Shadow Systems MR920L – Coming Out of the Shadows

To move stealthily, walk secretly, go unnoticed, or pass quietly… these are all synonyms for being in the shadows. While all of these descriptions might sound very tactical, it seems that the new guns being produced by Shadow Systems are far less likely to be overlooked.

If you’re not yet familiar with Shadow Systems, and you want to look cool in front of the squad at the next match – it’s time you got a crash course. The folks at Shadow Systems have been making components for Glock pattern pistols for years – most notably their quality slides and barrels. Even in that somewhat crowded space, they quickly became known for innovation and style – and most of all for making good stuff. Now that the patents have expired on some Glock designs, there is a new cottage industry of what I’ll call “Glock-patterned-innovations” in the handgun market. These handguns generally incorporate the Gen 3 functionality in terms of the core of the gun – the trigger group and barrel lockup, as well as the frame required to properly fit them. Some companies are happy making good quality alternatives to the Gen 3 design, with some various takes on ergonomics and cosmetics. There are a few manufacturers that are bringing more to the table than just offering a “me too” Glock clone – and sitting high among those few is Shadow Systems.

I had previous experience with Shadow Systems slides and barrels and knew the brand to be a sound option. But I had not yet had an opportunity to test one of their full, out-of-the-box ready to shoot pistols. The more I looked into their specs and models, the more interested I became. I chose the MR920L Elite because it’s a configuration that I like – the full-sized 4.5-inch barrel sitting atop a short 15-round grip frame. It’s a configuration that can be equally carried concealed and used in competition.

MUCH MORE THAN A CLONE

It only takes a moment of handling the MR920L and reviewing the accessory parts and documentation that accompany it to realize that this is no ordinary clone. It starts with the grip frame, which is of course of polymer construction. The contact surfaces are well textured and keep the gun planted in your hand, even when fired with a spirited cadence. The shooter’s grip is aided by the extreme undercut of the trigger guard and the extended beavertail. Index points in front of the slide lock position keep the ‘thumbs-forward’ grip on point and give that trigger finger a nice home when not firing. Even the texture on the front of the trigger guard matches that of the handle – for those who never learned a proper grip.

Perhaps the best feature of the grip frame of the MR920L is the replaceable backstrap. It’s not just about choosing from small, medium, or large. The three options provided with the gun alter the grip angle and feel in a fundamental way. Essentially, we get to choose whether the angle is that of a Glock, a 1911 or a S&W M&P. This is no gimmick conceived by the marketing team – it makes a significant difference in feel, draw, and presentation which option you select.

A flared magwell extension is included with the pistol. It is not installed by default but is simple to attach. For concealed carry, one might not want to add that extra thickness in the printing area, but for every other purpose I can think of, it is a great help.

While we’re talking about the southern hemisphere of the gun, we have to address the trigger. Whether Shadow Systems makes or sources this trigger is not known to me at this writing, but it is a very nice one. The feel of the trigger is pleasant – and while it follows the Glock design, the integrated safety blade is wide, smooth, and not at all uncomfortable. The trigger is also light, crisp, and tight. Take-up is a smooth ¼-inch travel to the wall, where the break is clean and measures between 4.5 and 5.0 lbs. (post break-in). There is no perceivable over-travel, and the reset is short and very tactile back to the wall – with no take-up for the next shot. Just behind that, the large magazine disconnect button is of Glock Gen 4 size and does what it’s supposed to. Above that, the slide stop/release control is flat and ordinary and works just fine. Its size is a hybrid between standard and extended if you’re comparing it to you-know-who.

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Moving up to the slide, you’ll find it to be quite familiar inside and out in terms of design and function. The aesthetics are another matter – with lots of cuts and steps and slots. Serrations fore and aft are angled and provide good grip for running the slide. The stepped ridges on the top of the slide can also aid in this, as well as provide good glare elimination for the shooter. But mostly, they just look cool – and that’s good enough for me. Cutouts on each side of the slide display the bronze-colored fluted barrel inside and help lighten the weight of the slide.

The slide is pre-cut to accept a mounted electronic sight, or “red-dot”. This is another are where Shadow Systems has innovated. The slide cut has been engineered to accept all popular brands and designs of optics without adding an adapter plate. The list of supported optics includes: Holosun, Leupold, Shield, SIG, Swampfox, Trijicon, TruGlo, and Vortex. Other brands may also be compatible if they utilize the same footprint and bolt pattern as one of these listed. That’s a lot of support – and you don’t have to buy anything extra for it. Everything you need is provided with the gun, which includes several sets of screws and a few different spacers that will fill the length gap if needed. The user’s manual has a very nice chart that tells you exactly which parts to use for what brand and model optic. The spacers are listed as A,B,C and the screws as 1,2,3. Just like the Jackson5 always said – ABC really is easy as 123.

