Doing The Daewoo


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

February 24, 2006




Now that we are not limited to ten shot pistols,  the moribund  9mm high capacity pistol may enjoy more popularity. The fact is, after a hiatus from the top of the heap in sales the 9mm may be more able to carry out its primary mission that ever before. We now have good, safe, and reliable 9mm ammunition that is more powerful, reliable,  and effective than ever.  This ammunition nips on the heels of Magnum defense loads and even makes a .38 Super fan rise up and pay attention.  The projectile has seen improvement, but letís look at the projectile launcher.  Among the most interesting and friendly to operate handguns to come my way in some time is the Daewoo DH51.   The Daewoo has been imported before, but the newer version seems to have been tightened up in both quality and accuracy.  A compact version is also available, and this piece should make a big splash on the new market.

Daewoo is a giant manufacture based in South Korea.  Immensely popular in the Pacific basin,  Daewoo products are also widely distributed in America. You may watch the nightly news on a Daewoo or drive one to work. Now you can shoot a Daewoo! Daewoo firearms are manufactured in the Pusan Arsenal, now privatized for firearms production.  I have used early model 9mm guns and the .223 rifle with generally good results.   A friend swears by his early version of the pistol.  While he wished it were more accurate, it is more accurate than comparable Smith and Wesson pistols of the era and accurate enough for personal defense.  It is an even bet the Daewoo was adopted to put South Korea in line with ammunition supply from the United States, as the US had adopted a 9mm pistol prior to South Koreaís changing from the 1911 to the Daewoo.  They made a reasonable choice, and the DH51 should serve as well as any 9mm and better than quite a few.  The DH51 bears a superficial resemblance to the Smith and Wesson third generation pistols and will accept Smith and Wesson magazines. But the pistol differs significantly from the Smith and Wesson product.  The Browning locked breech system is the same, and the Daewoo locks up via locking lugs and angled camming surfaces.  But the Daewoo uses an external drawbar, located on the right side of the frame, while the Smith and Wesson features an internal drawbar.  The Daewoo features an improved safety over the Smith and Wesson, SIG, Beretta and many other double action first shot pistols. The Daewoo features a frame mounted safety. The others use slide mounted safeties.  A slide mounted safety is often difficult to manipulate quickly and in no case as easily mastered as the frame mounted safety.  Even if you prefer a double action first shot pistol, the Daewoo offers the option of quickly placing the pistol on safe without decocking during tactical maneuver.  The Daewoo can be decocked, but the system is by no means conventional.  When the pistol is at full cock, the safety can be placed on, allowing cocked and locked carry. However, if you wish you may press upon the hammer and the hammer will come to rest, fully down.  An internal hammer ring allows the outer hammer to be prepped against the sear.  When the trigger is pressed when the Daewoo is in the fast action mode, the result is a very smooth and quick trigger release. 

My RCBS trigger pull gauge would not measure the double action press of the DH51, like many it is off the scale.  I estimate this press at about 16 pounds, about in the Beretta class.  But I was able to measure the conventional single action press and the Fast Action press.  The single action press is about 5.5 pounds but the double action Fast Action is 4.0 pounds and very, very smooth.  An adept with the system may press the trigger and bring the hammer to full cock before firing, but I see little point in this trick.  The fast action mode is quite safe and may be used even without the safety applied.  (the pistol also features a firing pin block or drop safety.)  I do not have information on the original purpose of the system.  In Europe, the Safety Fast Shooting System was developed in order to offer an alternative to cocked and locked carry.  The Daewoo system may have been developed as an alternative to a conventional slide mounted decocker or in order to give a better first shot hit potential, or perhaps both. In any case the Fast Action succeeds brilliantly in either application.

I would not choose the pistol solely on the action system; it should have other good features.  The ambidextrous safety is an asset. The polymer grips fit my hand well and the subdued grip serrations give good purchase.  The high visibility sights are good examples of the type, with three dot white outline.  A nice touch is the serrated top strap. This may serve to break up heat mirage but also gives the pistol a world class look that is much appreciated.  Overall, the pistol gives the impression of care in manufacture.

The proof is in the firing.  I have fired my personal Daewoo considerably with good results. The pistol is reliable with hollowpoint loads, even those with a wide nose. The pistol has a good natural point, coming onto the target quickly.  I familiarized myself with the pistol again after breaking it out of the safe by firing a few magazines of MagTech hardball.  Reliable and inexpensive, this load is a fine training resource. I first used MagTech ammunition over ten years ago in one of my first articles, and the brand has been a mainstay.   The fast action option is even more impressive on a second and third pass, offering excellent speed.  The MagTech ammunition gave good results, with a clean burn and more than acceptable accuracy.

I enjoy firing this handgun very much.  Muzzle flip is slight and recoil light, even for a 9mm. The slide is relatively short and the pistol quick into action.  For many shooters who wish a versatile handgun with good safety features, this is the first choice. I should stress that the pistolís user can use the handgun as a conventional double action pistol if they chose, or even consider the pistol a single action design, using the cocked and locked action.  The special shooting system offers another option.   

I have mentioned I am not impressed much by the 9mm and have been taken to task. Some ask why I used the loads I did, and my only reply must be that nearly thirty years ago this was what we had. Today, there are a number of quality loads that get the 9mm off its feet. Among these is the 115 grain JHP in the MagTech Guardian line. This load averages about 1175 fps and offers good upset in my wet newsprint testing. This is a reasonable choice for personal defense. There are hotter loads, but wear and slide velocity must be considered. Recoil is also more pronounced with the heavier loads. With the MagTech offerings, accuracy was good and control excellent.  For a bit more zip for occasional use, the Georgia Arms 124 grain +P breaks nearly 1200 fps. Quality control is good and bullet performance excellent. This is a good choice for police duty or defense use.  Overall, if you agree the 9mm is a good defense pistol, this is as good an example as can be found. It is lighter and more compact than most and seems to have military type reliability.

Accuracy Testing:

(25-yard bench testing)

Load Group Size (inches)
MagTech 9mm Ball 115 grain 3.5"
MagTech Guardian 115 grain JHP 3.6"
Georgia Arms 124 grain +P 3.65"
Wolf Polymer case 124 grain FMJ 4.0"
Handload: 122 gr. Magnus Cast bullet over Zip Powder (980 fps) 3.75"
Handload: 122 gr. Magnus over Zip (1150 fps) 3.5"
Handload: 122 gr. Magnus  4.5 Unique (900 fps) 4.0"


Caliber: 9mm Luger

Barrel length: 4.1 inches

Overall length: 7.6 inches

Weight: 28 ounces

Magazine capacity: 10 +1 or 15 + 1

Available from:

Century International Arms

1161 Holland Drive

Boca Raton Florida  33487


R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


SGT Matthew Campbell, SCNG, found the Daewoo offered little in the way of a challenge to use and fire accurately at moderate range



The Commander, top, must be cocked to fire while the double action first shot Daewoo, below, can be fired by simply pressing the trigger.



In this illustration the Colt Commander, bottom, is properly carried cocked and locked.  The Daewoo, upper photograph, is also capable of being carried in the same manner. The safety is taken off and the pistol is instantly ready for a short straight to the rear trigger press.



Making the Daewoo ready for the fast shooting option is simple. With the pistol cocked press the hammer forward.



The hammer is pressed until it goes completely down.



The hammer is now down and the pistol may be fired by a relatively short trigger press



The author is continually experimenting with 9mm Luger expanding loads. Some seem to be reasonable choices and research continues. The first bullet is a .45, the middle bullet is a 124 grain Gold Dot as used in the Georgia Arms load and finally the MagTech 115 grain JHP.