Review: Kel-Tec PF9

Kel-Tec PF9 pistol left profile

When looking for a good example of the most popular American carry gun, the slimline 9, the Kel-Tec PF9 is a good place to start. It is among the least expensive quality handguns and a proven performer. The Kel-Tec PF9 was among the first ultralight 9mm handguns.

Kel-Tec PF9 pistol right profile
The PF9 is a slim and light handgun.

The pistol features a polymer frame and double-action-only trigger. The trigger is tight but smooth, breaking at 6.5 pounds. This isn’t a striker fired handgun, but the PF9 uses a hammer.

The unloaded weight is a light 12.5 ounces. The pistol is 5.25 inches long, and width is .9 inch. The PF9 is small but has an advantage in its seven-round magazine versus the six-round magazine of some small 9mm handguns.

When you compare the pistol with the 8.5-ounce P3AT .380 from the same maker, which has an overall length of 5.2 inches as well, the PF9 offers considerable advantages at very little extra girth. The big difference is in power.

Sight picture on the Kel-Tec PF9 handgun
The Kel-Tec sights are easy and fast to pick up.

The 9mm Luger has benefited a great deal from ammunition and projectile development, and the PF9 might look better today than when first introduced. The pistol is conventional for a polymer-frame gun. The grip treatment offers good abrasion and adhesion.

The sights are adequate, and the slide is slim and easily holstered. The double-action trigger is smooth enough with a rapid reset. The ejection port is large enough for administrative handling.

Firing the DAO trigger is much different than addressing a single-action trigger. The movement to the rear and to the front after reset demands coordination. The pistol is fired, and the trigger is given time for reset.

magazine release on a pistol
This magazine release will not be tripped inadvertently.

The DAO Kel-Tec is smooth enough for good hits at moderate range. The sights are adequate, and the pistol is a true pocket handgun. There is no manual safety; the DAO trigger is the safety feature. The locked breech action is conventional. The takedown isn’t difficult.

The PF9 illustrated has been fired extensively with a variety of ammunition. These included the Federal American Eagle 124-grain FMJ, the Federal Synetch 115-grain as training loads, and the Hornady 124-grain XTP +P. The interesting Hornady 100-grain Lite has been proofed for reliability.

For a heavy bullet choice, the 147-grain Sig Sauer Elite V Crown has been tested. All loads fed, chambered, fired, and ejected without issue. Be certain the hands do not ride the slide with this pistol. It is easy to do with the short-slide 9mm and a common cause of malfunctions of pistols this size.

Kel-Tec PF9 pistol left profile
While small, the PF9 chambered the powerful 9mm cartridge.

As I fired quickly at the 7-yard range, the PF9 gave a good account of itself. The groups were adequate for personal defense, with none straying from the kill zone. Just the same, this handgun is more difficult to control than heavier pistols, which is to be expected. Inexperienced shooters might find it difficult to control. The of +P loads were not markedly more difficult to control in the PF9 with a strong grip on the handgun.

The magazine release is positive in operation. Speedloads were not difficult to accomplish with practice. After the combat firing exercises, it is good to take a few shots at long range, confirm the zero, and check for absolute accuracy.

The DAO trigger is long but smooth and demanded attention to detail. The Kel-Tec PF9 gave reasonable results, with the single best group running 3 inches for five shots from a solid benchrest firing position, with some 4 inches at 15 yards.

The pistol never malfunctioned and gave a credible showing. It is a true 9mm pocket pistol well suited to personal defense, concealed carry, and home defense. If you can carry a larger and more manageable pistol, you should. But the PF9 is a good choice for concealed carry.

Do you carry an ultralight 9mm for self-defense? Is it the Kel-Tec PF9? Share your answer in the comment section.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (22)

  1. I’m almost obsessed with the PF9…as I find it nearly perfect for concealed carry. On my pistol I’ve added the stainless guide rod, +1 magazine extension, and Hogue beaver tail grip sleeve. The latter has really helped w/getting a grip on the gun! I have found it to be an excellent budget gun.

  2. My Son gave me one, had stovepipe issue, called KelTec n they had me ship it to them. Got it back with new parts except frame n barrel. Cost me $25. Now it shoots like a dream. I reload my own n no issues with any loads. Rec to anyone wanting light carry. Semper Paratus.

