Gun Review

Non-gun people be warned: Much gun geekery follows, you may want to skip this drivel.

I did some horse trading a couple weeks ago, and ended up bringing home something I said I’d never again own: a Kel-Tec semiautomatic pistol.

I owned a Kel-Tec 9mm pistol about a decade and a half ago, and absolutely hated it. The trigger pull was extremely heavy, long, and generally uncomfortable. While not terribly unreliable, it did exhibit feed problems regularly enough that I wouldn’t carry it. Based on that experience, I vowed I would never own another KT pistol of any flavor. I sold it to a friend, who had it worked over and has had better luck with it than I ever did. He still owns it as far as I know.

If that wasn’t enough, I won’t normally carry anything less powerful than a 45ACP, and that only grudgingly. My minimum for a self-defense load is 500 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle. You can forget about accomplishing that with a 9mm or even a 40 S&W except for a couple +P+ loadings fired from 5+” barrels. It takes a +P even in 45 to get there.

I’ve been in the market for a deep concealment handgun since selling my twelve ounce scandium .357 magnum revolver a couple years ago. I needed the money at the time, and since I seldom found myself in a situation where I needed to conceal to the point that it would be undetectable to even the most observant in the room, I let it go. I’ve kept my eyes open for a replacement since then, but never had the urgent need and the ability to acquire at the same time. Things changed, so I started researching the available options.

I absolutely refuse to do is go anywhere unarmed, except to work. It was my understanding that BigBoxRetailer policy prohibited its employees from being armed on company property even when not on the clock. I wasn’t about to start shopping elsewhere and paying 10-20% more for everything that I bought. Nor was I going to drive ten miles each way to the next closest BigBoxRetailer and still take the chance that someone might recognize me as an associate and call my supervisor. I definitely wasn’t going to risk my job by blatantly violating policy by openly carrying while shopping as has been my practice for many years.

I have since learned that BigBoxRetailer policy only prohibits associates from carrying during their scheduled workday. Until you clock in, you are like anyone else. From the moment you hit the clock until you clock out for the day, even having a weapon in your car in their parking lot is a policy violation. Oh, well. I had already acquired my new toy before learning the actual policy.

It is a PF-9 ultra-compact pistol with a seven round single stack magazine. It weighs 12.7 ounces without the magazine, 14.6 ounces with an empty magazine, and 18.3 ounces fully loaded (7+1) with 115 grain rounds. Kel-Tec claims that it is the flattest and lightest 9mm ever mass produced, and I believe them. It is only slightly heavier than my aforementioned five shot 357 when comparing both fully loaded, but the KT is roughly half an inch thinner. It’s still a bit big to be a the perfect pocket gun, but it carries OK in a #3 Blackhawk pocket holster. Be advised that the Blackhawk only minimally breaks up the outline of the gun, so it is still discernible to the more observant. Most traditional options in the pocket pistol category are .380 or smaller caliber. I’d have to turn in my man parts before I’d be able to carry a .380.

I picked the KT because it seemed to be the best balance of size, cost and reliability, and because it was available. I read a lot of reviews before making my decision. Several folks complained about feed problems, but any time you have something with so little mass, all the rough edges need to be smoothed for it to be reliable. This is true, regardless of who made it and how much you paid for it. With a retail price of $333, KT can’t afford to take the time to clean up all the milling marks and rough edges before it leaves the factory. I figured that the bulk of the reported problems could have been eliminated with a little finish work, and took the plunge.

After getting it home, I spent a couple hours with 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper smoothing some of the more obvious wear areas. I concentrated on the feed ramp, both because this is where most malfunctions occur and because the mill marks run horizontally – whereas the round travels vertically. I cleared almost all of the mill marks from that area and gave it a good polish. The slide rails, breech face, the entire outer surface of the barrel, and even the guide rod and recoil springs all got some attention.

So, how does it shoot? I’m glad you asked. 150+ rounds, and not a single hiccup of any kind. It fed two different kinds of round nose ammo as well as my JHP carry ammo, all without complaint. As for accuracy, I have to say that it is one of the more accurate guns I’ve ever owned. With no sight adjustments, it put everything inside the 8-ring of a reduced silhouette at ten yards without me even trying hard. My range has a knock-down rack of six 8″ steel plates set at about 20 yards. I tried the third magazine on these. Seven shots, and all six plates were down – I missed plate #3 once. This from a brand new ultralight pistol with a 3″ barrel. After that performance, I went back to paper just to finish proving reliability.

There is definite recoil, but none of the aggressive snap that I got with the 357 that caused the web of my hand to bleed every time I shot it. Then again, it is only a 9mm. Follow-up shots come quickly, mostly because the balance puts the sights naturally back on target. I can’t think of anything bad to say about it so far. It’s not a range gun, but rather one that is designed to be carried a lot but shot only a little. That is a shame, though, considering how much fun and how accurate it is.

I’ve experimented a bit carrying it in a belly band holster. I hike the holster up higher than normal, to the point that the gun is nearly in my armpit. That puts the grip next to my man-boob, thereby making it nearly invisible even when worn with properly sized shirts. More noticeable is the line caused by the belly band itself, but nobody is ever going to question it even if they do notice – people wear all kinds of different undergarments these days. So far, I have been able to perform every normal task I’ve tried while carrying in this manner, all without any discomfort or irritation. Sure, I can feel it there, and although my arm rubs against it, even repeated lifting is no problem.

I had been carrying my seven shot Taurus 357 revolver in the belly band lower on my body as my backup, but I think the PF9 is now my preferred backup/deep cover choice despite the fact that it is a less powerful caliber.

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