TriStar S-120 9x19mm Semi-Automatic Pistol

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 12th, 2013


Click pictures for a larger version.







Slide lock.





Manual safety.







Firing pin safety prevents forward movement of the firing pin unless trigger is pulled.







Slide rails run inside of the frame.





TriStar Sporting Arms has been an importer of reliable, well-made, and affordable shotguns for several years, and they have now added a line of rugged and reliable pistols to their catalog. Shown here is their S-120 semi-automatic 9x19mm pistol. This pistol is based upon the excellent design pioneered by the CZ-75 almost four decades ago, and features a frame/slide rail design that preceded the CZ-75 by several years. The S-120 is built in Turkey, and is a very solid pistol design. The slide rails ride inside the frame, and run the full length of the frame and slide, providing a rigid design that contributes to better accuracy and more strength. Being of double-action/single-action design, the S-120 can be carried with the hammer down on a loaded chamber, allowing the first shot to be fired with a long, smooth stroke of the trigger, and subsequent shots can be fired single-action, as the hammer remains cocked until manually lowered. In addition, the S-120 can be carried "cocked and locked", with the hammer cocked and the safety on, and then fired by releasing the safety and pulling the trigger in single-action mode for each shot. The S-120 has an internal firing pin safety, to prevent the firing of the weapon if dropped upon its muzzle. The trigger must be held to the rearward position for the weapon to fire.  The S-120 shown here is an all-steel pistol, with the exception of the plastic magazine followers and plastic grip panels. Even being built of steel, the pistol balances very well, and is not excessively heavy. The grip feels very good in my hand, and that opinion is pretty much universal with most shooters, except for those who think that nothing but a Glock feels right. For those folks, there is no known cure.  The S-120 shown here wears a hard chrome finish which is good-looking, corrosion resistant, and durable. The magazines are blued steel, and each hold seventeen shots of 9mm ammunition, for a loaded capacity of eighteen. The sights are blued steel, and are of the popular three-dot pattern, with the rear being drift-adjustable for windage correction. The S-120 wears a ramped barrel, which contributes to smooth feeding and superior strength.

Critical specifications for the TriStar S-120 are listed in the chart below. The weights are listed in ounces, and linear measurements in inches. The grip and frame widths were measured at their widest parts. The maximum width is measured across the frame and includes the safety lever. The height includes the sights and magazine base. The single action pull is very good, with a crisp release, and the double action pull is smooth and even throughout its travel. The trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance.

Chambering 9x19mm (9mm Luger)
Weight 35.4 oz.
Height 5.58"
Length 7.98"
Slide Width 0.913"
Maximum Grip Width 1.98"
Frame Width 1.02"
Maximum Width 1.38"
Trigger Pull SA 4.6 lbs.
Trigger Pull DA 9.42 lbs.
Trigger Reach SA 2.85"
Trigger Reach DA 3.05"
Barrel Length 4.623"
Magazine Capacity 17
Magazines Supplied 2
MSRP as of August 12th, 2013 $439 US

I fired a variety of ammunition through the TriStar 9mm over the chronograph to check velocities, with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX, Buffalo Bore Lead Free, and Double Tap Tac-XP  are hollow nose homogenous copper bullets that are made by Barnes Bullets. Guard Dog is a FMJ with a soft plastic core to promote rapid expansion. UHD is Remington Ultimate Home Defense ammunition. FP is a frangible, pre-fragmented flatnose bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket roundnose bullet. PB is Pow’RBall, a specialty bullet from Cor-Bon. Glaser is a pre-fragmented bullet. Velocities were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, and eighty-four percent humidity. Velocities were recorded at ten feet from the muzzle.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore Lead Free +P HP 95 1441
Buffalo Bore Lead Free +P HP 115 1234
Remington UHD HP 124 1135
Federal Guard Dog 105 1236
Double Tap +P Tac-HP 115 1121
Double Tap +P FMJ 147 1088
Atomic +P HP 124 1203
WCC NATO FMJ 124 1142
Fiocchi  FMJ 115 1121
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 124 1267
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 115 1313
Buffalo Bore +P+ JHP 115 1423
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 147 1135
Cor-Bon Glaser 80 1597
Cor-Bon +P JHP 115 1289
Cor-Bon Pow’RBall 100 1312
Cor-Bon +P DPX 115 1243
Cor-Bon +P JHP 125 1254
Stryker FMJ 115 886

During all phases of shooting the S-120, only one malfunction occurred. It was early in the testing, and the slide failed to pick up a cartridge from the magazine. Other than that one malfunction, the weapon was one hundred percent reliable; feeding, firing, and ejecting full-metal-jacket, hollowpoint, and specialty ammo perfectly. The slide locks back when the magazine is empty, and the empty magazines eject easily when released. Accuracy was superb, with the TriStar turning in an accuracy performance as good as many match-grade pistols, and better than most service pistols. The largest group fired measured only two and one-quarter inches center-to-center for five shots at twenty-five yards, fired while secured into a Ransom Master Series machine rest. Many groups fired were in the one-inch range, using high performance hollowpoint ammunition.  I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of this pistol, especially considering the very affordable price. There are pistols on the market that cost three times as much that will not equal the accuracy of this TriStar.

The TriStar S-120 is an affordable, reliable, full-sized 9mm pistol that would serve very well for service or home defense.  It is very nicely finished, and very comfortable to shoot, handling the recoil of even Plus P ammunition easily.

Check out the complete line of TriStar firearms and accessories online at

To order the TriStar S-120 online, go to

To order quality 9mm ammunition, go to,,, and

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



S-120 comes with hard case, cable lock, instructions, two magazines, and cleaning tools.



Steel-bodied magazines hold seventeen rounds each.





Accuracy testing was done with TriStar pistol secured into a Ransom Master Series machine rest.



Accuracy was superb, as shown by these 25-yard groups.



Disassembly for cleaning is quick and easy, and requires no tools.