Firearms are a passion of mine. If you’re a regular Gibberish reader, you know this. What you may not know is that I’ve held a concealed carry permit in the Commonwealth of Virginia ever since I turned 21. Most kids buy a twelve pack or go barhopping; I bought my Glock 27 and shot five hundred rounds of ammunition instead. I took a carrying hiatus while I lived in Oregon and Maryland, but aside from that time period if you saw me in public, chances were I was armed.
I’ve learned a lot about comfortable concealed carry over the last decade-plus. There are three goals anyone with a CCH license tries to achieve: safety/protection, comfort, and concealment. The desire to safely carry a weapon for protection is obvious. If you wear a handgun (or handguns, redundancy is your friend), then comfort is a major concern. I sit for most of the day, whether it be at the office or riding in my car. The fall and winter give you some allowances on clothing and holster options, but during the summer even small-framed handguns feel like wet anvils as you sweat just standing still.
Lastly, a key part of CCH is concealment. Freaking out that table of soccer mommies at your favorite restaurant doesn’t do anyone any good. You learn very quickly to reach for things at the store with your off-hand so that your shirt doesn’t ride up and show your piece. Take your gun out before you sit down on the toilet, or risk a nice “clank” if your handgun falls onto the bathroom floor. Sure, you might be able to pack a full-framed 1911 .45 ACP if you wear a suit all day, but my standard attire has been a tshirt and shorts/jeans. Even that is easy street compared to the poor guys who have to wear business casual. Too strict to keep a shirt over a belted handgun, too lax to wear a jacket all day. All of these issues combined lead consistent-carriers like myself to smaller and smaller handguns.
So, enter the pocket guns. I have mentioned my North American Arms Guardian .32 ACP before, which has ridden in a pocket holster for a number of years. I recently wrote about some of my concerns with the handgun not discharging properly. Whether it was poor technique on behalf of other people shooting the Guardian, cheap range ammunition, or both, I wasn’t really interested in leaving a failure to chance. I also disliked the fact that my Guardian’s magazine release would disengage whenever I squatted down. I’ve been compulsively checking to see if the magazine was seated properly. I wonder how many people saw me squeeze something in my pocket and wondered what the fuck I was doing. Not very conceal-y. That might also explain why parents rush their children away from me all the time. :shrug:
I was also concerned about the caliber. .32 ACP isn’t the smallest round out there, but it’s pretty damn close. If I ever had to use the Guardian, I knew it would be a short-range, multiple-shot nightmare. I intended to use it at the same range and with the same techniques as using a knife, which basically boiled down to grabbing my assailant with one hand while pulling the trigger with the other. Given the small size of the .32 ACP bullet plus the Guardian’s tendency to misfeed (again, bad range ammo? Who knows), I started looking elsewhere.
The Kel-tec PF-9 is supposedly the thinnest 9mm automatic made. True to the hype, it’s pretty damn thin, less than one inch. It holds seven rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. Thanks to the polymer receiver and grip, the pistol is very lightweight. I was surprised to discover that it weighs 18.2 ounces fully loaded. The Guardian weighs 15.8 ounces, and my “big” Glock 27 weighs 27.4 ounces. While the PF-9 is heavier than the Guardian, the increased size makes it feel more balanced. It feels less heavy than the Guardian.
Personal protection pyramid: Glock 27, Kel-tec PF-9, and North American Arms Guardian from bottom to top.
The Kel-tec (left) is thinner than the Glock 27. It may not look like it, but the difference makes a huge impact on comfortable concealed carry. There’s no way I could pocket-carry the G27.
The Kel-tec (right) is close in thickness to the Guardian.
The Kel-tec is built for one thing only: deep concealment carry. It doesn’t have fancy gel grips, it doesn’t have a sweet take-down lever, it doesn’t have a decocker, or an external safety. There is no drop-in laser dot contraption for the Kel-tec. The PF-9 has cheap-o fixed sights with a little dab of high-visibility paint on for good measure. The slide lock lever doesn’t release like a typical auto, so you have to “rack” the slide to chamber a round. The mag release button is plastic but functional. The magazine is metal, but isn’t going to win any awards for design or ergonomics.
The PF-9 shoots like it looks. It’s all business. Lacking one of those “new-fangled” external safeties, the PF-9 has a really, really long trigger pull. I am sure it’s bad self-defense shooting form, but at the range I pre-loaded tension on the trigger before firing the gun. Tutorial: pull the trigger back about two-thirds, feel the trigger start to catch, and then slowly pull the trigger the rest of the way.
Recoil and report are both extreme. The Kel-tec is louder than my G27, which isn’t known for being a mouse. After my first round of shooting, I remarked that the PF-9 may be the only handgun that’s more uncomfortable to shoot than the Guardian. Trigger slap (rebound) is painful. My trigger finger hurt for two days after shooting the Kel-tec for the first time. I’ve named my PF-9 Ike in honor of such a vicious trigger slap. The last time I took it to the range, I got a blister on my palm from the PF-9′s jagged grip pattern. I am able to successfully double-tap my target at seven yards, but shooting my G27 is a dream in comparison.
I was originally pretty down on how rough the PF-9 shot until I remembered I didn’t buy it to replace my Glock, I bought it to replace my Guardian. The PF-9 is a lot more accurate, feels more comfortable in my front pocket, and packs a bigger punch than the Elf Gun. It’s okay if the sights are meh, that the trigger pull is long, and that shooting two hundred rounds in one session makes my hand hurt the next day. This isn’t a target pistol, it’s a people-pistol, and if I fire all eight shots in “real life,” it will have been a very very bad day.
I am very impressed with the form factor of the PF-9, and unlike the Guardian have yet to have a misfeed. Every time I pulled the trigger the pistol went “bang.” I’ve carried it for almost two weeks now and feel like I made the right choice. I put it in my pocket and no one is the wiser. I have two holsters for it (reviews forthcoming), and thanks to them the PF-9 is a great little backup/deep concealment carry package.
It’s hard to find the PF-9 right now, but I found it at a very small-time local gun shop for $4 under the MSRP, at $329.99. The spare mag cost me an arm and a leg ($28), but they are going for $40 and more on Gunbroker.com right now. Ike is loaded with Federal 124 grain Hydro-shok rounds, which he cycles with aplomb. If you’re looking for a good pocket gun or perhaps even a daily carry piece, take a look at the PF-9.