  3. I’ve owned and carried a PF9 for 2 years. 800 rounds through it. I’ve been licensed to carry concealed for 20 years, and the PF9 is best pocket pistol I have used. I carry it daily. Highly recommend it for serious concealed carry – do not recommend it for a first gun or a range toy.

  4. has a trigger kit for the PF9 that really makes this little handgun a pleasure to shoot with a 20 pound recoil spring to decrease muzzle flip try it I promise you won’t regrets it.

  5. I have owned and carried a PF9 for about 3 years and love it. It is a solid and reliable gun for concealed carry. It was recommended to me by a gun dealer who could have suggested many choices that were much more expensive. I appreciated his honesty and have sent him several customers since then.

  6. Yes, I carry the PF-9. It is an excellent pocket carry gun. I consider the quality quite good, but I personally would not consider it for heavy duty use. I wouldn’t shoot it every weekend, or put +P’s through it. In fact my carry load is the Hornady Lites, and they are 100% reliable. The accuracy is quite good, and the recoil is similar to some .380’s. I find this gun just as easy to pocket carry as my beloved Glock 42, and it cost half as much. However, I would imagine that the Glock 42 would outlast the PF-9 with heavy use.

  7. Yes…I definitely think the PF9 is a good choice for personal self defense. It has adequate capacity, adequate firepower, adequate sights, a small accessory rail. All this in a very small package.

  8. I’ve IWB carried my PF9 for 7 years and shot a couple hundred rounds through it with zero issues. Easy to conceal for skinny people. Especially with the side clip so you don’t have the added bulk of a holster to try to hide. To my knowledge there isn’t a better fit out there yet even though a few manufacturers have tried to copy it. Definitely recommend buying one. The price is hard to beat also.

  9. The PF9 is a great conceal carry choice for me. I bought mine when they first came out. I it very easy to conceal, usually just carried in my waist band, no holster. I have tried several different choices of ammo and found the lighter the grain the easier it is to control. Although my 12 yr old son prefers to shoot my larger Glock do to the recoil you get from the Kel-Tex. With that said if your looking for a small gun to carry it is a perfect choice for the money.

  10. I am carrying a PF9 right now. It isn’t the easiest gun to shoot, but is is far more comfortable in the holster then most guns, and you can’t beet the price

  11. The PF9’s light weight and slim frame give it the trappings of a good concealed carry option, but I owned one for 2 years and it broke 3 times in 3 different ways during that time (2 springs & the extractor; all 3 rendered the pistol inoperable). I practiced with light handloads to make range trips more tolerable, so it wasn’t a steady diet of +P ammo that damaged it. Nor was it due to heavy use, as it’s not a fun gun to shoot; recoil is harsh and the long heavy trigger rubs on your finger in an unpleasant way, even after I used sand paper and steel wool to polish the seams and rough spots on the polymer frame. My wife and son refused to shoot it when we went to the range, and I always developed a blister on my trigger finger if I shot more than 2 or 3 magazines through it.

    I finally sold it to a friend who experienced a 4th failure a month later, this time of the disassembly pin.

    I love the PF9’s size and weight and own two other Kel-Tec firearms but can’t recommend carrying the PF9 based on my personal experience with it.

  12. I tested My pf9 wit some Mag-tec ammo and it would not cycle reliably firing on but not the next. I had a gun smith check it and he said it had some gunk inside which he cleaned out. However, the problem was still there with that ammo. It seemed to fire Winchester white box fine, but now I am worried about reliability. Any advice?

  13. I have owned my pf9 for some time. The only problem was repaired by buffing the ramp.

    But my biggest p is the trigger, I wish there were options. Very uncomfortable durning operation.

  14. I have two PF 9’s and have MCarbo triggers & spring kits and {ss} guide rods in them. Sure make’s a them ten times better. If you have a PF 9, you may wont to check them out.

  15. Good review. I picked up the P11 (used) a couple of years ago, and other than some feed issues at first, I’ve been happy with it as a backup. When I bought it, there was only 1 mag, after the 3rd or 4th time it misfed, I finally examined the mag closely and discovered the feed lips were bent. After I bought a couple of new factory mags and the misfeeds stopped. I’ve recommended the P11 to several fellow shooters. While it’s not the most accurate gun (point of aim, point of impact are several inches off at 15 feet), but it wasn’t designed to be a nail driver at 50 feet. For it’s intended use, it’s fine. I’m sure the PF9 functions in much the same wsy.

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