ZZ Top sang about a Sharp Dressed Man. If ZZ Top were to write a similar song about guns, the Phase 5 CQC would be the perfect choice to star in the music video. The CQC has good looks to spare, but just like a well-appointed man, the gun better have the performance to back up the look. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Phase 5 was founded to solve problems, and whether you need a specialized pistol for self-defense or range fun, the CQC might be your solution. The CQC is an AR-style pistol chambered in 5.56 NATO. The handgun has a 7.5″ barrel with a 1:7″ twist. It uses an M4 barrel extension with M4 feed ramps. Made of 41v50 chromoly steel, the barrel is button rifled.
The CQC is one of the shorter AR pistol packages that I have had the opportunity to shoot. From buffer tube to muzzle device, the overall length of the gun is only 24″. Unloaded, the gun weighs 5 pounds, 4.4 ounces – a bit heavier than I would have expected, but the gun does have a quad rail that adds some of that weight.
A proprietary Lo-Pro Slope Nose Quad Rail comes standard on this Phase 5 pistol. The rail accepts standard Picatinny mount accessories such as weapon lights and laser aiming devices. I found the forend felt thinner in my hand than many other rail systems.
Additionally, the quad rail seemed to have all sharp edges removed from it, making it one of the most comfortable railed fore ends I’ve handled recently. An M-LOK or KeyMod forend will be thinner and less “edgy,” but for a quad Picatinny rail, the Lo-Pro worked well.
The buffer tube is made of 7075 T6 billet aluminum and comes with a foam cheek pad that covers the rear half of the assembly. The Phase 5 logo is emblazoned on the left side of the tube.
Another interesting feature is the Winter Trigger Guard (WTG). The WTG is oversized to allow for shooting with gloved hands. However, instead of merely bowing down for a larger opening for the trigger, the WTG adds visual interest by giving the guard a flattened W appearance. The look is distinctive and the bottom of the guard has the Phase 5 logo.
Also compatible with winter gloves is the Battle Latch Charging Handle Assembly (aka: BL/CHA) used on this pistol. Compared to standard charging handles, the BL/CHA is larger and significantly easier to grip with or without gloves. According to Phase 5, the handle is beefed up to handle regular abuse, yet still retains a low enough profile to work with large optics.
Sights do not come standard on the CQC pistol, but Phase 5 does sell them separately. My pistol came with a set of A.R.M.S. #71L flip-up sights. These sights are spring-loaded, and pop into position when a wide button is depressed on the rear of their base.
The rear sight has a typical round aperture, but adds a pistol-style notch at the top of the sight. If desired, a shooter could use the typical aperture for longer distance shots and the notch for closer ones.
One thing that may be of concern to some shooters is the staking of the bolt carrier group. Phase 5 does not stake in the CQC pistol. Instead, they use witness marks that allow you to check to see if anything is working its way loose. This is not my preference, but there are many people who hold an opposite opinion.
Phase 5 is a California-based manufacturer, and the company is sympathetic to the plight of its local customers who find gun rights curtailed by state laws. In response to the legal realities of the company’s customers, the CQC pistol ships as a single shot pistol with a “bullet button” installed.
For those not familiar with a bullet button, it is a device that replaces a normal magazine and prevents the magazine from being changed without a tool. The name comes from the fact that the nose of a rifle round can serve as the tool and allow the shooter to swap mags.
Normal AR magazines are used in the gun, and are not modified or damaged by the government-mandated device. For shooters outside of California, any size magazine may be used in the gun as long as you are keeping with any local laws.
Here in Florida, I’m not bound by any magazine capacity restrictions, and I am legally allowed to use normal capacity mags. If I planned on keeping the gun, I would swap out the bullet button for a standard magazine release.
Instead, I used a temporary solution: a magnetic tool that allows you to use a bullet button as a normal magazine release. This is ok for a free state, but may run you afoul of the law in California. So, check your local laws before using such a device.
|Caliber||5.56 NATO/.223 Rem|
|Weight (with empty magazine)||5.3 lbs|
|Action||semi-auto, DI gas system|
|Finish||black hardcoat anodized|
|MSRP||$1,250 in standard configuration|
At the Range
I had the CQC pistol on the range for three days, and let three additional shooters run the gun. A significant amount of the ammo shot was a mix of 55 grain .223 and 5.56 ball ammo from various manufacturers. We also ran premium Hornady and Corbon ammo through the gun to test for accuracy and for velocity measurements.
As I expected, the gun is front heavy. I have found this to be the norm with AR-style pistols. However, the gun feels well balanced in the hands when shooting with a support hand on the fore end. The buffer tube is too short for me to use as an improvised stock, though two of the other shooters were able to use the gun in that way. For me, I was easily able to get a cheek weld on the buffer tube’s foam pad and shoot the gun without shoulder contact.
The A.R.M.S. flip-up sights were very easy to work with, and they reliably popped up without hesitation throughout the days on the range. I found the circular aperture on the rear sight worked well for me at all distances, while another of the shooters found the notch on top of the rear sight worked best for him at closer ranges.
