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Kel-Tec PF-9 Review

by Payton Miller   |  April 10th, 2013 47


To paraphrase an overused marketing catchphrase, “9 is the new .380.” And it’s not really a fanciful overstatement. Why? A couple of years ago, microsize .380s were all the rage, but today’s crop of ultracompact 9mms are nearly as tiny and considerably more potent.

If there’s one cartridge that’s had its potential boosted by new-component technology in the last decade or so, it’s the 9mm Parabellum. Although it was once derided by legions of .45 ACP fans, it’s safe to say that the high-performance 9mm loads of today are different enough from what was available in the 1960s and 1970s as to almost make them seem like an entirely different species.

Kel-Tec’s PF-9 is a pretty good example of new-breed, chopped-down 9mm “pocket pistols.” It’s a polymer-frame, hammer-fired DAO auto with an unloaded weight of about 12½ ounces, an overall length of just over 5½ inches and a width of just under an inch (thanks, in part, to its single-stack [7+1] magazine). Bear in mind that the company’s original groundbreaking .380, the P3AT, weighs 8.3 ounces and has a 5.2-inch OAL. That’s not a big-enough difference, dimensionally, to work up a lather about. And if it does concern you, the power differential should more than compensate for your misgivings.

It was exactly that, the “power differential,” that made me a bit apprehensive just prior to shooting the PF-9. Even the stoutest 9mm loads are relative pussycats in a full-size gun—say, a Glock 17 or a Browning Hi-Power. But from the minimally sized Kel-Tec, I figured the 9mm would be a completely different breed of cat. The three loads I had on hand at the range were Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense FTX, Hornady 135-grain Critical Duty and Remington 124-grain FMJ. Recoil-wise, I confess to being a bit curious over the Critical Duty stuff. Anything designed to prevail over the barriers mandated in the FBI protocols would be, I figured, fairly energetic when fired from a 12½-ounce gun.

At first I grouped the pistol at 25 yards with all three loads. Admittedly, this is more yardage than fits the gun’s intended purpose, but nontheless I was fairly impressed. The Critical Defense 115s averaged 3½ inches, which is pretty good considering the abbreviated sight radius and long (nearly 1¼ inches of travel), creepy five-pound trigger—not that you’d want a crisp, lightweight break on a hideout, carry-type pistol with no manual safety anyway. Velocities from that 3.1-inch barrel were, naturally, a bit lower than what you’d get from a longer tube; they ranged from 980 to just over 1,000 fps. The three-dot sights were a lot easier to acquire than you’d expect from a “point and pull” item like this (the pistol comes with a small Allen wrench for rear sight adjustment).

During several seven-yard rapid-fire drills, this became even more apparent. As far as recoil and controllability went, the little polymer-frame gun was a lot more tractable than you’d expect for a 9mm, even with the 135-grain Critical Duty stuff. The PF-9 comes with an extended magazine that might have made things easier still, but I elected to shoot it with the flush mag, wanting to use the gun in its most compact configuration as, I suppose, most end-users will.

The only malfunctions I experienced in the course of 120 rounds or so were three failures to extract with the 135-grain Critical Duty ammo. This happened early on, and toward the end of the session things were running smoothly. It appears that the gun—or the one I had, at any rate—responds to an out-of-the-box “shoot in” period.

The slide-release catch is—as you might expect—pretty tiny and was rather difficult to operate. This really isn’t a deal breaker; on a gun this size (or, to be honest, on an auto of any size) you’re better off racking the slide to load the chamber anyway.

I’m no engineer. It may indeed be possible to build a slimmer, lighter, smaller 9mm than the PF-9. But I honestly can’t see how. Particularly at this pistol’s modest price level.


Minimal size, minimal controls: Slide release, takedown lever, magazine release.

