I have been warily circling some of the new tiny 9mms. It isn’t quite an itch that needs to be scratched, but I am aware of a potential need that I could be convinced to fill with minimal prodding.
Why? Well, I recall what former senator Phil Gramm once said when asked how many guns he had: “I have as many guns as I need, but I don’t have as many guns as I want.“ And I agree, “want” is all the justification I need to provide.
But, I do try to be reasonable. I don’t want to invest in a defensive gun that uses oddball ammunition that I can’t easily locate (.32NAA anyone?). I don’t want to buy too many guns that successfully fill a single niche in the same caliber. I look for guns that will last for a lifetime (at least) of shooting without wearing out. I tend to avoid hot new trends until they prove their worth and any drawbacks are revealed (and hopefully rectified).
These little 9mms are flatter than a J-frame, while offering a similar or shorter length and height. Depending on wardrobe, they might be easier to conceal. And that would give me even more flexibility in wardrobe vs. carry tradeoffs. The ability to pocket-carry would be ideal.
My shortlist (until I change my mind):
The Kahr PM9 had me interested, and then Kahr debuted the CM9 at a much lower price and my interest grew. It’s small, and it has been thoroughly reviewed by several reputable gun publications and proved itself to be reliable. No safeties to complicate things. It’s one of the contenders on my list.
Kel-Tec has the PF-9. While inexpensive, the PF-9 offers a lot of features. It kicks a bit harder than the CM9 (which it was compared to by Gun Tests magazine). The barrel is bare metal and unblued, which irks me. Connecticut may not be as nasty humid as Florida or Houston, but it tends to be damp here; I would be worried about corrosion. While I believe Kel-Tec is one of the most innovative gun companies in the business, part of me questions the durability of their guns. Why? Just check the FAQ section of their website: “What is the expected life of a Kel-Tec firearm? All Kel-Tec firearms have an expected life of 6,000 rounds or more.” Not exactly confidence-inspiring.
Ruger again cloned a Kel-Tec product, this time creating the LC9. While 2.5 ounces heavier and more expensive than the Kel-Tec, it is not as fatiguing to shoot. But, it incorporates both a manual safety and a magazine-disconnect safety. I never use the first, and would be more concerned about it being activated accidentally. But the magazine-disconnect safety is a deal-breaker for me (and why I won’t buy a Mark III). I know that the SR9c can have its disconnect safety disabled by a handy end-user, but I don’t know how feasible that is on the LC9.
Beretta jumped into the market with the Nano. No manual safety and no magazine-disconnect safety. Haven’t seen any in-depth reviews yet but I am looking.
Update: I forgot the Walther PPS. I have shot them before, and I like them a lot. Pretty accurate, and soft-shooting. The mag-release takes some getting used to. It’s a little larger than most of these guns. (BTW, the PPS is made in Poland by Radom for Walther).
SIG has the new P290. No manual safety. I am a fan of SIG pistols of the past, but I am not sure that I trust their new guns. I will keep my eye on the P290, but it will have to prove itself before I will consider it.
The CM9 and SIG P290 are definitely the smallest.
And then there’s the non-contenders:
I know that Kimber is shipping their new Solo. There’s no magazine-disconnect safety, but it has a manual safety. You need to replace the recoil spring every 1000 rounds (pg 11 of the manual). I don’t trust Kimber’s quality-control, and their weird trigger mechanism (90% of the cocking energy comes from racking the slide) is just a 10th of a step from being a single-action gun. Which, if you have read this blog at all, you will know I do not like or trust. The fact that they tried to make the Solo emulate a 1911 (which sucks) is just the icing on a cake I will not eat. Pass.
Rohrbaugh has their R9. No safety, but the magazine release was at the bottom of the grip (and thus potentially vulnerable to being activated by accident). The trigger was heavy, takedown was awkward, some of the screws were made of aluminum (and thus will probably not last too long) . It wasn’t reliable when Gun Tests reviewed it. I hope Rohrbaugh gets their shit together and refines their gun into something solid. But I can’t afford to buy unproven products. I am not some rich layabout with money to burn, like Robert Farago. LOL. I kid, RF.
UPDATE: Eric at TheTruthAboutGuns reviewed the Rohrbaugh. It was finicky about ammo, and is apparently designed to be carried a lot and shot only a little: “The Rohrbaugh HQ recommends you shoot it enough to get familiar with it, and be sure your carry ammo works in it, then stop firing and carry it. Run a couple mags through it when you are at the range shooting the other guns, to refresh the ammo, but otherwise: shoot little, carry much. The factory recommends recoil spring change ($5) every 200 rounds.” Looks like I will definitely pass on the Rohrbaugh. No point in carrying a gun that you cannot practice with.
Diamondback has the DB9. It looks like an uglier Glock (though I never thought the Glock was ugly, just utilitarian). You can’t use bullets heavier than 124gr, or any +P, +P+, or NATO ammo. The only Diamondback that I have seen reviewed (a .380 in Gun Tests) wasn’t reliable. As with Rohrbaugh, I hope they focus on design and quality and make themselves a contender. But for the moment, they are not in consideration.
UPDATE: Someone bought a DB9 and it broke on them.
But, no matter how you view these guns, they didn’t exist 10 years ago. The entire category of guns that they fall under didn’t exist 10 years ago. The industry recognized the need, and geared up to meet it. And now we all have a lot of models to choose from. One of them might be right for you.