Daniel Defense H9 Review – A Critical Look

by Ryan Cleckner

March 6, 2024

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As I sit down to write this H9 review, I’m not sure whether it is all going to be about Daniel Defense’s newest pistol or whether it’s also going to include plenty of rebuke of how so many “reviewers” in our industry handle firearm reviews.

The Daniel Defense H9 clearly has problems and I’m going to show you some examples of them below. I want a win for this gun and for Daniel Defense. They clearly know how to make quality firearms, however, it seems as if this gun was rushed out the door and some poor marketing decisions were made.

In my many years working with firearms and being in the firearms industry, from being an executive at a major manufacturer to shooting unknown thousands of rounds in the military and as a competitor, to operating this website, I’ve learned to loathe “shills.” Shills are people that are promoting a manufacturer or their product without being clear that they have an incentive to make the product look good – it’s dishonest and gross.

Every so often, a product comes along where a certain group of “reviewers” all seem to get the product and all come out with glowing review of the product all with the same talking points.

In this case, the DD H9 seems to be one of those products. Every initial review of the H9 seems to be glowing to the point of absurdity and makes claims that either don’t make sense or don’t match what’s seen in the reviews – I can’t wait to cover this more below.

In fact, some of the claims remind me of the 30 Super Carry cartridge where Federal claimed that it was the greatest advancement in self defense…ever.

Also, if you’ve ever wondered what sets GunUniversity apart – it’s reviews like this. No product is perfect and not every product is even good – we’re not afraid to point out both the good and bad.

Daniel Defense H9 Specs

  • Caliber 9mm
  • Action Semi-Auto
  • Operating System Striker fired
  • Capacity 15
  • Barrel Length 4.28 in
  • Overall Length 7.69 in
  • Height 5.12 in
  • Weight (empty) 29.6 oz

Daniel Defense H9 Background 

Hudson Mfg unveiled their first firearm, the H9 pistol, at the 2017 SHOT Show. This pistol received a lot of a attention due to it’s unique looks and novel design.

Unfortunately, the H9 was plagued with problems like breaking parts, unreliable performance, and poor accuracy which was likely caused by an oversized bore (which the new version seems to suffer from as well).

Add onto the poor product performance company issues (lawsuit for not paying of parts and a subsequent bankruptcy) and the H9 has disappeared until its resurrection by Daniel Defense at the 2024 SHOT Show.

According to some information we’ve found about the H9, almost every part has been redesigned and is completely unique to the new H9.

DD H9 Features

Daniel Defense H9 Features
1 Low Bore-Axis

A low bore-axis is claimed (and touted by every “reviewer”) – we’re measuring and comparing it now.

2 Straight-Pull Trigger

1911-style straight-pull trigger on a striker-fired gun

3 Metal Frame and Picatinny Rail

Metal-framed striker-fired pistol

4 Optics Ready Slide

Removable slide-plate allows mounting of optics

Daniel Defense H9 Review

As I mentioned above, this is only a partly a review of the DD H9 – this review is also going to include some of the marketing of the H9 as it is what makes us suspicious of all of the claims one can find online.

In fact, even with proof to the contrary in a video, every review from a “reviewer” who is either paid to promote guns, who received a free gun in advance from Daniel Defense, or who is part of a media company which charges to review guns, says that the H9 is the BEST GUN EVER!!!!

Whereas, information we’ve found from actual customers who have purchased the gun on their own shows that the H9 may actually have serious troubles and is enough to keep us from wanting one (especially at that price).

I bring this up not to only to blame the shills that will sell their integrity, but also to blame companies like Daniel Defense that actually pay these companies and “reviewers” to get a lot of marketing fluff out there.

We, as an industry, are getting wise to the same group of YouTubers and bloggers that are effectively opinions for hire. I believe that companies are now hurting their brands when this group, as a collective voice, all say the same talking points and accolades only to be embarrassed when real reviews come out a couple weeks later.

My first thought as I picked up and handled the H9 myself was “meh.” I don’t like how the pistol nor trigger felt in my hands. However, it is a REALLY COOL concept and I would consider getting one if, and only if, Daniel Defense recognizes that this gun has issues, addresses them, and fixes them.

