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Kel-Tec PF-9 Review

by Payton Miller   |  April 10th, 2013 62


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.

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