Handguns

Cheaper Than Dirt! Test Drive: Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a chance to shoot several pocket nines extensively, with an eye toward selecting one for my personal carry. One of these subcompact pistols is the Kel-Tec PF-9.

The PF-9 is smooth all over, with almost no protrusions. It measures 5.75 inches in overall length, stands 4.4 inches tall, and weighs 14.5 oz. unloaded and 18.6 oz. loaded to capacity (7+1) with 147-grain bullets. Everything about the gun is slim or flat.

The barrel is 3.1 inches long, providing a 4.7-inch sight radius. The sides of the slide are rounded at the front for easier holstering or stowage. Across the slide, the gun’s maximum width is 0.94 inches, and the grip is 0.90 inches thick. There is no mechanical safety lever, but it has an internal hammer-blocking mechanism.

The flat-black-and-blued Kel-Tec PF-9 is a little too large for front pocket carry in slacks or jeans. It easily drops into a workout shorts pocket, cargo shorts leg pocket, jacket pockets, and overcoat pockets. The PF-9 comes with one magazine and two floorplates. The flat plate is better for concealment and makes stowing the gun easier. The second plate has a finger ledge for a better grip, but for concealment, I prefer the flat plate.

A coarse checkerboard pattern on the grips provides excellent traction. The front and rear grip straps have vertical serrations that also supply good gripping surface. The magazine release is a steel button that is not easy to hit accidentally, but releases the mag easily when the shooter presses it. The gun can be fired with the magazine removed.

At the range, Kel-Tec’s 5-pound trigger provided a repeatable break during slow fire, and I had no trouble resetting the trigger, no matter how fast I tried to shoot the Kel-Tec. I shot the PF-9 first with Federal’s 9mm Luger 147-grain Hydra-Shok JHP Premium Personal Defense P9HS2. The 147-grain bullets were originally intended as subsonic submachine gun loads, but some 9mm shooters like them because they offer better penetration, even with the JHP front end. In the past, some cartridges with 147-grain bullets were often loaded too light, generating 880 to 920 fps, which sometimes failed to cycle all pistols. This is not the case with the PPD load, which produced an average muzzle velocity of 990 fps and muzzle energy of 320 ft.-lbs. Over five eight-round targets, the smallest group I shot off sandbags at 15 yards was 2.9 inches. The largest group was 5.0 inches, and the average group-size calculation was 3.8 inches. Recoil was definitely pronounced, and the PF-9 shot high and to the left with this round. I didn’t correct the sights because 115-grain Federals printed just above the point of aim at 15 yards, and I preferred the tamer cartridge. The recoil of the heavy-bullet load kicked my palm sharply no matter how hard I held the gun down.

Federal’s American Eagle FMJ 115-grain load, mentioned above, was a big step down from the 147s. Out of the little PF-9, it had a MV of 1020 fps and ME of 265 ft.-lbs. and was a lot easier to shoot accurately. My smallest eight-shot group off sandbags was 1.9 inches, the largest 3.4 inches, and the average 2.6 inches. Part of my ability to shoot the tiny gun with some accuracy was due to the three-white-dots sights, which gave an excellent picture. I might gently draw a square file through the polymer rear notch to give my eyes slightly larger light bars, but that’s a personal decision. Locked in place by an Allen screw, the rear sight was adjustable for windage and could be shimmed to change elevation.

Federal Hydra-Shok 124-grain JHPs rounded out the test ammo. They developed 1028 fps average muzzle velocity out of the PF-9, making 345 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. My best group with this round was 2.2 inches; the worst 7.0 inches, and the average group size was 4.5 inches. Over several hundred shots, the gun suffered only one malfuction, when the slide failed to lock back on empty during the first few rounds of the Hydra-Shoks.

Takedown is simple. Clear the gun, lock the slide back, and pry out the cross pin. Remove the magazine and let the slide go forward off the front. Remove the concentric recoil springs and the barrel comes right out. Reassemble in reverse order, except that you must press down on the barrel to keep it in place while fully retracting the slide. Then reinsert the cross pin.

There are a few caveats. Shooting the handgun with full-power defensive loads, the recoil-sensitive person isn’t going to like the ride. Also, the lower-front edge of the trigger was sharp, and I would dress that down with a file if I owned this gun. Likewise, the rail slot under the muzzle had sharp edges that needed trimming.

For the pocket carrier, the Kel-Tec PF-9 is a fine 9mm handgun. You can trick it up with a 4.2-ounce Streamlight TLR-1 Tactical Flashlight. Even smaller and cheaper is Streamlight’s TLR-3 Compact Rail-Mounted Tactical Light. Carrying the minimalist PF-9 suggests a minimalist holster, such as the company’s belt-clip. The clip attaches to the right side of the grip by replacing the forward grip pins with steel pins and attaches with two screws.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  1. I’ve got a pf9 and I initially had problems with ftf. Put an MCarbo trigger on it. Made a few adjustments and it worked fine. The more I break it in the better it shoots, snappy but good. She doesn’t miss a lick. Very concealable. I can throw it in my pocket and nobody will ever notice. American made.