No magazines ship with the Phase 5 pistol. As it turns out, I had several new magazines from ASC on hand to run in the CQC. ASC makes a variety of stainless steel and aluminum AR magazines that have a self-lubricating finish and use chrome silicon springs with anti-tilt followers. With 10-, 20- and 30-round ASC magazines, the CQC ran like a top. We also tested the gun with 30-round Magpul PMAG magazines, and found they ran 100% also.
|Corbon .223 Rem 55 gr DPX||2,265 fps||627 ft-lbs|
|Hornady .223 Rem 55 gr TAP Urban||2,226 fps||605 ft-lbs|
|Hornady .223 Rem 55 gr V-Max||2,142 fps||560 ft-lbs|
There were no malfunctions with any of the ammunition. I generally don’t like shooting groups for self-defense pistol reviews as the numbers are largely meaningless. After all, the gun is likely to be far more accurate than the person pulling the trigger is capable of. However, the 5.56/.223 rounds are known for good accuracy, so I did shoot some five shot groups out of curiosity.
All of the premium rounds turned in good groups at 25 yards. One of my personal favorites, the 55 grain Hornady TAP loads, gave the best performance with multiple sub-2″ groups. The best five-shot group also came from the Hornady TAP: 1.625″. These groups were all shot hand-held without a brace or rest.
As is to be expected, velocity measurements from a 7.5″ barrel are significantly less than from a 16″ or longer barrel. Even so, all of the loads averaged velocities above 2100 fps. The Corbon DPX load uses an all-copper projectile and was the fastest of the premium loads, measuring 2265 fps on average. This works out to be more than 600 ft-lbs of energy.
Unfortunately, some of my range notes were lost. So, I only have the chronograph data for the above loads. Other 55 grain loads were in the same velocity range.
Recoil is not heavy considering we were shooting a rifle round from a pistol. However, muzzle blast was substantial. This is not unique to the Phase 5 pistol. It has been my experience that shooting .223 or 5.56 from a short barrel gun results in a great deal of noise and a significant pressure wave. I find that the blast does not impact my desire to continue shooting, but it can annoy the guy shooting next to you.
If you consider using any short barrel AR pistol or rifle for self-defense, I strongly encourage you to consider some type of sound suppression. Adding a sound suppressor to the gun does require additional paperwork and expense, but what is the value of your hearing? If a suppressor is unobtainable, at least consider storing a pair of electronic earmuffs with the gun. If you need to grab the gun, you can don the hearing protection quickly and preserve both your hearing and tactical awareness should you be forced to shoot.
Is It Enough?
One of the concerns I have when dealing with very short barrel AR rifles and pistols is whether the 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington loads lose too much power to be effective at stopping an attacker. There are many people who believe the cartridge out of a 16″ – 20″ barrel is marginal for stopping an attacker.
While I personally believe the cartridges are very effective in a full length barrel, I do wonder where the tipping point is. Does a 55 grain bullet that works well at 2,800 fps retain its ability to put an attacker down at only 2,100 fps? If not, at what point does velocity reduction significantly retard the nebulous concept of stopping power?
Consider that I’ve chronographed the same loads as these in a Diamondback AR pistol with a 7.5″ barrel and saw similar velocities. Yet, with a Black Creek Precision 9mm AR pistol with a 10.5″ barrel, Liberty Ammunition’s 50 grain 9mm round was making for more than 2,500 fps with less recoil and muzzle blast. It may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, but I think that’s the point. A very short barrel AR in 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem may not be as good for home defense as we might think.
There are an increasing number of AR-style pistols on the market, and consumers have a great deal of choice when deciding which to buy. Should you consider the Phase 5 CQC?
From a reliability perspective, my gun ran perfectly with a variety of ammunition and magazines. The controls and sights all worked as well after three days of shooting as they did when the gun came out of the box. None of the pins, screws or parts showed any sign of movement or loosening during or after the shooting. This includes the bolt carrier key.
From an aesthetic perspective, the CQC has enough stylistically that sets it apart from other AR-style pistols that are on the market. From the Slope Nose Quad Rail to the Winter Trigger Guard, you know that this pistol is different from the others you might take a look at. The finish was blemish free and the logos and engraving were all sharp and attractive.
I liked this gun. If you live in a rights-restricted state that requires a “bullet button” and artificially reduced magazine capacity, the Phase 5 pistol may be one of your only options for purchase. But for those living in the free states, the pistols are definitely worth your consideration. A quick swap of the bullet button for a standard magazine release and you have a rockin’ AR pistol for the range and personal defense.
I think the question of if this gun is right for you will depend on your intended use and desires. I’m not convinced that a 7.5″ AR pistol is ideal for home defense. I like the size, but that short barrel may bleed off the advantages of the cartridge when compared to standard pistol cartridges – especially when those pistol calibers are run from an AR pistol or SBR.
Updated: March 31, 2022
You deserve to know what, if any, biases may influence my review of the Phase 5 pistol.
This gun was loaned to me by Phase 5 for the purposes of conducting a shooting test and review. While I’m sure they were hoping I would provide a positive look at their handgun, they did not request a positive review, nor did I promise to do one. The gun was returned to the company at the end of the testing period.
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