Find out about the price and availability of the firearm covered in this article at, where you will gain instant access to the inventory of Davidson’s Inc., one of the nation’s largest factory-authorized firearm wholesalers. customers know instantly if the firearm is available and can select from offers presented by dealers in their area. The selected dealer then immediately ships the firearm via Federal Express. Perhaps best of all, guns purchased at are covered by Davidson’s Guaranteed Lifetime Replacement Program. Fast. Easy. Hassle-free.

  • factsnotfiction

    this is a great little back-up; I’ve had mine for a few years, wear it in an ankle holster. It’s light, flat, accurate out to fighting range and 9mm powerful, which is very comforting…

  • Alec

    I just cannot understand why some folks will pay $150 – $200 more than for a proven Pf9.
    Kel-Tec started the entire miniaturization movement when it introduced its’ P-11 9mm, followed by its’ P-32 and the “3AT”. The Pf9 builds on those successes, handles 9MM +P, and is in my opinion the best performing than any of the rest. With the savings I bought a Viridian Green Laser/light, and a holster that activates the add- ons as you draw the gun
    and turns them off when you reholster.

  • Bret

    This is the gun that dirtnapped Trayvon . Great little pistol :-)

    • werth

      what the hell’s wrong with you? Dirtnapped? Fuck you

      • werth

        sorry bret, got mad for a minute there, I apologize

      • FUNig

        Hahahahahahahahahaha nappy headed *#$&#(#(

      • God is dead

        Trayvon got what he deserved. Dirt napping criminals that attack you us WHY we carry in the first place.

        • chuckcloninger

          We have moved off of the subject of the post which is the gun itself and not what it did and not the inappropriate comments about someone being killed.

          I agree that stupid comments like God is dead has made here become the ammunition that the anti-gun crowd love to see. They will ignore sane and rational gun owners and focus on someone who calls themselves “God is dead” and uses the word “dirt nap” to portray someone being killed. This poster needs to realize that there is a whole group of people that are angry that Trayvon was killed and don’t feel the whole situation was handled correctly. These comments inflame them and these people are voters. Do you really want to stir up people who can vote to take your gun away from you? Stupid is stupid and stupidity will take my gun away and make me have to carry illegally if I want to protect myself and my family.

          • God is dead

            Well, then don’t dare to defend yourself, Elmer Fudd. Zimmerman did nothing wrong, and those people hate guns anyway. Stupid much?

          • chuckcloninger

            You are a dolt. I can tell that though you may have read my post you don’t have the intelligence to understand it. So long jerk off. I don’t waste my time with the likes of you.

          • Leroy

            yup twice

        • Raven Lee

          Trayvon Martin was an innocent victim of someone who stalked him at night with a gun. If TM was armed, he could have fought back more effectively and could have saved his life. You claim God is dead, but you know nothing of God. You are hateful and you will reap what you sow. God is real and he has a special place for people like you.

          • God is dead

            Trayvon was a criminal piece of shit and got what he deserved. If Trayvon had advanced on George with a gun like he did looking for a victim to mug he would be in prison. You must illegally carry as you know so little of the law.

          • Leroy

            yup yup

          • God is dead

            Oh, P.S. your sky god is gay. You prove it by defending a criminal thug. Would your sky god approve of that?

          • KarVer

            Looking for a new pistola’ thinkin Taurus 709 or keltec.
            Something in 9mm.
            My brersa thunder 380 was full sized, an had sharp edges. Not great for ccw. Need a new try. Thanks for the informational review…

        • Leroy


    • Vet26

      Bret, comments like this do nothing for our argument to retain our 2nd amendment rights. As a gun carrying American, i am ready to protect my family if the situation arises but do not go out and seek to give anybody a “dirt nap.” Please think about the words you use before posting ignorant comments for the public to read. Also, regardless of who it is, have respect for the dead.

      • ahuxley

        Thanks for that, Vet26.
        It’s bonehead comment’s like Bret’s that give ammo to those who want to disarm US citizens…

      • God is dead

        Vet26, you need to realize that dirt napping a criminal thug in defense of your life is not a bad thing. FBHO!

