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.