This gun could be great. But, we’re never going to trust it (nor the company) if they don’t address it and fix it.

At GunUniversity, we’re known for giving the unvarnished truth about firearms and, as you’ll see below, we pull no punches about the problems with the H9. Maybe that’s why we didn’t make it on the list to get a free H9 in advance like other websites? 🙂

GunUniversity doesn’t ask for free guns and we don’t take ANY advertising – this is why you can get this information here…

Bore-Height

Much has been made about the H9’s low bore-height. In fact, it seems like every glowing review of the H9 includes this feature more than once. It was clearly part of the talking-points/script that was sent out with the free guns and money.

Bore-height, or bore-axis, is the measurement of the height of the barrel over the highest portion of a shooter’s grip. The higher the bore-height, the more a pistol will “flip” back under recoil whereas the lower the bore-height, the more the pistol will “push” straight back.

Typically, lower bore-height is desired.

Yes, it looks like the design has a fairly low bore-height, however, when it’s parroted as a talking point as much as it has been, it makes me curious and suspicious. Something feels fishy.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to compare bore-height on pistols because it is difficult to determine the exact point on every pistol where the top of the grip is.

Chart from GunTweaks.com

The DD H9 is based off of the Hudson H9 and since we don’t have the exact measurements of a DD H9’s bore-height, we are using two things for comparison: a bore-axis chart listing the Hudson H9 and a simple image comparison of the DD H9 and a Glock 17.

In this chart, a Hudson H9 has a bore-height listed of 1.5″ whereas a Glock 17 has a bore-height listed as 1.26″

This matches up with what we see when we compare images of these two pistols – the Glock has a lower bore-height. In this image we made, we did our best to put the top-of-the-grip line (blue) in the center of the curve on the grip. And, to try to be extra fair, we even think that we let the H9 appear lower and it still has a higher barrel than the Glock.

Even if you disagree with our comparison, hopefully you can see it is not meaningfully different between these two pistols.

I also compared an H9 with a Glock 47 at my local gun store. I tried to line up the curve at the top of the grip as best I could and aligned the slides as evenly as possible to get a good comparison of the bore-height. To me, the Glock looks like it has a lower bore-height than the H9.

Additionally, here’s a comparison from the good guys at ammoland.com with the old H9 and a Glock 17 (that clearly prompted us to do the same thing with the new H9).

So, is this anything conclusive? No.

However, hopefully, it lets you see that the bore-height isn’t really any better than one of the most popular handguns out there. And, if you want a low bore-height, get a Glock.

Which means it’s surely not enough of a feature to make a main talking point.

In fact, if we’re going to compare it more to a Glock 17 (you know we are), in addition to having a lower bore height, the Glock 17 is the same width, has a shorter slide length but a longer barrel, and it weighs less.

Glock 17Daniel Defense H9
Slide Width1″1″
Capacity1715
Weight22.05 oz29.6 oz
Slide Length7.32″7.69″
Barrel Length4.49″4.28″

Reliability

If the video of an H9 is from a “professional reviewer,” then the H9 looks like it performs flawlessly. However, if the video of an H9 being shot is from an average gun owner, then the H9 looks like it has some significant reliability issues.

It’s up to you to decide which videos you’re going to believe.

For example, here’s a video from City Arsenal (where the comments have now been turned off) showing their H9 having significant reliability issues. The H9 doesn’t even make it through its first 4 rounds without a dead-trigger/malfunction and it has troubles feeding and functioning on the second and third magazines as well.

As far as we can tell, it couldn’t make it through the first 3 magazines without some sort of malfunction.

And, the “reviewer” still recommends the gun at the end of the video (after thanking Daniel Defense for sending it to him, of course).

The video above is a favorite of mine because I shared a poll about it on my Instagram asking people if the H9 malfunctioned in the video in the first four rounds and 80% of the people agreed it malfunctioned but 20% of the people want the H9 to be a good pistol so much that they said it was not a malfunction.

By looking around for other user’s potential issues with the Daniel Defense H9, I found some feedback on forums and in Reddit about problems with the new pistol.

