Kel Tec PF9 Review

Small, lightweight polymer-framed pistols that have only a double-action trigger for a safety have become popular, and I consider the Kel-Tec PF9 to be among the best. It is smaller and lighter than a Walther PPK but more powerful, as it shoots the 9mm Luger cartridge. At 14.5 ounces and .880 inch thick by 5¾ inches long and 4¼ inches high, this gun is a true pocket pistol. It rides easily inside the pocket of an El Paso Saddlery “Pocket Max” holster, which keeps it in a constant position for fast draw from the pocket, as well as breaks up the outline of the gun and protects it from the dirt and lint that accumulate in pockets. It is noticeably smaller and lighter than the old Colt and Savage pocket pistols that set the standard for pocket automatic pistols in the first part of the 20th Century.
The PF9 was designed by George Kelgren, president and owner of the company. He did a good job creating a gun that is just the right size and weight for pocket carry. Smaller guns tend to get lost in the pocket, while bigger and heavier guns show their outline more, as the weight also makes that pocket want to swing a bit noticeably.
Of course at this size and weight it does have a sharp recoil, but not excessive. My wife Betty had no complaints or problems firing it and I don’t think anyone ever will have a valid one. Guns like this are meant to be fired at muzzle ranges out to about 20 feet.
While this gun gave good results fired off sandbags at 25 yards, the average gunfight is normally within a few yards and this gun is intended to place all its shots in an attacker’s vitals at close range, not make tight groups in paper targets.
The sights are easily visible without being so big that they interfere with concealing the gun. Trigger pull is 8 pounds, as measured by a Lyman trigger pull gauge from Brownell’s Gunsmithing Supplies. That is exceptionally light for a double-action trigger pull and makes this gun easier to shoot.
However, that is still 8.8 times heavier than the gun itself, which means it still interferes with precise shooting. That is the price you pay for the speed and convenience of having a double-action trigger instead of a safety that has to be removed. The alternative is to simply have a grip safety on a single-action automatic, but most people are uncomfortable with that concept despite the fact that John Browning thought that a grip safety was all the safety an automatic pistol required.
There is a bottom rail for a laser sight or flashlight attachment. I don’t recommend either be used, as they add weight and bulk and may give your position away in a gunfight. Flashlights draw return fire. If you have to have a flashlight, get a powerful one and hold it well away from your body.
THE BOTTOM LINE is that a pocket pistol is intended for close range only and a small, light pistol is much harder to hit with than a full-size military pistol. If you want long-range accuracy, get a full-size pistol. If you want a lightweight, small, easy-to-carry-and conceal pistol, it will come with the trade-off of shorter effective range.
Since most people cannot shoot a pistol expertly, the difference may not appear so great to the average man who has no long-range shooting planned anyway. He just wants the smallest, lightest, easiest gun that he can get for point-blank fire against anyone attacking him. The Kel-Tec PF9 answers that need admirably. It takes the place of the old top-break .38 S&W revolvers as the gun carried “just in case” that also doubled as the bedside burglar pistol for the average man. Like the early Colt and Savage automatics, the Kel-Tec PF9 offers a greater number of shots; seven in the magazine and one in the chamber, compared to the five shots of the old top-break revolvers.
Back when everyone was carrying a pistol and the courts sided with the honest citizen instead of the criminal, the crime rate was much lower and the world was a much safer place to live in.
This is a quality gun with 4140 steel barrel and slide. The barrel is heat-treated to Rockwell 48 on the C scale for strength and durability. The rectangular frame, which holds the firing mechanism, is machined from a 7075-T6 aluminum billet. The grip, which also includes the trigger guard and magazine well, is made from Dupont ST-8018 ultra-high impact polymer.
The trigger connects to the hammer by a transfer bar. The hammer has a novel free-floating extension spring to propel it. Being a 9mm Parabellum caliber gun, the Kel-Tec is a locked breech weapon. When the gun is fired, the slide engages the barrel, forcing it back and thus disengaging its locking lug. While you can make a blowback 9mm like the Spanish Astra, it kicks quite a bit more and on a gun that weighs less than one pound, it would kick excessively, slowing up follow-up shots too much.
The gun also features a hammer block safety to prevent it from firing if dropped. It is reset every time the slide is jacked back and is the reason you cannot snap the gun when empty more than once without pulling the slide back for each shot. Pulling the trigger rotates the trigger axis forward with the trigger bar, which engages the hammer and then the hammer block. The trigger bar disengages after rotating about 85 degrees and it holds the hammer block in front of the hammer, allowing the hammer to fire the cartridge in the chamber. Upon firing, the recoil of the shot drives the barrel and slide to the rear.

After the first ¼ inch, the barrel is unlocked by the disassembly pin, releasing the slide to continue back and extracting the fired case from the chamber. Near the end of the slide’s travel, the case strikes the ejector, which knocks it free of the gun. As the recoil springs propel the slide forward, the breech face picks up the top cartridge in the magazine and drives it into the chamber. As the slide closes, the barrel is cammed up locking into the slide. The hammer block has now reengaged the hammer, holding it back from the firing pin. Releasing the trigger now allows the trigger bar to move back behind the hammer catch so the pistol can fire again with the next pull of the trigger.
To test this pocket pistol I had:
  • • 60 rounds of Black Hills 115-grain JHP EXP at 1,200 feet per second
  • • 60 rounds of Black Hills 124-grain JHP at 1,150 fps
  • • 150 rounds of Federal Train + Protect 115-grain HP at 1,180 fps
  • • 150 rounds of Federal Syntech 124-grain TSJ at 1,050 fps
  • • And 60 rounds of Federal 135-grain Hydra-Shok Deep Personal Defense that penetrates 15 inches in ballistic gelatin.
The little gun digested everything without a hiccup and was capable of accurate, sustained rapidfire at close range with a sharp but not excessive recoil.
SOME AUTOMATICS ARE a nightmare to take apart and then put back together. Thankfully this one is not too bad. Unload the gun and pull the slide back, pushing up on the slide stop to lock it open. Using the rim of a cartridge, pull the disassembly pin out of the gun. Hold the slide firmly as you release the slide stop, allowing the slide to come forward off the frame. Remove the recoil spring and barrel and you are ready to begin cleaning. Do not loosen the extractor spring screw.
Once cleaning is done, put the barrel back in the slide, push the recoil springs on their guide rod back into their hole in the slide, and hook the base of the recoil spring into its half-moon cutout in the barrel. Be sure the barrel and recoil springs are well centered when putting them back in the slide. Push the slide onto the frame until the back lines up with the grip. If the slide does not go on easily, make sure the hammer is half-cocked and the barrel and recoil spring guide are centered.

While pushing down on the top of the barrel, pull the slide back all the way, compressing the recoil springs, and push the slide stop up to lock the slide in place. Looking into the assembly pin hole, align the hole with its cut in the barrel and insert the assembly pin until it snaps onto the spring. Retract the slide to release the slide stop to let the slide go forward. Cycle the slide a few times to be sure it is functioning correctly, but do not dry fire this pistol as that can damage the firing pin and extractor spring screw. Bottom line: If you are looking for a small, lightweight hideout or back-up gun in 9mm Luger, the Kel-Tec PF9 would be a fine choice.  Editor’s note: For more information, visit


Here’s another perspective from Youtuber Hickok45.