I didn’t mount the optic for my primary break-in and testing of the gun because I wanted to run it with the open sights. I did install the magwell right off the bat, which was easy and works great. When I did later mount an optic, I chose the Holosun 507c green. Following the recommended parts list made it easy – however, there is one important note. The spacers are designed for a slight interference fit, meaning that they are a tad wider than the gap they are meant to fill. Shadow Systems does this to ensure that the spacers will be tight and always hold the optic in place – basically, the polymer spacer will be under compression, constantly pushing the sight against the opposite “wall” when installed. This takes a lot of stress off the screws during recoil, and helps keep the optic zeroed and reduce wear and fatigue. In my case, it was tighter than expected. I wasn’t able to get the Holosun into place even with as much pressure as my thumbs would provide, and I didn’t want to use any tool to overpower it. So, I used a sheet of very fine grit sandpaper and made just a few passes over the flat side of the spacer – tried it – made a few more passes – tried it again, maybe three times. I estimate that I removed no more than a few thousandths of an inch. Finally, with a very gentle tap from a small nylon mallet, it went into place. I’m confident that it is still an interference fit. But if you encounter this challenge, I would encourage you to contact Shadow Systems for help before you alter any parts – they also encourage you to do so.

SHOOTING THE MR920L

Putting rounds downrange through the Shadow Systems MR920L was pure joy. When you pull the trigger and smack the target with lead, you can at once realize that this gun has been engineered for serious business. Whether that be duty or home defense, or competition – it is equal to the task. Ergonomics are excellent – thanks in part to the ability to fit the grip angle to personal taste. The sights are fantastic, and the trigger is light and crisp with a positive reset that puts it right back at the break point. I also found the pistol to shoot pretty flat, which I will again credit to the grip angle with help from the texture, extended beavertail, and undercut trigger guard.

Shadow Systems recommends a couple hundred rounds for break-in, because they believe in fitting the parts tight and letting them wear together. There is no better fit than that made when friction mates two parts to accomplish the final polish and size. As such, there were a few stoppages in the action – mostly due to feeding issues or hard primers. As time went on, I started to have serious doubts as to whether the break-in was to blame, or the ammo. I won’t swear I solved the mystery, but the problems stopped after I switched ammo – whether it was due to the ammo change or just the round count, we may never know.

I could feel the gun breaking in with each new magazine. By the time I was finished with range work, I had every confidence that it was running at 100%. Small price to pay for such a well-made pistol. I would recommend using good quality ammo for the break-in, to help identify the possible cause of any issues.

As for the gun’s accuracy, it was clear to me early on that it was capable of shooting far tighter groups than I would ever be able to produce with it. Both steel and paper groups were tight and consistent – and above all – easy to make. This is a pistol that makes you look good.

JUST MY OPINION

Shadow Systems has raised the bar considerably with the MR920L, and I presume this also applies to the other models in their catalog. The decision to include extras such as the differently angled backstraps, magwell, and all the needed parts to install nearly every brand of red-dot optic on the market. This might all be window-dressing if it weren’t for the fact that the pistol is extremely well made and accurate.

My advice is to start out with a couple hundred rounds of good quality ammo and give the gun a patient and thorough break-in as prescribed. After all, greater suffering has been endured than having to spend an afternoon at the range shooting such an ergonomic and mechanical masterpiece as this.

Shadow Systems is earning a reputation as the “must have” handgun for anyone who likes the Glock form factor – and with very good reason. I paid for this one. It’s mine. You’ll have to get your own!

Learn more about Shadow Systems: MR920L

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Mike May 16, 2022, 4:59 pm

    The “gold” aesthetics is not my bag, looks gaudy, do they make it with plain black finish?

    • Ian Burnham May 16, 2022, 7:05 pm

      They offer the barrels in the bronze as well as black nitride

  • Ron May 16, 2022, 1:54 pm

    Been carrying a MR920 with a Holosun for a few years, it’s my everyday carry in a Tier One Concealment Holster. Able to conceal under a tee shirt with no printing. Have north of 5000 rounds through it will 100% reliability after a 250 round break in, which only produced a few stoppages. I have 100% confidence in this weapon. Very accurate, great trigger for carry, just a complete package. Will never switch to another pistol.

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