For example, I found this video (for which I obtained permission to share) of more problems with a new H9:

And, here’s yet another video showing significant problems with the new pistol:

And then there’s this video where the Daniel Defense H9 doesn’t even make it through one round before malfunctioning:

And, another video showing the “dead trigger” problem with the H9 where it doesn’t even fire the first round:

Here’s another video, a YouTube short, from a user who had a “dead-trigger” within his first 2 rounds:

And one of the most recent and possibly my new favorites are these two videos of the H9 from the same YouTuber.

In his first video, which is titled “Daniel H9: Revolutionary Handgun Innovation by Daniel Defense…”, he says that the gun is AMAZING and seems, to me at least, to be parroting DD marketing messaging.

It also appears that he made a mistake and forgot to edit out one of the malfunctions:

Of course, many people caught this and he made and released a second video addressing

“In my initial video, there was a point, some people pointed it out, where there was an actual feeding error going on…” He then goes on to admit that during the filming for this second video he continued to have malfunctions with the H9 but he blames it on the ammo.

Despite the malfunctions that were caught in the first video and the continued malfunctions in the second video, he says this about the H9, “I think it’s magnificent, I gotta be honest.”

Also, for his video description, he just flat-out copies and pastes Daniel Defense’s marketing: “Daniel Defense has redefined the handgun game with the groundbreaking DANIEL™ H9®. Just as we revolutionized the AR-style rifle, we’ve now taken the handgun to a whole new level. Combining the classic ergonomics of a 1911 with the ease of shooting and maintenance of a modern striker-fired pistol, the DANIEL™ H9® delivers unparalleled performance. Featuring a low bore axis that reduces recoil and muzzle-flip, this handgun allows for faster, more accurate follow-up shots. Its modular design enables effortless customization, while the 1911-style straight-pullback trigger with safety blade ensures precision control and safer operation.

And more videos keep coming:

There’s this video where the H9 fails to chamber a round:

That’s nine videos showing problems with the Daniel Defense H9 (there are two more below) – serious problems that should have been caught before those pistols left the factory.

I was really happy to see this seventh video sharing the malfunctions experienced with the H9 in what appears to be a very unbiased video from James Reeves. I don’t know him personally but I like his content and views on many issues.

In this video below he jokingly calls himself out for shilling and admits that he’s a big fan of Daniel Defense. In a prior video I saw, he was invited out to their factory and given the first look at the pistol and, I’ll admit, I assumed that the video and opinion would be biased.

I was wrong.

James seems to give a very fair shake of the H9 and includes the different types of malfunctions he’s experience with his H9 (no dead-triggers or key-holeing like some others have experienced, but he did experience some failures to feed (starting in the first 100 rounds) and failures to go into battery:

I’ve seen some comments on line defending Daniel Defense to include a justification for why its ok that a new user needs to lubricate it properly before it’ll function out of the box: Daniel Defense didn’t want a pool of oil in the new pistol boxes.

This doesn’t add up – First, this is not an issue with other manufacturers. Second, does this mean, simultaneously, that Daniel Defense test fired the pistol and confirmed it was working well without oil but also the pistol needs to be oiled to work well? Or, did Daniel Defense properly lubricate and test fire the pistol only to remove all lubrication prior to shipping the pistol? (not likely)

These videos only raise my suspicions about “reviewers.” Whether these are paid reviews or not, I don’t know.

Do you think it’s a bit fishy that every one of these “reviewers” say that the H9 is pure perfection when there so many examples of serious issues with the H9 when in the hands of someone not in the business of giving reviews?

Accuracy

As with reliability, it seems that if someone has an incentive to say that the H9 is a good gun then it is super accurate!

However, here’s a video we found of the H9 having such poor accuracy that it is literally key-holeing (bullets are tumbling in the air and impacting the target sideways).

This is absurdly unacceptable.

This issue is often cause by and over-sized bore (barrel too big for the bullet so the bullet just bounces down the barrel). Unfortunately, the same problem existed with the original H9.

And for those of you that are trying to claim that this is an isolated incident, here’s another video from another H9 owner.

He has already had to send it back to Daniel Defense for repair – the trigger was out of spec.

They returned it fixed and it is now pulling in the 5-6 lb range like it is supposed to do.

