Pocket Rocket: The Kel-Tec PF-9 

Kel-Tec builds guns that tend to be trendsetters in the firearms community. The Kel-Tec P-3AT is an ultra-compact, semi-automatic pistol in .380ACP that set the standard for many other guns from Ruger, Taurus, and others. In 2006, Kel-Tec upscaled the P3AT and created the Kel-Tec PF-9, one of the smallest and lightest 9mm pistols available on the market today.

The PF-9 is a compact single stack 9mm in every sense of the word. It’s very suitable for concealed carry, and could also be used as a pocket pistol. The PF-9 is a Double Action Only (DAO) pistol with a hammer, not a striker. The DAO feature means that you have to pull the hammer all the way back each time you pull the trigger to fire the pistol. This, in turn, means that the trigger has a longer length of travel than most of the guns in our test. While the trigger on our test gun needed to travel quite a ways in order to fire the gun, it did not require a lot of effort to make it move, coming in at just over 6 pounds. 

Kel-Tec PF-9 First Impressions 

The small size and light weight of the PF-9 are definitely two of its biggest strengths. At just 12.6 ounces unloaded, it’s easily the lightest pistol in our test. It’s also the skinniest pistol we tested. The magazine capacity is seven rounds, and there is just one magazine included with the gun. The backstrap is not interchangeable to accommodate different hand sizes. As a result, it felt a little thin in my hands. 

 

On the front of the PF-9 is a short section of Picatinny rail, a nice feature in a gun this size. That section of rail would come in handy if you chose to mount a light or laser on this gun. The sights on the PF-9 are three dot, and the rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, another feature rarely found on such a small gun. Disassembly of the PF-9 requires you to use a spent casing to pull out the slide stop pin. Other than that, though, operation of the PF-9 is just like other common 9mm pistols. 

Range Impressions

Kel-Tec PF-9

Really small. Really Light. Really Good?

Kel-Tec may be known for their innovation, but they are not known for their ergonomics. The small size and light weight of the PF-9 may be great for concealment, but it makes shooting the pistol for any length of time quite painful. I shot 300 rounds through the gun to test its reliability (more on that later), and I had to stop every 50 rounds or so to ease the pain in my shooting hand. The PF-9’s slim profile and small size means there is not a lot of room to hold onto this pistol and its low weight sucks up very little of the recoil. 

Getting good hits on target with the PF-9 was not a problem, though. Neither was operating the gun itself. I had no issues with the long travel of the trigger, and the other controls such as the magazine release were right where you’d expect them to be.

Accuracy

The PF-9 placed right in the middle of the other guns in our accuracy test, so the gun’s short sight radius did not seem to affect its ability to put rounds on target. However, because I needed extra time to adjust to the recoil of each shot, follow up shots with the PF-9 were a bit slow compared to other pistols in our test.

Ammo Test Results

American Eagle 115 Grain FMJ
Average Group Size: 3.2 inches
Minimum Group Size: 2.8 inches
Maximum Group Size: 3.6 inches
Average Velocity: 1116 fps

PF-9

Decent sights on such a little gun.

Wolf 115 Grain FMJ
Average Group Size: 3.05 inches
Minimum Group Size: 2.3 inches
Maximum Group Size: 4.3 inches
Average Velocity: 1040 fps

Federal 147 Grain HST JHP
Average Group Size: 2.9 inches
Minimum Group Size: 2.3 inches
Maximum Group Size: 3.6 inches
Average Velocity: 943 fps

Overall Average Group Size: 3.20 inches

Reliability

We shot 300 rounds of the following commonly-available 9mm rounds in each of the ten guns in our test: 

Innovation ain't enough

Kel-Tec certainly thinks outside the box, and they tend to be ahead of where the market is going.

All of the guns we tested shot each of the test rounds with no issues, except for the PF-9. It had severe issues loading both the 135 grain Hornady JHP round and the 147 grain Federal round. The PF-9 experienced a total of five FTF (failure to feed) issues with those rounds, three with the Hornady and two with the Federal. Based on these results, I would take great care to test any defensive hollow point ammunition in your gun before trusting it as a defensive or concealed carry pistol.

Wrap-up

In many ways, the Kel-Tec PF-9 is where the whole single stack 9mm revolution began. Super small, easy to conceal, and easy to carry, it packs a lot of 9mm punch into a pistol that is smaller than some .380 ACP pistols. That small size does have its drawbacks, though. I’ve owned a variety of Kel-Tec pistols in the past, and I appreciate the groundbreaking ideas that come out of that company. However, for my tastes, the PF-9 is not a gun I’d carry on a regular basis. It’s certainly easy to carry and a breeze to conceal, but the pain in my hands after just 50 rounds and the reliability problems we saw with hollow points lead me to think that another one of the pistols in our test might be more to my liking.