  2. Mine is back at Kel-Tec for a couple of months (failure to extract, as you will find in numerous web posts). Definitely not anything to bet your life on.

    1. I had that and other problems with a used PF9 I bought, knowing that it had the problems (got it really cheap). Sent it back to KelTec, and in 3 weeks, it was returned completely rebuilt (long list of new parts), and has worked flawlessly since.

  3. I have had my PF9 for four years and have never had a failure to feed.. (I have had one FTF with my Glock 27.) it shoots great and is the easiest pistol I own to carry concealed, even in the summer with shorts and a T-shirt. I carry the PF9 with a Crossbreed IWB holster. The only issue I have with this pistol are my XXL hands. It’s not a particularly fun gun to shoot, but it’s the Bic lighter of pistols – inexpensive, easy to conceal, and works when you pull the trigger. It’s never going to win a beauty contests or sit in a glass case on display.

    PS: Taurus pistols sucks – not Kel Tec. Taurus quality is a crap shoot; I know a gun shop in Florida that refuses to sell them because of the returns and complaints.

  4. how can kel tec say that their product ,is a good product but yet never can find i work for a gun shop and its impossible to order any type of KEL TEC…
    NOW BACK TO THE MAIN ISSUE kel tec sucks they dont feed right not to mention feed jam

    you cant worrie about accuricy if you cant shoot consistantly
    KEL TEC YOUR DESINGS ARE GREAT BUT WHAT YOU REALY NEED IS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THERE DOING THERE ARE SEVERAL WEAPON THAT YOU CURRANTLY MAKE THAT I WOULD LIKE TO TRY
    BUT HERES THE THING IF YOU DONT MAKE IT YOU CANT SELL IT AND IF YOU DONT MAKE IT BETTER THAN THE OTHER TRYS THEN MAYBE ITS TIME TO PACK UP AND GO HOME…….

  5. I felt compelled to reply after reading the above comment about the P-11. I know several people who own them and I have one myself with over 11K rounds through it. Why in the world would anyone put that many rounds through a small CCW gun with a horrific trigger? Two reasons. 1) It is the gun I carry the most, so I want to be as proficient as possible with it. 2) I got in the habit of bringing it to a weekly match I attend while my “match gun” was out for repair. While the P-11 is certainly not match gun by any stretch of the imagination, I found that I could do pretty well with it, so I kept it in the rotation. Anyway, this is NOT a precision instrument. It is, however, an outstanding carry gun. Light, compact, uber-reliable (every manufacturer has a lemon now and then) and while that loooong heavy trigger may not make for small groups at the range, it is exactly what you want in a gun that you will carry in a pocket or on a belt clip, sans-holster. It’s a great little gun for its intended purpose. I own and feel the same way about the P-32. I suspect the PF-9 is no different.

  6. You guys think Keltec is Bad,Don,t even think of a 9mm Diamond back this is a real piece of you no what $452.00 for a one shot gun. All the rest of the ammo just stays in magazine. Lots of stove pipes or failure to feed. Frame taking beating. save your money and buy a glock 19. Don,t trust your life on a 9mm diamondback..

  7. @ Barry…Perhaps it’s your ammo? My P-11 -[larger P-9] shot well right from the get-go. I used “Brazer” ammo, and finished with a mag. of “Fiocci”. I’m not going to shoot 500 rounds through this tiny CCW! I now know it works well and if I need it, it will produce what I need until I get to my vehicle. As a side note: My P-11 has an 8.5 lb pull?? It also pulled up and L, however, after my lasor install it’s right on!

  8. I had a PF-9, it was a piece of junk. FTFs from the start, not to mention it isn’t accurate at all. Sent it in for repairs & it took 3 months to get it back. A gun that unreliable never should’ve shipped from the factory & it certainly isn’t reliable enough to serve as someone’s CCW. Save your money for something better or trade it in like I did. I’ll never purchase another product from Kel-Tec.

  9. I had a pf9. From day one the gun didn’t shoot right. Recoil is heavy and fet and fee was a constant problem. I could not shoot six shots within any kind of circle at seven yards. I got rid of the gun and bought a Ruger lc9. What a difference. Six hits within two inches at seven yards. Keltec is crap.

  10. Right about the recoil. Very uncomfortable pistol to shoot but it isn’t for fun. After 26 rounds the trigger failed. Sent it back to factory and it took 7 weeks to get it back but it appears to be working ok now. Haven’t decided yet if I will keep it or get a S&W MP Shield.

  11. i bought a use P-11 {the 10 shot version of the P-9} mine looked great in the gun store and seemed to function well without ammo. when i got it to the range i had more FTF {failer to feed} than you could count trigger not working. well , back to the gun store they sent it back to the manufacture THEY TOOK 7 WEEKS TO GET IT BACK and the dam thing still isn’t right
    my thoughts on this so call wepom A PEACE ODF $HIT ! !

  12. Love mine, carried it for over two years. I have the hard chrome slide for durabilit to limp wrist it bedsory. Only caution its that its easy to limp wrist it because of its size and weight. This will lead to jams and can cause things to fall off.

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