Testfire: The 9mm Parabellum Kel-Tec PF-9 Pistol

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The Kel-Tech PF-9 in 9mm Parabellum.
The Kel-Tech PF-9 in 9mm Parabellum.

Imagine a 9mm Parabellum pistol that is lighter and as small or smaller than most .32 ACP pocket pistols. Want one? Well, you can have one – because that is just what the Kel-Tec PF-9 is.

Imagine a 9mm Parabellum pistol that is lighter and as small or smaller than most .32 ACP pocket pistols. Want one? Well, you can have one – because that is just what the Kel-Tec PF-9 is. A 14.5 ounce powerhouse only .880 inches thick, 5-3/4 inches long and 4-1/4 inches tail. Compare that to the famous Colt Model M .32 ACP at 24 ounces and 6-1/2 inches long or the Savage 1907 .32 at 19 ounces and 6-1/2 inches long and you will begin to appreciate just what has been done with this 9mm pistol.

Designed to be the smallest possible 9mm, it still is a practical general purpose pistol: not an easy feat to accomplish when dealing with extremes of size and concealability. The Kel-Tec will comfortably perform most anything asked of the average pistol.

While some will point out correctly that a larger, heavier gun is more controllable in rapid fire and steadier to aim and fire, the fact remains that there is always a place for the smallest possible gun. In the first place, there are many people who will not carry a full-size pistol every day and so end up unarmed when their lives depend on having a weapon.

A .25 ACP Baby Browning in the hand is better than a Thompson submachinegun in the gunsafe when you are being attacked, and concealability is always easier in direct proportion to gun size and thickness. That’s why you don’t find people concealing Barrett .50 caliber rifles on their person, although the idea is not entirely without merit.

The PF-9 gobbled up 100 rounds of Remington and 40 rounds of Winchester Supreme hollowpoints without a hitch.
The PF-9 gobbled up 100 rounds of Remington and 40 rounds of Winchester Supreme hollowpoints without a hitch.

The more compact the pistol, the more options you have for different places and ways to conceal it. While we normally think of the .25 ACP when referring to vest pocket pistols, the fact remains that the 9mm PF-9 fits quite nicely in the modern vest pockets and it rides well concealed there. If it were any heavier, it would not.

When my old friend the late Geoffrey Boothroyd was asked by Ian Fleming what pistol his character James Bond should carry, Geoffrey said the Walther PPK. Ian repaid him by promoting the former private Boothroyd of WWII to Major Boothroyd, armorer to James Bond, in the James Bond series of books. Had the Kel-Tec been out then, I strongly suspect Geoffrey would have had James Bond carrying it instead of the Walther.

The PF-9 is a well-made, properly thought-out design that functioned with total reliability during my test firing. The gun is designed with places for dirt, fouling and miscellaneous debris to escape from the action so that it does not jam. There is a gap between the slide and part of the frame that will allow quite a bit of crud to get out at once – a desirable feature, because dirt always finds its way into guns but often is trapped there with no way to get out.

Get sand inside the lockwork of a revolver and you will find out just what I mean. It will lock up tighter than a bank vault until you disassemble it to get the sand out. Sadly, many automatics are even worse in this regard, but not the Kel-Tec.While you’re not likely to drop your PF-9 into a sand dune in the middle of the Sahara, it’s nice to know that it’s practically immune to pocket grit.

The PF-9 fits the hand weIl and does not recoil excessively. The recoil is a bit sharper than on a heavy full-size pistol but nothing that would bother women or children. That’s important because children need to grow up shooting and they don’t need a vicious kick or muzzle blast to discourage them while you are teaching them to enjoy shooting. The ergonomics of the grip and its texture combine to form a well-pointing gun that properly distributes the felt recoil across the hand comfortably.

The PF-9 has a double action trigger pull like a revolver instead of a safety. That is a very good way to go on a small hideout gun where you don’t need to waste time fumbling for a safety. The double action trigger pull is all the safety you need. The trigger requires the slide to be jacked to the rear to reset it so you won’t waste time repeatedly snapping on a misfire if you get a bad primer.

The PF-9’s trigger pull is light and can be held short just before the hammer falls when you are trying to shoot groups. I began my test session with 40 rounds of Winchester Supreme Elite 147-grain jacketed hollowpoints and 100 rounds of Remington 115-grain jacketed hollowpoints. These two loads are state-of-the-art, modern hollowpoints that give maximum explosive expansion with maximum weight retention.

They work very well on coyotes and other varmints, both four-legged and two-legged. I set up a target at 25 yards and began shooting from a sandbag rest. The gun was able to consistently make 2-inch groups, which of course is very good for this type of pistol and far better than most shooters are ever going to be capable of without a sandbagged rest.

After all, this is a defensive pistol designed for ease of carry and maximum concea!ability. Firing without the rest proved the gun was fast pointing and easily controllable in rapid fire. The sights are clear and weil defined without being so big that they get in the way. 