However, now the H9 for this guy has an entirely different problem: it is now key holing just like the video above.

Conclusion

Does every gun have issues? Yes.

Will every gun malfunction? Yes.

However, it is very frustrating to see everyone who is trying to sell you a gun say that the H9 is the “best gun ever” when it clearly has problems.

A fair approach to reviews would sure be nice to see so that people can make informed decisions, especially with something that they may be trusting with their life.

It is extremely fishy when every “reviewer” who has an incentive to make the H9 look good, has a great experience with it and the negative reviews only seem to come from people who spent their own money on the H9 and have no incentive.

You may be wondering, “Why do you care so much about this?”

Great question: I care because people are spending their hard-earned money on these products based on these “reviews” and, worse, they may actually be trusting their life or their family’s lives to them in a self defense scenario.

Here’s a perfect example of this in the comments to one of the videos I posted above that was a glowing endorsement of the H9 – THREE commenters are forming their opinion on this pistol because “everyone loves it,” “all the reviews are positive,” and “all the good reviews.”

Based on what I’ve seen so far, the H9 has some serious issues and they need to be addressed before I could ever recommend it – especially when they are charging $1,300 for it!

However, if Daniel Defense comes out and says “oops, we made a mistake, we identified the problem(s), and we fixed the problems” AND the second generation of the H9 is actually good, I’ll HAPPILY change this gun’s grade and give kudos to Daniel Defense for doing the right thing (even though I still think they screwed up with this gun by rushing it to market and by, seemingly, using gross marketing tactics).

So far, it seems that Daniel Defense has decided to tell people “A few pistols made it out without fully polished chambers.” I don’t believe this.

First, I do not want any pistol that must have a chamber polished to a certain level in order to function properly. What happens when it gets dirty? This sounds like 1911 Fudd-lore.

Also, if that was really the problem, why wasn’t it caught upon test firing – is Daniel Defense actually test firing every firearm?

Second, a chamber with sub-standard polishing (but good enough polishing to pass test firing), would not keyhole nor have the dead-trigger problems that people are experiencing – these are significant issues that have NOTHING to do with a chamber’s level of polish.

Either Daniel Defense doesn’t know what is causing the bullets to key-hole or the trigger/mechanism to not function, or they’re not willing to admit it.

Neither option is good.

Pros and Cons of the H9 Pistol 

  • Looks cool
  • Key-holeing Bullets
  • Reliability Issues
  • Expensive

Report Card

Shootability

The H9 does not seem to lend itself to the low recoil claims – in fact, it looks like it kicks significantly in shooter’s hands

C+
Reliability

The H9 seems unreliable based on all of the evidence above.

D+
Ergonomics

The ergonomics of the pistol are fairly good, but some room for improvement exists.

A-
Accuracy

The H9 doesn’t even seem to be able to send bullets straight.

F
Value

A malfunctioning and inaccurate gun at $1,300 might be the worst value we’ve seen.

F
DD Final Review grade for H9

Our Grade

D+

Reviewed by Ryan Cleckner

Reader’s Grade

C+

Based on 2 Reviews

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Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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Daniel Defense H9 Range Pack

Here are some items we think you will want when you take your Glock to the range:

  • Eye Protection: A nice set of shooting glasses are great for protection and may help improve target acquisition.
  • Hearing Protection: All range trips need a good set of hearing protection.
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Keeping a good cleaning kit in your range bag will make maintenance quick and easy.
  • First Aid Kit – Keep a good first aid kit, and know how to use it, with you at the range.

Daniel Defense H9 Gun Deals

Other handguns to Check Out

The Daniel Defense H9 should be avoided, in our opinion.

Instead, check out some 9mm pistols that function (at about half the cost).

1 Springfield Echelon

Springfield Echelon Review

Springfield Echelon

Springfield’s new polymer striker fired 9mm pistol with internal chassis

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 20 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Handgun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

2 Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS

Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS

Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS

Revolutionizing the world since the late ’80s, Glock is a defacto standard across the world for civilians, military, and police.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 10 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Handgun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

3 HK VP9

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 10 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Here are some links to the manufacturers website and user manual.

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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