Boberg,9 mm,semi-auto handguns,pistol,concealed carry,guns,self-defense,pocket pistol

Boberg XR9-S

Innovative design and ultra-compact size make the Boberg 9 mm a much-discussed pistol. We finally got our hands on one for testing.

By Bob Owens (RSS)
July 9, 2012

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the more unique pistols made in America today—the Boberg XR9-S Onyx edition. While gun-designer/company-owner Arne Boberg describes his pistol as using a rotating-barrel locked-breech mechanism, that alone doesn’t come close to describing the ingenuity of the design. The inspiration for the XR9-S was to create a pistol that delivered the downrange performance of the Glock 26 subcompact in a true pocket-pistol-size package comparable to the Ruger LCP.

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The first thing I noticed about the XR9-S after opening the box was the pistol’s compactness. The 3.35-inch barrel ends just in front of the trigger guard, and it was quickly dubbed the “noisy cricket” by my wife, who compared it to fictional gun of that name carried by Will Smith in the movie “Men in Black.” Palm-sized but rated for a steady diet of +P 9 mm ammunition, the nickname stuck.

The next thing that jumped out at me was the pair of follower-free “backward” magazines that each carry seven rounds buried nose-down, instead of the traditional nose up position. The ultra-short length of the gun and unique bullet position in the XR9-S’s magazine are due to fact that the magazine rides under the pistol’s barrel. To chamber a round, you rack the slide as you would on any other semi-automatic, but what occurs inside is entirely different.

When the slide comes back, a twin-clawed lifting linkage grabs the rim of the top cartridge in the magazine and yanks it violently rearward before pushing it forward into the chamber. When the long double-action-only trigger is pulled, the empty cartridge begins moving back with the recoil—and so does the next cartridge in the magazine, pulled backward by the lifting linkage. The empty case is extracted and tossed free at the rear of the stroke, at which point the fresh cartridge has cleared the magazine and is ready to enter the chamber when the slide returns forward. It’s a fascinating mechanism that really only found commercial success in the heavy machine gun designs of Hiram Maxim and John Browning.

But enough about the mechanism… how does it carry, and how does it shoot?

Carrying the Boberg was a dream. Sitting in an adapted leather IWB holster, the 17-ounce gun (unloaded) disappeared under a T-shirt, and if I’d had the pistol for a longer review period, it would have been the perfect “pocket 9” in one of the dedicated fabric or leather pocket holsters made for the gun. At least five different manufacturers make holsters for the pistol in various configurations ranging from belt to pocket to ankle holsters, so finding a holster to fit your carry style should not be a problem.

My range trip with the XR9-S was what you might call an “interesting” experience.

After teasing the RSO with the backward magazine full of 115-grain Remington UMC MC (metal case, or FMJ) I racked the slide to chamber a round. Having played with the mechanism and dry-fired the pistol repeatedly before chambering the first round, I was perhaps overconfident in the extremely light pressure needed to rack the slide, and short-stroked the first round.

Instead of lifting the bullet robustly to enter the chamber, the short-stroke lifted the cartridge exactly parallel with the bottom of the chamber and drove it forward into the chamber wall. It was a failure to feed of a kind I’d not encountered before, and it was about to get weird.

I tried to re-rack the slide, but the mechanism was jammed. I removed the magazine and started trying to free the stuck cartridge, which was a neat trick considering there is no slide-lock on the pistol (nor is it possible to add one because of the gun’s design), leaving just one hand to try to poke or pry the cartridge free. Ultimately, I was unable to free the cartridge by finger pressure alone, but was able to use a tool to push the round nose-down enough to clear the chamber and the jam. After robustly re-racking the slide, the cartridge loaded flawlessly, I re-inserted the magazine and began shooting.

The XR9-S trigger is a long double-action-only affair well suited for the sort of deliberate self-defense work for which the gun was designed, with a predictable feel that tempts shooters to “stack” the trigger  for precision shots (though Boberg himself says you shouldn’t). There is no short reset point as there is on many pistols, and the trigger must be returned all the way forward to fire the next round.

Firing the XR9-S is a dream. The sights are very serviceable for a pocket pistol (though I might suggest making night sights standard on a pistol of this type), but what really stands out is the recoil, or rather, lack of it. Pocket 9 mm pistols have long earned the reputation of being punishing to fire, because of their light weight, short barrels and the relative power of the 9 mm cartridge compared to the “true” pocket-pistol cartridges like .380 ACP.

Recoil of the Remington UMC load felt surprisingly and pleasingly much less than expected, and I fired four magazines through the XR9-S flawlessly, without the first bit of recoil “sting” that can develop when shooting other lightweight handguns. I then shifted to 124-grain Federal Hydra-Shok personal-defense rounds. Any concerns I had as to whether the hollow-point bullet would chamber were quickly put to rest, and the self-defense load delivered an insubstantial change in recoil impulse. I fed a box of the 124-grain ammo through the XR9-S without incident, then moved to a box of higher-velocity, lighter-weight Federal Guard Dog 105-grain expanding full metal jacket (EFMJ) ammunition, which was slightly snappier than the other two tested loads, but was by no means unpleasant to shoot.