The PF-9 in a Blackhawk! size 4 nylon pancake holster. The pancake is the most comfortable and concealable holster style ever designed.
The PF-9 in a Blackhawk! size 4 nylon pancake holster. The pancake is the most comfortable and concealable holster style ever designed.

The rear sight can be adjusted for windage if necessary. The frame features a rail for a laser sight or a flashlight in the modern style. I don’t like either, especially on a subcompact pistol where they add bulk. Flashlights and lasers, like tracers, draw return fire. In my opinion, a laser’s not something to be wildly flashing about in the dark.
Unlike many guns I have known, the PF-9 disassembles fast and efficiently.

Unload the pistol and pull the slide back, locking it open by pushing up the slide stop. With the rim of a cartridge, pull the assembly pin out of the gun. Holding the slide firmly, release the slide stop and allow the slide to move forward off the frame. Remove the recoil spring and the barrel and you are done. Do not loosen the extractor spring screw.

The Kel-Tec PF-9 shown between a Colt .32 and a Savage .32, two of the most popular pocket pistols of all time. The PF-9 is shorter and thinner than both – and it’s a 9mm.
The Kel-Tec PF-9 shown between a Colt .32 and a Savage .32, two of the most popular pocket pistols of all time. The PF-9 is shorter and thinner than both – and it’s a 9mm.

To put the gun back together, put the barrel back into the slide, push the recoil spring guide with springs into their hole in the slide, and hook the base of the recoil spring onto its half-moon cutout in the barrel. Make certain that the barrel and recoil springs are well-centered when putting them back in the slide. Push the slide onto the frame until the back lines up with the grip. If the slide does not go on easily, make sure that the hammer is half cocked and the barrel and recoil spring guide are centered.

While pushing down on the top of the barrel, pull the slide back all the way, compressing the recoil springs, and push up the slide stop to hold the slide in place. Looking into the assembly pin hole, align that hole with its cut in the barrel and insert the assembly pin until it snaps onto the spring. Pull the slide back to release the slide stop and release the slide, working the slide a few times to check the action. Do not dry fire this pistol because you can damage the firing pin and extractor spring screw by dryfiring.

A modern polymer frame pistol, the PF-9 is also very reasonably priced, as are all Kel-Tec firearms. Suggested retail price is $333 for blued guns, $377 for parkerized, and $390 for chrome finished guns. I would recommend the parkerized finish for any pistol that will see hard service. Unlike most specialized pistols, this one can reasonably serve as a family’s only pistol, doing double duty as a carry gun and a bedside burgler gun in the same manner as the old topbreak S&W and Iver Johnson revolvers have done for over 100 years.

Since the PF-9 is a pocket pistol, and a very good one, some will choose to carry it directly inside a jacket or pants pocket. I prefer a holster, both because of the extra protection it offers and because it keeps the pistol oriented for immediate access. I have always found the pancake holster design to be the best for comfort, concealment, and gun security. I tried carrying the PF-9 in a Blackhawk! size 4 nylon pancake holster and was well pleased with the combination.

It fit well on both the gun and me. Made from a multi-layer nylon laminate with polymer hardware and stainless steel or brass snaps, the Blackhawk! is ideal for use in wet marine or humid environments. It features an adjustable safety strap system that lets it work on multiple guns within a certain size range. The two polymer safety straps have velcro fasteners on them that, with the aid of a special tool that comes with them, adhere to the velcro in the slots in which they’re inserted. They are then permanently in place unless the tool is used to seperate the velcro layers. The system actually works quite well.

Of course the Blackhawk holster works well in everyday concealed-carry service, too. It’s an interesting modern answer to age-old holster problems and offer a solution that will give good service in all conditions at a most reasonable price. It’s are available from Blackhawk Products Group, 6160 Commander Parkway, Norfolk, Virginia, 23502. You can also check it out at www.BLACKHAWK.com.

While the 9mm Parabellum lacks the authority of the .45 ACP as a manstopper, it holds its own quite nicely with the various .38s and even the .357 Magnum. It nicely eclipses the performance of the 9mm Makarov and the .380, .32, .25 and .22 LR and can be made in a thinner and lighter package than the .45 ACP.

Like the 1911-A1, the PF-9 holds seven cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber for a total of eight rounds. Compare that to the five or six in a bulkier snubnosed .38 and the case for the PF-9 becomes clear. It’s available from Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc., 1475 Cox Road, Cocoa, Florida, 32926. They probably won’t mind if you visit their website at www.kel-tec.com.

This article appeared in the 2011 65th Edition of the Gun Digest annual book.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. He compares it to a .357 magnum?!? Does it take down small to medium sized aircraft as well? I have two Kel-Tecs, so I’m not bashing the company, but the old story of gun writers not biting the hand that feeds them sure comes to mind after reading this article.

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