        • Bear_jones

          Trolling at it’s worse

          • God is dead

            The truth scares you, gay bear.

        • Raven Lee

          How was TM a “criminal thug”? He was being stalked by a stranger who was armed. TM’s problem was that he wasn’t armed so he could “stand his ground”. If Zimmerman had stalked me, I would have done the same thing as TM, but with my more effective Bersa BP9cc with 8+1 rounds of JHP.

          • God is dead

            Yikes a Bersa? LOL, criminals and their shitty toy guns. So you would be walking around high with a gun? Good to know… When Trayvon noticed that Zimmerman took interest in him loitering around the neighborhood he should have gotten quickly to his destination instead of assaulting George. Trayvon stalked Zimmerman and paid the price. Good shoot, end of story. One less criminal thug.

          • Leroy


          • Leroy

            WTF Raven Lee, are you packing now?

          • Mad Doggie

            Martin attempted to murder a citizen by beating said citizen’s head into a concrete sidewalk. Had Mr. Zimmerman not taking action, he’d be dead today. Better judged by 12 than carried to your grave. The jury saw through the state’s weak case and ruled appropriately. Case closed.

      • GR Arnold

        I have no respect whatsoever for dead first-son Trayvon, or Mike Brown. It does seem like a great little pistol too.

    • cracker killer

      Should have dirtnapped your mom you dumb Fuck!

    • Nate

      Bret, you need to commit suicide immediately.

    • Art

      **THUMBS UP**
      Art “liked this”

    • Neo Geo

      (This isnt just to and for Bret. I thought it easier to reply to the main post that started all of this debate. Nothing against Bret. He is entitled to his beliefs and opinions like all of us are.) I have gotten into this same debate with user’s on different site’s. From my point of view only thing Zimmerman did wrong was leave his car. Had he not done that Martin would be alive today. It isn’t illegal to follow someone. It is illegal to assault someone. And Martin did assault Zimmerman. It was proven it court and Zimmerman is a free man. If he had done something that night wrong, Other than getting out of his car, which isn’t illegal. I do believe the prosecutor would have loved to have Zimmermans head on a spike. But that isn’t how it played out. It is unfortunate a life was lost, thug or not. You don’t bring fists to a gunfight. These days you never know who is carrying legally or non. So best to be carrying than not. In my area my HOA has a watch. But you are not allowed to carry a firearm even if you have a permit. Needless to say I don’t participate in it. If I am going to patrol my neighborhood and only have a walkie talkie and happen to walk up on or drive up on someone assaulting someone that damn radio isn’t going to do shit. Same thing if they are robbing someone. Your just to call it in and leave if you feel your attracting attention to yourself and leave it to the police. I keep an eye out on my street and the one around it when I am out with my dogs or doing things outside. I wont be a George Zimmerman. But I wont back away from a crime I see in progress either. I am not a fan of Kel Tec or Bersa. The smallest firearm’s I have that I personally carry is either my Glock 36 & 19C. I know there are alot of opinions on both sides of the issue with the Martin/Zimmerman case. But it’s been ruled on and a verdict was given. Some like it some don’t. Either way it’s done and over with.

    • DigitalSmoke

      what a disgusting bonehead comment. Shame on you.

  • Patriot

    Bought the p3at for myself and mother after release. We loved them so much we purchased pf9’s as well. I own a xds 9mm and sig 938 but usually relent and carry the smaller/more comfortable pf9. Add a trigger shoe and limbsaver slip grip and your golden. Like the author said; they might trump the size of the pf9 (kimber solo and rohrbaugh r9 ect.) but not at this price point. I paid $250 otd.

  • Ralph Ridgruhner

    think my Firing pin went out, shot 2 mags & on the third it just stopped working, checked ammo by swapping to different type, even tried 2 different mags and nothing. Brand new out the box. Pissed Off

    • Sam

      So, you broke it in as documented in the manual and by checking the bunch of info on the internet about all Keltec’s and, after 200 rounds, what was your experience then? If you didn’t do that then send it back to Keltec and take advantage of their excellent customer service. Also, did you disassemble it and clean it before shooting it first? All new Keltec’s benefit from this procedure.

