Kel-Tec has developed a reputation for innovative and affordable firearm designs. Its new PF-9, a polymer-and-steel pistol chambered in 9 mm, is designed to fill a niche in Kel-Tec's line between its P-3AT (a single-stack, 8.3-ounce .380 ACP) and its P-11 (a double-stack, 14-ounce 9 mm), and it is a hybrid of the two designs.
The PF-9, which stands for "pistol, flat 9 mm," combines the strengths of the two designs into an extremely appealing pocket-sized pistol. According to Tobias Obermeit, Kel-Tec's design engineer, the PF-9 is for "those people who like the light weight and small size of the single-stack P-3AT but want a more powerful chambering, like in the double-stack P-11."
Although the PF-9's size, weight and cost may make it unique in the realm of pocket pistols, it is not drastically different from other Kel-Tecs. The PF-9 shares the following components with the P-11: recoil springs, trigger, trigger pin, ejector, front sight and barrel. The PF-9's feed ramp is an exception, due to the fact that it feeds from a single- rather than a double-stack detachable magazine. The PF-9 shares with the P-3AT the following: hammer block and spring, extractor and spring, trigger axis spring, firing pin spring and hammer spring.
One area in which the PF-9 differs from the rest of Kel-Tec's pistols as well as from much of the competition is the addition of an accessory rail on the frame's dustcover—an unusual feature in this class. The result is a 9 mm that weighs a mere 14.5 ounces and measures 5 7/8 inches long, 4 1/4 inches tall andis only 7/8 inch wide. The company indicated there are currently no plans for a .40 S&W version.
As is now common with today's polymer-and-steel pocket pistols, the PF-9 is a double-action-only (DAO) design—meaning that a long, deliberate trigger pull is required for each shot. The Kel-Tec differs in that it is hammer-fired rather than using the more common striker-fired mechanism.
The PF-9 does not have an external safety, instead it relies on the inherent safety of its DAO trigger system. The pistol does have a passive hammer-block safety that is disengaged only when the trigger is pulled the full DAO distance, adding an extra level of safety in case it is dropped or suffers a serious blow. The PF-9 offers no second-strike capability, however, and lacks a magazine safety—the latter a positive feature in the eyes of many shooters.
Operation is the familiar tilting-barrel/locked-breech system in which the PF-9's 4140 steel barrel is cammed downward to unlock from the ejection port of the 4140 steel slide. During the slide's rearward movement the hammer rotates downward. It moves forward with the slide's return movement until engaged by the hammer block, which holds it away from the firing pin.
Although the PF-9 appears to have a polymer frame, Kel-Tec instead calls this the "grip." In fact, a 7075-T6 aluminum chassis that rests inside the Dupont Zytel 80G33 fiberglass-reinforced nylon housing is the serial-numbered part. The PF-9 is available in three finishes—blued, Parkerized or hard chromed—and the polymer grip housing is available in black, gray or green.
Sights are in the three-dot pattern, with the rear sight being windage-adjustable after loosening its retaining Allen screw. The PF-9 has only two external controls—a slide-release lever and a conventionally located magazine-release button, giving it a sleek profile that helps minimize hangups during a draw.
The sample I received for evaluation was a blued model with a black polymer grip housing. Picking it up immediately made its thinness apparent to all those who handled it. It disappeared into a front pant pocket when tested with a Desantis Nemesis pocket holster. I also acquired an Insight Technology X2 laser, which is a tiny light/laser combination unit. During testing, I found the pistol to be controllable, although its extremely light weight did make it something of a handful to shoot. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying table. The X2 light/laser performed well and aided precision shooting.
Near the end of the testing protocol, I experienced a malfunction in which the trigger bar disconnected from the trigger, rendering the pistol inoperable. The PF-9 was returned, and Kel-Tec installed a new trigger bar with a deeper and better formed spring cut. Testing resumed, and the PF-9 performed flawlessly with no further malfunctions.
The PF-9 is definitely well suited for discreet carry, combining light weight, a powerful chambering, slim profile and good handling characteristics. When combined with its affordable price and lifetime warranty, this should be an extremely popular choice as a personal-protection pistol.