Inevitably, upon looking at the Kareen MkII or MkIII, the knowledgeable gun owner will pronounce it to be an Arcus 94 clone. “Look at the beaver tail! Look at the squared off trigger guard!” And, in fairness, this is a reasonable assumption to make. They really do look similar… but only at first glance. Read on for more about this interesting piece of Israeli firearms history.
Pictured is my KSN Industries Kareen MkII pistol. It is a clone of the Browning High Power (BHP). I don’t want to rehash the history and design of that pistol, so I advise you to consult Wikipedia on the subject.
My Kareen came to me in rough shape, with bad springs, bad extractor, and some exterior pitting. I sent it out to one of the top BHP gunsmiths to have the slide refinished and have Novak night sights added to it. The grip is Hogue, but looks quite similar to the original MkII grips as advertised. Notice the unique trigger guard and beavertail I mentioned before. Mine is an excellent shooter, and has functioned quite well with every magazine I’ve tried.
To the best of my knowledge, the Kareen variant of the BHP was never a service pistol in the IDF, but did see some usage by the Israeli police. The IDF used proper FN-built BHPs – you can find many surplus IDF BHPs on Gunbroker, if you are so inclined. FN even did a production run at one point just for the IDF. Thus. the Kareen was built for civilian sales – at home and abroad.
Rumor has it that the US-based Israeli importers of the KSN Kareen Mk II and III, JO Arms, were not exactly the most enthusiastic business people on earth. Internet legend has them spending more time at strip clubs than selling guns. Less surprisingly, they went out of business – hence the CAI import marks on guns that had a rollmark for JO Arms.
The first Kareens (Mk I) were assembled from FEG parts (or so Michael Kassnar has claimed – he imported the Mk I). Given that FEG built a perfect clone, the Kareen Mk I was pretty close to the original BHP The MkII and MkIII guns, however, are much more of a mystery. They diverge greatly from the standard BHP models. The shape of the trigger guard and the beavertail look quite a bit like the Bulgarian Arcus guns. However, on closer inspection, many angles on the gun are not identical to the Arcus guns. In particular, notice the back of the slide – the Arcus is straight, and the Kareen MkII is curved. Therefore, it seems probable that these were not simply imported parts reassembled into complete guns.
However, there is also a timeline oddity – the Kareen MkIIs and the Arcus guns came out roughly at the same time in the early 90’s. Some sort of connection therefore seems likely.
The barrels are marked with a Star of David. Supposedly, the Kareen was designed to handle the +P+ Uzi ammo that had wrecked so many Beretta M1951s. (Further evidence: the slide is thicker than a standard BHP’s slide – again, much like the Arcus.) Incidentally, the barrels are serialized – mine matches the frame. This makes me suspect the guns were assembled all at once in Israel, with at least Israeli-made barrels.
There are six versions of the Kareen that I’m aware of:
- “Kareen”: this was the original pistol that was supposedly mostly made from FEG parts.
- Kareen MkII: the pistol shown in this article.
- Kareen MkII Compact: the Kareen MkII with a detective-length slide and barrel. Very few were ever imported. I’ve only seen one for sale, ever.
- Kareen MkII “transitional”: like the Kareen MkII, but with front slide serrations.
- Kareen MkIII: A cost-reduced version of the MkII transitional. Angular cuts are used on the top of the slide as it narrows to a nose. The back of the slide uses a pair of cuts instead of a curve.
- “KA-MkIII: Very similar to the Kareen MkIII, but uses what is clearly an Arcus 94 frame. Beavertail may or may not be present, and the trigger guard and dust cover are cut slightly different. The slide is cut on the back such that it’s a straight line – again, like the Arcus. I have seen compact versions of this gun.
I am undecided about exactly what’s going on with the original Kareen. There are some anecdotes on the Internet that make me think it’s mostly FEG parts with some Israeli-made stuff. I really need one to look it over properly.
I think the MkII and MkIII guns were made in Israel from rough Arcus frames/slides and domestically produced barrels and small parts.
I think the KA-MkIII is 100% an Arcus gun, and was produced for Israeli domestic consumption. It isn’t labeled as a Kareen because the trademark was (is?) owned by JO Israel Arms. I actually saw one KA-MkIII online that had a compact-style slide that was stamped with Arcus 94C and KA-MkIII on it… that seems fairly conclusive to me that they were using finished slides and frames from Arcus, and at best restamping and assembling them. I would not consider the KA-MkIII to be a necessity for an Israeli gun collection.