      I did all that and mine works fine. You need to evaluate different ammo to determine which one it likes just like most pistols. I found my favorite and that’s what I carry in it.

      • Ralph Ridgruhner

        Yes its not my first gun :) and it only fired 14 before the issue so !

  • Ralph Ridgruhner

    think my Firing pin went out, shot 2 mags & on the third it just stopped working, checked ammo by swapping to different type, even tried 2 different mags and nothing. Brand new out the box. Pissed Off

  • Jon

    I just picked up this pistol and have never reviewed a firearm before online. I carried a Ruger P345 .45 for about 10 years and needed to add a smaller piece to my arsenal for “concealed” carry. Trust me, I am a .45 guy through and through, but lugging around a brick gets old after awhile. While the PF9 is relatively small and has a pretty heavy trigger pull, i found it to be very accurate at 10, 15 and 20 yards – hitting the target every time. Just shy of 200 rounds through it and not 1 (I repeat) not 1 issue for me. I fired PMC and Hotshot through it flawlessly. The only gripe that I have with it is putting it back together. You need to use some serious ingenuity and thumb strength to press the barrel down while sliding the rack into a position to where you can get the pin installed. Other than that, I am happy. Don’t buy into all of the gun-snobs online – If you want an affordable 9mm that will keep you happy and your family safe – I recommend the PF9.

  • Y K

    I just got one from a friend who knows nothing about pistol repair, and his PF-9 was having failure to feed issues after firing a few rounds.

    I disassembled the gun and found the breach face had a nice, relatively deep “ding” in the breech face, which is caused by either firing A LOT of rounds or firing too many +P rounds.

    The “ding” was taking the “smooth” out of ejection and causing rounds to hang enough to cause problems. I took a small, fine file and took the “ding” down to being just a “mark”, and then polished the breech face with some 1000 grit sand paper until it was smooth. I didn’t have to take too much of the steel off to cause extractor problems so everything is fine there.

    I also think the chamber edges are/were too sharp so I “throated” the chamber [edges] with a small, round, fine, file and polished the edges [and ramp] with 1000 grit sandpaper.

    Result ? Smooth, reliable, function.

    • Jon

      My pf9 had to be sent to the kel Tek people. It would not extract the spent shell. The most it fired was 5 rounds and then went to 1 round. I got it back today, was only gone 2 weeks. Pretty fast service. I’ll be taking it to the range Monday and see how it does. Incidentally, when I went to the store where I bought it to shoot my flawless pt111,there was another guy there that bought the same gun and had the exact same problem. Before I gave up I had fired 113 rounds. My hand was killing me. Not from recoil, but from having to rack and lock the slide and drop the magazine, and start over. I did try and do the break in thing. It just wouldn’t respond. I’ll post my results Monday evening.

  • OuTkAsT

    Worst company ever to build guns. They have the worst equipment, the worst guarantees on there guns. They claim to have a life time warranty on there guns and then don’t honor it when they sell faulty equipment. Such a shity gun and the world’s most piss poor customer service

    • Dkg

      I had a bad experience with a Pf-9, but I can’t complain about their customer service. They mailed me replacement part for the mag release and spring. I had other problems and ended up sending the pistol back to Kel Tec. They repaired the pistol at no cost. Every manufacturer has a few they’d like back. Kel Tec has a great rep for their customer service.

  • mick

    it is a fine CCW and shoots pretty accurate at the range. the attached clip is a nice bonus.

  • Mrs. Gozimich

    Great gun! I own it a really like it for the size! Good article! Thanks!

  • Mad Doggie

    Nice gun but I’d recommend spending a little more and getting a better weapon, such as a Sig Sauer p226.

  • Ryan Sorensen

    I just bought this gun i love it..

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