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Lionheart LH9 Review

During my career and personal life, I have carried a lot of different handguns.  From a service Beretta to a duty carry H&K USP Tactical, a Kimber 1911 to an FN 5.7; I’ve experienced the pros and cons of different controls and functions.  This doesn’t make me an “expert” in the handgun, but it does give me a wealth of experience to put to use when handling a new model of handgun to determine its merits, quality and consistency.  Monderno tasked me with evaluating the Lionheart Industries LH9, I had heard a little about the company and perhaps a little less about that particular model of handgun, so I figured I would be as objective as possible when reviewing it, or at least try very hard to be.

Lionheart LH9, photo by Sage Dynamics

Lionheart LH9, photo by Sage Dynamics


Caliber 9mm
Size & weight Length – 7.5″
Barrel Length – 4.1″
Weight – 25.9 oz
Mag Capacity 13, 15
Features Double Action PLUS+
Short Trigger Reset
Short Recoil
Semi-Automatic Sights - Genuine Novak Sights
Safety – Ambidextrous Manual Safety, Passive Firing Pin Block
Rifling – Six grooves 1:13″
Grips – One piece black polymer
Finish – Cerakote
Materials Frame – Forged 7075-T6 Aluminum
Slide – Forged 4140 Steel
Barrel – Forged 4150 Steel

The LH9 isn’t a “new” gun by definition, it is a modernized Daewoo K5 which was heavily influenced in its development by the Browning Hi-Power and Smith and Wesson 39/59 pistols.  The K5 has been in service with the South Korean military since 1989; which says much for its favor and reliability. To those who may look down their noses at a handgun used by another nation, I would like to point out that not only Americans know how to make quality firearms.

So what is modernized about the LH9?  The slide has been given more aggressive serrations, the hammer changed from a spur to a rounded style, the entire firearm is Cerakoted and the grips have been updated with more modern materials that arguably provide a better, more consistent grip surface.  Now, this isn’t “much” modernization, though the same could be said between the 1911 and 1911A1.  Sometimes a few small changes are all it takes to improve an already reliable tool.

Lionheart LH9

When my review model came in, the first thing I noticed was the size of the LH9.  It didn’t strike me as a full size handgun, didn’t feel like one, didn’t carry like one but with a barrel length of 4.1” it fits into the full size category.   The ergonomics let the gun fit the hand well, even with the downward swell of the trigger guard, I found that the LH9 presented naturally from the draw and establishing a grip was not a problem despite over 5 years and counting of primarily Glock use.   The sights are fixed three dot, not too much unlike those found on more modern Hi-Powers and not much different than those on the Beretta.  The slide release is generous in size (especially important for me, as I am primarily a left-handed shooter) and the ambidextrous safety operates easily (less so when you put it through the abuse I did, but we will get to that).

What about tolerances?  The LH9 is a good balance between precise engineering and realistic understanding of harsh condition design.  The barrel is a chrome chamfered match grade, its fit in the slide is very tight, no rattle, no play.  The slide works with expected spring tension without so much that a grip may be lost or so little that it would stutter when filled with carbon or debris.  Of course flawless operation while clean is one thing; we would have to see how it did once it got dirty.

My first run of tests were all about dryfire; and the first thing you notice about the LH9 when you work the trigger is its operation.  It’s a Double Action/Single Action gun without a decocker, though it doesn’t operate in the traditional manner as a DA/SA gun.  When the slide is racked as if chambering a round, the hammer is left in the SA mode.  At this point you can safe the weapon for cocked carry, or push the hammer forward with your thumb to place it in the Double Action Plus mode.  This functionally de-cocks the LH9 while leaving the mainspring compressed.  When you wish/need to fire, the pull is mechanically reduced from the DA pull; effectively the resistance is nothing more than the movement of the trigger from its DA position to the SA position, the hammer is cocked back at this time and can be fired without the heavier pull of DA.

Having carried three different DA/SA guns in my life, I am not a fan of heavy Double Action weights, especially under the stress of real life. The first round may be the most important round you fire, and tension being an enemy of accuracy, a heavy pull may contribute to a missed first round.  This fact is one of my main reasons for preferring striker fired guns.  Since the LH9 offers a bit of a deviation from traditional DA/SA operation, I was actually looking forward to shooting the hell out of it.

But first I had to check something that is always a great concern of mine with all metal guns; cold weather.  I carried a Beretta as my duty pistol in the cold North of California for years and one thing that all metal guns are prone to (more so, arguably than a polymer frame handgun) is freezing and icing.  My Beretta would regularly dry freeze if out in the elements for too long, the magazine release and safety would become sticky, the trigger mushy and slow to reset.  This would be made even worse if the weapon had any sort of contact with moisture such as rain or snow.  I experienced more than a few malfunctions on the range with a cold gun that had been exposed to the elements long enough to have an ambient temperature.  So naturally after giving the Lionheart a coating of Fireclean (the only lubrication it would receive during the entire testing period) I put it in the freezer for 24 hours.  It was kept at a temperature of 19 degrees and upon pulling it out of the freezer, all controls functioned and the trigger press, while somewhat sluggish, worked flawlessly.  Next I gave the LH9 a spray of water, random to closely mimic natural contact with exposed carry, and froze it again.  24 hours later the magazine release was frozen, though the safety and trigger functioned fine.   It was time to take it to the range.