Boberg,9 mm,handguns,concealed carry,pocket pistolsAfter finishing the defensive loads, I returned to the Remington UMC to finish off the box, and once again caught myself short stroking the slide. The result was another jammed round that required the use of a Leatherman to push the nose of the cartridge down and re-rack the slide after dropping the magazine. Feed from shot to shot remained flawless.

I noted that I tended to shoot the gun low (perhaps due to how I was using the double-action-only trigger), but the gun easily kept everything I fed through it at “minute-of-man” accuracy, shooting both two-handed and one-handed, unsupported. I saw no need to test the XR9-S for pure accuracy, as that is not the purpose for which the gun was designed.

Overall, the fit, finish and quality of the all-black “Onyx” edition of the Boberg XR9-S was top notch, as you would expect from a pistol with an MSRP just less than $1,000 and a street premium that boosts the actual retail price substantially higher.

The jamming of the pistol, however, was disconcerting. While it appears to be due primarily to operator error and unfamiliarity with the gun’s design and function, the fact that it requires some sort of a tool to clear the kind of jam I experienced was terrifying, especially considering this is a fighting handgun designed for point-blank, last-ditch self-defense.

Would I rule the XR9-S out as a defensive weapon because of these jams? After much consideration, I don’t think so. The advantages of the Boberg’s light weight, low-recoil, small physical envelope, ability to handle a steady diet of +P ammunition and general suitability as a pocket pistol outweighed what I view to be primarily a training issue.

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Comments

28 Responses to Boberg XR9-S

  1. Arne Boberg says:

    Perhaps your operator-related jams would be slightly less terrifying if you carried a round in the chamber, which eliminates the possibility of it happening in the first place.

  2. Charles says:

    I had several FTF’s during a break-in period of 200 rounds. After that, no problems. The racking of the slide also became much easier, although initially I too had the same ‘operator error’ issues and had to use a ‘tool’ to fix the problem. No big deal though, just different, and something you learn rather quickly. With over 500 rounds now through my XR9-S runs great. I did bench shoot for accuracy (just because) and even with the long DAO, it is excellent. You failed to mention how smooth and glass-like the trigger is, which made it very easy to hold good groups. Yeah, I know, not the intended purpose, but there are some things I just want to know… The racking issue is easily overcome, but I think it would behoove Boberg to make sure their new customers understand the need to ‘slingshot’, so to speak, the slide on a fresh gun, but how you do that I’m not sure. Most guys don’t ask for driving directions either. It’s a minor issue unless you think it’s a great idea to carry a defensive pistol in other than condition 1. And that’s just plain stupid.

  3. Pingback: Boberg XR9-S review « Bob Owens

  4. Richard says:

    I’ve followed the development of the Boberg pistol for more than a year now. It is a ingenious design, and I hope to be able to shoot one some day. I’m happy they are finally getting some “major” media coverage.

  5. JBrady says:

    Actually, by half turning the takedown lever you can lock the slide back. This moves part of the lever up into the small semi-circle cut in the slide and keeps the slide back. This is also good for ranges that require locking the slide back to show the gun is empty when someone goes downrange.

  6. Pingback: Boberg XR9-S Reviewed | Survival Preppers

  7. Jesse Pomeroy says:

    “Point blank, last ditch self defense?

    You are correct, and it would (or should) be obvious to anyone remotely considering carrying ANY firearm for such purpose would have a round in the chamber, or in a revolver the cylinder fully loaded.

    To resolve the “training issue” simply keep a round in the chamber.

    I have a Boberg XR9-S, and I’ve never had the problem you experienced but I’ve been around guns long enough to know how to chamber the first round without experiencing the “short stroke” issue you had..

    No offense, but you should know better.

    J. Pomeroy

    • J Star says:

      Everyone can claim he should know better, but I don’t think he is terrified of short stroking the slide on loading during an emergency, but rather what happens when a factory load happens to be underpowered and doesn’t give enough energy to put the slide through its full course of movement.

      In most other defensive pistols, the training is tap, rack, bang. In this pistol? You’re screwed.

  8. percynjpn says:

    It needs some recalibration and refining, but the very innovative design and excellent packaging are impressive! I suspect Boberg will work out the bugs and it’ll become a popular carry weapon.

  9. Pingback: SayUncle » Gun reviews

  10. Andy from West Haven says:

    Make a double stack 9mm with a 5″ barrel and I’ll be first in line.

    Or a single stack .45 5″. Either or and you have my money.

  11. Pingback: Boberg XR9-S might be in stores soon

  12. Kevin Molino says:

    I’ve been following this one for about two years, for awhile there I was undecided, but I think this is the ONE I have been searching for. I just checked the pre-order page and I’m almost there. Hopefully I will hear from Arnie next month.

