Key Point: Worth your time or a waste of time?
Many people want a simple, compact weapon self-protection but are put off by the retail price of today’s firearms. Affordability is perhaps the least discussed feature of many handguns but one of the foremost in the minds of consumers. The Kel-Tec PF9 handgun combines both features and affordability in an attractive package.
Established in Florida in 1995, KelTec has specialized in using high-performance plastics to create lightweight handguns, rifles, and shotguns. The KelTec PF9 combines lightweight with the 9 millimeter Luger round to create a potent pocket pistol. The PF9 weighs just twelve ounces. Although there are lighter pocket handguns available KelTec’s is one of the few, if any, to be chambered in 9-millimeter instead of the smaller, less potent .22LR and .380 ACP calibers.
The KelTec PF9 is very compact, just 5.85 inches long by 4.3 inches tall. This makes for a pistol that easily fits in a coat pocket, the back pocket of a pair of jeans, or in the utility compartment of a car. It also has a very slim profile, at .9 inches narrower than many guns—particularly Glock’s subcompact offerings. With a Barrel length is 3.1 inches, the pistol has a limited range but it helps keep the overall length well under six inches.
The PF9 is, like most modern semi-automatic handguns, made from a combination of lightweight polymers where possible and metal where necessary. The slide is made from 4140 ordnance steel and CNC machined from a single block of material. The barrel is also made from 4140 steel and button rifled as well. The frame is manufactured from Dupont 8018 high impact polymer with a 7075 T-6 aluminum frame containing the fire control group inserted inside.
The PF9 is a double-action-only pistol, lacking an external hammer. This means that trigger pull is relatively long and heavy, but it also means there is no hammer to catch on clothing as the user draws the weapon from a concealed position. That having been said, the company describes trigger pull as just five pounds, reasonable for a double-action handgun.
Shooters aim the PF9 with a set of built in, adjustable three dot sights. The rear sight is windage adjustable, moving left or right. Alternately, there is a short rail underneath the barrel for mounting aftermarket aiming lights and lasers.
The PF9 lacks a manual safety, meaning there is no user-enabled mechanism that prevents the trigger from being pulled and the gun from consequently going off. As a pistol aimed at concealed carriers and self-defense, this is generally considered a feature but also merits extra care in storage and handling. There are both hammer and breech safeties that in turn prevent the gun from going off unless the trigger is pulled—these are designed to prevent the gun from discharging in the event of being dropped.
Disassembly is slightly different than other semi-automatic handguns on the market. After removing the magazine and ensuring the firearm is empty, the user locks back the slide. The user then uses the rim of a nine-millimeter cartridge to remove an assembly pin. Once removed, the slide will move forward and off the frame rails. At that point, the gun disassembles into the slide, frame, barrel, recoil spring, and recoil spring guide for easy cleaning. Reverse the process to reassemble.
The PF9 is a good mix of lightweight and lethality. The pistol carries a respectable seven rounds in the magazine. Like all semi-automatics carrying a loaded chamber increases the round count by one and the number of ready rounds to eight. The company offers a longer magazine with grip extension that carries eight rounds, for a potential total of nine.
Kel-Tec's pistol has a low manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just $356, several hundred dollars below that of many competitors. In practice, however, it often costs much less, often falling into the mid-$200 range. This makes for an affordable handgun for those without a big budget to spend, while its combination of lightweight and 9-millimeter makes it a compelling choice for even those capable of spending more.
Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This piece was originally featured in August 2019 and is being republished due to reader's interest.