I planned on 1000 rounds of fire without cleaning in some very worst-case scenario but realistic contacts with the environment.  First up was the freeze test.  24 hours dry, 24 hours wet.  The dry freeze test went off without so much as an issue.  The wet freeze test was a little different; the LH9 failed to fire on the first pull of the trigger, it fired and cycled fine on the second and every round after that.  I then let it sit submerged in pond water for two hours; this also (somewhat predictably) did not affect the LH9.

I ran it wet with mud for over 300 rounds, covered in dirt and mulch for another 200, froze it wet and muddy then put another 200 rounds through.  As the filth built up I expected failures, but aside from the failure to fire during the first wet freeze test, I did not see another malfunction until I hit 800 rounds.  During a quick string running on a timer I would be reloading between two magazines already caked in mud from the wet range.  I was literally introducing wet Gerogia clay into a hot weapon via the magazine and it managed to cause a double feed when some of it was wedged into the extractor.  It cleared with remedial action and the only other malfunction I had before the 1000 rounds was up was one more failure to fire.  Handguns malfunction, the dirtier they get, and the worse the ammunition you use, (my test was done with 500 rounds of reloaded ammo and 500 rounds of Wolf in 115 Grain) the more likely you are to have a malfunction.   So a few malfunctions in 1000 rounds was something I expected.  When I hit 1000 rounds the LH9 was running consistent and shooting accurate, which I would say makes it a success.

At 1000 rounds I decided it was time to put duty ammo though it.  Reliably feeding ball ammunition is one thing, the feeding of hollow points is another thing entirely.  I decided on three different types of hollow points, Federal HST, Hydra Shok and Speer Gold Dot. Each round has a different ogive, some shorter than others and the shorter the round, especially when feeding against a steep feed ramp, the more likely a failure to feed.  I was actually expecting a malfunction with this test and I was disappointed.  I could not cause a failure it seemed without going far into the unrealistic.  Before I was done I ran the LH9 through more mud, more dirt and more random debris; I literally could not get this gun to fail.  I decided that I was done.


Throughout the tests the Lionheart shot accurately.  I honestly shoot better with a striker-fired gun, but managed to pull respectable groups at 10, 15 and 25 yards.  Obviously accuracy is subjective.  The gun will always be more accurate than we, knowing that I can say that the LH9 is going to be more than accurate in anyone’s hands if they do their part.  I managed to pull 120 yard body-size steel hits with it after pulling it out of a pond; I’d say that’s reliable accuracy.

So what do I think of the LH9?  Well, I don’t like DA/SA guns.  Don’t own any, have no plans to.  But that’s my personal preference.  I feel like the LH9 is a well-built, simple design that is reliable and ergonomic to the hand.  Its controls are well placed and large enough for function under stress; it works dirty, it works frozen, it works clean.  If I had to carry a DA/SA duty gun, I would not be disappointed if I was handed an LH9.  If you are looking for an all-metal handgun and want an alternative to SIG, Beretta, S&W or any other all-metal design, the LH9 is an excellent choice.

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6 Responses to Lionheart LH9 Review

  1. Chris Knowles March 31, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Thanks for taking the time for a beyond thorough test and great read!

  2. g March 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    A great review, though as a LH9 owner, I’m a bit biased. Still, it’s awesome SD and Monderno take the time to really push the pistol to its limits. Great photos and video, too!

  3. Stacy Cornett March 31, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    The more I hear about the gun. The more I like it. Thank you for the info.

  4. eric March 31, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Still have not seen one of these in a store anywhere…really like the looks of it and all the reviews I have seen have been very positive.

    • Lionheart Industries April 1, 2014 at 11:15 am #


      If your favorite local gun shop does not stock our products, you can always have them order a single gun to try out through either Banger’s distribution or Sports South distribution. If you have any other questions, please reach us at 888-552-4743.

      Best Regards,


  5. IFSA September 13, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    What is the point of the “double-action plus” feature? With proper training, it would seem to offer the same mechanical operation advantages of a striker-fired pistol, except that it still has to be de-cocked before holstering.

    On the other hand, the untrained newbie is likely to use the usual practice of putting pressure on the trigger before being ready to fire. Thinking that it’s a conventional DA trigger, and because of the common belief that doing so is “ok with a heavy DA trigger”, they’re going to have an AD.

    It seems to be a great gun for the experienced, and for those with the fore-sight to train with their equipment.