  13. JT says:

    so basically, rack the slide like you’re trying to rip it off of the gun and everything will be right as rain?

    • Arne Boberg says:

      Actually, it isn’t that bad – there are a lot more videos out there now showing customers racking the slide and they make it look pretty easy. The thing is, the feel of racking THIS slide is totally different from any other pistol. It gets harder at the end, which takes some getting used to. Racking it quickly just makes it a lot easier.

    • J.K. says:

      No, rack the slide fully to the rear, till the slide no longer moves backward, and completely release your grip to allow the weight of the slide and force of the spring to clearly eject any chambered cases and effectively bring a new round to specified chamber from the magazine.

      Short stroking any pistol’s slide could cause problems.

      My main issue with the Boberg is the difficulty in clearing a jam. No matter the engineer, reviews, tests, or personal experience, its still a mechanical system of parts, each of which could cause failure. Traditional semi-auto pistols can clear most jams with a simple rack of the slide, but the Boberg requires tools and time. There’s no timeouts in a life and death situation where you need a gun.

  14. ArtisanTony says:

    I too have the Onyx version. I just got mine a few weeks ago. I too had the same problem with the first few rounds failing to feed. Arne Boberg called me and discussed the issue at length and I was very happy with his dedication to customer satisfaction. I don’t think there is another gun manufacturer in the business that would call me after seeing my first video on my YouTube channel. He explained that the Onyx version needs a wear in period due to the coatings. After a few hundred rounds I am having very little trouble and I suspect that it will get to a point to where it runs like a dream because of the engineering. I actually would rather break the pistol in myself in lieu of waiting any longer to receive the gun :) I am a proud XR9-S owner!

  15. Lew says:

    The “better mouse trap” does not always catch mice.

  16. roger says:

    I disagree. This is a concealment pistol and not a main duity weapon. In 99.99% of all concealed carry situations you will never need to reload. And I always carry my firearm with a round in the chamber.

    I own a Boberg.

  17. Steven says:

    Hello, I’m new but, I don’t know if anyone here has had this problem with their XR9-S. Mine has a bad habbit of throwing out live rounds instead of chambering them. I have maybe shot (tried to) 300+ rds. through mine, but have yet to get through a 50 rd. box without this happening. My pistol has been back once already and it still has this problem. I have sent another e-mail off and have yet to hear back, but I think I’m done with the XR9-S. It’s too bad, because I really like the looks & feel of the gun, and it’s pretty accurate IMO, but just can’t trust it.

  18. Mark Bartholomew says:

    Nice gun…but this is EXACTLY why I bought a Glock 26…I can shoot the eyes out of a lizard without 9 million practice rounds to get used to a mile long trigger pull.

  19. DAK says:

    If it had the option of a brushed stainless steel frame, I’d go for it. I hate anodized aluminium, too light, and too much trouble in touching up scratches.

  20. Jjackson says:

    Sorry, but I think this is a perfect example of different simply for the sake of being different. With its shortcomings, real and perceived, I don’t see how it’s better than a Ruger LC9. This is also a good illustration of cost vs worth. The Boberg costs twice as much as the Ruger, but is worth half as much. IMHO.

  21. Bill Z says:

    To Jjackson I say” own one, shoot one, then make comparisons”. I own one, shoot one and find it’s function flawless and it’s accuracy mind boggling. It is the most accurate 9mm I’ve owned (I own a Sig P226 and have owned a Beretta 92 FS and other 9′s along the way). It out shoots any hand gun I’ve owned and I saved the targets to prove it (I even had a hard time believing it). It is also a superbly made firearm that’s a joy to look at with a company that proudly and confidently stands behind it. Own a Rolex (or Omega) watch and Seiko and tell me there’s no difference. Own a BMW car and Honda and tell me there’s no difference. It’s there, but you have to be able to understand to tell the difference. Own the better products, make your comparisons. I’ve found that out emiprically. I’m the first in line to criticize when it’s warranted. So far, the Boberg XR9S can stand at the head of the class.

  22. Emil says:

    Hi from Canada!
    One of our local stores have pre-ordered Boberg XR9-L, the model with longer barrel in compliance of Canadian Firearm Act for 105 mm / 4.1 in or longer barrels. Thank you for sharing your experiences with gun! And very eager to put hand of one of them! :)

  23. Anson Gama says:

    Hi from Canada!
    Boberg has made a dream come true for Canadians who wish to own a great gun in a small package. The XR9-L is the only ‘pocket- pistol” we can legally own. It appears that Mr. Boberg kept the Canadian market in mind when deciding on the length of the barrel.
    Thank you, Sir Boberg, on behalf of all Canadian law-abiding shooters…:)

  24. Bill Slinkard says:

    I have had mine for over a couple mounths now with no failures with about 300 rounds. I am convinced this is the best pocket 9mm on the market. I make my own holsters so you know the perfect fit.

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