been waiting for for a while: the DR920L. The L, in this case, stands for long-slide. The 5.3-inch barrel makes this Shadow Systems’ largest, longest, and arguably fastest shooting pistol. Only available in the Elite flavor, this gun comes with the same aesthetic we’ve seen from Shadow Systems in the MR/DR/XR/CR Elite tiers. It has a stippled frame with reduced grasping surfaces, a magwell, a thumb ledge, a spiral fluted barrel, directional cocking serrations on both the side and top of the slide and lightning cuts.
“Around the shop, we called it the laser gun. After spending so much time with shorter sight radius and snappier guns, the DR920L feels effortless to hit with,” commented Trevor Roe, CEO of Shadow Systems. This was the company’s big release at SHOT 2023, and this gun is definitely a dream to shoot. In testing, I was able to get 5 shots on target from the holster in 1.7-1.9 seconds consistently. My splits got about as low as I’d ever seen with a pistol (.17 territory) and that was only the first outing. Maybe the L should stand for Lightning because you can shoot this thing fast.
From a styling perspective, it just looks sharp. Lightning cuts, more serrations than a bread knife, and the contrast of the barrel make it look simply alluring. Does it shoot as good as it looks, though?
When it comes to shootability, the long-slide DR920 has it all. It’s pleasant to shoot and reminds me of one of my CZs but at a fraction of the weight, and it comes optics-ready. It soaks up recoil and runs just about every type of ammo I shoot without issue. I did not have a single failure with this pistol in the over 500 rounds I tested it with. The low bore axis, high grip, stippling, thumb ledge, long slide, and lightened slide all coalesce into a pleasant, fast-shooting package that is more accurate than I am. As I stated at the outset, I’ve often been nonplussed at best by Glock full-size guns, but this DR920 points incredibly intuitively for me. With a long sight radius, I’m trying really hard not to give into my bad habit of putting an optic on everything, so I’m just shooting this with irons for a while in production or limited in USPSA.
The trigger is metal, just like all other Elite models, and has the same crisp, tactile reset we’ve come to expect from Shadow Systems. On my scale, it breaks at 2 pounds, 15 ounces on average across ten pulls on a Lyman digital gauge. With the longer sight radius and full-size grip, I feel like it’s easier to press to the rear, but this could be an illusion by way of the former points—a bigger gun equates to less felt movement. The reset is audible, and I don’t catch myself with any trigger freeze when doing mag dumps or quick target transitions. She runs right out of the box, and as opposed to other wonder-polys, I don’t feel the immediate, almost compulsive need to swap the stock trigger (see: Glock, Smith & Wesson).
Since it’s a big ‘un, any G34 or open-ended G17 holster will work for this. It comes with all the same accessories as the compensated DR920 save for the O-ring and reduced power recoil spring since they’re not necessary. You can mount any choice of weapon light on it, and can go as big as a Streamlight TLR1 without it jutting out past the muzzle.
- Caliber: 9×19
- Action: Striker-Fired
- Weight: 22.4 ounces (Elite)
- Frame: Textured polymer
- Length: 7 ¼ inches (unthreaded)
- Height: 5 ¼ inches
- Slide Material: 17-4 Stainless Steel; Barrel Material: 416R Stainless Steel
- Trigger pull: 4.5-5.0 pounds
- Capacity: 17+1
- Front Sight: Green Outline, Tritium Dot
- Rear Sight: Black Serrated
I went into this review thinking that full-size guns just aren’t my jam, especially with the advent of slide-mounted optics. Why shoot a longer gun when the need for a sight radius isn’t there anymore? Well, I was wrong. Even though an MR920/Glock 19 grip frame fits my hand rather well, there’s nothing wrong with some extra real estate, and there’s assuredly nothing wrong with the added mass, barrel length (and thus velocity) of a larger frame gun.
My only druther is the pickiness of ammo for the DR920P, but once I found what worked, I didn’t have many complaints. The pistol is loud, of course, but shoots fast, flat and looks badass. For the 920L, I have no druthers, I just wish on got on the long-slide train sooner.
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