The least-known handgun made by IMI/IWI is probably the Barak. It was imported ever so briefly by Magnum Research as the SP-21, and then dumped after poor sales. Eventually, it was also removed from the IWI sales catalog as well.
I think this is a tragedy, because the Barak is one of the best polymer hammer-fired handguns ever made.
The Barak’s action is based on the standard Jericho/Tanfoglio/CZ-75 action, but with a clever twist – it uses side-by-side dual captured recoil springs instead of a single recoil spring mounted between the slide and the barrel link. This is very similar to the Desert Eagle system. It would be interesting to see if the gun could run on a single recoil spring, so as to test whether this change was for increased reliability, or if it was just for more flexibility in what calibers could be used. Either way, it makes field stripping the gun far more pleasant, since there’s no spring to go flying off into the distance, or launch your slide at unfortunate passers-by.
The slide is also unique. The rear of the slide uses a polymer overmolding to provide a surface to grip (and in the IMI version, rear sights). The front of the slide is smooth and cylindrical, and not very easy to grab – but is rather svelte and snag free. There is no bushing, either.
I’ve seen a lot of theories about the polymer overmold, so let me state that 1) it doesn’t come out easily, if at all and 2) the slide’s face is not part of the overmolded bit. I know a lot of people had visions of swapping out a plastic face, a barrel, springs, and maybe mags to switch calibers a bit more cheaply, but that doesn’t look like how the gun was designed. As far as I can tell, the overmold is purely to provide a gripping service for the barrel, and possibly to reduce weight from using an all-steel slide.
Also on the slide is a top-mounted decocker button, just like the Walther P99. It took me about five seconds to fall in love with this feature, as it allows you to carry however you want. This would include condition 1, in theory – the gun supposedly has a firing pin block and a safety hook on the hammer.
Speaking of safety features, the Barak has an integrated lock on the bottom of the frame. I don’t have a key for it, so I have no idea if it works. Thankfully, my guns were unlocked when I received them. Integrated locks are not well-thought-of by US gun enthusiasts, but might be more appealing internationally.
The barrel is also pretty interesting – it has a significantly belled profile (the bell being at the front), which fits directly into the slide (no bushing). There are compact 1911s which utilize the belled barrel, no bushing approach, but I’ve never seen it elsewhere. The barrel does not seem especially tight against the slide, so I’m supposing that this was to allow for a sharper barrel tilt or cheaper manufacturing, and not some sort of accuracy enhancement.
A surprising missing feature is a trigger safety. I don’t love trigger safeties, but a trigger safety would have provided a relatively simple “final safety” for carrying in condition 1. Given how the Barak feels like someone took a bunch of good ideas from other guns and grafted them to the polymer Jericho, you would have thought a simple trigger safety would be easy to add to the mix… I guess not.
I don’t love the ergonomics on this gun, and the complaints feel similar to the ones I had about the Jericho 941F. The frame-mounted safety is too hard to move one-handed (albeit it’s ambidextrous), and the grip just feels a little too big. The finger ridges aren’t the worst I’ve used, but the grip is textured enough that I doubt their necessity. The hammer is hard to thumb down if you want to practice single action dry-firing. Note that you cannot manipulate the hammer at all while the gun is safed, and that includes racking the slide back if the hammer is up.
The mag release is alright, but hampered by the grip. And, on the subject of magazines, this gun uses Jericho magazines. They’re not as easily available as Glock mags, but they’re hardly rare. You can Israeli-made E-Lander mags for $22 or so online.
The trigger, on the other hand, was really pretty good. Very nice single-action trigger pull, and the double-action pull was very manageable – reminded me of my Sig P226 DAK. Reset was crisp, but not especially short.
The one meaningful way that the IWI and IMI models diverge are the rear sights. Both of my Baraks have three dot sights, but the IMI model has them integrated into a hump on the plastic overmold on the slide, whereas the IWI model has them dovetailed in the more traditional fashion. Personally speaking, I liked the IMI’s sights better, as they seemed a little closer (and thus I didn’t feel like the slide interfered with my sight picture as much).
Field stripping is easy, but you need to know a couple tricks. First, you push the slide a tiny bit back so it’s lined up with the front of the frame. Second, you smack the slide stop with a base plate and then pry it out – unlike the Browning High Power, there’s a small pin holding the slide stop in on the CZ-75 and derivatives, so finger pressure is unlikely to do the job. Once you do that, it’s a little disconcerting (and refreshing!) to be able to just pull out the slide and remove the spring assembly with no finger gymnastics. Reassembly is even smoother, since you don’t need to have a tool to put the slide stop back in.
On the range, the Barak was uneventful. No failures, and accuracy was as good as expected from a combat pistol. The ammo used for testing was Freedom Munitions 147gr RN subsonic 9mm. Recoil was a bit snappier than I predicted, but was probably due to the relatively light weight of the pistol.
Even though I have some complaints about the ergos of this gun, it’s still a great effort from IWI, and a decided step forward from the Jericho. It combines great features from other guns with the tried-and-true Jericho platform. It’s a shame that it failed so badly in the US due to poor marketing and an unconventional appearance.
I’d encourage IWI US to think about reintroducing this pistol to the US market in its Jericho B form. While striker-fired polymer pistols are the current hotness, there is still a substantial market for polymer hammer-fired guns.